Many parents frequently ask me what curriculum I recommend for the pre-school years. If you have read my article Strategies for Teaching Preschool, then you already know that I promote enjoying the preschool years and not focusing on academics. You may also know that I do not promote pre-packaged curriculum for the preschool years. On the other hand, I hear from many parents who want to be purposeful in those early years and who need some help in getting started.
I just finished reading the book Homepreschool and Beyond:A Comprehensive Guide to Early Home Education by Susan Lemons. Her philosophy of preschool education is in sync with mine, both spiritually and academically. She does a fantastic job of combining scripture, quotes from experts, personal experience, and great sayings our mothers and grandmothers lived by into a book to help you navigate the preschool years.
Homepreschool and Beyond is divided into five parts.
Part One prepares us for the basics of parenting, disciplining, and understanding the pros and cons of keeping kids at home during the preschool years versus putting them in an institution. Susan shares an old saying that I had never heard but love:
“What’s down in the well comes up in the bucket.”
In this section she discusses how a child’s behavior reflects what is in his heart, as well as emphasizing parenting in a way that we deal not only with the behavior but with the deeper issues of the heart. In her list of recommended resources for disciplining on page 41, she includes a book I reviewed in a series of articles this past spring: Creative Correction by Lisa Whelchel. One she does not list but that I highly recommend beginning with as soon as your kids begin testing the boundaries in their toddler years is Parenting with Love and Logic by Cline and Fay.
Susan emphasizes being purposeful in the preschool years without pushing curriculum and skills lists on your preschooler. On pages 45-47, she provides research that shows how pushing academics too early harms rather than helps. Instead of pushing early academics, what should we emphasize? Susan gives several foundational activities on pages 45-51 including games that naturally and age-appropriately “teach” facts about shapes, colors, letters, and numbers without the use of curriculum, timelines, and pressure.
In chapter five you get an inside look on Susan’s sample schedule for preschoolers and how to establish routine (including the importance of routine). She also shows how to incorporate your young children into your daily chores. Since Susan has both elementary-aged children and preschoolers, she includes her preschool children into some “homeschool” activities such as saying pledges to national flag, Christian flag, and the Bible. [See I Pledge Allegiance for my suggestions for a way to encourage your third culture kids in respecting your host country, too.]
In Part Two Susan emphasizes the importance of reading aloud. Our kids learn and develop many valuable skills from being read to, such as: “language, vocabulary, speech, pre-reading skills, and pre-writing skills.” In this section she also provides examples of doing a type of “unit study” with preschoolers based on reading aloud, field trips, excursions, and virtual online tours. In this section on books, Susan says: “We can do better than Barney or Captain Underpants. We need to set our sights higher!” (p. 74). Learn what makes a “classic” a “classic.” Learn what is not a classic, as well as how to choose classic books and picture books. She devotes chapter eight to providing book lists for preschool through grade school.
Part Three introduces age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate skills. These are not lists to burden or worry parents. These are lists for parents who know that “childhood is not a race…the heart of homepreschool is relationship, routine, readiness, and reading aloud…and homeschooled children do not need to be ‘made ready for school’-we can make our ‘school’ ready for them instead.” Susan’s lists are not meant to be a curriculum guide but rather ideas and suggestions for developing the whole child. The following chapters not only include her lists and ideas but also how to incorporate them into your daily life.
Chapter 9: Family and Life Skills
Chapter 10: Spiritual Development—including teaching Biblical concepts to preschoolers and suggestions for age-appropriate Bible storybooks.
Chapter 11: Speech and Listening Skills—including tips if you need to take your child for speech therapy.
Chapter 12: Cognition and Memory Skills
Chapter 13: Pre-Reading and Pre-Writing Skills
Chapter 14: Early Math Skills (realizing that understanding math concepts depends on developing a sequence of milestones, each built on the foundation of the previous concept).
Chapter 15: Physical Development (both small muscle and large muscle)
Chapter 16: Science—learning to share a “sense of wonder and awe of the natural world” with your children. Building upon your kids “innate love for and curiosity about the natural world.”
Chapter 17: Social Studies
Chapter 18: Music—the effects of music on brain and behavior including physical, cognitive, language, and social. [See also my article/review of Teaching With the Brain in Mind.]
Chapter 19: Arts and Crafts—utilizing art experiences to help kids develop physically, socially, emotionally, cognitively, and linguistically. Susan provides lists of recommended books and websites, as well. [You may also want to check out my review of a blog called Grandma’s Preschool which is chocked full of preschool arts and craft activities.]
Chapter 20: Holidays and Traditions
In Part Four Games and Play are introduced, including the power of play and parents’ roles in playtime. Susan provides great ideas for dramatic prop boxes, shoebox activities, and learning games.
Part Five, on Curriculum and Methods, provides parents resources, such as Kindergarten readiness, choosing and using curriculum in first grade and up, homeschooling methods and tips. This section also includes a chapter on keeping preschoolers busy while teaching older children. [You may also be interested in reading these articles on my blog: Tips for Toddlers, Curriculum: How Do I Know What to Choose, Preschool Developmental Skills and Readiness Checklist, and Five Basic Types of Curriculum .]
I hope you find this review of Susan Lemons’ book Homepreschool and Beyond helpful. Check out Susan’s website: www.susanlemons.wordpress.com for more information.
Her book is available from CBD for $12.49, from Liberty Books Online, and Amazon for $14.99.