What does preschool at home look like?

Although we plan on continuing to educate our boys at home, my husband and I are still trying to decide whether or not to send G to preschool next year. The poor kid is just dragged along to whatever big brothers are doing. He might need a place that is just his.  Regardless of what our decision is, what does preschool look like at home?

As a task-oriented person, I often feel the need for productivity.  For example, I never just listen to music, although I may listen to music WHILE folding laundry.  My constant need for [the sensation of] productivity can, at times, strip the days of their natural joy.  Attempting to force this on my naturally joyful three (almost four!) year old son would be devestating.

My mother-in-law taught preschool-handicapped children largely overseas through the Department of Defense for nearly 30 years.  She loved her job and was fully committed to it.  She often said, “I love teaching preschool.  It’s just like being a mom.”  The unexpected order of her statement was not lost on me.  I would think someone might say, “Being a mom is like being your child’s first teacher.”  But no, mothering is the primary occupation.    Ultimately, we should set down our agendas, and be their guide.


1.  Playing is the same thing as learning.  The oft repeated mantra is true:   a preschooler’s job is play.  He makes sense of the world around him through testing, experimentation, and through imaginative play.  Play with beans and noodles, water and sand.  Play with crayons and play dough.  Play dress-up.  Play with their toys, and let them play with sticks and rocks.  Follow your child’s lead.  Play outdoors.  Play with light sabers and swords, or other weaponry that might maim.  Play with them.  And leave them some time to play alone.

2.  Life skills: getting dressed, brushing teeth, pouring juice, taking turns, picking up toys, dusting furniture, sorting laundry, helping bake cookies.  Mastering tasks that are age appropriate will fill her with confidence to achieve the next challenge.

3.  There is no need for a set curriculum.  Read stories while he is cuddled up in your lap. Take turns telling each other stories.  Play games with the neighbors, or friends from the community.  Work on gross motor (ride a tricycle, swing a bat), fine motor, (crumple up pieces of paper, cut with scissors, or draw outdoors with chalk.  If she is  really ambitious, she can write letters on the sidewalk.)  Count.  How many ducks are in the pond?  Cars in the driveway?  Dots on the ladybug?

4.  Talk…..Tell him about the new recipe you are using for dinner, about the book you are looking for at the library, what the sky reminds you of, your favorite movie when you were little, a funny dream you had last night, how you calm down after someone is mean to you… Talk…and Listen.  Listen to her retell the dream she thought was so hilarious.  Even if it is painfully long and tedious for you.  Listen to her ideas on how to build a giant robot,  or the world’s largest cupcake.  Listen when she disagrees with you.

5.  “School” doesn’t have to be from 9:00am to 12:00 weekdays, or whatever the local preschool schedule would be.  There are many days I feel G is largely neglected, left to play alone, or sporadically tended to during “school” hours.  However, just like any home school schedule, learning should not be relegated to certain parts of the day.  Preschool education can take place before breakfast, right before bed, or on Saturday afternoon.  It probably will not entail doing a worksheet at the kitchen table, but it will always be learning.

Isn’t this what moms do, homeschooling or not?  Isn’t this what all little ones love to do?


Dale Chihuly Spaghetti

Chihuly hanging sculpture in the entrance to a Glendale, AZ library
Chihuly hanging sculpture in the entrance to a Glendale, AZ library

Artist Dale Chihuly wears an eye patch.  Sadly, this is from losing an eye in an automobile accident several years ago, and yet, this only adds to his cool factor for little boys.  Think pirates.  Mr. Chihuly is famous world-wide for his colorful blown-glass sculptures which can be found in city parks, in front of museums, in private homes and inside museums and libraries.  My three know his work intimately from the nation’s largest children’s museum in Indianapolis, Indiana.  Not only has he contributed a  massive scultpure which extends up four levels in the center of the museum, but there is also a wonderful exhibit attached.  Children can create their own Chihuly-inspired sculpture using plastic replicas of the glass pieces, and can try their hand at virtual glass blowing on the computers.

Chihuly's Fire of Glass

Chihuly has provided us with some truly impressive views as we make our way up the ramps at the museum.  It is more than just something to look at on our way from the Dinosphere to the Science Works.


And I thought dusting around the crystal in our china cabinet was tedious.

This piece is entitled Fireworks of Glass, but G has always referred to it as “Chihuly’s Spaghetti.”  It does look a bit like wiggly pasta strands.

This naturally led to the epiphany of  cooking our own “Dale Chihuly spaghetti.”  I have seen so many postings and photos of colored spaghetti, but we have never done it ourselves.  G was very excited about the idea.

colored spaghetti

We simply used several drops of food dye in our boiling water for the pasta.  It did not turn out as brightly colored as I was hoping, but it worked for our purposes.  G (and his brothers) were impressed and wanted to taste it.  I tossed it lightly with a capful of oil so the noodles would not stick together as they cooled.


My neat and tidy G was fairly tentative at first about digging his hands in to the mess.  He generally does not like to get dirty.  Although, after a bit of coaxing, we finally convinced him to go for it.



Dale Chihuly spaghetti

Here it is: our Dale Chihuly spaghetti.  I liked this sensory play even more since we were able to connect it with a specific artist.  It was more meaningful for him, and it will give us something to talk about and remember the next time we head to the Children’s Museum.

Who Said Math Was Fun?!


Math, in any of its forms, has never been my favorite subject.  Once I had mastered rote memorization, I quickly lost interest, and quite frankly, easily became confused.  For this reason I was somewhat surprised when one of the motivating factors in beginning our homeschool journey was teaching math to my own children.  Now I want to pause and insert a disclaimer here.  In no way do I have a bad taste in my mouth regarding public education, or the new methods of teaching mathematics.  However, what do you moms really think of front end estimation or the lattice method for multiplication?  It is very likely that since mathematics has first been taught, parents have complained , “Well, that is not how we did it back in the day.”  I remember my father and uncle patiently attempting to teach me algebra while I cried out of frustration.  They attempted while I lamented, “That is not how Mrs. L—— showed us.”  Once my children reach pre-calculus, we may learn the “newfangled” methods.  In the meantime, I will show them the tried and true ways which have got me thus far.

Anyway.  While allowing my kiddos to get those mathematical bits of rote information down pat, we could make it a bit fun every once in awhile.  This is easily achieved with my three-year old.  Math is everywhere around us.  Once the older boys are on to me that we are actually reviewing lessons learned, and not just playing, it had better be fun.

My nine-year old, S,  is learning division this year, but still struggles to have his multiplication facts as firmly in his head as I would like them.  He also has that nine-year-old boy energy that would just prefer to jump up and down repeatedly like a pogo stick than, say, write out his multiplication table over and over.  The world is his trampoline.  So, the kind-hearted and understanding mother that I am, I came up with what he calls, “run-around-the-house math.”

Run-around-the-house math – This is a fun activity we use at the beginning or end of a week after the hard work (I didn’t say boring) has already been done.  We use it as a refresher.  I collect about ten 3×5 index cards.  On one side I write a math sentence.  For example, 9 x 7 = 63 or   63 / 9= 7.  If I want him to have a greater challenge, I write it down without the product or quotient.  On the flip side I write the location of where he will find his next note card.  I place them all around the house, upstairs and down, some even in the backyard, then instruct him to place his spiral notebook and pencil in one particular location.  It is usually on his desk in his bedroom.  His job is to read the first card, e.g. 24 / 6 = 4.  Then, he reads  the opposite side, which may read, “under the kitchen table.”  He places the card back down, races upstairs to his room, records it in his notebook, runs to the kitchen table and gets the next card.  This is repeated until all ten cards are completed.  By this time, he has tripped once or twice, and is out of breath, and laughing.  My hope is that the slight delay in having to remember a couple of things simultaneously, going through the motion of writing it down, combined with a little bit of moving around will all work together to help something stick in his head.  In any case, it is his favorite day of math.

Odd One Out– This is another activity we do with index cards, but is stationary.  After cutting several cards in half to save paper, I group them in fours.  Three numbers will belong together to form a true math sentence.  The fourth will be the “odd one out.”  His job is to recognize as quickly as possible which one that is.  The first group of number cards might reveal 6, 42, 8, 7.  Obviously, the 8 is the odd one out, because 7 x 6 = 42.  This is a fun exercise to strengthen his knowledge of patterns and relationships in math, or what today’s elementary children call “fact families.”

iphone1 008

With G, my three-year-old, math practice is easier and naturally more fun.  There is not much to plan ahead, because at this age counting with numbers just happens organically through play and conversation.  I do, however, have a couple of activities for G that we like to get out when he wants to join his brothers and “do math.”

Sensory math – With toddlers and preschoolers the more senses they are able to use, the better.  This is even true for certain learning styles as we get older.  Last year I made G a simple (I am not at all a craftsy person) flannel board with a tree, apples, basic geometric shapes and numbers.  We like to play with these in different ways.

G lining up numbers and shapes
G lining up numbers and shapes
One-to-one counting with apples
One-to-one counting with apples

Threading Beads – I have been proud of how G has grown in his hand-eye coordination.  Scissors are still a challenge for him. I frequently need to remind him that his thumb goes on top while he is cutting.  He has, however,  truly mastered threading his wooden beads  through the laces even with the tiny holes.  He also uses index cards or colored card stock with a number.  He, then, counts his beads as he strings them on the laces.

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This seems to be meaningful for him as he often initiates counting throughout his day.  “Let me see how many apple slices I have on my plate.”  Or,  “One, two, three, four, five, six ducks in that pond.”

It’s not pre-caluculus yet, but we are getting there.