It's true, this is only our first week of pre-school. We have no years or months or experience behind us, only these few days. But so far, so good! Eden loves pre-school and wakes up asking to start it. Of course, I make her wait until after we have all eaten breakfast. Although I am no expert I am pleasantly pleased with the curriculum I did purchase and the activities I have her engaged in.
This morning I spent some time appreciating the fact that other people who know how to teach kids spent time creating curriculum I can just pick up and use. I just buy it and I can do my job. Easy. People have asked me for a couple years if we will be homeschooling and I have just said I don't know. The stress of having to figure out the foreign was just a bit overwhelming. At the same time, I didn't know of any superb schools I would want to enroll or admit her into. For a while I thought Montessori schools sounded amazing, and I still do. Yet after seeing what types of homeschooling curriculum are available, I think that mostly one on one attention, or even a ratio of me with three or four or more, with someone else's outstanding expertise and brain in the curriculum can top my other options.
Why Wisdom and Knowledge Will Thrive in a Christian Educational Environment
After all, education in the US did thrive when we had simple one room schools, large or small, and many children being taught at home. Clearly the answer is not government money or huge populations of school campuses, though they can well serve many. When US education was the least funded, we were sending off diplomats to foreign countries starting at 11 and 12 years of age and children were ready to enter Harvard at 12. I guess I used to think that perhaps they were not required to know what is now required of Harvard freshman, but when listening to a talk by David Barton of Wall Builders I learned that they actually were better educated entering Harvard at 12 or 13 than our post graduates are today. Though many of these kids at the time did not have the dollars of the US government behind their education, what was common was prayer in classrooms and Primers (like the New England Primer) built off of scripture. As Proverbs 9:10 so accurately states, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." This ensured the early success of US education, and the removal of such from the same has resulted in studies showing students in secular education do best in kindergarten and then slide downwards the longer they are in school, and that Ivy League students today enter the university with more knowledge than when they graduate. The trend is loss of ability and knowledge all the way through. What I learn from this is that with the presence of God in our home, knowledge and understanding will thrive in my children.
So now that I have arrived at the place where the fear of teaching my own child is gone, I am super excited! I am thinking doing 4 year old pre-school and kindergarten not only sounds fun, but possible. I actually considered teaching elementary school once, and sat in on a class to see if I wanted to pursue that career. Getting into Eden's world and on her level in this area just reminds me how much I love being with kids.
Spending Less: How I Incorporated What We Already Owned
Even though I am inexperienced at teaching children, and am limited in what I can offer, I will share how I utilized what we already owned.
Books: Immediately upon deciding to start pre-school, I cleaned out Eden's bookshelf and left her only with books I didn't plan on using for school. I moved the school books to a bookshelf she rarely accesses, wanting to keep these titles fresh and interesting specifically for school time. This is what I compiled:
Science books, previously purchased at a garage sale for almost nothing.
Theology books, also known as books about God and our infant Bible, along with Iris' beloved teddy Bear Bible. :) (These are so simple that I did order a new children's Bible that will be more suitable for Eden's older age.) In this section I included poetry books about God and story books about how God loves us, etc.
Poetry books, including several Christian children's volumes. My friend Lori donated one to our garage sale recently that I snagged upon second thought. (Thanks Lori!) After reading it with the girls yesterday I realized it was one of my absolute favorites as a young girl. It has tons of sweet, short poems and a plethora of adorable little animals, bees and characters on all the pages. I LOVED this book as a girl! Yay.
Animal books, those for early toddlers like Iris and older pre-schoolers like Eden. For Iris I pulled all the touch and feel animal books that she just adored, and photo animal books she loves equally as well. Eden's included a lot of more educational books with extra details about specific animals I had also bought at a garage sale and been saving.
Story books, just fun ones that we can read together, and Eden's favorite wordless book (Good Dog Carl) that she loves to "read" aloud, narrating as she goes.
Reading books, things like "the cat sat", those types of things that we will use when I am actually teaching her how to read words. I bought a handful of these at the same garage sale.
Numbers and Shapes books, I just had several on hand. These are the kind that both Eden and Iris enjoy.
Toys: After our first morning of pre-school (which Eden wanted to continue through nap time and the entire day) I attacked the toys in her room. Having already cleaned out a lot and either sold or given them away, I now hunted down anything I could possibly use for teaching and learning. I came away with a nice pile, quite pleased.
Math: I snagged our nice, colorful wood abacus. We used it that very same day for about 2 minutes of addition and subtraction, which Eden aced. :)
Creative/Artistic: In a small bin I gathered all of Eden's present art supplies, glue, papers, scissors, paints, etc. I found craft projects I had stashed away and forgotten about, things she has not even seen that will be great to do and a lot of fun, while helping her learn. I recently purchased a stamp kit on clearance that will absolutely delight Eden when I decide to break it out.
Science: We just returned from our little vacation with a butterfly garden from my mom. I am thinking that in the spring it will be a great time to send away for butterflies, and watch her little creatures develop and morph. I plan on pairing that with The Very Hungry Caterpillar book that we love to read.
Animals: We have some beautiful wood animal magnets made by Melissa and Doug that both Eden and Iris will enjoy for different reasons. (I love their products, and buying them on Craig's List and at Ross!)
Motor Skills: I have been saving a clearance priced wooden bead set that I will save for a time it is just the two of us and I can really help her. This went into the big box of school only toys along with some Lace and Trace Animals that Eden used today. (I was really excited because we have not used them for several months at least and her coordination is already so improved. Before she laced the laces through holes quite a few apart and not necessarily in order. Today she perfectly put the laces through each hole and in order, leaving only a few undone near the end.) Also into the box went her Lacing Beads.
Method to my Madness:
I decided it would be best if we keep the school toys and books largely separated from regular every day play toys so that they would remain just a little bit novel. I think that pulling them out at special times only will keep them desirable to the kids, mainly Eden. If most of them are things that she can not just pull out at any old time I think she will have more excitement when I do.
What We Are Doing:
We are doing our prayer and reading time first and I am training Iris to sit still just for a few minutes, and planning on increasing that time as she grows older. She loves sitting in child sized seats, so I let her do that or sit on my lap. We do not have childcare in our church service and unfortunately sitting still for short but extended times is a skill Eden still needs to be taught. I don't want to wait so long with our other children! Reading isn't Eden's favorite part of the morning, and neither are songs. The only song I see her enthusiastic about is the alphabet song, but we are doing a little of all of it first thing after breakfast. It is extra fun for her when she gets to "read" a story or pick a poem for me to read, and we move on to the other "subjects" fast enough that she does enjoy the whole experience.
I went to Target and picked up a laminated spiral bound alphabet and number book that Eden uses a dry erase marker to practice all of those things on. I think that may be one of her absolute favorites! Not only is she learning her letters and numbers, but she is learning to trace and make fine motor movements with her pen. Next we are using Developing the Early Learner to develop motor, visual, auditory and comprehension skills. Today she requested to do three pages instead of the one I had planned for her. She is so young that I do not want to push her, but she is exhibiting a need and a desire to learn and so I am happy to let her continue, if she is happy about it. Accidentally I gave her a higher workbook but she still did great with it. I will start her on the first level tomorrow.
We have worked on a special GeoPuzzle with which she learned where I was born and saw where our friends and family live. She does need some help with it but it is one of those things that will still get used when she is older. Why not throw some geography in there? :) She will be doing some science experiments about once a week, and painting either with water color or other paints each day. She loves painting! Crayons are also a part of every day, and Iris has just begun to enjoy using them too. We will also be using the craft and motor skill toy items every day as well, but those things I plan on mixing up so she always has something fresh to look forward to.
Still To Come
Because of how well she did with her workbook, I stepped out today and ordered her her own math book, made just for three year olds. We are also awaiting something I am incredibly excited about, Language Lessons for Little Ones. We have a math tool coming in the mail as well, and some others things not quite here. With how well Eden is soaking it all up, I expect that we will have enough variety to keep her going through next year, and enough that she will still be able to find it fun and new. We shall see, but I do believe that the best is yet to come!
P.S. Many of the products I have mentioned can be found for discounted rates online. And also, I know this was lengthy and I plan on being much more concise in my next blog!