Project-based Homeschooling Preschool: My four-year-old’s projects

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on March 26, 2014.

Sometimes I worry that I don’t give my four-year-old enough attention, but then again, sometimes I worry that I don’t give my seven-year-old enough attention. In truth, it’s probably about even.

For three years, my oldest son had all my attention, but his younger brother has had to compete ever since he was born. I have to remind myself that my four-year-old got a lot of things his older brother didn’t get. Since he was a baby, he’s been carried along to play dates whereas I didn’t know many mothers with infants and toddlers when I first had children. He’s also been taken to his older brother’s classes and been around big groups of children of all ages from day one.

He was also born into a home with lots of toys and art supplies, and when he was a baby, we converted our dining room into a school room, so he is very comfortable going in there and pulling down books or puzzles or blocks and other building toys. Now, he sits at the table and listens while his older brother works on his lessons. Sometimes he wants to draw or do something else, but I’m surprised how much he’ll just watch. (Not exactly quietly, but not too distracting either.)

Even though he’s not getting the direct one-on-one attention my oldest son got from age one to three, he is absorbing so much information from his brother and me. (I can’t forget to mention daddy either. He’s always been around for both of them.)

Right now I’m very focused on my “first grader.” Reading lessons, math lessons, book time, computer time, conversations about history and cultural events, and most of all, his projects. We are project-based homeschoolers, which means that I set aside time for my son’s interests and use some “tricks of the trade” to get him to study deeper than the surface of those subjects.

My four-year-old has interests too, and lately I’ve been considering how I can make more time for his projects and lessons. I don’t think that at four-years-old, academics should be a priority, but by letting him explore his interests, he is learning everything a four-year-old would typically learn in preschool anyway.

Right now he loves letters and numbers. He hasn’t mastered the ability to identify all the letters like my oldest son did at an early age, but he’s taking a different approach. He loves to sing the ABC song, and by singing it with him every night, he has mastered it.

He loves to count everything, and we often overhear him counting when he’s playing by himself. He loves to play our math games even though they are too hard for him, and sometimes he’ll play by himself when no one else is available. He uses some tiny little, rubber vehicles (manipulatives) to help him add and subtract.

His favorite subject is dinosaurs, and whenever we go to the library, he asks for dinosaur books. (I’m really tired of reading about dinosaurs!) He watches dinosaur shows on T.V. with his brother, and we’ve taken him to museums to see dinosaur bones. He has asked me to draw him dinosaurs, make a dinosaur out of clay, and his father tells him a story about “Dig Dig the T-Rex” every night before bed. I have never thought about it before, but I guess you could say that he has an ongoing “dinosaur project.”

Whenever he tells me to draw or make him something, I encourage him to try to do it himself first. He never wants to. I guess he knows his own limits. I started to get frustrated about this, but then I remembered all the “art” he makes on his own. You might call it “abstract” art, but it takes some time and thought. He is very calculating about applying different colors of paint all over one piece of paper, drawing line art, or cutting and taping paper together to make interesting shapes. I’m glad he’s felt free to “create” whenever he wants to, and I have a nice collection of his work to save in a memory box.

When you have more than one child, it’s easy to worry about whether or not you’re giving them their fair share of your time, but in many ways, both boys have benefitted from not having my full attention. They occupy themselves. And when I stop to chronicle everything they do, I’m pleasantly surprised that quite a bit gets accomplished without me even trying.


By having all our materials accessible to both of my children, I’m very happy to see how my youngest son has picked up on the “creating” “building” “art” vibe of his house. I will often find him in the activity room, scribbling away on a piece of paper. Sometimes, he pretends he’s writing. Other times, he wants to paint, and I love how he carefully applies different colors to his work. What I love most is when he’ll gather a bunch of supplies, such as paper, pen, markers, scissors, glue, string, beads, goggly eyes or what not, and then he says, “I’m gonna make somethin!” Here’s a slideshow of some of my four-year-old’s art and “writing.”

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Homeschooling Preschool the 2nd Time: My Four-Year-Old’s Letter D

In some ways, I hesitate to say that I homeschooled preschool with my first son. I was fairly relaxed with him during his “preschool” years (which isn’t to say I didn’t worry or wonder if I was doing it right), and he made it easy because he learned to recognize the ABCs before he could even speak all their names at 22 months. At two- and three-years-old all I did was play with him with some rubber letters in the bathtub. Sometimes I would write the letters in chalk outside on the sidewalk. It was all fun and games to him. At age four, I just got a little more intentional about what I was doing.

I’m also relaxed (more so) with my four-year-old, but for completely different reasons. (And I’m not worried about whether I’m doing it right anymore. Be sure to read The Only Preschool Curriculum You Need Is Your Enthusiasm.)

My four-year-old is a very different boy, and he’s having a completely different experience during these early years from what his brother had. While my first born spent a lot of time at home alone with me because we didn’t have as many friends back then, my four-year-old has the benefit of not only more friends but tagging along to classes that my older son attends. He has also started taking the knee-high naturalist class like his brother did at this age, and I’m able to leave my older boy home with his dad, so he can have his “own” class.

My current preschooler did not learn his letters and numbers early like his brother, but without doing any intentional ABC “games” he has mastered at least half the ABCs on his own. And now he counts to 10 flawlessly.

He loves to count things. For a long time, he counted, although he was wrong most of the time. “One, one, one, one,” he would say. Or “One, two, three, six, eight,” he would say. I didn’t try to correct him much. I praised his effort, and sometimes we would take turns counting.

Slowly his counting improved. He might miss just one number. Then he would count to ten correctly one time, but the next time he would trip up. Now, he counts to 10 perfectly every time unless he starts to count too fast or gets silly about it.

It’s been fun to witness this progression. And relaxing. I haven’t really done anything to promote or encourage it. I just watch and listen and follow his cues. Since I’m busy working with my older son on his projects, it eases my mind to know my preschooler is teaching himself.

I see the same thing happening with the alphabet. Recently my preschooler has been enjoying some little cookies with the letters printed on them. When he eats them, he wants me to sit with him and tell him what each letter is, and he asks me what sound it makes. Whenever he happens to pull out an alphabet book or alphabet puzzle, I try to tell him the letter and its sound.

I keep the rubber letters that I used in the bathtub with my older son in a basket downstairs now. The other night, my four-year-old began spreading the letters around on the living room floor, and he wanted me to sit with him. Then while we were looking at them, he took the letter D over to the activity room, and through his actions, I knew he wanted to try to make something – it was the first time I witnessed him initiate a building or art project like his older brother does!!! I was very excited.

I just watched him awhile. He got a strip of white paper that we had been using the previous day to make bookmarks. Then he got out some pens and string and scissors and tape. He was very serious as he went about decorating this piece of paper with the pens and string. And then he folded it up.

He was trying to make a letter D. But he couldn’t get the paper shaped right. As I watched him, I saw how I could gently fold and bend the paper to make a D shape without compromising his efforts too much, so I did that for him. He was pleased.

And I was tickled pink. Here’s my preschooler, teaching himself and beginning to emulate the positive actions of his older brother. Of course, I also give myself (and my husband) some credit. We have created a household where books are loved, stories are told, conversations brew and questions are honored.  I have created an environment where both boys have access to materials for creative endeavors, and I don’t stop them from making messes. And I get excited about their work, I showcase it, and I take so many photos of it that if I forget, they’ll remind me!

I guess you can say that now that my sons are seven- and four-years-old, I am seeing my efforts pay off. I am seeing results, and I get the feeling that we’ll continue down this course of learning how to love learning. It makes me giddy.

Please share. What’s your child’s latest handiwork?

The Only Preschool (or Kindergarten) Curriculum You Need Is Your Enthusiasm

i.e., The building blocks for a child’s education, starting with preschool.

My four-year-old is of preschool age, though I won’t consider him “pre-K” until next year. (This is because both my boys have August birthdays, but I also believe children are required to start school too early nowadays. Of course, it depends on the individual child, but I know that for my boys, starting later has and will benefit them.) As I watch him mature and begin to learn the fundamentals on his own, I am delighted with this unique personality growing up alongside his brother who is so different than him. In some areas, he’s more advanced than his older brother was. In other areas, he is behind. None of that matters except as a testament to these two complimentary brothers who have different personalities and learning styles.

One thing my four-year-old doesn’t have that my eldest son had was a mother with more time on her hands to work directly with him. Yet he benefits in participating in classes, projects and play dates that my eldest son never had at that age. As I do more work with my youngest child, I’ll be writing about “preschool” all over again, though it will look a little different this time.

I write this post as a kick-off to another round of preschool, and as a way to show what I have learned on my first go-around. Everything I wrote below must be present throughout our children’s whole education. If parents are not involved or learning alongside their children, kids will not learn to love learning. They will not flourish. If parents are enthusiastic about learning and use their own imaginations, the child probably will too. (This is the same whether you homeschool or not.)


I see parents asking about preschool curriculums frequently, and it always blows my mind.  Believe me, you don’t need a packaged curriculum for preschool (or Kindergarten for that matter). What your child needs is experiences and conversation. Depending on your willingness to lead your child to wonderful places of discovery, they are going to learn all they need to know and more for their preschool years.

Your #1 teaching instrument is your voice.

Talk to your child. Be patient. Tell them all the simple things you take for granted. “Tree.”  “Green leaf. Isn’t it pretty?” “Do you like carrots? I like carrots.” “Look at the kitty!” As they get older, your conversations will get more sophisticated. Ask your child questions. Answer their questions. Use big words and follow them up with a simple definition.

Children in households where parents talk to their children do much better in school and have a larger vocabulary than their counterparts.  Teach them everything you know through conversation and story. (Don’t worry about what you don’t know. As the questions get harder, you’ll teach your child how to find answers by letting them watch you search for answers.)

Talk to your child frequently, but don’t exhaust yourself either! Children need quiet too.

Your #1 teaching resource is the library.

Take frequent trips to the library. At least once a month go and let your child pick whatever books he likes, and you pick some that you like. Let them explore the library, play with the toys there, and take them to story times, if you and your child would enjoy that. (My eldest son didn’t like story time at all when he was two years old, so we didn’t go anymore. Don’t worry if your child doesn’t like it. You can try again next year, if you like.)

Letting your kids explore and play at the library at a young age will teach them it’s a fun place. And you can learn about the opportunities and resources your library will offer you during your child’s school years. Remember to look up math and science books for your kids – there are so many fun books that teach the fundamentals.  Another reason not to buy a packaged curriculum!

If you live in a rural area and have a small library like I do, be sure to check and see if your library offers an inter-library loan. I can order any book in the Georgia PINES system, which is throughout the whole state of Georgia and have it delivered to our local library. Read this for a more thorough description of how we use our library.

Remember whats important.

Remember: Reading, arithmetic, and all those other fundamentals can be learned by any mature child or adult who has a desire to learn. Don’t worry if your five-year-old isn’t reading yet. Some children learn how to read early, but others aren’t ready until they’re 7 or 8. This has no bearing on their intelligence. It’s simply how they’re developing.

Fostering a love of learning, tenacity, kindness, and creativity has to happen in the early years. How do you do that?

Foster a love of learning by exploring the world with your child and be fascinated in the world with your child. Every child is delighted by those small things we take for granted – flowers, butterflies, a beetle on the sidewalk. If you dont delight in these wondrous things, your child wont delight in them.

Help your child find the answer to his questions. If he asks a question at an inconvenient time, say, “That’s a great question. We can look it up later. Remind me, okay?” Or as Lori Pickert suggests, say, “Where do you think we could find the answer to that question?” If you dont take the time to answer or let your child know that his questions are worthy, hell stop asking questions.

To teach tenacity, we must be tenacious ourselves.  I love to read, learn, take long walks, delight in nature, write and dream. I don’t sit around doing nothing all day (unless I need to rest). I like having a clean house, having goals, and I’m always wondering what I could do to make some more money.  I may not live up to my ideal self, but I’m not a lazy person either. By modeling tenacity, my children are going to learn how to accomplish the important goals in their life. (The key word being important. I’m not against quitting when a better path reveals itself.)

By now I’m sure it won’t surprise you that I’m going to say: To teach children how to be kind, we must be kind ourselves.  Be kind to people. This can mean just smiling and keeping an open mind, or maybe you’re the type of person who likes to make soup and take it to your neighbor’s house when he’s sick. When you’re checking out at the grocery store, be patient and say thank you to the clerk.  When dealing with difficult people, try to be diplomatic.

Kindness is more than being kind to people. It means being kind to the planet. Teach your children to be kind to animals and even bugs. Tell your children how we should act in certain situations.  Making up stories about situations that arise can help with this. Don’t worry about being perfect. Kids don’t need perfection, but if you are a kind person, more than likely your children are going to follow in your footsteps.

To foster creativity, you need to let your children play and create. You won’t need to do much planning for this; just dont squash their natural creativity! Go along with what your child’s instincts are for playing, exploring and creating. Look for projects that you know your child would enjoy. Teach them how to play make-believe.  Join them in their own creative play, and if you want them to try something new, you need to do it yourself and let them watch.

There are tools to fostering a love of learning, tenacity, kindness and creativity, and I’ll list some of those below. Let your child’s interests guide you as you invest in their creativity, and remember, sometimes less is more when it comes to building a child’s imagination.


  • Read. Make book time a ritual in your house.
  • Spend time in nature. Walk slowly on a nature path and see what you can find! What can you draw in the dirt with a stick? What can you make with a bunch of leaves? While you are observing nature, teach your children how to be kind to it.
  • Go to interesting places. Explore parks, nature centers, museums, and anywhere else that you can afford to go. Have fun and see what you can learn with your child.
  • Make-believe. Pick your favorite book and act it out. Or pretend to be a animal. Can you run as fast as a cheetah? Parents may need to teach little children how to play make-believe, especially if they don’t have older siblings.
  • Games. Any child’s game such as Simon Says, Hide and Seek or a fun board game teaches children how to pay attention, follow rules and work together.
  • Share your own work with your child. Tell them or teach them about your hobbies. Take them to meet your friends and let them see how you interact with them.
  • For more information, the Tools of the Mind website has some great information for parents about make-believe and supporting self-regulation.


The best toys are those that require a child to use their imagination to play with it. I couldn’t possibly list them all, but these are a few of my boy’s favorites:

  • Toy animals.  My boys play with plastic toy animals more than anything else! They usually carry a favorite one around each day, and they especially like to pretend they’re feeding it while they play outside. The boys don’t care about quality in toys, but I do, so the Schleich animals are my favorites.
  • Blocks.  Legos. Zoob pieces. Any kind of building set.
  • Puzzles.
  • Puppets. We have bought some, but we love to make them too.


Keep within your child’s reach:

  • Different kinds of pretty paper.
  • Crayons, markers, colored pencils.
  • Scissors, glue (if they’re old enough).
  • Paint.
  • Air-dry modeling clay.
  • Artsy materials found at any craft supply: pom poms, popsicle sticks, sequins, googly eyes, felt.

If you are still anxious to make sure you’re covering the bases for preschool, you can refer to World Book’s Typical Course of Study Preschool Curriculum Guide.  But please be wary of lists like this. Every child develops differently, and the most important thing a supportive parent can do is observe their child, support their own way of developing and in their own time frame. For serious concerns, I would ask a trusted physician. Other than this, use your instincts and let your child be the unique child that he/she is!

What else would you add?

If this was helpful to you, you may also like The Everyday Homeschooler’s Guide to Teaching the Early Years. Thank you!

Fostering a Book Time Ritual

You may also be interested in these posts:

How I’ve Taught Kindergarten Reading  and  Homeschooling Reading and Language Arts for Kindergarten/1st Grade

I think the most important part of an education is allowing children to develop a love of books.  Through books children will learn.  This is why it’s one of my main priorities, and even when we can’t follow through on the other homeschool priorities I have for them, I always find time for book time.

Making Books Accessible

My husband and I have been reading to both boys since they were about 1½, mostly at night before bed, but also during the day.  When my first-born was about two years old, I cleared a low shelf in my bookcase and made that the shelf for the children’s books.  This way, my son could easily look at the books whenever he wanted.

Later we converted our dining room into the “activity room,” and we bought some used bookshelves and painted them.  We have accumulated quite a few children’s books through gifts from relatives each birthday and Christmas, and I am a big fan of library book sales and used books bins.  Occasionally I have bought a book full price when I had a specific need.

Making books easily accessible has been key to allowing my sons to develop a natural love of them.  They seek out the books just like they do toys. 

I don’t think you need a lot of books to do this.  I just think you need to keep them accessible.  Lately I have been making good use of our local library system, and I keep a big stack of library books on a small, separate bookshelf so that I don’t lose track of them.  I’ll write more about how I use the library in my next post.

The Book Time Ritual

We read books everyday right after breakfast.  I call out, “Let’s do book time!  Everybody pick a book!”  Letting everyone pick a book (or books) is essential:

  • The two-year-old gets to pick his favorite books – those same books over and over and over again.  Sigh.  Yet I know this is normal and healthy, and it’s creating a love of books for him.
  • The five-year-old gets to pick something he’s excited about.  Thankfully he is past the stage of always picking the same book.  He usually picks the library books that he chose when we were at the library.  He likes non-fiction.  This week he wanted books about the solar system and also Native Americans.
  • I get to pick 1) something different, which is key to keeping me awake and enthusiastic about book time, and 2) something educational (yet fun) that I’m trying to work on with the five-year-old.  Though my son is picking really cool, educational stuff, I have some “goals” I’m working on, which I’ll talk more about in a minute.

Many of the picture books I pick can keep both of my boy’s attention, but frequently while I’m reading the two-year-old’s choices, the five-year-old gets bored and starts playing on his own.  It also happens the other way around.  This is okay with me.  What is tricky is that the books I read to the five-year-old are longer, and the two-year-old doesn’t always go off to play nicely by himself.  He makes noise or goes into the refrigerator and brings back food he wants to eat — My five-year-old and I have to endure a lot of interruptions.  I simply do the best I can with this.  Sometimes we put a bookmark in the longer books and go back to it later.  

Meeting Educational Goals Through Book Time

I have said many times that I don’t think formal lessons are necessary at this age (my boys are 5 and 2), but through books I find that I can cover a lot of educational goals that the five-year-old would be learning if he were in Kindergarten.  (Note: I wouldn’t start him in Kindergarten until this coming fall, if he were attending public school.)  Curling up on the sofa with some good books is a very no-pressure way of teaching, and so far my five-year-old son is very interested in all the non-fiction books we’ve read.  By seeking these out at the library, we’ve been covering these subjects this past year.  (All of these subjects will eventually get their own blog post.  I’ll add links as I write them.)

  • The solar system: As you might imagine, there are plenty of books about the solar system and different planets at the library.
  • The weather: I also found a lot of good books about the weather at the library, particularly about the water cycle, which was fun and easy for my five-year-old to understand.  He also picked out books about hurricanes and tornadoes, which interested him very much.
  • Math: I have pulled back on formal lessons with math, and I’m just reading math picture books to the five-year-old.  There are many of them to choose from.  There’s even a series about each number that includes some simple addition.  My son enjoys them, and I think it’s helping him realize that math can be fun.
  • Literature: This is my favorite and easiest to take care of!  The library is brimming with storybooks!  Any book will do!  But I have taken a more intentional role with choosing which books I’ll read, and I’ve found some resources to help me.  I’ll write about that in my very next post. 

Please stay tuned! You can sign up for my RSS feed or sign up to receive my posts by e-mail in the right hand margin.  

How do foster a love of reading in your home?

Boys Like to Build

Once after watching an episode of Bob the Builder, the five-year-old told me he wanted to build a bridge. Who says TV is bad for kids?!

Thanks to Lori of Camp Creek Blog I tuned into the fact that boys like to build.  Boys like hands-on activities.  (Of course, lots of girls do too!) Building fosters their creativity, organizational and problem solving skills.

At her suggestion, I started of a box of building supplies, which you can see in my photo down below.  You might like to do this too, especially since it’s a great way to recycle!  Here’s a list of ideas to get you started:

  • cardboard from old boxes, cereal boxes, etc.
  • empty boxes
  • paper towel and toilet paper tubes
  • gallon jugs
  • string
  • popsicle sticks
  • wine corks
  • scrap paper
  • old bottles
  • clothes pins
  • toothpicks
  • anything laying around the house that looks useful!

I try to let my son run with his ideas, although he often comes up with ideas that are impossible to implement.  Without discouraging him too much, I remind him of what materials we have and don’t have, and I tell him when my skills are limited. Sometimes I have to tell him that we simply can’t do what he’s asking.  Then I suggest going another route.  I’m finding it very rewarding to sit back and let him find out for himself what works and doesn’t work.  I do have to help him a lot, but I let him instruct me as to what I’m supposed to do!  (Pssst: I’m getting better at not making suggestions. See Building the Titanic: Project-based Homeschooling.)

He can be quite the perfectionist, so if something falls apart on him, he can get quite upset.  Then I make suggestions too, and I keep telling him that he just has to try another way.  I’m hoping over time that his angst will lessen!

I try very hard not to micro-manage when he “builds.” I was very impressed with how he “measured” the bridge with a measuring tape,and then he counted the popsicle sticks to make sure they were the same size on both sides.

I’ve also begun to slowly accumulate some inexpensive store bought art materials on hand:

  • various sizes of construction paper and poster paper
  • special art paper such as watercolor paper
  • watercolor paints and pencils
  • crayons & markers
  • extra scissors & glue
  • paints and brushes
  • air-dry modeling clay
  • craft thread, squares of fabric & fabric scissors
  • felt
  • little wooden sticks and cubes
  • googly eyes
  • sparkly sequins etc.
  • stickers
  • colorful feathers
  • pastels
  • anything fun

Our box of building supplies.

In my attempt to allow the boys ample freedom yet also preserve paper, I keep a box for the scrap paper. We reuse as much as possible.

To my pleasant surprise, and before I even showed my five-year-old the box of building supplies, he announced one night that he wanted to make a rocket.  I have no idea where he got this desire, but I was so happy to have that box with a paper towel tube in it!  So I showed him the box, and ever since then, he’s frequently wanted to make something.  

The Rocket. Making things pretty is definitely a girl thing. I always suggest that we complete these projects by painting them or covering them with paper, but the five-year-old doesn’t care for that. He wants a simple structure that he can play with right away.

Sometimes he comes up with his own ideas.  Other times he finds something to build with and asks, “What can I make with this?”  The piggy bank was one such item where we started out with a gallon jug and searched for an idea.  EcoArt! by Laurie Carlson is a book that we were given one Christmas, and it’s full of great ideas.

Piggy Bank made from gallon jug and wine corks. Five-year-old did want to decorate this with stickers – his favorite!

So here’s a picture portfolio of some of his work thus far.  If you are wondering, “Where will she put all this stuff?” that’s a very good question.  I’m wondering that myself!  (Suggestions or advice will be much appreciated!)  Eventually we’ll be able to weed through some of this.  We’ll keep a few things and throw the rest away, but I think my son might build at a rate that I can’t keep up with!  It’ll be fun to see what happens, though.

octopus made with toilet paper tube, felt and googly eyes

Popsicle stick creations! My son made this, and it’s supposed to be a raft, although we haven’t tried to make it float.

This one worked well, though! Thank goodness my boys like to eat a lot of popsicles.

A blowhorn. Don’t know where he got the idea to make this. But it works well. Unfortunately.

Like the five-year-old at that age, my two-year-old loves to just cut paper. This is where that scrap paper box comes in real handy.

And we still love to make paper animals, which I wrote about when my son was doing preschool work.  The scrap paper box is essential for that.

How do you encourage your children to create?

Free places to take kids in Athens, Georgia

Above is a photo of the Kugel at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, which I wrote about in my column.  My son loves to spin it and point to Georgia.

Recently I realized that some local friends who live here in Barrow County had never been to my son’s hot spots over in Athens, which is a short, 30-minute drive away.  So I wrote a column about our favorite places to go, and they also have FREE ADMISSION.  You can click here to read the column, or you can just go straight to the websites of these places, which I’ve listed below for you.  If you live around here, you don’t want to miss these places.

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia:

For Memorial Park, Bear Hollow Zoo, which is next to each other, and then also the Sandy Creek Nature Center, you need to go to and type in the name in their search box.  It will take you to the page that tells you where and what these places are about.

Please tell me what your children’s hot spots are!

Note: If you are looking for other places to take your kids in Georgia (whether free or not), take a look at my Resources for Georgia Homeschoolers page.  I am writing a column about each outdoor area and state park that we visit.  It also includes information on indoor activities or field trips specifically for Georgia homeschoolers.

Kindergarten and Homeschooling

I have to admit that when it comes to Kindergarten, sometimes I wonder if I should enroll my 4-year-old in public school.  I have little memories of my Kindergarten, but it seems like a good time to me.  It’s a place where my son could get used to other kids his age and simply have the “school experience.”  But then I see how well he is doing now, and I think about all the things we can do in our “home school.”  I know it will be a different experience, but a good one.  Maybe a better one too.  In addition to this, I know that if I want to homeschool, it will be much easier to do it from the get-go.

While mulling over the possibility of sending him to school, however, I looked up how to enroll him.  I noticed that the requirement is that he must be five years old by September 1st to enroll in that school year.  That made my mind up immediately.  I would not enroll him in Kindergarten this coming year, even if I was going to send him to public school.  You see, my son’s birthday is August 25th.  If he were born only a week later, he’d have to wait another year.  But if I send him to school, he would be the youngest five year old in the class.  There would be a big difference between his “five years” and the five years of a child that was born in, say, February or March.

This was brought to my attention when I read part of The Little Boy Book by Sheila Moore.  (I should note that I didn’t finish the book because it seemed a little outdated, and I had already gotten similar information from Michael Gurian’s book, The Wonder of Boys. But I do think it was a helpful book.)  She notes that boys develop differently than little girls and sometimes they need more time when it comes to entering school.  As I mentioned, I had also learned a lot about the development differences in boys and girls in The Wonder of Boys.  I highly recommend that book. (FYI: He wrote a book about girls too.)

I don’t know many girls of my son’s ages to compare them with, but I sense this advice is true.  Academically my son is already in a Kindergarten level, but in other ways, I feel that my 4-year-old would benefit from waiting a year to enroll in Kindergarten.

Recently I met the daughter of one of our neighbors who happens to be a Kindergarten teacher at the school my son would attend, if I were going to send him to public school.  She asked me if my son would be going to Kindergarten soon.  When I told her I was planning to homeschool, she said, “Wonderful!”  Then when I told her his birthday and my thoughts about waiting another year for Kindergarten if I were going to send him, she nodded and said, “I highly recommend that, especially for boys.  Sometimes they seem to have a harder time adjusting to Kindergarten.”

It felt very gratifying hearing this from a Kindergarten teacher that could possibly be my son’s teacher!  She was also very encouraging and positive about homeschooling, so that felt good too.

I am going to continue working with my son in a no-pressure way this year on his academics.  Since we are homeschooling, I don’t have to worry about holding him back a year, but I can go at his own pace.  I found this encouraging post on Simple Homeschool about going at a child’s pace, especially at this age, and it says everything I would say on that topic.

What are your thoughts about sending your child to Kindergarten?

Update June 3, 2011:  Just found this interesting article, which says it all!  Psychology Today: Early Homeschooling Can Save American Schools

Update June 29, 2011:  Be sure to read this post about How to Homeschool Kindergarten (with information about the law in Georgia.)

For more of my posts on how we do kindergarten, click on “kindergarten” under Mama’s Main Matters in the left-hand margin.

The Best Part of Homeschooling: the Field Trips

The best part of homeschooling is the field trips!  There are countless venues and opportunities out there where children can explore and do hands-on learning.  Once I met a homeschooling family that went only one place for their vacations.  Though there’s many places I could visit again and again, it baffled me that they would do that while homeschooling.  There are so many places to take kids, if you are able!  As homeschoolers, especially, I believe we should take advantage of historical sites, national parks, and the wonderful venues that cities offer us.

We are very lucky that we live within driving distance to a large city.  My in-laws are visiting right now, so last week we all went to the Georgia Aquarium.  My 4-year-old is obsessed with ocean animals.  Though it’s an expensive venue, we have been able to get some very good coupons in the past, so we’ve taken him a few times.  With my in-laws, we realized it might be a better deal to go ahead and get a family membership, especially since we are thinking of taking my son there for his upcoming 5th birthday too.  (Shh!  Don’t tell!)  So it wasn’t planned, but we took the plunge.  They also offer some homeschool classes there, so I’m hoping we can take advantage of those next Fall.

I do my best to visit free places, but when my child loves and is so interested in something like this, I think it’s worth it.

My four-year-old was in heaven.  He had to go to the area where he could touch sting rays, sea urchins, star fish and other sea creatures about three times!  I think my 20-month-old is finally at an age where he could benefit from the stimulation too.  It was a fascinating experience for all!

Where are your favorite places to take your kids for some fun, learning and wonderment?

Online Resources for Homeschooling a Preschooler, Part 3

My youngest is ready to get at that computer too!

This is the third part of my 3-part column series that I wrote for The Barrow Journal about homeschooling a preschooler.  In it I focus on our online learning.  Click here to read the full column, and scroll down to find all the links I mention in the column plus more! — great for teaching kids their ABCs and phonics –>  and Free! —  a full, online curriculum for Pre-K through 8th grade; includes reports (except for Pre-K portion)  –>  $20 per month (But they are having an April special for $4.99, so you can check it out for cheap, if you want!) — I didn’t mention this in my column because we have not used it yet, and I think my son needs to get a little older before we do.  But it looks awesome, and it’s FREE!  It’s great for math and science.

A few other sites that I have found, which look great, but I haven’t used them much. —  (My sister, the first grade teacher, tipped me off to this one as well as

We also use applications or “apps” on my iPod Touch.  You have to download iTunes to access these.  ( iTunes is free to download, and it works on a PC too.

These apps were all under $2 to use.

“Letter Tracer” by Niftybrick Software

“First Words: Vehicles” and similar apps by Learning Touch

“TeachMe: Kindergarten” by 24x7digital LLC

“Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “Wheels on the Bus” and similar apps by Duck Duck Moose

Last but not least, my son and I LOVE YouTube.  I only gave it a paragraph in my column, but I wanted to go on and on about it. Sure, YouTube has a lot of junk on it, but you can also find many gems.  In the past, we have used it to look up different kinds of music and musicians because my son likes music, especially classical.  (“Play something with no words, Mommy.”)  Mostly we use it to look up videos of animals, especially ocean animals.  In fact, every time we make a paper animal as I mentioned in my earlier post/column, we always look it up on YouTube to see a video of the real animal in action.

If you are interested, here are a few of my son’s favorite videos on YouTube.  I have bookmarked them and taught him how to retrieve them, so once in a while, he watches them by himself.  (By teaching him to use the bookmarks, he goes down the list, and I don’t have to worry too much about him clicking on something I don’t want him to watch.  But I do check on him often, if I let him sit and watch by himself, just in case.)

Hermit Crab Shell Change — This hermit crab is a pet for a Kindergarten class in Florida, and in this video, you can watch it get a new home.

Lobster Migration —  Narrated by David Attenborough.  A BBC production.  For some reason, I think this is my son’s favorite.  Go figure!

Swimming with a Manta Ray —  Such beautiful creatures.  Another BBC production.

Army of Sea Urchins — Part of BBC’s Planet Earth.  (We are planning to watch that whole series sometime.)  This is a cool video because you can watch the sea urchins and starfish move in fast motion.

Shark vs. Octopus — by National Geographic.  Not for the faint of heart.

Stingray — by National Geographic.

Of course, you can watch lots of videos for kids at National Geographic for Kids!

These links are only a drop in the ocean of what is available to our kids today.  As long as children have a good balance of play time, outdoor time, and other activities, I strongly believe that it’s okay to let kids use computers, television and gadgets to learn, and I believe they enhance learning and the imagination too!  When our kids are adults, the world will be even more technologically sophisticated than it is today!  If a parent is able, why not let them start using these devices?

More Preschool Posts:

Homeschooling a Preschooler, Part 2

As promised, here is the second column that I wrote for The Barrow Journal on homeschooling a preschooler. In it I write some specific examples of what I do to teach my son, such as activity books, games, puzzles, and some of the arts and crafts we do.  Next week I’ll post the third column, which focuses solely on the online resources that I have used with him.

Click here to read the full column, or you can scroll down to see some related links and photos.

One of the activity books we have used….  It’s probably the most “school like” thing that we do.

My son and nephew playing a game together.  We love games and puzzles, and we use a lot of them.  To learn more about the benefits of playing puzzles, click here. To learn about an easy sight word game I invented, click here.

When I first began to wonder what kind of arts and crafts I could do with my son, I discovered that he didn’t like to paint or draw, but he liked using scissors!  He cut up small bits of paper, so I began to use those scraps to make paper animals.  This is the first one I made.  He calls it his “rainbow fish” after the popular children’s book of the same name.

I try not to spend a lot of money on homeschooling, but not long ago I invested in a laminator.  I got this one on Amazon for about $30, and a packet of 50 laminating sheets for about $11.  The sheets will last a long time.  I’m very happy with it, and I think that it’ll be very helpful over the long haul.

This is one of the projects we did with the paper animals.  We learned all about what kinds of animals live in trees.  On our first day of making the tree, we took a white sheet outside and shook some branches over it.  At that time, the trees in our yard yielded only an ant and a spider, but we knew all sorts of animals live in trees.  We made a new animal every few days.  🙂

Now we have an ocean on the wall.  However, I have not taught my son what lives in the ocean because HE TEACHES ME.  This kid is obsessed with ocean animals, and we already had a full supply of paper ocean animals to fill up our ocean.  (And some of them are not on the board because he likes to play with them.)

For a long time, it was Mama making all the animals, and my son refused to help.  This was a little frustrating for me, but I didn’t pressure him to change (too much), and over time, he started to help make parts of the animals (like the teeth of the saw shark above), and now he will even make the animals by himself!  Hooray!  Sometimes he gets busy making animals while I’m busy doing something else.  Double Hooray!!

I really think having an activity room helps encourage him to create and learn on his own.

This is the first animal he made:  a whipnose.  They are fish that live in the very deep parts of the ocean and have fishing-pole-like noses.

Here is his lion fish.  He likes to look in the animal encyclopedia that my nephew gave him for Christmas for new animals.

And I’m happy to say that he also likes to paint and draw now too!

What kinds of things do you do to help your children soar?!

More Preschool Posts: