Preschool at my house – large family homeschooling (with toddlers!)

finger painting cleanup IMG_9912

Fingerpainting – 5 minutes of actual finger painting (in the bottom of the tubs) then 45 minutes of cleaning up! First the tubs, then the kids. They did seem to have fun though.

I have been asked a few times recently what I am doing for preschool with my 4-year-old children. There have been no major changes to how we have always done things; we just take the sitting and focussing skills they have already been learning during mat time, playpen time, room time, highchair time and other periods of focussed play and apply them to the next level of hands-on learning.

We have been focussing on basic counting skills, learning our letter namessounds and identifying initial sounds (moving on to 3 letter words) and other hands on activities that promote fine motor skills. (Plus some other kindergarten style activities that are pretty much just for fun.) I work with just the twins for 20 minutes each morning, which gives them some focussed time with Mummy before I go on to the older children while the twins do independent activities on their mats.

This short period of time I know by experience (coupled with the learning they receive during our daily flexible routine, reading times etc.) is enough to give them a strong start in all the learning areas as they get older. Preschool need not be particularly complicated, formal or arduous to be effective and it does not need to take all day. We do some more formalised work at this age because they are ready for it and enjoy doing “real school” like the big kids. If these two factors were not in place I would back off until they were ready.

Here is a snapshot of the activities we have been doing over the last 2 weeks.

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Our preschool activity cupboard for “school with Mummy” time.

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Mat time activities cupboard – Lego, counting button puzzle, pattern blocks and puzzle cards, button sorting, cutting and magnetic pompoms.

numbered lids counting 1 to 10 IMG_9917

Counting 1 to 10. Spice jar lids marked with metallic pens and some plastic tiles to count.

hair lacky counting IMG_9833

Hair elastics and swizzle sticks marked 1 to 10. The number strip is to follow until they know the order of the numerals.

jewels and creature cards counting IMG_9926

Another number sequencing and counting to 10 activity, combined with some tong work for pincer grip strength.

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Counting golden rings to match numbered “glass” slippers (wedding favours.)

initial sounds worksheets J IMG_9973

Initial sounds activity sheets. Just a bunch of pictures to decide if they do (circle them) or don’t (cross them out) start with the correct sound. Large letter in centre of page to practise letter formation in. Doing some written work makes them feel like the big kids – they love it! Takes 5 minutes so not at all taxing for me or them.

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Addition tray. Now the twins can order numerals to 10 and display reasonable 1-to-1 correspondence we have started basic adding and subtracting activities.
plate addition IMG_9965

Ideally the plate for the total would be bigger than the other plates! The idea is that the two plates are tipped together into the last plate to find the total. I find however that having the blocks in a line makes it easier for them to count without re-counting the same block repeatedly.

twins doing addition trays IMG_9971

These school activities are definitely not independent as yet. The moment I left to take a couple of photos, my son started building trains with the blocks!

duplo 3 letter words IMG_0001

The twins have developed their ability to hear the initial sound in words and we are now working on 3 letter consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words. The next sound most children hear is the last sound in the word, followed by the middle sound. These letter tiles are Coko bricks that are compatible with Duplo boards. Good for beginning activities for non-writers or those who find writing tedious.

s sunflowers IMG_9870

Art – 4 year old’s version of Van Gogh’s sunflowers. We actually got around to doing a proper picture study. Forgot to take photos of the older children’s work, but some of them were better than mine!

j sunflowers IMG_9868

Who cares about sunflowers? I can mix all my colours into a great brown sludge!!

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Toddler version of sunflowers. He actually didn’t want to paint anything at all. I practically had to make him do it just for the photo 🙂 Doesn’t like dirty hands!

twins school cupboard IMG_9859

What do you do with a toddler while you homeschool? Heaps of things!! Here are just a few and if you follow my blog at all you know there are many more ideas to be had. Step one – train them to sit and focus. Step 2 – find some engaging activities. Step 3 – pop them in the playpen when they have had enough of highchair time, followed by a good session of running around outside to burn off energy. That’s just the current morning routine while the older children get the bulk of their work done. It has changed many times.

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Magnetic blocks in a metal box. Stroke of genius to store them this way – NOT!! This was the only container I had and when I put them in it occurred to me that it would make a great building platform. Pure luck!

asher dressed up IMG_9937

What has this got to do with school time? Nothing at all! Just another one of those great embarrassing photos we are storing up for our kid’s 21st birthdays. Plus, he’s so cute! For those who are worried about the girlie outfit, please note that he is carrying 2 trucks!



5 Responses

  1. A fun, creative, exciting way to learn. Brings back happy memories when my son was about their age. All the best to you and your family.

  2. HAHAHAHA! I have been quietly reading through many of your blog posts during my lunch here. I am howling with laughter, smiling with relation and admiration, curiously wondering in amusement; and debating to my iPad screen. Yes. All while reading 😀 I have said this in many a comment before: I just LOOVE your blog! But, there are seldom times I have laughed aloud, disagreed, and ran for a notepad to write down activity ideas you’ve inspired! I do have questions lol. First, I just wonder where did you find that “metal box” used for the magnets for toddler? My LO is 5 but struggles with developmental delays. You have shared very many different ways you’ve taught some activities with your children that seem mainstream (like I’ve seen them before) but, with your own unique twist–I LOVE THAT! I NEED that! Well, LO needs that. My youngest seems to crave the same activities her friends are doing but, doesn’t really get interested in them, until they’re almost like her own idea, sorta…kinda like a little different from her “friends”. For example, I must read or ask you more about the letter blocks that match the duplo set you shared?!!? You spoke there of children that are “not really willing writers”: THATS MINE! I believe she would REALLY benefit from YOUR/this technique of “building words” or even simply exploring the alphabet further, in this same manner!!! 🙂 I am totally excited about this so excuse the exclamation marks. (It’s been a LONG Road with my youngest). I am still reading further but I’d like to ask also, Where the lettered blocks & Duplo mat/board came from? I will be heading to Thrift Stores this week, with these items in mind–wish me luck! For now, I’ve followed you on wordpress and so I don’t miss a post by chance, I’m going to subscribe by email. I would like to Pin and share your posts is that ok?

    • What lovely feedback! Always good to know someone out there is getting some benefit 🙂 and yes, feel free to pin and share. The Coko letter bricks I purchased through an educational toys shop years ago. Just google them and look for the best price – probably will be online rather than in an actual store I would guess. I have never seen anything like it secondhand (and we do op-shop fairly regularly) but you could probably get the Duplo baseboards secondhand. In Australia, Gumtree is a good source or even ebay? As for the metal box – verge collection!! Once a year our council has a “bring out the dead” collection for large junk and everyone throws all kinds of stuff out front, knowing that anything that is still good will be collected by people like us who cruise about checking out the piles! My kids LOVE doing it. I don’t always love all the junk they want to bring home but we have found some amazing things over the last couple of years. The metal box is a peg container/laundry organiser. You can buy them in Kmart/Big W type stores here labelled with things like pegs, laundry powder etc. If there is anything specific you would like me to post on, let me know.

  3. how do you make this trays…i love it, do you buy them ready…, the little shoes…etc…everything? Do you know also a good place to buy montessory materials and furniture for homeschool homes with big families?

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