Any parent can learn how to homeschool preschool! When I first started, I was so intimidated and wondered what my child would need to know to be ready for kindergarten. It hit me that although my kids were learning through play (which is most of what they do at preschool), they weren’t learning some things yet like letters and sounds. Like every homeschool mom, I wanted to be sure they were not behind, especially if I was considering sending them to kindergarten.
Sending both our kids to preschool is too expensive at this point. So after a short unnecessary panic, I started researching about how to homeschool preschool. Once you know what they need to know, then you can make a plan. I have a basic checklist to make sure my kids know what they need to before kindergarten. So I’ll teach you exactly what we do and what you need to know!
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What do kids learn if you send them to preschool?
Update 2018: I highly recommend finding out what your school district would like kids to know entering Kindergarten, to give you an idea of an end goal for preschool. This varies by state. There is no common core curriculum for Pre-K, but most states have adopted the common core curriculum which starts in Kindergarten.
Parents send their kids age 2-5 or so to preschool in the USA. You are probably already doing half this list without trying to “do preschool”. Yay! And don’t panic, because you absolutely don’t need a curriculum, unless you want one. Then that’s fine.
Most of what they need to learn will come naturally through daily activities, play, and chatting all day with mom (I can barely remember my life without kids chatting all day! 😉
- Identify numbers 1-10
- Counting 1-29 (once they can do this, they will be able to go all the way up to 99 due to the pattern. That is expected by the end of Kindergarten)
- Shapes & Colors
- Say and identify the ABC’s lowercase and uppercase
- Identify sounds that letters make lowercase and uppercase
- How to write their name
- How to hold a pencil and use scissors
- Learn to use glue and paper
- How to draw pictures and shapes by first tracing
- Be able to rhyme words with a new sound. For example what rhymes with ball and starts with the sound “t” (tall).
- Learn context for “today”, “yesterday”, “tomorrow”
- Days of the Week, Months of the Year, and names of Seasons
- Following Directions
- Sit and listen without interrupting
- Taking turns
- Imaginative Play
- Learn to wash hands
- Waiting in line
- Memorizing parent’s names and address
- Pull up own pants and put on a coat
How to homeschool preschool with a 4 year old
This is what’s working well for us. It’s not a letter a week curriculum. It’s lot’s of hands on play, about 15 minutes/day of reading out loud, and about 30 minutes/day of structured learning. For that, I bought a few supplemental books to teach my preschooler the skills he needs to prepare for kindergarten.
I did not want to buy expensive homeschool preschool curriculum, so to start I chose:
- Art supplies for some preschool craft activities
- This reading book for my 4 year old to learn sounds and letter names (Under $14)
- This preschool activity book that works on colors, shapes, patterns, tracing, and letter recognition. ($Under 8)
- Kumon dry erase uppercase & lowercase flashcards ($10) to practice tracing letters we learn.
Step 1: Get supplies for preschool craft activities
I think it’s helpful to order a few crafts and tools online to have around. You cant really go wrong if you find stuff that helps show them numbers, shapes, letters, and colors.
I keep a cupboard that has supplies in it including:
- Blank Paper
- Play Doh
- Craft items
- Acrylic paints & Do A Dot Markers
Step 2: Pick a time each day for some formal learning
I like the morning after breakfast. I’m fresh, we haven’t done any T.V. yet, we can still go to the park or have a play date after, and it’s out of the way by naps. We do about 15-30 minutes of formal learning each day with my 4 year old.
This is my one on one time with him where I’m the teacher. It’s for doing a few pages in his workbook (with me as he needs help knowing what to do on each page), and a short reading lesson.
When my 3 year old starts later and needs one on one attention, then I’ll have to increase that time for two kids. Be sure to sign up to get your free customizable daily preschool checklist below. This will allow you to easily know what to do each day.
Step 3. Pick a time each day for informal learning
Pick an activity (We usually do 15 minutes or as long as they are having fun). Or go somewhere. Here’s some ideas:
- Play Doh
- Pinterest craft
- Bean scooping
- Color a picture for a pen pal
- Go to the park
- Make a list of things to find outside (a treasure hunt!)
- Build something together
- Bake something together
- Go swimming
- Visit the science center or zoo
I think as mamas we tend to forget where most of life skills are learned in preschool. It’s from playing and being with mom and asking questions ALL DAY. Don’t undervalue this, because it’s so influential.
A preschool activity book to get you started:
We have the Big Preschool ABC book pictured below and it’s awesome! If you just want one item to start, try this. There are 300 pages inside, with tons of tracing, coloring, counting, matching, numbers, patterns, and more!
My 4 year old boy loves it, and can do 3-4 pages at a time.
Update May 2018: We LOVE the Big Preschool Book, but it may have been nice to have two since my 3 year old wants to participate now (although she’s sloppier). We have just been tearing out pages for her, and they do tear out easily without ripping btw!
Below are some fun and useful activities for your tool kit, if you like ordering pre done activities. The Melissa and Doug duo below that has activities for using scissors and tape (scissors and tape included), and if you are looking for just cutting practice the Kumon book has 80 pages of cutting practice for beginners, ages 2+ (although most reviewers say it’s perfect around age 4). You will have to buy a pair of safety scissors separately though with the Kumon book.
What should you teach at different ages?
There’s no set in stone answer because each boy and girl’s attention span and interest is different.
My almost 3 year old girl does not really “do preschool” yet. She plays with her 4.5 year old brother, sings songs, is mom’s sidekick, and entertains my 11 month old. Her language skills have been incredible since she was 2. She listens to stories, and loves sensory activities but her attention span is just too short and she has no interest in formal learning yet.
If you feel anxiety over what to teach at what ages, just keep an end goal in mind of what you would like them to know by kindergarten. Keep trying to introduce things and it will be obvious when they are interested!
For instance, my son gets too frustrated when trying to cut paper in zig zags. If it’s clearly too hard and not fun, I just put it away and try again in a couple months.
Each child will do preschool at a different pace
I’ve seen a huge difference in what my boy and girl have been capable of at parallel ages. I’ve learned boys are usually (not always) quite behind little girls at this age, so don’t worry. When it comes to how to homeschool preschool, there’s MANY good ways, and it might look different for each of your kids.
For me, I try stuff out and see if they can do it. If not, I try again later!
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How much time should preschool take each day
I have a 11 month old, and a 3 and 4.5-year-old at home. I’m not a very scheduled person so the hardest part of “doing preschool” is actually blocking out some time for learning. And I mean, very little time for formal learning, like 30 minutes or two 15 minute blocks!
At this age, it doesn’t even have to be every day. If you spend 30 minutes a day intentionally learning things, your preschooler is going to learn a lot! Even just using time every day to sit and read to them would be a great start.
But if I’m honest, school is happening ALL day in preschool because they are always wanting to help, to build, to climb, to bake, helping mom match socks, to count how many books we have, you get the idea.
Most preschool-aged kids only go 2-3 half days a week, unless their parents are paying a lot more. And much of the day is spent playing and using their imaginations, not “doing school”. Their attention spans are just too small for hours of formal learning.
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Our homeschool preschool schedule
Most people I’ve learned from recommend doing “school” as part of a routine. Not necessarily at a set time. More so the kids (and myself) know what’s coming next. We do 1-2 short blocks of more formal learning each day before lunch.
I say blocks of time because my almost-3-year-old’s attention span is a lot shorter than my 4-year-old. So a block of time for her is around 10 minutes (and like I said, we don’t formally do any preschool for her yet) and a block of time for my 4-year-old is 10-20 min.
Example daily preschool schedule starting after breakfast:
- Learning activity (formal things I want to teach one on one) (20 min)
- Hands on play for as long as they care to play. Usually Play Doh, Duplos, drawing, stamps, etc.
- I read out loud for about 15 min.
- Watch a show, run errands, play date, or just play at home till lunch.
- Tidy & Naptime
- That’s it! Afternoons we play, build, make food, go outside, or watch a show if I need to get something done.
What we usually include in our preschool routine
- Short lesson (10-15 minutes)
- Hands on activity (as long as they want)
- Play (pretty much most of the day)
- I read to them for about 15 min (a few books every day)
Our new routine has been to eat breakfast, the kids play while mom finishes her coffee, and then I do a reading lesson out of this reading book with my 4-year-old while my almost 3-year-old plays and my baby is still sleeping. This takes us about 10-15 minutes. Check out my post to see how you can teach your child to read! And by the way, this is just a bonus because your child will not be learning to read at preschool if you send them so no pressure!
After that he gets to watch a show. And if I can be honest I think he LOVES his reading lesson because of the reward of a show. I don’t care if it motivates him to read! We are in lesson 20 and he can already read sentences like “An ant sat on a seed”.
After the show, I’ll crack out some kind of hands-on thing and sometimes play some kids music. Pinterest can be your best friend if you need ideas, but we mostly do Play Doh, bake something, build a fort, color, whatever.
If you already read to your kids, let them color, sing the ABC’s and point out shapes or sounds on things like cereal boxes, then you are already doing most of what I consider preschool. Basically every day I just ask myself did they learn something new? Do an activity? Play nicely? Get exercise? Then hurray!
Our favorite school room tool
Something that gets used most days for preschool, as well as just play, is our art easel. We use this one by Hape Toys, provided to us free from Hape Toys and it has been a key tool I use for both play and preschool. It has a whiteboard, paper roll, empty paint pots, and a blackboard.
You will need to buy your own markers and paint and chalk and brushes, and an extra paper roll as the one that comes with it has barely any paper. If you are on the fence like I was about getting one, I can say it is honestly a favorite and never collects dust like most of their toys.
Examples of how to homeschool preschool
How I teach numbers & counting
For number recognition, I just draw numbers out on paper or their art easel.
For learning to count out loud we just do it every day! I don’t worry if they get it wrong and say 5, 6, 9, 10…enough repetition and they will get it right! We go all the way up to 20.
I ask them how many of something there is, like cereal bowls on the table. Or buttons on a shirt. Or bananas in the bundle. Then I help them count while I touch each one. We also have books that have numbers in them and those help with recognizing the number as well as counting.
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How I teach letters
We sing the ABC song every night while brushing teeth. It’s about as long as I need them to keep their mouth open, so they know that song! As for letter recognition, we love these dry erase flashcards. They have letters on one side and pictures that begin with that letter on the other side.
I know some people who do a new letter each week and theme their preschool week around that letter. So fun if you can organize that! We do it a little differently.
My 4-year-old is learning to read (totally not a requirement for preschool just so you know), and the book we use does not teach letters in order from A-Z.
So, we learn the lowercase letters as he learns the sounds in his book, usually one new letter every few days. If you do not use this book, you will want to find another fun way to teach letters and the sounds they make.
And my almost 3-year-old is not yet learning letters, although she is capable I think. She just likes to color in the letter 🙂
Another great tool for teaching letters and associating them with objects are these fun water wow cards from Melissa and Doug. Our kids loved and used them waaaay before ever “doing” preschool because they are really entertaining. You “paint” with the water stick and the photo starting with that letter appears. Plus they are reusable! I can’t recommend them enough, even if you are far away from teaching the alphabet. We got ours around age 2. This is an especially great tool to take to doctor appointments, in the car, or on an airplane.
How I teach sounds
We teach sounds using the reading book How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. It is a lifesaver for teaching reading (again, this is advanced for preschool) and teaches me exactly what to do. Honestly, I hadn’t taught sounds to my son till we started the book. Once again, you will want another tool for teaching sounds if not this one.
I’m just 20 lessons in and Nigel can say SO many sounds, and can sound out so many words! Just today on our way into church, he stopped to look at the “sounds” he saw on a car that spelled out “J-E-E-P”. We point out sounds he has learned in the book all throughout the day, like on books, cereal boxes, and packages.
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How I teach colors and shapes
I will draw shapes on their art easel or on printer paper and ask what shape it is. This is probably one of the easiest things to teach and learn, and most baby books start with shapes and colors. And I’ve found that books with shapes and colors will go a long way in teaching preschool at home. Lots of my friend’s kids know their shapes and colors early from learning shows or apps.
We also love this clock below (click the pic to see where to get it) for teaching letters, colors, and numbers. It’s a really great educational tool that the kids love to play with, and I’ll use it later on too when I’m teaching them to tell time.
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Hands-on creative play
I feel like one of the best parts of homeschooling preschool is just making learning fun and letting them discover through play. Lots of preschool moms enjoy matching a hands-on activity that matches the letter they are working on, or the color, shape, etc. I don’t really plan enough yet to do that, (you crafty moms are amazing to me!) so instead I just kind of rotate through sensory activities.
This includes Play Doh, digging outside, stacking blocks, making indoor obstacle courses, sorting toys we have by color or shape, sidewalk chalk, cooking with mom, and crafts if I can get to the dollar store once in a while. Call it preschool if you want. I think a lot of it is just a day in the life of a stay at home mom, for real!
The hardest part is planning
What I like least about teaching preschool is coming up with activities. My brain just doesn’t do that! If you are like me in that way then tap into other mom’s creative juices on Pinterest and find 10 things you could easily do if you had the supplies. Then get the supplies. I promise you this will make preschool more fun for you and them!
The other hardest part is just starting. With the arrival of our third baby I felt pretty frazzled and stretched for time. How in the world was I going to add something like preschool? The truth is, not much got added, but I became a bit more intentional with early reading.
Most your friends will not be homeschooling their preschoolers
All my mom friends were sending their kids to preschool 2-3 days a week and getting a break, which quickly made me feel sorry for myself that I don’t get one (embarrassing to admit, I know, but honest!). Once I got over my pity party and made a plan, which you now have from this post, it got easier!
After doing this for a few months now, I see it takes a lot less time than I thought, and it is actually pretty cool to see them learn stuff.
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You can do it!
So even if you think you couldn’t possibly homeschool your preschooler, you totally can! You really can’t mess it up if you can teach the list I mentioned earlier. And maybe you will love doing homeschool preschool so much so much you will keep homeschooling into Kindergarten!
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Other homeschool preschool mama blogs:
Here are two other amazing homeschool mamas to check out. They will show you how simple preschool can be.
- Anna from The Measured Mom is a former teacher turned SAHM with many great resources for homeschooling. She has a wonderful Kindergarten readiness guest post from a Kindergarten teacher that will help you measure your homeschool preschool year with examples of what’s considered “On Target”, “Mastery”, or “Red Flag” for multiple areas of learning.
- Jamie from Simple Homeschool. She nails how to homeschool preschool with examples of how life is the curriculum and how you can be intentional with your preschoolers at home teaching them SO many important things. She is not trying to sell you a curriculum but rather show you how to teach life skills.
Leave me a comment with what you would love to see more of on the blog when it comes to raising preschoolers. Nap time? Dirty house? Activities? Juggling sanity? I’d love to know!