You 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. Although my kids were learning through play, they weren’t learning some things yet like letters and sounds. 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 what kids need to know before kindergarten. Then, I found resources that would help me teach them in ways that were fun! You can do this. If you are trying to decide if homeschooling is right for your family, read about the pros and cons of homeschooling here.
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What do kids learn at preschool?
Update 2018: I highly recommend you find out what your school district would like kids to know entering kindergarten. 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” just by spending all day with your kids.
Most of what they need to learn will come naturally through play, reading books, and chatting all day with mom. The rest is just a matter of you being intentional to fill in the gaps.
Academic skills Preschoolers should know before kindergarten
- Identify (in random order) and write 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
- Identify the ABC’s lowercase and uppercase (in random order)
- Sounds that letters make for lowercase and uppercase
- How to write their name
- How to hold a pencil and use scissors
- Learn to use glue and paper
- Tracing shapes and letters
- 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
Life skills to teach your preschoolers
- Be able to follow directions
- Sit and listen without interrupting
- Take turns
- Imaginative Play
- Potty trained
- Hand washing with soap
- Waiting in line
- Tying shoes (if you plan to send them to school with ties)
- Memorizing a parent’s name and address
- Pull up pants and be able to put on a coat
Preschool supplies we use:
- Art supplies for preschool craft activities.
- This reading book for my 4 year old to learn sounds and letter names.
- This preschool activity book that works on colors, shapes, patterns, tracing, and letter recognition.
- Kumon dry erase uppercase & lowercase flashcards to practice tracing letters we learn.
A complete preschool curriculum option if you are looking for more structure
Update Aug 2019: We are trying out a complete homeschool preschool curriculum with my second child, called Playing Preschool by Busy Toddler. The activities are fabulous and simple. Plus, as of March 2020 she is offering a 25% off coupon using code HOME25 while kids are out of school.
If you want lesson plans that tell you what to do each day, this is for you! See my full review here of how it’s been going for us.
If you want to see how we did a relaxed homeschool preschool with my 1st with no lesson plans, while still learning all the basics, read on!
How to homeschool preschool with a 4 year old
First off, you do not have to spend a bunch of money on preschool curriculum. There are TONS of free resources out there. You can easily find free letter of the week activities on Pinterest if you choose to structure preschool activities around that.
For my oldest who is 4, I chose not to do a letter of the week themed preschool. Instead, we do lot’s of hands on play, about 15 minutes/day of reading out loud, and about 30 minutes/day (often every other day) of structured learning.
I think as mamas who want to homeschool preschool we tend to forget how most skills are learned at this age. It’s from playing and being with mom and asking questions ALL DAY. Don’t undervalue this, because it’s so influential.
Step 1: Figure out what you need to teach and what you want to teach
I get really overwhelmed with so many great ideas out there, because I feel like I’m always missing something. I’ll see a cute preschool theme on space, or dinosaurs, or (insert hundreds of possible cool things to teach) and wonder if I’m not doing enough. Those things are just fun ideas, not requirements.
What you need to do is figure out the most important things you have to cover before kindergarten, and then then add in other topics you have time for. Follow whatever your preschooler is interested in, and they will be much more excited about it!
Step 2: 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 tools to 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 3: Pick a time each day for formal school
I like the morning after breakfast. I’m fresh, we haven’t done any T.V. yet, and we can still go to the park or have a play date after.
This is my one on one time with him where I’m the teacher. These are usually activities that involve me teaching letters, sounds, and any writing/tracing. I adjust this to fit what he’s interested in and seemingly capable of.
Step 4. Pick a time each day for a hands on 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
- Library (we go once a week)
- Make a list of things to find outside (a treasure hunt)
- Chalk drawing/ hop scotch
- Build something
- Bake something
- Visit the science center or zoo
Our favorite preschool activity book for 3-4 year olds
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 should have ordered 2 since my 3 year old wants to participate now (although she’s sloppier and often just colors the pages). We have just been tearing out pages for her, and they do tear out easily without ripping btw!
Below are some fun activities for your tool kit. The Melissa and Doug duo below 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.
How we manage preschool with two kids
If your kids are different ages, you may need to have two separate one on one times. Which also means finding something to keep the other kids busy.
My almost 3 year old girl does not really “do preschool” yet. She plays with her brothers, draws, traces, and learned shapes and colors without formal teaching. She listens to stories and loves hands on activities, but her attention span is just too short for formal learning yet. Plus, she shows no interest. Her preschool is 100% play school right now.
Update November 2018: My daughter is now 3.5 and it became obvious when she recently wanted to learn more. For the first time she has gotten excited about tracing letters, learning patterns, letter sounds, and starting the reading book I mentioned earlier. If I would have tried to force this on her 6 months ago, it would have been a constant frustration for both of us! And completely unnecessary.
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 are MANY good ways, and it might look different for each of your kids.
How much time should preschool take each day?
We spend about 30 minutes a day intentionally learning sounds/shapes/tracing/or letters/etc, and then read books!
If you want to include the unscheduled painting session we ended up doing (just an example), then you could add on 15 minutes.
Here’s a full breakdown of my opinion on how long preschool should take and why.
Does preschool at home need to be every day?
At this age, preschool doesn’t have to be every day. I have friends who do a preschool co-op and they meet two days a week for a couple hours. They include circle time (for songs, learning days/months of the year/ and seasons), a letter of the week activity, and a craft around that letter.
Most preschool-aged kids only go 2-3 half days a week for around 4 hours, unless their parents are paying a lot more.
And they are not “doing school” the whole time. There will be art, crafts, games, songs, free play, snack time, lunch time, reading out loud, and more play time.
Our easy homeschool preschool schedule
School is happening ALL day because they are always asking questions, wanting to help, to build, to climb, to bake, helping mom match socks, counting how many books we have, you get the idea. But to keep myself accountable, I made an easy schedule I’m sharing with you for free! Enter your email below and it will be delivered to your inbox to print anytime.
Make a routine, not a strict schedule
Most people I’ve learned from recommend doing school as part of a routine. Not necessarily at a set time. That way the kids 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 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:
- Learning activity (formal things I want to teach one on one)
- Hands on play for as long as they want. (Usually Play Doh, Duplos, drawing, stamps, etc.)
- Read out loud for about 15 min.
- Watch a show, run errands, play date, or just play at home till lunch.
- Tidy & nap time
- Afternoons we play, build, make food, go outside, or watch a show if I need to get something done.
A typical homeschool preschool day for us includes:
A Reading Lesson
First we eat breakfast, the kids play while I finish my coffee, and then I do a reading lesson out of this reading book with my 4-year-old while my 3-year-old plays and my baby is still sleeping. This takes us about 15 minutes. It has taught him all the letter sounds, sound combinations, and how to sound out words! Without this book, you would need to find another way to teach letter sounds.
Check out my post to see how you can teach your child to read, plus a video of him reading! And by the way, this is just a bonus because your child will not be learning to read like this at preschool if you send them so no pressure!
We watch a show
After that he gets to watch a 30 minute show. It motivates him to read, so I’m fine with that! We are in lesson 20 and he can already read sentences like “An ant sat on a seed”.
A few pages from the Big Preschool Workbook
Next we do a few pages from the The Big Preschool Workbook, or Dollar Store workbooks with games, matching, tracing, etc! This would be the time to try out any preschool learning activities that you find on Pinterest.
A hands on activity
Last, we do a hands-on activity that does not require my full attention. Pinterest can be your best friend if you need ideas, but think Play Doh, build a fort, color, scooping, magnetic tiles, glue stick and paper, etc.
Let your child lead your preschool
Homeschooling preschool allows you to follow their interests at the right time. The perfect time to teach them something new is when they seem interested. For example:
- Do they point at shapes and say the name? Teach them more shapes!
- Do they guess the wrong color on a shirt? Teach them more colors!
- Does your preschooler hold coins they find and guess the name? Show the names of all the coins!
- Has your preschooler scribbled to pretend writing? Teach them to hold a pencil and how to draw a circle and a vertical line (pre-writing skills).
- Are they trying to write a letter but you can’t recognize it? Perfect time to start tracing letters.
Examples of how to homeschool preschool
My kids are so much more engaged when we learn through games rather than flashcards of any kind. For instance, learning to recognize numbers is more fun when you play a match game or do a “connect the dot” picture then just a flashcard.
Every day I just ask myself did they learn something new? Do an activity? Play nicely? Get exercise? Then hurray!
Numbers & counting
For number recognition, they have mostly learned these through books, and naturally throughout the days by pointing out numbers on boxes, receipts, or anything really. They also learn them in the Big Preschool Workbook through matching games and connect the dots.
For learning to count out loud we count in the car. We also count how many jumps they can do on couch cushions or on our pogo pals. 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 30.
Update Jan 2019: They love counting to 100 now when jumping, and it’s the best way to tire them out! Sometimes I just count, and other times I make them count with me.
I also 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. Over time you will see them go from needing you to point to being able to do it themselves! It’s cool.
We use the book “Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons”, and it does not teach letters in order from A-Z. It teaches the lowercase letters (first as sounds, later the letter names). If you do not use this book, you will want to find another fun way to teach letters and the sounds they make. Lots of mamas use a letter a week curriculum! That sounds very fun but will need a little more planning.
Another great tool for teaching letters and associating them with objects are these fun water wow cards from Melissa and Doug. My kids have loved these as early as age 2! You “paint” with the water stick and the photo starting with that letter appears. Plus they are reusable!
This is an especially great tool to take to doctor appointments, in the car, or on an airplane.
Writing letters in their name
For beginning letter tracing, we love these dry erase flashcards. They have letters on one side and pictures that begin with that letter on the other side they can color. I only do this as they are interested, starting around age 4.My almost 3-year-old is not yet learning letters, although she is capable I think.
She just likes to color in the letter 🙂 Here’s an in depth look at how we are teaching my son to write letters of the alphabet!
Update 2020: If you are going to use Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons, try out this 100 page tracing pdf. You actually do not need use the reading book to benefit from these tracing pages! But, they were custom made to go along with the letters learned there.
We teach sounds before letter names using our reading book mentioned above. It is easy and teaches me exactly what to do and say. Honestly, I hadn’t taught sounds to my son till we started the book.
I’m just 20 lessons in and my son can say SO many sounds and 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 throughout the day on books, cereal boxes, and packages.
Colors and shapes
Most baby books start with shapes and colors. My kids have learned these just by talking with me, in books, and pointing to pictures we see.
Hands-on creative 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.
- Play Doh
- Digging outside
- Stacking blocks
- Making indoor obstacle courses
- Sorting toys we have by color or shape
- Sidewalk chalk
- Cooking with mom
- 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!
Challenges of homeschooling
What I like least about teaching preschool is coming up with activities. 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.
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 more intentional with early reading and letter tracing.
When your friends don’t homeschool 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 didn’t get one (embarrassing to admit, I know!). 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.
Update October 2018: How preschool at home has turned out after 1 year.
My kids are now 3.5 and newly 5, and I’m doing preschool with both while my 1.5 year old often interrupts or needs something. It’s a new challenge, and hard to juggle because interruptions happen every time!
I now do one on one time with each. Thankfully there is one kid to distract my toddler!
The reason I’m happy with our laid back approach so far is that my new 5 year old is showing huge progress! He’s writing many letters (we started with his name) and is reading level 1 books from the library (with help). He can recognize numbers in random order, count to 30 (easy to learn if you just do it in the car for “fun” haha), knows most letter names and all their sounds, shapes, colors, and still plays 90% of the day.
You can homeschool your preschooler!
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!
Update 2020: Our relaxed homeschool kindergarten & curriculum
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.
I would love it if you would leave me a comment with what challenges you face when it comes to starting preschool at home. I’d love to know! Also, you can follow Blue and Hazel on Instagram too.
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