A Reader’s Question:
Do you have a recommendation for a great Catholic homeschooling curriculum for pre-school (ages 3-4)?
Actually, I don’t. We don’t use a curriculum for our preschool aged children because I have come to believe that 3-4 year olds learn best by playing. I didn’t always think that way, though. Like most things I know, I learned this particular schooling lesson the hard way.
When my oldest was 4, I was an overly eager homeschooling mother. Kateri knew all her numbers, letters, and sounds, so I figured there was no reason in the world to delay her schooling–we started kindergarten. In earnest. An advanced program.
For about an hour every day, we would sit down at the kitchen table with workbooks, rulers, crayons, and pencils. The sheer novelty of it all got us through the first week or so. After that, though, Kateri grew tired of it. Being capable of learning and being capable of learning in a formal setting are two entirely different things, I discovered.
She balked. I insisted.
She complained. I demanded.
She refused. I yelled.
“I can’t let her back out,” I thought to myself. “This is school!”
But that was exactly why I should have let it go. Because it was school. Because Kateri was not ready for school. Because our first taste of homeschooling was leaving a bitter taste in both of our mouths.
Here’s the thing: An 18 month old might be able to recite her ABCs backward and forward, but there’s not much she can do with that knowledge until she’s much older and able to grasp the concept of putting sounds together to read words. And she won’t be ready to do that in a formal setting for years yet. At that point, she and the 5 year old who knew nothing of the ABCs as a toddler but learned her letter sounds in a couple of days will be beginning at pretty much the same place.
But that doesn’t mean that preschoolers can’t learn. Most of them just aren’t ready for school yet. For preschoolers, I recommend doing a whole lot of what comes naturally. Reading storybooks out loud together. Singing songs. Building with blocks. Learning rhymes. Baking muffins together. Doing puzzles. Digging in the dirt. Collecting bugs. Playing imaginary princess or Daniel Boone. Coloring, painting, drawing, or playing with clay.
If you really want to and your child likes to, you can of course do some sit-down writing or reading work, but I firmly believe that this should be presented to the 3-4 year old as entirely optional, with no stress attached. For this kind of thing, any basic numbers or letters or phonics workbook should do.
Ahem… After typing all of this I realize that perhaps this is a bit more information than you were looking for. I’ll just step down from my soap box now and see about making some lunch for my gang– the schoolers and the not-quite-ready-for-schoolers alike.