Preschool That Works for Us

Last year, I was researching preschool options for my little boy. He was three at the time, but I felt like he was ready for a more structured preschool program. I wanted to do it at home so I researched homeschool curriculums. Some people may not think it’s a big deal to find a curriculum for Pre-K, but I needed structure and a plan if I was going to succeed!

Somehow, I don’t remember exactly how, I ran across Erin from Life, Abundantly. She offered a free Preschool curriculum called The Gentle + Classical Preschool, Level 1 for ages 2-4. I downloaded all I could from her site, and started reading. I loved her approach!

(I even read the books she recommended for further reading, like The Well-Trained Mind, by Susan Wise Bauer, and Preschool Math at Home by Kate Snow. These were super helpful in building my framework for what I wanted our preschool to look like.)

The first thing that drew me to Erin’s program was the importance placed on Jesus. Each unit includes a Bible verse and catechism or character. She provided planning sheets so I could plan our days, and on the planning page included some space to write out a Scripture memory verse for me for the week! This was very helpful in keeping my focus and remembering why I want to teach my children at home. On the bottom of our Weekly plan, she included “Jesus in, Joy out.” This was immensely encouraging.

We started our curriculum in May last year. I will admit, when I get into something, I go all out. I tend to obsess and that’s all I think about. So, the first few weeks we really dove into preschool! It was so much fun! I love Pre-K!

Each Unit correlates to a letter of the alphabet. (To go a bit deeper into Phonics and letters, I also bought The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading by Jessie Wise.) I love how Erin has encouraged Mama’s to take it as slow as you need to, and not to be too hard on yourself when things don’t go perfectly. My boy was catching on super quickly. He really loves one on one attention and loves learning. I noticed his attention span was improving. His behavior was improving. All from being intentional in teaching him a few simple things every day. See, Erin’s program encourages to teach all throughout the day. Counting cheerios, jumping up and down, playing outside…this was perfect for our family of two, soon to be three, rowdy boys.

Another big help in our preschool was the resources and planners I found from Tauna’s Proverbial Homemaker site. Especially her Relaxed Mom Homeschool Planner. It included a scripture and prayer guide for each day that we used. There are tons of helpful resources from Proverbial Homemaker! I structured our preschool portfolio binder from Richelle & Lindsey Productions. I merged several things into our portfolio that best fit our style. I loved being able to customize from different sources. Variety but similarity was great for us.

We did the program for two months straight. I decided to do official “school” on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. We would do story time at our local library on Tuesdays, and stock up with about 15 or so books for our unit that week. It was so much fun bringing home books about science, social studies, and then something that my son wanted to read for fun, like superhero books. We would set aside a reading time and try to hit 20 minutes a day. The summer reading program at the library helped us with this because there were prizes involved when you completed the little chart! I never would have became so involved in reading with my son or going to the library with him if not for the Gentle+Classical Preschool. Science subjects were particularly fun because we did projects and crafts. (Thanks, Pinterest!) I could take any subject as far as I wanted, or not focus so much on it because of my boy’s age. (Like learning our address…that just wasn’t sticking with him. Numbers don’t come natural to my firstborn.) But he loves painting, gluing, running around, and a good story. He’s a natural at memorizing facts so the statements in each unit were really good for him. We had so much fun with bees, caterpillars, spiders, learning about plants and the ocean…we got children’s science videos for some of these. We found out that you can make any craft ever with a paper plate and googly eyes!

Then we had a little setback because of a mid-July emergency with my youngest boy. (Second degree burns…not a fun month.) So we took a break, which was ok, because the program was “Gentle” we didn’t feel like we had to play catch up and be at a certain place. We have plenty of time. I had my third son in September, so we also had an extended “fall break”.

When we started back at the end of October, I incorporated a great Bible program for both the boys. It’s called “He Established A Testimony, Old Testament Stories for Young Children” by Sally Michael. Children Desiring God publishes this. I love it because it has one coloring page per story, and while I am reading or telling the story, they are coloring and actually pay attention while they’re coloring. Each lesson has wonderful questions for kids. And there are recurring themes such as “God is sovereign” and other truths that run through Scripture. Instead of focusing on the Bible “characters”, the lessons focus on how great God is, and ultimately that the stories all lead to Jesus and our need for a redeemer.

Now, we are on Unit 20 in the Gentle+Classical Preschool. I’m really pumped about the emphasis on American history right now because it’s so fun to me. He’s on the letter T, almost through with the whole alphabet!

Other resources that’s helped me out greatly is signing up for Homeschool Giveaways. Then from there, I’ve subscribed to several sites that have free downloads for preschool. Every Monday I use a few free downloads of Alphabet recognition that I print off for the boys. They’re just simple coloring sheets with the letter we’re working on. He really looks forward to these. Freebies are plentiful if you know where to look. I made the mistake of buying an alphabet activity book two years ago, but instead of spending money on stuff like that, just do a simple Pinterest search and it will lead to all sorts of goodies.

One thing I’ve also discovered is the discount books at places like Ollie’s. (We have one right next to the Kroger, so it’s a convenient and tempting stop.) I can buy a classic book for .99! This is the best discovery ever and our bookshelf is well stocked with classics and fun books. No need to pay $5 for the same book at another store when some digging will give you the same book for dollars cheaper. They also have cheap construction paper and flashcards. Speaking of flashcards, Target offers them for a dollar, too. That’s a great deal. Note: If you hadn’t noticed, all the stuff I like to use is “real” books and paper. I’m not really into the electronics at this stage in my kids’ school life. It may come in handy one day, but they’re not going into the workforce tomorrow–so we’ll save the screens for later!

I was always worried that my firstborn in particular would be hard to teach on account of stubbornness. My two older boys couldn’t be more different. My firstborn catches on lightening quick and spouts facts back at me with precision. My middle boy takes his time and has just started forming sentences. His learning style is different. He retains the info well, but takes his time on the output. I was afraid it would be hard to teach both. But when there is such an excellent resource as the Gentle+Classical Preschool, I am doing it easily! If you are interested in a preschool program that you want to do at home, please look into this! It changed our lives, it really did!

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