Thursday, July 25, 2013

Preschool planning, and considering your needs

Looking to the year ahead with the littlest of my learners, I have been stuck in a quandary. On a philosophical level, I subscribe to the notion that you don't need a preschool curriculum to successfully "do preschool" at home with your 3 or 4 year old. When I think of purchasing a preschool curriculum, the first thing that springs to mind is a package designed to push academics too early on a little child (although of course they aren't all like that). I want preschool to be full of fun, and reading great books, and doing crafts and messy art projects. I think to myself, "I can pull that together on my own. I don't need a curriculum to follow!"

So I've labored under that premise - that preschool should be simple and fun, and I don't need a curriculum to accomplish that.

Ask me how that's been working for me.

The problem here, is that I have two other kids and I tend to make a lot of modifications to their work. I don't follow a program to the T (except for math), and that requires a lot of preparation. What am I not good at? Preparation. I've said before, I'm great at big picture planning, and rather lousy at short term preparation.

My vision for preschool requires a LOT of preparation. What it winds up looking like, in practice, is something like this.

Ella: "Mommy, I want to do school wiv you!"

Me: "Um... ok honey," as I begin shuffling through some papers, wondering if I have anything ready to go. I laugh out loud, because the idea that I'm prepared is THAT hilarious. "Just a second, let me see what we can do today..." and I trail off as I wrack my brain to think of something that might work. I know I had some ideas... where's that Pinterest board...

So while I am perfectly capable of coming up with fun preschool-ish ideas to work on with her, with everything else I have to plan, prep and execute, I could use a little help.

In my internal insistence that I don't need a preschool curriculum, I was forgetting a key principle in homeschool planning - considering our actual needs, in this moment. It is fine and dandy to feel that preschool doesn't need to be formal and have a desire to emphasize fun over pushing academics. But what does our family need this coming year? I have two older kids working at different levels, and a little girl who very much wants to be like her big brothers and do schoolwork with Mommy. Looking at the books and resources I'd gathered to use with her, I realized that being prepared for the coming school year (something I am working hard on improving) was going to take a tremendous amount of work. While other moms I know are great at this stuff, the idea of getting a box in the mail with a manual and supplies sent shivers of relief up my spine.

I doubt I'll use a preschool curriculum completely as written, but imagine - a book that will tell me, "Here, do this," and a materials package that gives me the alphabet cards and stencils and stickers and worksheets, all ready to go. Could I make a set of alphabet and number cards for her to use? Sure, I could. But if I don't have to? I feel the stress melting away already.

That was the final bit that made me realize a preschool curriculum was the way to go. As I looked over what is included, I felt far more relaxed and confident of my ability to pull off this school year. Anything that actually lowers my stress level is worth it's weight in... well, in chocolate at least.

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