Here’s a list of twenty-five ideas for homeschooling your preschoolers:
1. Choose an animal to study each week. It could be a mammal, bird, fish, insect, amphibian, dinosaur, or whatever you like. Go to the library and check out a children’s non-fiction book about your animal. Look it up in an encyclopedia, and read it out loud, making sure your child gets a good view of any illustrations. Visit a zoo and look at your special animal, if possible. Draw pictures of them to cover one of your walls. Make an animal mobile and hang a picture of your special animal on the mobile each week. Teach your child to write the animal’s common name, and even the scientific name if your child likes writing that much. Look for children’s picture books and stories that might include your special animal. Visit an expert on your animal to ask questions.
2. Get a tree identification book and start a tree journal. Every time you find a tree you don’t know the name of, take the time to identify it. Then collect leaves, seeds, and possibly a bit of bark. Have your child help with this project by taping the collections into your journal. Your child can write the tree’s name at the top of the page.
3. Teach your child to weigh things. If you use a postage scale, use small things. If you use a bathroom scale, use large things. Keep a list of things weighed, and have your child write down the number on the scale. This is a good way to introduce fractions as well as to introduce the concepts of weight and gravity.
4. Create a wall calendar, or buy a large blank laminated month calendar at your local educational supply store. Cut circles, squares, or some other shape and write the numbers from 1 to 31 on them. Each day, have your child tape a number to the calendar to show which day it is. Your child will learn how a calendar works and how to count.
5. Get a long scroll of paper about 4 inches wide from your educational supply store. Alternatively, cut printer paper in half length-wise. Your goal will be to staple or tape this up along the top of your wall, so it encircles the entire room near the ceiling. Before putting it up, write the numbers on it from 1 to 100. Every day, count the numbers with your child, pointing to them with a yardstick. Alternatively, you could count by 2’s or 5’s. Have fun with it.
6. Does your child like dinosaurs? Go outside with a piece of chalk and find out how long a dinosaur was. Put a starting mark on the sidewalk, then use a measuring tape to mark the average length of dinosaurs. An average Apatosaurus was 75 feet long, but an average Triceratops was only 26 feet. Here’s a dinosaur length chart. If your child prefers studying trains or ships, find out how long they are and measure those lengths instead.
Reading and Writing
7. Use a table or shelf to collect things that start with a certain letter. Each week, choose a different letter. The table for “B” might have a ball, a book, a stuffed bear, a banana, and a box. Label these things by writing the word on an index card and taping the card to your item. Spend all week practicing the B sound.
8. Play a rhyming game. Start with “cat”, then the next person says “rat”, and the next person says “bat”. Continue back and forth until you run out of rhyming words, then choose another: slap/tap/map; stop/cop/bop; light/bright/might; candy/randy/sandy; cook/book/took; mouse/house/blouse; no/go/foe; etc.. This is a great vocabulary builder - you may have to explain some of the words as you go along.
9. For little ones that don’t care much for reading, but love cars: Go somewhere and look at parked cars. Show your child the name of the car, and have him or her write it down.
10. Write a story or poem with your child. Each of you can take a turn adding a sentence. When you’re done, go to a playground and offer to read the story or poem to all the kids in the park. You’ll most likely be surrounded.
11. Go to museums to see what people lived like ‘in the old days’. Ask grandparents to tell the children what life was like for them when they were kids. Show children the difference between modern structures and those built a century ago. Go to historic parks in your state. Stop at historical markers and let your children learn what happened there, long ago.
12. Every week, cook a meal that is common in a foreign country. Read to your child about that country. If possible, dress up in the traditional dress of that country. Go to the library and get a non-fiction children’s book about that country. Help your child learn to write the name of the country.
13. Get a map of your town. Show your child where, on the map, your house is. Put a big star there. Then drive to the store. Put a star at the location of the store. Use a yellow highlighter to show what streets you drove on. Have your child choose any other location on the map, and use your highlighter to mark out the path you’re going to take. Your child would probably appreciate being able to do the highlighting. Then drive there, explaining what streets you’re using, whether you’re turning right or left, and what places you’re passing, especially if they are on the map. If you don’t have a car, you can adapt this activity to walking.
14. Choose a few words from your favorite language and start using them for a while. For example, one week you could practice saying “abre la puerta” (Spanish for ‘open the door’) and “cierra la puerta” (close the door). Each week, practice another simple phrase or word. Children benefit from learning foreign languages early in life. Don’t make it too complicated. Have a bit of fun with it.
15. Put three items on a table. For example, a book, a toy car, and an apple. Tell your child, ‘bring me the car’ in your favorite foreign language. If your child brings the right thing, give him or her a quarter to put in their savings bank. If he doesn’t bring the right thing, try again in half an hour. If you consistently get the right thing, increase the number of items on the table!
16. How many languages can you say hello in? Take time to learn some new words with your child. Say hello in French, German, Spanish, Japanese, and Russian. Make a list of all the ‘hello’ words you learn together. When you’re done saying ‘hello’ in as many languages as possible, start learning ‘welcome’ instead.
17. Collect many types of music and burn them to a CD. Then give your child the opportunity to guess who sang what, or what type of music it is. Is it classical? jazz? folk? country? Who sang it? The Beatles? Rolling Stones? Beach Boys? (Giving multiple choice options helps a lot at first.) Give your child a quarter for every right guess. Instead of making a CD you could try this in the car. Tune the radio to various stations. This could be an ongoing game for a few weeks or a few months. Your kid will get used to it and it will keep him or her busy during long car trips.
18. Help your child write a song. It isn’t hard. Ask what he or she wants to sing about. “Dolls” could be a topic. “Why do you like dolls?” “I love to hold and dress them.” Okay, you have the idea. Ask your child to sing a little song about their topic. If you get a song, write it down. Record it. Sing it over and over; kids love repetition. If your child doesn’t want to sing his or her own song, make one up. “I love dolls - they are really nice; I hold them and dress them everyday.” Enough said - or sung.
19. Do you have a little bongo drum? I bought one for my children at a school supply store. There were lots of other hand-held instruments there too. Buy a few if you can, or make some at home. An oatmeal box makes a great drum, or an empty plastic cool whip bowl. A set of spoons, taped back to back, can make a great clacking sound. A baby bottle with a tablespoon full of beans makes a good maraca. When you’re done making music, put these away in a special place like the back of your closet. Bring them out only on special occasions for family music time.
20. Get a glass pie plate and fill it with water. Put a drop of food coloring in it and let your child stir it around with his finger or a popsicle stick. Notice how it slowly diffuses and then fills the water. Add a few drops of oil. Notice how it glides across the surface in little oil slicks, staying separate from the water. Point out to your child how one substance goes into the water, and one stays out. (A bit of science to go with your kinetic art project.)
21. Make a collage of Autumn leaves. Get crazy with it and tape or staple 100 leaves to the dining room wall - a great seasonal decorating idea!
22. Learn to make balloon animals together. You’ll need to go to a party store and buy a supply of 260’s, often sold as ‘twisty balloons’ for sculpting. You can learn everything you need to know about this art at Balloon HQ.
23. Create a nature window. Collect dry leaves, pine needles, tiny twigs, grasses, and other items. Then get some waxed paper and have your child arrange the collected items in any way pleasing to him or her. When done, you will use an iron at low heat to iron another sheet of waxed paper on top. Of course this is not good for your iron so use some other kind of paper on top and underneath so the wax doesn’t stick to the iron or to the ironing board. Put the finished creation in your child’s window and let the sun shine through.
24. Help your young child learn the basic colors by dividing up the lego blocks or other similar toys you may have. Let your child build something that’s all red, or all blue. Then switch to a different color.
25. What does your child love more than anything else? Is it Care Bears? Trains? Balls? Mickey Mouse? Winnie the Pooh? How about throwing a party on that theme? Have your child choose the decorations or help make them. Be as creative as possible while staying close to your theme. Can you think up train games? Watch a Mickey Mouse movie? Sing one of Winnie the Pooh’s silly songs? This will be your child’s opportunity to share his or her obsession with friends, while learning to plan and decorate for a party.