The Classical Preschool (DIY Homeschool for Tots)

I’ve been teaching the Little Man at home since he turned 2 years old, and have been doing so for about 6 months now. My primary objective in starting our homeschool journey was to teach him speech and language. He was a bit delayed in stringing words together although his vocabulary was not an issue. But after a few months of intentional teaching, he was able to make up 2-3 word phrases.

DIY Pre-K Homeschool Curriculum

I often get asked about which homeschool curriculum I use with my child, and I usually respond by saying that it’s all Do-It-Yourself (DIY). I don’t really follow a curriculum, but have merely drawn inspiration from the original The Classical Preschool  by Living and Learning at Home—the website is now closed as I write this. Perhaps this is why I’m also documenting this so people will have an idea of what we’re trying to do. I will attempt to give you a preview of how we do our own version of homeschool, and point you to where you should be looking for resources since there a ton out there.

Before you continue, you might want to read a primer I’ve written on what Classical Christian Education is all about to have an idea behind the philosophy and goals of The Classical Preschool. This DIY curriculum is applicable to children between to 2-3.5 years old.

The Classical Preschool

This is how The Classical Preschool would usually run from Tuesday to Friday each week:

  1. Read Aloud
  2. Memorization
  3. Manipulation
  4. Exploration

Basically, I’ve been using this four-day format omitting weekends and Mondays, which is based on our family schedule. The original Classical Preschool would run for 5 days. You may choose to extend any of these activities depending on how you want to go through your week. Occasionally, we would do activities on some Saturdays. But never on Sundays because it’s the Lord’s Day.

Read Aloud

“No one will ever say, no matter how good a parent he or she was, ‘I think I spent too much time with my children when they were young.’” (Alice Ozma, The Reading Promise)
“Read picture books, pointing at the words with your finger. Read the same books over and over; repetition builds literacy (even as it slowly drives you insane). Read longer books without pictures while she sits on your lap or plays on the floor or cuts and pastes and colors.” (Susan Wise Bauer, The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home, 4th ed.)

I read aloud a book that I’ve selected, and prepare some activities that relate to the book. We do crafts, sensory bins, matching activities, pretend play, etc. You can follow my Instagram and Facebook accounts to see how I’ve tried to make our reading more interesting and memorable by introducing different crafts and other follow-up activities.

 

On top of reading, I try to teach language lessons based on the characters, objects, and concepts introduced in each book. It would also be a good idea to translate words into another language you want your child to learn. I try to teach Mandarin Chinese, Hookien Chinese, and Filipino from time to time. If you want some practical tips on how to raise trilingual kids in the Philippines, you can read my article over here.

Some parents actually use the Before Five In A Row (BFIAR) and Five In A Row (FIAR) curriculum, which provide different suggestions on how to bring the lessons home through various activities. I’ve tried to use BFIAR before, but it didn’t work for me. If you are not keen on getting the curriculum, a basic search on Pinterest will draw out many suggestions on what you can do with your child. Simply go to the Pinterest website, and type the name of the book.

Memorization

“A classical education is more than just a pattern of learning, though. First, it is language-focused: learning is accomplished primarily through words, written and spoken, rather than mostly through images (pictures, videos, and television). Why is this important? Language learning and image learning require very different habits of thought. Language requires the mind to work harder; in reading, the brain is forced to translate a symbol (words on the page) into a concept. Images, such as those on videos and television, allow the mind to be passive. In front of a video screen, the brain can “sit back” and relax; faced with the written page, the mind is required to roll its sleeves up and get to work.” (Susan Wise Bauer, TWTM)

Since Classical Education is focused on language, there is a lot of memory work that is involved in the early years, i.e. Pre-Grammar and Grammar stages. We memorize nursery rhymes, hymns, catechism, numbers 1-10, and the alphabet song. My children learn by simple rote and memorization. One way to make it more interesting is to use songs to help with memory. I wrote about how to train children in the faith by using music, which you can read over here. I’ve also written Covenant Kids, a FREE curriculum on how to teach the Children’s Catechism in a fun and creative way over here.

Manipulation

“One caution: it’s easy to over-buy and over-schedule preschool. Don’t push an unwilling toddler into cutting and pasting or other activities; lots of informal learning and active play are the most valuable preparation for the school years.” (Susan Wise Bauer, TWTM)

Preschool children need to work on focus, concentration, fine motor, and pre-writing skills, and these manipulation activities will help in doing just that. You can play with various manipulatives like stringing beads, working on puzzles, finger painting, practical life work like pouring and transferring, etc. I find that Montessori toddler/preschool activities excel in this area, and I’ve adapted a few of them in our homeschool. You could see many examples over at Montessori World and Montessori Album. You could also get ideas from June Oberlander’s Slow and Steady Get Me Ready, you can view the book in PDF over here. The Dad Lab is also great place to find science experiments and craft work.

Exploration

“Let them once get in touch with nature and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight and habit through life.” (Charlotte Mason)

I have also been inspired by the Charlotte Mason educational philosophy of making nature a huge part of the learning process. However, if we are not able to do these nature walks, which happens more often than not, I prepare sensory plays at home with sand, clay, beans, pasta, and other materials.

 

Nature-based Literature

You can do nature studies by introducing different places, plants and animals to the child. You can also learn about continents, countries, and different people. Books like Nature Anatomy and Farm Anatomy by Julia Rothman or the Hello Nature book and activity cards by Anna Claybourne are highly recommended. I am hoping to make these resources available through the shop very soon.

We also enjoy the First Discovery book series by Scholastic or Moonlight Publishing, which you may be able to find through local second hand bookstores. Another notable resource is the ubiquitous Animalium and Botanicum, which tend to promote the theory of evolution in its pages.

But if you want to use a ready-made material on exploring nature, you can purchase this year-long curriculum called Exploring Nature with Children. Or you could simply follow these easy steps in doing nature studies or view AmblesideOnline‘s Charlotte Mason curricula.

ABCs AND 123s

You’re probably wondering how I teach the alphabet and numbers aside from memory work. I don’t. At least, not yet. But if you think your child is ready to learn, you may go ahead with flash cards and manipulatives like alphabet puzzles, moveable alphabets, cuisenaire rods, etc. to make it multi-sensory learning.

Susan Wise Bauer suggests the following in teaching the alphabet during the Pre-Grammar years:

As soon as your child begins to talk (which will be early if she’s this immersed in language), teach her the alphabet. Sing the alphabet song whenever you change her diaper (often). Stencil alphabet letters, both capital letters and lowercase letters, to the wall, or put up a chart. Read alphabet rhymes and alphabet books…

Prereading preparation works… We’ve seen these results duplicated by many other home schoolers. If you create a language-rich home, limit TV and videos, and then teach systematic phonics, you can produce readers.

In teaching math, she recommends:

Start to make your child ‘mathematically literate’ in the toddler years. Just as you read to the toddler, surrounding him with language until he understood that printed words on a page carried meaning, now you need to expose him to mathematical processes and language continually. Only then will he understand that mathematical symbols carry meaning. Bring numbers into everyday life as often as possible. Start with counting: fingers, toes, eyes, and ears; toys and treasures; rocks and sticks. Play hide-and-seek, counting to five and then to ten, fifteen, or twenty together. Count by twos, fives, and tens before shouting, ‘Coming, ready or not!’ Play spaceship in cardboard boxes, and count backward for takeoff. Read number books together.

You don’t really need to use much material in teaching tots. But if you want a complete curriculum to introduce these concepts, you may find Habitat Homeschool and The Peaceful Preschool useful. They’re both beautiful curriculums with wonderful illustrations that I’ve purchased myself, and might be using in the near future, Lord willing. Another one that I usually see being used by social media moms would be The Good and the Beautiful Curriculum, although it is must be noted that the writer is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS).

However, if you are looking to get a FREE curriculum that also applies the Classical Christian Education philosophy, you should download The Gentle + Classical Preschool by Life Abundantly. It also includes a lot memory work, plus Scripture, character training, and catechism!

Train the Mind, Feed the Soul 

A lot of modern education seeks to promote self-expression, but just as Susan Wise Bauer had written:

A classical education requires a student to collect, understand, memorize, and categorize information… There’s nothing wrong with self-expression, but when self-expression pushes the accumulation of knowledge offstage, something’s out of balance. Young children are described as sponges because they soak up knowledge. But there’s another side to the metaphor. Squeeze a dry sponge, and nothing comes out. First the sponge has to be filled.

Yes, fill the sponge by providing content. Train the mind, but don’t forget to feed the soul.

“Education is more than a transference of knowledge, it is the transmission of values, culture, and the proper ordering of loves.” (Ravi Jain and Kevin Clark, The Liberal Arts Tradition)

 

Other CURRICULUMS

WORKSHEETS/PRINTABLES

Children’s Catechism Lesson 5: One True God

Lesson Plan

  • Topic: One True God
  • Bible Passage: Isaiah 45:5; Exodus 20
  • Big Idea: There is only one true God.
  • Objectives: Children will acknowledge that the Bible teaches that there is only one true God. Children will understand that we do not worship more than one true God. Children will see that worshipping others persons/things other than God is the sin of idolatry. 
  • Materials Used: 

HOOK

We have learned many big and important things about God. And in our catechism lesson for this week, we will learn another important lesson the Bible says about God. Read the first part of Isaiah 45:5. The Bible teaches us that God said He is the only true God. There is no other God besides Him alone. Our catechism lesson this week is:

  1. Is there more than one true God?
    No. There is only one true God.

Some people we know make pretend gods out of stone, clay or even wood. They bow down and worship to these false gods, thinking these statues or images can help them. These statues or images are what we call idols. Can you try to think of some idols in our country? (Santo Niño, Black Nazarene, Mama Mary, QuanYi Ma, Buddha, etc.) People in the Old Testament also tried to make an idol. Some of them even worship the sun, moon, and stars. When God chose the Israelites and kept them safe from the many troubles in Egypt, God told them to bow down to Him alone because He is the only real true God.  

BOOK

God saved the people of Israel from the bad things that Pharoah and his army in Egypt. They saw the waters open, and how the Lord protected them from being taken again. They travelled far far away until they reached a big mountain called Mount Sinai. God gave the Israelites his special instructions on how to live as God’s family. Then Moses climbed up the mountain where God spoke to him for many days. God gave Moses these special instructions called the commandments, and God Himself wrote them on stone tablets.

God told them, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. ” Two of the ten commandments says that:

Thou shalt have no other gods but Me;
Before no idol bow thy knee.

But Moses stayed up in the mountain for quite a while, and the people were not sure if her would come back. And so the brother of Moses, Aaron, asked for all their gold things so he could melt them their necklaces, coins into a golden calf.

Then the people had a party to celebrate, saying that the calf was the god who saved them from Egypt! The Israelites disobeyed God’s instructions. They disobeyed God’s law because they didn’t love him the best. When Moses went down from the mountain, he saw all that the people had done.  He became so angry that he threw the stone tablets, and that it broke into pieces.

LOOK

  • Is there more than one true God? No. There is only one true God.
  • Who saved the Israelites from Pharoah and his army? God.
  • What were the first two commandments that God gave the Israelite people? Thou shalt have no other gods but Me; Before no idol bow thy knee.
  • Did the Israelite people follow God’s commandments? No. They made an idol out of gold.

TOOK

Ask your child about their favorites. Start with their favorite color, animal, food, and then toy. Then ask about who their favorite person is. 

God has given us many things to enjoy. He has blessed us with food, toys, and our family. These are wonderful gifts from God! An old French pastor called John Calvin once said that our hearts are like idol factoriesWe make idols out of God’s wonderful gifts when we love them more than we love God. We should always love God best. But we don’t always do that, don’t we? Do you know who did? God sent His Son Jesus to become like us. Jesus was tempted too, like us. But He obeyed all of God’s commandments, each and everyone of them. Jesus came to live the perfect life in our place, and take the punishment for our sins by dying on the cross so that we can be forgiven.

One of the ways God can help us follow his commands is to hide God’s Word in our hearts. This is why we’ll be learning and singing the Ten Commandments Song by Judy Rogers:

Thou shalt have no other gods but Me;
Before no idol bow thy knee.
Take not the Name of God in vain;
Nor dare the Sabbath Day profane.
Give both thy parents honor due;
Take heed that thou no murder do.
Abstain from words and deeds unclean;
Nor steal, though thou art poor and lean.
And do not lie, but always say what is true,
And covet not the things that don’t belong to you!

 

You could also play a memory game based on the Ten Commandments.

The printable memory game is available via Etsy. Another suggestion is to do a puzzle game to help with memory work. Here’s a free printable over at Life, Hope & Truth.

 

How to Make Homemade Clay Dough

Homemade Clay Dough Recipe

  • All-Purpose Flour
  • Water
  • Iodized Salt
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Measuring Cup
  • Mixing Bowl
  • Mixing Spoon
  • Food Coloring (Optional)
  • Essential Oils (Optional)

Instructions

Mix 2C of All-Purpose Flour with 1C of Salt.

Add 1C of Water into the dry mix.

Mix all three ingredients until it starts to clump up. Add 1TBSP of vegetable oil to make it easier to knead. Transfer the dough in a flat surface, and knead by hand until thoroughly mixed.

Add some food coloring or even essential oils, if you wish. 

Enjoy your homemade clay dough!

Make sure you place these inside an airtight container to avoid them from hardening. Some salt crystals may appear when the dough is stored. If that happens, add a few drops of water and knead the dough properly.

What are your favorite homemade clay recipes? Share them below!

How Do I Talk to My Children About Homosexuality?

Let’s face it. This topic is not something that you could conceal from your children far too long nowadays. Even Disney has slowly introduced homosexuality in their franchises, e.g. Doc McStuffins, which is targeted to preschoolers. As parents, it is one of our God-given roles to think through and address these things to our children in light of Scripture. We teach our children, guide them, and counsel them in these areas. And we pray that the Lord will preserve their hearts and minds from the corrupt influences they are exposed to from day to day.
Here are some of the important things that I have learned about how to teach children about homosexuality from Josh Mulvihill’s book, Preparing Children for Marriage: How to Teach God’s Good Design for Marriage, Sex, Purity, and Dating:

Teach Children OF ALL AGES

When I was younger, homosexuality or same-sex partnerships were considered taboo. In our day and age, it is all out in the open, and we have the responsible as parents to address these things sooner, not later.

Children of all ages can be taught the meaning of marriage, the roles of husband and wife, and distortions of marriage such as divorce and homosexuality, as well as what to look for in a future spouse. How children are taught will differ based on age, but it is important to remember that God’s message does not change based on age. Preschoolers and teenagers can both be taught that marriage is between one man and one woman.

THEY NEED TO HEAR IT FROM YOU

What I’ve learned over my short stint of parenting is that it is better that our children hear difficult topics from us first before they hear it from other people.

By not telling your child the truth, you are encouraging him or her to seek the truth from other sources. Logically, if you are not providing a child with real, true, honest answers, why should he or she ask in the first place?

TALK ABOUT IT OPENLY

Don’t be afraid to talk about hard things like death, evolution, sex, and yes, even homosexuality. Talk about it openly, so they can be comfortable in asking questions when they need to.

Because homosexuality has become culturally acceptable, children must know what the Bible teaches on this subject. I encourage you not to be timid on this point with your child. Some parents are tempted to avoid this topic because of cultural pressure. I get it. However, silence on a subject is never the answer. Silence does two things: it communicates agreement and it abdicates to others. Silence teaches plenty. If you don’t provide a clear definition of marriage from the Bible, someone else will, and it likely won’t be biblical.

TEACH THEM THE BIBLE

We need to study the Bible for ourselves in order to properly teach God’s Word to our children.

Teaching children that marriage is between one man and one woman is teaching children to come under the authority of God’s Word. A low view of Scripture will lead to a low view of marriage. Avoid defining marriage based on your personal preference or lifestyle choice; rather, align your lifestyle with God’s design for marriage. The key issue is the authority and trustworthiness of the Bible. What our children believe about the Bible will inform what they believe about marriage. It is important to establish the Bible’s authority (that it tells us how to live), inerrancy (that it has no errors in its original manuscript), and sufficiency (that it is enough) with our children.

Below are some suggested ways from Focus on the Family on addressing homosexuality that is appropriate to preschoolers, school-aged children, and teenagers:

With preschoolers, there’s no need to talk to your children about specific sexual activity. They’re not equipped to understand it. Furthermore, we’d suggest waiting until the kids are older before introducing terms such as “homosexuality,” “heterosexuality,” “gay,” “straight,” or “LGBT.” You can underscore the male-female aspect of God’s design by telling them about Adam and Eve or the animals who came into Noah’s ark two-by-two (both a mommy and a daddy animal). You can also teach from real life by talking about your own marriage and explaining how the union of man and woman is a special gift from God.

With school-age children, you can further point out that there are different kinds of “love” – for instance, our “love” or liking for food, toys, material things, and activities; our love for friends, family, and relatives; and, of course, our love for God. Help them grasp the idea that marital love is unique, and that its purposes and characteristics are distinct from those of every other kind of “love.” Explain that, in the beginning, God separated humanity into male and female and that marriage brings those two components together. Tell them that marriage unites a couple in a special way, and that this is why sexual expression is intended to take place only between a husband and wife. Point out that this union often leads to family by producing new life in the form of children. Open up God’s Word and show them that marriage, in the Bible, is the most common symbol of our relationship with God.

Teens, of course, are capable of dealing with more abstract concepts. When talking with them, it would be helpful to put all of this into the context of a discussion about competing worldviews: on the one hand, the biblical, Judeo-Christian worldview, which states that God created us and designed us for a purpose; and, on the other hand, the worldview of popular contemporary culture, which says that there is no God, that “reality” is whatever I want it to be, and that meaning, value, and purpose are essentially matters of personal preference and choice. According to this second worldview, the individual is free to “customize” sexuality, sexual morality, and marriage in any way he or she sees fit. By way of contrast, the biblical worldview asserts that God’s design is eternally valid, that His plan for human sexuality matters, and that marriage, as the union of one man and one woman, is unique among human relationships, not least because it forms a complete reproductive system – something same-sex marriages can never do.

Related Resources

What is Classical Christian Education?

Teaching Truth, Goodness, and Beauty to the Glory of God

What is classical education?

Classical Education is language-focused, and it has a lot to do with content instead of images or visuals. It is a method of teaching children according to the medieval understanding of how children develop. Dorothy Sayers defines these three stages as Parrot, Pert, and Poet in her wonderful essay, The Lost Tools of Learning.

Grammar (Parrot)

The first stage calls for the storing of knowledge, often referred to as the Grammar Stage. Children find it easy to memorize facts and rules. It’s all about filling up the “sponges” with as much content as possible. Ages 4-10.

Logic (Pert)

The second stage calls for understanding, otherwise known as the Logic Stage. Children now begin to make sense of what they have learned. They will start to reason and analyze the information they have accumulated. Ages 10-14.

Rhetoric (Poet)

And the last stage calls for wisdom, what Classical educators call the Rhetoric stage. Most children at this age yearn for self-expression and independence. It is also at this stage where they acquire communication skills so that they apply and integrate the things they have learned. Ages 14-18.

Distinctly Christian WORLDVIEW

While modern education seeks to put the child in the center of all learning, Classical Christian Education sees that God is the center of all learning. It recognizes that all truth is God’s truth, and that one cannot fully distinguish truth and error without understanding God’s truth as revealed in the Bible. Everything should then be examined through the lenses of Scripture, as it relates to God and His revelation. Children need not be shielded from the plethora of opposing philosophies and harsh realities of life. Rather, they need to be grounded firmly on the Word of God, which will then arm them with the grid whereby they can sift through different ideas that will come their way.

N.D. Wilson, son of Classical Christian Education proponent Doug Wilson, wrote this excellent piece on how to train children in his book Notes From The Tilt-The-Whirl:

The world is rated R, and no one is checking IDs. Do not try to make it G by imagining the shadows away. Do not try to hide your children from the world forever, but do not pretend there is no danger. Train them. Give them sharp eyes and bellies full of laughter. Make them dangerous. Make them yeast, and when they’ve grown, they will pollute the shadows.

I truly believe that Classical Christian Education will give children the tools to do just that. Children will learn how to acquire information (Grammar), how to think critically (Logic), and how to communicate with clarity (Rhetoric).

Francis Schaeffer once said about education:

If Christianity is not just one more religion, one more upper story kind of thing… then it has something to say about all the disciplines, and it certainly has something to say about the humanities and the arts and the appreciation of them. And I want to say quite firmly, if your Christian school does not do this, I do not believe it is giving a good education… True Christian education is not a negative thing; it is not a matter of isolating the student from the full scope of knowledge. Isolating the student from large sections of human knowledge is not the basis of a Christian education. Rather it is giving him or her the framework or total truth, rooted in the Creator’s existence and in the Bible’s teaching, so that in each step of the formal learning process the student will understand what is true and what is false and why it is true or false. It is not isolating students from human knowledge. It is teaching them in a framework of the total Biblical teaching, beginning with the tremendous central thing, that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. It is teaching in this framework, so that on their own level, as they are introduced to all of human knowledge, they are not introduced in the midst of a vacuum, but they are taught each step along the way why what they are hearing is either true or false. That is true education. The student, then, is an educated person.

Classical Christian Education is where knowledge and virtue converge. But ultimately, the goal is for children to recognize and treasure truth, goodness, and beauty, to the glory of God.

 

Resources

Learn more about the Trivium and Christian Christian Education from these valuable resources: