Articles | Homeschooling | Pre-Grammar Stage | Resources | The Classical Preschool

The Classical Preschool (DIY Homeschool for Tots)

August 21, 2018

I’ve been teaching the Little Man at home since he turned 2 years old, and I 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 DIY or Do-It-Yourself. I don’t really follow a curriculum. I have, however, 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 our homeschool style so that people will have an idea of what we’re trying to do. I also 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 is a ton of things out there.

Before you continue, you might want to read a primer that I’ve written on what Classical Christian Education is all about just to have an idea behind the philosophy and goals of The Classical Preschool.

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 have 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 that you would like 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 this particular 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 involved in the early years, i.e. Pre-Grammar and Grammar stages. We memorize nursery rhymes, hymns, catechism, numbers, and the alphabet song. We will later expand to shapes, colors, continents, etc. I try to teach my children to learn these content by simple rote and memorization. One way to make it more interesting is to use songs to help with recall. I wrote about how to train children in the faith by using music, which you can read over here. I have 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)

 

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