Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Adventures in Learning: Preschool

We were in a very remote cabin in the far north-western corner of Montana, just a stone's throw from both Idaho and Canada.  It was the kind of place where, if a tree fell in the woods, no one was around to tell you if it made a noise, though we might see the birds scatter in the distance. The crisp air reminded us fall was drifting in through the wood covered mountains and with it the realization my active 3 year old son was more than ready to begin some form of learning.

The tiny town we lived above might have had a brick-and-mortar pre-school but the drive alone, with winter pending, was daunting at best. I knew, looking at my little green '95 Geo Metro fresh out of the box and our staggering elevation, I would be snowed in by December... at the latest.  "How hard is it to teach preschool?" I queried, figuring ABCs and 123s couldn't be too much of a challenge.  So I set to work, a young mom, with very little clue but a whole lot of determination.

Within a week we both battled tears.  I couldn't understand how he was able to recognize the number "8" but he couldn't write a clear looking "a" anywhere near the line I gave him to scribble it on.  I was becoming the worst version of myself, I'm not proud to say.  I would yell, he would cry... then I would cry and apologize and hug him tight.  By the end of that strenuous week we set the papers aside and opted instead to pick up well loved books to read, coloring pages to fill with crayon marks and puzzles to piece together.  We'd bake and go on nature walks and play games.  But the paper with the crooked "a" suspended miles above the line got stuffed to the bottom of a pile and my dreams of teaching my son were stuck there with it.

Fast-forward a whole year and over 300 miles later.  We had moved to a more populated and lower elevated area.  As this new fall approached I enrolled my now 4 year old into Head Start.  A program which (at the time anyway) required a great deal of parental involvement.  'Check'.  I was more-than-ready to be super PTA mom, committee chair, bake sale specialist and classroom mom extraordinaire.  Whatever they needed, I was eagerly waiting to provide... especially my time in the classroom.  Boy did I get that and then some!

During my son's year at Head Start I learned sooooooooo much.  I found where I had gone wrong with my methods in trying to Pre-school him.  I was also encouraged when I realized areas I had actually gone right.  As I observed and helped and asked good questions, the wheels of my mind began to turn.

By the time my first daughter hit Pre-K I knew I wanted to do things a bit different.  At 3 years old I began to experiment with her.  I developed a 'program' to introduce her more gently to those illusive ABCs and 123s.  I recognized how to best approach learning through play at that stage and we had a marvelous go of it.  By the age of 4 I enrolled her in a local Christian pre-school because I was worried I might have missed some vital skill needed for kindergarten in my pre-homeschool stint, in particular, the skill of 'socialization' and behaving in a classroom.  I did the same with her younger siblings as well.

Again, I volunteered often, by this time I was spending much of my days at either the older kids' elementary school or the younger one's pre-school.  I watched how classroom was managed.  I paid close attention to the material taught, how it was taught, asked more good questions and, at the preschool and kindergarten levels, I noticed how there seemed to be a certain redundancy to the academics I had already done at home with them in their 3-year-old year. But I told myself they "needed" this... the socialization and classroom structure stuff... to prepare them for public school.

Then, a funny thing happened.

I was watching my oldest daughter, 2nd grade at this point, as she was practicing volleyball through the youth parks and rec program.  I remember distinctly, as I sat on the cold gym floor thumbing through a book, I had paused to watch the girls knuckle bump the ball back-and-forth.Then I glanced up into the rafters of the school gym where Rec activities were held, I was distracted by my own random thoughts.  Before I could look back down to the open book in my lap, I heard it... a gentle voice... it said, "I want you to teach".  God in the rafters is how I remember the Call.

I sort of chuckled at first.  I had always wanted to be a writer... but I hadn't really thought about full-on teaching.  Surely I didn't 'hear' right.  I mean, I loved working with my kids and serving on the PTA, providing my fair share for bake sales, committee chair for arts and crafts at school fundraisers, writing a Crafting with Kids newsletter for the teachers and teaching some of the lessons while the school looked for a new art teacher, I had even made it to the Room Mom extraordinaire list... but teach, like, teacher-teach.....?!  I thought the wires must be crossed.

Yet, I knew it was God and I knew in that moment and every moment since that it was a Call.  He didn't elaborate, he only told me what he wanted me to do.period.

By that fall I was enrolled back into college.  I was ready to obediently pursue my teaching degree.  As I prayed through details I began to recognize I had a passion for home-education and I wanted to write curriculum to assist stay-at-home moms in teaching their pre-schoolers.  I was already leading workshops on this topic at social services events.  It made sense.  I felt God's approval.

So I studied hard, worked harder and towards the end of my higher education degree process and right in the middle of my student teaching, God steered me further.... He called me to pull my kids out of public school and begin the journey of homeschooling.  He cleared the path to make it possible, all I had to do was walk it.  Starting after Christmas break that year I was educating grades Pre-K, 2nd and 4th (my oldest in 8th was too integrated to pull out).

I'm down to ONE now.  Yup, she is ELEVENTH grade this year, if you can believe that (I know I can't) and through all of our homeschooling adventures, from Pre-K all they way up to handing them their diploma, I've never lost that love and passion to put together Preschool Curriculum for stay-at-home moms who want to have an active part in their child's pre-school learning.  To weave together my experiences (good and bad), the wonderful mentoring I had, and my degree learnings so God might use it all to help and encourage others.

I'm not talking a ton of book work... the mistake I made with my oldest and his mis-shapen floating "a's".  No, I'm talking about interactive FUN activities which are easy to integrated no matter what mom has going on: cooking lunch, teaching older kiddos who are homeschooling, or one-on-one with their darling preschooler.  The activities can be done as self-led or can be tweaked and completed as a more formal parent-hands-on way of learning. 

The concept bouncing around my brain is Adventure and how learning should be an adventure, especially for littles who ought to be led to think of their beginning education as something to look forward to and enjoy (so they might carry that same adventurous attitude into all of their schooling).

If you are subscribed to my newsletter I shared some about this in the most recent issue.  I also promised a more detailed announcement on the matter... and here it is....

Starting in the September newsletter (issuing via email August 30th) I will be providing a special downloadable, printable, newsletter-style attachment.  I'm calling it, "Adventures in Learning" and it is the bare-bones 'beta' version of what will likely become a book I hope to publish within the next year or two.

The newsletter periodical won't have a ton of bells and whistles and fillers yet.  It is intended to, first of all, get me on-track and committed to a course of completing this long-dreamed-about project!  I am also hoping for feedback from readers who decide to either use it or (if they don't have littles anymore) peruse it!

So what will this Adventures in Learning periodical contain?  I'm glad you asked!  Each monthly installment will:
  • Have an article which explores a topic related to Early Childhood Education and how to help or understand the 0-5 crowd better.
  • Monthly themes which can act as a simple point of interest or a spring-board for other monthly activities.  Recipes and crafts will be recommended to accompany some of these themes.
  • We will cover a few Letters of the alphabet each month with printable letter pages which can be used for simple coloring or other suggested activities
  • Math concepts such as shapes (i.e. preschool geometry!) and numbers will be covered in much the same way as letters; with printables for coloring or suggested activity use.
  • Developmental skills such as motor skills and behavior will be discussed along with suggested activities for growth
Did I mention:  all of this is FREE! 

It will all be geared towards families small and large, homeschool and public school (although, I do have a special tendency towards homeschool!!)  It will be especially enjoyed by 3-4 year olds, however, any parent with a child in the process of learning these basic concepts at any age will be able to find use for this curriculum.  It could function on it's own for the basics or as supplemental material for those going with other more focused lesson plans.

Bonus material will make appearances as this project progresses. I'm still working out the details on a scope-and-sequence, planner pages, literacy projects and more.  All to say, you won't want to miss a minute of the new Pre-K addition to the newsletter if you or someone you know is trying to ready a young mind for a life of learning!

Consequently, as I was talking to my youngest about this project and inviting her to help produce some of the material, she remarked wistfully how she remembered doing these activities when she was little.  She always loved them and I know she remembers how pivotal they were not only in teaching her the basics but also in growing her in the love of learning she still enjoys today.

So I know the other question you are shaking your screen to find out right now is probably: HOW do you get this amazing tool?  Well, simple.  Glance to the right side of your screen there.  You may need to scroll up a tad, this article has gotten long!  Do you see that image of a typewriter?  Just below it says, "Subscribe to my newsletter".  Put your cursor in that rectangular box and type in your email address then click, "Subscribe" and viola!  Check your email for a welcome letter from me.  If you don't see it, check your spam folder in case the virtual robots stuck it in the wrong slot (be sure to tell Spam that my newsletters are NOT junk!!)  Next is the hard part: waiting! Every month, on the last Thursday, you will receive my newsletter.  It has an article in each of my main writing categories; Faith, Home, and Homeschool.  It usually comes with additional material as well.  It will also hold the link to your FREE bonus Monthly Preschool Newsletter.

Here is the other GREAT news.... as a subscriber you will not only get early access to this preliminary material before it goes into the full-version book, but you also get the opportunity to provide feedback.  What you like, or don't like...what you would like to see...ideas you have which you have successfully tried with kiddos, and so on.  Great news, right?  It actually gets better: if you provide input and I end up using it in the final book, I will not only give you an honorable mention... I will also give you a FREE copy of the final book!!

Happy schooling!  I hope to see you in the Newsletter group.


By the way.....

*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Plans are in the works for some GREAT bonus material to be included starting soon!  Not to mention the articles on Faith, Home, and Homeschooling you won't even find on the blog!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter"?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!).  Entering your email will do 2 awesome things:

#1 - You are automatically signed up for my newsletter (expect to see your issues around the last Thursday of each month).  Yay!
#2 - It enters you into a drawing for a GREAT prize bundle I will be giving away at the end of the summer (details to come)

Don't worry, if you are already subscribed leave a comment below, say "hi", or whatever else you might like to say.  Be sure to mention you are an existing newsletter subscriber and I will pop your name in my drawing jar!

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