Home Sweet Preschool

homeschool preschool

Forget health food crazes and packed gyms; the nuttiest New Year phenomenon is preschool visits, if you ask me.

Opting out of preschool tour season

In the first months of the year, families tour preschools, descend on open houses and attend fairs, searching for the best preschool for their little one. (If you’re looking for criteria by which to evaluate them, please please please read this. Warning: it contains a whole slew of f-bombs, but the hilarity is well worth the profanity!)

I’m pretty much opting out of the preschool search; I asked a few nearby friends with older kids for their recommendations, and we’re mostly set on one for Peeper to start this fall.

In the meantime, though, she and a handful of her 2-year-old pals are meeting weekly for a homeschool preschool.

first day homeschool preschoolA friend I met when our older girls were just babies floated the idea of starting a semi-structured opportunity for the kids to learn and interact. Play dates were nice, but they didn’t have the kinds of activities—circle time, story time—they’d need to practice to thrive in preschool and beyond.

Home Sweet Preschool was born.

homeschool preschool tree craft

homeschool preschool

Starting our own homeschool preschool

Starting last fall, seven mothers, their toddlers and even their babies got together every Monday. We rotated houses and took turns planning a “curriculum” with a theme—autumn, imagination or snow, for example. We sang songs, read books, prepped snacks and set up stations with crafts and opportunities to practice fine motor skills.

Home Sweet Preschool has been a wonderful routine for Peeper. She gets so excited about preschool (“Will it be a big preschool or a little preschool, Mama?” she asks—I have no idea what that even means) and talks about it for days after. She calls her preschool buddies her friends and knows them by name. (Heck, one day she even talked about her friend Noelle—and Noelle’s outfit, her hair color and what they’d done together. Future besties?)

I have watched the kids go from crying at the slightest conflict to playing alongside and even—gasp—together. They know the “hello” song we sing, and they sit on foam round cut-outs for story time. (Sort of.) I am so proud of them as they strengthen and stretch their skills in cooperation, empathy and patience.

In all, our homeschool preschool has been a low-stakes way to ease our toddlers into structured school.

homeschool preschool parachuteThe co-op structure works well: It relieves the pressure of one mom to host every week, and everyone keeps an eye on all the kids. (This is especially helpful for the moms of two, who need to take breaks to breastfeed or soothe the little siblings.)

How to begin a homeschool preschool

If you’re thinking of starting a homeschool preschool with friends, here are a few more tips:

  1. Agree on policies on big issues, like vaccinations, sickness, allergies and pets.
  2. Set up a Facebook group. It makes it easy to communicate, save documents and post photos.
  3. Keep the group manageable. You’ll need to evaluate what works for your group, but 6-8 families has been a good range for us.
  4. Post the curriculum for your hosted day. A written outline with the day’s planned songs, books and activities provide a resource for anyone who wants to refer to them later, and it allows parents who had to miss the day to catch up.
  5. Figure out a structure. Every week, we have circle time, a hello song, a number of stations kids can choose between, snack and story time. The structure helps the toddlers know what to expect and mimics the rhythms of actual preschools.
  6. Keep the kids in the same age range. When they’re toddlers, a gap in age can put them in very different stages. All the kids in our preschool are within six months of each other.
  7. Share supplies. We have a community supplies bin stocked with paper, crayons, scissors, glue and the like that every family contributed to. We exchange the bin at each preschool meeting so the mom hosting the next week can use it to prep.
  8. Have fun! This is preschool; the toddlers aren’t cramming for the GREs, and you’re not auditioning for homeschool parent of the year. Don’t sweat it when the kids couldn’t care less about the book you picked, your toddler is having a meltdown or you completely space setting out the Play Doh.

 

10 thoughts on “Home Sweet Preschool

  • February 3, 2016 at 9:53 am
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    this is ambitious and your tips seem awesome! i know absolutely nothing about this but i have to agree with the structure bullet point! always important!

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    • February 3, 2016 at 11:59 am
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      It seemed ambitious at first, but once it’s set up it sort of runs itself!

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  • February 3, 2016 at 10:30 am
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    I LOVE this idea, and would have totally participated in this kind of thing when our kids were little. Good for you!

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    • February 3, 2016 at 11:59 am
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      Thanks! I’m so grateful for the other moms in the group. We help keep each other sane in the whole toddler crazy-world.

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  • February 3, 2016 at 12:55 pm
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    This is so wonderful! Where do you live- can we get in on it?! And we’re totally on the same wavelength with blog posts today!

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  • February 3, 2016 at 12:55 pm
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    I love your home preschool! We tried to do something like that with my Mom’s group when my daughter was about 2, but we never could get it completely organized.

    We opted out of the preschool search, too. We live only a few minutes from our church, and they have a very good preschool, so problem solved! We didn’t even think to look anywhere else!

    Reply
  • February 3, 2016 at 1:38 pm
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    Now I’m looking at my sleeping two-year-old and stressing out! Home preschool sounds so smart. Mine definitely needs a gentle introduction to a group setting.

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  • April 11, 2016 at 3:46 pm
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    I love this Catharine!! I’ve been thinking about doing something like this twice a week for my little one. My other two are closer in grade (1 and 2) and getting more independent now while my little one is 4 and in a different stage from them, she ends up having to do a lot of things on her own. I would love to pair with another friend with kids the same age and while she teaches the little ones, I can teach the older ones and vice-versa.

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    • April 11, 2016 at 5:03 pm
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      That is a fantastic idea! I’m excited for the littlest babies to get a little older so they can do activities while their older siblings do preschool too.

      Reply

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