Earlier this week, I gave the inside scoop of how I organize, plan, and schedule our year with Ambleside Online. But what about preschool?
Last year we did some very casual "school" activities with TE, mostly to keep her engaged in constructive play through the day and also to continue to work on goals from her occupational and physical therapies. Unfortunately, in the press of daily life... I just didn't do well long-term keeping her days as engaging as they could have been. There were many weeks when I was glad for OT appointments that both were social contact and also some creative and different play opportunities for her. I knew I could be more intentional at home. (Maybe OT shouldn't be the only time she works on cutting with scissors?) As she is four years old this year, I wanted to give her plenty of sensory play and large motor movement, in additional to reading lots of good books and working on letter recognition in fun ways, etc. "Preschool" shouldn't be school - it should be play! I decided to use A Year of Playing Skillfully as a jumping off point for making this year enriching and engaging for her. I love that this sweet curriculum is so gentle, play-based, and developmentally appropriate, tying in gross motor, fine motor, sensory, and simple literacy and science activities along with self-care and home life. To be honest, when my big three were this age, there is no way I would have spent the money for this curriculum. Nope. Absolutely not. I saw it described as "pinterest in a binder," and I think that is the best description I have seen. It truly is a compilation of creative, loosely themed activities that you could very feasibly assemble for yourself for free with some time on pinterest just saving links. But at this season of life, I don't have time to sit on pinterest, and as I showed myself again last year, good intentions just aren't going to carry me through. So, I found a used copy at a significant discount and decided to give myself the gift of being pinterest-free.
Now, I will also say that this material is very colorful and lovely to look through. They also give monthly summary sheets that list out the various activities of different types for each month. But as I looked at all of their pretty graphic summaries (which I even dutifully laminated)... I got real with myself. This just isn't going to work for me in our day-to-day school life. So, I went back to what I know does work for us, and made our preschool schedule just like I shared in my Morning Time and Afternoon Time overviews.
This looks much more doable for me. Now I will look across "week 1" and know exactly we are working on this week. In addition, I made myself a daily schedule and decided which week days we will work on which things and when. As much as I would love to just be a fun, spontaneous mom who also is highly organized... the two just don't go together well for me. Know thyself.
Instead of being tucked away in folders, preschool gets a wall. This is our "morning wall" which we will come to first thing every morning after breakfast. "School" is fast and on our feet!
I've been working all summer on getting T used to looking at this simple schedule and preschool clock. I had made this clock years ago when AG was a toddler (from an idea and download available through the now nonexistent Wonder Time Magazine), and I love it so much. Time is such an abstract concept for little ones, and having these visual cues makes things so much easier to communicate. (When the turtle is at the bunnies and the squirrel is at the bear, then we can watch a show.) This visual schedule is an easy way to prepare her for what is coming that day - a doctor's appointment, trip to the store, etc. After we talk about what is happening that day, we will look outside and put a sticker on the calendar for what the weather is (not shown, because my stickers hadn't come in yet!). This also gives us a chance to talk about concepts like yesterday, today, and tomorrow - and sometimes I sing little calendar songs I've used with the kids for years with the seven days of the week and twelve months of the year.
After the calendar, we work on a little song helping her learn her full name, parents' names, her address, and phone number (the bottom left clipboard). I would love to tell you what tune these are set to... I do not remember! This is what over a decade of homeschooling does to you. You just pick things up and then have no idea where it came from! Then we will say a poem and Scripture that we are working on memorizing for the month. (If you'd be interested, here are the free downloads of the poems and Scriptures we will use this year!) We will not be trying to get these word perfect. We will read through them once or twice a day, make up little songs to them, and let words of beauty and truth sink into her heart and mind on their own.
After our Morning Wall, we will do one or two of our activities/ideas from AYOPS. And then she can pick a show to watch while the big kids and I are doing Morning Time. After Morning Time, we will do something else while the bigs are working independently. And then, play, girl, play! I'm really excited about the fun and creativity AYOPS will bring to our year, even more so after formatting this in a doable way for us. If you'd like to follow along with our preschool adventures, (and see if AYOPS plays out the way I hope it will!), join me on my preschool-focused Instagram @ttimeadventures.