The Busy Toddler: Learns Preschool Skills!

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Now that we have a week of school under our belts, I’m working on figuring out just what preschool skills I want Daisy (AKA The Busy Toddler) to learn!

After this many years of homeschooling with little children underfoot and “helping” I’ve finally learned that I need to have lesson plans for my littlest ones if they aren’t going to derail the older children’s lessons. Of course, when I say “lesson plans” I’m not necessarily talking about academics as much as I am thinking of an order and rhythm to her morning and something pre-planned so that I don’t have to stop the lesson I am teaching to think about what she should do next.

It’s lovely if she learns and since she spends a good bit of the five-year old, Jack’s, lesson time doing this:

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I am sure she is going to absorb quite a bit!

I’m mostly talking about her learning to play by herself (hard when you are number five and there is always someone around for entertainment), and do some of the fine motor, pre-math, and pre-reading exercises that will make things easier for her in a year or two.

I also want her to feel included since we spend about half our day on lessons, and that shouldn’t mean that her age appropriate need for attention and interaction gets pushed aside.

Her morning looks something like this:

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She sits at the dining room table with the rest of us for prayers and then moves with Jack and I to the child sized table in the living room, where we have lessons. She has her own workbox, which I restock with printables every week or so, and I try to give her the same kind of things in the same order every day.

He does reading and phonics while she does a dot marker page (all I’m concerned with right now is building the hand/eye coordination to accurately “hit the target”) and she joins us in figuring out which pictures start with whatever sound we are working on in his lesson. She doesn’t really know her sounds or even her letters (except for her first initial and those of the rest of the family) but she loves to throw away the pictures that we don’t need! Listening in like this will help her to build an understanding of letters and sounds going together.

If she gets bored she can move to her blanket- which is a prepared environment with books and toys that she enjoys and can play with on her own. Often she has her baby dolls and reads to them or some other small toy (animals, little people etc.) that we rotate every week or so.  Blanket time usually lasts until we are done with phonics and reading and she joins us again for Science (Christian Light Publications First Grade Science) which I read aloud and ask Jack to answer questions. If there are questions that I think she can answer I will ask her (colors, shapes, what she can see in the room etc.) as this helps her to build observation and listening skills.

Then it’s break time and we get the first of her snacks!

When break is over, I try to do some specific lessons with her- matching of colors, counting, or color a picture while Jack does his handwriting or handwork. The ten minutes or so of my (mostly) full attention means she is willing to move to a less “mom attention” activity after a little bit.

So alternate among these kinds of activities throughout the morning. I may sit on the floor and do puzzles while giving a spelling test (as I did this morning) or she may just go from one activity to the other as her curiosity leads her.

One thing that has really helped with my ability to guide her mornings is learning to prepare a space that leads her into learning, and then step back and let her go from one thing to the next as long as she is using the materials appropriately.  If I leave her alone (and she is well rested) she will generally work on her stuff with my input being limited to taking things out as she requests them (I don’t have space for access to everything), and reminding her of things like how to hold scissors, or the rules for what she may and may not cut! After about 40 minutes she needs a snack and a drink and then can work and/or play with Jack when he finishes for another 30-40 minutes. Then another snack and drink, some snuggles while I work with someone else and she is usually ready for one more bit of work before she is done and needs lunch and a nap.

I am trying hard this year to keep the Montessori concept of the “three hour work cycle” in my head and to remember that her will cycling through her works does not mean that she is bored with them, but rather that she is responding to her curiosity as it leads her to discover and attempt to relate various skills or bits of knowledge.

Her six top skills to master this year are:

  1. Using an inside voice instead of yelling, and being quiet when someone else is talking
  2. Using scissors
  3. Improving hand-eye coordination
  4. Knowing her colors and sorting things by color
  5. Counting objects to ten
  6. Waiting her turn when she wants what someone else has

Her daily rhythm should gently lead her in those directions.

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