You’ve decided to take charge of your child’s education and teach preschool at home this year. Go you! Now it’s time to set some home preschool goals.
Whether you have decided to keep your child home for their preschool year, or they are in a part-time program and you want to provide them with additional opportunities at home (and yes, even some dedicated homeschool families choose this option), you should start by setting home preschool goals.
Did your mind just jump to setting goals for teaching your child academic skills?
Preschool is about so much more than learning their ABCs and 123s. Preschool is also the time for developing social skills and for learning about the world around them and how it works. This is also the time for supporting their physical development and laying strong foundations for the years ahead.
Which is a lot different to planning a year of early academics, wouldn’t you say!
These are the home preschool goals I set for my children. And the amazing thing about these goals is that they are useful no matter which educational philosophy you subscribe too. These goals work just as well in a Charlotte Mason home as they do in a Waldorf home or even in a home that values a more traditional schooling approach.
Because this is what kids need at this age. It’s as simple as that.
Doesn’t that make you feel empowered and full of confidence for teaching your child this year!
Goal #1 Discover Learning is Fun
Forget for a minute all the things that you want your child to learn this year. The most important of all the home preschool goals that you can set for your family is this. This year you want your child to discover learning is fun!
Now, you know your child has been learning A LOT, quite naturally, their whole life. They have been learning through watching, imitating, exploring and playing. And they love it. They know this is fun. What they don’t know yet is that more abstract types of learning are fun too.
So that’s your job. Begin to spend a little bit of time with your child working on those more abstract ideas (literacy and numeracy, etc) and let them discover that this is fun too! It’s not the same as their self-directed play, but it’s still a fun way for them to spend their time. The greatest gift you can give your child this year is a love of learning.
A really fun introduction to focused learning is to start a preschool circle time with your little one.
Goal #2 Play A Lot
That focused learning time should be a time of connection between you and your child. But at this age it should still be a very small part of your day. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be every day!
At this age, your child’s learning should still be happening mostly in the form of play. Remember all those different types of play I mention in my last preschool post? (The post is here if you need to refresh your memory) It is important that you leave lots of free time in your week for your child to play and provide them with lots of opportunities to experience the different types of play.
Try setting up some invitations to play for your preschool aged child.
Goal #3 Make Friends
Take it from an introvert, learning to make friends is a skill. And like all skills, you get better with practice. So make sure your child gets plenty of time to practice making and playing with friends this year.
Before the age of about two or three, kids do this thing called parallel play. You can read more about it here but basically what it means is that they play side by side but not really together. They aren’t trying to create a game for them to both play and often they aren’t even wanting to share. Somewhere around 2 or 3 they start to want to play together.
This is a super important social skill and a natural part of your child’s development. You want to make sure they get a chance to practice these new social skills. Older siblings, cousins, the kid next door and the crowd at your local playground are all great places to practice.
You don’t need to opt for formal classes for kids to get this social play happening. Anywhere kids get together they will try to play but playgroups can be a great place to make friends. For you too, mama!
If you are planning to send your children to school, try looking for a playgroup associated with your primary school of choice. If you are planning to homeschool, try finding a local homeschool group that welcomes younger children and join in. My 3 year old has made a lot of friends tagging along to her brother’s homeschool groups and this also gives her the chance to play with kids of all ages, not just other 3 year olds.
Skip the formal group activities and let your kids hang out with your mum friends’ kids. It’s a win-win for everyone
Goal #4 Develop a Rhythm to Your Days
I wouldn’t be a bona fide Waldorf-inspired mama if I didn’t put this one in here. Work on your rhythm!
No, really. Even if Waldorf is not your thing (and let’s face it, we’re still a relatively rare breed), a strong family rhythm is good for kids. I’ve talked a lot about this before, and no doubt I will again, so I’m not going to go in to any detail today. I’ll just direct you over here and tell you life runs smoother for everyone if there is a strong rhythm to your days.
Having a rhythm helps your child learn what to expect next and helps your days find a natural flow. Make developing a strong rhythm one of your home preschool goals
Goal #5 Practice Practical Life Skills
Do you know what Montessori, Waldorf and Charlotte Mason all get so right about the preschool years? They all want you to focus on letting children develop naturally, become part of the daily life at home and practice those all important practical life skills.
When you are creating your daily rhythm, try to structure your day so there is plenty of time for your preschool child to help. I know this can be frustrating for parents because we can get things done so much quicker on our own, but it really is important. If you have factored the time into your routine you are far less likely to lose your cool when something that would take you 2 seconds takes them 10 minutes 😉
Let your child dress themselves, help with baking or setting the table, give them some simple chores of their own. They will love feeling important! It also helps develop their motor skills and helps create healthy habits you will appreciate as the grow.
Let children practice their life skills both as your helper AND in their play!
Goal #6 Spend More Time in Nature
You know how much I love kids getting outdoors, right! While I wouldn’t recommend starting a nature journal as one of your home preschool goals, I do recommend getting started with nature study!
I have 101 reasons why I think all kids should have nature study included in their education, and for us it starts early in life with nature play, family hikes and simple nature crafts. Spending lots of time outdoors will help you accomplish some of those other home preschool goals too, goals like developing gross motor skills and making sure children equate learning with fun!
Make spending time in nature a priority. Remember, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing
Goal #7 Love With Books a Little More
If you do nothing else on this list, spend lots of time this year reading and telling your children stories. This is absolutely the most important thing you can do to lay the foundations for your child’s future success in reading and writing. In all things literacy related, really! And the science backs this up.
If you’re not sure where to start, try choosing one of the books from this list and reading this post for tips on how to enjoy reading aloud to your child. It doesn’t come naturally to everyone but it is definitely one of those things it’s worth working on as a parent.
Make joining your local library a priority this year and read ALL THE BOOKS to your child
Goal #8 Develop Fine Motor Skills
Problems with handwriting, and even typing, in an older child often stem from poorly developed fine motor skills. To avoid these problems in the future we need to give our children lots of opportunities to develop these skills now with lots of pre-writing activities.
Playdough, kneading bread dough and playing with clay or modelling beeswax all are all fun ways to strengthen those hand and finger muscles. Uses tweezers, scissors and pipettes in their play will help your child too. Even something as simple as sorting shells or stones using their fingertips is helpful.
Can you see how all of these things will occur in your child’s day quite naturally through their play, their time in nature and by letting them get involved in the practical life of caring for your home! There is so much overlap in these home preschool goals so you can actually achieve them all with very little effort on your part just by being mindful of the opportunities you present to your child.
Don’t forget that your child uses their fine motor skills for a lot more than just writing. They use them when they are dressing themselves and feeding themselves too. Don’t put off providing opportunities for fine motor development because you still have a few years before they start writing for school.
If your child is having trouble with their fine motor development see an occupational therapist sooner rather than later
Goal #9 Develop Gross Motor Skills
If fine motor skills means all of those little movements we make, you know gross motor skills is referring to those big movements your child makes with their arms, legs and body. And it’s just as important to develop these skills as it is to focus on the fine motor skills.
Think about it. Your child uses these skills when they stand on one leg to put the other one in their pants. Or when they need to sit up at the table. They use these skills to play in the playground or when they kick a ball around the backyard with their big brother.
Balance, co-ordination, strength and stamina are all dependent on building those gross motor skills so give your child plenty of opportunity to develop them. You can do this by spending plenty of time outside where your child can run, jump and climb.
Let your child climb trees, go for long walks and balance on logs. You can add in yoga to your morning or play hopscotch together. Again, if you have concerns the best person to see is usually an occupational therapist that specialises in working with children.
By focusing on gross motor skill development as one of your home preschool goals you are setting your child up for success.
Goal #10 Cover the Preschool Basics
This may come as a shock but the absolute last on my list of home preschool goals is covering the basic academic skills. There is so much time for children to learn these things that it really doesn’t have to be a priority at this age. Those other goals really are so much more important.
The other thing to be aware of is that the academic skills you work on with your child is going to depend a lot on the educational philosophy and method you have decided to follow. And the differences can be huge!
In my next preschool at home post I will be looking at 3 popular methods and sharing with you how we do things in our home.
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