Children learn in lots of different ways. Which is why there are lots of ways to teach! But how do you know which method is best for you and your child? Today we will take a look at how to homeschool preschool with 3 popular methods so you can find the one that fits best for your family.
Let me just get this out of the way right now. There is no one right way to teach your children at home. You’re steering this ship and you get to choose which way you want to go based off the personality of captain and crew (that’s you and your kids in case you didn’t follow my terrible metaphor).
But how do you know which path is right for your ship? (And do ships follow a path? My maritime knowledge is pretty poor so let’s leave this metaphor behind now)
You could mimic the local preschool. You could wing it. Or you could choose to follow a particular homeschool method.
Personally, I like to combine and come up with something that’s just right for us. But more on that in a minute!
In this post you will:
- discover how the Charlotte Mason method is applied to the preschool years
- learn how the Waldorf method approaches early learning at home
- find out what Reggio-inspired homeschooling is about before the grades
- hear how we homeschool preschool in our family
- gets tips on how to choose your home preschool method
How to Homeschool Preschool the Charlotte Mason Way
The Charlotte Mason method for homeschooling is hot right now! And why wouldn’t it be? There is so much to love about it.
If you haven’t heard of Charlotte Mason before, you might like to take a quick look at this post (it’s short and sweet).
But even if you have come across CM for the school years, you may still be left wondering, what does the Charlotte Mason method look like in the preschool years?
It looks like a good ol’ fashioned childhood!
A Charlotte Mason preschool year looks like hours spent outside just playing. It sounds like story time and quality children’s books. It feels like a childhood well-spent.
Miss Mason had some goals she thought children should attain before they started school. She believed in an informal introduction to academics when a child showed interest, not before. And she wanted even small children to be exposed to the beauty in the world through the fine arts, poetry and time spent in nature.
Spend this time developing a routine in your home and spend lots of time outside. Miss Mason believed children should spend 6 hours outdoors every day! And while that may not be practical for you, making the effort to get outside should be a priority if you are following this method.
Focus: forming good habits, lots of time outside, informal introduction to academics, discover the beauty in the world, work to develop memory and concentration
Try one of these nature crafts with your preschooler
How to Homeschool Preschool the Waldorf Way
Waldorf is big inspiration for us and a topic I write a lot about. If you want a crash course in the Waldorf method of education you will want to check out this post. If you just want a brief overview, read this one instead.
At first glance, Waldorf and Charlotte Mason look a lot alike in the early years. This is one of the reasons parents sometimes like to combine the two methods.There are some key differences though.
While Charlotte Mason encourages an informal start to academics in the early years, Waldorf discourages this. Which is not to say there is no early learning happening; there is. It just looks different.
In the Waldorf early years the focus is on establishing a rhythm and having children involved in the day to day activities of the home. There is a strong focus on imaginative play and time spent outdoors. Children learn lots of songs and hear stories told by heart. This lays the foundation for literacy learning in future years.
One thing you won’t find in a Waldorf preschool at home is screentime. Instead you may like to tell stories, perhaps using finger puppets or small beeswax models to act out the scenes. Sing lots of songs throughout the day, especially little rhymes sung to ease transitions from one activity to another.
Provide your child with lots of opportunities to explore art materials and explore the senses. Because home is still considered the centre of the world at this age, there doesn’t need to be a big focus on socialisation but you may like to join a Waldorf playgroup both for your child to play and for support for you. It always helps to have like-minded mamas to bounce ideas off and learn from 🙂
Focus: establishing a rhythm, learning through imitation, enjoying song and stories, enjoying lots of sensory experiences, lots of time spent playing and being outside
There are lots of different types of play. Remember to provide opportunity for your child to explore them all
How to Homeschool Preschool the Reggio-Inspired Way
The Reggio approach is quite a bit different to the first two methods we looked at. Learning this way is still guided by the parent but the child is given a lot of input in their learning. All of the senses are used to explore the world and particular areas of interest for the child.
In the Charlotte Mason method, the environment is seen as being an important part of a child’s education but that takes on extra meaning in a Reggio-inspired preschool. Here the environment around the child, in this case your home, is seen as being a third teacher!
This means you will need to pay especial attention to cultivating an atmosphere of peace and wonder in your home as well as providing lots of loose parts for your child to use in their learning. Lots of light, lots of natural materials and good organisation are key.
Learning happens at the child’s own pace through creating projects and exploring things and ideas that are interesting to them. Your job is to document this with photos, notes, etc. and display this documentation to encourage even further exploration. Encouraging exploration of letters, number and themselves is typical at this age so provide material that will help your children do this!
If you are interested in Reggio-inspired preschool at home you will want to check out An Everyday Story. This is hands down the best Reggio at home blog I have ever come across. It’s no longer updated but it is still the best resource for parents I know. You will also want to read up on the ‘100 Languages of Children’
Focus: create beautiful and peaceful spaces, learning through inquiry and investigation, take lots of photos, provide plenty of natural materials and art supplies
“We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience” John Dewey
How to Homeschool Preschool YOUR Way
Did any of those methods jump out at you as ‘the one’ you want to pursue in your home with your children?
If the answer is yes, that’s the one to go for!
If none of these feels ‘just right’, you’re not alone. This is totally anecdotal, but in my experience most families are a little eclectic, even when they have one main source of inspiration.
When I decided how to homeschool preschool with my kids, I decided to combine elements of Charlotte Mason and Waldorf. This is how we do it in the grades as well, with the combination looking a little different from season to season, depending on what works best for us at the time.
I really appreciate Waldorf’s emphasis on protecting childhood and creating a strong rhythm. I agree it is so important for children to actively participate in the work of the home and to learn by following my example. Our play choices line up well with Waldorf.
The underlying philosophy isn’t for me though, and I find I turn a lot to Charlotte Mason for guidance and inspiration. Her ideas on children and childhood just sit better with me.
Learning in our home is mostly play-based in the early years. I like to follow my children’s lead for when they are ready for learning their letters and numbers. This means the preschool years have looked different for my kids because they are so different!
For both kids I have focused on lots of singing, lots of stories and lots of time outside.
For Wynter, learning happens a lot through art whereas Nikolai wanted to learn to read and write by 4. He wanted to drill his numbers, she is learning hers by playing hide ‘n’ seek and taking a turn to count. They’re just wired differently.
I’m coming along for the ride and trying to provide what they need when they need it! I’m using the ideas of holistic education to keep us on the right track.
When you are deciding how to homeschool preschool in your home, there are a few things you can take in to consideration.
- do you have a philosophy of education to guide your choice?
- what are your views on child development?
- how do you want your days to look?
- how do you want your home to feel?
- do you like to do things your own way or follow a method?
- do you like having lots of materials or are you very minimalist?
- have you decided on a method you want to follow during the grades that you can start out with now?
- are you an activities person or a go with the flow person?
Asking yourself these questions and being honest in the answers will help guide you to the right method for your family. But remember, there is no one right way for everyone and it is okay to try something for a while and then jump ship to another method.
Now I’m off before I get stuck on that awful metaphor again 😉
Let me know what homeschool preschool methods you love in the comments below.