Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Best Preschool Curriculum EVER

I am writing today to tell you about the absolute best preschool curriculum you will ever find anywhere.  Seriously.  

What qualifies me to make this claim?  

Well, it's the preschool curriculum we used with our oldest daughter, the only one who spent any time in public school.  When she went to meet her Kindergarten teacher for the first time, the teacher spent five minutes with her (during which Katy read the months of the year off a chart on the wall, wrote out her own full name, answered the math problems on the posters, and told the teacher all about how the rain falls) and asked us did we maybe want to just skip her straight to first grade?

It's the preschool curriculum by which all three of our children who are past that age learned to read whole books by themselves before they turned five.  The curriculum by which our son Jake learned to work with negative numbers when he was four.  The curriculum by which our all three of them could identify every letter and number by sight when they were two, could tell you the sounds each letter made and do a one-to-one counting of numbers up through at least twenty when they were three.  The curriculum by which Becca and Jake at ages five and three told a dad at the park all about the solar system, including naming the planets in order (much to the guy's amazement).

So....yeah...it's the best and I've got the experience to prove it.

Ready?  Here's the absolute best way to teach toddlers and preschoolers, to ensure that they learn everything they could possibly need to know before they hit school age, and as a bonus: they'll even be happy.  All it takes are these eight simple steps!

Step One:
Read Lots of Books

Any old books.  Picture books, novels, short stories, board books, bath books, paperbacks, hardbacks.  Silly stories, poems, tearjerkers.  Books about animals, birds, bugs, food, people, places, holidays, weather, space, science, history.  Read Winnie the Pooh, Franklin, Little Bear.  Read whatever interests them.  Read and read and read some more.  

 Read to your child. Read in front of your child.  Provide your child with plenty of books (either bought or borrowed from the library) to look at and read on their own.  Want a child who reads well, writes well, and speaks well?  READ TO THEM.

Step Two:
Provide Plenty of Art Supplies - and the chance to use them

Stock your house with art supplies.  Start with the basics.  Paper.  Pencils.  Crayons.  Markers. Fingerpaints, water paints, tempera paints.  Glue. Scissors.  Play dough  Stickers and glitter and pompoms.  But do more than just stock it.  Make the supplies accessible.  No, that doesn't mean you have to put every art supply out on a table and let them go crazy. But you should put the supplies in sight of your child and whenever possible, say "yes" when they ask to use them.  

Let them create whatever they want.  Create with them sometimes.  Get them to talk to you about what they're drawing or creating.  Is it messy?  Yes.  Is that OK?  Absolutely.  Messes clean.  Kids clean.  Creativity is one of the best gifts you can give your child.

Step Three:
Get Them Outside

Time outdoors is crucially important to young children.  They need the space to stretch their growing bodies, work on large motor skills, breathe the fresh air, and get in tune with nature.  

Let them lay back and soak up the sunshine and breathe deep.  Let them explore the woods, or just the back corner of the yard.  Give them downtime in nature as well as encouraging active outdoor play.

Provide them with a few simple outdoor toys and activities.  Balls, chalk, bubbles, a small pool.  The simple things are the best.  Let them play on their own sometimes.  Go out and play with them sometimes.  Let loose and go crazy.  Have fun!

Step Four:
Encourage Their Imaginations

Dramatic play is one of the key ways children at this age work out how the world around them functions.  It's how they figure out social situations.  Best of all, it encourages IMAGINATION.  Blocks with people or animal figures, train tracks, toy cars, baby dolls, play dishes and food, dress up clothes.  Stock up your home with these kinds of toys and let your child play.  You'll be AMAZED at some of the things they can come up with.  

And...as Einstein said, "Creativity is intelligence having fun."  Imagination is the best kind of intelligence!

Step Five:
Let Them Do Real Things

Just because a child is young doesn't mean he can't do things.  Never underestimate a small child.  They want to help.  Take advantage of that while  you can.  Let them help you cook, clean, paint, wash, weed, whatever.  Children learn through real life experiences. 

 Don't discount their interest, instead, grab onto it and watch them figure out how to do things.  

Step Six:
Keep Them Healthy

It may seem trivial, but really...keeping a child healthy physically is one of the best things you can do for them mentally.  Give them good foods, along with plenty of exercise and adequate sleep.  It will work wonders for their cognitive reasoning AND keep them much happier!

Step Seven: 
Do the Fun Stuff

Listen to all kinds of music.  Go to the park.  Dance and sing.  Look at pictures.  Look at art.  Play with animals.  Take care of people.  

Snuggle and just talk.  Love those babies.  It's true what they say, "The days are long but the years are short."

Step Eight:
Teach Them What They Want to Know

Young children WANT to know things. Everyone knows that a two or three year old asks, "Why?" about a million times a day. So why should it be hard to teach them things?  Show them the letters as you write words and tell them what the letter names are. Count the cookies on the cookie sheet.  Tell them the names of the flowers on your walks.  Name the color of each new crayon he picks up.  Find all the circle shaped things in the house.  Look up at the moon and stars and talk about them.  Incorporate learning into life.  If they want to know about a topic, get them books about it.  Watch shows about it.  Get them as much experience with whatever that topic is as you can.  

Take them to see a real train.  Let them watch the bulldozer down the street.  Let them play the piano.  Grow plants with them.  It's called delight-directed learning, and it holds true all the way up through adulthood: children, and people in general, learn best those things that they already have a natural interest in.


There you have it, the best preschool curriculum EVER.  By using it, your child will be smart, creative, and happy.

Not quite what you expected?  Here's a secret: you do not need long lists of books, daily schedules, or lesson plans.  You certainly do not need a prepackaged preschool curriculum costing hundreds of dollars.  You don't need worksheets or lapbooks or busywork of any kind.  Preschoolers are plenty busy on their own!

Can you do a formal preschool curriculum?  Sure you can.  Plenty of companies will be glad to take your money in exchange for a whole year's worth of plans and schedules and book lists and printables.  But do you NEED a formal preschool curriculum?  Nope.  Is a formal preschool curriculum the best thing you can do for your child (and you)?  Nope.

Our children were always "ahead."  (Whatever that means).  People have asked me for years, ooh which curriculum did you use, which reading program?  The answer is always the same: 

 "Read a bunch of books. 
Draw, color, paint. 
Go outside and play. 
Listen to music. 
Go to a museum. 
Plant a garden. 
Life is learning."

And it's the truth.  The best preschool "curriculum " you'll ever use....is learning through play, through everyday life, through time spent together.

 This is a picture of our son Jake at just barely four years old.  He made the sign on the door himself.  He was playing with cars and wanted a place where all the cars knew to stop.  So he got some paper and a crayon, asked me how to spell "stop"  (he already knew, he was just making sure), wrote it himself, and taped it to the door.  

Imaginative play.

No curriculum needed.

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