Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Homegrown Preschooler (Schoolhouse Review)

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My two oldest children are very close, and they do almost everything together.  That means my 3 year old, ("almost 4" if you ask him) wants to do school with his brother.  However, I believe in natural, informal, play-based learning for preschoolers.  I do not use formal lessons or curriculum for the preschool/Pre-K years.  Not that a formal curriculum isn't the perfect choice for another family, but it's not the right fit for my family.  Of course I was thrilled to review a book from Gryphon House Publishing all about teaching preschoolers in their natural environment.

Gryphon House publishes books to help teachers, caregivers and parents enrich the lives of young children, and The Homegrown Preschooler - Teaching Your Kids in the Places They Live by Kathy H. Lee & Lesli M. Richards ($29.95) was written by veteran homeschoolers and experienced early childhood educators.



Whether you plan to send your child to public or private school or continue homeschooling after the preschool years, The Homegrown Preschooler was written to help you teach your child at home in as natural and fun a way as possible.  The authors aims to show how you can provide stimulation for all areas of academic, physical and social-emotional development through everyday experiences and simple activities.



Creating Teachable Moments

The authors share tips and resources for how to naturally "teach" subjects like mathematics, science, and language by finding teachable moments throughout the day.  There are also ideas for planning simple activities to engage your preschooler during lessons for older siblings or for special one-on-one time.

For example, everyday mathematical activities might include measuring ingredients for a recipe, sorting laundry, weighing produce at the grocery store or telling time on the clock when we make transitions throughout the day.  Simple planned activities might include pattern blocks or creating an activity bag with a mathematical concept as the focus.


I provided the blocks, but he created the symmetrical design on his own.

We can name letters and sounds, trace the letters with our fingers, or go on letter scavenger hunts



Not all Learning is Contrived 

Something I identified strongly with is how the authors stressed that at this age, almost any activity a child naturally engages in is helping them develop different skills.  Not all learning needs to be planned out.

So when Emory was "making potions" outside in the bird bath, he was developing fine motor skills by picking flower buds and leaves, and gross motor skills by bending down and stirring.  He was engaging his senses as he touched various textures, smelled flowers and listened to the birds.  He was developing his language skills has we had a natural discussion about his creative play.






What's Included?
  • Suggestions for all seasons of life and all sizes of families
  • Activity ideas for science, math, literacy, art and other areas of development
  • A variety of interesting recipes throughout the book
  • Recipes for making your own art and sensory supplies
  • Instructions for making a light table and an easel {Going on my honey-do list}
  • Field trip ideas
  • Favorite children's books with ideas for fun activities to enhance the book
  • Checklists for weekly activities and a list of supplies that might be useful
  • A list of favorite stores, books (for parents) and online resources
Baking soda and vinegar with food coloring explores acid/base reactions and color mixing




Final Thoughts
This book really affirmed the choices I've been making for my young children.  There are no complicated lesson plans or expensive supplies.  It's just about being intentional.  I love the simple suggestions such as developing literacy skills with good books and meaningful conversations, playing music in the background during playtime, and encouraging outdoor play!

Climbing trees with a cousin - nature study, gross motor skills, social skills

Playing on swing set - gross motor skills




I also love that it is all informal, and it's all easy.  The Homegrown Preschooler isn't about setting specific academic goals or designing a full-blown curriculum.  It's more about recognizing the developmental areas you want to work on with your child, and being intentional about finding teachable moments.  What this book suggests is really how I've been "homeschooling" my children all along, and even though it wasn't a revelation for me, it was still relevant with practical advice and a plethora of ideas.

Apple tree study (nature study), gathering apples (motor skills) and counting apples (math) one evening



Would I Recommend This Book?
Yes, I would recommend this book to any parent (or caregiver) of preschoolers.  It's a bit pricey for the information offered, considering I've been doing preschool this way for a few years now without any similar type books, but I still enjoyed the read.  Plus, it's relevant beyond homeschoolers.  There is so much valid advice for parents in general.  Even if you send your child to a preschool or daycare, this book offers a lot of fun activities you can do together on the evenings, weekends or during the summer.  The tips for how to include your child in household chores are practical.  Going on nature walks or field trips are great family activities.  There's so much to this book, that it can really apply to any family dynamic.  I enjoyed it, and will be keeping my copy around for inspiration during Emory's Pre-K year!



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You should also check out more reviews of The Homegrown Preschooler and an arts & crafts book, Global Art by Mary Ann Kholer.





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