Thursday, July 4, 2013

Preparing a Curriculum-Free Preschool

As I am getting into planning mode for my elementary student, I realize I need to plan another Pre-K year.  Emory will be 4 this year, and he loves to sit with us, so I want to make sure he feels included in our homeschool day.  However, I don't do curriculum for preschool.  I don't find it necessary, and I like to design our activities around my child's needs, not what someone else thinks my child should be doing.  When I plan a preschool year, I like to keep it simple, informal, fun and engaging.

This post contains affiliate links, please see my disclosure.

Defining Goals
The first thing I do is set goals for our Pre-K year.  My goals are going to be different than yours, and that is okay.  The point of setting goals is not to list every skill I want to cover, but to realize what I want our end-result to look like.
  • Continue to develop our moral and religious beliefs
  • Develop good habits (listening attentively, following directions, etc)
  • Exposure to early literacy skills
  • Explore early mathematical concepts
  • Continue to develop fine and gross motor skills
  • Develop an interest in nature through outdoor exploration
  • Exposure to music and art in various forms
  • Contribute to household chores and responsibilities
  • Allow plenty of time to explore, play, imagine, create and enjoy being 4!

Preschool Resources
The next thing I am going to do is choose themes to explore.  Then I can go through my favorite resources and start putting together activities.  I am not a meticulous planner or scheduler.  I like routine, but I don't need a daily checklist.  Instead, I sit down over several days and put together as many activities as I can, so they are ready to go if he is interested in doing school.  I aim to offer a balanced amount of math, literacy and fine motor activities each month to go along with our theme.

As we work through them, I can evaluate areas where we need to work on, what activities we enjoy and what activities were a flop.  Then I do another marathon planning session, using my observations to choose new books and activities.  There are many websites and blogs that offer free worksheets for preschoolers.  While these are not our cup o' tea, you can easily do an internet search and find anything you could possibly want or need.  However, I prefer to offer hands-on activities.

I use this website to find literacy and math activities.  Her website is full of hands-on and play-based activities, which meshes well with my early education style.

Preschool Activity Bags
We reviewed these last year, and I really like the concept.  There are many activities to cover a variety of skills for preschool and Kindergarten students.  I will be going back and creating new bags to use this year.

Family Math for Young Children
This book helps explore mathematical concepts in an age appropriate way.

The Homegrown Preschooler
Did you read my review?  This book was an easy read, and fits nicely with my preschool philosophy.  I'll be using it for inspiration and to remind myself of my goals for preschool.

It's a great visual resource, and you can find many great hands-on ideas for literacy and math games, art projects and handicrafts.  You can always start here!

Book Basket

We love books and read-alouds!  I want Emory to have his own book basket, so I'll go through the bookshelves each month.  Some times we do a theme (like dinosaurs!) and sometimes I pull random books--a few favorites, and several "new" books.  These are the book lists I use when I'm shopping for books.  There are a lot of overlap in these lists, but they are all useful.
Ambleside Online Year 0 Booklist
Simply Charlotte Mason:  Favorite Read Alouds for Preschoolers
Before Five in a Row Booklist
Five in a Row Booklists
Sonlight Read Alouds P3/4 and P4/5
1000 Good Books Primary List

Educational Toys & Games
I buy a lot of puzzles and games from Dollar Tree and the $1 spot at Target.  There are so many interesting items that can be turned into educational activities.  For instance, I bought a pack of insect flash cards and a bag of toy insects and we can match and sort, or take the cards on nature walks and read facts about insects as we find and observe them!

I wrote one time that I feel you can teach preschool and kindergarten with games, and I still believe that.  There are many early education games on the market, and if you choose wisely, you can find many fun games that promote literacy, math and critical thinking skills!  I try to include games on a regular basis to keep "school" fun and engaging!

I also have some math manipulatives and educational toys that I bring out on rotation.  I usually budget a few new items in as birthday/Christmas gifts to reduce costs.

Snap Cubes
Pattern Blocks
and Pattern Block Design Cards
Melissa & Doug Wooden Bear Family Dress-Up Puzzle


My preschooler will also have his own poetry read-aloud book, and is welcome to participate in art, music, nature study, handicrafts and other activities as he wishes.  He is not required to do any school yet, but when he does ask, I feel like these activities will engage, entertain and educate him in an informal and age-appropriate way.

Frugal Tips

Just because most published curriculum is expensive doesn't mean that designing your own Preschool curriculum has to break the bank.  Here are things I do to save money.

Shop Smart
Dollar stores, goodwill, yard sales, and used book stores are my favorite places to find classic books, neat puzzles, board games, educational toys and other interesting items for a bargain.

Utilize The Community
Head out to the children's program at the library, free admission day at the museum, or check out these free and frugal field trip ideas to plan some field trips for your preschooler.

Sign up for Discounts
This giant list of Teacher Discounts lists a variety of stores that offer educator discounts, and home educators are eligible.

Use What You Have 
Don't feel obligated to go out and buy everything you see just because it looks fun.  Find the teaching moments as they arise in everyday moments and use household objects to teach a concept.

We are Charlotte Mason homeschoolers at heart, and I will be sharing a 5 Days of Charlotte Mason Preschool series in August.  That is where I will elaborate more about the specific activities I do to enhance the topics we cover in our preschool.

What are your favorite preschool resources?  Do you use a curriculum or design your own?  How do you save money for your little ones?  If you are interested in what his big brother is doing for 1st grade, you can see his curriculum too.

This post is linked up at Blogging Through the Alphabet, Frugal Family 2013 and Preschool & Kindergarten Community!

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  1. So glad to see all the Charlotte Mason resources in your list! I know it's important to keep littles busy, but they mostly just need to play.

    My son loves blocks, cars, Legos, mud, sticks, water, and having us read to him. :-)

    1. I know, I wouldn't even plan anything for him if he didn't want to "do school" like his big brother, but I try to find activities that are more like games than lessons. I'd say his favorite things are Legos and mud puddles! :)

  2. Good resources! We love book-based units, too!

  3. Fantastic list! I echo much of it.

  4. At that age turning learning into fun and play is a great way to get a head start on teaching your child that learning is fun.

  5. Which preschool activities do you like the most? My 5 years old son regularly go to preschool.
    Phoenix pre-k

    1. For older preschoolers, I start doing word families and simple addition activities, if they're ready and interested.