This year, my third child started kindergarten, HURRAH! After being at home with me for five years (last year was spent doing a half session preschool) it has been a big change here at home. My fourth child, Talley, is now 3 and wants to do e v e r y t h i n g and then I also have my fifth, Welles, who is one, to tag along.
Working from home (in case you are new here, I also run this site too) isn't always a set schedule for me. Basically, I work when/if they nap. The rest of my day is spent with them but believe it or not, it isn't actually easier for me if I drop the three year old at preschool. Right now, what works best for us is a more fluid schedule without the threat of being late twice a day (pickup AND drop off, HELLOOOOO my worst enemy) that leaves it open to add on little activities when I have the extra time. So, this year, for the first time, I am trying out doing some homeschooling. Here's how it's working so far...
I am drawn the most to the Montessori and Waldorf approaches for early childhood education right now, and it works best with Talley's personality and learning style. All of my children have been different (go figure!) but this is for sure right up her alley. On Mondays we just joined a great parent and child program at Waldorf School of Saratoga where the children prepare a meal and help cook it (YES) and then we all eat together as a group (after they set the table, YES YES) and then they help clean up (SO MUCH YES). It is really a beautiful program, I wish I had found it sooner because I am in love with it.
When we are at home, I have found some great resources through Simply Learning and NutureStore that help me create a loose weekly curriculum for Talley and I add in some basic components for the one year old as well. I have found some great materials at Etsy shops like Montessori Mamas and Hudson Valley Toy Co. and have created some of my own activities using stuff we collect on walks, little things I find at craft stores and just everyday household stuff too.
A big part of our week has been finding activities and events to do around our local community that will give her some new experiences and a chance to meet new friends. She rides once a week at North Country Horses and an old sweet pony named Honey that my three older children all used to ride as well, and that is probably the highlight of her week. She gets to groom Honey, put on her saddle and bridle, ride her around the ring, feed her treats, even lead her back out to the pasture (all with some gentle yet vigilant supervision from her instructor). I love horseback riding for the kids because it really instills responsibility and nurturing in them: there is no "fun" (the riding part) until the horse is taken care of.
We also take part in local nature walks and classes at the state park and local nature preserves, and we love the Friday story time at the local bookstore. We try to spend time with friends at the library once a week and then she spends the day with her grandma once a week too, and to be honest, that is a lot of stuff and usually fills up all of the "free" time we have. Her being able to spend time every week with her grandma is so important to me, and we try to work in trips to see all the grandparents as often as we can, as those relationships are so vital for children.
The beauty of it is that we can do all this on their schedule, and I am free to then work around their little schedules. If we feel up to it we can register for a program, and some days they need more time to just rest and play inside. Sometimes we pick up and have a picnic in the park, it feels really good to go with the flow of the day with them and not fight a rigid schedule. Of course, I realize being able to work from home on my own time is essential to this all working out, and I am grateful for that.
We do always have the set in stone school day schedule to contend with, I am here to see the older kids get on the bus and here to meet them when they get off, and that acts as a nice bookend to our homeschool day. We sit down and have tea together when we are all here and they get to talk about their day, show off their artwork or quizzes or whatever happened that day, and get something little to eat so they don't ask for eighteen million snacks before dinner.
Next year we might enroll her in an actual preschool program, she will be a little bit older (she only just turned three last month) and we might be ready for that, but for now, this is what works the best for us.
I am always, ALWAYS on the lookout for new programs and new resources for materials and inspiration, so if you have any good ones, please leave them in the comments below. Also, click the links provided below too for more info on local programs we love.