Preschool at Home with Toddlers

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Categories Preschoolers, Theme Week, ToddlersTags

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A month ago I was a working mom of 21-month-old twin boys. Suddenly, I was a former computer nerd who quit my job of six years to stay home. If you had told me six weeks ago that I would be not only unemployed but also trying to teach preschool for my twin boys, I would have laughed. Of course if you told me three years ago that I would have twin boys, I probably wouldn’t have believed that either. But here I am, a mom of twins, attempting to put together a plan for home preschool for the under-2 crowd.

Like most parents, we want our kids to be smart and polite and kind and curious. We want the best for them, we want them to thrive and succeed. Enrolling them in an actual preschool sounds great but is out of the question, budget-wise.  Last month when I quit my job to stay home with them full time, it was rather impulsive and it is now part of my role to be frugal and make the most of our one-income household. So, here I am: absolutely no training and zero experience, a whim, a fuzzy plan, a library card and a desire to make the most of our days, I am starting home preschool. I figure that I was mildly under-qualified for two infants simultaneously and so far that is going OK, so maybe I can do this.

Luckily for me, there are tons of resources online for homeschooling: Printable lessons, Units of study for purchase, Themes, Book lists, activities and an overwhelming number of resources. Our home preschool needs to be a no or very-low cost endeavor and needs to fit into our days. Starting small, I collected ideas using Pinterest, then I moved onto formulating a real plan. My basic strategy is to pick a topic each week and add books and activities using that topic as a guide. We are relying heavily on the library, local free and low-cost activities and the Internet’s endless bounty of “someone else probably already did this” resources. (Seriously, if you haven’t checked out Pinterest, you should.)

Our first week’s topic was Bugs, Bees and Butterflies. We checked topical books from the library and planned a trip to the local Nature Center to see butterflies and bees. (It was free but had a suggested $1 donation per person which we gladly paid.) This week’s theme is The Beach and the Sea so made the boys’ first trip to the local (also free) beach. I have books, art projects and a sensory activity planned. In coming weeks, I have marked our calendar for a visit to our CSA farm, a trip to the zoo (free since we are members), the fire department safety open house, an indoor botanic garden (also free), an apple orchard and the not-at-all-free-but-awesome-anyway trip to Day out with Thomas at the Illinois Train Museum.

The nice thing about doing this with not-quite-two-year-olds is that we can be flexible and incorporate it easily into our days. My boys are really learning to understand the things around them, to talk, to sign and to explore their world. Home preschool will allow us to have a plan each week so we don’t get into a rut and resort to TV, but allows us to have our routines and fit these activities into our day. We spent about an hour each day last week reading or learning about bugs.   When we have other stuff to do, that is fine too. We still read non-theme books and embrace teachable moments. We let them play and explore and be toddlers. We have playmates and outings with other kids. And, most importantly, we don’t do school if they are not up to it. The first week was a lot of fun and I the boys actually learned a lot. They both point out bugs on the sidewalk and sign butterfly and try to flap their wings to fly. By any measure, I think our lessons were a success.

The nitty-gritty of planning preschool for 1-year-olds with no any training or experience has been interesting. First I brainstormed topics that would appeal to little boys: Bugs, Beach, Farm, Firemen, Dinosaurs, etc. Next, I outlined the over-arching goals I want from each week. No matter the theme, I want to make sure we continue to include colors, numbers, letters, senses, foods, music, self-care and manners. I have jotted down any notes that pertain to our theme, whether free activities, book lists or online resources. I scheduled themes around free days at museums or upcoming community events. We can all get out of the house, take advantage of the great places we have in our area for free and cheap educational experiences and hopefully raise smart, upstanding citizens along the way.

The computer nerd in me sort of took over and I leaned heavily on the Internet for resources (seriously, how did people raise kids without the Internet!) and used a couple different applications to organize. My notes and lists all go into Evernote, my schedule of themes and activities are color-coded in iCal and any documents I find or create are all organized using Dropbox. I can access the notes and documents from any computer, my phone or iPad. (See, told you I am a nerd.) I know I am not the first to do this homeschool thing, and I am certainly not forging any new path. This is what works for our family, and is something we find really exciting. I am documenting it all as we go on our blog, mostly so I can look back and see what we accomplished.

So this is our home preschool, one week in, finding our way, entertaining and educating while spending as little money as possible. I have units mapped out until the end of February on a wide variety of toddler-friendly topics. I want my boys to have great experiences and continue to be excited to learn and explore. It’s amazing how fast they are approaching two, I feel like we were just driving home from the hospital with our tiny babies. Their enthusiasm to learn and my desire to stay busy will hopefully be a recipe for success. If you’re interested in seeing how we are doing as this project rolls on, you can visit the Preschool category of our Go Team Wood. We also welcome any suggestions for activities, homeschool, preschool or anything else that might help this endeavor. After all, this is new to all three of us!

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13 thoughts on “Preschool at Home with Toddlers”

  1. Wow! I envy your enthusiasm and organization. I’d like to do all those things you wrote about but find it very difficult to actually make it happen. We had a system going in the spring but this summer I’ve completely let go. I am being inspired to start up again, in September. Thanks for the kick in the butt! and good luck to you!

  2. wow! You are my definition of a “super-mom”. I am very impressed with your enthusiam and planning! congrats on finding a way to make it all work… puts me to shame, as I am lucky to get home after work and get dinner made! Good luck with it! ps…my son and husband will be at that Thomas stop too! :)

  3. I’m homeschooling my 21-month old twin boys as well. I’ve been using the free printables from 1+1+1=1. Just look for her “Tot School” tag. She has tons of free stuff for all ages. I can’t wait to see what you have planned for your boys.

  4. Hats off to you for planning and jumping in to this. Take my below comment with a grain of salt, because it indeed seems that you have plenty of play and free time for your boys in your schedule.
    I must admit that I do question the term “preschool” for kids so young! I did not even contemplate “preschool” until my boys turned 3. But then again I have a very laid back approach AND I totally disagree with the modern trend whereby “kindergarten is the new first grade”- this puts an undue heavy burden on the littlest kids (especially boys, who are not ready to “sit and learn” as young as most girls are.
    I just believe that “kids nowadays” are rushed in to too much, too soon (and for what?!?) I have actively resisted putting my boys on the fast track to adademic stardom because I have heard too many stories of kids who were “accelerated” all through high school, then they get to college and the first year is a repeat of all they learned already. So they accelerated for … nothing (?) Childhood is to be enjoyed while it lasts so briefly – and hats off to you for doing just that while still focusing on the learning which is age appropriate…

  5. I want to do Montessori-style home preschool with my boys when they are about three. They are only four months old so I know I’m being sort of crazy to think of it now. LOL! Still, all of those tools you are using sound like they’d be great for being organized about anything. For me right now it would be planning meals, getting craft projects under control, etc. I’ve just joined Pinterest but don’t really understand it yet.

    Love your ambition!

  6. Great job! It can be tough to adjust from the working world to the stay-at-home-Mom world but you seem to be doing beautifully. I love how you took your strengths in the computer world and used them as resources for your boys. Best of luck and keep up the good work – your boys must love the extra time with you. Oh and thanks for passing along some tips and tricks, too!

  7. I try to do learning through play with the kids by talking about colours, shapes, numbers, words etc but nothing as formal as you are planning. Good luck! I think I’d get bored being home all the time with my kids so having such a clear plan would be helpful.

  8. Way to go! oh how i would LOVE to be able to stay at home, unfortunatley for me, our one income family needs our income!… thanks for the tips and resources if we are able to become a 2 income family… i will jump at the chance to do what you have done!

    in one week I will quit my job, move to a new continent with my one year boy…looking for a scheduled home preschool and i got it here! definitely I will save it in my bookmarks! BTW: try skydrive..amazing to save your stuff there 😛

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