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!