Curriculum of Daily Life — Preschoolers
It can be a challenge running a homeschool and trying to raise little ones at the same time. The education of little ones is important too, but most of it takes place in the course of daily life. I think the blessing of having little ones in the home can outweigh the problem moments. Little children remind the rest of the family of what is really important and spending some time thinking about their place in a homeschool can help make things run more smoothly and also enrich the education of the older ones.
Here are some things I try to do consistently with my little ones. Having this listed, I can look and see if something is out of balance– and isn’t there always something? The way I do it, not all of this gets done every day, but over time these are the big seven I try to focus on:
–Pray with them and share my faith with them. To quote Jesus: “Let the little children come unto me. Despise not, offend not, hinder not.” Our faith should be a part of our daily life and provide a framework for all that we do and have and think. Holy pictures and images around the house, books, regular prayers and devotions following the liturgical year are some ways to provide this framework.
–Read to them. That’s a simple, fun and rewarding one, and reaps so many benefits. Among them is that I am often inspired by a wonderful, profound child’s story. Yes, I also get bored reading a Dr Seuss jingle or board book for the millionth time. It evens out though, and even the boring millions lead to wonderful moments like a child “reading” a book from memory or learning to really read because he knows the words so well.
—Take them outside. This seems to bring serenity and balance to the day. There are so many natural lessons about cycles, about beauty, about early science to be found in the outdoors, even in a small backyard. I find it helpful to leave spaces in my schedule, planned times to go out with the little ones. But it always runs that risk of getting crowded out of the day, so I try to brainstorm regularly for ideas of how to motivate myself to get out there. Keeping a small nature notebook has worked in the past, and so has bringing a small prayer book with me, or bringing my camera. A garden or an outdoor project or activity might also work well.
–Guide them — conversation, instruction in how to live, good example. This would be about all that I do to teach or mentor or instruct or role model — whether about growing in virtue, or tying shoes, or reading instruction, or social skills. It happens all the time and they are guided by my poor example as well as my good one, so vigilance and perseverance are useful words here.
–Work with them — this refers to self-care and to meaningful shared responsibilites, whether in household duties, or extra projects, or service activities. Children can often do more than you would think, especially if child-friendly tools and a slightly slower pace are provided
–Give them a variety of experiences – this covers the whole world, but starts where I am and where my family is. In other words, the glory of this category is in the particular moving out towards the universal . Start with your own talents and interests and those of your husband and children and relatives and friends. As they grow, let the best parts of their community be an influence on them — whether you live in a mountain town as we do, or a big city.
–Play with them. Also, set aside time and space and occasion for Dad to play with them, or have siblings or cousins or friends play with them. But anyway, guard their playtime; do not let the busy-ness of scheduled activities and manufactured games and toys replace the free, relaxed play which helps children learn and grow.
Obviously these categories overlap, but looking at them helps me see what areas I need to put on the front burner. For example, over the summer I realized that I wasn’t reading to my three year old very much. Now this area is going well, but it’s harder to get outside. Part of this is affected by the circumstances of life — different things will take priorities at different times.
These basic categories move very naturally into the academics and life skills an older child needs. For my oldest, outdoors time led to an interest in nature study, which prepared him well for formal science. The outdoors also promotes physical health and energy, observation and a contemplative understanding of God’s creation. Shared work leads to a sense of responsibility and confidence in one’s ability to make a difference. The mentoring category covers a very broad field but the essence of it is that the parents share who they are and what they are about. This reminds me to keep striving to become a better person myself. Kimberly Hahn reminds us that we are teaching by everything we do. The bright side of this is that we don’t have to sit our children down and say, “today we will learn about how to be truthful” We will live it and model it if it’s really a priority in our lives. But of course, that’s also the challenge — that we can’t just check off “honesty” or “compassion” on our list of things to do today.
These categories also continue to provide a foundation for the older children already in the home. Even an older elementary-age child can still learn much from these general experiences. And in the teen years, when life tends to speed up drastically, having little children in the home can foster the slower pace and more compassionate way of thinking that helps prepare them for mature, reflective adulthood.