Last year, a small group of mommies decided to meet together to attempt a preschool co-op. The Woodwards were able to join about a third of the way through the year, and it was such an amazing experience! As one who is constantly mulling over the thought of homeschooling, with all of its risks and benefits, I gained confidence as a teacher last year. I was able to observe credentialed teachers instruct, create, and lead the children. I was pushed to be creative with my own lessons. We all learned valuable lessons about children, learning styles, and character. This was all in a few short hours once a week! So it was really exciting for me to get to meet with the other moms last night to set up curriculum for this coming school year. As a note, one thing that I love about this group of moms is their desire to have realistic expectations for the children. Our kids are still quite young- most are newly three years old. We don't want them writing the alphabet by the end of the year; we are more concerned that they learn to sit on their mats and play nicely with each other. There is a friendly unity of goals among us, which is most encouraging to me.
I will be posting our lesson plans each week in order to keep myself organized and share our collective ideas with anyone searching for a simple curriculum for young children. I'm sure our structure will evolve during the following months, so it will be fun to look back and see how the co-op changes and grows.
Here is our initial basic structure:
There are four moms. We have seven children of learning age, two of whom are two and under. Each mom will be in charge of a concept/lesson/station. While we changed jobs monthly last year, we aimed for streamlined simplicity this year. New babies are coming, brand-new babies have just arrived, and we have reasonable expectations as a result. Each mom will prepare a basic lesson and teach it to the children every school day. With the younger children last year, we stuck to numbers, letters, very general themes, musical instruments, and days of the week/calendar. This year, we are adding art (we have a real, trained art teacher among us!), music/rhythm, math, show and tell, and Bible time. Last year, school lasted about an hour. This year, we have structured two hours of time. Our basic research has showed us that most official preschools incorporate a good amount of playtime/free time, so we are comfortable with a good two hours of learning/play. We will meet at C's house each week.
Here is our general outline:
C- Morning (Circle) Time: (15-20 minutes)
-"Good Morning Song"
-Letters (Scholastic's AlphaTales)
-Days of the Week ( And "Days of the Week Song")
-Review of Previous Lesson
A- Art (15-20 minutes)
-Print of a famous piece, accompanied by a basic discussion
-Correlating art project
All- Music/ Rhythm (10 minutes)
-Children use rhythm instruments to mirror children's song (like "B-I-N-G-O), rhyme, or Bible song)
-listen to piece of music
All- Snack Time (10 minutes)
-Last year, our snacks got increasingly more expensive and extravagant as we tried to impress each other with our kitchen skills. Now, we laugh about it and decided to serve fish crackers and apple juice every week instead of flower pots with yogurt, crushed "dirt" cookies, and gummy worms).
-Our aim of snack time is to cultivate basic table manners such as "please", "thank you", "I have a question", etc; serving others, and cleaning up after oneself.
All- Play Time! (15-20 minutes)
-The most sought-after part of preschool. The kids love someone else's trains, cars, tricycles, dolls, etc. They enjoy playing with their friends and discovering new things. Mommies love the development of social skills, playing nicely, preschool "conversation", and discovering new things.
-Our mommy who has children who have gone to an actual preschool says that her son remembers play time the most. It was where he learned basic lasting lessons about others and himself. But for him, it was just fun! This makes sense when you consider preschoolers.
L- Math (10 minutes)
-Our most right-brained, medically-trained mommy is in charge of math.
-We will be working on number recognition and counting, patterns, shapes, and coins.
L- Bible (5-10 minutes)
-We will be teaching the ABC Bible Verse program, which I am not too familiar with, but the gist of it is that each week, the children hear and try to memorize a short and applicable Scripture. I will try to be faithful to document these. For example, "A- A soft answer turns away wrath".
J- Social Studies/Language (10-15 minutes)
- We will be using the A Beka curriculum for this part. The company has a set of giant flashcards and a teaching manual to discuss each card. For example, "A- Africa: with a short lesson on geography and people and God's creation. There are ensuing easy questions for the children. We will try to mirror these cards with our letter of the week.
-"End of the day" patriotism: learn the flag salute and the song "My Country, 'Tis of Thee". We will go outside to stand at the flag to do this. Fun!
We also plan to incorporate a basic show-and-tell. We would like to plan a quarterly field trip that correlates with the seasons (like apple picking in Tehachapi for fall).
Again, we are planning on flexibility and a relaxed environment for the children. Our expectations are reasonable and we don't desire to push our young children toward unrealistic or militant goals. These are all things we would be working on with our children at home anyway, we just get the luxury of being able to do it together. The moms enjoy fellowship and encouragement, and the children enjoy socialization and boundaries and hands-on, real-world, group learning. We are excited to see what God has for us all this year!