It has occurred to me these last few weeks that our girls are taking two very different paths leading into academics. It’s not something that we planned but it is just happening. When Storyteller was born I thought preschool was the year before kindergarten. I didn’t realize that there are two years… preschool and pre-kindergarten. Since neither is required, I thought she’d do just one year. Three years old seemed so young for school.
The first preschools we looked at were very academic based. These were the best schools everyone was trying to get their kids into. I wasn’t thrilled but I was under the impression that this was the best start academically. We moved to California when she was 2 ½ years old so all the research into the best preschools was out the window. We had met a few homeschooling families by then so that idea had been planted but it was still a scary thought.
When Comedian was born, we had discovered a new preschool that had just opened near our home in California. It was a play based and child-led program held almost entirely outdoors in nature. Finding that unique school was what changed our minds about sending Storyteller to school at three years old instead of waiting until she was four. It didn’t seem like school at all. We were back in Nevada for her pre-k year and by then we had pretty much decided to start homeschooling in kindergarten. We found a play-based pre-k program for her near our new home. We were sold on the importance of letting young kids learn through play which was a big switch from our first research into academic preschools. She wasn’t introduced to worksheet or flash card type work until kindergarten and even now I’m a little disappointed that we’re heading down that road so soon. Some preschools we looked into had three year olds doing seated work at tables with worksheets. Storyteller’s experience was far different than that which was a good fit for our family.
The school she went to for pre-k actually has a program for two year olds. We decided not to start Comedian that early but she will probably go there next year when she is three. So for now, she is with us during Storyteller’s school time. I spent a lot of time reading blogs and searching Pinterest for ideas on how to entertain toddlers while homeschooling older kids. I made a big pile of busy bags for her. These are supposed to be activities that she can do by herself that will keep her occupied but they haven’t worked at all and they are actually quite a distraction to Storyteller.
She wants to do everything her big sister is doing. She has to be involved in everything at some level. Sometimes she tells me to go away so that she can be the teacher! Since she is so present in all we do she is being exposed to the academic type skills far earlier than Storyteller. Obviously, she does not understand all of it but she is doing more than her big sister did at that age. She is counting higher because she hears Storyteller do it every day. She tried to tell me the time the other day and she was actually pretty close. She is starting to write some capital letters because she sees Storyteller doing it. The writing program we use has voice chants to describe how the letters are formed. She is starting to say those words along with us. I’ve noticed her starting to pay attention when Storyteller is doing addition. I’m kind of waiting for her to start shouting out answers!
The books Storyteller was exposed to when she was younger were all geared toward her age and level since she was an only child then. She learned to recognize letters and numbers through books and games. Comedian hasn’t been exposed to many younger books because she’s always listening in on the older books that Storyteller is now enjoying. Sure, she’s had some exposure to the board books meant for toddlers but not nearly as much as Storyteller. So, now she’s trying to write her letters when she doesn’t recognize many of them yet. She easily counted to 50 the other day but she can’t recognize numbers 1-10.
It all seems very backwards! It has made me realize that we need to back up and spend more time on the basics with her like we did with Storyteller. There’s no rush for her to learn to tell time, write or do addition. She’s just picking it up as she listens to Storyteller’s lessons every day. We still have a lot of structured and unstructured play time every day but I am looking forward to when she goes off to preschool next year to play while Storyteller and I do school. I’ve heard it said by seasoned homeschoolers that the younger children pick things up more quickly because they are exposed to it through the older kids’ schoolwork.. That is definitely the case with our girls now.