Planning a Preschool Curriculum

It’s natural for parents to have role models, someone who is an expert in a field or who has experienced something before us and shares their experience with others. These mentors are important in helping us as we experience things in life that are new to us. During my children’s early years, Dr. Kay Kuzma was one of my role models. I loved her enthusiastic and positive outlook. Always positive, her energy and knowledge were contagious! I read all her books and listened to as many of her audio presentations as I could find.

Recently I found my copy of her book, Living with God’s Kids. As I scanned its pages again, I was immediately transported back in time, a time when my children were young and when we were starting our homeschool journey. The words of Dr. Kuzma reminded me of the role model she was to me.

When it comes to teaching preschool children, she believes that they learn best through play. Having freedom to choose the activities that they enjoy the most and being able to spend lots of time outdoors are two of her core values. She also believes that children can be guided and given activities that will help them with their development. Giving them daily home duties, lessons from nature, and reading Bible stories rounds out their early childhood days. Play, chores, nature study, and Bible stories established the core of her preschool curriculum. Knowing that Dr. Kuzma has a Ph.D. in early childhood education, yet chose to teach her own children by such a natural method, encouraged me to focus my homeschool curriculum on the core values that she felt were most important.

Here is an example of the preschool schedule that Dr. Kuzma prepared for her children.

  • She wrote down the things she wanted her children to learn during the year.
  • Then she printed each activity that would help her children learn these things on a 3 x 5 card.
  • She thought up about 10 things she wanted the children to learn about on the first day.
  • Each day after that she thought of several more things to add to the list.
  • An example of a day’s list looked like this: 1) go to the library and get 25 books; 2) clean room; 3) learn telephone number; 4) make bird feeder; 5) fold clothes; 6) make a picture book and tell stories about each picture; 7) learn A, B, and C on the piano; 8) listen to a story about honesty; 9) make granola; 10) practice roller skating.
  • Each day the children would sort through the cards and choose which activity they wanted to do that day.
  • Cards for some activities that happened daily (like cleaning their room) were left in the pile each day.
  • The activities that were a one-time deal were put in a special box after the children signed the back of the card.
  • If the children were not interested in anything on any of the cards, she would ask them what they would like to have added, and then she would write up their ideas on new cards for them to choose from.

The cards are only a jumping off point and should not limit learning. Every effort should be made throughout the day to use teachable moments as they happen. Common sense and taking advantage of things that happen in life should be utilized.

Dr. Kuzma says that she got most of her ideas for activities by listening to the children express what they wanted to do or what they wanted to learn about. Other ideas came from children’s activity books that she had in her personal library. This method of preschool learning motivates children because it is truly one that follows the interest of the children being taught.

I found it encouraging that this method of instruction allows children to learn purposefully, but without forcing them into early, structured education. Instead of workbooks and copy work, her children were allowed to grow and develop naturally, learning about daily life at their mother’s knee. Dr. Kuzma’s approach allowed her to listen to the needs of her children and to establish routines and activities that expanded her children’s world and allowed them to learn much more than if they had been confined to a workbook each day.

She ends her comments on preschool education with this sentence: “If I can do it, you can!” Now, go take on the day!

[Information from Living with God’s Kids, by Dr. Kay Kuzma, chapter 4]

Thy Word Have I Hid in My Heart

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“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart; you shall teach them diligently to your children,” Deuteronomy 6:6-7.

These words clearly instruct that God’s word should be committed to memory and passed on from generation to generation. Committing portions of scripture to memory is vital in retaining knowledge of the scriptures. Psalm 1 and Joshua 1:8 share that prosperity and success in life come from scripture memorization, as it creates familiarity with God’s word and causes the learner to meditate upon the principles of God which promote these things.

Memorization takes discipline, and that can become tedious if not handled with some creative care. A teaching mom or dad can help speed along the process of memory work by building fun and interest into the process. In her book, Building Your Child’s Faith, Alice Chapin outlines some great techniques for accomplishing this. She recommends the following:

  • Set up contests between adults and kids. Offer fun prizes. Draw up a “contract.” For instance, if the kids memorize the verses more quickly than the adults, the adults will take out the trash for a week. But, if the adults memorize them first, the kids will do the supper cleanup for a week. Be sure to sign the contract to make it official!
  • Help little children learn by repetition. Review while rocking, bathing, and playing with them. Repeat while driving or waiting in line at the grocery store.
  • Post current memory work on the refrigerator, closet door, or kitchen bulletin board. Or, stretch a “clothesline” and clothespin verses for the month to it.
  • Have memory charts. Award stickers, stars, or seals for each learned verse, prizes for every five stickers.
  • Purchase a scripture songbook, and sing Bible verses right into the minds of the family. Or make your own music for favorite verses.
  • Use flannel-graph letters or verse flashcards. Mix up letters and words, and take turns straightening them out.
  • Write the verse on a chalkboard. Take turns erasing one word at a time. Repeat the whole verse after each erasure.
  • Print different verses on 5×8 cards. Cut each card into pieces. Put the pieces for each verse in an envelope. Pass out the envelopes, and use a timer to see who can put the verse-puzzle together the most quickly. Have each member read his or her assembled verse.
  • Let the leader begin quoting a verse, stopping after every few words to ask another person to add the next four words, or two words, and so on. Have a stick of gum or a lollipop ready for the first person to identify where the verse is located.
  • Let the small children use magic markers to print the verse of the week on sheets of construction paper. Add stickers or magazine pictures and use for placemats at dinner.
  • Give each youngster an empty photo album with see-through plastic pages. Insert weekly memory cards for an individual record of verses learned and for easy private review.
  • Once in a while assign short scripture verses to be memorized by the following day. Celebrate completion of the assignment with a yummy treat.

~ This is a previously posted article ~

Warm, Responsive Parenting and Delayed Academics

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In our family, we chose to follow the Moore Formula approach to education. The focus on work, study, and service helped us keep a balance in our family life while presenting the value of learning to our children in every facet of our lives. I believe that the Moore approach, possibly more than any other, allows learning to become integral to the whole child and the complete family system. With this approach, education is not placed in a box. Instead, the entire world is open to the child in a way that most other types of educational systems cannot replicate.

Sometimes parents who choose to follow the Moore Formula find that they can feel like a fish swimming up the stream instead of going with the flow. That’s because they are thinking and teaching outside the norm. Our culture and the educational system are creating learning environments that take the parent out of the educational formula at an early age (preschool). One goal of the present public system of education is to do this at increasingly earlier ages. As homeschool parents, sometimes we forget that these are external, artificial pressures, and we take them upon ourselves.

Research shows that children whose parents practice delayed academics rather than early academics, catch up with and exceed peers who have been educated formally and starting at a young age. Not only are delayed-study children beneficiaries academically, but research shows that they exhibit more skills in inquiry and higher-level thinking than their traditionally educated peers. Traditionally “schooled” AND traditionally “schooled at home” children who are not taught by the work-service-study model of delayed academics that Dr. Moore promoted have been found to exhibit signs (across the board) of burnout by fourth grade. These are only a few examples of the excellence that results in children who receive an education with delayed academics.

School Can Wait is an example of a very well documented and highly researched book which proves Dr. Moore’s educational philosophy. This book is highly research oriented and the result of a $257,000 federal grant which documented the importance of unbroken continuity of parental attachment wherever possible, and the dangers of formal schooling until at least eight to ten. In it Dr. Moore states that:

“The preponderance of evidence indicates that the key role of a parent throughout the years of childhood is simply to be the kind of warm, responsive, and relatively consistent person to whom a child can safely become attached. Early development and learning are actively dependent on this relationship. Parents are chiefly responsible for a child’s early learning by their attitudes and responses to the child in frequent interactions,” (School Can Wait, p. 47).

The Moore Formula encourages warm, responsive parenting and a delay in formal academics until eight or ten years of age. It is a plan that has proven itself over and over again. It really does work!

A Beautiful Golden Cup

 

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You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows,” Psalm 23:5.

Just as our Heavenly Father fills our cup to overflowing, so should we as parents pour love into our children. Their love cups are fragile and should constantly be replenished. Sometimes children can be so fussy and naughty. At times like this, instead of speaking out in frustration and punishment, maybe it is time to stop and concentrate on how much attention you have been giving them. I’m not speaking of indulgence, but rather purposeful attentiveness to their needs. It’s the need to be hugged or rocked, to be listened to, and the need to fulfill not simply their physical needs but their emotional ones as well.

Old-fashioned wisdom sometimes says that children should be seen and not heard, that they should be kept in their place. This false wisdom pushes children into the background, and expectations are that they have to grow up too soon. In Victorian days children were thought of as miniature adults and were expected to act that way at a young age. Instead, I prefer the theory that you cannot spoil a child with too much love. Pure love seeks to meet the needs of the child so that their love cup is full. What do children see as love? Essentially, to a child love equals attention — and lots of it!

Children who do not receive enough attention tend to seek it in ways that are less than attractive to others around them. They may act up, show off, or get in the way. It’s all a way to say “I need someone to notice me because right now I am feeling insignificant.” If a child cannot get enough attention by being good or doing the right thing, he will automatically swing to the other side of the pendulum and will act out or do naughty things. As far as he is concerned, subconsciously, attention is attention. It doesn’t matter if it is happy attention or negative attention. At least he is receiving it. But, how much more pleasant it is for the family if happy attention is what is sought and received.

If a child’s love cup is filled, a happy child is the result. I remember when our children were toddlers and would start to get fussy. About 99 percent of the time they needed some type of parental love or affirmation. Instead of scolding them for being fussy, we as parents quickly learned that scooping them up in our arms for some cuddle time or just listening to them as they explained something that was important to them usually took care of the problem. Love cups are made to be filled! If actions indicate that love levels are declining quickly, it is time to refill the cup!

There are three ways to fill a child’s love cup. Each is important in helping children establish that they have self-worth (a gift which comes from God and is taught and expressed through the vehicle of parental love and acceptance). They are…

  • Acceptance. We may not always accept a child’s behavior, but we must always make it 100 percent clear that we accept them! Make sure your children know that they have always been wanted and loved. And, affirm that they will continue to be accepted for as long as you live. Respect your children, affirm them, and let them know by word and action that you accept them just as they are. Naughty or nice, your children are your precious gems. Make them feel like their love cup is made from gold!
  • Listening. It’s easy to push children aside when it comes to opinions and thoughts. Because their thoughts are immature, it might be easy to minimize them by hurrying them on and not really listening to what they have say. But, their feelings are valid, and their thoughts are whom they are. Take time to listen with sensitivity and warmth. It’s a wonderful way to fill their love cup to overflowing.
  • Time. Children equate time with value. The more time you give to them, the more their needs will be met. Quality time is important, but quantity time is important too! Don’t accept that fallacy that short periods of quality time a day are enough. Be sure you find lots of quality time in great quantity! Have fun with your children. Laugh, share, play, and create with them. Even if you have to sacrifice expensive things, remember that your time is more important than any material thing you can give your child.

Picture your child as a beautiful gold cup, and strive to keep it filled to the brim! Gems of acceptance, listening, and time adorn the cup.

 


 

Establishing a Homeschool Philosophy

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An educational philosophy is important for your homeschool. If you have a homeschool philosophy that is specific to your family, it helps to keep your goals and strategies in focus. The grandfather of homeschooling, Dr. Raymond Moore, recommended that each homeschool family have a philosophy written and prepared as the basis of establishing a curriculum for their family. Once a family has established their educational philosophy, choosing a curriculum and teaching methods will fall into place. Taking time to think about what is important in the education of your children provides your family with a base for all decisions related to how your children learn and how you teach. Once this has been done, selecting curricula, establishing schedules and routines, and choosing extracurricular activities become easier, as your belief system has been well thought out and decisions have been made about what is important to you.

For each of us, educating the whole child is of top priority. An educational philosophy helps you to keep this in focus. A balanced, wholesome child is important. Helping him or her develop spiritually, emotionally, physically, and mentally creates a well-adjusted child that has the talents and abilities necessary to succeed in today’s world. Homeschool families in 2016 are given opportunities to choose from a myriad of academic resources. Curriculum companies have been quick to write textbooks and provide resources for the learning needs of homeschooled students. Sometimes it is easy to forget that a child’s education is not one-dimensional, but that academics are only one piece of the puzzle. Spending equal time planning for physical, emotional, and spiritual elements is key in creating a well-balanced child. For example, character is developed through work and service to others. Physical wellness is also a result of hard work and play. And, service to others helps the child discover that a happy heart is one that tends to the needs of others as it focuses outward in life.

Finding the blueprint for creating a well-rounded child in a homeschool environment is key. The Smithsonian Institute presents a formula for “creating a genius,” which can work as a guide for the successful homeschool family as they develop their educational philosophy and approach to education. The Smithsonian Institution’s study of 20 world-class geniuses stresses three factors:

  • Warm, loving, educationally responsive parents and other adults
  • Scant association outside the family
  • A great deal of creative freedom under parental guidance to explore their ideas

Peer pressure works to tell us that we must socialize our children by letting them spend time with other kids. But, studies have shown that the greatest socialization takes place within the family structure and by association with other adults. It is perfectly okay for children to spend all week with their parents, associating with other children only weekly at church or via an occasional play date or cooperative learning venture. More emphasis is placed upon peer socialization than is merited. As children reached the upper elementary grades, they frequently start asking for opportunities to spend with other children. At that point, teaming with other friends to start a homeschool activity group that meets periodically and provides structured field trips for a group of local, homeschool children can be provided. This frequently fills the “need” of children to associate with others their age. Piano and other group lessons can also help meet this need. The structured environment continues to facilitate learning, and provides for opportunity for parental guidance. It’s important, though, not to cave in to peer pressure or feel like you are depriving your children if you maintain a home environment where they spend more time with family members than anyone else. It is a key element of this formula for successful brain development.

A great deal of freedom to explore is also important. In order to create inventive children, time and resources to work with are essential. Children can also be given freedom to explore in nature, art, play, books, and more. Exploring the world around them from all aspects is important!

It’s important to keep priorities in focus. If one chooses to home-educate, then the education of our children must be a priority. This includes their religious education and the development of their intellect and ability to think for themselves. Lessons learned while creating, building, analyzing, and applying concepts are best absorbed and retained by children. A project-based approach that is developed by the teacher-parent, and based on the interests of the children being taught, is interesting and grasped well by them. It is the role of the teacher-parent to create lessons and learning experiences that spark the interest in the children being taught. A bored child does not learn well. It is the parent’s role to provide experiences that facilitate growth, learning, and interest in any subject. Mastery will result effortlessly if this principle is applied.

Developing an educational philosophy assists the homeschool family to teach and learn purposefully. Once a philosophy of learning is established, the resources selected to facilitate this learning fall into place. If workbooks do not play a role in promoting your educational philosophy, there is no need to spend money on them! Instead, use your resources to find the tools that promote the philosophy you choose to embrace. Children are a precious natural resource. Thoughtful care should be taken in establishing how we will help them learn.

If you haven’t taken the time to write down your philosophy of home education, why don’t you take a moment to jot down what you really believe about educating your child. What is the foundation of your homeschool? It is the core of your family’s system of education.