Wait, Am I Homeschooling My Preschooler?

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All of the recent changes in our back to school plans have me feeling blindsided and whip-lashed. I don’t know what I have been doing for the past 5 months, but I’m not prepared for the fall. I am totally emotional and full of worry as I through plans A to Z in my head. My mom text threads are out of control – and I can’t bear to read what people are saying on social media. There are families forming pacts, neighbors “quaran-teaming” and Pandemic Pods galore. Consequently, everyone wants a tutor and a nanny! I notice as people all around me consider homeschool. The reality is, my children will hardly see the inside of the classroom this year.

Does that mean that I am homeschooling my preschooler now?

Seasoned homeschool families say they purposefully chose this path, they weren’t forced into it by COVID-19. They write a letter of intent to their district, register with the state, follow a plan, participate in end of year assessment. Homeschooling in New Hampshire can actually be really simple. They add extra-curricular classes, social meetups and sports to round out their school year as there are many local resources for homeschooling in our area.

Yet here I am, potentially homeschooling my preschooler, acting out of fear and factors out of my control. I feverishly join online groups, constantly read about options, and research homeschool curriculums. It’s exhausting. Of course, I am reaching out to other homeschool moms with similar age kids to see what they recommend. I want to prepare for this path, if it’s the one we need to follow. 

All of these choices keep me awake.

Should I be sending my preschooler out of the house when my school-age child is home?
Should we choose the remote-only plan for the school or the one with the in-person time
Is online school (like VLACS) appropriate for my 2nd grader?
Should I scrap all of these plans and homeschool everyone together?
Plus, I keep hearing “its only a matter of time” for schools to go back to phase 1. So maybe we should get established with the teacher and classmates while we can? Maybe I can carry this plan out from a remote island. One without coronavirus. Maybe I can convince some other families to move there and we can all live together in a COVID commune and homeschool together. 

How does one ever make a decision?

Generations before us, children learned without a set curriculum, lesson plans, or even certified teachers. I think about children from remote areas that can’t access traditional school. Kids that learn from siblings and neighbors, or go to work with parents to learn their trade. There are children that never set foot inside of a classroom. I try to remember all of the lessons that I learned from my 1980s childhood, what I learned from watching TV:

mrrogers hashtag on TwitterIn the meantime, I am researching the preschool standards set forth by the state (tip: look at the charts), trying to make myself feel better about keeping my youngest home with me. There is so much for them to learn at age 4! But also so much that I can teach during our everyday routine (much of which we already do).

My Areas of Focus When Homeschooling My Preschooler:

  • Social Emotional Development. Working on self-esteem and having the confidence to try new things. Identifying emotions and regulating them when things don’t go well. Skills to interact with other children and new adults (socially distant now). 
  • Language and Literacy. While reading, I will focus on the narrative and story telling. My children like to make up their own stories in addition to hearing tales. This summer I accessed our amazing children’s librarians for book suggestions to do curbside pickup. Plus, I can incorporate some sound awareness also as letters and some early-writing skills come into play here. 
  • Math. Even though I won’t formally follow a math curriculum, it’s embedded into so many everyday activities. Grouping leaves by color, ordering sticks by size, and patterning blocks to make a design are all math concepts. We already doing things like: count how many apples are left in the bowl, plan the week (talk about today/yesterday/tomorrow), and decide what shaped eyes to carve in a Halloween pumpkin. 
  • Science and Social Studies. Baking is science! We love to bake over here, therefore I will probably make it a regular “cooking day” as part of our homeschool week. Delving into nature and the earth, the weather, changing seasons, and the sun/moon would be preschool science standards. Developing our own house “rules” and looking to community figures and jobs are preschool appropriate social studies. 
  • Learning Strategies. It’s amazing to watch my preschooler explore, predict and use cause and effect. I need to make more time to just let him mosey along this fall, instead of rushing from one place to the next. I know that I need to be more comfortable with his risk-taking as its crucial to his growth and development. I’m planning to make lot of time for PLAY. This will be especially important as he processes the impact of the pandemic on his little world. 
  • Physical Development. I am thankful that the playgrounds are open in our town. Visiting them gives my preschooler opportunities to practice balance, strength and other gross motor skills. I hope that there will be some small soccer program that will run, but any ball games at home will help develop eye-hand coordination skills. On cold or rainy days we will incorporate more art and drawing to facilitate fine motor skill development. 

I hope that my intentional focus on keeping my 4-year old at home this year will still ensure that he is ready for kindergarten next fall. 

At the end of the day, I remind myself to stay positive. Even though I am not a teacher, I am a pediatric occupational therapist. Plus, I know my children better than anyone. I am resourceful, and have a strong community. Additionally, my friends are like-minded and creative. I am not alone in this! 

Together, somehow, someday we will get through this. 

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