Unit 3, Lesson 3 of the Guide to Getting Started with Home Preschool Special Training
Now that you have an idea of your long-term plan and the additional activities you’ll be participating in outside the home, it’s time to start thinking about your weekly schedule. This is a big section, and there are some big decisions to think through here. In this lesson we’ll decide how much time you want to spend teaching home preschool and what type of structure you want to have. Then we’ll develop a weekly calendar template that factors in your home preschool schedule and all the other bits and pieces that make up your daily life. By the end you will have a great framework for managing your week.
How much time will you spend on home preschool?
This is a hard question to answer. When I taught home preschool people asked how many hours a day we did preschool. They were often surprised to hear me say, “all of them!” I personally think home preschooling is more of a mindset than a traditional “school day” mentality. So much of what we want our little ones to learn is easily woven into our day-to-day activities, so in a way we are always home preschooling. To be clear, that doesn’t mean I sat with the kids all hours of the day with planned activities. There’s just no way, and even if there was a way to do that it isn’t what is best for kids. What I did do was plan a couple of structured blocks of time at different intervals throughout the day where we did activities together. I also involved the kids in daily activities and helped them learn by doing. And above all I provided a lot of unstructured (but supervised) time for them to engage in self-directed play-based learning.
Some families do planned home preschool activities for less than an hour a day. Others spend 5 or more hours a day. There is no “right” amount of time. The amount of time you spend is less important than the quality of the activities chosen.
Task 1: Decide how many days each week you will plan home preschool activities for.
Considering your goals for home preschool and your other commitments during the week how many days do you plan to prepare home preschool activities for? This is a personal decision, and there is no “right” answer, only the answer that is “right” for you. Some families find that two days a week is plenty. Others like the continuity of a five day week.
I personally found that a four day week fit our routine best. The fifth day was typically used for running errands, mini field trips, and setting up new materials for the following week.
If you are just getting started and are feeling a little overwhelmed with the transition, it might be best to start slowly with a two day schedule and then add days as you become more comfortable planning and preparing for home preschool.
Task 2: Decide how many hours per home preschool day you want to prepare activities for.
The next step is to decide how much time each day you want to devote to home preschool activities. Below are a few of the commonly used options to get you thinking about what will work best for you.
One Chunk of Time-This schedule works very well for families who have older sibling in school and have to pick them up in the afternoon. It can also be great for families who want a light introduction to preschool while still providing extensive time for free-play. And if you work from home, this can also be a great schedule to allow for both home preschooling and work time. Families using this schedule would likely devote a 2-3 hour time period in the morning or afternoon to home preschool activities.
Multiple Small Chunks of Time-This schedule includes dividing up the day into small chunks of parent-led activities and small chunks of child-led activities throughout the day. It involves intermixing “academic” time and family time so that “school” becomes part of the overall routine as opposed to a time set aside each day. This schedule can be very helpful if you are teaching home preschool to children of multiple ages. You can stagger parent-led activities and nap times, so that there are some chunks of time where you are able to work alone with each child.
Full-Day-A full day schedule is similar to what you might see in a daycare where children have a planned routine all day. You’ll see many of the same components that you’d find in the previous schedule, but you’ll see more of them. Families who enjoy a high level of structure and routine might enjoy this type of schedule.
In lesson 4 I share examples of routines that you might find in each of these schedule styles.
Decide how many days a week you plan to create home preschool plans for and what type of schedule you want to try.
What kind of structure will you have?
There are many different approaches to early childhood education. When we discussed teaching and learning styles in Unit 1 I mentioned some of these briefly. While the breadth of these approaches is much too vast to cover in this course, you may want to take a look at some of them to see if you would like to follow one of them more closely than another. Early Childhood News shares a good overview of The Montessori Method, High/Scope, and Reggio Emilia approaches. In truth, in most home preschools and preschool classrooms you’ll find traces of all of these approaches, so it can be helpful to do a little reading and familiarize yourself with them. If there is an interest in learning more about these, I’d be happy to work on a follow-up course that elaborates on each approach in more detail.
For now I want you to think back to what you learned about your teaching style and your child’s learning preferences, and I want you to visualize what you want your home preschool time to look like.
Do you envision going on a walk, finding an interesting bug, and returning to do some journaling and research about that bug, maybe even creating a habitat for that bug?
Do you envision selecting a few learning goals and developing learning trays to place on free choice shelves for your child to choose independently?
Do you envision choosing a theme that you know your child likes and then planning a week of hands-on activities like sensory bins, science experiments, and learning activities that go along with the theme?
Do you envision using printable learning packs and working together to complete them?
In general these questions guide you from a less structured routine to a more structured routine. And your preferences will have a lot to do with your views on early childhood education. You might also find that you are attracted to many of the aspects, and that’s okay too. The point is to try what you are most comfortable with and what you feel your child will enjoy most. Then you can add in components from other areas if you want to later on.
Your child will learn in either of these scenarios. The approach can be different, but learning will still take place.
Map Out Your Weekly Calendar
Now let’s put some of these thoughts down on paper and get a visual picture of what your week will look like once you begin home preschool.
I find that using a weekly planning sheet helps me visually create my calendar. I can easily see how I am spending my time, and I can block out chunks of my day for different priorities and commitments. In the Unit 3 Toolbox, there is a blank template so that you can map out your own weekly calendar. You can include only your home preschool time or you can map out your entire week. I find it helpful to map the entire week so I get a big picture of our learning time and family time balanced with other priorities.
To use the weekly plan sheet:
- Identify the start and end times of your days.
- Optional: Choose colors for different categories of activities (for example, learning time, household chores and routines, outings, etc.)
- Start by adding your “must do” commitments each week.
- Then add in your routines like breakfast, lunch, dinner, bedtime.
- Now refer back to the section above about how many days and how many hours you will be planning home preschool activities for. Add in where you’ll likely incorporate home preschool activities and free play time.
- Don’t forget to block out some time for just you! Whether you use it to exercise, read, or just relax doesn’t matter, but take time to take care of you, too.
When you are done, you will have answered the ever popular question, “How in the world can I fit home preschool into our busy schedule?” And you are well on your way to getting started with home preschool!