It always puzzles me why I, a former preschool teacher, still feel at a loss when it comes to teaching preschoolers at home. Is it because I miss the little tables and chairs, circle time, the little cubbies and learning centers? I'm not sure what it is, but I have struggled to see how I can use these early childhood years to the fullest. This is why this gem of a book from Gryphon House has really been a blessing to me as I plan and prepare for the year to come. Although Jonathan will officially start kindergarten this fall, our Down Syndrome daughter is still in this stage. And so, with handbook in hand, I've been jotting down ideas to incorporate into our daily routine.
Company Information: Gryphon House is the award-winning publisher of early childhood resources. They offer activity books and e-books for teachers, parents and homeschooling families.
Product Reviewed: I received The Homegrown Preschooler, a beautiful, colorful 200+ page softcover idea book. Authors Kathy H. Lee and Lesli M. Richards collectively have twelve children of various ages, including adopted and special needs children. I must confess that immediately caught my attention as an adoptive mother of a special needs child! Both of them have homeschooled their children from the earliest years and have a great wealth of information to share. I couldn't wait to dive in!
The book is divided into nine chapters, ranging from the theoretical foundations to very practical ideas. The last half of the books is full of activity ideas for many traditional preschool centers such as a pretend area, gross motor, fine motor and art. Sprinkled throughout the book are recipes that kids can help prepare, meals that are quick and easy or ones that you can prepare in advance to streamline meal preparation. There are also recipes for all kinds of fun sensory materials, like puffy paint for the bath, clean mud, sidewalk chalk, and homemade liquid watercolors. Last, but not least, the appendix includes checklists for getting started, resources, and DIY instructions for a plexiglass easel and sensory tub/light table.
Age Range: for parents of kids in early childhood (birth to ages 6 or 7).
How We Used It: As I have been preparing for the school year, this book has served as an inspiration for me. I read the whole thing through over the past few weeks and made notes on things I would like to include as I set up our home for Anah's education this year. Many of the things that I am planning to include in her program center primarily on home skills and independent learning activities as those seem to be of the most practical use to her right now.
Some of the things we have tried are some of the basic home skills, such as setting the table, which she is able to do when we show her where to place each item. I think my next step will be to use an old placemat and trace the items and let her practice matching the different pieces of silverware. This is a great idea, but I know I will need to break it down even further for her to help her be successful.
For our 5-year-old, I have put together some bags of activities for his independent use. In one bag, I put some paper strips and scissors to practice cutting (a task which Anah also loved). In another, I put some stencils, pencils and paper. Other bags included beads to string, lacing cards, alphabet and number matching games, and playdough with some tools. I lined them up on the floor, and Jonathan would go down the line, tackling each bag. This worked really well for him, and I plan to create more of these bags. This way, he is doing a lot of skill-building independently. The bags make it easy to clean up and keep tidy. This is still a little beyond Anah right now, but I hope that one day she'll be able to do the same thing.
My plan is to set up centers in our home with independent activities to explore and discover, using the many ideas in the book. I also was able to try one of the recipes for barbecue chicken that I found in the book. Instead of using it for sandwiches, I shredded the chicken and tossed it into a salad with diced tomatoes, black beans, corn, Monterey Jack cheese, and tortilla chips. It was so easy and delicious and one we will make again!
What We Liked:
- The book was beautifully illustrated with full-color photos of the authors' children and delightful to peruse.
- I enjoyed reading the vignettes of preschool parents and how they utilized ordinary routines to enhance their children's days. These helped inspire me to think of learning not only during formal school times but also through informal opportunities. I think I always knew that, but reading how other parents do it is always helpful.
- The recipes sprinkled throughout the book are healthy and sound tasty! I especially like the options for slow-cooking or for making ahead and freezing.
- I also liked the recipes for many of the materials that would be expensive to purchase ready-made. Even though it is work to make your own sidewalk chalk or watercolors, it is nice to know that parents don't have to spend a lot to provide these enrichment activities at home.
- The activities at the end of the book are wonderful! I made a list of things I want to do and incorporate into our early learning program. These may even be great for our homeschool group to try with the little ones while the older kids are doing their projects.
What We Didn't Like:
Nothing! I thought this was a wonderful resource that I will use over and over again.
If you desire to make the most of your little ones' time at home without having to send them to preschool, I highly recommend you check this volume out! Read it with a pen and paper in hand, then pick something that interests you most...and jump in with your kids!