Disclaimer: this is more of a post for me and anyone who is thinking about teaching preschool to their kids. I have a really bad memory and so I'd like to remember what went well and what didn't with my "neighbor-swap" preschool for Peach.
Something else that has been taking up additional time is my preschool swap for Peach. There are 4 moms that take turns hosting, twice a week for 2 hours, and we have a schedule laid out for a letter of the week, just going through the alphabet. We are cheap and didn't want to pay for a curriculum. And also, all the kids but 1 were just barely 3, so they'll have another year for preschool. We just wanted it to be low-key, a semi-introduction for them to sitting still and playing nicely in a group. I thought about enrolling Peach somewhere, but I just wasn't ready for that. She seems so young! And we are doing homeschooling with her already, so I wasn't really concerned about her learning the academics- we are doing that at home.
Anyway, I finally finished my last week of teaching preschool, the week before Easter #thatwasabusyweek and I must say, I'm glad it's over. It was fun, but I'm just not really the preschool teacher type. I prefer teaching calculus. :)
However, if anyone else is interested in trying it out, I'm happy to share what I've learned. It is important for kids to have familiarity, especially if you want any learning to be going on, and since each week was going to be taught by a different mom, we thought it would be wise to have some kind of schedule, so the kids knew what to expect, as far as what types of things would be happening. This is ours, and I thought it worked out perfectly:
I made a little sign that we could hang up to remind the kids (but mostly the moms) about what was going to happen. We kept it in the box of preschool supplies that we passed around to whomever was teaching that week. Mostly it just had a ziplock baggie with a change of clothes for each child (in case of accidents) and also a little flag for the pledge of allegiance and some laminated cards I made that have the alphabet and numbers up to 10 on one side, and shapes and colors on the back. I made one for each child and the mom so we could point to the letters while we sing the ABCs every day. I later added to the sign, really small in pen, what time it should be when the task was over. That was really what I looked at more often. I also have a little visual timer and I would set that so the kids could see how much time was left before the next activity.
So here's a description of the schedule:
30 minutes of free play - kids can just play, and also made it low stress for us to get our kids there on time and so the mom hosting could have a little time to get last minute things together also.
5 minutes to clean up toys
20 minutes of "circle time" - we would say the pledge of allegiance, sing the ABCs with our chart, bring the letter, number, color and shape of the week, and read a story or two about one of said topics and maybe sing a song or two.
5 minutes to use the potty and wash hands before snack (really only needed a couple of minutes for that, but it's nice to have a bit of a buffer to finish up the story you're reading)
15 minutes of snack - we had a diabetic girl and a gluten free girl in our circle, so we had only no carb foods for snack. Things like lunch meat, pepperoni, cheese, hard boiled eggs. It would have been fun to do more fun things with the snack to go along with the letter of the week, but it actually made it less stressful to prepare a snack when your options were so limited.
15 minutes of outdoor recess - we almost always went outside during this time. Occasionally if the weather was really yucky, we'd stay in and dance to music or something active like that. One time I took them out to help me rake leaves. I felt a bit guilty for getting chores done with them around, but they had a lot of fun doing it!
25 minutes of an activity - These were usually more crafty things to help with fine motor skills (cutting, tracing, gluing), but one time, for example, we did Yoga for Y week.
5 minutes of clean up, and get shoes on to get ready for mom to pick up.
Some things I found particularly successful:
The kids love the "Shake your sillies out" song. (I only did the shake your sillies, jump your jiggles, clap your crazies, and itch your itchies verses). When circle time was getting noticeably restless, we'd do that and it gave them an outlet and they were ready to listen again.
Glue sticks with pre-cut shapes are a very simple activity for young kids. Have them put the shapes on the glue, and not the other way around.
They love the "hide the object" game, where you have them take turns hiding an object in a room while everyone else is outside the room and counts together. Whoever finds the object gets to hide it next. You have to make sure that everyone gets a turn to hide, though, or it can turn ugly.
They love pulling things out of a bag. I would often have a bag full of objects that start with the letter of the week and then we'd think of other things that start with that sound.
They love finding hidden things. I would often hide printed out letters in the room (of different fonts, so they could get used to seeing there is more than one way to write a letter) for them to bring back to my white board, and then we would take turns writing one on the board.
They like making noise- musical instruments or bells, even tapping spoons would probably be enough. Turn on some music, everyone's happy. However, that kind of activity is better as an intermediate. It won't hold them more than 5 minutes.
Bubbles. There's a reason they're still sold everywhere. A giant bubble maker would be awesome :)
Balloons. What kid doesn't love balloons?
They love dressing up. One time I gave them each something to wear made out of yarn while we read a story. (for Y week)
I printed out some simple worksheets online and laminated them and gave the kids dry erase markers to work on them. Some were matching capitol letters to lower case, some had simple addition, some just had the alphabet and they could try tracing it. I was surprised by how much everyone liked this, I mostly did it for the 5-year old so she would have something to do when she finished her tasks before the younger kids. (everyone else was barely 3 at the beginning of the school year)
They like feeling skilled and like they're doing something tricky. (I guess everyone mostly does, but they particularly like to prove how "big" they are.) Can you stand on one foot? Can you do a somersault? Can you hop over this?
Not so successful.
I found myself over estimating their abilities. a lot. Only one of the 5 kids (and she was 5) could really use scissors. We tried to do a little bit of sewing for J week (we had a coloring page with a Jellyfish and I thought it would be fun to sew some tentacles- if that's the right word- out of yarn through some holes in the paper I had poked with a large needle) and that was SO way beyond them- even the 5 year old was flummoxed. We did something similar at the end - Y week, where I gave them the letter Y I had hole-punched and cut out of card stock and they could just sew wherever with their yarn- they did a bit better with that. Maybe it was because there was no needle to fiddle with? Maybe because the holes were bigger? Maybe it's because it didn't really need to look like anything?
I found myself over-estimating how long they would spend on a task. a lot. Never did they spend more time than I thought. I still have no idea how to predict what activities will be fun and keep their attention. It's best to plan more than you think you'll need, just in case. That's where the laminated paper activities came in. They were backup that needed no prep.
I was really bad at getting kids not to interrupt the story with some tangential story from their life. I would just listen and acknowledge and try to get back to the story, but usually one life story would remind another kid about their take on it, etc. It didn't really stress me out... I mean, this is preschool people, we're not exactly prepping for the SATs, but it made me wonder if there was a way to get them not to do that, but still feel like their point of view was valuable. thoughts?
"guck guck moose!"