I am very passionate about this time of life. These years are foundational. I believe they can set the tone for the duration of a child's life. We can set an example and create habits now. These little ones are so eager to learn and take in the world around them. Tap into that and show them how exciting learning and growing is. Show them how wonderful our earth is. How amazing our brains are. How to treat others, how to play well, how to work out problems. Teach them good values. Teach them to discover with their eyes, ears, fingers, mouth, and nose. Teach them to notice details in nature. Pick up leaves and grains of grass. Go on walks and notice the tiniest ant. Observe. Ask questions. Answer their questions. Encourage them to ASK. Draw and color pictures of the things you see. Teach them to take it all in. Teach them to LOVE to learn. There is SO MUCH MORE to preschool than learning to write their name. There is so much beyond letters and numbers. Don't lose sight of the bigger picture. Those things will come with time and practice. Don't let the technical over rule the fun discovery of this age.
I have two main goals for my children in this time of life. These two things are what I hope they will carry with them throughout their entire life. 1. Values 2. Love of learning
One negative effect of social media on parents is pressure. They see other peoples kids doing things their kids the same age aren't doing. They see Sally's kid reading at age three and think they are failing and should be teaching their three year old to read. They see Jane's daughter write her name perfectly at age four and get concerned because their daughter can't do the same. And more and more we are pressuring our kids earlier and earlier to do things that are not age appropriate.
The best advice I received from my dear friend and mentor, Tara, was to not push things too early. You could spend hours pushing your young child to learn something that might take them minutes to comprehend at an appropriate age. I had no idea that bit of advice would help me so much in my frustrations. I think of it often. It reminds me of the big picture. It reminds me of the importance of these years. It reminds me of what is truly important, NOW.
We currently follow a loose curriculum and schedule. Previous to our newest baby being born things were much more structured. Now that he is two months old we add in as much structure as we can without feeling overwhelmed.
I love the values based idea of "Joy School" by Richard and Linda Eyre. Each section focuses on a value. This curriculum is written for a co-op type setting. Each mother taking turns teaching. We don't do a shared co-op but pull from the curriculum and adapt it to what works for us. (you could also use their book "Teaching Children Values" as a back bone rather than buying the full curriculum) I mostly like this for the skeleton of the values. They have songs the kids love, crafts, stories, and fun that goes along with each value. Another option is signing up for access to the Eyre's website, www.valuesparenting.com, They have some great resources and ways to incorporate values into all ages and your every day life. I have greatly benefitted from their site, they are wonderful people.
Next, we go on nature walks at least once a week. Sometimes we go to exciting places, sometimes we go around our little neighborhood, and occasionally we find ourselves in our backyard. This is so important. I want to teach my children to love nature and to find joy in simplicity. I want to teach them to notice details within the big picture. I want them to discover what God gave us to enjoy and take care of.
We find discovery in whatever my kids are interested in. The oldest two have really taken to dinosaurs as of late. When they are passionate about something I latch onto and teach them the joy in learning. One day we went to the craft store picked up a few supplies and made dinosaur habitats. They have spent hours playing with their figurines and those habitats. This week I made dinosaur bones out of salt dough so they could assemble their own big dinosaur. I am putting together a science camp all about about dinosaurs and fossils. They will get to be palentologists for the day. I have several activities and lots of fun planned for these dinosaur lovers!
You don't have to put on big productions if it isn't your thing. Find what you enjoy, find what your kids enjoy and go with it. Have fun. If its feeling too stressful then you are not being true to yourself and your kids. Don't do something because you see someone else doing it and you feel pressure to do it in order to "be a good mom." Nonsense. What is most important is that you decide on your goal and ideals for your children. This will be different for everyone. And then be part of their learning journey.
Teach them that learning is part of life and not just an allotted time you sit at a desk. These are formative years and it doesn't take much to set a good foundation for our kids. As parents we know our children best. We know them individually. We know their needs and their challenges. We have their best interests at heart. We need to focus less on trying to make them fit a mold and more on helping them stay true to who they are while learning and growing. Its starts NOW. As their parents we know how to best cultivate their learning.