These Are a Few of My Favorite (Preschool) Things
I have been a stay-at-home mom for twenty-eight years. Next week I start my twenty-fourth year of teaching my children at home. Josiah was born into a homeschool family; he nursed through older siblings' math lessons and overheard first, second, and third grade reading lessons all the same year while playing in his high chair. He was the youngest before Nathaniel and is a senior in high school this fall.
Both Joe and I reap the benefits that he has never known family life apart from homeschool life. For us, there has always been a blurring of what is daily living as a Rankin kid and what is homeschool; Joe has always known his parents, and mother specifically, to carry the duel roles of parent and educator. There were no "before we started homeschooling" habits or relationship patterns to overcome.
When we started the adoption process I firmly told Rich and our case manager that I would not homeschool our adopted child. I was working on a master's degree at the time and looking forward to doing something away from home. A quarter of a century and the first set of children guided from ABC's to college entrance exams seemed like a nice way to finish a season of my own life. Three years into parenting Nathaniel, I am less firm about the idea of retiring from my first career.
I pendulum swing between knowing first-hand the benefits that a one-on-one tutorial style homeschool environment offers a child and knowing first-hand the daily discipline, sacrifice, and commitment it takes to moves a student from skill to skill and grade to grade until a high school graduation party. The fact that I have enjoyed that process immensely (and that none of our older children are convicts or social hermits, but have all successfully moved on to college and work environments) complicates the decision making process on Nathaniel's behalf. Fact is, I have really liked my job. Jessie Wise wrote from my heart in The Well Trained Mind when she said,
"I wanted to write. I wanted to make a hand-braided early American-style rug. When my three children were toddlers, I has a whole stash of wool, all stripped in preparation for braiding. Since toddlerhood wasn't the right time to start such a large project, I stored it in boxes 'until the children are in school.' Instead of sending them off each morning while I quietly braided the rug, I was even more busy with homeschooling than I had been with three preschoolers. I have time to write now. My rug-in-waiting is still in boxes, although I can almost see the time approaching to start it - thirty years later! But my children are the most creative project I have been involved in. I can't compare the relationship I have with them to a relationship with a rug, no matter how beautifully hand-crafted. And my crafting of their education has been life-enriching to all of us."
For this year, we have decided not to enroll Nathaniel in a preschool program. He will continue his private therapies, and I will work with him at home. This is not necessarily a decision for homeschooling. There is simply more inertia in the direction of working at home with Nathaniel than there is in enrolling any of our children in traditional school. For twenty-five years family life has been centered on working educationally with my children. It is ingrained in how we parent and how we spend time together. Like Josiah, Nathaniel was dropped into homeschool family life very young; the lines between daily living and formal education are already blurred for him too.
Nathaniel has not only joined our homeschool family lifestyle, but he inherits close to thirty years of educational materials, toys, and games gathered for school or given as birthday and Christmas gifts to older siblings. A set of nieces showed up between Josiah and Nathaniel; our preschool things spent some years at their house and have now been returned with new additions. Below are lists of my favorite things for working with the preschool age child. I have left out common favorites like wood puzzles, cars, Legos and such, but those are all great too. Most of the links direct to four different online retailers which are also my favorite homeschool supply stores: Rainbow Resource Center, Timberdoodle, Miller's Pads and Paper, and Amazon with a few Etsy sellers or others mixed in. I will add to the list as I remember (or pull out of storage) additional items.
Educational Materials, Toys, and Games
Lauri Stacker Pegs and Pegboard
Lauri Shape and Color Sorter
Lauri Alphabet Upper Case Puzzle
Lauri Alphabet Lower Case Puzzle
Sandpaper Letters and Numbers
Day and Night
Roll and Play
Paper for easel
9x12 Paper - works for dry and wet projects
12x18 Paper - works for dry and wet projects
Chunky Blank Book
Melissa and Doug Paint Cups
Crayola 3 Color Washable Tempera Paint - various 3 color packs available
Do-a-Dot Paint Markers and Books
Crayola Washable Pip Squeak Markers
Lyra Super Ferby Lacquered Triangular Giant Colored Pencils set - worth the money
Tiangular Crayons Extra Jumbo 12 colors by P'Kolino- worth the money
Mini Loop Scissors
Helping Hands Fine Motor Tool Set
Poke-a-Dot Books - strengthens finger point for AAC
Smart Max Construction - magnet building set to work on hand strength
Squigz - hand strength
Knife Set for kitchen
Earphones for Listening Therapy
Bilibo - Gross motor
Indoor Trampoline - Gross motor
Rody Horse - Gross motor
Cariboo - for speech therapy
Bunny Peek-a-Boo - for speech therapy work on prepositions
Dry Erase Board and Tape for 7 Day Calendar
Out of Sync Child Has Fun
The Way They See It: A Book for Every Parent about the Art Children Make
Teacher's Chair - New this year. A splurge. Because I am fifty and I have getting up and down from little people's height for a quarter of a century. I look forward to years of reading and interacting with the newest little people in my life from this vantage point.
Note: I have not received compensation from these companies or product lines for making these recommendations.