This article is part of a series on transitioning children, ...
Teaching Preschool at Home: How to Cope With the Challenges
Close to a year ago, the COVID-19 pandemic forced parents into making a hard choice about their child’s education, especially those with preschool-aged children. Early childhood education greatly benefits from hands-on learning, which is why many parents opted to forgo in-person education and distance learning, leading to an increase in homeschooling among students across the country. After nearly a year of experience, it’s worth checking in on how things have gone and look for ways to improve going forward. Whether you’ve been at this a while or this is your first time homeschooling a preschooler, it’s time to revisit the challenges that arise in this setting — and figure out how to avoid or address them in the future.
Establishing — and sticking to — a routine
One of the first problems that often arise when teaching preschool from home involves the routine. Having a routine is important to preschool success, as it creates some predictability for both you and your child. Having a set schedule of events — a certain time to wake up, eat breakfast, read together, and clean up — all help to build this predictability into your child’s day. While you don’t need to be rigid on the exact timing of every item on the schedule, you do need to strive for consistency. That way, your child will know that every day after breakfast, they have to clean up their toys right before eating lunch or that immediately following reading time, they’ll get time to play outside. Do your best to stick to your routine, even on days where you’re exhausted and would prefer to put on a movie or allow more screen time. However, things happen and some days will require more leniency than others. Just keep in mind that if you do stray from your schedule, be sure to make it clear to your child that this is a special occasion. That way, your child understands that this moment of straying from the routine doesn’t mean the routine won’t start up again tomorrow.
Learning through play
For many parents, one of the harder parts of transitioning into the role of educator is remembering that early childhood education involves a lot of learning through play. This is a delicate skill to learn, as it doesn’t mean giving your child free reign while you go take care of some housework. Rather, it means following your child’s lead by the playtime activities they’re drawn to, then sitting and playing with them. During this time, you should be gently guiding your child to learn as they go. Resist the urge to tell them what to do or how to do something, but rather ask questions to get them to think more about what they’re doing. These conversations help expand your child’s mind and give you the opportunity to better understand their interests and how they think. In this way, participating in learning through play will help bring you and your child closer.
It’s OK to learn as you go
Sometimes, the best lessons are learned by doing the wrong thing first. This is something you have to keep in mind when you’re approaching your role as educator. If you checked out books from the library on animals, but your child picks up the book on volcanoes for the 11th day in a row, don’t get discouraged. If your tactic for helping your child learn to count isn’t working, consider a different approach that better fits into their personality or interests. Homeschooling gives you the freedom to change things up, and that goes for both content and teaching methods. While it can be frustrating when things aren’t working how you planned, you have to remember that everything is not going to go smoothly 100% of the time and there’s actually a lot to be gained from things going wrong. Think of it as a learning opportunity for finding the successful learning approach. Just remember: if something isn’t working, you can change it.
Keep your goals realistic
One mistake that is common among homeschool educators is that they put too much pressure on themselves to achieve unrealistic expectations. This often comes from a good place — one where you’re trying to do a good job for your child so that they don’t fall behind. However, keep in mind that before you even started homeschooling your child, you were already working on the social and knowledge-based skills required to enter kindergarten. You might be surprised, for example, how many activities your child is participating in that helps build the skills necessary to learn to write.
You’re not alone
One of the most important things to remember when reflecting on the challenges of homeschooling is that you’re not the only one experiencing these problems. Remember there are a number of resources designed to help people in your circumstance to help ensure that homeschooling your preschooler is a successful, rewarding experience.