Let me start by saying I am a preschool teacher at heart. Of all the grades and methods I have taught, I have a soft spot in my heart for preschool. While I have never believed the preschool experience was an absolute must for school success, there are many kids who simply thrive and grow so much during this period. In some ways, more than any other time.
When the oldest two monkeys were in preschool I had this unending supply of time to give them a preschool experience. Well, actually I helped open a preschool in our church when Aidan was three and wrote the entire curriculum to fit exactly with my beliefs about preschool best practices. I had full hiring and curriculum authority over his preschool experience even though we weren't at home! Not only did Aidan benefit, but so did many other children as the program there continues to thrive. Caleb did a few months of Montessori preschool, but it was right at that time when Aidan was starting to not connect with school and when we started homeschooling Aidan, we naturally brought Caleb home as well. Being only two of them and only two years apart it was not such a challenge to teach them both.
And I have kept teaching both.
Kylee and Logan have always been included in school time and have jumped in and out with varying levels of interest and success in their activities at any given time. Our group activities, however, are no longer geared at the preschool group. Caleb and Aidan sometimes need more of my time to work through problems and the group reading on history and science is simply too long to be of much interest to them, even when I supplement with relevant picture books.
On the flip side of this is my Caleb. Smart beyond his years, but lacking in those basic "preschool" skills of conversation, turn taking, and group participation. Caleb also has high sensory input needs and when I don't account for that in our schedule we all pay the price. I have said many times that what Caleb really needs is to go back to preschool 1/2 day for the social skills and continue homeschooling his academics. (Disclaimer- I reiterate that I do not believe that preschool is necessary for socializing preschoolers, however in the case of a child on the Autism Spectrum there are different needs that cannot always be met at home.)
All of this finally arrives at the point of my post. Afternoon preschool.
The idea is to provide a daily opportunity for my 3 middles to sit together in a circle, sing a little, do calendar time, read stories, try simple science experiments, do art projects, and of course lots of sensory activities. So each day after lunch is cleaned up, we have been gathering for "Art & Sensory Time". Preschool, except you don't tell a 7 year old he has to go to preschool every day!! We spend about an hour on these things and have all been enjoying the time together. Aidan is free to join us if he is finished with his own schoolwork, or he can read or play quietly (he has also been occasionally asked to join us as resident photographer).
I'm not worrying about objectives or learning goals, letters or numbers. We are simply practicing being together while doing fun things! This week we finger painted, made squishy bags, did a science experiment, whisked bubbles, played with cornstarch goop, watercolor painted, painted with toothbrushes, and more.
My planning is a nothing more than a small yellow legal pad with a list of books for the week and activity ideas, stuck in a plastic tub on my desk. I have a second list of potential weekly "themes" just to give me some starting points when I get stuck. Next week is our last week of school before our Christmas break so we will read some holiday books and of course do some holiday projects.
I didn't really know what to expect when we started this, but I am thrilled with how it has turned out. Caleb and Kylee ask all morning what we will be doing that afternoon. Logan has learned how to sit in a circle and is beginning to participate. He loves to "catch the day" during calendar time.
My house is more certainly messier come the end of the day, but the smiles on their faces and seeing them work together makes it more than worth it!!