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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Preschool at home

Little Faith enjoying life!
Believe it or not, I get a lot of questions as to precisely what one should do with preschool children; what kind of curriculum to buy, etc.

When I was a young child, "preschool" meant just what the word suggests; an important period before any formal schooling began. Back then, even Kindergarten was not considered absolutely necessary.

Sometimes I feel as though I am on some sort of crusade back to common sense, a campaign aimed at freeing parents from the pressure of feeling they if they don't put their children in "programs" at the tender ages of three or four to keep the youngsters from being hindered or damaged in some way for the rest of their lives.

I am convinced that children who have time to develop in a warm, familiar home environment, without the pressure of a formal program, are much better off in the long-run. I've my suspicions that the social engineers are quite aware that children fair worse in institutions, but they are also less malleable by the "system" if they are allowed to bind with their families more than to their teachers and peers in early childhood.

Lorilee at three-years-old
I don't care what Sesame Street has set out to do, and I'm not impressed with what all of the workbooks, and mp3 videos, and apps programs that have tried to convince us of; especially relating basic "readiness" skills does not require a system, a program, or a curriculum.

Readiness is nothing more than giving love and attention to young children and including them in every-day life.

I recently needed my three-year-old to retrieve a plastic container of barrettes from the drawer in my bathroom. I told her that the item I needed was located in the top drawer, that it was round, and that it was colored orange. Wanting to please me, she ran off excitedly and came back with the exact thing I wanted, even though there are three drawers in my bathroom, and the topmost one is full of all sorts of other things.

In order to complete her task, she had to know what "top" meant, what "round" meant and what the color orange looked like. I, and the other family members in this house, have systematically taught her all of these things, although not in any certain sequence or order. She has also taught herself, as she has asked us questions and observed life going on around her.

Building mechanical aptitude
Available to her are large Legos, markers, colors, paper, scissors, dolls, kitchen utensils, a sandbox and swings, closets full of clothes to try on (and take off, and try on, and take off, and try on...), older sisters to put lipstick on, picture books to study, other books to listen to, and parents and older siblings to snuggle with when the movie gets too intense.

We take her on errands, make her sit quietly with us when we have our family singing and Bible study time, and have her help us when we are cleaning the yards, or folding clothes, and making dinner. All of these elements combine to give her a well-rounded idea of early life. 

World Book has graciously provided lists of a typical "course of study" for the different grades. This is how they explain how they have formulated the readiness requirements for preschool-aged children:
...the early childhood education staff at the University of Georgia, with a grant from World Book, Inc., surveyed kindergarten administrators and teachers across North America to determine what skills, competencies, and understandings a child needs in order to perform successfully in the first formal school situation. Well over 3,000 educators responded to the Readiness Skills Study. The results identified 105 desirable readiness skills that will help a child get off to a good start in school.
Any parent, if he/she is attentive, loving, and caring, can easily fulfill and surpass the requirements listed here, the toddlers I have raised are all living proof!


*Understands big and little.
*Understand long and short.
*Matches shaped or objects based on size.

Colors and Shapes

* Recognizes and names primary colors.
* Recognizes circles.
* Recognizes rectangles.
* Matches shapes or objects based on shape.
* Copies shapes.


* Counts orally through ten.
* Counts objects in one-to-one correspondence.
* Understands empty and full.
* Understands more and less.

Reading Readiness

* Remembers objects from a given picture.
* Knows what a letter is.
* Has been read to frequently.
* Has been read to daily.
* Looks at books and magazines.
* Recognizes some nursery rhymes.
* Identifies parts of the body.
* Identifies objects that have a functional use.
* Knows common farm and zoo animals.
* Pronounces own first name.
* Pronounces own last name.
* Expresses self verbally.
* Identifies other children by name
* Tells the meaning of simple words.
* Repeats a sentence of 6-8 words.
* Completes incomplete sentence with proper word.
* Has own books.
* Understands that print carries a message.
* Pretends to read.
* Uses left-to-right progression.
* Answers questions about a short story.
* Tells the meaning of words heard in story.
* Looks at pictures and tells a story.
* Identifies own first name in manuscript.
* Prints own first name.

Position and Direction

* Understands up and down.
* Understands in and out.
* Understands front and back.
* Understands over (on) and under.
* Understands top, bottom, middle.
* Understands beside and next to.
* Understands hot and cold.
* Understands fast and slow.


* Understands day and night.
* Knows age and birthday.

Listening and Sequencing

* Follows simple directions.
* Listens to a short story.
* Listens carefully.
* Recognizes common sounds.
* Repeats a sequence of sounds.
* Repeats a sequence of orally given numbers.
* Retells simple stories in sequence.

Motor Skills

* Is able to run.
* Is able to walk a straight line.
* Is able to jump.
* Is able to hop.
* Is able to alternate feet walking down stairs.
* Is able to march.
* Is able to stand on one foot for 5-10 seconds.
* Is able to walk backwards for five feet.
* Is able to throw a ball.
* Pastes objects.
* Claps hands.
* Matches simple objects.
* Touches fingers.
* Able to button a garment.
* Builds with blocks.
* Completes simple puzzles (five pieces or less).
* Draws and colors beyond
* a simple scribble.
* Able to zip a zipper.
* Controls pencil and crayon well.
* Cuts simple shapes.
* Handles scissors well.
* Able to copy simple shapes.

Social-Emotional Development

* Can be away from parents or primary care givers for 2-3 hours without being upset.
* Takes care of toilet needs independently.
* Feels good about self.
* Is not afraid to go to school.
* Cares for own belongings.
* Knows full name.
* Dresses self.
* Knows how to use handkerchief or tissue.
* Knows own s*x.
* Brushes teeth.
* Crosses residential street safely.
* Asks to go to school.
* Knows parents' names.
* Knows home address.
* Knows home phone number.
* Enters into casual conversation.
* Carries a plate of food.
* Maintains self-control.
* Gets along well with other children.
* Plays with other children.
* Recognizes authority.
* Shares with others.
* Talks easily.
* Likes teachers.
* Meets visitors without shyness.
* Puts away toys.
* Able to stay on task.
* Able to work independently.
* Helps family with chores.

(List courtesy of World Book)

For the Christian family, I would add in these items:
  • The Golden Rule
  • Genesis chapters 1-9
  • The Sermon on the Mount
  • The Ten Commandments
  • The books of the Bible
  • The redemption story 


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