Homeschooling the early years, part 2, an enriching environment

HSing Early Years 2

NOTE: This series is for newbie homeschoolers that are in overdrive…overplanning, overscheduling and overthinking your child’s preK or kinder year….WE’VE ALL DONE IT. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Jump to Part: | Part 1 | 2-An Enriching Environment | 3-Books | 4-Creating & Playing | 5-Friends | 6-Outside Time | 7-Weekly Clubs & Classes | 8-Media Time | 9-Special Days | 10-Trips | 11-Learning Activities | 12-Final Words

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Chillin in front of a local hardware store, about 7mos pregnant, with my 4.5yr old.

Here we go…My trip down memory lane…

The year was 2005the beginning of the year…My oldest was 4 and a half. I was pregnant with our third. (We lost a son to full term stillbirth in between my oldest and youngest. So this pregnancy was my 3rd full term, but was my 2nd, and last, living child.) I was starting to get really excited about “doing kindergarten” with my daughter. I had purchased a curriculum, Enki (no longer exists as a homeschool curriculum…it was an extremely expensive and way overly complex hybrid Waldorf-like curriculum that never worked out for me…far too teacher intensive… so I wasted $500 on it) and was stressing over the upcoming year…trying to figure out how to balance a new baby and teaching my kindergartner in the quickly approaching school year.

Didn’t happen, I finally realized I needed to push kindergarten off another year for when the baby was older. Thank heavens my daughter was a November baby so I could easily do that, and that I finally realized that I should do that. I can’t imagine HOW that first year with my new son AND figuring out what I wanted to do for homeschooling would have gone if I had persevered! PHEW!

My youngest was born in July 2005, when my daughter was 4yrs 8mos old.

So far so good…she loved her baby brother!  

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Sibling love

So once the reality of having a newborn and adjusting to 2 children set in, I happily pushed off her kindergarten year from fall of 2005 to fall of 2006. And I thought, oh that will give me a whole year to figure out the Enki curriculum! But did I? NOPE! It was too much for me. I finally gave up. It was just not the right thing for us.

I settled into parenting 2 kids, and parenting a newborn again. We’d just keep living our life and enjoying each other and the academics could wait.

And then after a year of just doing what we always did…trying to keep the house from falling down around us, and getting out of the house for playdates at every possible opportunity…I had a very active and high needs toddler, a busy kindergartner…

…no curriculum, and no real plan. (Remember, Enki didn’t work…though I did try it briefly…even started the school year attempting it! But it was just far too teacher intensive.)

I finally realized that kindergarten wasn’t really all that different from preschool…which wasn’t really all that different from just living life with a toddler…and unschooling sounded lovely…so we just kept living our life. (NOTE: I do NOT think I was a true unschooler…I think you have to be far more intentional than I was. BUT…I also don’t think there needs to be a whole lot of intentionality in the early years, so it worked for us.)

I do think I continued to make sure that our home was as enriching an environment as possible. It already was…I am a former preschool teacher, so our home was always an enriching environment.

Here’s what our HOME ENVIRONMENT (always) contained:

An art area with a wide variety of art supplies always available…

Click on the images to make them bigger and check out the shelves behind my daughter. Those are preschool tables…the laminated, easy to clean up kind. I got them from the preschool I used to work at when they went out of business. You can find similar at Discount School Supply. Well worth the money. They last forever and are super easy to clean up!

Open ended toys and manipulatives: I always tended to avoid most character toys, “noisy” (electronic toys) and most toys that were designed for a specific purpose. Instead opting for toys that encouraged children to use them in open ended ways, like building toys…wooden blocks, Brio type trains, Lego and Duplo and lots of other manipulatives in various areas of the house…

The play areas of my house changed a lot over the years, but they were always in the areas that we were the most comfortable and spent the most time. Our playroom, for a number of years (until we divided it into 2 rooms when my youngest was about preschool age) was our garage conversion…a massive, sunny, wonderful room that we loved spending time in.

And our living room was also a favorite as it had the tv, stereo and later the family computer, and was right next to the kitchen (where I spent much of MY time). I always kept shelves and tubs of toys in the rooms where we spent the most time. And tried to keep the clean up easy by using tubs and baskets and shelves that sorted things simply, tossing things back with like things quickly and easily. (Not that that happened regularly, LOL!)

In the 2nd picture in the gallery above you can see that I even converted our fireplace into a playhouse, using a cardboard box. (Click on the image to enlarge to see.) In that same picture you can also see the reading area in the back corner of the room…with the big pillow on the back of the couch, where we sat on the floor together to read the books in that face-out bookshelf. The boys in that pic are visiting friends.

Imaginative play things: Dress up clothes like capes, belts, feather boas, necklaces, hats, tails, ears, etc…silks that could be anything…pretend play toys like dolls, animals, toy (and real) kitchen things (many thrift store and dollar store finds!), tools, baskets of assorted loose things that could be anything they imagined them to be like juice lids and pom poms…and a play house area (Waldorf playstands my dad made).

Bookshelves and book baskets full of age appropriate books all over the house…

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Crate full of all my children’s cds I have collected over the years.

Stacks of children’s music cds (as a former prek teacher, this was kinda my thing…Read this post here to learn why I think children’s music is important in the early years) which were nearly always being played and danced to and when not played, sung…

And outside….swings and hammock and sand pit and tricycles and sidewalk chalk and bubbles and water table and outside toys..

(More pics on another post…)

AND SOCIALLY??  I’m an extrovert so I was always very active socially with mommy groups, even organizing and planning lots of groups and activities myself, since my first child was born. So homeschooling really didn’t change things at all for me in that regard.

The only thing I really added when we started really homeschooling was a book to teach my oldest to read. No actual curriculum. (Oh, I TRIED…and I kept trying here and there….but it just didn’t work…And now, in retrospect, I’m happy with how it turned out.)

SO, what did we do instead? 

This is just #2 in a 12 part series…I will share more with you each day…including pics and videos of all sorts of things that we did for my kids’ early years! The hope is to show you that these early years can and should be fun and playful.

And they don’t have to be a lot of work for you!

Go on to Part 3…

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