28 April 2009

Homeschool Preschool

Type those two words in and search. I got about 210,000 results and no, I didn't click on all of them.

Just about every big curriculum provider is now selling a preschool program of some kind or another. Some of them will even sell toy kits, so you can be sure you're playing with *just the right* kind of toy that will engage your preschooler's mind.

Really, I don't think there's anything wrong with the kits. One set I saw from My Father's World has a replacement part warranty that I thought was pretty astounding. If only I could start all over without our million and three halfway broken made-in-China toys and get all my stuff in one BIG box, carefully preselected from people who know what works and lasts (Hint: Not from Wal-Mart!). I think that's the premise of the Discovery Toys company... sure, you pay a LOT of money for their items, but they really stand behind them and want you to be happy with your purchase. Boy, you'd better be after looking at your husband's face when he sees the invoice.

But I have to think about the philosophy behind this marketing expansion. Maybe these companies are doing it because EVERYONE ELSE is, and the parents are going to plunk their money down on something anyway... and it might as well be their stuff. I mean, their stuff is good stuff, right? And some of these packages, if I didn't have this thing called a "library card" or a "book in my house," would certainly be worth the money.

Oh, boy, I look at some of this stuff and think it might be worth the money anyway.

But we're on kids #5 and 6, looking in a few years to college expenses. Can I really justify $600 in pop-up books and educational toys? Guess not. Siiigh. It's kind of like looking at fashion clothes, when you know they won't fit your giant size 29 body. I mean, it looks great in the catalog, though.

Why aren't these companies offering a "you're done with homeschooling/ young adulthood" pack? Why wouldn't that work? I'd submit to you it's because Mom and Dad have lived with the kid who USED to be that precious preschooler... the kid they USED to think was somewhat moldable... Well, now they realize that there is only so much you can do with the old tabula rasa idea there.

Well, I don't agree with the old tabula rasa idea. At all. Though I think nurture can accomplish much, I also think that children can and do come through all sorts of circumstances and are ok. Even if they don't get the super preschool pack and even if Mom and Dad never read to them at all. It's that "grace of God" idea that gets me through the day when I know that yet again, I've failed as a mom. I've said things I shouldn't have. Argued with my children. NOT argued when I should have.

Hey, there are circumstances out there a lot worse than ours! And most kids are ok. Nope, I'm not excusing your bad parenting (or mine! but you can't see mine!), but most of us are ok.

Back to topic.

The preschool kits: Are we trying to "educate" our children way too young? Are we working too hard to make play "work" or log it as "school?" Or maybe sometimes we homeschoolers even work too hard at making work into fun when every now and then, you just plain old have to do the math.

Or...

Maybe the kits are just a lot of fun. And they're packaged in cool boxes and bags. Some of them come with cuddly animals and mascots or movies that go with the books. Some of them, I'm just thinking would be fun to have, but it would help me justify my purchase if it were "educational."

Thoughts?

17 comments:

  1. I'm probeblie homskulling this yeer comming upp. Wut du yew thenk? Wood eye dew ok?

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  2. Haha! Just kidding! LOL. No really, I am thinking about homeschooling. You were talking about tough kids. My kid's behavior went to pot after I enrolled them in a regular school this year. They don't get alone anymore and they are tougher for sure. My little five year old got choked right in front of me, knocked in the chin, and the kid took off with his backpack. I was shocked. That kid was found and punished but now I know why my boys have to always have their guard up. Ridiculous. Anyway, I'm nervous because I'll have a new baby in October and I'll be homeschooling 3 of them. I'll have 6 kids with my oldest being 9. It's not like I have them spread out. I really just want to homeschool Chaz but seeing what my little ones keep going through, it makes me want to just pull them out because there are no other schools in the area.

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  3. I waver back forth about that, too. I didn't do any formal preschool homeschooling beacuse I didn't think it was necessary, but give me a Lakeshore catalog and I melt! I usually compromise by buying them the "educational" stuff for them for birthdays and Christmas. Let the grandparents get them the frivolous gifts! So far this has kept us all happy.
    Beth
    applesandjammies.blogspot.com

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  4. "Formal" preschool is ridiculous. Play with them, paint with them, read to them daily, love on them. That's all the preschool kids need. Sheesh.

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  5. I'm all for educational toys. I don't think Karrots sees them as work. she loves the stacking cups! Isn't that the secret?...make them think they're not learning when they really are?...

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  6. Wow, I leave the house for a minute and get *five* comments! LOL I need to get out more often...

    Going to have to say HI in more detail tomorrow and visit ya later, Beth! Thanks for dropping by!

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  7. I'm not trying to be facetious, but what's the point of preschool?

    Allison

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  8. I agree with you- and I don't (sort of).

    As for preschool education, I think it can be summed up in one activity, reading to your kids every day. I think that makes a huge difference. First, it slows the parents down and gets you really engaged with your kid. It does cultivate a love of reading, on which (research shows, I think) a love of learning is based.

    As for the educational toys, I think they can have some merit, but preschoolers are so easy to teach about anything, and conversation is frankly the best way to transfer concepts to them, anyway. For example, yesterday my 2 year old wanted to put on her pink Hello Kitty rain boots. It was a bright sunny day, but I digress. She could only find one boot. She walked up to me in one boot and said, "Mommy, I want to wear my boots but I can't." When I asked why she said, "Look, this is just one, it's not a pair." My husband thought that was pretty good articulation for a two year old who should have just said "I can't find my boot." He thought I had taken the time to teach her about pairs and halves (which she also has a good handle on), and I haven't. We just read, and she spends a fair amount of time with me in the kitchen. Not saying that educational toys aren't good, just not necessary for a parent who is engaged.

    As for the grace of God reasoning, this is where I agree-and disagree-most. Certainly we have to allow for God's grace because we are all weak and fallen creatures who will get it wrong a lot of the time. But, if we get it wrong too much, and don't discipline ourselves to go the extra mile to be the parents God would have us to be, we can't just shrug our shouldres and say it's God's will if our kids don't embrace principles, values, and ethics that we never bothered to instill. KWIM?

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  9. A library card is cheaper & goes further. Seriously; for pre~school I made my own phonics kit & taught Ditz to read. That was the sum total of *pre~school*. We just continued with our regular stuff: reading, telling stories, baking cookies, counting kitties 'cause more is always better, right?

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  10. Terry, MY two and a half year old has never said Mama or put two words together, and it's not for lack of my speaking to him. We can't even GET to the concept that two makes a pair and discuss that if "more. juice. please." has not been mastered.

    BUT

    Put a set of six different colour bears in front of him with matching cups and he can match the bears into the proper colour cup. He can match animals to their picture but not name them. These are talents I have never been able to communicate with him, but have somehow been able to express themselves anyway.

    He gets angry with the idea of "book" and the idea of "Say...(whatever)." I think speech and language is intensely frustrating to him. It doesn't mean I'll stop speaking to and reading with him... it just means these are not the pleasant unwinding activities they should be but are more like that shot the doctor gives for your own good! :]

    A, I'm not sure. I would *think* it's to get the kid ready for school. Mostly following a schedule... like "snack" comes after "book time" and that kind of thing. When I was young, they didn't learn much there except for getting along. Emperor and Elf have been to "special needs" preschool so the academic focus wasn't very hard at all, although they did have a letter and number of the week. :]

    Some people treat preschool as glorified childcare, and for most children that's what it is. Like Terry was discussing, *most* kids don't need the extra help.

    So, Claire, I kinda agree with you and kinda don't. I'm glad to see you back blogging though!

    Mrs. K, try old yogurt cups. They stack perfectly. Or several margarine containers. Then when they bust, you haven't spent anything. :]

    Beth, preschoolers are so fun and snuggly. You can just tell them the sun is yellow and you've done your homeschool quota for the day! :]

    Virginia, I sure wish things were easier for you, but right now you're probably going WHHEEEEE! I have *only* five kids in the house LOL!

    Ganeida, I'm not quite awake yet because I read you were "baking kitties." Had to reread. Ok, the second time around it sounded much better.

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  11. Mrs. C,

    Forgive my insensitivity. When I post, I post from my present reality and not from the perspective of a mom with special needs kids.

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  12. Oh, no, Terry!

    I didn't think you were insensitive. At all. You should NOT have to apologize for having a nice, solid opinion that just conversation and a couple books do nicely for children, and that children are moldable. It works for you just fine!

    I guess I come by my opinions by hard experience, and my opinion can certainly be wrong, what with my experiences being unusual and all!!

    Sometimes we're like this with prayer and our relationship with God, too. Pray (this) and (this) happens.

    Well, it doesn't always. We should still pray, though, even when it is very discouraging work and things seem to get worse when we do it?

    Hm.

    Well, I am running all the time. Therapy four days a week. I have *got* to have God's grace every now and then to cover my slack. I realize more and more that I cannot do it all. It is a sad, but freeing place to be.

    I hope that makes sense. :]

    You're my friend, Terry, and I want you always to feel free to just give your opinion as it seems to you ok??? Never apologize for having a different perspective.

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  13. As a very happy member of one of "those companies," here's my two cents:

    1. Yes, companies develop PreK packages because people will buy them. That's business.

    2. No, companies--at least, the one I work for--do not just make things because they can turn a profit from it. Our goal, here at Sonlight, is to support you in your homeschooling journey. And if we can do that by sorting through all the options, packaging them together, and offering you support as you use it... then that's what we'll do.

    3. PreK is best when it isn't "formal" school, but rather a journey of discovery and wonder. All school should be like that, actually. Granted, in that, there are lessons in perseverance, hard work, and handling things you don't like, but I emphasize a love to learn much more than any kind of "formal training."

    My three cents.

    ~Luke

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  14. Aw, Luke, I think every homeschool company is one of *those* companies. And it's not like you're dealing drugs on the streetcorner. NOTHING wrong with turning a profit... I guess I just question whether you need a boxed curriculum for a two-year-old.

    Oh, yeah... Most companies want you to wait until the kid is three LOL!

    I've looked at a lot of different boxed sets and I think I would consider getting one if I knew I would have been homeschooling several kids ago. The advantage of the set is that you buy the whole thing at once and YOU save money and the COMPANY makes a profit from a bigger bunch of stuff than you probably would have bought in one fell swoop anyway.

    Another thought for another post...

    How much stuff do we really need? I don't just mean preschool stuff.

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  15. Loved your post.
    Did not read the other comments left.

    These programs are ridiculous. I gave a HS conference session on teaching prek and K grade at home in one hour. It was a challenge to cram it into one hour but if all families did what was on the list the kids would have great fun and would have learned a lot. It did not require buying much per se. Many good books could be from the library. Yet if I tried to package up puzzles and lacing toys and stuff like that which IMO is standard for 'good clean fun' then it would add up.

    I have tons to say on the topic of preschool. In David Elkind's book Miseducation Preschoolers at Risk he explains that poorly designed studies of Head Start poverty level'at risk' kids who the study said did well with early education for Head Start preschool were moved over to be applied to middle and upper class income families from educated parents with at home moms in the suburbs. Ridiculous. IMO from what I've seen in private preschool what is done is INFERIOR to what a loving and smart mom can do at home as part of just living a fun good life with her kids. Plus prek kids get sick a lot and bring germs home to the rest of the family Prek attendance robs the family of time from doing BETTER things. My friends who used prek rarely attended children's museums, playgrounds (good big ones), took nature hikes or went to educational museums and historical sites as they had no time.

    Prek sets up the rat race schedule that the schooled child will eventually be living when they enroll into Kindergarten.

    Some homeschoolers I know use prek for younger kids as a paid babysitting service to have more quiet time with older sibs for HS lessons. That is not part of MY HS lifestyle but I don't sit in judgement of them. It is a free country, do what you want I say.

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  16. Christine, I agree a lot of these folks send their kids to preschool or do a "program" at home when just healthy living would work better.

    I think though that at least my 2-y-o Woodjie would benefit from the special needs preschool when he turns three, as they will be able to continue the speech, occupational therapy and etc. that was begun here at home under First Steps.

    I wish that somehow the government didn't think that the "least restrictive environment" for a child after three was no longer the home, and that funding would take place in the environment the PARENT chooses, but we deal with the situation we're in.

    Actually...

    The special needs preschool is way, way better at meeting the childrens' needs than the REGULAR private preschools I've seen around. I can not believe moms pay that kind of money for childcare, because IMO that's all it is with a couple "educational" activities thrown in.

    And actually, even though the public preschool has more children from lower-class families, it's less germy. I remember when Patrick and G went to a place, parents would no way keep their sick kids home because you're paying for the care whether the kid is there or not, soooo..

    Yeah, nice.

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  17. I have create a Math Website to help Homeschoolers teach and help their children with different math topics. The site is

    http://www.math-aids.com

    You can create an endless supply of printable math worksheets that can be used for practice, study, and lesson plans on various math topics. The answer key is included with each math worksheet as it is created.

    This site is free to use. We are adding new math topics every day so visit us often and share the site with others.
    Thank you.

    Mike

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Non-troll comments always welcome! :)