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Design Your Own Preschool Curriculum
By Susan Franklin

Reprinted from Suite101.com

Early Learning at Home

Teaching your preschooler at home can be accomplished several ways. I see three options: 1) Purchase a program from one of the preschool curriculum providers, 2) Read to your child from great books, and explore the world together paying attention to what interests your child or 3) Design your own curriculum for free using the internet and the library. Any one of the three options should work fine. But if you prefer a plan laid out in writing and you are on a tight budget, option three is the way to go. 

Here is my step-by-step guide to designing a preschool curriculum tailored to you and your child.

1. DETERMINE LEARNING OBJECTIVES
In order to outline a program that will include fun for your child and make sense for his or her developmental stage, consult a few skills lists for your child's age.
SmarterKids.com provides Early Developmental Checklists  you can use to evaluate your child's strengths and weaknesses. 

Be sure to check out the Michelle Lewis skills lists for
two- , three-,  and  four-year-olds . I found them daunting at first but now I'm actually I'm discovering that my four-year old is close to her model and it gives me some areas of accomplishment to work on with him. World Book has a Typical Preschool Course of Study.

2. CHOOSE MONTHLY THEMES 
After you have established learning goals for your child, you can browse through some
preschool websites  to search for themes. Ideas for themes can be seasonal (fall, winter, spring, holidays) or they can introduce subjects, such as art, music, the alphabet or numbers. For example, bears can be a wonderful theme for toddlers. See my themestream article, "Teddy Bears, Everywhere"  for an extensive list of ideas and resources to use the bear theme. See also "Splash! Summer Fun Art Unit"  for ideas if you want to do an art theme one month. 

3. ORGANIZE YOUR RESOURCES 
Now for the fun part. Cruise some 
preschool websites  to choose fun activities, songs, coloring pages, poems, games, crafts to go with your theme. 

As you gather your activities, book titles, craft projects, booklists, and other resources set up favorites folders and physical file folders as you go, labeling them according to the themes.

4. PLAN YOUR MONTHS 
It will help you to stay focused if you lay out a plan on paper, writing out the activities to use each week or month and where to find them. To save time use one of the charts at
Homeschool Forms on the Web.

5. ADD A FEW FUN FIELD TRIPS
Find a few local points of interest to visit with your preschooler related to the theme, if possible. But if not, just get out once a week or so and take time exploring your community. See
"Fast, Frugal Field Trips For Early Learners". Pencil these into your plan and write in reminders a day or two ahead to call to confirm your appointment.

6. MAKE LISTS
The final step to step, if you choose to do this, is to create "To Do" lists and "Materials Needed" and book lists to ensure that the supplies to do the crafts and activities are available when you need them. Don't do this until a few weeks before you will need them since your plans will probably change.


7. STOCKPILE BASIC SUPPLIES
We have a small stash of various craft supplies in our garage stored in clear plastic shoe boxes and stacked in a large bookcase. Basic art supplies such as glue, scissors, stickers, colored pencils, markers are stored on a low shelf of a linen closet for easy access.

Start saving and gathering supplies such as: 

Cereal boxes (flattened for easy storage to use in place of purchased poster board for small projects)
Small magnets
Oatmeal boxes
Plastic baskets from strawberries or tomatoes
Styrofoam trays from produce
Used white paper (for using back-sides)
Shoelaces
Plastic peanut butter jars
Colorful junk mail and catalogs
Frozen juice lids
Wallpaper scraps
Fabric scraps
Ribbon, yarn, string 
Cotton balls
Clear contact paper
Old shirts for paint smocks 
Old plastic tablecloth
Fly swatters (to use with bubble liquid outside)
Wire coat hangers
Freezer paper
Brown paper bags, large and small
Craft sticks
Plastic baby wipe boxes 
Pipe cleaners or chenille stems
Used file folders
Used greeting cards
Cookie cutters (for tracing shapes, working with play dough)
Metal brad fasteners
Various tape and glue
Boxes of various sizes
Coloring books
Rubber bands
Discarded socks

8. KEEP PERSPECTIVE AND ENJOY YOUR CHILD
Playing and discovering the world in a lighthearted way should take priority over any plans, so do not take this plan too seriously.  You may just want to use this guide as a reference from time to time instead of drawing out a formal plan.  

I received some good counsel when my son was an infant. A friend advised me to train him first in how to behave: good manners, helping with chores, not whining and complaining, getting along with others before emphasizing the academics. This strategy has worked well.

It is a complicated juggling act to have fun together and still maintain some control over a preschooler and a sense of order in the home. Boy, do I know. But effort expended to do this will have its reward in a cheerful, well-behaved and disciplined child. . .eventually. . . . well, most of the time, we hope.

Copyright 2001 Susan Franklin

All rights reserved

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