where to start?
I started searching for the “right” preschool curriculum for us when Ian was still a baby. I didn’t even consider paying for a full preschool curriculum for a number of reason. First of all, it’s preschool. I just feel like it needs to be low-key and flexible. Second, I know myself too well. I’m a tweaker. I can’t seem to follow a recipe to save my life. I knew I would take anything handed to me and adjust it to make it fit well for us, and it seemed like a waste to spend money on something I was going to mess with anyway. Plus, I’m just kind of cheap. I’d rather spend money on my own selection of books and good educational toys/activities than on a boxed curriculum. Still, I needed some help getting started, I wanted at least a little structure to provide a framework for us. I didn’t know a whole lot about what was out there, nor did I have a very solid idea of what I wanted to do. So I just tried to sample as wide a spread as I could, and in the end I felt pretty comfortable piecing together a little bit of this and that. I thought I’d share some of the great resources I found out there, because I realize every family is different. Depending on what my other kids need, I may come back to some of these.
Brightly Beaming Resources (also known as Letter of the Week curriculum). A wealth of resources here! If you feel completely at a loss as to what (or how) to teach your young children, this is a great place to start. Katrina Lybbert has put together “curriculum” to use from infants on up. It was a little too structured for our family, but I know some people thrive on that. Since Ian had learned his letters on his own, I decided not to go this route, but I might come back for ideas if other my other kids need some help in that department, or if we need some ideas once he gets older.
Before Five in a Row (B4FIAR). This was the one exception I made as far as paying for something. I forget how I first heard of Five in a Row, but from the first time I visited the old FIAR website (which I thought gave a better introduction), I was intrigued. Being a life-long bibliophile, I wanted to introduce my children to as much good literature I could. Between Paperback Swap, eBay, and the Amazon Marketplace, I managed to collect the B4FIAR stories for a pretty reasonable price. (I also collected most of the stories for FIAR volumes 1-4 while I was at it.) In hindsight, I don’t know that I would have paid for the B4FIAR manual. It has some great ideas, but as I started exploring literature-based homeschooling I found a lot of equally good resources available for free online. Still, I probably wouldn’t have found those if I hadn’t jumped into B4FIAR, and it introduced me to some older books I might never have discovered which have become favorites around here. I started going through B4FIAR books with Ian as soon as he turned 2. We took our time, just getting a new book out every couple weeks and rereading it many times. I didn’t do any extras the first time around, but we’ll start “re-rowing” books in a couple months, and then I plan on doing more.
If you’re interested in using children’s literature as a basis for preschool unit study but aren’t sure you want to spend any money, there are two places I would go. If you like some structure, check out the Read to Me & ABC program put together by a blogger mom. She goes through the alphabet using a children’s book for each letter. Many of the books are also used in B4FIAR, though not the out-of-print, harder to find ones, which is kind of nice. In fact, you can probably find all of the books in this curriculum at the library.
The other literature site I LOVE is Homeschool Share. I come here all the time for extra ideas to go along with our B4FIAR books (thinking ahead for our next time through!), but they have LOTS of other books as well. I’ve printed off a number of games and activities that we use over and over (love my Scotch thermal laminator!) We’re not quite ready for lapbooking around our house, but they have lots of great lapbook ideas here as well.
However, as wonderful as good children’s literature is, I knew that I didn’t want that to be the focus of our family’s schooling experience. We’re readers, and our kids are going to be exposed to great books no matter what. The most important thing to me is to teach my children about the Bible and to get as much Truth hidden away in their hearts as possible. And that’s how I ended up at ABC Jesus Loves Me. What a FABULOUS resource for Christian parents homeschooling their preschoolers! Not only has “Momma C” written a curriculum that covers all your academic basics like letters, numbers, colors, shapes, etc., but she also includes wonderful children’s literature and solid Bible teaching! I am using her Three-Year Old Curriculum as the basis for what we’re doing this year. She has a weekly plan that is designed to start in August and run through the beginning of May (though we started mid-year because as soon as Ian turned 3 I was rearing to go). I don’t do every part of the weekly plan, but I am SO thankful for all the work that has gone into this program. I’ll talk more about how I use ABCJLM in a later post.
So if you’re just getting started on your homeschool journey, I hope that gives you a few ideas a places to go as you plan what path to take!