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If you are just starting out on your learning at home journey, you might be wondering how on earth you’ll fill the LONG days with your little one at home. Or maybe you’re wondering how you’ll fit ALL the fun things you have planned into 24 hours! (Don’t worry–it takes both kinds of homeschooling families to make the world go ’round.)
This post will walk you through creating a preschool at home schedule that works for your family.
If your children are past the preschool phase, click here to see our post about creating a homeschool schedule for a new year.
Schedule vs. Rhythm
When we first started learning at home with our three-year-old, I had to adjust my expectations as a former classroom teacher. I craved structure, but I quickly realized that no two days were going to be exactly the same (especially with a newborn, too).
While I loved the idea of doing math at 9:00, craft at 9:30, read-aloud at 10:00, etc., trying to stick to a strict schedule just left me and my preschooler feeling frustrated. We found that a rhythm worked better for our family:
- outside play
- read-aloud time
- free play
- nap/quiet time
- invitation to play/tot tray/preschool lesson
- family time
- bedtime routine
On the days we needed to run errands or planned to meet with friends at the park, we would simply move things around. My little one always liked to know what was coming next, so we started each morning by writing out the day’s events on our chalkboard easel.
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Direct Teach vs. Free Play
It’s no secret that I’m a BIG fan of learning through play! I think toddlers and preschoolers need at least one big chunk of time for self-directed free play every day. However, some skills need to be taught directly (riding a bike and tying shoes come to mind) by a loving adult.
Each week, I would plan out a handful of activities that we could work on together. This might be sorting items by color, counting, working on letter recognition, or doing a science investigation. Once I had introduced the lesson, she could come back to the activity again and again during independent play time throughout the week.
Our best time for preschool at home lessons came directly after the girls’ afternoon nap. I would use their rest time to set up an activity, and we would get right to learning once both girls were awake. (The toddler often had a related “tot tray” or “invitation to play” that she could work on while I taught the older child.)
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Creating a Preschool at Home Schedule
If you’re anything like me, the temptation is to GO BIG: make an amazing, detailed daily schedule for your preschooler and dive right in! The trouble with going from no schedule to a full day, though, is that it’s very difficult to sustain.
My advice to new homeschooling families is to start with ONE thing and do it well before adding in the next element.
- Make a list of ALL the things you WANT to do with your child, either daily or weekly. (My non-negotiables at the very beginning would be read-aloud and outside time.)
- Ease into a new family rhythm by adding one new element each week.
- Make a visual schedule using a chalkboard, whiteboard, pocket chart, or file folder. Talk about the day’s activities after breakfast so everyone is excited and on the same page.
- Build in time for your child to be the boss of his/her schedule (free play). You can start out by giving your child two or three choices if this seems like too much freedom at first–or try toy rotation to limit decision fatigue.
In no time at all, with lots of parent consistency, our toddlers and preschoolers can learn to anticipate the daily routines and transition seamlessly from one activity to another.