How to Make Playing Preschool Homeschool Work For You
Last month, we completed our first year of the Playing Preschool homeschool curriculum created by Susie at Busy Toddler. I did something I never thought I would be able to do: I taught my toddler at home, during a pandemic, with a new baby…and my toddler learned so much!
Being a stay-at-home mom, I needed to provide some sort of structure and education for Chulengo after his part-time preschool program shut down at the beginning of the pandemic. I’ve always been comfortable being creative with activities, but I wasn’t sure how to structure our days so that learning was easy, consistent, and fruitful.
Three things I was looking for in a homeschool preschool curriculum:
- Simplicity – a program I could ‘plug and chug’. Juggling a new baby and a toddler was very tough for me, so I needed a program that didn’t require a ton of thought or preparation on my end. I wanted a program that told me exactly what to do.
- Flexiblity. Some days were more chaotic than others, so I wanted a program that had a little bit of ‘give’ when it came to the schedule and implementation of lesson plans.
- Engaging content. There’s really no point in prepping activities that don’t engage Chulengo. I didn’t want to sign up for an uphill battle of trying to help him focus. It was important to me to find a program, that kept Chulengo wanting more.
That’s when the Playing Preschool homeschool curriculum came in to save me! With 38 weeks of structured, easy to follow lesson plans that take as little as 30-minutes each day, I knew I had found the right program.
After purchasing this SUPER affordable preschool curriculum, I was excited to jump in. While the program is designed to take 38 weeks, I was able to schedule mini-breaks throughout our school year to allow for vacations and spontaneity. So, overall it took us about 11 months to complete the program.
After our experience with the first year of Playing Preschool, I am gearing up for the second year to start in a few weeks. Please keep in mind I only recommend products that I use myself and love. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission.
Here are 10 tips to make Playing Preschool work for you:
Give your preschool curriculum a unique name
We often name things in our house to get Chulengo excited. For example, he loves steak. But snubs his nose at unfamiliar beef dishes. So, we usually tack on the word ‘steak’ to the names of different dishes and he is suddenly on board to try the food. A few examples:
- gyros = gyro steak
- hamburgers = hamburger steak
- kabob = persian steak
So, in order for me to get him excited about homeschool preschool, I gave the program a unique name. He knew this program was a special time just for him, which got him interested. We chose to call our preschool program ‘Yaad School’, pronounced yaw-d school. We speak a little bit of Farsi in our home, so I wanted a unique word that was easy to pronounce, yet meaningful. Yaad in Farsi means learn, so it has fit perfectly.
Find a word that is special for your family. Maybe it’s a combination of your names, a word your little finds funny, a made-up word, or a word from a different language.
Create a binder with double sided print outs
This is probably the most important tip to stay organized throughout this curriculum. Use a 3″ three-ring binder, print double-sided to save paper, and if possible, put each sheet in a sheet protector. Being able to hold the program in your hands, flip through the pages, and remove sheets as needed makes things super easy.
I also printed it at home in black and white to save money.
Find a regular space in your home for Preschool
Toddlers love routines, so create a routine with Playing Preschool by meeting in a regular spot at home. We always start out downstairs in our living room and sometimes end up in the backyard for activities. But Chulengo knows exactly where to go when I say, “Time for Yaad school!”
I also keep my bin of weekly materials, books, and notes on the shelf in the living room, along with our daily calendar.
Plan two weeks ahead of time
Each unit is two weeks long. Planning your schedule, materials, and activities ahead of time makes the unit very easy to teach. Review notes, gather materials, and reserve or order books two weeks ahead of time. This allows you enough time to prepare and substitute materials, activities, or books as needed.
To further prepare, each Sunday I remove the corresponding week’s pages from the curriculum and put them on a clipboard. Then I add the clipboard to a bin with materials needed for the week. This is my catch-all for everything Yaad School-related. Everything is contained in one space and I can move it all from room to room as needed.
Order books ahead of time: library or online
The Playing Preschool curriculum recommends dozens of books throughout the program. Purchasing each book can become quite expensive. To avoid costly purchases, I recommend reserving the books from the library a week or two before the start of each unit. I also checked local book stores, our buy nothing group, and buy/sell/trade groups online.
If you can’t find the specific books listed in the unit, find others that fit the theme. I also found some read-aloud versions on YouTube for books I couldn’t find at our library. I loved hearing the examples of other people reading the books aloud.
Write all letters out ahead of time
Each unit will focus on 1 or 2 letters. I recommend writing these letters out ahead of time. That way, each week you just pull from your stash of letters at the beginning of the week. This saves you few minutes, which adds up over the 38 weeks.
I also put the letter(s) of the week up on the fridge between lessons so that we see it throughout the day. It helps to prompt conversation about the letter: what the letter sounds like, what words start with the letter, how to draw the letter, the difference between upper case and lower case, etc. This helped Chulengo start to recognize letters when we were out in the community. Suddenly, he would yell, “Look mom an R!” It was really cool to see it all start to click.
Use what you have
Susie, the creator of Playing Preschool, does a great job of making a list of materials that you will use throughout the curriculum. With that said, use what you have. If you need toilet paper rolls and you don’t have any, roll up pieces of construction paper instead. If the activity calls for markers and you don’t have any, use crayons. If you don’t have butcher paper and markers, use your sidewalk and chalk.
Our local buy nothing group has been a great resource to find the materials needed. I put up an “In Search of” post for things I need and more often than not, someone has resources to give. This has saved me money from having to buy things at the store. I also created a list a while ago of things you can use around the house if you need more ideas.
Let your kids lead with activities
I learned the hard way that toddlers will do what toddlers want to do…no matter what. If you introduce an activity, and your child takes a totally different route, you can gently encourage them to follow along with the activity. But also be prepared to just let your child enjoy the activity how they see fit.
Here’s one specific moment that was a significant teaching moment for me. The goal of the activity was to decorate the letter ‘B’ like a bee. So, I created a sample for Chulengo to use as a guide (see the first B in the photo above) Chulengo went in a totally different direction.
He wanted to paint one yellow line and start coloring with other colors, I stopped him (see the second B in the photo above). So, I got a new piece of paper and walked him through the steps. Again, he made a yellow line and then insisted on using other colors. I started to push back and he grabbed the paint sticks and started coloring (see the third B in the photo above for the result). I tried to redirect him again and he had zero intention of making the ‘B’ look like a bee and let me know it. We both grew increasingly frustrated and the activity turned into a yelling match between the two of us. He picked up my sample and crumpled it into a ball and threw it in the trash.
Eventually, I conceded and let him do it however he wanted it done… which was hard for me as a type-A person. But, seeing Chulengo happily, creatively creating his own drawing (see the fourth B in the photo above) opened my eyes. Once I embraced the idea that maybe he would do things differently, activities became even more enjoyable for both of us. He even taught me some new things along the way. Since then, I’ve become much more laid back about how things go when I am with the kids.
Use other resources to enchance themes
I am a big fan of finding other sources to complement ideas in the units. For example, Chulengo has always been a big fan of YouTube, so I found videos related to the units to watch. During the Apple unit, we watched timelapse videos of seeds growing into trees. During the Community Helpers unit, we pointed out Helpers we saw in our community when we were running errands.
When we were talking about plants, we visited the Botanical Gardens as a field trip. When we got to the Pets unit, I had friends send us pictures of their pets. It started to get easy creating complementary activities to do together the rest of our work. It also created an understanding that even though we talk about certain topics in Yaad school, those topics are all around us in the real world.
Things come up, schedules change, toddlers have preferences… it’s okay to lean into all of this while teaching preschool at home.
Occasionally, I combined two lessons into one day if Chulengo was up for it. Sometimes, we skipped an activity if he just wasn’t on board. We took a week off here and there to travel a little bit or spend time doing other activities. If Chulengo woke up grumpy and it was more work to
Some themes, Chulengo really gravitated towards. Others he wasn’t so excited about. So, I added things in or took things out based on his interest. I spent more time on areas he enjoyed more by finding additional activities that related to the themes.
You’ve got this! You can teach your toddler at home with ease and confidence. Follow Susie’s program, remember these 10 tips, and you may be surprised how simple the daunting task of teaching a toddler can be.