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44 Responses to Unschooling preschool

  1. Sandy B

    Thank you for sharing your unschooling plan. We’re also on the same journey and being a former elementary school teacher, this path seems more fitting for me and my family. Mikko will do great!

  2. Momma Jorje

    Great ideas! I would add for reading that you can get foam alphabet / number sets to stick on the wall in the shower. Sasha likes to play with them outside of the bathroom as well. Also, you can buy (or make, as we did) letter magnets out of Scrabble tiles. They are fun on the fridge for everyone!

    For art… just because you unschool doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of occasional classes if it interests the child. Craft stores and even hardware stores often have those little classes you can do to learn about new materials or build something.

    Social Studies – I have a friend that celebrated EVERY cultural holiday in her house! Sounded like a fun way to interest the kids! When I homeschooled Tyler (admittedly it was not unschool), I found a Social Studies book for 1st – 5th graders that gave you a list of books for each topic and then activities you could do along with each book. It was really convenient, though a bit out dated so some books were hard to find. I just got whichever ones the library had.

    Music – our downtown library does music on the first Tuesday of the month plus they have a weekly “Music Sandwiched In” – these are done for just under an hour and feature local musicians. Plus if my LO got bored, the children’s area was right across the way! I loved these! Plus, we could always MEET the musician after.

    From what I know of your family, I really think you’ve made the right choice here and I’m sure you won’t regret it! Thanks for the wonderful ideas!

    Oh, and we totally took our GS Troop to tour a water treatment plant!

    • Lauren  

      Love your ideas! Thanks for adding to my novel. 🙂

      Reading/Writing – Scrabble magnets must be adorable.

      Arts — So funny you mentioned hardware stores, because I had that in there. But took it out because the article was so loooong. Heh. Mikko just made a police car kit at a home improvement chain.

      Social Studies – I love the holiday idea. You could really incorporate a lot into that: cooking, decorating, language, talking about another culture, maybe meeting up with people who celebrate the holiday themselves. Cool!

      Music – Nice! I’ll have to see what’s available. Alrik loves listening to music, and Mikko loves singing and making up his own words. 🙂

      Water Treatment Plant — I wish you lived closer so you could go again! Hee.

      Thanks so much for saying we made the right choice — I really have been feeling conflicted about taking him out of preschool, but I do think it’s right for Mikko. And that’s the point, huh?

      • Momma Jorje

        That is the point and I think you will find a lot of peace about it… once you’ve gone for some time without those difficult drop-offs. I don’t think you were wrong to provide him that opportunity, but I think this is the best for him. (Not that my opinion really matters, but I really do think you done good, Mama!)

        I knew you knew about the hardware stores from previous posts on your blog, too. 😉

        There is a blog out there somewhere where this woman is cooking food from a different culture each week I think it is. She is blogging for ___ years or something. A really cool project and you might be able to find inspiration there… if you can find the blog from my vague description. 😉

        The library is an amazing resource for all homeschoolers! I bet yours has plenty of cultural festivals as well, considering we have a lot of them right here in po-dunk Oklahoma! We attended the annual Asian American Festival a couple of months ago and it was great!

        Oh, and the Scrabble Magnets… my mother was a huge Scrabble fan and an unbeatable foe! My sister and I hand-made her magnetic tiles for her fridge (despite the fact you can order them already magnetic) for Mother’s day a couple of years ago. She LOVED them and they were lots of fun! We got magnets with their own sticky stuff, but added better glue anyway… it is certainly a craft with which little hands could help/do!

        You and me, Lauren, writers of novels! lol

  3. Gaby@Tmuffin  

    Wow! This amazing group of ideas is being immediately bookmarked!

    I speak Spanish but have been lazy in using it with my kids. So to teach him some vocabulary, Baby T and I play my own version of Spanish “I Spy” in the car. First I ask him if he can help me find trucks. Then I tell him you call trucks “camiones” in Spanish. When we see one, we yell, “Mira ese camion!” (Look at that truck). Now I yell out “Mira ese xxxxxx” whenever I see something I think he will like. Making language learning a game is fun, especially because he doesn’t love it when I speak Spanish otherwise. (He’ll say, “Stop talking!”)

    • Lauren  

      That’s such a great idea, an I Spy game in another language! The “Stop talking” comment cracks me up, too. You know what Mikko, after two years of trilingual immersion school, often says when I speak German or Spanish to him? Wait for it. “Talk regular.” Yup. Oh, well. 😉

  4. Alicia C.  

    Great post! I was just asked what preschool Little Guy was going to attend this fall. When I said, “None – we’re homeschooling,” I was asked how we do that. I tried to explain unschooling, but it was a complete fail to this person. I’m sharing this post – it describes what we do every day so simply!

    • Lauren  

      Oh, good, I’m glad! Obviously, I’m not anti-preschool, but it strikes me as funny that people think it’s necessary.

      • Momma Jorje

        I’m often amazed that people don’t realize how much nearly ALL parents teach their children… and its unschooling! We teach them colors, shapes, letters, numbers… whichever ones interest our little ones, before they ever step foot in any type of school!

        We teach help them learn to speak, hopefully good eating habits, how to use a toilet… all at their own pace, generally.

      • Shirley

        Love this post. My 3 year old daughter is pretty smart and very social. Still it took me a while to feel confident that skipping preschool was okay. The more I read about unschooling I realize we have already been doing all this great learning with out really trying. Kids are like sponges, so naturally curious. It is really fascinating watching them learn.

  5. Amy

    I agree, Preschool on down should be kids being kids. My Father’s World (Homeschooling Curriculum) has some great non-workbook, non-religious hands on activities for 3-4 yr olds: http://www.mfwbooks.com/category/M50/10
    Also, there are some great 20 min/day books; such as Teach your Child to read by Engelmann and Teach your child to Read by Ledson that help with sounds, writing, for those “lazy” parents, as you call it, who want to teach their children phonics and the ins and outs of the English language. As an elementary teacher, I have to support some sort of structured reading program once in kindergarten though! (Such as the above, which are very easy and fun!) All the best.

    • Lauren  

      Thanks for the curriculum ideas! I have done no research into curriculum yet, so it’s good to know what options there are for people who want it. I do know plenty of unschooling families who don’t formally teach reading, but a lot of that depends on your comfort level with how long it might take your kid to learn to read.

  6. Amy

    Though, I should have mentioned, I think preschool is helpful (like you did for 2 days/wk) for the social aspect — though every time my son is with other kids he seems to have a runny nose a day later!

  7. Lisa C  

    Well, I just sent my kid off to preschool after fully considering the unschooling/homeschooling route. Just felt right, at least for now. I just want him to get a little more than he could from just me (maybe like a kid would in a tribe??). I just love that Montessori (where he’s going) is child-led. And, of course, he LOVES it. He’s going to be exposed to more this way, and I think that’s good for his developing brain. That’s just my way of looking at it. He’s only going two days a week, so we still have time for lots of field trips! (I think that’s one of the BEST things about homeschooling.) I have no idea how long we’ll keep this up. I feel he’s going to be homeschooled/unschooled at some point.

    And now you have me wondering about the directions thing…maybe it’s not just about following directions but also about developing self-mastery? I can’t help but think there might be something beneficial about that, even if they aren’t going to go to school.

    • Lauren  

      I read your preschool posts, and it sounds like a really, really good fit for him. I’m so glad. I did consider trying a different preschool, but it’s so hard to know without trying it out for several weeks whether it’s the preschool or just being separated at all that’s the problem (for us). I didn’t get into this in the article above, but the other main reason we pulled Mikko out was separation anxiety issues to the extreme, which it sounds like is not a problem for you (thank goodness!). I did think 2 days/week felt right, although we did consider after awhile going to 3 days but didn’t (for the aforementioned reason).

      About directions: I think a Montessori school would be aiming toward self-mastery for sure, and I actually am eager to incorporate more Montessori techniques into our daily lives out of school. Learning to clean up after oneself, to put on clothes, to pour liquids, etc. — all practical life skills that also increase confidence. However, all the “kindergarten readiness” checklists I read really just emphasized obedience and sitting still when discussing social/emotional maturity. (Here’s one: http://www.education.com/reference/article/child-ready-kindergarten-skills/?page=2) Which I can understand, given that most kindergarten classrooms are going to be pretty large, with just the one teacher to control things. The lists talk about self-mastery items as well, such as putting on a jacket, using the bathroom, etc.

      I guess I was struck by the obedience ones because Mikko’s preschool teachers emphasized it so much. I would pick him up, and one of the teachers would say, “Today we talked about the letter K. We drew Ks,” and she would show me some project. I would ask follow-up questions about what K activity they did, and the teacher would interrupt me, “Oh, that’s not really the point. The point is to learn to follow directions. What they did in the project isn’t important.” It seemed … odd to me.

      • Lisa C  

        Ohhh….yeah. I agree with you. I don’t think there should be any activity where “following the directions” is the most important aspect. And you pointed out other ways (more practical ways) they can learn self-mastery through following directions.

        Children can learn to sit still in practical situations, too (if they are ever taken to places where people generally sit still, like a church). That kindergarten checklist is funny–Michael is almost ready for kindergarten! Haha, just gotta teach him to tie his shoes and sit for 15 minutes. LOL. What about EMOTIONAL readiness? I think they forgot that one. (No wait, I checked again, and they pair it up with ‘social’ but I think they left out some important emotional markers–such as, actually WANTS to go to school?)

        Oh, and if Michael had separation anxiety, I would pull him, too. It’s not worth it if they don’t love it. (And if you have the option, of course.) 🙂

  8. Tara

    Great post! We made the choice to do both with our 4 year old. He was LOVING pre-school (2 sessions a week) and had so many friends, loved the structure and the opportunity to explore but we also felt it wasn’t meeting all his needs as he appears to be quite advanced so we decided to homeschool as well! Like you’ve shared, it doesn’t have to be complicated it’s about following their lead and interests…but I agree, I also need a structure and to know that I put a certain amount of time aside each day to ‘learn’ something as otherwise it just doesn’t get done! I have also learnt not to underestimate how much kids learn from everyday activities like cooking, going for a walk or even to the shops. Every activity is an opportunity to learn!

    • Lauren  

      That’s so cool! I love that you’ve been motivated to do both, and that both types of learning are going so well for him.

      Also, I totally agree about cooking, going for a walk, running errands — there’s so much to learn regardless of what you’re doing. I just couldn’t figure out where that fit in the article, hee. 🙂

  9. Crunchy Con Mommy  

    Great article…I feel like I “get” unschooling so much better now. My son is barely two and we’re already being pressured to send him to pre-school as soon as possible, but I’m pretty skeptical about it being beneficial for him with his personality & intelligence (I think he’d be bored & get in trouble for coming up with creative ways to amuse himself). Next time someone brings it up I should talk about how I’m already unschooling him by letting him help me grow basil in our kitchen window and talking about it-instant botany lesson!

    • Lauren  

      The phrase “get in trouble for coming up with creative ways to amuse himself” made me chuckle. I’m sure that could be a problem for a creative kid!

      “I’m already unschooling him by letting him help me grow basil in our kitchen window and talking about it-instant botany lesson!” Exactly! You’re a natural at this. 🙂

  10. LovingEarthMama

    Great food for thought. I am going through another ‘should I unschool’ cycle of self-discovery so your timing is perfect. Thanks!


    • Lauren  

      Can’t wait to read your thoughts as well!

      • LovingEarthMama

        Aww… sweet! Not sure if anything will be written about this. I very much let the bug or the muse dictate what I write, so it is very whimsical (read: disorganised) what does and does not make its way onto my blog. I have little time to blog so basically only what is at the top of the ‘what is burning for me right now’ list ever makes it in, usually. But who knows… maybe.


  11. Valerie (Momma in Progress)  

    Loved this! We just started homeschooling this year (well, the 5-year-old; I also have a 3-year-old and a 10-month-old). The girls went to preschool together last year, but as the Big K approached for the oldest, I decided to keep her home. So far so good. She loves it, and we’re pretty laid back in our “curriculum” (aka, Mommy’s scribbled notes). I have a folder with some worksheets/coloring pages and we get new books from the library each week, and she chooses what to do each day. Some days we don’t get to very much school-ish stuff, but it’s always fun. For SS we also do countries . . . one a week starting with the ones we’ve been to (we live in Europe). I love when she remembers things about our travels and wants to talk about them!

    • Lauren  

      I love your style of curriculum! And what a treat to be living in Europe. I did when I was in junior high, and it definitely was a boost to my geographical and cultural awareness. Have fun!

  12. Terri  

    Finally got to finish reading this post tonight after toddler woke up wanting Mmummy milk last night! Anyways….love this article. We unschool preschool which works for all of us on many levels. But I do wish there were a few more options available to us for socialising with other groups of kids and various activities(there are no kids play parks where we live. No museums. One library that we’ve never been to because I have no-one to watch my toddler who would just run riot!) There is an amazing Montessori homeschool (just 2 kids in it) but it’s far. I’d love my kids to have the opportunity to go there at least once a week as I think the resources will be stimulating for them (and for me) and it’s child-led so that will be great to watch where their interests take them. I realise more and more that they are learning soooo much with me at home and doing my best to provide new learning experiences for them each day. You got me thinking a lot…think I need to write my own novel about this subject! Thanks Lauren, I’m really looking forward to more of your posts about unschooling as you continue the journey.

    • Lauren  

      That’s a bummer that it’s harder to get to child-friendly outings and social groups. That would definitely make things harder (on you, for one!). Maybe you could make your own group that’s closer? Just brainstorming. Can’t wait to read your novel, too!

  13. Terri  

    Wow I have to leave another comment! I’m sooooooooo happy that I clicked on your hyperlink ‘Lazy’ and was led to your piece on ‘Too Lazy to Unschool’ Not only was it a great piece but the interesting comments and discussion it generated afterwards have helped me so much. I really get now that there is no ‘right’ way…and not trying to get it ‘right’, I’m opened up to exploring new possibilities of how we home/unschool, lightening up on myself for not producing amazing new activities every single day but also feeling positive for what I have done so far and following my heart on what is next. Thanks again

  14. teresa  

    This is great. Seriously great. I wish I could remember the first thing I read about Unschooling in a blog because it freaked me out. It seemed downright dangerous. This makes sense to me on so many levels. I think we’ve been doing this naturally so far. We are starting pre-school this year in a Waldorf school we really like. For our only child it’s largely social. She wants it so badly.
    Anyway, thank you for taking the time to write this.

    • Lauren  

      I found that with many new ideas I needed to hear it from the right perspective before it made sense to me and didn’t just freak me out. Glad I could do that for you, and that you found you’re already doing this in your own way! I’m intrigued by Waldorf education, too. I’m also intrigued & envious of kids who are social and want to be in preschool. 😉 Enjoy!

  15. Teri

    Great article. I unschool our 16 yr old special needs son…LOVE IT! Having lots of anxiety about letting our younger son start public kinder next year. Just found out its FULL DAY! What 5 yr old needs to be in school for 6 hours daily? He’s very social and wants to go to school though. How do I let go?

    • Lauren  

      First, that’s so cool that you’ve been able to unschool your older son!

      I agree with you on the full-day kindergarten. That’s what’s expected here, too, and it just seems like way too long to me. Then again, that’s my mama heart talking, right? 🙂 If your son really wants to be there, he’ll likely be fine. You can always reevaluate once he starts and gets to see what it’s like. Maybe you can pop in for lunch!

  16. Carrie

    What a phenomenal, practical guide to unschooling a preschooler! I love how you broke it down into different subjects, and the resources you share. I will definitely use these ideas as inspiration with my toddler. Thank you! 🙂

  17. Lindsay Kroeger

    I would also add fun games such as alphabet bingo. This should help with letter reconition. Be sure to add fun pictures to the letters (Dd for dog). Try adding sensory intergration too. I would draw alphabet letters in sand, or mushy bannanas. Don’t forget fine motor skills practice lacing,and gross motor skills such as climbing and riding bikes 🙂

    • Lauren  

      Those are great additions! Thanks, Lindsay. We were just doing some sensory play with a bowl of beads the other day — Mikko loves it, but I have to get over my fear of cleanup. 🙂

  18. Momma Jorje

    I came back to read this again for reassurances that we can do this ourselves. I wanted to add:

    Sasha loved counting down with the microwave with me. I often just set the timer on it to 10 seconds so we could count down together.

    Also, it would be fun to pick international holidays and base your unit study, as it were, on that country and celebrate the holiday. I had friends that did that.

    • Lauren  

      Those are such fun ideas! Regarding the timer, sometimes it really is the simple things in our day that work so well as learning opportunities.

      I love all that could go into an international holiday celebration: geography, language, culture, cooking, costumes, artwork, history, reading … great one!

      It’s funny, because since writing this post unschooling has been going so well that I forgot I was ever nervous about it. 🙂 We’re having so much fun!

  19. Lisa J

    Thanks so much for this — I’m definitely bookmarking it! My son is nearly four and I pulled him out of preschool back in September. I’m always going back and forth on whether I should do something “structured” with him, but we always go back to just playing! He also learns so much just from tagging along with me at the grocery store, when I tutor a little boy in reading (the boy is Chinese, so Henry gets to hear a bit of his language as well!), and when I teach piano lessons. He learns so much just through playing and being in the world, but I often feel like I’m not doing enough to provide learning opportunities for him. Also, he’s incredibly defiant if I try to get him to sit down and do something unless it’s his idea! As a former public school teacher, I keep having to de-school myself!