2014 to Mar 2016

Dinos!

Livia is turning 3 in two months and she isn’t going to formal preschool because:

  1. We can’t afford the preschools we would like enrol her in,
  2. We want to afford her the freedom to be free everyday to learn at her own pace and according to her personal interests, and,
  3. (This sounds strange but) we want to use her as a guinea pig for homeschooling.

I’ve been researching homeschooling preschool for a while now and its a dizzying array of information.  I also yawned when I started reading formal texts about early childhood education.  As a child I never had formal schooling until kindergarten and even then I cannot say I recall any fond, treasured memories except getting spanked the first day for not understanding the Chinese teacher.  Yes, back in my day, we had Chinese lessons in kindergarten regardless of one’s ethnicity and social background.  I would say I learnt mostly through my family, playing, television and observing the environment around me. I am no expert educator in early childhood, but I know enough to understand the basics:

  1. Children learn best when they can move and play
  2. To provide them space and opportunities to explore and take lead in their own education
  3. Give them outlets to express their ideas and creativity
  4. Teach them how to be independent and think independently
  5. Stimulate their curiosity and set the foundations for a life-long pursuit for learning.

There’s probably more but that’s all I can think of right now.

After some months of research, reading and thinking about how we were going to embark on our homeschooling preschool journey, I finally came up with a basic curriculum.  It will be Monday to Friday, and it will take up only two or four hours each day in total.  There will be one activity in the morning, one in the afternoon, one in the evening and one just before bedtime.  Its still in a Beta stage because we are going to test it out starting September and tweak along the way and then I’ll see what works and what doesn’t and then come up with a finalised curriculum for a whole year for 2016.

I am not a big fan of rote learning.  So I didn’t want to go through the alphabets and numbers and use flashcards to force memorisation.  I’ve been a follower of Tinkerlab, The Artful Parent and Red Ted Art and I love the idea about using play and arts education as a medium to learn and engage with the world.  So I decided for a start we would have themed weeks and every day for that week we will explore that theme in-depth and invariably pick up vocabulary, Mandarin, Math, Science, nature, art, music, literature, etc., along the way.

The first two weeks of our September homeschooling trial I decided the theme would be Dinosaurs! Livia is in love with dinosaurs right now and its a perfect window to explore all things dinosaur.  Using different activities every day, we will be singing dinosaur songs, reading dinosaur books, exploring dinosaur body parts, colouring dinosaur eggs, digging up dinosaur fossils, melting dinosaur frozen in ice, counting dinosaurs, understanding the relationship between predator and prey, and related stuff like that.  We will also be visiting the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum.  I’ve also made a list of dinosaur picture storybooks to borrow from the National Library and the awesome thing about our local libraries is many of the books also come in Mandarin versions.  Most of the activities I either created them on my own or copied from activities on dinosaurs I found online. There was SO MANY.

My husband and I will co-teach.  Most of the burden of prep work falls on me and then I will tell my husband what we are doing for that week and he just has to follow the activity but conduct it in Mandarin whereas I will do it in English.  There is a lot of repetition like vocabulary, counting and singing the same songs, because its one of those things where you learn a little everyday and it accumulates overtime.

The activities also tend to correspond to her age group, so as she gets older, the activities should get more sophisticated.  I can’t actually wait for full-blown Science experiments when she gets older.  We hope by the end of the two week dino extravaganza, she picked up additional vocabulary, knows how to count 1 to 20, and we have instilled hopefully a life long interest and curiosity for dinosaurs and the prehistoric age.

Lots of parents tell me that they do not trust themselves to teach properly.  I never understand what that means. What do you mean teach properly? There is actually very little to teach as most preschool activities include a lot of reading, playing, singing, moving and hands-on activities.  I would say my job is simply to provide a framework and guide Livia along and explain difficult concepts when there was any.  She will mostly take charge of her own learning, creation and discoveries and I will be there to support her along the way.  I feel like this is a good way to create independent-minded children. Especially in today’s online era where so much pedagogical information is online, and resources on teaching a child of particular ages, its weird to say ‘I don’t know how to’.  I get it though if parents are busy because they work full-time or they have big families to care for or they have babies like me.  I did postpone homeschooling by a year to focus on the triplets.  But now that they are slightly more independent in playing, I decided the time was ripe to start Livia’s preschool education.  And its just nice since she is turning 3 and transitioning from a toddler to a preschooler.  She already demonstrates readiness for school: she asks me a lot of questions everyday, shows interests in reading and counting, can focus very well for at least an hour on activities and just so darn curious about everything.

It was a bit tiring to prepare the curriculum, borrow books from the library, make print-outs and get materials to prepare for activities for dino week, but if we are going to do this, we need to commit to it regularly.  The next time I plan the syllabus for September weeks 3 and 4, I also plan to include some activities for the babies so they can get involved.

Wish us luck and I’ll post an update when I can about how it went.

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