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5 Steps to Start Homeschooling for Pre-K long pin

Are you wondering about how to start homeschooling for pre-k? Here’s what my inbox has looked like lately:

How do I homeschool for pre-k?

I’m overwhelmed by all the pre-k homeschool resources! Where do I begin?

What curriculum do I use for pre-k?

I have had so many questions about homeschooling for pre-k lately, so I thought it was time to give you a simple, step-by-step guide for getting started.

Step 1: Define Your Goals

Before you jump into choosing a curriculum or setting up your homeschool area, first take a breath and figure out what you hope you get out of this year.

If you’re homeschooling because of the pandemic, then your goals might look different than someone who plans to homeschool long-term. That’s okay.

Maybe you just want want to survive this year with your sanity intact.

Maybe you need to balance homeschool with telework.

Maybe you’re worried about transitioning your child back to public school next year.

Whatever your goals, write those down.

If you’re inclined, you can go more deeply and define your learning objectives for the year. (Hint: your local county public schools likely has these available on file; just email the school. Or you can borrow mine.)

At the pre-k level, it isn’t necessary to go super in-depth (unless you’re uber Type-A, like me). But it’s worth outlining some big goals. This will help you decide which curriculum or resources you want to use.

How do you want your homeschool to feel?

I love Pam Barnhill’s advice to focus on how you want your homeschool to feel. Rather than worrying about how many lessons you’ll complete in the math book or whether you’ll cover a foreign language this year, think about how you want to feel on a daily basis.

This is hard to do, especially for new homeschoolers. And I get it — you’re worried about falling behind, about not doing enough, about figuring out how to work and take care of your house and to care for your other kids, all at the same time.

Just trust me on this one. Focus on how you want your home to feel. If your child was asked what homeschool was like, what do you hope that they would say?

Action Step: Create Your Own Homeschool Vision

Our Homeschool Vision worksheet

Want help creating your own homeschool vision? Download a copy of my free Homeschool Vision printable to help you organize your thoughts!

    Here’s a copy of our family’s homeschool vision. Feel free to borrow anything that resonates with you.

    • In our homeschool, we strive to promote family relationships, connection, joy, curiosity, fun, and adventure above table work.
    • In our homeschool, we believe that play and reading are more important than formal lessons or checking the boxes off on a curriculum.
    • In our homeschool, we strive to have plenty of white space and downtime to allow for creativity, play, and spontaneous exploration.  
    • We believe that self-designed science experiments and spontaneous explorations are of higher value than planned activities.
    • In our homeschool, we refuse to let a boxed curriculum or a to-do list get in the way of the most important subjects: play, reading, art, being outside, and enjoying family time.
    • In our homeschool, we believe lesson plans are a tool to support and expand our knowledge, not something to be slavishly followed.
    • In our homeschool, we believe life skills like cooking, caring for each other, managing our emotions, and taking care of our bodies are equally important as math and phonics.
    • In our homeschool, we refuse to stress out over falling behind or keeping up, or worrying what others think of our life choices.
    • In our homeschool, we value art, music, nature, and culture as much as math, science, and reading skills. 
    • As a homeschooling parent, my job is to provide enough structured table work to make sure the basics are covered, but no so much that it gets in the way of our higher priorities of fun, adventure, and connection.
    • It is my job to provide lots of outside learning opportunities, like field trips and travel and nature walks.
    • I want to create a cozy, soothing, supportive, fun, and creative environment that prioritizes family time, creative pursuits, curiosity, and adventure.

    Step 2: Choose a Simple Spine

    I recommend choosing a simple spine (i.e., main curriculum) and nothing else at first. We used Torchlight Pre-K in our house. Other good pre-k options include Blossom & Root or The Peaceful Preschool.

    After doing tons of research, I can tell you that it doesn’t really matter which one you choose. At the pre-k level, you will primarily be reading books, doing art projects, and engaging in simple play. Each of these resources is simple, cheap, and hands-on. All you really need is something to guide you and give you ideas.

    There are options if you want a more open-and-go resource, like BookShark or Timberdoodle. But these are expensive. Having purchased both myself, I’m not sure they’re worth the expense. I promise that you will end up adapting and modifying as you go, once you figure out how your child likes to learn and what you like to teach. Give yourself space to figure that out without investing in pricey boxed curriculums that you’ll feel like you have to finish just because you paid for them.

    If you want more ideas, you can check out the resources we used in our 2020 Pre-K Homeschool. But don’t go and buy all of these resources at once. Choose just one that resonates with you. You can worry about all the “extras” later.

    That’s the great thing about homeschooling — you make the rules. You don’t have to sit down on Day 1 with a fully booked daily schedule. Start small and leave yourself time to adapt as you get in the groove that works for your family.

    Action Item: Choose a simple curriculum.

    Step 3: Mark Your Calendar

    When do you want to start homeschooling? How many days per week? When do you want to finish your school year?

    Pam Barnhill has an ingenious way of figuring this out in her homeschool planning course, but you don’t need to stress about this too much at the pre-k level.

    How many days per week?

    First, decide if you want to homeschool four days a week, five days a week, or some other combination. I liked doing four days a week because it left us with a day for swim class or field trips or mental health days.

    Don’t forget the weekends, though. There’s absolutely no rule that says you can’t do a math lesson on a Sunday afternoon or spend Saturday morning on your nature walk. Particularly if you have other kids or work responsibilities in your life, it might be easier to plan to do formal lessons on the weekend when you’ll have another parent running back-up. Don’t forget: this is pre-k. You don’t need to spend three hours a day at a desk teaching phonics.

    How many weeks per year?

    Next, figure out how many weeks you want to spend doing “school” this year. For most families, this will look like 26-36 weeks (for reference, Torchlight is 32 weeks).

    Multiply the number of days per week you plan to do school times the number of weeks you plan to homeschool. (In other words, if you plan to do school four days per week and you want to school for 32 weeks, that equals 128 “school days.”)

    If you are trying to stay in-line with traditional school calendars, then you’re likely trying to hit between 160 and 180 total school days for the year. Check your local state and county requirements to see what’s necessary for your grade level.

    Don’t forget to plan for holidays, sick days, and family vacations (assuming that travel is possible anytime in the near future).

    It might help to look at an annual calendar and block off any weeks that you know you want to take off (winter holidays, Thanksgiving, birthdays, etc.).

    Plan for the unexpected!

    Add in a few extra weeks for the unexpected. We ended up taking off over four months during our pre-k year between sudden medical issues and then COVID. Despite these hiccups, we still finished the year more or less “on-time” because a) we started early (in July) and b) we built a lot of slush time into our year.

    Then, look at your annual calendar and figure out when you want to be finished with school for the year (for example, do you want to finish school by June 30?). Count backward the number of weeks you plan to school. Skip the weeks you know you’ll be taking a break (aka, holidays or travel). Then go back another 2-4 weeks, just to be safe.

    That’s your start date!

    If there’s any doubt, I recommend starting early to give yourself time to figure things out, switch course, or take a break when needed.

    Action Item: Figure out your homeschool start- and end-dates.

    Step 4: Start Slowly

    No amount of planning will prepare you for the reality of homeschooling. Even if you plan to keep things simple and relaxed, it’s hard to know what your day will look like until you actually start homeschooling.

    Then, just ease into the year.

    Go slow.

    Start with books over breakfast, followed by morning chores. Add in a morning art project, then let the kids play for a bit.

    Read a few more books after lunch, then transition into quiet time. In the afternoon, go outside for a science experiment or nature walk or just open play.

    That’s it.

    Just do that for a few weeks.

    Start your homeschool year early, if you’re worried about fitting everything in. Leave yourself time to work in formal math or phonics or extracurriculars after you’ve found your rhythm.

    For now, start slow.

    Action Item: Gather materials for your first two weeks of homeschooling.

    Step 5: Find Your Support

    If you’re starting to homeschool in the middle of the pandemic, you won’t be able to join a co-op or plan weekly trips to the zoo.

    When we started homeschooling, we didn’t have any local support either. It was definitely hard, but it just means we had to look elsewhere for our people.

    If you’re looking for support, head to my Facebook group where you can share your questions or suggestions with other open-minded parents.

    Here are some other ideas to help you connect with other homeschool families right now:

    • Plan a weekly zoom cocktail hour with your friends to celebrate and commiserate at the end of your homeschool week
    • Schedule socially-distanced nature walks with other families to get you out of the house and into the outdoors
    • Share your homeschool adventures with family and friends. We like Tiny Beans because it serves as a sort of photo journal of our family and is a safe way to share those cute photos of my kids that I don’t want on the general internet.
    • Consider starting a zoom book club with your mom friends where you can talk about great homeschool books to keep you motivated. (Consider this one or this one to get you started!)
    • Start a WhatsApp group chat with other homeschooling moms. Talk, share, and vent, whenever you need them.

    Action Step: Figure out who your support system will be for the homeschool year.

    Ready to start homeschooling for pre-k?

    I know that homeschooling can feel overwhelming. And I won’t sugarcoat it — there will be hard days.

    But I promise that you can have a great year homeschooling. After all, you are the expert on your child.

    You can do this, mama.

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