This post is in honor of my friend Allison, who asked me the other day what I recommended for preschool.
First off, here is what I did for preschool:
When Monkey was 2-3, we started the Five in a Row program (Before Five in a Row, to be exact). Five in a Row uses children’s books to help children learn all about pretty much everything. You read the book for a week, then each day do an activity related to that book. I enjoyed that program, but had two problems with it. First, some of the books were hard to find. Second, it took a lot of advanced prep-work, which was hard for me to keep up with. First you had to make sure you had the books from the library or wherever, then you had to determine which activities to do, then you had to make sure you had the supplies for those things. It got pretty old pretty fast. But we did stick with it for most of the school year.
I purchased the entire Calvert Preschool program for Monkey when she was about 3-4. You can read all about my experiences with that here (they wern’t so great).
After that, we kind of did hybrid kindergarten/preschool, using mostly books I found at the bookstore, with letters, simple writing, basic reading, shapes, science, etc. That seemed to get us along pretty well.
But, for mothers looking for a well-rounded preschool, there are a variety of options. I’ll discuss some of the best ones that I am familiar with.
Hooked on Phonics: Hooked on Phonics is supposed to be really great at helping children prepare for school. My only experience with it is with their spelling program, and Monkey didn’t care for it too much. It was too repetitive for her, and the lessons were long. I also didn’t like that most of the lesson was computer-based. I want my children to touch their school. :-)
Sonlight/My Father’s World: I am not very familiar with these programs, but they are both literature-based and have Christian influences. They seem to have a bit more of a traditional focus than Five in a Row.
Unschooling: Many people don’t believe that children really need a formal program at this point. This website has tons of resources for how to work traditional learning into a child’s regular life. With just free stuff found online, you can pretty much teach a preschooler all he or she needs to know.
Weaver: When I was a kid, my mother taught me and my brothers with Weaver. This is a unit-study approach to school and is also Bible-based. Each unit focuses on a particular Bible story or historical event and all the lessons in the unit focus on something from that era, such as studying Moses for Bible, pharaohs for history, frogs for science, and so on. The curriculum can be adapted for a wide range of ages, which is not only good for preschool, but is also great for teaching multiple children at once. My family loved this program, but it was very teacher-intense. I think we only stopped using it because at the time, it only went up to 5th or 6th grade, and my brother graduated out. Now it goes all the way through high school. Now that I’m looking at it again, I think it’s on my short list for Grade 1 next year, but we’ll see. More on that later. :-)
Those are some thoughts. All in all though, no worries about choosing a preschool program. People make it seem like it’s the end of the world if your 4 year old can’t repeat every single letter of the alphabet and count to 100, but it isn’t. They’ll totally catch up in a year or two if they are lacking in something.