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Preschool Homeschool Curriculum Comparison

Preschool Homeschool Curriculum Comparison - The Silvan Reverie

To Preschool or Not to Preschool…

There is a wide range of opinions in the homeschool world about whether or not to “do preschool” with our children. Charlotte Mason purists will hold to the idea that under age 6 should be a “quiet growing time” and that no formal lessons should begin until age 6. I believe that most homeschoolers are some kind of eclectic mix of philosophies and are not purists in the sense they hold fast to that as a hard rule. Many are willing to do school in some way before the age of 6.

I think sometimes there is this notion if you buy a preschool curriculum or you see others doing preschool with their children, that it creates an overly structured learning environment that is too much for kids at that age. We use phrases like “protecting childhood” which are important, but I truly do not believe if you are going through a preschool curriculum you are NOT robbing your children of childhood. Most preschool curriculums are specifically designed to NOT be overly time-consuming or burdensome. There are SO MANY hours in a day that you have to spend with your child, and a preschool curriculum might give you some intentional learning space for anywhere between 15 to 45 minutes a day.

Further, the activities in these homeschool preschool curriculums are often so gentle and naturally fit in to the flow of your day. Many activities are about focusing on the child and where they are at, figuring out their learning style as well as what works for you as the home educator. It’s supposed to be fun!

Preschool at home can appear to be overwhelming, especially if you are considering it for your first child, but it truly does not have to be!

One last point I have is that preschool for your children likely is going to look vastly different between your first child and subsequent children. It’s just a thing that happens. As your older children move up in grades they will require more planning and prep and focused time from you, so moms of multiple children will have to get creative with preschool curriculums if they are interested in incorporating these with their preschoolers. There are a number of ways to do that: only do a few of the activities each day, or take one day a week to dedicate special time with just the preschooler, or involve the older children in helping do activities with the preschooler. Lots of options for creativity and finding a fit that flows with your family!

When to Begin Preschool?

Between the ages of 2 and 6 there is such a WIDE range of interest and ability when it comes to learning. You as the parent are going to have to figure this out on your own. No one can do this for you. And you will likely falter and need to re-find your footing. There will be some things you try with your child that just do not work. Try not to take that personally. Try not to see it as failure. The fact that you are the parent at home with your child and able to see that child in love and fullness is a huge gift! You get to decide that something is not working and reimagine something new for them. They will not have to be forced in to something simply because 20 other kids their exact same age are doing that thing already.

One of the best gifts of a life of a preschooler spent at home is: freedom. This time truly should be filled with unstructured time and play and read alouds and creative exploration and lots of outdoor time. If you buy a curriculum, keep in mind your core home values and make sure to stick to those things. Feel free to skip activities or take weeks or months off of caring about the curriculum. These are invitations, not requirements. Know your child. Love your child.

Similarly, what I feel does not get said enough is that YOU matter. You as the home educator matter: what you enjoy, what you are capable of, who you are. Be attune to yourself and your needs and try not to compare yourself to what others are accomplishing with their children.

How to Choose Curriculum

I encourage you to sit down and think about your homeschool vision and priorities before you start shopping around. This does NOT mean you need to have your entire homeschool philosophy for the next 12 years perfectly articulated and solidified! I am still in the early stages with my children but, as I understand it, many homeschoolers shift and change and revise and grow as their kids grow. The vision may alter and adapt as needed, but that does not mean your initial vision was wrong! It was right for the right season.

Here are some helpful places to start thinking about your homeschool philosophy and vision:

For example, our home incorporates a mix of homeschooling models, but we have some core value “key terms” that I try and consider and even revise a few times a year:

  • Knowledge of God
  • Living education, not school
  • Outside every day
  • Atmosphere of love
  • Rhythm, not schedule
  • Celebration of beauty
  • Whole self health
  • Community-mindedness

I have a list where I expand on each of these items and try to evaluate if any are lacking at given times.

Four Favorite Preschool Curriculum Options, Reviewed

Below I have provided some detail for four Preschool Curriculums that I own:

I encourage you to download the free sample week from each shop if you are interested in seeing what these are like.

Here are some helpful budget-friendly options to print digital versions of curriculum:

The Peaceful Preschool Overview- The Silvan Reverie
The Peaceful Preschool

Overview

A literature and project-based 26 week gentle curriculum that runs on on a letter-a-week theme. The Peaceful Press is predominately Charlotte Mason and Montessori inspired, though elements of other pedagogies weave their way in.

We did this curriculum all the way through, and absolutely loved it. I decided, since my son was 3.5 at the time we began, to extend the time of preschool to longer than 26 weeks and instead spread it out over longer than a year. We spent 2 weeks on each letter and did some extra on-theme activities, taking breaks here and there. This is not at all necessary! You can stick to the 26-week curriculum and not add on a single thing.

Subjects Covered in a Week

  • Read Alouds
  • Phonics
  • Counting Skills
  • Fine Motor Skills
  • Large Motor Skills
  • Practical Life Skills
  • Art Skills
  • Field Trip

Highlights

  • Easy to follow; the weekly grids are well-designed and supply lists are organized meaningfully
  • Adaptable to work with what works best for your family
  • Excellent book list!! The book list for this curriculum is so good! Even if you do not wish to do a full-blown preschool curriculum, any home library for little ones would be enriched by any book from this book list.
  • Developmentally appropriate activities, hands-on learning and beautiful projects
  • Considers natural rhythms and home life with multiple children
  • Budget-friendly activities — most activities take in supplies you likely already have around the home or at least could come up with a suitable alternative.
  • Access to a private Facebook group when you purchase.
  • Designed with some religious content (Bible stories and optional weekly Bible verses) but this can be easily adapted for the secular household

What Comes Next?

Depending on when you began, you have a couple options if you want to stick with The Peaceful Press. You could go to their Early Elementary series like The Playful Pioneers (based on The Little House on the Prairie series) OR they have monthly guides that work well for a Kindergarten year (e.g. Sky, Mountain, Desert). There are (or will soon be) 12 guides so you could do one per month! Check out The Peaceful Press for more.

A Year of Tales Preschool Overview - The Silvan Reverie
A Year of Tales Preschool

Overview

A literature and hands-on approach to preschool with beauty and nature learning weaved in. This uses the Beatrix Potter tales as well as nature-based literature for a gentle year of hands-on learning and exploration. It is a full and rich curriculum and well worth reading the introduction for general homeschool inspiration.

We used the A Year of Tales elementary curriculum for our Kindergarten year for my oldest child — this blog post details what I planned for that year. Towards the end of our year when the Preschool curriculum was released I began incorporating it with my Preschooler (age 5).

Subjects Covered in a Week

  • Character
  • Phonics
  • Literature
  • Math
  • Imagine and Explore
  • Handcrafts and Project-Based Invitations
  • Friday Tea
  • Field Trip

Highlights

  • Easy to follow with weekly grids and supply lists but also adaptable — the activities are invitations and it is up to you to decide what works for you
  • The nature learning is beyond excellent and age-appropriate
  • Hands-on approach that is also age-appropriate and full of beauty
  • Emphasizes character building and takes in to account the whole child, not just academics
  • You get a LOT of extra worksheets and printables with this curriculum to weave in if you child is interested and ready, but these are not at all necessary to do the core work of the curriculum. There are also nature study-based printables that are beautiful and would be useful for beyond the preschool years. It is shocking how much extra you get for the price.
  • Easy to pair with the A Year of Tales elementary curriculum if you have multiple children. You can take two approaches: pair it with A Year of Tales Elementary, or do it on its own going through the alphabet A to Z.
  • Incorporates a Friday Tea Time which is used for engaging in beauty and review of the week
  • This does incorporate Bible verses weekly but if you wanted to do this from a secular approach I believe you could

What Comes Next?

Blossom & Root Early Years Overview - The Silvan Reverie

Blossom & Root Early Years

Overview

A comprehensive open-and-go curriculum with hands-on learning, engaging projects, and beautiful incorporation of the arts. You can read more detail and download free samples here.

Note there are two volumes to the Early Years Volume 1 covers ages 2-4 and Early Years Volume 2 covers ages 4-6. You can purchase them bundled together and save.

Subjects Covered in a Week

Early Years Volume 1

  • Read-Together Time & Prompts for a Literacy-Rich Environment
  • Environment / Experience Prompts
  • Nature Study
  • Composer Study
  • Math & Science (with Environment, Experiences, Engagement)
  • Picture Study
  • Kindness & Connectivity
  • The Arts (Visual Arts, Dramatic Play)
  • The Kitchen Classroom

Initially this might seem like a lot of categories for ages 2-4 but these are truly meant to be incorporated so easily in to your day!! Everything is experience and play-based and minimal to no prep is involved for each week.

Early Years Volume 2

  • Read-Together Time (Read-Aloud plus Activity Invitation, Poetry)
  • Reading / Writing Readiness
  • Composer Study
  • Picture Study
  • Kitchen Classroom
  • Exploring Artistic Expression
  • Early Math Foundations
  • S.T.E.M. Activity
  • Nature Study & Notebook
  • Interest-Based Investigations

Highlights

  • Hands-on learning requires no worksheets or printables to manage
  • Open-and-go and little prep is involved
  • In my opinion this is the best option out there for a secular household or a household that incorporates its own specific religious traditions. We fall in to this category. We are Christians but often I am shopping for secular curriculum to ensure it fits with our worldview.
  • Budget-friendly and designed for a busy household. Most activities are incorporated in to the flow of your day.
  • A beautiful and seamless incorporation of the arts (picture study, composers, etc.)
  • Weekly STEM-based age-appropriate learning in addition to math and nature study. I really appreciate the STEM focus!
  • Excellent book list and incorporation of poetry

What Comes Next?

I highly recommend buying the Early Years & Kindergarten Bundle to save money!

Habitat Schoolhouse Preschool Overview - The Silvan Reverie

Habitat Schoolhouse

Overview

This curriculum is mostly housed in a worksheet-style student notebook but that does not mean there are no hands-on activities! I love the inclusion of a wide range of arts & culture lessons, the science is nature-based and there is an inclusion of Montessori-based skills on a daily basis. You can read more about the preschool curriculum here.

Subjects Covered in a Week

  • Reading
  • Letters & Phonics
  • Number/Counting Skills
  • Shapes & Color
  • Arts & Culture
  • Plants & Animals
  • Fine Motor Skills
  • Practical Life Skills
  • Field Trip

Highlights

  • Pretty much everything you need for this is right in front of you once it is all printed out
  • Low-stress for the home educator to incorporate
  • I think this works well for having multiple children around and wanting to not spend a ton of time gathering resources each week
  • Some children genuinely respond well to worksheets and the ones in this curriculum are engaging, thoughtfully-designed and beautiful. I know many parents are grateful that a program like this exists.
  • Globally-focused in literature, art, culture, and nature
  • Includes shape and color recognition activities every day
  • There is a private community for this program but you need to purchase a membership

What Comes Next?

Comparison Charts

Preschool Curriculum Comparison

Preschool Curriculum Overview - Weekly Categories Covered
A Few Other Options

I have had friends use the following curriculum for preschool and love them. I personally have never used these so I cannot speak directly, but I wanted to add them to the list here for your exploration:

A Year of Playing Skillfully (Religious)

  • Designed for ages 3-7 to have a year of wonder and discovery through hands-on activities and play. Each month has a set theme and the curriculum activities are laid out monthly instead of weekly/daily to allow flexibility. Charlotte Mason inspired and includes memory verses from the Bible. Free sample here.

Before Five In A Row (Religious)

  • A precursor to Five In A Row, designed for ages 2-4 but similar in style in that it is literature-based. Activities are built around the stories. You can download the Goodnight Moon unit as a sample.

My Father’s World (Religious)

The Gentle + Classical Preschool (Religious)

  • Charlotte Mason-inspired with hints of Classical. Follows Charlotte Mason’s List of Formidable Attainments Before Age 6. Includes memory work from catechism and the Bible. Open-ended, literature-based. Level 1 is for ages 2-4 and Level 2 is more Kindergarten-leaning, for ages 4-6. Level 2 includes math. Note: The Teachers Guides are completely free! Seriously! You can then purchase printable bundles to pair with each level.

Torchlight Pre-K (Secular)

  • A 32 week full curriculum designed for ages 4-5. Not dependent on religious beliefs. Follows traditional educational standards for this age but also includes the development of emotional intelligence and humanistic values (truth, morality, etc.)

Charlotte Mason – A Quiet Growing Time

If you are sold on a more purist Charlotte Mason style homeschool I do recommend Leah Martin’s Charlotte Mason Preschool Foundations guide.

For a secular perspective of Charlotte Mason’s principles for ages 3-6 see A Quiet Growing Time from Juniper Pines.

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Ocean Nature Study

Ocean Nature Study - The Silvan Reverie

A Quick Note

This post is meant to house all my favorite ocean-themed books and learning resources, but please know I have never gone through ALL of these at one time with my kids! We have done ocean units a few times and each time change the focus a bit—one time was more about whales, another time more about lighthouses and sailing, another time ocean explorers. I follow my kids’ interests! Hopefully this list is helpful to you and not overwhelming.

Without further ado, here are my favorite ocean-themed learning resources!

Nonfiction Books:

All-Encompasing

Sea Life

Coral Reefs

Ocean Exploration

Humans & the Sea

Sea Birds

Fiction Books:
Curriculum:

I have the Marine Biology Unit from The Good & the Beautiful but have not done it with my kids. I know many people love this! 

Printed Resources:
Just For Fun:

Ocean Bingo (LOVE this game!)

Small Figures for Sensory Play and Learning

Peg Dolls

Schleich Ocean Animals (larger toys – the blue whale is our favorite)

DIY Wood Boat and Lighthouse

Coloring Books

FOR MORE OF OUR NATURE STUDIES SEE THIS PAGE

 

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Space Preschool Activities

DETAILS

IMG_8223My son (3 1/2) has shown interest in space lately, and I thought with the solar eclipse happening soon we should spend some time on space learning activities and reading and fun.

We’ve got our eclipse glasses (which are apparently absurdly expensive right now) and will likely travel that day to get a better view.

NASA also has some great resources here and here for ideas.

BOOKS

Note that a few of these have a lot of educational text and are intended for older-than-3-year-olds but we still found value looking at the pictures and exploring!

ACTIVITES

IMG_8155.JPG Solar system play dough fun! Homemade black play dough with black food coloring & black glitter.

I made planets by painting 1.5″ wood craft coins with acrylic paint. I always finish wood crafts with polyurethane to ensure they stand up to rough play. I also made meteors (painted black rocks with black glitter).

My son loved this son much! Our space shuttle was covered in black play dough by the end and glitter was EVERYWHERE, which helped me realize how terrible my dust buster is.

IMG_8167 Matching our craft coin planets to our Space 3-Part Cards [link is to a free PDF file]. I seriously spent 20 minutes painting these planets and didn’t care too much about size/scale (how can you, really?) — I just wanted them to match our cards … and get my hands covered in black paint in the process.
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Memory game with our Space 3-Part Cards. Print two copies on card stock, laminate and cut in to cards. Then play a simple memory game.

You can also use the cards as a traditional 3-Part Card set, but since my son is just starting to learn about this stuff I wanted to keep our learning centered on PLAY. Plus: I can’t even keep the planets straight!

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Solar system busy bag scavenger hunt. Basically I filled a 1 gallon zip loc bag with a little bit of water, dyed it black, added silver glitter. Then, I printed out our Solar System Scavenger hunt sheets [link is to a free PDF file]. The 2nd page has just the planets (plus sun and moon) in circles, so I cut those out, laid them down on the table, and added the black water bag on top. You have to (1) push the water around (some people use hair gel), (2) find and name a planet, then (3) mark it off on the scavenger hunt sheet.

Another option is to laminate the planet circles and place them *in* the bag but I felt this was an unnecessary extra step & waste of a laminating page. It worked fine just placing the circles under the water bag on the table.

IMG_8219.JPG Meteor counting activity.

A tray of black beans and scrunched up tin foil balls: that’s it!!

Counting numeral cards via The Peaceful Preschool curriculum.

IMG_8272.jpg Eclipse + orbit role play game: sun, earth and moon.

There’s 3 of us so we took turns being either the sun or the earth or the moon. Whoever was the sun got to hold a flashlight and shine it at earth. To demonstrate an eclipse, whoever was the moon stood in front of the flashlight beam to block the sun to earth. We also got silly with orbiting each other — running circles and getting dizzy.

IMG_8267.jpg Moon rock transfer activity: adding black marbles on to white golf tees (placed in a foam piece covered in tin foil). My 2 year old LOVED LOVED LOVED this. This easy-to-set-up activity is great for concentration, coordination, and fine motor skills. You could make this more difficult by numbering the golf tees and having the child place them in sequence. I set up the golf tees for my 2 year old but you could also have your child add the golf tees to the foam board themselves!
IMG_8236.JPG SPACE phonics activity + Sensory “space treasure hunt” fine motor activity and play.

First, my 2 year old scratched with a wood pencil on our ALEX Little Hands scratch ABC’s (via Target Dollar Spot which I cannot find online — but you could get these sheets and cut into letters or shapes). We reviewed the letters as we went.

Then, later I added those letters to a cookie tray covered in tin foil with multi-colored marbles (“planets”), black beans and tin foil balls  (“meteors”). I wrapped several marbles in tin foil and they had to hunt for them like treasure. Unwrapping small objects wrapped in tin foil is a GREAT and simple fine motor activity!

IMG_8130.JPG Solar system orbit drawing & play.

I very roughly drew circles around the sun, one at a time, and had my son say which planet went in that orbit and then place it there. After we were done, he played and had his spaceship land on meteors. Things then turned for worse when the sun “went away” and planets started bumping into to each other!

IMG_8187.JPG Space-themed song & movement games:

The Moon Is Round via Games Children Sing & Play

The Sun It Rises via Games Children Sing & Play

Zoom Zoom Zoom We’re Going to the Moon

Books

Books for the Homeschooler

**Updated 4/23/18

There are a TON of homeschooling books and resources out there and much of what you’ll read depends on your goals & dreams, but I thought I’d share the ones that I’ve read and drawn inspiration from.

Nature Books

Books to Inspire Outdoor Play & Learning : Blog Post
  1. Books on why nature engagement matters, which are books to enjoy reading cover to cover
  2. Books with action-steps and specific ideas for creating outdoor play environments  in your own backyard, engaging with the natural world, and cultivating independence in nature
  3. Books for nature study, which means providing a closer look at the natural world, things you may observe and want to explore further as you get out in nature
Nature Journaling Books

*See this blog post for my specific watercolor resources I use to nature journal!

Nature Collections Books

Homeschooling Books

Small Beginnings :  A Homeschool Starter Guide for the Early Years

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Teaching From Rest : A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace

The Read Aloud Family : Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kid

The Life Giving Home : Creating A Place of Belonging & Becoming

For the Children’s Sake : Foundations of Education for Home and School

Charlotte Mason Companion : Personal Reflections on The Gentle Art of Learning

The Early Years : A Charlotte Mason Preschool Handbook

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Honey for a Child’s Heart : The Imaginative Use of Books in Family Life

Beyond the Rainbow Bridge : Nurturing Our Children From Birth to Seven

Smooth and Easy Days : Simply Charlotte Mason

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