I’ve had a few emails and comments asking how I plan my B4FIAR units. I don’t think I’m very comfortable writing posts like these, given I keep typing and deleting. At this rate I’ll still be drafting it next Christmas! I much prefer writing about the things we do as we do them and I’m always chuffed if someone else finds something useful in them, but if they don’t, that’s okay also. Writing a ‘how to’ post implies that it must be useful to others in some shape or form and I’m a little concerned it won’t be. At all. So it is with trepidation I write this. Please forgive the clumsiness, as my discomfort will inevitably show.
A Project Based Unit
- The open endedness of the topic allows me to teach two children together, even though they are 2 1/2 years apart
- The fun topic theme with all its related activities allows the older children to join in a very meaningful way
- The children become very familiar with the books we’ve rowed. As we row each one they go into A4’s quiet time box which doubles as the little ones bedtime story book basket. This means the younger children have the books read and reread to them throughout the year. A4 knows most of them off by heart and really LOVES them.
Preschool Adventure Box
I began this a few months ago to give my little ones a visual cue to the topic of the week and increase their anticipation of the coming days. Once I have chosen my topic from the B4FIAR book I look around the house for any bits and pieces I might use. My main goals are:
- To find some sort of dress up linked to the topic
- To make a pretend play set – this could be puppets (Going on a Bear Hunt) or small world (The Little Rabbit) or even toys which replicate real life (If Jesus Came to my House). My main aim is to encourage them to use their imagination in a purposeful way.
- To find topic based activities for their tray time. My main aim here is to encourage their creativity and to expose them to as many art mediums as possible
- To gather fiction and non fiction books I can use as go alongs
Once I know the resources I have I start to plan the week’s adventure. I research topic related snacks (they must be simple enough for my two year old to do- I always have at least one helper in the kitchen with me), ideas for my muffin tin (using this planning sheet), I discuss with the rest of the family ideas for a group activity, such as: a slumber party (Goodnight Moon), re-enactments (Going on a Bear Hunt), tea party with guests (If Jesus came to my House), field trip (Ask Mr Bear) and a rabbit hunt (The Little Rabbit). I also try to plan for an activity for just A4 and myself or B2 and myself to do alone- we have made sock puppets, baked together and done art activities together.
Everything I intend to use is collected up and piled into the Preschool Adventure Box (a wooden box I painted and wrote ‘Preschool Adventure Box’ on!) and is put in a prominent position until Monday. Each night I make up their trays and make sure I have everything I need in order to make snacks, muffin tins and so forth.
Including the Older Children
For me this is key to the success of our school day. Even from a young age the older children had what I called ‘sibling time’ – a concentrated time of half an hour a day to spend 1-2-1 with another sibling. As I had more children, they were simply added into the mix. This has enabled me, over the years, to have 1-2-1 with one of the children, a spare half hour to school plan, and a means of keeping the younger ones occupied. The added benefit, of course, is that I have children who have had the opportunity to build their relationships, Good, deep friendships don’t happen without lots of time being invested into them and that is what the children have – time. Together.
One thing to come out of this time has been a willingness, even enthusiasm, to help alongside the little ones’ school work. It makes my heart very glad to see this for it is unselfish giving of their time and themselves for the good of not just their siblings but also their mummy. For 1 hour a day (30 minutes each child), the older ones take one sibling each to do tray activities. The left over older sibling prepares lunch and snack for that 60 minutes. I have an hour to school plan. The way I have chosen to school takes a lot of planning and gathering of resources. The children know this and are very happy to help out where they can.
You know, if I could give one piece of advice it would be this: Follow your heart as to how you want your homeschool to look. Have a vision and work towards it, pigeon steps if necessary. Be true to yourselves, your families goals and prayerful considerations of how you should school each child. As Max Lucado puts it – find your sweet spot and live there!
To see how others row: