Before Five in a Row (BFIAR) is a simple curriculum aimed at 2-4 year olds. It is designed to be a pick up and go curriculum. When we were using BFIAR as our sole curriculum, I expanded its scope by adding in lots of extra, fun hands on activities. So, for me, planning BFIAR takes a little longer than it strictly should 😁. It is this process I shall be sharing today.
Planning BFIAR: A Themed Project Based Unit
As I begin my planning BFIAR, I choose an obvious topic from the book. For example: a farm theme to go with Ask Mr Bear; a hospitality theme for If Jesus came to my House. This is useful on three accounts:
- First, the open endedness of the topic allows me to teach two children together, even though they are 2 1/2 years apart
- Second, the fun topic theme with all its related activities allows the older children to join in a very meaningful way
- Third, 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.
- And lastly, it allows me to plan their Pre-School Adventure Box. ‘What is a Pre-School Adventure Box? Well, I’m glad you asked!
Creating a 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
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.
Snacks and Fun Food
Once I know the resources I have, it is easy to start planning BFIAR to suit the theme. Firstly, 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). Secondly, I play around with some ideas for my themed muffin tin (using this planning sheet). Thirdly, 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). And lastly, I try to plan for an activity for just Abigail and myself or Becca and myself to do alone. So far, we have made sock puppets, baked together and done art activities together.
Using Trays for Activities
This has been one of the best things I have done. Each night, I set out specific activities on different trays. There can be anything between three to six separate trays, each with a unique activity placed on it. The little ones use these activities alone if the activity is easy and safe. Or sometimes their older siblings will step in and help if the activities need explaining. They do one activity at a time, changing trays and therefore activities every ten minutes or so:
These trays help to encourage concentration as well as reducing any boredom episodes 😉
Including 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 to help alongside the little ones’ school work. It makes my heart very glad to see this. It is an 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!