Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Natural Learning - Preschool/Kindergarten Math

Some homeschoolers prefer a structured curriculum for preschool and kindergarten. Me? I prefer to hold off on formal academics until first grade. This is what works best for our family structure.

Every family is different and so every homeschool is different. In our homeschool, I do not feel that my children are left behind by putting off formal academics. Little children are so curious that learning comes quite naturally. In fact, they learn simply through their play.

That doesn't mean to ignore wee ones and their learning. Instead take joy in playing with them and learning beside them. Look for those teachable moments.

If you are in the McDonald's drive-thru (and surely, being thrifty, you are only there because of an emergency and you are NOT ordering Happy Meals) ask your wee ones how many chicken nuggets they are going to get after they share the 20-piece box with the rest of the family.

Look for connect-the-dot and maze books at the grocery store. They are inexpensive and kids love them. Connecting the dots teach sequencing. Solving mazes teaches children to look several steps ahead - an important concept in higher mathematics.

Simple blocks and wooden puzzles will help with shape recognition. Don't be afraid to get on the floor with your child and a mess of blocks. As you build together, point out the names of shapes. Search your house for shapes - the round pie pan, the rectangular aquarium, the square computer monitor, etc.

Cooking with little ones offers many opportunities for building math skills. I might say, "I need to divide this bread dough into 2 parts," or "We have to roll this pastry out to nine inches." Let them measure out ingredients or help double a recipe.

More important than anything, give your child lots of time to play. Children naturally explore and create. Play gives them opportunities to solve problems, learn about physics, shapes, and building foundations.

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