Come check out How to Create a Fantastic Homeschool Preschool Schedule! Children’s development and education in the early years is supported by striking a balance between adult-led and child-initiated activities. Come discover the best practices and structure needed to develop crucial life skills that will foster a love of learning and a safe environment for exploration.
Homeschool Preschool is on the Rise:
Homeschooling is a choice many parents in the US (and elsewhere) make for their child, with the intention of providing them with a quality education within a family-based setting. According to U.S. Government Census data, it’s thought that around 6.7% of U.S. school-age children are homeschooled. Common reasons cited for the decision to homeschool include concerns about the school environment and dissatisfaction about the quality of education offered in schools. And it’s not just school-aged children who are being educated in a home-based setting.
When we look at National Center for Educational Statistics data for U.S. Preschool aged children, the numbers are significantly higher. Data shows 54% of three- and four-year-old children were enrolled in Preschool in 2018, meaning a staggering 46% of three- and four-year-old are accessing learning and education outside of the Preschool system. So, if you are considering homeschooling your Preschooler, you’re certainly not alone. Many parents are looking for schedules and plans to support homeschooling of Preschool aged children.
Keen to offer their child a safe, contained and quality learning environment, parents are seeking learning schedules for Preschoolers that support their child’s physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development. Rather than give you an off the shelf, one size fits all schedule, here we explore strategies and principles to help you create a fantastic learning schedule tailored to your Preschooler.
Quality Early Years Education Needn’t Be in a Formal Setting:
Quality early childhood care and education offers children a range of benefits, with UNESCO recommending early education for children as a foundation for emotional wellbeing and learning throughout life. Quality input for children between the ages of birth and eight capitalizes on a period of rapid brain development for children helping them to achieve their full potential. Whilst this can be in a formal education setting such as a Day-Care center, it’s also very doable to offer quality educational opportunities at home and within a family-based setting.
In fact, research has confirmed the crucial role parents play in their child’s education: where parents and carers provide an engaging home learning environment, positive effects can be seen in their child’s development (Sylva et al., 2004).
Balance Structure and Free-Choice:
Children’s development and education in the early years is supported by striking a balance between adult-led and child-initiated activities. Free play and exploration are critical to young children’s learning and are complemented by more structured, planned activities. Provide opportunities as part of your schedule for your child to initiate activities that you can then join in with and support.
Offer access to a range of play materials that your child can choose from and allow them to explore and experiment. You can then support their creative play by offering a way to extend and develop what they’ve initiated. Check out Fostering Creativity in Your Preschooler for some additional ideas.
For example, if you notice your child seems to be having fun playing with the water tray, you can then support by offering some tubes, or a play boat and watching what happens when you pour the water down the tubes at different angles, or when you try to sink the boat. If you spot your child seems to be engaged with pretend play and role-play, ask your child what role they want you to play and join in. This allows your child to take their own initiative, supported by yourself in a spontaneous and responsive manner.
Planned activities which are directed by adults can also be part of your homeschool Preschool schedule. You might plan a trip outside the house and ask your Preschooler to count how many of something they spot along the route. Or you can include a pre-planned craft or printable activity. As you strike this balance between free, child-led play and more structured adult-initiated activities aim to work in collaboration with your child, drawing on your own creativity.
Attend to Attachment:
UK research has shown that frequent interactions between children and adults are fundamental to a Preschooler’s development and the prime areas of learning, including communication and language, physical development, and personal, social, and emotional development (Ofsted, 2023). The quality of the relationship between you and your child is a powerful tool to support your Preschoolers homeschool schedule. Children who feel securely attached to their caregiver(s) feel safe and secure in that relationship, knowing that they are cared for and supported.
Whatever activities you plan as part of your child’s Preschool schedule, aim to ensure there’s plenty of chance for you to interact and engage with your child with warmth, trust, and sensitivity. Reading with and to your Preschooler as you snuggle up together and chat through what’s happening in the story and how you feel about the characters is a simple way to connect and build on the attachment relationship between you both, supporting their ongoing learning and future development.
Offer a Balanced Schedule:
Include activities and opportunities that span the differing domains of physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development. Each day, aim to offer activities that target each of these domains. Avoid prioritizing one domain at the exclusion of the others, as this is unlikely to serve your child in the long-term. Across the week your child should have chance to sample a varied diet of activities from a menu of music, art, pretend play, science, reading, math, physical activities, mark making and playing with malleable materials and outdoor exploration.
Whilst you may plan a particular activity for your Preschooler with the express aim of supporting their social development, for example, ensure you remain open to the other domains that can come as additional learning gains. The domains don’t exist in isolation and learning is often holistic in nature.
For example, you might plan a collaborative problem-solving activity for your child that involves working with others to support their social development. This could take place outside and involve a physical challenge such as working as a team to collect as many colored balls as possible in a given timeframe.
In this way, whilst your child’s social development is being supported, so too is their language development as they communicate with others. Their gross motor skills are also being honed as they reach or climb over play equipment to grasp a ball. Check out The Best Social and Emotional Activities for Preschoolers for more ideas.
The task may support them in experiencing a range of emotions – from frustration, to delight and excitement, with a pinch of sadness thrown in for good measure. If the task includes adult support to narrate and explore any emotions that come up because of the activity, this task – initially aimed at supporting your Preschooler’s social development, also now has emotional literacy learning potential too.
As you build your homeschool schedule for a given week, consider your child’s psychological needs for autonomy. Rather than do everything for them, encourage your child to take developmentally appropriate responsibility for what they can. Child-sized sweeping brushes are a great way to help your child take responsibility for cleaning up a play space after a messy activity to build their sense of self-efficacy – that “I can do it!” feeling. You can also encourage your child to put their own coat on and to place their apron back on the hook after cooking or painting.
In any schedule include “tidy time” where your child actively gets involved in clearing their play and workspaces. You can make the process engaging by having a specific piece of music you play during this time, with the aim of completing the tidy up by the time the music ends. Be sure to check out The Best Self-Esteem Activities for Preschoolers to continue building these skills.
Ensure there’s an opportunity for your child to experience being in control of materials and their situation as an active agent. This can be as simple as asking them to choose which book to read, or which musical instrument they want to have a go at. You can also offer them modelling clay to manipulate and shape as they wish to build that sense of autonomy in them. Ensure they can feel a sense of competence with activities. Give your child a chance to experience success by ensuring tasks offer challenge but are achievable for their developmental stage. Building this sense of self-efficacy has been shown to facilitate young children’s self-regulation, academic performance, and well-being (Niemiec and Ryan, 2009).
As you guide your child through their homeschooling Preschool schedule, aim to support them at their own pace, remembering that every child is a unique learner. This can help you to stave off taking out any exasperation or disappointment on your child. Such expressions of frustration are likely to damage your child’s sense of self-efficacy and resilience. Aim to manage your own frustration as you move through your Preschool learning schedule by returning to the mantra: “my child learns at their own pace – my role is to support them in this”.
Children benefit from adult input offering a natural flow of affectionate, stimulating talk that helps to narrate what they are experiencing as they engage with their world. You can include this in your schedule as you sit and watch your child play. Aim to describe what is happening around them to support their language development.
Many children show prowess at asking questions. “Why……?” is a great tool for them in making sense of the world. Aim to provide space in your learning schedule to address questions that emerge naturally from your Preschooler throughout the day. To support their curiosity and desire to communicate, try to avoid showing frustration as they ask you yet another question! Their desire to ask you reflects the trust they have in you as someone who can help them navigate the world.
Offer Outdoors Play:
Research shows outdoor experiences promote social and emotional development, as well as healthy physical development in young children (Bento & Dias, 2017). Having access to outdoor space will be an important part of your schedule. Maybe you can offer free-flow access to a backyard if the space is safe for your child to play in? Encourage your child to take responsibility for putting on weather appropriate clothing if they decide to head outside. Have a range of equipment that allows your child to move and explore – as well as the usual football, scooter, and hula hoop options, you can also consider a bug viewer, a mud kitchen, and an outdoor easel as options for your child.
If you don’t have easy access to outdoor space within the home, ensure you take regular trips outside the house involving physical activity. Walk, run, hop, scoot or cycle to the shops. Visit the local park or nature reserve. And occasionally, consider a day trip out – rock pooling at the beach, visiting a farm or taking a train ride gets your child outdoors and learning about the world around them.
So, if you’re considering homeschooling your Preschooler, hopefully you’ve gathered a range of practical ideas and key principles that help you to develop your own tailored schedule and approach that works for you and your child. There’s no one-size fits all approach, of course, as children (and parents!) are wonderfully different. Adopting and taking note of some of the themes and approaches here can certainly set you off in the direction of fantastic homeschooling for your Preschooler. And if you’ve given any of the approaches here a try, get in touch – I’d love to hear from you.
Bento, G., & Dias, G. (2017). The importance of outdoor play for young children’s healthy development. Porto biomedical journal, 2(5), 157–160. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pbj.2017.03.003
Niemiec, C. P., & Ryan, R. M. (2009). Autonomy, competence, and relatedness in the class-room Applying self-determination theory to educational practice. Theory andResearch in Education, 7(2), 133-1
Ofsted, 2023, Best start in life part 2: the 3 prime areas of learning
Sylva, K. Melhuish, E. Sammons, P. Siraj-Blatchford, I. and Taggart, B. (2004) The Effective Provision of Pre-School Education (EPPE) Project: Final Report. London: DfES/ Institute of Education/ University of London
United States Census Bureau. 2021. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse
Click below to print your Free Preschool Daily Schedule!
We hope you enjoyed How to Create a Fantastic Preschool Schedule! Stay organized with two free preschool schedules. Print your schedule and use a pencil to fill in each time slot with your activities. Be sure to make lots of time for free play!