3 yo G will turn 4 next month. He's enjoying calling himself a preschooler, even though his preschool days are still very play-oriented. We haven't picked up a single workbook yet. We haven't touched a phonics lesson or a math manipulative. Many of the ways he enjoys spending his time are teaching him new things, without me buying a curriculum or planning lessons.
One of G's favorite activities is color-by-number pictures. He has a Fisher Price coloring book that is filled with color-by-number pictures. Several times a day, he has us decode the color-key on the picture for him. He can't read the word "yellow" but he can follow the key if we color the word for him. He finds all the 3's and colors them yellow. It's a simple activity, but he's learning to match colors, recognize and name them, and recognize the numbers. He knows the numbers 1-5 by sight now and can name them. He's also learning better hand-eye coordination as he tries to color each picture more carefully than the last one.
A surprising activity that I wouldn't have expected G to excel at is actually word searches. Several of our coloring/activity books have simple word searches with 5-10 words hidden in their large-font puzzles. G can't read, but he can recognize, name, and search for the first letter of a word. When he finds the letter "P" for the word "pirate", I tell him if that is the right "P" or if he should keep searching. When he finds the right letter, I circle the word for him. Yes, this activity takes more of my time, but he's learning his letters, and he's learning to search the puzzle systematically. Often when he finds me watching TV in the evening, he'll climb up onto the couch beside me and ask me to do a word search with him.
Of course, we also have some educational videos G enjoys watching, and we continue to read to him. This week, I actually pulled Before Five In A Row off my shelf and read "We're Going On A Bear Hunt" to him. I'll continue to casually use Before Five In A Row with him. I don't feel the need to do it every single school day, but I do enjoy using it occasionally to engage him in the story.
I have plans to do some Letter of the Week activities with him, but I haven't started them yet. I did print out some pre-writing practice sheets from the internet and whenever he feels the urge to "do school", I hand him another sheet. He needed this step to develop his pencil control before we began practicing actual letters. I didn't realize how badly he needed it until I saw his first few attempts at tracing lines and circles. But he's improving, and he actually managed to follow the lines on the last worksheet he traced. We only do these as he feels an interest.
I've started most of my students in Kindergarten during the Fall after they turned 5. For most of my kids, that made them 5.5 by the time they started Kindergarten. Only two of them were 5.25 or less. G won't be 5 until next September. At this point, I don't plan to start him in Kindergarten next Fall. I don't think he's going to be ready. I'm not going to rush him through preschool or into Kindergarten.
Our preschool will be more structured next school year, with more workbooks and story times with Mom, but for now we're sticking with the play-centered educational activities. He can build with duplos and Lincoln Logs, play with puzzles, look at books, and watch Leap Frog DVDs. We'll color-by-number, do word searches together, and eventually teach him how to do dot-to-dots. It's a messy way to learn, but he's only 4 (well, next month).
After home educating his 6 older siblings, I no longer feel the need to push my 4 year old with math workbooks, handwriting workbooks and phonics lessons. He's learning just fine through play, at the moment. It fascinates me to watch him seek out more challenging activities for himself, driven by his own desire to learn and grow. There's plenty of time for workbooks and formal lessons later.
Rediscovering the power of play,