How to Homeschool with Little Ones: Part 3

In Part 1 I told you the key to homeschool with little ones has to start with mindset.

In Part 2 I shared some practical tips for including those precious infants and toddlers in your homeschool day.

Today we’re talking about the pre-school crowd.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. I do not have a degree in early childhood development. I am just a mom who’s been there.

Moving on…

How to Homeschool with Little Ones Part 3 Cindy Rinna

Remember, pre-schoolers need independence.

A Note on Pre-Schoolers

I am very intentionally writing “Pre-schoolers” and not “Preschoolers.” Call me a grammar snob, but “pre-school” and “preschool” mean different things to me when we are talking about the early years.

While I intend to write a series specifically on pre-school near the end of summer, I’ll let you have a sneak peak now as it is relevant to understanding your role with your 3-5 year-olds in your homeschool today :).

Allow me a moment to climb up onto my soapbox…

“Pre-school” means before school. As in, you’re not doing school yet.

“Preschool,” on the other hand, is a phenomenon that has crept up on us over the last century sending mothers into a tizzy and brainwashing us to think our children need to be “socialized” in a large institution because what we are doing in our own homes can’t possibly be good enough.

Pre-school is about learning through play. It is about the formative years, growing up alongside the example of mom, dad and older siblings. It’s about being raised by your environment in the most natural and nourishing place – home.

We all know the natural conditions under which a child should live; how he shares household ways with his mother, romps with his father, is teased by his brothers and petted by his sisters; is taught by his tumbles; learns self-denial by the baby’s needs, the delightfulness of furniture by playing at battle and siege with sofa and table; learns veneration for the old by the visits of his great-grandmother; how to live with his equals by the chums he gathers round him; learns intimacy with animals from his dog and cat; delight in the fields where the buttercups grow and greater delight in the blackberry hedges.

Charlotte Mason (Vol. 6 pp. 96, 97)

Preschool is about performance, checking off boxes called “milestones” and let’s be honest, pressure.

If you wait until 1st grade to do formal schooling, that means you’ve got about six years with your child to build a foundation. After the foundation is built, then you can add academics, athletics, extracurricular activities, etc.

Adding these things beforehand could crack your foundation.

Ready for a full disclosure? All three of the boys went to preschool.

Understand that this is my “older and wiser” advise.

Poor Owen got sent when he was two because I fell into “perceived” social peer pressure (I mean everyone else was doing it…) and let me tell you, mommy peer pressure is almost as bad as the junior high sort.

I do not think I ruined the boys by any means but I do wish I could go back and have a do-over. Instead of dropping them off screaming and crying and reaching for me while everyone told me, “this is normal, they’ll be fine…this is good for them,” I wish I would have packed my littles back in my minivan and drove us happily back home.


I do not hold on to regret but I do want to send a message out to you moms weighing the decision.

Maybe you’re considering putting your littles in a preschool to have more time with your older kids for academics. I know a mom who did this and said at first it was great but in the end it was more hassle than it was worth because they’d have to drop everything to take the little one and pick him and up of course while they were out they may as well run some errands…

The next thing you know you’re not even using the time for what you thought you would.

I know not everyone has my same set of circumstances and to those of you who choose to put your 3-5s in a preschool, to each his own; I am not judging. You have to do what works for your family.

Homeschooling, by and large, tends to work best as a family decision. I’m not saying it cannot work. But having done the split life thing when we had two at home and two in public school what I am saying is this:

Preschool is an unnecessary developmental step for our littles.

Even if you find a strictly play-based program (do those exist anymore?) with very gentle exposure to academics, it could be too much too soon for your little one.

Okay, off the soapbox I come.

So what do you do with your pre-schoolers if you decide to keep them home?

The trick for the pre-school years is to keep your child active.

  • “I can do it myself!” is a common pre-schooler adage for a reason – they are working on finding some autonomy. They want to be independent and as messy and painful as this can be some times, it is oh so healthy and necessary. Don’t fight it.
  • To be totally clear I am not talking about structured activities. By no means am I encouraging you to run out and sign them up for dance and soccer and art class all this season. A dance class isn’t going to kill anyone, but I mean active in the home, mainly.
  • Have a special shelf or cubby that is all theirs. Keep engaging activities like puzzles, coloring supplies, manipulative toys and other activities they can engage in “all by them selves.”
  • Focus on character building and imaginative play.
  • Gently encourage your pre-schooler to be involved in your homeschool. By this age, your little one can start participating in your older kids’ academics when it is natural and enjoyable. She can sit in during read-aloud (just be sure she’s got something to do with her hands) and even do memory work!
  • Be sure your homeschool day includes things she will want to participate in: singing, sensory play, nature study, field trips, and of course, reading great books aloud. 
  • Try to find complimentary activities. One example would be planning the big kids’ library day the same day as library story time for littles. Try to do PE class at a park so little one can play, too.
  • Be outdoors as often as possible. This is good for everyone and helps your little one independently explore. Nature study, park days, playing in the backyard and outdoor field trips are all great.
  • Continue to expose your pre-schooler to lots of sensory play. This is a crucial time for their developing systems.
  • Continue working on solid habits. This is the best time to build habits! You are laying the foundation for the rest of your homeschool years. Be sure to work on things that will make the transition into school easier.
    Does your child clean up after herself? Is she able to sit still for small periods of time? Can she listen and respond? Can she feed and dress herself well?
    Keep honing the habits of obedience and attention but expand into other developmentally appropriate habits like truth-telling, cleanliness, manners, and good self-care. I highly recommend purchasing a copy of Laying Down the Rails from Simply Charlotte Mason. It is hands-down the best teaching tool I have found for habits.
  • Encourage your pre-schooler to play alone for small periods of time within your earshot. Have a special box of activities that you only pull out during big kids homeschool time. I wouldn’t be real rigid with this, but encourage her to stay put for three minutes, then five minutes, etc.
  • If your child is showing reading readiness, by all means don’t try to prevent them from learning. Gently encourage but don’t push. Something to remember: if it stops being fun, stop. A great resource for guidance here would be The Early Years.
  • Your pre-schooler will fall into your home rhythm and routines at this age. Be sure you have them ;).

I’d love to hear from you in the comments. What tips can you offer homeschooling moms who have pre-schoolers?

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