Homepreschool and Beyond

*Relationship *Routine *Readiness *Reading Aloud

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    Homepreschool and Beyond will give parents the knowledge they need to find “balance” for their family. Find out what young children need to know—and how to teach it. Gain the confidence you need to relax and enjoy those precious preschool years—and beyond.

    “Susan Lemons gives you the blueprint…”

    • 26 Chapters
    • Covers all areas of development
    • Covers all areas of curriculum
    • For a ages 2-8
    • Developmentally appropriate
    • Literature based
    • Spiritual and character building emphasis

Posts Tagged ‘The Four R’s’

The “4 R’s” for Early Learners (Preschoolers)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on March 13, 2012


We’ve all heard of the “Three R’s”:  Reading, writing, and arithmetic. Most people believe that these are the basic building blocks of education for all children—even preschoolers.

But have you heard of the “Four R’s”?  The four R’s are not only for preschoolers; they are for children of all ages. They are the real building blocks of education–especially for preschoolers. The four R’s include:  Relationship, routine, readiness, and reading aloud.

Relationship is the first and most important part of any child’s education. Our first responsibility as parents is building a relationship of love and trust with our little ones. Once our children learn to love and trust us–ideally during infancy–we can begin to teach them how to have loving relationships with others. The most important relationship we can help our children develop is their relationship with God. (For more, see my tab on Relationship.)

Routine is the second building block.  Preschoolers need a regular daily routine that they can rely on. They need to have regular times for meals, snacks, naps, and learning activities. Even older children rely on that sense of “what comes next”; it keeps them on an even keel emotionally. I’m not talking about a down-to-the-minute, oppressive routine; just a simple plan for the day that gives children security and regularity. (For example routines for children ages 2-3 and ages 4-5, see my tab on routine.)

Readiness: Children of all ages need to develop readiness before they tackle any new task.  “Readiness” simply means that the child is physically, emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually ready for the experience.  Readiness has everything to do with maturity…and since children mature in their own, God-given time-table, parents must learn to be patient and wait until their child is ready…no matter what their neighbor’s child is capable of.

Parents who wait for signs of readiness, interest, and even natural learning to take place will save themselves and their children hours of frustration.

Readiness is especially important during the first eight years of life.  During this time, there is a vast range of “normal” development.  That’s why homepreschooling/homeschooling works so well:  Parents can individualize their children’s learning.  Where their children are “ahead”, they can let them move them along without holding them back.  In areas where their children struggle, they can slow down, relax, and give their children time to develop readiness.

Reading aloud:  Reading aloud to your children is the single most important thing that you can do to help them learn.  Reading aloud, and the discussion that goes with it, does more than teach the content of the book you’re reading:  It also teaches pre-reading skills such as learning that letters make words, learning that print moves from left to right, learning to value and enjoy reading/language, learning the basics of grammar, learning correct pronounciation, and so on.  It also is a great relationship builder!

I believe that these “4R’s” should be the foundation upon which homepreschooling/homeschooling rests. If these priorities are kept in perspective, everything else naturally falls into place. You may ask, “but what about the traditional 3R’s: Aren’t they important?!” Sure they are…once your child is developmentally ready for them. Most preschoolers aren’t. We have to remember that the curriculum in the public schools has been pushed down to the point that what used to be taught in Kindergarten is now taught in preschool, and what used to be taught in the first or even the second grade is now taught in Kindergarten. No wonder so many children are struggling in school! Preschoolers haven’t changed, but the curriculum has…drastically. Yet many parents expect their children to master it.

I take a different approach: I believe we should give the kids an old-fashioned, relaxed, play-based preschool/Kindergarten, and then slowly, over the years, notch those expectations up. You might say: Expect LESS of them when they are little, but MORE of them when they are older. Most public schools have it the opposite way: Expect MORE of them when they are little, but LESS of them when they are older.

This isn’t to say that preschoolers can’t learn. Preschoolers can (and do!) learn so much. In fact, if you take a look at the “skills lists” in Homepreschool and Beyond, you will probably discover a lot of things that you would never think that preschoolers could or should learn (especially about the Lord, or about nature, science, and the world around them.) In these areas especially, I think many parents underestimate their preschoolers. However,we need to remember that the way preschoolers learn is unique (they learn primarily through play,hands-on experiences, and through being read to and talked to) and the things they should learn are not simply their colors, numbers, and alphabet. There is a whole, vast world to explore, and preschoolers are very curious.

By using the foundation of the 4R’s, we can keep our priorities in order (make the main thing the main thing–relationships), and we can lay down a firm foundation for our children’s later years.

In my next post, I will briefly talk about specifics: What specific things do preschoolers need to be learning or doing, if not early formal academics?

© 2010, 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

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Posted in Academics for Four Year Olds, Academics for Preschoolers, Curriculum, Early Math, Goals, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Kindergarten Readiness, preschool at home, preschool curriculum, Readiness, The 4 R's | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

How Do You Measure Success (In Homeschool/Homepreschool)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on February 4, 2012


(Note: This is a previous post that I updated.)

This morning I wrote  a submission for a blog that asked the question, “what makes your home learning method unique?”  The question had three parts to it:

1) What makes your method unique—how does it differ from mainstream, curriculum-based methods?  (Using the 4R’s as the  foundation to all I do.)

2) Why did you choose this path?  (Brief answer:  Because I believe in a balanced, whole-child approach that makes the main thing the main thing–versus methods that concentrate almost exclusively on one area of child development—usually academics.)

3)  How do you measure success?

Number one and number two were self-evident and easy for me to answer.  The last question, “how do you measure success?” was way more difficult.  Here is my (final) answer:

Like most other homeschool moms, I write out yearly goals for my children,  However, the real measure of success is not as simple as a completed math program or a high test score.  Instead, I ask myself the following questions:

About Relationship:

-Am I keeping relationships at the center of our home and our homeschool/homepreschool? Do I prioritize my time to reflect the fact that relationships (with God and with family) are the main thing?!

-Are my children growing in their relationship with the Lord? (Knowledge, understanding, wisdom, character, holiness?)

-Do my children want to please God?

-Do my children hunger after God’s presence/God’s Word?

-Is our parent/child relationship strong and growing?  Do we really talk to each other (conversation–a back and forth proposition?)

-Are the relationships between siblings/extended families strong and growing?

-Do I spend time playing with my children (entering into their world?)

-Do I make the time for relationship-building activities?

About Routine:

-Is our daily routine helping our days run more smoothly?

-Has our routine helped us develop helpful habits?

-Can my children depend on the security of “what comes next?”

-Does my routine include short lessons alternated with play breaks?

-Have I included the “fun stuff” (art, music, nature walks, play, PE etc) in our plan, so they are not overlooked?

-Do my children have plenty of free time for creative play and outside play?

About Readiness:

-Am I watching my children for signs of readiness before introducing something new (interest/curiosity, developing abilities, natural/independent learning?)

-Do I decide what to teach my children strictly according to someone else’s list or timetable (scope and sequence–“what’s expected,” age-by-age), or do I let my children’s own maturity/abilities/interests guide me?

-Do I follow my children’s lead when teaching something new—keeping lessons short and fun (game-based) and stopping if my children express frustration/disinterest?  (Note: Balance this with the knowledge that as children grow older and their abilities increase, they will have to learn some things that they may not want to learn or may not be interested in.  After all, who asks to learn long division?)

About Reading Aloud: 

-Do we spend lots of time reading aloud and discussing what we read/have learned?

-Do we read a variety of different types of books aloud (depending on age:  picture books, storybooks, biographies, poetry, historical fiction, non-fiction, etc?)

-Do we have a variety of different types of books available in our home for our children to choose from/read/browse through independently?

-When I read aloud to my children, do I take my time and enjoy it, too? Do I use expression (making silly sounds and different voices/accents as appropriate) or do I speed through, just to “get it done?”  In short–do I make it special?

About Academic Goals: 

-Are my children achieving reasonable (developmentally appropriate) learning goals, bearing in mind that the abilities of normal children vary greatly from child to child?

-Am I challenging my children without pushing them?

-Do I remember that most people expect far too much of young children, and not nearly enough of older children?  Have I adjusted our expectations/learning styles/curriculum accordingly?

I could share lots of other things that I want my children to achieve—spiritual skills/knowledge, physical skills, skills related to specific learning/academic areas, life skills, etc….and as I stated, I do make yearly, detailed lists of these items for each child.  But as I thought about how I really measure success, I realized that the main measure of my success as a homeschooling mom continues to be centered around the 4R’s.  It seems to me that when the 4R’s are kept in mind, the rest falls into place naturally.  With the 4R’s as a foundation, the needs of the whole child are addressed (including academics.)

Yes, I definitely believe there is more to measuring homepreschool/homeschool success than simply measuring what our children “know” academically (ABC’s, 1, 2, 3’s, test scores, etc.)  True, test scores are important, but they aren’t “the main thing.”

Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.  Matt. 6:32

Live the 4R’s!

~Susan

© 2010, 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Family Life, Goals, Mothering, Spiritual Matters | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

More About Routines: Why They are Important

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on November 19, 2010


        When Jolanthe from Homeschool Creations wrote a review of my book, Homepreschool and Beyond, she asked her readers to check out my blog and then post on her blog as an entry to win the book.  They could choose between naming some of the articles that originally inspired me to write the book (see the tab, “my articles”), OR share which of the 4R’s (relationship, routine, readiness, and reading aloud) they needed the most help with.  Here is the breakdown of the replies about the 4R’s: 

 50–Routines

17–Reading Aloud

14—Readiness

9—Relationships

         As you can see, routines won hands-down.  Many of the mothers stated that they needed help with their routines; some even wondered if routines are really necessary.  In response, I’ve decided to write a couple of  posts that will answer these concerns (I will also write a post about the second most chosen of the 4R’s: Reading Aloud.)  Anyway, here is the first post—“More About Routines.”

         I know from experience that routines can be hard. Routines involve self-discipline…they just aren’t going to happen by themselves!  We’re starting our 18th year of homeschooling now, and we have tweaked our routines more times than I can count.  Our routines have changed due to my husband’s work days and hours, the ages of our children, our health, the time of year (in summer we play in the morning and do school in the afternoon, for instance), and more.   You’d think that after 17 years I’d have it all together by now, but I don’t…especially in regards to my homemaking routines right now.  In fact, writing this post has been convicting to me–I know what I need to do, but making myself do it on a consistent basis is another thing.  So don’t be discouraged—you’re certainly not alone.  Read on, and know that I’m working on this with you.  Be sure to check back again soon to read the next post on this topic, “establishing routines that will work for you”. 

What are Routines?

        I want you to know that when I talk about routines, I’m NOT talking about a down-to-the-minute “schedule” that becomes a burden or a slave driver to your family.  You don’t have to rush through your day, trying to meet artificial deadlines every fifteen minutes or half-hour. What I’m talking about simply a sense of “what comes next.”  Perhaps a good term to remember is a “relaxed routine.”

        A relaxed routine doesn’t mean that you don’t have any goals, though; as with everything, there is a need to find a balance.  For us, this has meant that meal times, snack time, naptimes and bedtimes are kept as consistent as possible—you might think of them as the “skeleton” of your routine.  The rest of the routine, however, is much more flexible.  I like to allow enough time to follow my children’s lead within the routine—so if the children get caught up in their play, or want to paint 4 pictures during art time, or feel like doing 3 math lessons (yes, this has happened at our house), it’s OK.  We might have to shorten the next activity, but that doesn’t throw the rest of the day into chaos. 

        It’s a good idea to have some basic goals for different times of the day—for instance, “we should have our breakfast, chores, family worship time, circle time, a preschool activity (art OR cooking experience OR science activity OR game-time OR manipulatives OR planned/creative play), snack time, and outside play time finished before 11:30 so that we can eat lunch at 12:00”.  Another one might be, “we should finish lunch, get washed up/brush teeth, and be ready for our read aloud time by 1:00 so that the preschoolers can be napping by 1:30.” 

        There are several different types of routines that you might want to put into place:  Morning routines, mealtime routines, bedtime routines, and school routines….some parents prefer to think of them separately this way, while others think in terms of the whole day’s routine.  We do a bit of both.  Additionally, I plan cleaning routines and personal routines as well.  I call our cleaning routines “standard operating procedures” or SOP for the kids.  (“Did you finish the kitchen SOP?”)

Why Are Routines Important?

        Now let’s address the question, “Why are routines important?” And, “Are routines even necessary?” 

        I believe that routines are not only necessary, but vitally important.

        Routines help children in many different ways.  One of the most important things that routines provide for children is emotional security.  Children—especially young children—derive security from that sense of “what comes next.”  This security helps children learn to trust that their parents will take care of them, and this trust enhances the parent-child bond.   This security/trust/bond is especially important to grow and maintain during the baby/toddler years…but of course, it should be a continuing part of life, all life-long, for every child. 

        Routines help children stay on an even keel emotionally, and will prevent emotional meltdowns.  This will save your sanity.  It helps your children behave better and makes your home a more peaceful and happy place to be.  Conversely:  Children who aren’t on a regular routine are often over-tired, hungry, irritable and stressed.

        Without a daily routine there could be important activities that you overlook on a day-to-day basis—even things like personal hygiene (brushing teeth, baths, etc), as well as important activities such as reading aloud, time spent with each child, etc. 

        Routines help children grow helpful habits that will benefit them the rest of their lives.  Good habits help us do the things we should do with little thought or effort.  Habits involve not only the “big picture” of our daily routine in general, but all those little things that make up our daily routine as well (personal hygiene, picking up toys, etc.)

        I believe that our very character, attitudes and manners are affected by the habits we learn (or don’t learn) as children.  Charlotte Mason wrote, “the habits of the child produce the character of the man . . .every day, every hour, the parents are either passively or actively forming those habits in their children upon which, more than upon anything else, future character and conduct depend.”

        Once a good habit is learned, little mental effort is involved in the task at hand…it’s just something we do.  It requires little thought and practically no effort.  You might say that we work on “autopilot.”  This is more help than you can imagine.  As Charlotte Mason says, “A mother who takes pains to endow her children with habits secures for herself smooth and easy days; while she who lets their habits take care of themselves has a weary life of endless friction with the children.” 

        Finally, routines help young children grow their self-confidence and independence.  Once children are secure in their routines, they’ll know when its time to brush their teeth, get dressed, and so on—and they’ll be confident and ready to try those activities independently.    

        Next post:  Developing Your Own Daily Routines

 © 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Babies, Challenge to Parents, Family Life, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Mothering, Parenting, Routines, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Helpful Advice for Homeschooling Elementary School-Aged Children

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on June 12, 2010


Simplify the Curriculum, or “Colette’s List of 10 Things  (with my own comments added):

1).  Keep everything as simple as you can. Jesus wrote with a stick in the dirt, and He was the greatest teacher that ever lived. He used no curriculum or flannel graphs or lesson plans. Homeschooling can be made far more complicated than it should be. A simpler approach is much more effective.

     Why do we make things so difficult for ourselves?  Why do we feel we need to spend hundreds of dollars on curriculum, “educational toys”, manipulatives, etc to homeschool successfully?  Why do we glue ourselves to one single method or curriculum? 

      Remember, there is no perfect curriculum.  There is no special toy/manipulative or magical homeschooling method that will teach your children and solve all your problems.  The truth is, we can make almost anything “work” as curriculum if we need to–in fact, before buying curriculum, it’s always a good idea to ask yourself if it is really necessary at all.  Many topics can be taught naturally using real books and discussion. 

     The key to homeschool success is relationship–your relationship with your children; the time you spend working with them one-on-one; your ability to individualize your methods and curiculum; the time you spend reading aloud and then discussing what you’ve read.  Relationship is more important than curriculum (or method.)

2).  Stick to the 3 R’s. They form the foundation of life-long learning in every field because they are the tools of study. There will be no need to formalize any other subject if the children are doing their best in these 3, because people who are well grounded in reading, writing and math will approach other subjects boldly, independently and confidently.

     I have to add Bible to that…I believe our most important subjects are Bible/Christian Character, math, and language arts.  We should concentrate most of our time on these.  Be sure to go for mastery, not just “exposure” in these subjects.  I have a good friend who says, “If your child knows and loves the Lord, loves to learn, can read and write well, knows basic math, and knows how to do research –then what else does he need?”   (Thanks, Peggy!)

     Do you worry about “gaps”?!  Things your children will miss?  All children have “gaps”.  You have them, too.  There is simply too much to learn; no one can master it all.  But if you love to learn and if you know how to do research, you will want to fill those gaps when they come up–and you’ll know how to do so.  You will be a lifelong learner.

     Don’t get me wrong; I do want my children to know science, history, geography, etc.  We do teach those subjects in our homeschool.  I also believe that art and music are important.  But sometimes we overlook the fact that our children learn lots from real life, being read to and through independent reading.  We make things harder than they need to be.  If your children haven’t mastered the basics yet, try concentrating on mastering them  for awhile.  For your other subjects, read aloud to your children, and discuss what you’ve read.  Also encourage your children to explore their own interests during their free time. 

3).  Let the children teach themselves as much as they are able to. This teaches them responsibility, intellectual independence, and builds confidence. It’s also better for the parent/child relationship because you can focus on parenting instead of playing schoolteacher.

     I agree, and yet disagree with this one.  I make it a rule not to do anything for my children that they can do for themselves; I encourage them to learn how to work “independently”  in their chores and their schoolwork (more and more as they grow older.)   But that doesn’t mean I expect to totally give up my role as “teacher-mom”  and turn all learning over to my children.  I think there has to be a balance of independent work and facitiated learning/discusion. 

      Sometimes in our haste to make things easier for ourselves, we turn too much over to our children too soon.  To make the most of our homeschool, we need to maintain our involvement in our children’s school work.  At the least, we should introduce new concepts and discuss them; introduce new assignments, communicating to our children exactly what is expected of them; supervise/check in on our children as they work; read aloud/discuss their learning; ask them to talk to you about what they’ve learned (or narrate–either verbally or through a report), and finally, inspect (check) their work immediately upon it’s completion.  If we overlook these things, we miss out on the best parts of homeschooling and in my opinion, let our children down. 

     I must admit, I didn’t do the best job with this for my older set of children.  I was so busy with my little ones that I entrusted them with too much independence too soon.  I didn’t discern their true needs.  Be careful to find a balance in your homeschool, so that you don’t repeat my mistakes.  (Note:  Plan to sit right with your children while they are doing their assignments for the first few years.  Maturity comes before independence.)

4).  Use the most direct method available. For reading, read. For writing, write, for math, do it, and for Bible, read it. Don’t fall for catchy curriculums or methods that are really just something else for you and your child to learn. 

     See my post, “Homeschooling Early Elementary…Keep it Simple”, HERE.  

5).  Don’t worry about your child’s age or grade. Just let him do the best he can each day. Children grow intellectually like they do physically: in spurts. Although we may have an audience of skeptical relatives, homeschooling is not a circus, and we refuse to train our children to do tricks for people.

     Our goal should be to find out where our children are now, and then move them forward from there.  Slow and steady wins the race!  We tend to expect far too much of our younger children, and not nearly enough of our older children.  Instead, duing the early elementary years, back off a bit and wait for readiness.  Children in Sweeden and Switzerland don’t even start school until they are 7, and yet they outscore American children on standardized tests.  (See my tab, “Readiness”, and my archived posts on readiness as well.)

 6).  Minimize distractions in the home. Watch for excessiveness in entertainments, snacking, outings, phone conversations and the like. These sorts of things can easily get out of hand and compete with the effectiveness of a homeschool and sap the family of time and energy.

     Such distractions also get in the way of our children’s time to play,  explore their hobbies/interests, and so on.  These are vitally important to children of all ages.  Distractions eat up our own time as well; especially the time we could be spend reading the Bible,  playing games with our children, and giving them unrushed, real life experiences (cooking, nature walks, art, etc) they need.

7).  Seek quality over quantity. A few tapes of great music, a small case of carefully chosen books, a few special play mates, and an occasional outing is better than a large, but poor quality collection.

     Often we spend hundreds of dollars on these things–with the best of intentions–only to have them gathering dust on a shelf.  Start with a few of the best, and use them.  Once your children become familiar with the books and CD’s you have, you can add more.  This saves you from stress and guilt…and it saves money, too.  Sometimes I think we give ourselves so many options that we don’t know what to do; we’re like toddlers overwhelmed by a mountain of toys.  Less really can be “more.”  Believe me about this–I’ve learned it the hard way.

8).  If you must document your school activities, do it after the fact. This way you will not make promises you cannot keep. If you are required to make lesson plans, be as vague as permissible. Don’t let transcripts, diplomas, records and tests determine your academic plans. Focus on learning and the rest will follow.

     I don’t know about you, but I hate those “teacher plan” books…I dispise those empty boxes (even if I planned my day that way–i.e. alternating subjects.)  This year we’re using a simple, journal-type planner.  I added my own tabs to divide up the weeks, as well as tabs for writing down the books we read, resources we’re using, etc.

9).  Put the needs of your youngest, most vulnerable children first. If an older child gets a little behind in school, I’m sure you can forgive yourself. But if something happened to the toddler while you were busy homeschooling, I don’t think you would be able to say the same.

     Once we’ve given our youngest what they need, they will be content to let us work with our older children.  See my tab on “Routine”, and my article, “Keeping Little Ones Busy.”

10).  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul and don’t neglect to seek him early…giving him the first fruits of your day and teach your children to do the same. I know that you are tired and that there aren’t enough hours in your day, but we serve a God who can make the sun stand still.

     Examine yourself:  Do you “make the main thing (JESUS!) the main thing”  in your personal life/homeschool/family life?  Do you spend time in the Word everyday?   Does your life reflect your most important goals?  Do you live out your faith?  Does your life rotate around GOD, or your family/homeschool?  (OUCH.)   I know I have a long way to go regarding these matters…I’ve been very convicted lately about truly living out my most important goals.  

     For more about “the main thing”, see my post, “Challenge To Christian Parents.” 

     Live the 4R’s!   ~~Susan

     Info about this post:  Simplifying,”   according to my information, this was orginally posted on the RC4JC Yahoo group and is used with permission:  “Anyone can use Colette’s list of 10 things; she’d like it if they credit the e-group or her by name, but it’s otherwise free for use without any conditions.”  (If this information is incorrect, please let me know so I can give credit where credit is due.  I did my best to find the orginal source.)

Colette is one of the moderators of the Robinson Curriculum email group:
Robinson Users for Christ

Simplify the Curriculum © Colette Longo, used with permission.  Other portions of this post: © 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Curriculum, Elementary School, Encouragement, Goals, Holiness, Homeschool, Homeschooling, Methods, Readiness, Reading Aloud, Relationships, The 4 R's, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | 6 Comments »