My 4-year-old can:
- read some basic sight words
- write all her letters and numbers
- add and subtract
- spell some basic words by sounding them out
- tell you about all sorts of animals and what kinds of habitats they live in
- understand the concepts of observation and hypothesis
- draw REALLY well
- recognize shapes, patterns, opposites
My 2-year-old can:
- Count to 15
- recognize all her letters and almost all numbers 1-10
- recognize shapes
- do 48-piece jig-saw puzzles
**Don't compare your kids to my kids' abilities in the lists below. Every child learns at a different pace and I don't think every parent needs to be pushing their children to learn. Just expose them to what you can and they'll soak it up when they are good and ready.**
So... considering I had already decided to homeschool while we're living in Japan and the girls are still only old enough for preschool, I started looking around for curriculum.
Many people believe that children of such a young age should learn through play, with hardly any focus on academics. And I agree. But when your kids wake up at 5:30am and don't go to bed until 8:00pm (not to mention that neither one of them is taking a nap), playing all day can get boring without mixing it up a bit. Sure, there are millions of craft and activity ideas on the internet. But, I am notorious at making lists and looking for ideas without ever actually doing any of it. Any mother will tell you that without a routine or some structure, it's easy to fall into ruts where you feel like you're spending your entire day trying to keep the kids entertained without putting them in front of the tv. I feel like we've been stuck in that rut for a while and another year without more "school" will do us in.
This is why I started looking at curriculums. I don't want to jump right into academics and full-on homeschooling, but I DO want some structure and guidance, and some ideas for things to do with the girls to break up the day a bit more. I wanted something that would lay out my week for me, while still allowing flexibility when our days don't exactly go as planned. Something that would start introducing age-appropriate concepts and information to my kids without my spending hours figuring out what topics to cover next.
I decided to go with a company called Oak Meadow. Oak Meadow is a Waldorf-inspired curriculum that believes that education should involve the whole child - with things like drawing, painting, nature study, building things, baking, etc. It integrates all the different subjects and does a majority of its "teaching" through stories and fairy tales. I also chose to buy a First Grade curriculum since Thing 1 already knows many of the concepts taught in Kindergarten. If she's not ready for some of the concepts, we can take our time with it. No rush. I didn't order the complete curriculum package because I wasn't interested in the health or music concepts yet. I would much rather teach Thing 1 and Thing 2 the piano than how to play the recorder. I also decided not to purchase the craft kit because I think I can find more economical supplies on my own.
I'm VERY excited about it, though it was a little scary to actually push the "Submit Order" button. It cost me around $250, but considering some other curriculums were upwards of $800 (!!), I don't think the cost was very high. If I were doing themed units of study, or piecing together my own curriculum, I could easily spend the same amount on materials and books. So, besides the price being reasonable (to me), I was also more than happy to pay for the convenience of someone else putting everything together and planning the lessons. Our shipment should come in before we move (I hope!), so that we will have everything we need to start a more structured "school" routine after we're settled in Japan. I'll definitely keep you posted on how it turns out!