Gemma will likely not start school until 2016 because she has a fall birthday. This will mean she’ll be an “old” kindergartner. I am not sure how I feel about this; she is bright and part of me worries about her starting school as an older child, but the other part of me is happy with the slow pace and that we still have time together. However things work out, this fact has prompted me to be organized as her teacher from home. I started teaching her at a young age as much as I possibly could in a very natural/environmental way (pointing things out, labeling, showing her textures, etc.). I have always encouraged learning through nature, art and simply by experience, especially sensory experience. I have tried not to baby-proof too much and rather to teach her truths about her world; ie: the china cabinet is full of glass, if you drop glass it will break into many pieces and can be dangerous.
For Gemma this has worked well. I have always set up a lot of sensory play for her like washing her wagon in the backyard and playing with rocks, sand and mud. It may sound silly, but I think she learns the best this way. Gemma was not much of a “mouther” either so this has allowed me to push some boundaries early on as to what I allowed her access to. At about 8 months old she was already very interested in small objects so I supervised her while she refined her small motor skills by putting buttons into a water bottle or sorting objects into “like” piles. In general I just allowed her access to most stuff in our house without setting too many boundaries (barring danger of course). When Gemma turned two I started to feel the urge to provide her more. Luckily, I was not alone and was approached by a few friends to develop a co-op for our kids that are all the same age. We decided to take turns hosting lessons so the kids are able to get together once a week.
Since Gemma just turned three, I wanted to add a few organized activities to our schedule this year in addition to our co-op and home projects (art, crafts and sensory play). We are not ready to enroll her in preschool yet for several reasons, but mainly because I know that if she starts preschool this year she will be in it for 3 years, which to me just seems too long. I know she will thrive, but I’d like her to enjoy more time at home with me and her new little sister before launching her into an organized preschool. That being said, we do have plans down the line to take her to preschool and in the meantime, we have decided to enroll her in dance and a program called BSF.
BSF is a bible study program that has an excellent organized preschool component for mothers who are enrolled. So at this point Summer goes with me to my class once a week for two hours and Gemma gets to go to her own class. The class introduces Christian teaching and has a nice organized classroom schedule. Between BSF and dance, I am hoping to ease Gemma into having some time each week taking instruction from others. With these few activities and the things we do at home and in our co-op, along with having a new baby sister, we are keeping quite busy and I think she is getting a good balance of what she needs for this “school year.”
Next year we will re-evaluate needs and adjust as necessary. She may be ready for preschool at that point, but we will wait and watch her cues.
Our weekly schedule looks something like this:
Mon: Evening Ballet
Tues: At home day
Wed: Bible Study Fellowship
Thurs: At home day
Fri: Co-op group meeting
Our at home days consist of art, crafts, free play, helping around the house, baking, reading and anything else I can come up with to keep Gemma on her toes. Many days we have a picnic at the park, hit up story-time at the library or local bookstore or head out to a moms group activity where she can see some friends. So far things have been going great with our new schedule adjustment and a new baby sister.