The goal is simply to play, explore, and learn organically.
There is no force or coercion, drills, or threats. Please don't confuse this with "school" or "preschool;" Jack is exploring his environment with items I have strewn to help introduce him to new words, experiences, and ideas. (Visit the link above to learn about strewing.)
What follows is our plan for Jack, but what we do changes on a daily and moment-to-moment basis. We follow his lead, and boy, does he lead!
1. Letter-of-the-Week Boxes
Each week I create discovery boxes based on a specific letter. I fill the box with everyday objects from home and some are purchased from the dollar store. Letter A box, for example, was filled with apples, almonds (in a tightly sealed sandwich bag), cards with A objects, flashcards with A words, animal cards (alligator and army ant), and a toy alligator.
I place the letter-of-the-week box out in the living area for him to explore at his leisure. When he does, I try not to interfere as he rifles through the box and its contents. I watch him pick up items, taste them, turn them, and throw them (!). If he looks to me or hands me an object, I talk with him.
"That's a big red apple you're holding."
"In that picture of an apple, there's a worm coming out of it!"
"Look, a red apple and a green apple."
"This alligator has so many sharp teeth!"
"This is a picture of an acorn. It came from a tree like the ones outside."
"That apple sure can roll!"
Typically, he will move on from exploring the box and return to it at random times where we follow the same pattern.
Goals: The goals here are simple: explore, play, and immerse in language and new experiences. Language is the vehicle to any new learning (and language does not always mean talking! It could be simple facial gestures.).
Jack has a small library of books, but weekly we pick up new books from the library (board books for us to explore together and picture books for me or his brother to read to him). I am selecting books whose topics start with the letter of the week (to vary the scope of what we read and repeat the language and images of items he discovered in his box).
If he brings a board book to me, I'll read it to him. I go completely at his pace. If he wants to babble to the picture of a horse for five minutes, we do that. If he wants to flip through pages without reading, we do that. I try to help the books come to life with a lilting reading voice or ridiculous animal sounds, where appropriate. Jack enjoys being the page-turner, and he isn't shy to tell me when he's done. If he does seem to be enjoying looking through a book alone, I let him be.
Goals: Again, simple goals here: play with, explore, and introduce books, language, and literature.
3. Language Games/Activities
a. Talking and Listening- We talk and talk and talk with Jack about everything we're doing, but I think it's also important to listen to him and allow him some silence to explore and play quietly. I do not narrate everything we do, but I will engage him in conversation if he seems open and interested.
b. Songs- I sing the ABC song every day, typically at meal times because we sit right next to an alphabet chart. Sometimes I vary the song like this: "A says ah, ah, alligator. B says buh, buh, beaver" etc. (I change the theme all the time. During A week, I used all animal names, but usually I make it up on the fly.) I also sing counting songs, lullabies, and random ditties. I do not have the best voice, but Jack doesn't seem to mind.
c. Audio books and Music- I play audio books every day at home and in the car to further expose him to language and narration voices. I am playing different types of music based on the letter of the week. For A week, it was Disney's Animal Rock CD, but B could very well be Bach and the Beach Boys!
d. Mister Rogers and Emotions- Mister Rogers Neighborhood is the only television show I purposely put on for Jack. (We don't encourage him to watch television or movies for a variety of reasons, at least until he's three) He tends to follow along and focus intermittently, but I feel that it is a quality show and another source for new language. The show also helps us communicate about emotions. We also do not discourage Jack from crying or expressing emotions and try to talk him through his feelings.
e. Games- We play hide-n-seek, "tag," and peek-a-boo through the day. We also talk during outings in the backyard, at the playground, and out in the community.
f. Daily "journaling"- Jack loves grabbing a pencil or crayon and scribbling (unlike his older brother). We usually lay a pad of paper and writing utensils near him and let him "make his marks." I jot down some things he did that day or experiences he had and add the date.
Goals: Simple! Immerse in language, play, and explore!
Goals: Simple! Immerse in language, play, and explore!
We're partly influenced by RIE and so try our best not to force Jack into any position that he cannot get into and out of himself, so we don't "walk" him or use walkers very much. When he was learning to crawl and climb stairs, we didn't move him or position him in any way. It took him longer to crawl than other babies his age, but I've observed a kind of quiet balance and physical confidence in him. He's pretty deliberate in his movements and tests new maneuvers all the time. After much practice, he's mastered the stairs and can ascend and descend safely.
We plan to continue the following:
- playing on the playground at the park and trampoline in our backyard
- encouraging him to trust his own body and move how he likes while providing opportunities to work on balance
I don't want to go too Pinterest-happy, but I want to continue to expose him to new sensory experiences such as the following:
- Tactile- water play, different textures, sand and dough play, nature, art, food
- Auditory- conversation, various music, songs, audio books, sounds in nature
- Olfactory/Gustatory- new aromas, scents, and food flavors
- Visual- outdoors, books, art, pictures
- Small motor- puzzles, stacking, sorting, picking up small objects (we'll let him lead and initiate)
6. World Knowledge
"Around here, we don’t look backwards for very long… We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things because we’re curious… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths." -Walt Disney
We explore the world by going out and exploring (so far, Jack has been to the Grand Canyon, a baseball stadium, a zoo, the library, and many places, but we want to continue the adventures like we did for his older brother). Places include:
grocery store, post office, department store, library, hardware store, park, fair, zoo, nature trails, museums, state parks, farms, factories, aquariums, different landscapes, restaurants, etc.
7. Homeschool Environment
Of course, I'm super grateful that Jack is daily exposed to his brother's homeschooling. He listens along to math lessons, exciting stories, and language lessons. He's exposed to messy science experiments (and often joins in) and accompanies us on field trips. I am not entirely sure what the outcome will be of a baby born into a homeschool environment, but I'm anxious to see!
8. Healthy brain foods
Anyone who knows me knows that I'm sort of a health nut, especially with new babies. When I was expecting Jack, I ate as healthy as possible and supplemented with whole food prenatal vitamins and cod liver oil.
Since he's been born, I continued to eat healthy (as we exclusively breastfed for the first six months and continue to breastfeed), but now that he eats solids, we choose organic, non-grain (no rice cereal until his molars come in), and brain-boosting foods. We also heavily use coconut oil (great for brains!) as a body wash, lotion, wipe solution, and food add-in. We're obsessed.
My goal is to continue healthy nutrition and independent eating while introducing new foods.
One last note:
Because the point of Play School is play, exploration, and fun, our "planned" activities are fluid. We may or may not play with his letter box, and we might scrap all "plans"and follow his lead. In other words, Jack is in charge of his learning and I am merely a facilitator.
Do you do Play School/Tot School? If so, I'd love to hear about it. Tell me in the comments or send me a link to follow.