By: Jennifer Murray

Preschool For Dummies

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No, I’m not calling my kids Dummies!  I just don’t want them to be Dummies. Or rather, I wish they weren’t being taught by a Dummie.  Um, I’m just referring to the Dummie Manuals, you know the ones, right? Oh dear, let’s start this over…

Just for kicks, I fumbled around on the internet tonight looking at local preschool programs and how much it would cost to enroll four 4 year olds in the fall.  It was seriously laughable.  It’s nearly a mortgage payment for a two day 1/2 day program!

So instead of forking out several thousand dollars, I’d love to do some more educational activities with my own little class at home. They’ve already picked up on lots of school readiness skills informally here at home: counting, letter sounds, concepts, etc. It’s amazing how much they soak up at this age, isn’t it?

I’ve found a couple of sites I love like Mom Tried It and No Time for Flashcards, but a lot of sites I’ve stumbled upon seem to be for elementary age kids. So I thought I’d turn to YOU all! You all are the furthest thing from “Dummies”. Who needs Google or a Preschool for Dummies Manual, when you have the 4tunate Fans, right?

So what are YOUR favorite preschool activities, materials, websites, books, resources?  I’ve got my notebook and pencil ready!

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44 Responses to “Preschool For Dummies”

  1. Amanda
    January 24, 2011 at 8:44 am #

    When my oldest started kindergarten (he’s in first grade this year), we were given the website starfall.com for him and that is VERY good, I think. I am not sure about pre-school but it’s worth a look. I wish I had known about it when he was into all th learning…now he says “I don’t want to do school stuff!” Enjoy 4–it was by far my FAVORITE age!!!!!

  2. Traci Best
    January 24, 2011 at 8:53 am #

    Mmm…let’s see… I love http://www.worksheetworks.com for age appropriate printables for many subjects! Some bloggers I love that have or have had many preschoolers: http://www.preschoolersandpeace.com/ and http://www.smockityfrocks.com/.

  3. Sarah U.
    January 24, 2011 at 8:55 am #

    My mom taught my at home when I was 3 and 4 from a big blue book. It had all sorts of wonderful things in it and I could not wait to see what was going to happen when that big blue book came out. That was nearly 40 years ago. Imagine my surprise when I seen that blue book at the library a few years back. Guess what I am saying is….check out the local library for home schooling resources. I bet they have a big blue book or two. They probably have a lot of different books based on style of teaching, I’d check them out and see what works for you and purchase then from Amazon the ones that do work. Wishing you luck. I wish more parents would realize that whether you do it formally or not…everyone should be ‘home schooling’ their children.

  4. Juli E.
    January 24, 2011 at 8:57 am #

    I know you already do this, but read, read, read! And then dicuss and “write” about what they read ( it may be a picture, but for them it is putting their thoughts on paper). It is by far the best thing you can do with them! I “home schooled” preschool with our triplets due to the cost of preschool and I don’t regret a single minute! My oldest went to preschool and loved it, but she needed to have something that was “hers” and time away from three very demanding babies.

  5. Elizabeth
    January 24, 2011 at 9:02 am #

    Of course there are all sorts of workbooks out there you can use. Charlie’s PreK class used Starfall.com on the computer for basic sight word learning. It has other useful stuff on it as well. Charlie loved practising writing with the dry erase books you can find at places like Walmart. You can get the lined paper for writing practise there too.

  6. connie
    January 24, 2011 at 9:08 am #

    i have done all my kids preschool at home! Not only did we save a TON of money, but I got to watch them learn, which is just amazing in itself. I found several learning games at garage sales. Counting and color games( you could use colored paper clips) we used them for all sorts of games. count the blue, sort by twos and so on.Also, i did bible in the mornings with the Jesus storybook bible and then had a color page to go with it..I printed them off a free website, can’t remember the name.( google:)
    Also picked up at a garage sale, big flash cards with uppercase and lowercase, and worked on recognition and sounds. With that, i did 1 letter a day, starting with vowels, and had them work on the writing part(on big spaced paper, also found at a garage sale.:) i think it was a retired teacher who had the sale.:)
    I am all for kids learning at home, since i was home schooled from 3rd grade on.:)

  7. Josephine
    January 24, 2011 at 9:12 am #

    My son is about 6 weeks younger than your crew so we are in the preparation of kindergarten also. Our local school district provides a “Gearing up for Kindergarten” class for parents, and plan to do one in the evenings next school year for the kids. They are giving tons of information (and so far so good and FREE!) We have also been attending various other things provided through the school district, along with story time at our local library and a few other ‘social’ activities.

    I have made a few file folder games (all from free downloads online) We also do some small worksheets (tlsbooks.com) I also LOVE the 2 websites that you listed and have been doing something daily with one of those websites (or a variation of our own) The other place that we frequent is the Dollar Tree. They have workbooks in various levels but start at color recognition, counting, phonics etc.
    Good Luck and I can’t wait to read others’ responses to gain more information and ideas!!

  8. Gail
    January 24, 2011 at 9:31 am #

    Our local elementary school offers pre-K classes that my son attended. Both my son and daughter attended a free class at our local high school that was “taught” by high school students (but overseen by a teacher) who were interested in early childhood development. It was very structured and the little ones had their own separate entrance and play area so their space was not part of the rest of the school and high school students. Both my kids loved it.

  9. Suzy
    January 24, 2011 at 9:33 am #

    Jen! I have heard some of our triplet mom friends discussing what they pay for their kids to go to preschool, and it makes me sick to think about it! I get an anxiety attack at the prospect of spending so much money (that we don’t even have)!! Will be following this post to see what suggestions people give. I never thought I’d have to become a preschool teacher!!!

    Keep up with me, Ted, and our Fab Four at four-by-two.blogspot.com.

  10. Heather
    January 24, 2011 at 9:55 am #

    I think http://www.first-school.ws/ is great. They have tons of themed lessons and activities. Very similar to what it is like to be in preschool. Teaches letter writing. You should find out if your local Kindergarten teaches standard handwriting or D’Nealian and then go with that. They have great little letter books that kids color, cut, glue and write. I think it is amazing. Good luck!

  11. Sonya
    January 24, 2011 at 10:45 am #

    This is just something that came to mind…our local high school has a preschool program that is run by the students that sign up for the class. I really don’t think it costs anything, but I’m not certain. I just wondered if there was something similar in your area that could be an option.

  12. Erica Crum
    January 24, 2011 at 11:04 am #

    As a former kindergarten teacher, it’s most important to learn those letters and sounds!! It will make kindergarten a breeze if they know that ahead of time!

    Also, I taught at a Christian school, and we used the ABEKA program for pre-school and kindergarten. It’s amazing!!!! They learn so much and will be way ahead going into elementary school. It’s available as a homeschool program. It might be a little bit expensive (you can check the website) but it would be well worth it and still much cheaper than tuition. I know several homeschooling moms who use it and love it.

  13. Sarah
    January 24, 2011 at 11:08 am #

    Jen, not sure if this is what you were hoping for, but these are two websites that were suggested to me, and I have found them helpful at times. I haven’t been able to keep up super well, but I loved that they incorporated the Bible into the activities/lessons. Hope this helps and is an encouragement to you. We were also overwhelmed when we started looking into preschool costs, but also because I wasn’t quite ready to send her to school yet. :)

    http://abcjesuslovesme.com/4-year-old-curriculum
    http://hubbardscupboard.org/pre-kindergarten.html

  14. Allie
    January 24, 2011 at 11:56 am #

    Thank you so much for the shout out!

    As a former preschool teacher I think the most important thing you can do for your young child is to instill a love of learning and curiosity!

    Two more favorites : http://birdonthestreet.com/ and http://wwwicanteachmychild.com

    Both are also former teachers and know their stuff!

  15. Kim
    January 24, 2011 at 11:56 am #

    Thank you so much for the link.
    On facebook become a fan of Teach Preschool. Deborah does a fantastic job of finding great preschool activities and crafts. She shares the links, so you don’t have to scour the internet. She is a seasoned preschool teacher and curriculum director, she knows the god stuff. I love her!

  16. Jan
    January 24, 2011 at 12:36 pm #

    There have been some great suggestions, but make sure your boys get plenty of practice at 1) obeying other adults, 2) learning to ignore distractions (hah!), 3) playing nicely with others outside their immediate family, 4) practice following more complex directions, 5) keeping hands to our own belongings…all things that preschool offers but can be experienced elsewhere also! Sunday School? Babysitters?

    Good luck! Keep up the good work!

  17. Cherie from the Queen of Free
    January 24, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    GIRL, I have a site for you! Lady Jackie is a fellow Hoosier blogger and is AMAZiNG. She runs a preschool in her home and creates frugal learning experiences. You could pretty much follow along with them and do the same. Looks like you are going to have plenty of resources to choose from.

    http://pocketful–of–posies.blogspot.com/

  18. Jennifer
    January 24, 2011 at 1:57 pm #

    Great post—I will be following and researching the resources provided. DS is in a pre-school program now at his in home daycare (same age as the quads, born a few days later at St.V’s), but next fall I will be staying home with him (and a newborn) and not sure what program we will use. I found one in the burg for $65 a month so if we don’t do that one I will be doing something from home. I hope we can manage that for the social aspect.

  19. Katie
    January 24, 2011 at 2:39 pm #

    I love your blog. Your posts are always so encouraging! I teach Montessori Preschool and here are some of the sites that I use all the time.
    http://www.perpetualpreschool.com -ideas for every theme imaginable
    http://www.makinglearningfun.com -lots of great printables
    mymontessorijourney.typepad.com/ -all kinds of great stuff with some good links too

  20. Allyson
    January 24, 2011 at 2:43 pm #

    I think the plainfield library has lots of awesome resources for homeschooling … any ages! you should check it out! :)

  21. Tabitha
    January 24, 2011 at 2:54 pm #

    I stumbled across http://www.icanteachmychild.com/
    and I love it! I try to incorporate one of her activities once/week for my 2 year old.

  22. Naomi Marcus
    January 24, 2011 at 3:18 pm #

    I don’t know if you’ve come across her blog, but Julie Johnson is a teacher who is taking time out to look after her kiddos, and she blogs about many of the activities she does at home with them http://www.breezyacresfarm.blogspot.com/

  23. Amanda
    January 24, 2011 at 5:09 pm #

    Hey Jen,

    Just a couple of other thoughts to add to what you already have. Many preschools give free tuition to the children of teachers. With your education background, you would be a shoe in! Our preschool also gives discounts for multiples (but still expensive, I agree). Also, it seems like many of the bigger churches in the area have weekly Bible studies for the women including classes for the kids. That could be a free preschool-like option for your family. Our kids have learned so much at their “kiddie seminary classes.”

  24. Dawn
    January 24, 2011 at 5:10 pm #

    1plus1plus1equal1.blogspot.com offers a FREE printable Christian Preschool program called “Raising Rockstars”. You can find it on the menu tab at the top of her blog. (For a $10 one-time fee you can access additional files, too.)

    confessionsofahomeschooler.blogspot.com offers a “Letter of the Week” curriculum with tons of fun, free printables themed by (you guessed it…) alphabet letter.

    In some ways, you can mix & match the two programs to create a really neat home preschool for your kiddos. All you need is paper, ink, and contact paper or a laminator, and a some basic school supplies! :)

    (No, I’m not affilated with either site – I just think they’re both TERRIFIC!)

    • Kristi
      January 24, 2011 at 5:16 pm #

      I also wanted to recommend both of these!!! Both gals are amazing christian women and the resources are fantatic!!

    • Lori
      January 24, 2011 at 9:40 pm #

      Also agree with the 1+1+1=1 site. My oldest is a month younger than yours and I’ve been doing some of her tot school activities with my boys. Hoping to get into more of her preschool curriculum in the next few months.

  25. Jennifer
    January 24, 2011 at 5:14 pm #

    From a K teacher point of view….We expect the kids to know how to count, id numbers, letters, shapes and colors when entering K. We also like them to know (recognize) their own name and write at least their first name. These are the basics that we look for from kids coming from a “pre-k” program. Starfall is great, so is Sesame Street. Following basic rules is also great.

    ~Just my opinion!! Good luck! I think you will do great :)

  26. Terry
    January 24, 2011 at 6:46 pm #

    As a preschool director, I can tell you that the “Mailbox” magazine is what we use for educational-fun activities. Also as a mom, “Family Fun” is full of great ideas and articles. Have fun!

  27. April
    January 24, 2011 at 9:12 pm #

    I love Confessions of a Homeschooler’s Letter of the Week curriculum!! She has so many great ideas, plus it is all set up for you, including a daily schedule.

    http://confessionsofahomeschooler.blogspot.com/2010/07/letter-of-week-curriculum.html

  28. Michelle
    January 24, 2011 at 9:29 pm #

    http://www.starfall.com is one that we have always used.

  29. Misty
    January 24, 2011 at 9:39 pm #

    Handwriting Without Tears has a Pre-K workbook and an excellent website. http://www.hwtears.com I am a pediatric occupational therapist and have 3 year old twin girls. We will be starting the workbook this summer.

  30. Hilary
    January 24, 2011 at 9:43 pm #

    I teach pre-k and nursery rhymes are a huge part of our curriculum. Nursery rhymes cover phonological awareness skills like alliteration and rhyming. The kids love the rhythm and they are easy to memorize.
    I agree with read, read, read to them. I especially like non-fiction books with real pictures that enhance vocabulary learning.

  31. Shelley
    January 24, 2011 at 11:16 pm #

    http://www.preschoolprepco.com

    As a teacher turned stay at home mom to kids who are “typically” developing and those with special needs, I HIGHLY recommend these materials. We have the DVDs, the books, the whole nine yards…worth EVERY penny. You can rent the videos on You Tube to try them out. We even used these to help our 7 year old (adopted from Bulgaria) to start learning basic skills. He picked them up quickly with these!

  32. Kim M
    January 25, 2011 at 8:37 am #

    I’ve been following you off and on for a while, and am so glad I popped in to catch this post! I have been using Brightly Beaming Toddler http://www.letteroftheweek.com/index.html with my almost 2 year old twins (they have several different curricula divided by age from newborn to 7 yrs). I like it, but I’m so excited to see all of these other websites and start looking for more ideas! Thanks!

  33. Carol
    January 25, 2011 at 10:55 am #

    http://milknhoneylearnandgrow.blogspot.com

    This lady is an amazing teacher … she’s now at home teaching her little guy!
    Enjoy!

  34. Jackie
    January 25, 2011 at 11:46 am #

    I started a preschool in my home last year (I am a former public educator.) and have chronicled what we are doing on a blog. I have shared many ideas that may be helpful. http://pockeftul–of–posies.blogspot.com I have never sent any of my children to preschool and they have done great in school.

  35. mama2a&b
    January 25, 2011 at 3:19 pm #

    We sent our twin boys (now in kindergarten) to a cooperative preschool. Very reasonably priced and I loved that I spent a lot of time in the classroom and got to know all the other kids and parents. I had to do my parent helper days but they also had interaction with the teacher and other parent helpers. This is a link to cooperative preschools in Indiana:
    http://www.preschools.coop/v/school-province/Indiana/f/

  36. Becky
    January 25, 2011 at 4:22 pm #

    Hi! I see someone already suggested http://www.letteroftheweek.com I used that site with my children for preschool activities, and it’s free.

    Another great website that has a fee, but is worth it, is ABC I Believe with goes through the alphabet but includes a Bible Lesson.

    http://www.daniellesplace.com/homeschool/index.cfm

    At this young age, I’d encourage you to work on loving Jesus, character development, and loving others – especially each other. The shapes/colors/etc will come with normal life. :)

  37. Sarah
    January 25, 2011 at 7:04 pm #

    I found several blogs that give me AWESOME preschool ideas! (some of them WRITE and MAKE their own for us to download and print!!)

    http://www.abcand123learning.com -(a co-op resources)
    http://delightfullearning.blogspot.com -(uses Five In A Row and Before Five in a Row books with tons of activities that go along -http://fiarhq.com/fiveinarow.info/index.html)
    http://countingcoconuts.blogspot.com/ (inspired by a Montessori style of learning -tons of excellent ideas for learning while playing -a favorite with my 3 yr old!)
    http://homeschoolcreations.blogspot.com (a jackpot of everything! She has a separate blog for all things preschool – http://www.homeschoolcreations.com/preschoolcorner.html – And once a week she has a link-up (Preschool Corner) with tons of other mom’s participating sharing more amazing ideas!)
    and of course: http://confessionsofahomeschooler.blogspot.com Her letter of the week curriculum is great (I see several have mentioned her already) She also has tons of pages to download on handwriting, numbers, colors and shapes.

    good luck!! love your blog!

  38. Keary Naughton
    January 25, 2011 at 9:44 pm #

    go to http://bakersdozen.typepad.com She is a homeschooler and today she linked all her preschool homeschooling links

  39. Erin P
    January 26, 2011 at 12:48 pm #

    Besides starfall.com, you can go to learningpage.com http://www.learningpage.com/free_pages/gallery.html which is a free site geared toward homeschooling. I like it because you can print pages (sign up is free but requires email address), and you can CHOOSE the letter type (3 choices). D’Nealian is what our school system uses, but not every handwriting page is D’Nealian…lots are block letters. We had to “re-learn” a lot for that reason. First-timer’s mistake! A quick phone call to what would be the boys’ elementary school will save you a lot of work in the future :)

    Also this site has free downloads of the computerized version of “Teach your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons”. It’s probably a little ahead, but maybe not! Free downloads January only!

    Good luck – you can do it!

  40. Candace
    January 26, 2011 at 1:01 pm #

    Preschool is expensive. My son goes to a private pre-school program and we pay so much money for it. Well worth it though. (: We send him for socialization and they just reinforce what my husband and I are teaching at home. For our schools, my son needs to know how to write and spell his name, write all letters upper and lower case, recongnize letters upper and lower case, write numbers 1-10, recongnize numbers 1-10, count to 50, count by 10’s, sit for 20 minutes, follow 2-3 step directions, share, not interrupt people speaking, transition between learning centers easily without melt downs, structured, etc. My son has accomplished these things. But we are going beyond that for him. He is already reading, doing basic math skills, and sequencing, ordering, and matching.

  41. Crissy
    January 27, 2011 at 9:11 am #

    Hi Jen!
    I am a preschool teacher and mother of three boys. The most cost effective thing I did as a homeschool mom years ago, and now in my classroom is to make and laminate concept boards. I used flashcards or cute small post it note type notes and laminated them on poster boards and then laminated individual pieces and then the kids match. It covers colors, shapes, letters, numbers, etc. Whatever concept you are teaching can be incorporated and then learned and practiced over and over again, unlike using worksheets. This way, no writing is required and paper is saved. Of course, use worksheets other times, but these are invaluable in my opinion.

  42. Michelle
    February 2, 2011 at 9:04 am #

    I am a elementary school librarian and my teachers, particularly the primary and title teachers, LOVE the Mailbox magazines. http://www.theeducationcenter.com/tec/

    There is a preschool one that is good. If you don’t want to subscribe you can also check out your local library. I know that my library up in NW Indiana subscribes to it!

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