It seems that I have 3 major responsibilities in my role as the "Preschool Teacher" for my girls:
1) Encouraging Curiosity / Love of Learning (For example, I take my children on many field-trips, one of them being the local art gallery. I try to make I Spy or Scavenger Hunt games when we go. I don't spend a lot of time on naming artists or art styles. My oldest daughter is 3 and I don't expect her to be an expert on Monet. I DO want her to be comfortable and interested and curious about art so that when it is time to explore it in depth, she is not intimidated or turned off by it. That example applies to all learning, be it Scripture, Nature, Cooking, Reading, Math, Music, etc. I hope to provide Creative opportunities for my children to explore and learn so they LOVE to learn.).
2) Expand Their World: If we only exposed our children to things they request/express interest in, "their world" would be very small. My daughter has never seen a live walrus. She would never know to ask about a walrus unless we introduced them through books, dvds, and maybe someday a trip to a zoo that has them.
3) Facilitate "The Next Step": When she shows growth, understands a new concept, is ready for a new skill (God is so good in showing those signs clearly), it is my job to facilitate that. When she says, 'Mom I'd like to help cook supper.' I let her within her ability (she stirs, counts, helps measure, gathers ingredients from the fridge, rolls with the rolling pin, cuts with cookie cutters, shakes spices, etc w/supervision).
We use a chart for the areas we try to approach DAILY. These are:
- Bible (stories, memory verse, prayer, praise songs, etc)
- Reading (wide variety of books including stories, factual books, and poetry. This doesn't include Bible. It is its own category)
- Food (learning about food groups, nutrition, etc, helping select foods at the grocery store, herb gardening in the spring and summer and cooking skills)
- Concepts (Letters, Numbers, Shapes, Opposites, Animal Classification, Colors, etc). These are presented in many forms (flashcards, games, puzzles, workbooks, action poems, books, DVDs, etc).
- Music (singing, action songs, playing instruments, dance)
- Art (doing art and appreciating art, i.e. art gallery)
Exercise (formally through jumping jacks, jogging, etc OR informally through outdoor play, trips to Tunnel Town or Pump It Up, etc)
- Hygiene (on my chart it says "Clean Girl")... meaning diligence in hand washing, clean clothes/dressing, bath, brushing teeth, etc.
That list may appear to be a lot, but it really isn't. Some days, music means we sing one or two songs together. Art may mean 15 minutes with play dough on Monday, but over an hour painting on Tuesday. Exercise can be formal (we've used videos at the library, the park, our backyard, etc), or informal (free play on a playground). Food may mean putting the napkins out at the dinner table and identifying the fruits and vegetables on her plate, or it may mean helping cook an entire meal from the Biscuits to Mashing Potatoes and Tossing Salad. I do not place a time commitment on the checklist. It may mean 5 minutes per item, or 2 hours. The idea is just that we're 'well rounded.'
If one category (or more) are neglected in a day, that's fine. Those categories are given top priority tomorrow. The main reason for neglect is often an over-emphasis in another category that was GREAT fun!
Anyway, the checklist is my "system." It encourages me, as a mom, to look at the day and say, 'Hey, we did do something worthwhile for my kids today.' Very often at the end of the day, it doesn't "feel" like you've been productive, but looking at the "list"... you have.
Some days we do more, other days we do less. For me, it isn't about doing everything/ finishing the curriculum (currently Before Five in a Row), it is about Encouraging a LOVE for learning, OPENING my girls' world, and FACILITATING "the next step." If a project doesn't do that, I don't do it.
I'm far from perfect at all of the ideals/goals described above, I just do my best with Christ's strength.