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At Home Preschool

Don’t be green with envy, but where we live high quality preschool is affordable. I have lots of options to choose from, and I don’t need to camp-out overnight on a doorstep to register for Montessori. When Jenna turns 3 and attends preschool in the fall, I’ll pay $300 a month for three days a week, three hours a day. But I understand that many of my blog readers in other parts of the country face a steeper financial burden to pay for preschool.

Some of my out-of-state friends have decided to join forces with other moms and sponsor coop preschools in their homes. Admittedly, my first thought is “Eeek! Three-year-olds painting over white carpet!” But really, I think with the right parents and enough planning, you could make an outstanding play-based preschool experience for your child at home. Here are some ideas that might help you get started:

Student/Teacher Ratio

  • Two Year Olds: 1 adult for every 2 children (including mobile siblings)
  • Three Year Olds: 1 adult for every 3 children (including mobile siblings)
  • Four Year Olds: 1 adult for every 4 children (including mobile siblings)

Emergency Preparedness

  • Make a backpack that includes first aid supplies, water, food, emergency contact information, and a change of clothes. This backpack should be with the adult in charge at all times, even if you are playing outside in the backyard.

Preschool Supply Box

  • Preschoolers need consistency and routine. If “school” is moving from house to house each week, then that is a lot of change for little guys to contend with. In order to counter this, you should have some materials and supplies that are ever-present and that children can count on. The Preschool Supply Box would travel to whatever home preschool was going to be located that week, so that the parent in charge would have everything necessary to set up the “classroom”. It would contain: an easel, paints, paper, smocks, play dough, play dough tools, several picnic table cloths, Dixie cups, paper plates, a tub of chubby pencils, old stationary, a large white board with dry erase markers, scarves, bean-bags, musical instruments, the emergency backpack, and a dog bed.
  • Whoever had the Supply Box last would be in charge of cleaning and disinfecting the materials before they were sent to the next venue.

Centers/Stations

  • Before kids arrive, set up at least twice as many activity stations for the number of children you have attending. In order to provide consistency to your program, some of the stations should always be the same. One or two stations should be brand new every time. The constant stations could include: painting (with the picnic tablecloth underneath), play dough, a reading nest (that’s what the dog bed is for), a writing corner, a dress-up area, and blocks. Novel stations might include a toy kitchen, an office, watercolors, a Word Whammer, cooking, or bean activities.
  • During Centers/Stations time, the adults float through the room offering assistance and support.

Circle Time

  • During Circle Time I would write a very short Morning Message on the giant white board. Then I would bring out a sound box and let the children take turns guessing what was inside. After that we would read a story.
  • Circle Time is when the adult delivers direct instruction.

Two Hour Schedule

  • Arrival and free play (15 minutes)
  • Circle Time (10 minutes)
  • Centers/Stations (40 minutes)
  • Clean Up (5 minutes)
  • Snack (15 minutes)
  • Music (10 minutes)
  • Outside Play (25 minutes)

Bumping Things Up to a PreK Program for 4 Year Olds

  • Since every child learns at a different rate, I am very leery of “academic preschools” that have children sit down to crank out worksheets. In fact, I don’t think worksheets are a very good way to teach at all. But I do strongly believe in giving children the opportunity to learn academic content in a fun, engaging, one-on-one setting. I also believe in teaching children to read at a very young age. I think a really good way to do this in a home preschool setting would be to use the All About Reading or All About Spelling kits from All About Learning Press.
  • On days when there were at least two parents present in the preschool, one parent could pull children aside individually in 10-15 minute intervals to work on an AAR or AAS lesson. Some children might go through these programs slowly, whereas other will whiz through. That’s why you would teach them one-on-one. The All About Learning Press teaching guides would make things really easy and accessible for the parent to lead, so all parents in the preschool could be confident that their children were receiving high quality reading lessons.
  • To incorporate a structured math program into the preschool, another parent could be in charge of conducting 10-15 minute lessons using Right Start Level A with children on an individual basis. As a whole class, you could also do a new cooking project each week.

A Word about Money$

Creating a home-based preschool for your child would certainly save a lot of money, but it would not be free because you would definitely need materials and supplies. It would probably take at least $80 from each family to start the preschool up, and then $10-$20 a month for new art supplies and learning materials. If you decided to hire a professional preschool teacher, that would of course cost money too. Or, you could rely on a different parent to be the “teacher” each week.

If I was contemplating creating a home preschool with some other parents, and one of the other moms was constantly objecting to cost or trying to sacrifice quality for the sake of frugality, I would kindly tell her that we were not a good fit for each other. I want to be careful with my family’s financial resources, but I believe that my children’s education is worth paying for. Any way you slice it, a good quality preschool still costs money.


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