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Homeschool Preschool: Math and Science

I get many questions from Catholic homeschool parents about preschool curriculum. My experience in my own homeschool and in working with homeschool families over the past 25+ years, is that formal academics is not necessary before first grade. In fact, here at Homeschool Connections we do not offer online classes until third grade. We encourage parents to keep learning informal up until that time.

Every family is different and so every homeschool is different. In my family’s homeschool, my now-adult children were not left behind by putting off formal academics. Little children are so curious that learning comes quite naturally. In fact, they can learn simply through play. That doesn’t mean to ignore wee ones and their learning. Instead take joy in playing with them and learning beside them. Look for those teachable moments.

Here are some fun ideas for teaching foundational math and science skills in a natural way without an expensive homeschool curriculum program for preschool…

Math

McDonald’s Math. If you are in the McDonald’s drive-thru (and being thrifty, you’re not ordering Happy Meals) ask your wee ones how many chicken nuggets they are going to get after they share the 20-piece box with the rest of the family. Perhaps show them how ordering the 20-piece is cheaper than ordering five 4-piece boxes.

Puzzle Books. Look for connect-the-dot and maze books at the grocery store. They are inexpensive and children love them. Connecting the dots teach sequencing. Solving mazes teaches children to look several steps ahead – an important concept in higher mathematics.

Blocks. Simple blocks and wooden puzzles will help with shape recognition. Don’t be afraid to get on the floor with your child and a mess of blocks. As you build together, point out the names of shapes. Search your house for shapes – the round pie pan, the rectangular aquarium, the square computer monitor, etc.

Kitchen Math. Cooking with little ones offers many opportunities for building math skills. I might say, “I need to divide this bread dough into 2 parts,” or “We have to roll this pastry out to nine inches.” Let them measure out ingredients or help double a recipe.

Tape Measures. Give them a tape measure or ruler. Then let them measure everything in the house.

Read Alouds! Read picture books that have a math theme. Ask your librarian for help if need be (or see my book For the Love of Literature for a comprehensive list).

LEGOS. Play LEGOs or dominoes. Point out the number of studs on the LEGOs or the dots on the dominoes. Children can sort and create games based on the numbers.

Science

In preparing a foundation upon which to build science skills, we must first ask ourselves: What exactly is science? It is so much more than the simple collection of facts. Science is about observation. Yes, we need to know basic facts such as the boiling point for water and that the earth is the third planet from the sun, but we also need to remember that those facts were first discovered by observation.

Young children love memorizing facts and so teaching them science facts such as the order of the planets, would be both fun and useful. However, I encourage you to do more than that. Teach them observation skills.

There are four parts to observation:

2. Predict what might happen.
4. Make sense of the results.

Science involves trial and error, it is a way of thinking. Children learn science best if they are encouraged to investigate and experiment. Young children love to see, touch, and manipulate. They love to see how things change.

When babies throw their plates off the highchair and onto the floor, they are not being naughty, they are observing. They wonder what will happen if the plate goes over the edge. They may even be making a prediction. Children test the prediction and then try to make sense of the results. You might say that they are testing the theory of gravity.

Kitchen Science. In cooking, let children observe how the butter melts, how the texture of the bread dough is different from the finished loaf, or how vinegar curdles milk. Ask her why she thinks these things happen.

Nature Study. Take walks outdoors and observe the night sky. How does it change from day to night? From day to day? From season to season? Ask why he thinks these changes take place.

Exploration. More important than anything, give your child lots of time to play. Children naturally explore and create. Play gives them opportunities to solve problems, learn about physics, shapes, and build foundations.

For encouragement in your preschool, check out the Homeschooling Saints podcast episode on play-based learning:

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