Curriculum, Teachers, Classroom Tips

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By Rebecca Teti

Fridays: Education

(Join each day’s Coffee Talk discussion: Mon: Parenting; Tues: Open Forum; Wed: NFP; Thu: Marriage; Fri: Education; Sat/Sun: Changing Roles)

Whether your children attend school or are homeschooled, this is the spot to ask questions about curricula, religious education, parent-teacher relationships, or academic concerns of any kind.

Please join us!

Rebecca Teti


  • My daughter is 3 and I'd like to start doing a few homeschool lessons. I'm not interested in pushing her academically - just getting her used to the idea that we do some "lessons" in addition to play time. But she's not real thrilled with sitting down for a lesson (usually I've been having them be just counting some M&M, maybe up to five. Really basic and short!) My question: do you try to *force* your kids to do their lessons when beginning homeschooling, or go with their mood? I don't want her to think that just because she's at home she can play all day! Plenty of kids her age are in preschool and getting a lesson everyday. Am I expecting too little or too much?

    Posted on Mar 1st, 2013 at 7:57 AM by unknown

  • I've no experience with this yet, and am posing more questions rather than trying to answer. I'm often thinking about how the other kids my son's age (almost 3) are going to preschool and many of them have taught themselves using the ipads/computers. I don't think my son would tolerate a lesson of any sort and I want to keep him away from monitors/electronic type of learing. I'm going to wait until he is older to try any lessons. He's learning on his own when he is playing and I think it's better for him to be creative and active at this age. I don't know when the push for early learning started. There is free all day Preschool for 3 year olds in the nearby city and free all day Pre-k4 in my town. I don't believe it's beneficial in the short and long run. I think a 3 and 4 and even 5 year old should play all day ( and help mom around the house, of course). The only problem with this is that all the other kids are sent of to school so there aren't many other kids around to play.

    Posted on Mar 1st, 2013 at 8:13 AM by What for?

  • One thing I've learned (the hard way!) with my son is that he's much more willing to sit still for a lesson, if he's had an opportunity for some physical activity first. He's 5, and still needs this.

    Posted on Mar 1st, 2013 at 8:45 AM by Claire S

  • I'm with the don't push camp. I am just lamenting this morning how my 5 year old hates going to kinder every morning; he goes in tears, and I am aching to just keep him home so he can play. He's had enough. I'm all for learning (off the screens as well), but little kids need to be little kids and learn more than we could imagine just by play. We have 4 kids and 1 on the way, just from perspective. He's my youngest as far as school-aged. Just this year, the kinder in our Catholic school decided to give homework every night except Friday. And they get big thick packets to complete on any long breaks. I hate it. My 2nd grader had one teensy little worksheet to do on Wed. nights and it was a weekly alphabet letter. Now suddenly, we are getting percentile assessment sheets home every few weeks, assessing how the kinders are doing-it all just seems very odd and frustrating to me. My son is not a percentile. He's a 5 year old. I am actually realizing that I want to think harder about options for Kinder for my 2 year old and this baby when the time comes. Either find a half day program, if that's even possible anymore, or homeschool them for kinder. My little guy just turned 5 in August and started kinder in Sept and there is a HUGE difference between his dislike of his school, and his brother, who b/c of birthdays was still in very very part-time pre-k (only to warm him up for when he went to full time kinder) when he was 5. He was nearly 6 years old when he entered kindergarten. He transitioned so much better. Heartbroken each morning with my kinder now. So wishing I could just keep him home, he cries, he battles to get dressed, he tries not to get out of the car at drop off-it breaks my heart. Hope that helps! In my mind, play at that age is all they need, and to be near mom helping out. Actually my almost 3 year old is starting to count decently well to 10 and I've never started giving him any instruction, he's just learning through stories and books we read or hearing the older crew or something. Enjoy. I actually like pre-school around age 4 as long as it's fun and very very part time (like just a few hours a couple of days a week). Any more than that, I wouldn't do it. Just for the interaction with the other littles like a playgroup and songs and such. Mine have seemed to like that. I actually pulled my oldest from her full time full tuition Catholic pre-school program. We paid the full tuition, but I couldn't bare to send her into full day school full time just because that's what they school had. I only sent her 3 days a week, but they were full and that was probably still too much. I noticed the difference in her when I made the decision to make my own part-time program;). Hope that helps, sorry-I was looking for solace for my kinder so I am all chatty about it this morning! God bless!

    Posted on Mar 1st, 2013 at 9:01 AM by Josie

  • How do you explain the prayers, bible to a nearly 3 year old? He's gets all scared and doesn't understand "Holy Spirit, or Holy Ghost". Some of the bible stories are maybe too scary for him, but I hear all the other kids around his age saying the prayers. Did they just memorize without thinking about what they are saying? Is there a Baltimore or some other Catechism geared for 3 year olds?

    Posted on Mar 1st, 2013 at 9:54 AM by MMH

  • Unknown, Personally I think 3 is too young to start homeschooling unless the child is watching older siblings and wants to join in or you consider reading aloud homeschooling. Why shouldn't she think that she can play all day at home? She's 3! Play is her work. At that age, I talk with my children a lot. While we put laundry in the washer, we talk about colors and we might count socks. While we drive, we talk about what we see. Hand her a pencil and see if she wants to draw. Wait until she's ready for anything more formal. Remember, while she's dressing her dolls and stacking her blocks, she's working on fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Play time is not wasted.

    Posted on Mar 1st, 2013 at 11:35 AM by Alice

  • @MMH- I think understanding increases as the kids get older. At 3, my daughter could identify "Father, Son, and the bird" in a picture book, and I figured that was close enough at that age. Fast forward 4 years, and she has many prayers memorized from repetition, and she would say Holy Spirit instead pf bird, But I wouldn't quote her explanation of each line. I really like the activities over at catholic icing (google it). We did them when I had time and the little one was interested.

    Posted on Mar 1st, 2013 at 12:02 PM by Anne

  • Anne, just curious, when your daughter did the sign of the cross, what did she used to say?

    Posted on Mar 1st, 2013 at 12:21 PM by MMH

  • I guess I should clarify (I'm the first posted with the 3 year old): I think my daughter is bored. I thought lessons might be fun, but when I suggest it, *then* she wants to play. But once she's playing she seems bored again. Ideas what I'm doing wrong??

    Posted on Mar 1st, 2013 at 5:40 PM by unknown

  • Unknown, are you asking her if she wants to sit down to a lesson? Or are you initiating activities without announcing "Lesson Time!" ? Everyday activities at home are "lessons" . There is no need for formality at age 3. Are you explaining things like "this is an a" when you see a sign or letters on a cereal box ? You weren't specific, so I'm not sure what to tell you. If could explain more, maybe I could be of help. (I'm a Kindergarten teacher who has worked with children ages 3-6 for years. I'm also a Mom of 5. :)

    Posted on Mar 1st, 2013 at 7:00 PM by Joan

  • Josie, It certainly is a shame what your son's school is doing. A lot of schools are under great scrutiny and unfortunately are forced into doing exactly what your son's school is doing. It's called "Common core" and "Testing" . It makes me gringe at times.

    Posted on Mar 1st, 2013 at 7:03 PM by Joan

  • My son is going to be starting kindergarten in the fall at the public elementary school, which has adopted the Common Core curriculum. I definitely have my concerns about it.

    Posted on Mar 1st, 2013 at 7:16 PM by Claire S

  • Joan ~ what I'm trying to do is Montessori-style language and math lessons. I'm an ex-Montessori 3rd/4th teacher and do NOT have familiarity with the 3-6 age group. Maybe I am also expecting too much "classroom style" attention from her, too. I have been trying to sit her down at our snack table, pull out some manipulatives and count them with her. She just isn't loving me telling her what we're going to do next, that its time to sit down, etc. Yes, we incorporate "lessons" into our day (counting books we bring home from the library, etc.) but I am not sure at what point to start something more structured and formal. (I don't want to do "unschooling" so I *do* want to add quite a bit of structure at "some" point!) Besides, if she could get into it, I think she would enjoy "school," formally speaking. I sense a certain boredom with just bouncing from toy to toy... but when I try to structure a lesson, she decides she wants the "boring" toys instead (dolls, kitchen set, etc. that she was SO tired of just moments before!) I just don't know what's up...

    Posted on Mar 1st, 2013 at 9:50 PM by unknown

  • Would your daughter enjoy doing crafts together? It'd accomplush your goals I think of getting in the habit of sitting down and following directions and focus on and accomplish a specific goal, but with less pressure and more fun maybe! I'd also recommend a workbook or something. My 3.5 year old LOVES doing his workbook pages-stuff like circling two of the same thing and tracing shapes and such. He'd be totally bored with counting candy, unless it was snack time. Something more challenging would probablg be more interesting and make her feel more grown-up!

    Posted on Mar 1st, 2013 at 9:52 PM by Crunchy Con Mom

  • MMH- at an early three, she would just listen to us say it. At our Parrish's preschool that year, we would make a big deal about the kids copying our hand motions and words- some of the kids could say it right away, and others had a bit of trouble. I don't remember any of the kids being frightened by the words, but I don't think we ever tried to cover the Holy Spirit not depicted as a bird. I just didn't want you to feel like there was something wrong if your child didn't know a bunch of prayers at three, or really understand the prayers at three. It takes a while. :)

    Posted on Mar 2nd, 2013 at 6:54 AM by Anne

  • Unknown, I think your daughter is telling you she isn't ready for that "formality" yet. Very natural for a 3 year old. She will let you know when she is ready. :)

    Posted on Mar 2nd, 2013 at 1:56 PM by Joan

  • I was in Montessori school when I was a preschooler and my mother tried to do it at home too. I never remember being asked to sit down and do anything. Instead, the projects were available and I chose what I wanted to do on my own time. Of course, I was pretty young and it's been a while, so I probably don't remember everything. For my kids, at least, boredom usually means "I want Mommy to pay attention to me." So, we do chores together or I help them build with their duplos or help them play trains or whatever. I try to rotate toys as well. There's nothing quite as awesome as a toy that you haven't seen for a month. I introduced my older son to workbooks around age four and he thought they were the best thing in the whole entire world. He'd beg to do school work. Silly kid ;)

    Posted on Mar 2nd, 2013 at 7:42 PM by Alice

  • Late to the party here, but to unknown, I would recommend a book by a friend we lost this year, Barbara Curtis, "Mommy Teach Me" . It is full of Montessori pre-school activities and methods. I have used many of the activities with my 4 children when they were in the 3-5 year old range and they have enjoyed them.

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