I’ve given the recommendation MANY times that preschool (and kindergarten for that matter) is utterly unnecessary.

And I believe it.  I think the average child in the average home is going to pick up the skills he or she needs to successfully begin formal schooling somewhere between the ages of 6-8.  I’ve seen it work well.

That said?  If I don’t keep our little ones busy, they’ll keep themselves busy, and they are FAR, FAR more creative than I am.  For example, I know I would NEVER think of fingerpainting in toothpaste on the  walls.  I know I would NEVER think of making an animal “trap” out of all of Daddy’s zip strips from his garage.  I know I would NEVER think of making a fishing pole from PVC & fishing bobbers and for that extra special, can’t resist, secret fishing tip, stuff part of a jar of very nasty catfish bait into the PVC.  These are things I simply wouldn’t think of.  And yet, somehow, these are only RECENT examples of what my bright & beautiful preschoolers have done.  We are never bored.  And I am often sidetracked.

And honestly?  I just want to spend time with my littles.  It’s imperative I sit down with my almost 6yo and my almost 8yo and work on phonics.  We sit together as they practice handwriting.  They need help with math manipulatives.  I simply must sit down with my 10yo and 13yo each day and teach their math, discuss their writing, or read them their dictation.  There’s just no way around it.  The baby will fuss for me and just wants Mama, so she will be held and loved and snuggled.  But an almost 3yo and a 4yo?  The creative genius in them will keep them busy for HOURS.  They are both fairly content children and as long as they’ve been fed, semi-clothed, and given free reign, they’ll run amuck, playing, singing, jumping from things, amusing themselves all day long.  I’d prefer it be a wee bit more structured and a tiny bit less chaotic. 😉

Preschool gives me the excuse I need to sit down with them for a bit, put my feet up, and ENJOY them.  Preschoolers are easy to enjoy.  Happy children are fun to spend time with…  And children are happiest with something productive to do, lots of exercise, healthy food, and a routine.  There’s a reason routine works so well with these little ones… They know what “comes next.”  They can’t tell time yet, but it’s comforting for them to know we do chores, then breakfast, then Mama will sit down with you and read for a bit, then we’ll go outside.  They learn that everything has a place, that they are useful, needed little people in this family.

Our AM schedule looks something like this:

Breakfast
Chores  (sometimes we reverse breakfast and chores)
Family Bible Time
Preschool – Reading, Singing, Talking
Arts & Crafts at the table
Snack
Outdoors for an hour
Indoors – Potty & Wash Hands
Free or Structured Indoor Play
Lunch
Clean-up
Read-Aloud
Nap

And I’m sure you’re wondering what in the world the big kids are doing in all this.  Well, they’re busy.  If you can teach them in the AM before the littles get up this generally works out best.  They also know they should probably wait ’til I’m available to them for questions.  I’m available during Arts & Crafts, Outdoor play,  Clean-Up time,  and Snack.  Obviously they are with us for Family Bible Time.  And just as you’d tell a child on a standardized test, if you don’t know something, go to the next thing and then come back to it.  Essentially that’s how this works.  My oldest two children are quite independent learners and good readers and so it simplifies much of what I have to do.  The most difficult one to balance is, of course, Elizabeth, because she’s not quite on the level of a completely independent learner or reader!  And that isn’t terribly surprising at age 7.   But you’ll find you have time…   We work in concentrated blocks, much of it during naptimes when littles are down.

I can say that most of my day pivots on something important.  The first is tomato – staking.  If a child is tomato staked, they never get the opportunity to draw on the walls, get the catfish bait, OR grab Daddy’s zip strips.  I’ve become very lazy at this lately as I prepare for our new school year, and honestly?  Most of the summer.  I feel like *I* took the whole summer off as well, and that’s just NOT a good thing.  You can learn about this vital & biblical concept here, at Raising Godly Tomatoes.  The concept is very simple.  Keep your children WITH you.  If your children are out of earshot, you can’t correct their attitude or what comes out of their mouth.  If they are out of eyesight, you can’t correct their atttitudes or their actions.

Let’s pretend a child misspells the word CAT.  He spells it KAT.  When he writes it, he writes it K-A-T.  When he hears it, he visualizes K-A-T.  Nothing has led him to believe that KAT isn’t correct and without you to make the correction and to further train him in the correct spelling by reinforcement, this child will continue in his wrong belief and behaviour.

Let me add some caveats here.  Have you ever watched the Dog Whisperer?  An amazing man.  He excels at what he does because he understands pack behaviour and he knows what he can expect in behaviour and he trains to the EXPECTATION.   The problem with parenting is very few people know what type of standards to expect from their children these days.  OR they are unreasonable.  An oddity I’ve noticed is over 1/2 of his cases, the problem behaviour is fixed by the owner’s giving appropriate affection, a routine,  and lots of exercise.  I can’t emphasize enough the impact exercise has on these dogs.

Now, don’t get huffy, I’m not calling your toddler a dog.  But I’m saying we have higher expectations of an 8 week old puppy than we do of our 3 year olds.  And I certainly know MY Abigail is smarter than Legend, and he’s a German Shepherd, lol.   Children need GOOD food.  This will get rid of most of your convenient foods, Mom.  They need REAL food.  They do not need food additives, preservatives, food coloring, or most things that come out of a box.  They don’t need refined flour, refined sugar, or no-calorie sweeteners.  They need REAL food.  I’d suggest you I.L.L the book by Dr. Sears, The Family Nutrition Book.  Look, Dr. Sears, I like some of his books.  Others, not so much.  But when you start learning about whole foods, the books people recommend are OVERWHELMING.  You’re going to start reading books where you need to milk your cow, grind your wheat, grow your own food organically, make your own yogurt, and ferment kombucha.  And WHAT is kombucha?  And, are you kidding?  It’s just too much.  This is a GREAT introduction to real food.  You THINK what you’ve been buying at the grocery store is real food, but you’d be surprised.  Most of the nutrition in the checkout line is synthetic and our body just doesn’t know what to do with it.  Don’t look at the label – buy the stuff without a label…. Produce.  And don’t even get me started on bread!

Next thing – EXERCISE.   I am not saying introduce your 4yo to pilates.  I’m not advocating a treadmill for the 5yo.  I’m saying GET OUTSIDE!  Get them plenty of fresh air, let them yell, let them climb, let them jump and run.  If you do NOT do this things, you are asking for what you get….  I am a FIRM believer that children can and should be taught to sit and sit quietly, but just as every year has a season, every child should have a healthy time to play and run and get out physical energy.  THIS IS ESPECIALLY TRUE IF YOU HAVE BOYS!  Oh, I’ve had people argue that point, but I’ve got 2 boys and they are entirely (ENTIRELY) different.  They were made to work.  They were created for physical exertion.  And they desperately NEED to get out the physical energy.  Also, it is an important sidenote that this will also destroy the Mom Guilt factor when you require them to sit still and be quiet and you’ll be a better trainer and more consistent.

Now, let’s get to the bottom line.

I know what you’re thinking.  I BARELY get done the minimum.  How in the world do I work all this in?

I can almost guarantee if you have untrained preschoolers and toddlers, a huge percentage of your time, more than realize is, in the words of FlyLady, spent “putting out fires.”  In other words, you’re inefficient.

Oh I’m NOT saying you’re not busy!!  Quite the opposite.  I’m saying you’re busy with busy-work and not with what needs to be done.

For example, let’s say you have to make lunch, and in the meantime, Little Junior dumps out the legos, and the play-doh, and tosses the pillows and blankets on the floor in a mini-fort.  After lunch, you have to clean all that up.  If you had had Junior WITH you helping make lunch, none of it would have happened and after lunch you could have read aloud or gotten something else done.   Let’s say your Little Monster, er… Junior doesn’t take “rest” times or naps.  Instead he goes upstairs and you spend the next hour yelling at him to lie down or cleaning up whatever mess he made.  Please, close your eyes and dream with me for a moment….  At 12:30 you tell Junior it’s naptime.  You read to him, kiss him, tuck him in.  In ten minutes, Junior is sleeping and will continue to do so for about 1-2 hours.  And you can concentrate on what you need to do.   Let’s even say Junior isn’t a sleeper…. That’s fine.  My 5yo isn’t a sleeper either.  She has a choice.  She may either quietly look at books or she can sleep.  What she can’t do is get out of her bed, fuss, wake up her little sister in the same room, or in general move for 1.5 hours.  She’s been given a choice – books or sleep.  She may make either choice.

So you’re thinking, “Must be nice…”  And I’m telling you YYYYYYYYEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSS!  I deeply appreciate what I’ve got.  But please don’t kid yourselves that it came easy.  Ah, no!  The reason why I appreciate it so much is because I had the little terror that wouldn’t nap and would destroy her room and I’d yell upstairs, and occasionally flip out. 😛  And her name was Ana.  And she was awful.  And I only had TWO children and I got less done at naptime than I do now with all of them.

So, how do you train for something like that?  First you exhaust them.  You feed them well.  You create a routine.  And you be CONSISTENT.  You tuck Junior in and you wait, like a cat… Because you know he’s going to do something.  And then you pounce.  🙂  Okay, it’s slightly LESS dramatic than that, but the truth is, correcting behaviour isn’t about waiting until you can’t ignore it.  It’s about catching it right away and correcting it immediately.   It’s setting clear expectations in YOUR head and then training them to it.   It is REASONABLE to expect a five year old to rest or read.  We stop with naptimes when they have graduated to learning phonics.  Then they are expected to do Phonics with me and then quietly look at books.  If I find they are not old enough to do this, they revert back to naptime.  This includes whispering.  I LOVE my naptimes and I will not give them up.  I refuse.  It’s a hard and fast and necessary rule to making our house work smoothly… Or at least as smoothly as it does, lol.

After nap?  Snack, activity, lots of outdoor time.  Our afternoons are FAR less structured than our mornings.  But they cannot have lower expectations for behaviour.

Our chore charts turned out beautifully by the way.  I think I gave the inspiration link on these a couple posts ago.  The “check-off” pictures attach via velcro.  A hint?  Buy the velcro dots at somewhere OTHER than the fabric store… They were expensive!

The chore charts were made from Googled images and Excel, very simple.  We also made Activity cards to go into each child’s folder.  The activity cards – again Googled images and Excel.  We cut them out, laminated them, and all was well.

I’ll add pictures in the next post as I can’t get the camera to work right now.

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