I’ve had several friends ask me about the mommy run preschool that I am a part of so I’ve decided to make a post about how we work. I thought I would try to pass on the nuggets of wisdom I’ve gathered over the past year and a half. And when I say, “nuggets of wisdom”, I mean “stuff I’ve learned”. It just sounds so much more impressive when using the word “wisdom”, right? (But maybe less impressive when I say “nuggets”?)
The story began with my friend Alli. Alli is the one who I can always count on to come up with really great ideas to get people together to do something fun and rewarding. She was the one who really got things going for us. At first, the thought of teaching a group of kids and coming up with ideas to teach was way too much for my little brain to handle. But, following her like the little duckling I am, I agreed. We started in 2008 with what we called a “junior preschool”. When we began, the kids were 2 1/2 to 3 years old. G was the youngest of the bunch so I was a bit worried but he held his own. The group consisted of 5 kids with their respective mothers. Each mom took a turn teaching. We taught once a week for two hours and at the end of each 5 week session we would have a field trip on the sixth week as a group.
I think we only did two or three sessions the first year. The kids were still just learning to sit still. It was more a matter of keeping the kids engaged than really teaching them anything. Craft time was a little advanced for them. We had to really keep the crafts simple or help them one-on-one while letting the others have free time.
So how did we come up with lesson plans? Since we only did three rounds, we pretty much just picked our own topics. You know, the generic type of topics – Nature, Dinosaurs, Things that Go, The City, Farm Animals, etc. All the kids knew the alphabet well so instead of doing a letter a week, we focused on numbers. Each mom had a number to incorporate into their lesson. As for the schedule for the day, we came up with a few things we wanted to include like show and tell and “table time” (coloring, puzzles, etc. done at the table all together). We had the freedom to mix things up but still had a bit of a schedule so the kids could be familiar with a little routine.
Our routine basically included table time, “opening exercises” (welcome song, prayer, show and tell, weather chart, alphabet review), the lesson, snack time, craft time, music time, free time (we set out learning books for them to choose and look through). Click here to see my lesson plan template for 2-3 year old preschool. We usually kept the opening all the same but the rest of the time could be planned however each mom wanted.
The first year wasn’t all roses for me. I had a great time teaching but G misbehaved when I taught at our house. I heard from other mothers that this was common. Just throwing that out as a warning – your kid might be really difficult to handle when you are the teacher even if they are an angel at the other homes. He got better after I gave him a lot of warning that I was teaching and that he needed to behave.
Fall 2009 was the start of our second year. Since the kids were at this time were 3 1/2 to 4 years old, we thought we would be able to do a bit more. We decided to teach twice a week for 2 1/2 hours. We used the same rotation of each mom teaching for a week and at the end of the 5 week rotation, we would do a field trip during the sixth week.
This year, we bumped up the schedule by incorporating hands-on type activities. Each mom came up with a couple of activities (sorting, matching, etc.). We keep all the activities together in a box and we pass on the box every week to the mom who is teaching. The activities are placed in one central spot so the kids start the morning by picking an activity to do by themselves. Once they complete one activity, they clean it up, bring it back and pick another activity. In order to keep the kids attention and interest, we have to rotate the activities. Usually, we put one or two new activities in with the bunch at the beginning of the new session.
We sat down at the end of summer and set up our calendar. As for topics for this year, we came up with general ideas for units. Once we had an idea for the units, each mom came up with a theme for a week in the unit. Sometimes the themes overlapped a little and sometimes we had to go a little outside of the unit theme but we all felt like it worked out well. This is a breakdown of our themes for this year (my lessons are in red font):
Body: All About Me, My Body, Hygiene, Diet/Nutrition, Exercise
Earth: Reduce-Reuse-Recycle, Garden, Seasons, Weather, Nature
Winter: Thanksgiving, Cultural Celebrations, Winter Fun, Christmas, America
Animals: Forest Animals, Ocean Animals, Desert Animals, Cold Climate Animals, Jungle Animals
Community: Grocery Store, Librarian, Firefighters, Hospital, Police
Art: Colors and Shapes, Photography, Music/Dance, Symphony, Art Appreciation
In addition to the theme for the week, we assigned a letter and a number for the week. Each mom had the freedom to incorporate the theme with the letter and number or to teach them on separate days. For example, when my theme was “Recycle” I taught all about recycling on the first day and on the second day since I had the letter “F” I taught about frogs and the number six.
After each unit, we tried to do field trips that related somehow. After our earth unit we visited a nature center. After the animal unit we plan to go to the zoo. You get the idea.
Our routine this year included activity stations, “opening exercises” (welcome song, pray, show and tell), job chart (each child gets to lead one of the following: pledge, calendar, clock, weather chart, alphabet/number review), exercise time, snack time, worksheets, journals (we have a journal that goes home with them each time) and lunch. Click here to see my lesson plan template for 3-4 year old preschool. Just remember, it’s just a basic template – we usually keep the beginning the same but are free to mix things up!
Okay so my thoughts about a mommy run preschool:
- Pick a theme that interests you or pick one that you might want to learn more about. I picked Cultural Celebrations because I wanted to learn (and teach) about Kwanzaa. I thought it would be good for the kids to learn about other cultural celebrations but I thought I could use a little education myself.
- I put a lot of work into my lessons but I realize that I need to be flexible. Sometimes the kids aren’t as excited to be there or they are too excited to be there. I love to plan out everything but I never hesitate to go with the flow, mix things up, throw in something on the spur of the moment. It will make for happier kids. If the kids are all lying down saying how tired they are, turn it into a game by telling them everyone is going to take a nap.
- I like to use good books as part of my lesson. But I’ve also discovered that non-fiction children’s books are sometimes just as intriguing to kids as story books. And it’s always good to have back-up books.
- I sometimes need to try out my crafts before I teach my lesson. I don’t do it for all my crafts but if it is more involved or a little complicated or even something I made up myself, I like to do a test run. I’ve dropped several crafts after trying them out with G the week before because they were too complicated, messy or didn’t turn out the way I wanted.
- I like constructing my lessons. At first, I wanted to find entire lessons on the internet. Now I like to have the freedom to put it all together myself. I pick my theme, break it down into two separate days, find books, throw in some activities and figure out the crafts.
- It’s important to have all the moms on the same page. I have a great group of moms that I work with. They all amaze me each time they teach. They all have different talents and I love to see what G comes home with and what he learns. I think we all work well together and all have the same goals for preschool even if we teach differently.