Monday, September 27, 2010

The Art of Winging It: The Preschool Edition

I have been told by several of my friends that I am a master at winging it. I have a knack for seemingly preparing things on the fly and having them (usually) turn out well. While I don't wing everything all the time, I find that I do go through seasons where I'm more prone to plan this way. I think I've developed this skill out of necessity since every two years we tend to add a newborn to the family mix (which is the current season I am in again).

Wing It: Informal to accomplish or perform something without full preparation or knowledge; improvise

While thinking about this recently, I came to the conclusion that it's not that I don't have a plan or am not prepared, but actually that I'm over-prepared and ready to be flexible. Let me explain using my current preschool planning as an example.

My Preschool Planning:

Every year I print off schedule sheets for my tot and preschooler with the best intentions of actually filling them out. I might fill it out for the first week, but for some reason I can't keep up with it. I know that we still need to do activities but I often struggle with weekly formal planning because:

1. My kids don't like the scheduled activity and it is a flop.

2. We end up doing 7 other things in addition to what I had planned.

3. My kids end up falling apart, are crabby and aren't in the mood to do anything formal.

4. I end up falling apart, am crabby and am not in the mood to do anything formal ;)

5. I just get tired from actually planning the older kids' work that I don't get around to the little ones' plans. (Ok, this is the main reason)

Because I don't have a written lesson plan, others can easily assume that I am winging it. What they don't know is that there was advance preparation done that enables my "winging it" to be successful (most of the time. )

Here's my secret:

 1. I've thought about what I want my 2yr. old and 3yr. old to accomplish for the year. I actually typed out a general year outline for my 3 (almost 4 year old.) Even though I may never look at it again, I have an over-all idea of the direction I would like to go with her schooling for the year.

2.  Once I decided the general direction, I started pooling together resources. I knew that I was going to do Letter of the Week activities this year, so I started a binder and printed out materials ahead of time.

 For each letter I have printed:
a. Letter cut-and-paste page from Homeschool Creations
b. Letter cards from the Members section at 1+1+1=1
c. Do-a-Dot pages from Childcareland

Next I started a file folder for each letter where I have printed and laminated many of the ABC activities from the Letter of the Week curriculum from Confessions of a Homeschooler. I usually print 1-2 activities from Erica's curriculum for each letter and also print out craft and game ideas. Most of the letter craft ideas come from Totally Tots.

I also have a pretty good amount of educational games, puzzles, and manipulatives that I can add to the day.

In addition to all of this, I try to have a well-stocked craft stash. You can see how I've organized our craft supplies in my Craft Stash post.

3. We have one activity that we do every day that helps structure our learning time. This is key. My girls expect it and if I forget, they are the first ones to remind me to do it. This is the signal to start our learning time. This year the activity is our calendar time.
 We don't do anything fancy with our calendar time. We sing the Days of the Week song, add the new number, count the numbers and then sing the Months of the Year (sung to the tune of 10 Little Indians). Next we say/sing our Bible verse and go over what our new letter for the week will be. (I have our Bible verse and letter card on a small tri-fold board on the bookcase so I'll remember what we're suppose to be doing--lol).

What Winging-It Looks Like:

Remember, I'm 9mo. pregnant at the time of this writing, and not getting good sleep. So my preschool day looks like this:

1. I'm still in my pajamas while two little kids are ready to get started for the day. My brain hasn't fully turned on yet, but I walk into the homeschool room.

2.  I see the calendar board and I go through the motions while my brain clears up and I am thinking again. Oh, today's letter is....

3.  I go to the binder and pull out an activity or two. If the girls are still interested, we move on to a game from the file folder. If they are still wanting to do things we add an activity from the game closet. If they could care less about an activity, I can easily switch it up by adding or changing resources. If I have time I can search for more ideas on the web or make something myself. But if I don't, I still feel like we have accomplished something.

Successful Winging It in Action!

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Blogger JDaniel4's Mom said...

It sounds like this is very organized winging it.

September 27, 2010 at 2:42 PM  
Blogger K-tribe said...

I lost steam planning for my 2 little ones around 9 months preggo. So I have half planned with holes. ugh! You are doing great!! Just think pretty soon you will have that cute little one to cuddle! I hope you are taking a school break then! :) Praying!

September 27, 2010 at 4:55 PM  
Blogger Jimmie said...

What a great explanation. There is lots of planning behind the scenes. Just a glance at that super organized closet speaks volumes to your planning!

September 27, 2010 at 11:03 PM  
Blogger Katie's Nesting Spot said...

You are the most organized "winging it" teacher I know! I think it's good to be flexible and able to go with the flow. It's good for kids to see the modeled, I think it leads to better coping skills later on in life.

PS: I gave you a blog award in my post tomorrow. You don't have to do anything with it. I don't normally do them, but did this time:)

September 28, 2010 at 2:46 AM  

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