Updated: Sep 11
A Not-So-Brief Introduction
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Last fall I was in panic mode. My husband is a teacher and would be going back to school soon, leaving me at home with a bright, energetic two-year-old and a nursing three-month-old. Don't get me wrong, I realize we were extremely fortunate to have the summer to adjust to being a family of four. But for the past two months he and I had been running man-to-man coverage. That is, I got to spend precious time cuddling and caring for my newborn and my husband got to do all the fun stuff with the toddler (like leave the house). I made sure to give the toddler plenty of attention when the baby was napping (which was often) but I didn't have the responsibility of keeping him entertained all day. But as the summer drew to a close, I began to wonder how in the world I was going to manage without my partner in parenting.
Then I found Susie from Busy Toddler's Playing Preschool curriculum and would like to offer my honest review. Spoiler alert: It saved my life! As a former teacher turned stay-at-home-mom, it was the answer to the question "what am I going to do with the toddler all day?" Her 190-days of at-home learning gave me a "plan" for implementing structured learning time with an emphasis on play. Before the baby was born, I had been just bouncing from one random Pinterest activity to the next. Playing Preschool's homeschool preschool curriculum provided me with a theme that I could focus on and a list of supplies and books that I would need. I went from feeling uncertain and anxious to empowered - I was going to mom so hard!
***Busy Toddler's Playing Preschool curriculum is currently 25% off with code "HOME25". Buy it here.***
What I Love About the Playing Preschool Curriculum
I was a middle school English teacher before I had my boys so the desire to instill a love of learning was strong in me, but I didn't know that much about learning activities for little ones. I could teach students to analyze a poem but I had no clue about kindergarten readiness. I wanted to ensure that I was doing meaningful activities at home with my toddler so that he would be prepared for formalized schooling, but I didn't really know what those were. But Susie's Playing Preschool curriculum gave me the framework I needed.
Children need lots of repetition when learning a new skill, and I love how Susie designed the curriculum to afford plenty of opportunities to practice in a variety of ways that build in complexity. I also appreciate how each week is laid out consistently so that you can start to get in a rhythm. The songs and poems for each theme give us something fun to practice in the car or on our walks. My favorite part is that I get to see my toddler learning and that we get to celebrate his progress together.
We are currently halfway through the curriculum and after doing homeschool preschool for the past five months, I have learned a lot about how to implement and in come cases, modify it. To be fair, my son was only 26 months when we started (now 31 months) and I can see why Susie recommends starting at 2 1/2 or later. My son is very bright so I thought he would enjoy a challenge (and I was desperate) but I quickly realized that some things (like counting objects) are just developmental. But I also believe it's a teacher's job to meet students where they are, so I took the curriculum and made it work for my student.
To see more lessons I learned from my experience teaching Playing Preschool Year 1 (with a helpful list of Do's and Don't's) click here.
Teaching Busy Toddler's Playing Preschool Curriculum My Way
Over the past few months I've identified a few things that I do differently than (or in addition to) what the curriculum suggests and I would like to outline them here. I see this portion of my blog being an extension of Busy Toddler's Playing Preschool curriculum and a vehicle for sharing ideas.
I usually need to build a little background knowledge when introducing the theme. This may mean checking out a non-fiction book about the topic from the library or it might be playing a three-minute YouTube clip. (Before anyway shuts me down at the thought of screen-time, hear me out. A Common Core State Standard is that students be able to analyze diverse media which includes text, audio and video. I'm not suggesting that we let them watch Paw Patrol all day, but an educational clip for context can be very effective for laying a foundation for learning.)
I always obtain additional books related to the unit theme. For one, I can hardly ever find all of the books on Susie's list at my local library (she encourages substitutions) but also, I am in pursuit of raising a reader so I like to have as many books as I can find related to the theme. Not all of them are winners, so I'm happy to share my recommendations. Pro Tip: when I am unable to beg, steal or borrow a book that seems crucial to the day's activities, I look to see if there is a read-aloud version of the book on YouTube. It's never as good as holding the book in your hands, but it's better than nothing.
On occasion, I purchase additional educational materials or open-ended toys. I sincerely appreciate that Susie has made all of these activities accessible and affordable with her list of basic supplies, but sometimes I like to give my child the opportunity to play with an educational toy to enhance the theme. For example, when we were learning about community helpers, I found an amazing "subject-in-a-box" at my local library with figurines, fact cards and puzzles that my son enjoyed for two weeks. I also acquired a Melissa and Doug "Joey" magnet dress-up set (also available in "Julia") that my son played with every day and quite frequently since. My intention is not for you to buy more toys, but I will share materials that I think could be enriching to the theme.
Flexibility is key; do what works for you and your child. Sometimes kids need a little boost to achieve success. In the teaching world we call this scaffolding. As I mentioned, my son was only 26 months when I started the Playing Preschool curriculum, so sometimes I had to simplify the learning activity, provide scaffolding or even skip it all together. I will endeavor to share ways you can offer support when applicable. Other times my toddler was so engaged that I wanted to find ways to build on or extend the theme. I'm happy to share additional activities or extensions to keep the fun going. On the other hand, if the activity did not suit his interest or he found it mundane, we let it go. At this age, the goal is to teach our kids that learning is FUN! You know your child better than anyone; do what is best for them.
You can save 25% off Busy Toddler's Playing Preschool curriculum with code "HOME25" when you click here.
Finally, I would love to hear from you as you move through the Playing Preschool curriculum. Please subscribe to receive email updates or use the contact page to reach me via email or connect on social.
I also invite you to join the Playing Preschool with Busy Toddler Curriculum Caregiver Group on Facebook. This group was created to share ideas and resources and offer support to other members also teaching with Susie's curriculum.
Until then, may your coffee be warm and your toddler be busy!