I have very fond memories of TJ's preschool and kindergarten years. In spite of my many mistakes, we had a great time!
I'm so glad that I discovered The Well-Trained Mind at the beginning of our journey - I applied many of it's principles to those early years. One of my favorite quotes in the book came from Ruth Beechik - "Our society is so obsessed with creativity that people want children to be creative before they have any knowledge or skill to be creative with." The goal of the early years is to fill inquisitive minds with beautiful stories and interesting facts (pegs for future learning). So, along with the basic skills of reading, writing, and math, I knew where to place my focus.
We started preschool when TJ was 3 years old. Yes, I was one of those super-excited, can't-wait-to-get-started with this homeschooling gig, homeschoolers! ;-)
I read aloud many books, we had a daily Bible time, she had fun activity "workbooks" that she used - a 4-book preschool set and the Kumon First Steps books were big favorites with both of us. I also kept a supply of activity bags on hand - those were great when I needed to cook supper or to toss in my purse for church.
When TJ turned 4 we started her K$ year. We began reading lessons with The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading. We started math with RightStart Math level A. I kept a variety of "fun workbooks" for TJ to use - the Rod & Staff preschool books, Kumon workbooks, and Never-Bored Kid books. We spent a year studying animals and habitats.
During TJ's kindergarten year we continued using the books mentioned above for math and reading. We worked on handwriting, we had fun doing science experiments with the Sonlight DVDs and Usborne Science Activities, and we did a countries and cultures study. I wanted to spend a year on geography before we started our first history cycle in first grade so we spent the year exploring, cooking, and singing our way around the world. We also used bits of My Father's World K, a few various things for French, and did some music appreciation.
Things I wish I'd done differently:
Taken more breaks with phonics instruction. When TJ was sounding out letters I bought The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading and we jumped right in. She started out really well then got bogged down in the section on blending sounds. So we'd stop and practice and play games. Then we'd pick up where we left off and after awhile, we'd hit another roadblock. I'd get frustrated. We'd take a break. Rinse and repeat. Looking back I see that it was the natural progression of things that there would be stops and starts with reading instruction (we've had the same thing happen with math since that time). There certainly was no reason to get frustrated about it.
Relaxed more. The time really is short with littles. Enjoy it. Cuddle more, read more picture books, lay in the grass and look at bugs. Teach them to observe the world around them. Take this time to educate yourself as well because in a few short years they'll be asking harder questions and you want to be prepared for those discussions. Listen to Educating Ourselves by Susan Wise Bauer. Believe me, I'm playing a game of catch-up now, trying to stay ahead of TJ!
Things I'm glad I did:
Daily quiet time. With an only child, it's easy to become available to your child's every beck and call. We started out with a short daily quite time but worked up to 2 hours every afternoon. TJ was free to look at books or play quietly in her room during that time. Now I use this bit of free time for my own self-education (and, I'll admit it, Facebook!). We still have a daily 1-hour quiet time - TJ enjoys this little break in the middle of the day as much as I do.
Lots of books! We kept a picture book basket by the couch and I discovered the world of audio books at our library. There are so many great books for kids - we read so many and listened to many on trips or during quiet time.
Looking back at those years I do have a few regrets (I guess that's normal!) but most of my memories are very precious. I'm so glad that I was the one that was there while TJ learned to read or to see her face light up when she understood a new math concept. It's a precious time - remember to treasure those moments.