Our home education plan for engineering and design includes creative, open ended play with toys such as Lego.

Homeschooling a preschooler

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For clarity, since definitions vary between countries, ‘preschooler’ here refers to age 3-5. You’ll find information on homeschool preschool (age 3-4), homeschool pre k (age 4-5) and homeschool kindergarten (age 5-6). Use the table of contents to jump ahead to the age you’re interested in, or keep scrolling for an idea of what a complete preschool homeschool curriculum might look like.

If you haven’t already read this post on how and why I created a homeschool plan (and how you can too!), I suggest you have a quick browse now as it lays the foundations for this post and introduces you to my family’s educational philosophy and approach. You will quickly see that when I say ‘preschool homeschool curriculum’, I don’t mean in the mainstream curriculum sense! For those looking for a more child-led approach that encompasses a range of educational philosophies (you can read more about those here), this is what homeschooling a preschooler might look like.

Read right through or jump ahead to the age you’re interested in…

Homeschooling a 3 year old

Maths and Numeracy

  • Basic counting and arithmetic using real life situations and incorporating multiple senses. We do number work all the time as we play, eat and just go about our day. Here are a couple of examples, but you can count anything!
    • Counting pushes on the swings.
    • Asking T how many grapes (or whatever food!) he wants on his plate and then counting them out. … ‘You ate one, so now you have x’.
    • Asking him about numbers as he plays. ‘How many mechanics do we need to fix your car? … Two, ok. One, two. … This person has gone on their lunch break so now there is one mechanic.’
    • We watch the birds eating on our lawn while we have breakfast and count them, adding and subtracting as they fly away/back.
  • Number recognition and identification in real life situations. Again, this crops up naturally all the time and we don’t have any specific toys or learning materials with numbers. Here are a few examples.
    • He identifies house numbers on mailboxes as we walk down the street and traces the number with his fingers. He also points out numbers in shops, on speed limit signs, on buses etc.
    • Asking him to press the correct button in lifts (elevators), at ATMs, on chip and pin card machines (and anywhere else numbers appear).
    • Although technology has somewhat eradicated the need for a family calendar displayed in the kitchen (as was the norm when I was a kid!), having seen how much T enjoyed finding the correct door on his wooden train advent calendar during December, behind which was a Christmassy activity for us to do that day, and how this enabled him to practise his number recognition, I will now be displaying a calendar and asking him if he would like to identify the correct day, date, month each morning. Depending on your preferences, this could be done on a traditional paper calendar or with a Waldorf-inspired perpetual calendar. Either of these options will visually introduce and reinforce the idea of natural rhythms according to seasons, months and weeks.
  • Metrics. Length, mass, volume, speed; daily life provides ample opportunities for introducing metrics. This can begin simply by using comparison words: ‘bigger’, ‘smaller’, ‘longer’, ‘shorter’, ‘faster’, ‘slower’ etc. We’re now moving on to the next stage with T, where he can combine number recognition with a growing understanding of metrics. Here are some ideas and examples. Always think about the language you’re using; I’d advocate using accurate terminology so that maths and science don’t seem scary in the future.
    • Using scales and measuring jugs while cooking. 
    • Access to tape measures and rulers. These can be used for all sorts of things: Which book is thicker…which will take us longer to read? These seeds need to be planted x cm apart; can you help me measure where to dig a hole? How tall are you/your siblings? Will this piece of furniture fit in this space?
    • Water play. I wonder which of these jugs holds the most water? Which will be heavier when they’re full? Will all the water from this large jug fit in this smaller jug? What happens to the water level when you get out of the bath?
    • Car races; measure and mark a race track on a slopped surface, select your toy vehicles and discover which travels fastest.
    • Weighing fruit and veg in the supermarket.
  • Clocks and time keeping. Obviously clocks (both digital and analogue) can be used as tools for counting, arithmetic and number recognition. When it comes up, we do just this. In addition, over the next year, I would like to facilitate T’s understanding of passing time. He is still a bit young to understand that other events are occurring simultaneously outside of his world, so getting his head around the idea that if we allow time to pass, we may miss the things he enjoys may well be something to work on next year. However, developing an understanding of ‘if you want to go to gymnastics, we need to leave when the clock says x’, ‘Mummy will be back when the clock says y’ is much more achievable. I have recently begun introducing this, and he has been demonstrating that this is a helpful strategy for him, particularly around managing separation when I need to go out.

  • Basic understanding of money. Of course, like time keeping, using money provides a real world opportunity to practise counting, arithmetic and number recognition. Developing a working model of how to navigate the exchange of money and goods, as well as an appreciation for the money we have, gratitude for the life it buys us, and an understanding that money and the items it purchases are to be valued, can be explored through:

    • Involvement in handling money in shops and supermarket checkouts.
    • Role play.
    • Conversations about where our money comes from, what we use it for, and those that are less fortunate.
    • Donating both unwanted items and money to charity.

English Language and Literacy

  • Reading.
    • We provide access to a wide range of fiction, both modern and classic, non-fiction, and poetry aimed at both adults and children.
  • Phonics. We haven’t taught T the alphabet, nor will we for the time being. He will instead, in his own time, learn to read and write by first mastering phonics (the sound a letter or combination of letters make. e.g. ‘fff as in flower’ as opposed to ‘ef’, as is taught in the alphabet). He will then learn to correlate these sounds with their alphabetic symbol. Here are a few examples of how we are introducing this to him.
    • Following words with my finger as I read helps T make links between what he’s hearing and what he’s seeing.
    • We also take the time to identify specific sounds and their symbols when we read, and highlight any commonalities between words e.g. “This is ‘bh’ as in bug, and bus, and book. All these words start with the same sound, ‘bh’.” (while pointing to the ‘b’ at the start of each word). Poetry is particularly good for recognising patterns in language as rhymes rely on the use of the same sounds.
    • We play sound games like ‘I spy’ but use the phonetic sound rather than the alphabet letter. e.g. “I spy with my little eye, something on the table beginning with ‘ssss’ (not ‘es’)”…”spoon!” We have made this game more complex in stages. I started by presenting one obvious object so T just named the object when given the sound. Then, I presented two objects so he had to make a choice depending on how he interpreted the sound. Then more objects, each with different sounds. We have just started the next stage, which involves using a sound that corresponds to multiple presented objects. When T has given one example, I encourage him to find further examples. I will then progress this further by giving digraphs as well as single letter sounds, by choosing larger areas in which to search (a whole room, an outdoor space, an image), by introducing ending sounds as well starting sounds, and finally by introducing all of the sounds in the word.
    • I plan to also try rhyming variations of the sound games. e.g. “I spy with my little eye something that rhymes with …”, and “rug starts with a ‘r’ sound and ends with a ‘g’ sound – can you think of any words that rhyme with ‘rug’?”.
    • We will try sorting games as an introduction to matching written letters to phonetic sound. For example, encouraging T to place all the objects that start with a particular sound next to their corresponding written symbol.
  • Vocabulary. Vocabulary expands very naturally through two key methods.
    • Conversation. We have always spoken to T like he is an adult, choosing not to ‘dumb down’ our language or use ‘baby talk’. We use adult words for things, although through his friends and other influences he has also picked up the child terms, e.g. penis vs willy, stomach vs tummy, excavator vs digger. We narrate play (without imposing our interpretations or ideas on him) and the world around us, we converse while we eat, we discuss our day and we make up stories, songs and rhymes.
    • Reading. Reading is obviously hugely important for developing vocabulary, and this is part of the reason why we try to offer a wide range of reading materials (another is that we want T to be able to choose what interests him; I didn’t really discover a love of reading until I left school and was no longer forced to read set texts that I had no interest in). Poetry is often broader in its vocabulary than stories, as it requires specific language in order to conform to patterns in rhythm and rhyme.
  • Pen holding. This is a skill that T will master as he develops stronger muscle tone and control in his hands and fingers. Alongside providing activities to help strengthen these muscles, I will model how to hold a pen, and ask if he would like my help to adjust his grip. Some example activities to build hand and finger strength include:
    • Modelling clay.
    • Play dough.
    • Kneading bread.
    • Threading work.
    • Using scissors.
    • Tasks that require a pincer grip and fine motor control. Peeling onions and eggs are a good starting point.

Science, Ecosystems and the Planet

  • Provide answers to questions and further learning for topics of interest by:
    • Discussing topics as they arise (plants, animals, the body, space, weather, tectonics etc).
    • Visiting museums at home and while away. We have a number of great museums here in Christchurch, including the Canterbury Museum, the International Antarctic Centre, Quake City and the Airforce Museum. We recently stumbled across the Southland Fire Service Museum in Invercargill while camping on the South coast. Needless to say, T loved it!
    • Providing opportunities to ethically view and learn about wildlife. For example, we recently visited the Royal Albatross Centre in Dunedin, located in the wildlife reserve on Pukekura Taiaroa Head. From an observatory, we were able to view wild albatrosses sitting on their eggs, as well as a number of other bird species. Our guide gave us a great deal of insight into the life and struggle of these birds, the history of the headland, and the research and conservation efforts occurring at the Centre. 
    • Reading books, looking at photographs and visiting the library to fill gaps in knowledge and resources available at home.
    • Conducting ‘experiments’ through play and the provision of sensory experiences (e.g. water play, sand play, baking, gardening etc)
    • Utilising our large world map, presented at eye level for T, to visualise and discuss topics such as habitats, climates, geography etc.
  • Model a positive and care-taking relationship with the planet by:
    • Practising recycling, composting, and litter-picking.
    • Finding joy in nature.
    • Discussing conservation, threats to species and how we can help.
    • Discouraging wastefulness with regards to food, water and electricity.
    • Making positive choices with regards to fuel use, sustainable product use, meat consumption and waste reduction.

Engineering, Design and Technology

  • Support his interest in vehicles and mechanics by:
    • Making toys and books available that allow him to explore this (Tegu magnetic blocks, road networks and toy vehicles, wooden nuts and bolts, Usborne ‘Look Inside Cars/Trains/Things That Go’).
    • Visiting the car garage and enabling him to observe mechanics at work.
    • Visiting the library’s ‘Imagination Station’ Lego and Duplo area.
    • Attending relevant museums and exhibitions.
    • Allowing him to help fix our bikes, pump up tyres, fill the car with petrol, clean the car etc.
  • Provide opportunities for construction, woodwork and sculpture by:
    • Making toys and books available that allow him to explore this (Haba shape and tack board, building blocks, wooden nuts and bolts).
    • Making modelling clay and play dough regularly available. This will also benefit his muscle tone development required to correctly hold and manipulate a pen or pencil.
    • Using real tools at home to make home improvements and fix broken items.
    • Assembling furniture.
    • Providing opportunities for large scale construction with soft play equipment or sofa cushions.
    • Visiting the library’s ‘Imagination Station’ Lego and Duplo area.
    • Attending relevant museums and exhibitions.
Our home education plan for engineering and design includes creative, open ended play with toys such as Lego.
Homeschooling a 3 year old might include creative and engineering-based play, such as building with Lego.

Art and Drama

  • Appreciation of the arts.
    • Visit art galleries.
    • Attend theatre productions (these might be musicals, dance, acrobatics, stage drama, pantomime or street theatre). T’s first theatre production was ‘Aladdin’ on Broadway when he was 19 months. He loved it! He sat glued to the stage, dancing and clapping his way through the entire performance. In the last year, we have taken him to see Dr. Seuss’s ‘The Cat in the Hat’ and a local theatre group production of ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’. Over the next three weeks, Christchurch is hosting the World Buskers Festival. We attended today and caught several wonderful shows. T then spent the rest of the afternoon climbing, jumping and hanging upside down from whatever apparatus he could find; the trapeze artists were clearly a favourite!
    • Introduce famous artworks and provide opportunities to copy and comment on them. This will enable regular discussions on shape, form, angles and the whole vs details, which will pave the way for the development of visuospacial skills and the ability to reproduce what he sees.
  • Opportunities for artistic and dramatic self-expression.
    • Provide opportunities for both guided and free-expression craft using a range of materials, mediums and equipment (paint, watercolour, pencils, crayons, collage). We display his work at home to promote a sense of accomplishment, pride and self-worth.
    • Dress up, role playing and imaginative play. During play, T often assumes a particular role both with and without the use of props. He has access to some dressing up clothes at home (we avoid characters so these tend to be more open ended, but he can access set costumes at Playcentre* should he wish) and some role playing toys (he has a particular interest in doctors at the moment so we got him the Plan Toys doctor’s set for his birthday). If he doesn’t have the props he needs, he’ll make it out of paper, play dough or whatever open ended materials he has available to him at that time. He’ll also often narrate roles during his play without the use of props.
    • Support photography. T has long shown an interest in my camera and has been able to use it on occassion (under careful supervision!). He was kindly bought a children’s camera for Christmas and has been loving snapping away at whatever catches his interest. I would like to support this by displaying a selection of his photographs and helping him to create scrapbooks of specific days out and events.

Sport and Movement

  • Support his love of gross motor activities.
    • Swimming lessons. T started swimming lessons at 5 weeks old. He has had breaks from formal lessons for both short- and long-term travel but we have enrolled in lessons whenever we have a home base. These have continually been a highlight of his week so we will continue them for as long as he enjoys them. We also swim regularly together to ensure that he is confident in the water, he has opportunities to practise his skills, and to have fun. 
    • Gymnastics. Our council runs drop-in gymnastics sessions every day. T loves attending so we go whenever our day allows and T says he wants to. He is currently working on perfecting his somersaults and completing the balance beams without the need for support. 
    • Mountain biking. We are very lucky to live right by a forest filled with mountain bike trails and jump/push tracks. T was given a balance bike for his 2nd birthday, after which he requested to go mountain biking most days. He has gradually built up his confidence and his strength to enable him to try bigger hills and more daring drops. He was given his first pedal bike with no stabilisers for his 3rd birthday so over the next year he will be given the opportunity to use whichever bike he chooses so he can continue to enjoy biking and gain the skills and confidence to use pedals.
    • Family hiking. We all really enjoy hiking so this is in no danger of falling by the wayside! Read some of my top tips for hiking with children here. I also talk about how T’s engagement with hiking has changed over time.
    • Skiing. We are lucky to potentially have the opportunity to move to Queenstown in March, where we will have several ski fields right on our doorstep. Alex and I are very excited about the upcoming ski season and we’re looking forward to giving T the opportunity to try it out to see if he enjoys it.
  • Explore dancing and body movement.
    • Songs with actions. ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ is a long-time favourite!
    • Play music from different genres to allow free expression with and without props (play silks, ribbons etc).
    • Introduce games like musical statues/bumps. These also enable a number of cognitive skills to be practised (e.g. inhibitory control and attention).

People and Cultures

  • Attend cultural festivals.
    • Christchurch hosts a number of cultural festivals through the year, including a Chinese Lantern festival, a Polynesian music and dance festival, and several parades that celebrate the diverse population. 
  • Eat and help prepare a wide range of cuisine.
    • We enjoy food, both at home and in restaurants, from all over the world. When we travel, we always eat the local cuisine, and have been lucky to pick up tips, ideas and recipes from all the places we have been. We practised Baby Led Weaning from the age of 6 months, so T has always eaten what we are eating. So far, we haven’t identified anything he doesn’t like.
    • Our meals can be accompanied by a discussion of where this particular food is eaten and how it is prepared.
  • Discuss previous travels. T certainly remembers some of our travels, as far back as 2017, but has understandably forgotten lots too. We remind him of his experiences and what we learned through conversation and photographs.
  • Languages.
    • Introduce foreign language books, audiobooks and songs.
    • Alex and I know bits (little bits!) of French and German, but we have also discussed introducing Spanish and/or Mandarin as these are more widely spoken. We will see what sparks T’s interest and enjoy learning languages alongside him.
    • T is picking up bits of Te Reo Māori just by living here. He hears individual words, verses and songs regularly, and has access to books written in Te Reo Māori. Take a look at  my beginner’s guide to Te Reo Māori here.
  • Learn about England and visit places of interest in London. This is obviously partly tied to our hope to return to the U.K. for a visit this year. Regardless of whether or not we do make it back, we inevitably talk about England a lot since Alex and I both grew up in London, and T was born in and spent his first 18 months living in North-West England. Our family and friends are there, some of whom have been able to visit this past year. They have then obviously returned back to England, so T is aware that these loved ones live there. 
  • Māori learning. As we are living in New Zealand, it is of great importance to us that we all learn about Māori history and culture. We do this by:
    • Visiting cultural sites and museums.
    • Viewing Māori art and sculpture.
    • Talking to Māori people about their traditions, family structure, celebrations and traditional food.
    • Ensuring that we all respect Māori customs. Some examples relevant to T include that it is considered disrespectful and unhygenic to sit on tables. In the U.K., it is commonplace to see people sitting on picnic tables in parks or perched on the corner of other food tables. Essentially, don’t put your bum where you eat! Food is not to be played with, so you won’t get kids making photo frames or jewellery out of pasta. Heads are considered sacred, so anything that touches them (hats, pillows etc) also need to be treated with respect. We don’t put hats on tables or sit on pillows.

Life Skills

  • T helps with and takes responsibility for specific tasks within the following practical life areas. Over the next year, he will continue to build on these skills, working towards doing more complex tasks independently. I will ensure that he is provided with the equipment and materials he needs to be able to carry out these tasks (e.g. size-appropriate equipment).
    • Cooking.
    • Gardening.
    • Laundry.
    • Cleaning, hoovering and tidying.
    • Loading/unloading the dishwasher and doing the washing up.
    • Grocery shopping.
    • Personal hygiene, self-care and self-dressing.
    • Caring for a sibling. T will soon become a big brother and I plan to involve him in his younger brother’s care as much as he chooses. I suspect he will enjoy taking a leadership role and assuming additional responsibilities (at first, simple tasks such as helping me fetch nappies and muslins, and later, helping to teach his brother new skills).

Music

  • Music appreciation.
    • Listen to a variety of music genres/radio at breakfast and throughout the day when T chooses.
    • Attend live music performances.
  • Musical self-expression.
    • Provide opportunities to explore instruments and the use of his voice.
    • Teach him well-known rhymes and songs.

Cognitive Skills

The following cognitive skills will be mostly practised naturally through self-directed play, games that involve matching/sorting/memory, and by simply sitting back and allowing T to come up against difficulties, make errors, and figure out solutions.

I also have a few professional tricks up my sleeve; games, exercises and mindfulness-based strategies that I use clinically with children and adults to either assess or practise these skills.

Many of the activities we already set aside time for also involve the use of a number of these skills. In reading the following short descriptions, perhaps you can identify where these skills might be useful in every day life for a 3 year old.

Cooking, for example, requires planning (to ensure you have all the ingredients), working memory (to hold steps of a recipe in mind), response inhibition (if you become distracted, you risk spoiling your efforts), sustained and multiple simultaneous attention (sustained attention to complete individual steps and the dish as a whole, and multiple simultaneous attention when attending to different items on the hob/in the oven etc at one time), and problem-solving (when things go wrong!).

  • Category formation. The ability to organise information into categories. Mammal vs. bird, food vs. non-food, fruit vs vegetable. Being able to categorise information in this way facilitates our ability to think about it, process it, and remember it.
  • Pattern recognition. Successfully identifying patterns enables us to logically predict what will happen next. This is known as inductive reasoning.
  • Working memory. This refers to the short-term temporary storage of information while it is still needed to complete a task (like a mental post-it note). It’s important in decision making, following instructions, holding multiple steps in mind in order to solve a problem or complete a task, and responding in conversations. 
  • Sustained attention. This is exactly what it sounds like: the ability to attend to, look at, listen to, think about something for a prolonged period. 
  • Multiple simultaneous attention. The ability to repeatedly shift attention, thus enabling successful multitasking.
  • Cognitive flexibility and control. This refers to the ability to shift between thinking about two different concepts. In other words, being able to adapt to a changing environment. 
  • Speed of information processing. Again, exactly what it sounds like: how quickly new information is processed and understood. This is necessary in being able to follow conversations or multiple step instructions.
  • Response inhibition. This is the ability to refrain from responding to distractions and is important for successfully staying on task when faced with a noisy or otherwise stimulating environment. 
  • Planning and strategy formation. This is simply the ability to think about the future and mentally anticipate the necessary actions to successfully reach a goal.
  • Problem solving. Closely linked to planning and strategy formation, this is the ability to predict the outcomes of a variety of strategies, choose an appropriate solution, and then analyse and evaluate the outcome.

Socio-emotional Skills

  • T has recently started to enjoy board games and loves hide and seek. We will continue to play games (even if not entirely following the rules at this stage!) that encourage turn taking.
  • Continue to attend Playcentre (see textbox for more details on what Playcentre is)  and organise play dates. Although T obviously meets children at other activities and while out and about, Playcentre and organised play dates are the best way for him to develop sustained relationships with other children and to have meaningful social experiences with them (due to the number of children that often attend gymnastics, social engagement can often be fleeting, and despite there only being one other child in his class, there’s only so much socialising you can do during a swimming lesson!). 
  • Label and validate emotions, and introduce regulation strategies. As a clinical psychologist, this (I hope!) comes very naturally to me; teaching people emotional regulation skills is a large part of my job. Children do not yet have the ability to do this by themselves since the part of the brain that deals with emotion regulation doesn’t fully develop until their early 20s. Instead, they look to their parents or other primary caregivers for clues and help with this. So, with both positive and negative emotions we do the following:
    • Help T to identify his emotions by labelling them.
    • Pinpoint the trigger and thought process behind the emotion.
    • Help him problem solve the most helpful way to manage his emotions. 
    • Label our own emotions, both positive and negative, model to him that it is acceptable and natural to experience negative emotions, and show him how we manage our own anger/frustration/sadness etc in a helpful way.
  • Talk about the day and any emotions, both positive and negative, that arose over dinner. Several months ago, T started waking in the night visibly upset (but easy to settle with a cuddle and breastfeed) and muttering about things that occurred during the day. He’s always been a bit of a sleep talker but this was a step up and I suspected mild nightmares related to processing the events of the day. In laymen’s terms, memory processing, which happens largely at night during R.E.M., can get a bit stuck in the case of difficult memories. Since my clinical speciality is trauma, I am well aware of the negative impact on sleep poor processing of difficult memories can have, and often some daytime processing is also required. Now, obviously we’re not talking about traumatic memories here, but big emotions and confusing events that seem trivial to us can feel traumatic to a toddler. So, I introduced a daily conversation at the end of the day (but not right before bed) to help him process his memories of the day. Typically, T rarely volunteers negative emotions or experiences when asked about the best and worst parts of his day, so I may probe: “I noticed it made you sad when your friend took the toy you were playing with / angry when I said we had to leave the playground / frightened when your friend chased you but you didn’t want them to. Was that difficult for you?”
  • Support to prepare for, and then adapt to having, a new sibling (we’re expecting a second son next month). We’ve had many conversations about pregnancy, child birth and what having a baby in the house will be like, and we have a few books that we’ve enjoyed reading together. So far, T has been excited, tender, and all for sharing his possessions (and more importantly, milk supply!), but I don’t doubt that the reality will still be a shock for him and he will need ongoing support to manage the influx of emotions that having a new sibling will bring. 
Playcentre logo. Attending Playcentre is an important part of our homeschool plan in New Zealand.

What is Playcentre?

Playcentre is an early education service in New Zealand for 0-5s. It is led and managed by parents, with a central philosophy that parents (or other primary caregivers) are a child’s best educator (so parents stay on session). The approach to education is entirely child-led. It is a parent’s responsibility to observe their child’s play, note how and what their child is learning at any given time, and then respond by providing opportunities to further develop this learning. Parents are offered adult education courses on child development, education and Playcentre philosophy to develop skills that can be applied during their child's Playcentre journey. In addition, it is a community, a place for adults and children to play and learn together. It fits beautifully with an unschooling approach and is the perfect community hub for worldschoolers.

At the time of writing, we are based in Christchurch, New Zealand so this homeschool plan has been written with that in mind. Obviously we can only attend Playcentre, swimming lessons, gymnastics sessions etc where these things are available, so future plans may look very different.

End of Year Evaluation

This year has seen lots of big changes for T and he’s handled them all brilliantly; we’re very proud of him. A new brother, a new town, a new house, new friends, new everything. Such is the life of a worldschooling family. Of course we’ve had the normal challenges that come with parenting a 3 year old, but he’s thriving and (mostly!) a joy to parent. He finds moving exciting and has embraced the new opportunities this brings, skiing being a particular highlight for this year. He took to it like a duck to water and can’t wait for the snow to return! 

A child-led approach that draws on a range of philosophies is working well for us. T shows us what he is and isn’t interested in at the moment and I feel confident to let that be our guide. As such, when I read back on what I wrote at the start of the year, for some things, we haven’t moved on much and my thoughts about possibilities for the coming year remain the same/similar, but for others, his natural curiosity has led to further exploration and we’re now deep in a rabbit’s warren, miles from where we started the year. We also have brand new interests that we can further delve into in the coming year.

I wish to continue to ‘lay the feast’ (as Charlotte Mason put it); to provide opportunities for new experiences and ideas, and for a rich and varied world-view. Being outside in nature continues to be hugely important; it quite literally breathes life into each of us and energises our day. T is nature journalling through photography and loving it! Giving him the opportunity to be creative and expressive outside the usual painting/drawing/craft activities has been valuable since this isn’t where his current strengths and interests lie. Playcentre is our community. We have joined a new centre in Queenstown and have once again, like we did in Christchurch, found this an invaluable source of friendship, support and child-led learning possibilities for both us adults and the kids.

It is very apparent to me how much I despise routine. The mundanity of ‘we do this on Mondays, we do that on Tuesdays’ …ahhhhh, GET ME OUT! Currently, our mornings are typically routine-driven and we need to get out of the house for things like Playcentre (which only open 10-1 daily), and our afternoons are free for whatever we fancy. It’s a tough balance for me to strike because we get so much value from Playcentre (me and the children) but I hate that we have to attend on set days/times. T loves adventure and has no need for routine (he’s asking to move house again and wants to live in Africa next). C is still a bit little to be able to communicate his preferences but certainly he’s adaptable and happy to sleep, eat and play wherever and whenever his body tells him that’s what he needs. I can’t wait to be nomadic once again but for the time being, Alex is enjoying his work and there’s lots here to explore so we will be staying in the Queenstown/Wanaka area for the next year or two. (Edit to add: coronavirus will also dictate when we will next be on the move. Our itchy feet will be still until the world’s citizens are no longer at risk.)

Homeschooling a 4 year old

Maths and Numeracy

  • Basic counting and arithmetic. We continue to do number work naturally as we play and live our lives. T prefers to use concrete materials to work with rather than performing sums in his head, so doing maths through play works well for us. I continue to talk about numbers in the ways I suggested for ‘Homeschooling a 3 year old’ so look above if you haven’t already, but we have also started to introduce more complex ideas (see below). I choose to approach maths as a tool for problem-solving; an ally rather than something tricky that should be feared (though I appreciate that this is probably made easier by the fact that both Alex and I were labelled as ‘good’ at maths as children and we both continued with it until the end of our school careers and into our professional careers, so neither of us have ever feared it). As a result, most of our maths work arises out of ‘I wonder how we can figure this out?’ type questions. For example:
    • Early multiplication and division.
      • “You have 5 cars queuing to get into your garage at this entrance, 5 at that entrance, and 5 queuing on the other side of the railway crossing. That’s 3 groups of 5 cars all queuing up! How many cars are queuing in total? Do you have enough free parking spaces to let them all in? 3 times 5… that makes 15. Shall we count them to make sure?”
      • “We need to give the person at the checkout $20 but I only have $5 notes. How many do we need to give them?” I encourage him to count it out first and then consider the multiplication so that we simultaneously practise addition and he develops an understanding that there are multiple ways to reach the same answer.
      • “Can you divide the toys up equally between you and your friends? There are 12 toys and 3 children so you get 4 toys each and now you can all make creations with the playodough.”
    • Fractions.
      • We talk about fractions a lot when we’re  preparing food. “Let’s cut the melon in half and then into quarters. If you have a quarter and I have a quarter, how much will we have left?” “We need half a cup of flour, 1/8 of a tablespoon of baking powder etc. How many of these cups would fit in this cup?”
      • There are lots of opportunities to talk about fractions during play. “Can you share the blocks equally between you and your brother? Give half to him and keep half for you.”
    • Estimation (which often links in with ‘metrics’ below).
      • “How long do you think this stick is? What about this one? Let’s get a tape measure to check. Which will be a better bridge to the other side of the stream?”
      • “How many rocks do you think will fit in this jar?”
      • “How many cups of water do you think we’ll need to get to fill this bucket?”
  • Number recognition, identification and writing. Again, see above for ideas I am still using as T continues to enjoy identifying numbers in this way. T has also been showing an interest in writing numbers so, if you want to extend beyond number recognition in real life situations, here are some additional thoughts that we will be considering with T:
    • Sand paper numerals. These are a Montessori material that T really enjoys working with. He can learn to make the shapes by feeling the written symbol and committing it to memory by engaging multiple senses. He often then choose to practise writing them on paper.
    • Constructing numerals with natural or play materials. T has shown a long-term ‘connecting’ schema. As such, he enjoys constructing symbols by connecting items together. Some ideas include:
      • ‘Writing’ with sticks, pine cones, leaves etc on the ground.
      • Building road/rail tracks in the shape of numerals.
      • Cutting and sticking pieces of tissue paper/scrap paper/ribbons/any other craft materials we have into numerals. 
  • Metrics. We continue to explore metrics (length, mass, volume, velocity, temperature etc) through play, participating in practical life tasks (cooking, gardening etc) and by following T’s curiosity and questions. Have a look above at ‘Homeschooling a 3 year old’ for some ideas. We have also started:
    • Woodwork. T was given a tool set for his 4th birthday and has both taken a lead on his own creations, and helped make specific projects for the family requiring accurate measurements.
    • Science experiments. In the months leading up to his birthday, T was demonstrating a really strong ‘transformation’ schema in his play. This led us down a path of conducting lots of experiments to see how materials transform under different conditions. He enjoys testing out his ideas and theories, so we will continue to conduct simple experiments, which often involve some form of measurement. 
  • Clocks and time keeping. I’m going to hold my hands up here and say that I never wear a watch, hanging wall clocks was just one of those things that never got done when we moved house, and the clock on our oven is currently out by 6 hours and 12 minutes (I’m not sure why…I should really do something about that!). We use clocks to indicate to T when we’ll be doing something (“At 1 o’clock, we’ll be leaving. 1 o’clock is when the big hand is here at the 12, and the little hand is here at the 1”), but we haven’t progressed much since last year in terms of T’s ability to tell the time. He does, however, better understand that time passes and that other things are concurrently happening outside of his lived experience. He has grown more aware of the possibility of missing out or arriving late if we allow time to pass. We will continue to work on this understanding this year and I would like to invest in a dual digital/analogue clock for him, with which I can give him more time keeping responsibilities. He was given a board game for Christmas (‘What’s The Time Mr. Wolf’ by Orchard Toys), which we enjoy playing and is helping to introduce digital analogue and spoken time telling.

  • Understanding of money.

    • Like time keeping, we continue to use handling of money as a real world opportunity to practise counting, arithmetic and number recognition.

    • Playing shops has been a favourite role play this year, and we will continue to play this with increasing complexity in money exchange.

    • We have regular discussions about how we earn money, the things we and others may choose to spend it on, and the fact that we are very privileged.

    • T has recently become aware that different countries use different currencies. We will continue to explore this idea with him by role playing shopping in different countries.

English Language and Literacy

  • Reading.
    • T has access to a wide range of fiction, both modern and classic, non-fiction, and poetry aimed at both adults and children. We also make regular use of our local library.
  • Phonics. We still haven’t taught T the alphabet, as he is still mastering phonics (the sound a letter or combination of letters make. e.g. ‘fff as in flower’ as opposed to ‘ef’, as is taught in the alphabet). We continue to play the games I talked about in ‘Homeschooling a 3 year old’ so see above if you haven’t already. He is currently learning to pair sounds with their alphabetic symbol.
    • He’s really enjoying searching and sorting games at the moment (searching the house for objects that start with particular sounds and sorting them into groups with their corresponding alphabetic symbol). 
    • Using sandpaper letters. Just as with numerals, he enjoys using this Montessori material to engage multiple senses as he learns how to form letter shapes. Currently, we identify letters by their sound only, not their name, and we are currently only using lowercase. I introduce one new concept at a time, moving on to the next only when the previous stage has been mastered. Once he has a really good handle of phonics, I will introduce letter names. Once all lowercase letters are familiar, I will introduce uppercase. 
  • Vocabulary.
    • Conversation. We have always spoken to T like he is an adult and have chosen to use accurate vocabulary in preference to child terminology. We ask him about his play and narrate the world around us, we hold conversation at mealtimes, we discuss our day and we make up stories, songs and rhymes. I have recently been making an effort to embrace the Waldorf tradition of storytelling, although this is not something that comes naturally to me. Sometimes it’s a complete freestyle, sometimes T requests that I include one or more characters/animals/objects. He loves hearing made up stories about characters with his name! I would like to keep this up in the coming year.
    • Reading. Reading is obviously directly correlated to a wide vocabulary, so we try to offer a variety of reading materials from which T can choose what interests him. A mix of fiction, non-fiction and poetry offers a range of vocabulary and demonstrates the nuance of language.
  • Pen holding and manipulation. T typically now holds his pen using the ‘correct’ grip but I continue to model how to do this and ask if he would like help to adjust his grip when it’s not quite ‘right’. Developing muscle tone and control in his hands and fingers is obviously ongoing, so see above in ‘Homeschooling a 3 year old’ for some activities that are great for strengthening hand muscles. In addition to these, T is becoming more purposefully precise in creating artwork and he now enjoys practising his writing. This is often freehand, but I have also on occasion provided him with dots to join to form a letter (keeping his ‘connection’ schema in mind, I suspected this would be something that would spark his interest). I wonder whether in the coming year he will enjoy:
    • Dot-to-dot pictures.
    • Mazes and other drawing puzzles (e.g. pairing two pictures with lines).

Science, Ecosystems and the Planet

  • We will continue to explore the sciences using an interest-led approach. Current events, the world around us, and wonderful child-like curiosity has led to many questions from T, interesting research and thoughtful discussions on a wide range of topics. Unlike at mainstream school, where kids are typically told that they’re learning about a particular topic in isolation for a set number of weeks and then won’t cover that topic again for a number years (if at all), we are free to dip in and out if we choose, make connections between topics, and delve deep and follow curiosity for as long as it is there. We will:

Edited to add that: Coronavirus has obviously put a stop to much of our out-of-the-home learning and access to external resources, but we are looking forward to supporting our local libraries, museums and conservation projects once it is safe to do so.

    • Visit museums.
    • Ethically view and learn about wildlife.  
    • Read books, view photography and visit the library to fill gaps in knowledge and resources available at home. We prefer not to use online resources for learning at this age and T does not have access to a tablet or any apps on our devices. Very occasionally we will select some real life footage to address a specific query. For example, he’s been interested in space and rockets, so Alex showed him a SpaceX launch; he asked how a lion catches its prey, so I showed him an Attenborough clip of lions hunting warthogs.
    • Test theories through play, practical life tasks, and set up experiments to investigate and introduce scientific concepts.
    • Utilise our large world map, located at T’s eye level, to visualise and discuss topics such as habitats, climates, geography, and to plan future travel once coronavirus restrictions have been lifted!
  • We will continue to model a positive and care-taking relationship with the planet by:
    • Practising the three Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle), home composting, and litter-picking.
    • Finding joy in nature.
    • Discussing conservation, threats to species and how we can help.
    • Discouraging wastefulness with regards to food, water and electricity.
    • Making positive choices with regards to fuel use, sustainable product use, meat consumption and waste reduction.

Engineering, Design and Technology

  • Support his interest in vehicles and mechanics by:
    • Making toys and books available that allow him to explore this (Lego has become a recent favourite).
    • In the last year, T has had an opportunity to learn how to change a car tyre (a silver lining to an unfortunate puncture) and  observe mechanics at work in the garage. We can continue to support this and facilitate having questions answers by a professional.
    • Attending relevant museums and exhibitions. The National Transport and Toy Museum in Wanaka is likely to be a hit!
    • T regularly enjoys cleaning the car and likes to assist with any car maintenance. We have not yet had to service his bike but when we do, we will teach him how to do this himself. 
  • Provide opportunities for construction, woodwork and sculpture by:
    • Making toys, books and craft materials available that allow him to explore this (I’m mindful of his ‘connecting’ schema so construction features heavily in what we have out at the moment). Lego is the current go-to in this area, but he also enjoys using tape and glue to create craft constructions.
    • Making modelling clay and play dough regularly available. This continues to benefit the muscle development required to hold and manipulate a pen.
    • T was given a set of real tools for his 4th birthday. He has designed and led his own woodwork projects, as well as assisting in home improvements and family construction projects (Alex and T made our Christmas tree this year and they are currently building a mud kitchen).
    • When we moved to Queenstown, T helped re-assemble our furniture. We move frequently so this is a likely recurring opportunity.
    • Building dens both at home and in the forest.

Art and Drama

  • Appreciation of the arts.
    • Visit art galleries. We have loads of local galleries and art markets nearby, which we enjoy wandering around.
    • Attend theatre productions of any genre. We recently took T to the circus for the first time. It started what has become an almost daily ‘show’, during which T selects a song to put on and dances/somersaults/kartwheels/jumps around the room.
    • Introduce famous artworks and provide opportunities to copy and comment on them. We regularly choose a painting to discuss over a meal. We raise  artistic concepts such as shape, form, colour, angles and the whole vs details, as well as emotion and storytelling through art. We talk about art movements as well as the individual artists and some basic biographical information, such as where they were/are from and what inspired them. This year I would like to provide more opportunities for T to copy work that he likes. 
  • Opportunities for artistic and dramatic self-expression. This remains largely the same as last year so take a look at ‘Homeschooling a 3 year old’ if you haven’t already.
    • We have an art space where T can access all our art and craft materials at his leisure. Since moving house I must admit I haven’t been displaying his work as I have previously; this is something I would like to refocus on in the coming months as I believe that proudly displaying his work will positively contribute to his sense of self-worth. 
    • T has available to him at any time some dressing up clothes and some role playing toys. He enjoys playing ‘shops’,  ‘doctors’ and ‘chefs’, but dressing up isn’t the type of play he typically gravitates to. If it’s imaginary, he tends to prefer small world play, narrating the adventures of peg people and vehicles. 
    • Continue to support photography. T has his own children’s camera, which he loves grabbing for impromptu shots and taking out for planned photography expeditions. I have printed his photos along with written memories and details of where we were, what we were doing, his thoughts etc.

Sport and Movement

  • Support his love of gross motor activities.
    • Swimming. T started swimming lessons at 5 weeks old. He has had breaks from formal lessons for both short- and long-term travel but we have enrolled in lessons whenever we have a home base. Sadly, our pool closed for refurbishment for 7 months (and with it, lessons had to stop) and was due to reopen but Coronavirus has put a stop to that. We enjoyed swimming over the summer months in a local open air pool, the lake and rivers so he has managed to keep his confidence up and is getting noticeably stronger in the water. Swimming lessons were always a weekly highlight so we will restart them as soon as possible.
    • Gymnastics and trampolining. T was really enjoying council-run gymnastics sessions in Christchurch. Sadly, there is nothing similar in Queenstown. The Gymnastics Club has recently started offering classes for under 5s so this may be something we can look into this year and try out. The house we are renting comes with a trampoline, which T has loved! We also have a trampoline park close by that run weekly under 5s sessions on a drop-in basis. We have only been once so far but it was a lot of fun (for me too!) so this can be something we offer on rainy days. Unfortunately it’s a bit pricey to be a regular activity but a fun occasional treat. 
    • Climbing. This year T has suddenly taken a keen interest in climbing. He’s a funny little thing though because he’s not actually all that fond of heights, despite enjoying the actual act and challenge of the climb. He will find every rock face or steep cliff to scale when we’re out hiking, but describes vertigo when he gets too high. We have taken him twice to the local clip and climb, which has some brilliant climbing walls. He’s really enjoyed it both times and on the second occasion, set himself a goal of getting higher than the previous time. I would like to support him in achieving his goals and we will make sure this activity is available to him so that he is able to challenge himself at a pace that feels right for him.
    • Cycling. T is a very confident little rider and just loves biking. In recent months he’s had a very obvious boost in physical strength that allows him to tackle bigger hills and ride for longer distances. We will undoubtedly enjoy many family bike rides in the coming year, as well as shorter outings to our local pump track.
    • Family hiking. We all continue to really enjoy hiking so I have no doubt that this will continue. Find my top tips for hiking with children here. 
    • Skiing. T took to skiing like a duck to water last year. He loved it! This year we have season passes so will be skiing a couple of times a week (provided the ski fields open in the wake of Coronavirus). He’s been looking forward to the return of the snow since the last season ended but we’ve prepared him for the possibility that they may be forced to remain closed this year.
    • Explore dancing and body movement.
      • We have recently started making dance a fairly regular part of our day. Sometimes this is in the form of a ‘show’ put on for Alex and I, sometimes I join in too and we all dance around the living room with silks and ribbons. This is an activity that’s filled with joy and fun so I would like to keep it up.
      • We sometimes play musical statues but we are yet to try musical bumps. These are great games for the development of a number of cognitive skills (inhibitory control and attention).
    • Ball sports.
      • Playing in the garden. We have a range of balls, bats, rackets and velcro catch pads, all of which we regularly get out in the garden to practise ball skills and develop hand/foot-eye coordination and visuospatial awareness.
      • We have free tennis courts a short walk away so will continue to make use of this facility.
      • I have toyed with the idea of seeing whether T would enjoy ‘Playball’ (a national multi ball-sport class). I think he probably would enjoy it but I reached the conclusion that it was probably unnecessary at this age and that his swimming lessons were a more valuable use of time and money in terms of enjoyment for T and physical benefit. I can of course revisit this decision if it later seems like an unwise choice.

People and Cultures

  • Attend cultural festivals.
    • Queenstown has a multi-cultural population and hosts events for a number of cultural celebrations. Since moving here, we have celebrated and learned about Matariki (Māori new year), Diwali and Chinese New Year. We will continue to enjoy local festivals and celebrations, and learn about the history and traditions of these either with friends who celebrate a particular festival or through our own research.
  • Eat and help prepare a wide range of cuisine.
    • T loves cooking so we try to involve him in meal preparation frequently. We talk about where different meals and produce are eaten; the rituals, utensils and customs surrounding how it is eaten; and how it is prepared. We have chopsticks to use at home, sushi rolling mats, a clay tagine etc.
  • T has some beautiful books that introduce people and cultures from around the globe. These, along with conversations and photographs from our previous travels, offer a window into how other people’s daily life, experiences and beliefs might differ from our own.
  • Languages.
    • T has been having weekly French lessons with a same-age friend for the past 6 months or so and has absolutely loved them. It’s amazing to see what he picks up and how quickly. They learn through songs and games, and new vocabulary is introduced each week. We will be continuing with these lessons for as long as T is enjoying them.
    • It helps that I speak a little French (only a very little) as I feel confident to read him books in French and do role play games with him (we play ‘shops’ in French, for example). During the coronavirus lockdown we have cleared the library of all their French books and audiobooks!
    • Alex and I have also discussed the value of introducing Spanish and/or Mandarin. T requested to learn Spanish (which I don’t speak a word of) so we have also borrowed a few Spanish books from the library and will see how this goes. If he wants to pursue it further, we will.
    • T is picking up Te Reo Māori just by living here. He hears individual words, verses and songs regularly, and has access to books written in Te Reo Māori. Take a look at  my beginner’s guide to Te Reo Māori here.
  • Connect regularly with family and friends in the U.K. and talk about our lives before we moved to New Zealand.
  • Māori learning. As we are living in New Zealand, it is of great importance to us that we all learn about Māori history and culture. See above for some thoughts on how we go about this.

Life Skills

  • T is continually involved in all aspects of practical family life, self-care and caring for each other and our environment. He will continue to develop his practical life skills by taking responsibility for a full spectrum of tasks. Our role will be to ensure that he has what he needs to complete such tasks and that he is given the opportunity to to do this at his own pace and with his own innovation and problem-solving.
    • Cooking.
    • Gardening.
    • Laundry and putting clean clothes away.
    • Cleaning, hoovering and tidying.
    • Loading/unloading the dishwasher and doing the washing up.
    • Grocery shopping.
    • Personal hygiene, self-care and self-dressing.
    • Caring for, guiding and teaching his younger brother.

Music

  • Music appreciation.
    • Listen to a variety of music genres/radio at breakfast and throughout the day when T chooses.
    • Attend live music performances.
  • Musical self-expression.
    • Provide opportunities to explore instruments and the use of his voice.
    • Teach him well-known rhymes and songs.

Cognitive Skills

The following cognitive skills will be mostly practised naturally through self-directed play, games that involve matching/sorting/memory, and by simply sitting back and allowing T to come up against difficulties, make errors, and figure out solutions.

I also have a few professional tricks up my sleeve; games, exercises and mindfulness-based strategies that I use clinically with children and adults to either assess or practise these skills.

Many of the activities we already set aside time for also involve the use of a number of these skills. In reading the following short descriptions, perhaps you can identify where these skills might be useful in every day life for a 3 year old.

Cooking, for example, requires planning (to ensure you have all the ingredients), working memory (to hold steps of a recipe in mind), response inhibition (if you become distracted, you risk spoiling your efforts), sustained and multiple simultaneous attention (sustained attention to complete individual steps and the dish as a whole, and multiple simultaneous attention when attending to different items on the hob/in the oven etc at one time), and problem-solving (when things go wrong!).

  • Category formation. The ability to organise information into categories. Mammal vs. bird, food vs. non-food, fruit vs vegetable. Being able to categorise information in this way facilitates our ability to think about it, process it, and remember it.
  • Pattern recognition. Successfully identifying patterns enables us to logically predict what will happen next. This is known as inductive reasoning.
  • Working memory. This refers to the short-term temporary storage of information while it is still needed to complete a task (like a mental post-it note). It’s important in decision making, following instructions, holding multiple steps in mind in order to solve a problem or complete a task, and responding in conversations. 
  • Sustained attention. This is exactly what it sounds like: the ability to attend to, look at, listen to, think about something for a prolonged period. 
  • Multiple simultaneous attention. The ability to repeatedly shift attention, thus enabling successful multitasking.
  • Cognitive flexibility and control. This refers to the ability to shift between thinking about two different concepts. In other words, being able to adapt to a changing environment. 
  • Speed of information processing. Again, exactly what it sounds like: how quickly new information is processed and understood. This is necessary in being able to follow conversations or multiple step instructions.
  • Response inhibition. This is the ability to refrain from responding to distractions and is important for successfully staying on task when faced with a noisy or otherwise stimulating environment. 
  • Planning and strategy formation. This is simply the ability to think about the future and mentally anticipate the necessary actions to successfully reach a goal.
  • Problem solving. Closely linked to planning and strategy formation, this is the ability to predict the outcomes of a variety of strategies, choose an appropriate solution, and then analyse and evaluate the outcome.

Socio-emotional Skills

  • T has recently started to enjoy board games and loves hide and seek. We will continue to play games (even if not entirely following the rules at this stage!) that encourage turn taking.
  • Continue to attend Playcentre* and organise play dates. These are the best way for him to develop sustained relationships with other children and to have meaningful social experiences with them.
  • Label and validate emotions, and introduce regulation strategies. As a clinical psychologist, this (I hope!) comes very naturally to me; teaching people emotional regulation skills is a large part of my job. Children do not yet have the ability to do this by themselves since the part of the brain that deals with emotion regulation doesn’t fully develop until their early 20s. Instead, they look to their parents or other primary caregivers for clues and help with this. So, with both positive and negative emotions we do the following:
    • Help T to identify his emotions by labelling them.
    • Pinpoint the trigger and thought process behind the emotion.
    • Help him problem solve the most helpful way to manage his emotions. 
    • Label our own emotions, both positive and negative, model to him that it is acceptable and natural to experience negative emotions, and show him how we manage our own anger/frustration/sadness etc in a helpful way.
  • Talk about the day and any emotions, both positive and negative, that arose over dinner. Several months ago, T started waking in the night visibly upset (but easy to settle with a cuddle and breastfeed) and muttering about things that occurred during the day. He’s always been a bit of a sleep talker but this was a step up and I suspected mild nightmares related to processing the events of the day. In laymen’s terms, memory processing, which happens largely at night during R.E.M., can get a bit stuck in the case of difficult memories. Since my clinical speciality is trauma, I am well aware of the negative impact on sleep poor processing of difficult memories can have, and often some daytime processing is also required. Now, obviously we’re not talking about traumatic memories here, but big emotions and confusing events that seem trivial to us can feel traumatic to a toddler. So, I introduced a daily conversation at the end of the day (but not right before bed) to help him process his memories of the day. Typically, T rarely volunteers negative emotions or experiences when asked about the best and worst parts of his day, so I may probe: “I noticed it made you sad when your friend took the toy you were playing with / angry when I said we had to leave the playground / frightened when your friend chased you but you didn’t want them to. Was that difficult for you?”
  • Support to prepare for, and then adapt to having, a new sibling (we’re expecting a second son next month). We’ve had many conversations about pregnancy, child birth and what having a baby in the house will be like, and we have a few books that we’ve enjoyed reading together. So far, T has been excited, tender, and all for sharing his possessions (and more importantly, milk supply!), but I don’t doubt that the reality will still be a shock for him and he will need ongoing support to manage the influx of emotions that having a new sibling will bring. 

Philosophy and Ethics

As Theory of Mind is developing, now is the time to introduce the concepts of morals, ethics and philosophical thinking. Obviously we have always tried to provide T with ethically sound reasons for making certain choices (e.g. “I can’t let you hit because it hurts, and when people are hurt they feel sad.” or “I can’t let you eat the grapes while we shop because we haven’t yet weighed and paid for them.”) but our efforts up until this point have simply been laying the groundwork. Until approximately age 4 or 5 (for a neurotypical child), children are unable to infer the thoughts, feelings, knowledge and mental states of others (this ability is termed ‘Theory of Mind’) and so remain largely egocentric and unable to consider scenarios in ‘someone else’s shoes’. I’ve noticed a marked shift in T’s thinking in recent months; I can see the cogs turning as he works out what others will think/feel/know if he does x or y. This doesn’t of course mean he always makes the right choice, but it does open up the possibility for deeper discussion and a more thoughtful consideration of the options available to him in specific situations.

Homeschooling a 5 year old

Coming soon…

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