Unschooling the Preschool Aged Child

10 Ideas For Unschooling the Preschool Aged Child

10 Ideas For Unschooling The Preschool Child

If you are new to the term, then unschooling may sound like a bit of an oxymoron.  Unschooling is not so much a method of instruction, rather it is a way of thinking about learning. Einstein said, “The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.”  What did he mean by that statement? Einstein’s brilliance was unleashed when he had the opportunity to think and create. Preschoolers have unlimited curiosity and the concept of unschooling taps into their interests.

Unschooling is education driven by a child’s interests and motivations. This does not mean it is not structured, merely it is structured around a specific area of interest.  In traditional homeschooling the curriculum is chosen first, and then instruction is built around the curriculum. In unschooling the topic is chosen first and then the ‘curriculum’ is built around the topic.  The curriculum is not the traditional textbooks, rather it is more hands on, or authentic based learning.  Young children thrive on structure, so you can still schedule your day just as you would if you were using a traditional approach for homeschooling your preschooler.

What Does Unschooling Look Like in a Typical Homeschool Environment

If you are homeschooling a preschooler then you know they often become fixated on something. It may be bugs, dinosaurs, trains, faeries, princesses, animals or any number of countless other topics. They want to know absolutely everything they can about their newest ‘hobby’. You simply use their interest as the center-point for your instruction. In traditional homeschooling you teach whatever themes or topics are presented in the curriculum you have chosen.

Let’s look at what unschooling might look like. Let’s assume your preschooler is absolutely fascinated by bugs and look at how can provide them with a relevant learning experience. It is important to make sure these opportunities address all of their intelligences. The following list is by no means all-inclusive, but it gives you an idea of how to build around your child’s area of interest.

10 Ideas for Unschooling

Science: Learn all about insects. Study the lifecycles of different bugs. Insect Lore offers wonderful insect habitats and your child can watch the lifecycle of a ladybug or other insect unfold.  Purchase an ant farm. Study the characteristics of insects and learn how they are different from arachnids. Purchase a preschool friendly microscope to check out insects up close.

Writing: Depending on the age of your preschooler, you may do the writing and have them do the illustrations. Keep an observation journal and have your child search for bugs and record what they find each day. Let them make up silly stories about bugs while you type them up making sure to leave enough room at the top for them to illustrate their work.

Reading: Choose bug poems and nonfiction and fiction books about bugs from the library to read. You local librarian will be happy to help out if you need some book ideas.

Math: Purchase bug counters (regular plastic bugs are fine) and count the number of bugs, spots, legs, and antenna. Sort them by color and shape. Play adding and subtracting games. How many grasshoppers and bees are there? Two bees flew away. How many are left?  Teach symmetry using insect wings. Look for patterns on insects (like the bumbles yellow and black stripes).

Art: Make insect wings, egg carton caterpillars, etc.

Music: Collect bug rhymes, chants, and songs to sing like I’m Bringing Home a Baby Bumblebee, Shoo Fly and Ladybug, Ladybug.”  

Dramatic Play: Act out different bugs: crawl like an ant, curl up in a ball like a pill-bug, fly like a bumblebee etc.  Have them tell a story like the Very Hungry Caterpillar using a flannel board. Roll up in towels (cocoons) and emerge.

Discovery: Go on a bug hunt at a local park and bring tweezers, a magnifying glass, bug holder, and ‘field journal’ to record your findings. Go to a museum nearby that has a great bug exhibit. Catch fireflies. Go to different ecosystems and see what different bugs you find.

Fine Motor: Color in bug coloring books, Print out large pictures of bugs with thick outlines for your child and let them trace their bodies, print out a large maze and have your child use a magnetic bug (small magnet) to move through the maze, make bugs using Playdoh and googly eyes.

Games: Make an obstacle course in the house or outside and have them do it as different bugs.  Have bug races and have them race as different bugs. Which is faster a hopping grasshopper or an ant?

I hope this helps to get you started as you begin to unschool your preschooler. If you need further resources to inspire you consider joining a homeschool web site or purchasing a thematic unit book.  May you share the joy of learning and have many happy discoveries together.

Some further reading for you - Learning From Life At Home

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Irene Reardon

Irene holds a Bachelor of Science (Applied Psychology), and Certificate in TESOL and a Certificate in the Teaching of Children with Dyslexia. Fifteen years experience in developing education programs and resources for Early Childhood and Primary Educators.

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