7 posts in 7 days link up - Day 2
The twins are three and a half now, old enough that they could be enrolled in normal preschool programs around here. That is, if I wanted to shell out the money (private options) or commit to an early wake up time (public options). But, I'm kind of stingy and lazy and neither option seemed appealing.
I started a Moms Group at our church in fall of 2012 and most of us have children in the three to four year old range. I got a crazy hair-brained idea last summer and started up a preschool co-op for those interested parties.
We meet most Tuesdays and swap out who teaches. The host plans and teaches the lesson for that week but then gets to recuperate a few weeks before her turn comes up again. The other parents all stick around and assist as needed or wrangle any younger siblings. We have six children representing four families. Class runs for about an hour to an hour and half, which is about as long as any of us can hold an attention span. (The biggest downside to meeting in our own houses is the lure of toys. The magnetic pull gets stronger and stronger until I look up and suddenly, all the children are wearing hats from our dress up section. Or Mac has stripped down and is struggling into a too-small super hero costume...)
I seem to be the bossy pants of the bunch, and since this co-op was my brain-child, I guess I'll wear that hat. We're primarily using Catholic ABC'S by Lacy Rabideau and I adapted one of her proposed schedules to fit our time table and range of abilities (kids' ages range from two to four). We'll meet about 32 times this school year, one class for each letter of the alphabet, and then the extra classes are devoted to the current liturgical season (for example, next week's class will focus on Lent).
I. Gathering Time - coloring sheets, letter practice, etc.
II. Circle Time - opening prayer, hello song, introduce letter, introduce Saint, sing ABC's, etc.
III. Craft Time - explain religious topic, show craft sample, kids get crafty, etc.
IV. Music - nursery rhymes or children's songs
V. Snacks - kids bring their own snacks
VI. Closing Prayer
Optional components - Read books that address either our saint/religious topic or our letter
Today was my turn to teach and the craft Catholic ABC's proposed was just not happening - painted foot prints to turn into Mary, Queen of Heaven. With regular paint, you need all hands on deck. With painted footprints?! Yikes! So I steered clear and made up my own craft. Sometimes that happens. The biggest limitation we've had with our book is no alternate activities - there is only one proposed craft per letter. So if we rule it out for any reason, then we have to search for an appropriate alternate lesson.
We made quilts honoring Mary, Queen of Heaven and Earth. My example is on the top. Cora and Mac's are on the bottom. Yes, Cora's says "Queen" twice rather than "Queen" and "Mary". One of my Mary's disappeared and I made an extra on the fly. And I wasn't paying full attention as I dotted out the word for her to trace. Perhaps I was distracted by the moment when a child's head needed to be extracted from a chair. Or by a few children arguing about what color "jewels" they wanted or decrying the fact that their glue sticks were used up. As you may have guessed, my multi-tasking skills are only so-so.
I just bought a supplemental book and I'm so excited about adding it in to both our program and to whatever I decide to do next school year. Twenty-Six Letters to Heaven by Sarah Park looks to be a great supplement and has already given me some ideas. My only complaint about her book so far is I wish it were spiral bound. The author has graciously provided Saint printables in the back of the book but they're hard to print due to the book's binding.
I've really enjoyed our little co-op. I'm not sure how much Cora and Mac are learning academically, but they are learning a lot of interpersonal skills. Among other things, Cora's learning how to interact with other adults and Mac is learning (or attempting to learn) to respect personal space. And while there is chaos, this has been a most worthwhile venture so far.