It's natural for parents to have role models; someone who is an expert in a field or who has experienced something before us and shares their experience with others. These mentors are important in helping us as we experience things in life that are new to us. During my children's early years, Dr. Kay Kuzma was one of my role models. I loved her enthusiastic and positive outlook. Always positive, her energy and knowledge was contagious! I read all her books and listened to as many of her audio presentations as I could find. Recently I found my copy of her book, Living with God's Kids.
As I scanned its pages again, I was immediately transported back in time; a time when my children were young and when we were starting our homeschool journey. Dr. Kuzma's words reminded me of the role model she was to me. When it comes to teaching preschool children, she believes that they learn best through play. Having freedom to choose the activities that they enjoy the most and being able to spend lots of time outdoors are two of her core values. She also believes that children can be guided and given activities that will help them with their development. Giving them daily home duties, lessons from nature, and reading Bible stories rounds out their early childhood days. Play, chores, nature study, and Bible stories established the core of her preschool curriculum.
Knowing that Dr. Kuzma has a PhD in early childhood education, yet chose to teach her own children by such a natural method encouraged me to focus my homeschool curriculum on the core values that she felt were most important.
Here is an example of the preschool schedule that Dr. Kuzma prepared for her children.
- she wrote down the things she wanted her children to learn during the year.
- then she printed each activity that would help her children learn these things on a 3 x 5 card.
- she thought up about ten things she wanted the children to learn about on the first day.
- each day after that she thought of several more things to add to the list.
- an example of a day's list looked like this: 1) go to the library and get 25 books; 2) clean room; 3) learn telephone number; 4) make bird feeder; 5) fold clothes; 6) make a picture book and tell stories about each picture; 7) learn A, B, and C on the piano; 8) listen to a story about honesty; 9) make granola; 10) practice roller skating.
- each day the children would sort through the cards and choose which activity they wanted to do that day.
- cards for some activities that happened daily (like cleaning their room) were left in the pile each day.
- the activities that were a one-time deal were put in a special box after the children signed the back of the card.
- if the children were not interested in anything on any of the cards, she would ask them what they would like to have added and then she would write up their ideas on new cards for them to choose from.
- the cards are only a jumping off point and should not limit learning. Every effort should be made throughout the day to use teachable moments as they happen. Common sense and taking advantage of things that happen in life should be utilized.
Dr. Kuzma says that she got most of her ideas for activities by listening to the children express what they wanted to do or what they wanted to learn about. Other ideas came from children's activity books that she had in her personal library. This method of preschool learning motivates children because it is truly one that follows the interest of the children being taught.
I found it encouraging that this method of instruction allows children to learn purposefully, but without forcing them into early, structured education. Instead of workbooks and copy work, her children were allowed to grow and develop naturally, learning about daily life at their mother's knee. Dr. Kuzma's approach allowed her to listen to the needs of her children and to establish routines and activities that expanded her children's world and allowed them to learn much more than if they had been confined to a workbook each day.
She ends her comments on preschool education with this sentence: "If I can do it, you can!" Now, go take on the day!
[Information from Living with God's Kids by Dr. Kay Kuzma, chapter 4]