Most all early childhood educators think preschool curriculum should involve only exposure to new random experiences and sensations. Hence, yuppies drop thousands of dollars into preschools that have their children banking off the walls, doing random disconnected activities—from drum beating to underwater basket weaving! But these "enlightened" educators are sadly missing an entire second capacity of the child.
Mental stimulation and exposure to a wide variety of experiences IS important; just leave a preschooler in a closet for five years and you'll see the difference. But if one adds to this wide exposure a thorough, daily, sequential skill development this produces a very, very capable child at a very early age. Teaching a preschooler any skill involves an inordinate amount of work for you as the parent/teacher in the beginning, but it means far less work for you later. If you proceed line upon line, precept upon precept, a child can eventually take off like a rocket—exponentially.
Teaching preschoolers is some of the hardest teaching there is because it demands hours and hours of hovering over beginnings—whether it be with academics or chores or character training. For example, in the teaching of handwriting, every letter must be taught with the correct stroke until the proper way becomes habit, because the child will live with this habit the entire rest of their life. Get it in the brain with the wrong strokes to begin with, through lack of vigilance, and it becomes almost impossible to erase the inferior neuron-networking later on.
The same is true for teaching cursive writing, speed-typing, spelling, tooth-brushing, hair brushing, ballet positions, tennis strokes, multiplication tables, or learning any musical instrument. It is all attached to the autonomic nervous system which then hard-wires it for life. This dynamic holds true for the shaping of the child's attitudes and character training, as well. These are the years to “make hay!" The greater the vigilance, the greater the outcomes. Communist visionaries have said, "Give me a child until he is five and I'll have him for life."
Since the emotional capacity and fragile nervous system of a preschooler can't take much new skill development at one dose, you have to teach in short spurts, and change activities frequently. Since a preschooler's entire security is built upon what they are confident of and already know, they return to familiar songs and familiar stories to re-establish their range and bearings—and return to mom and dad at a full gallop whenever they’ve been separated for a while. The tragedy of day care and preschools is that they rip the child away from the parent at the very ages the child needs the parents to establish security in their fragile psyches—a security they will depend upon for the rest of their lives. It is the job of the parent/teacher to coax them out of their comfort zone academically and to do it incrementally and in small enough bites that they don't realize it is happening. Picture the ultimate preschool learning experience to be like that of a child climbing a ladder slowly enough to get good academic footing on each rung before moving to the next—while mom and dad hold the ladder of a secure relationship at its base.
Dare to move scores of academic subjects forward in small enough bites and the success of the preschooler can amaze you over time—to say nothing of the confidence and capacity he or she exhibits years later as an adult.
In summary, teaching preschoolers is all about setting down the preliminary freeways and interstates in the brain upon which all future country roads will eventually hang. The more roads you lay down before the age of 6, the brighter, more refined the eventual adult can become.For many more ideas on teaching preschoolers, order the book of Teachers' Secrets and Motherhood Savvy for Homeschoolers (it includes a chapter on 12 Optimum Ways to Trigger the Brain and another on Training a Child, not Just Disciplining), The Right Stuff (revised last week--a quick, money-saving booklet about how to proceed in each area of teaching your young child), and Training Terrific Tots (50 ways to occupy and delight preschoolers, while at the same time growing their I.Q.‘s, using things you already have in your home).