DIY Preschool: Literacy Activites

(This is the third in a series of posts about Worcester-area educational activities for preschool-aged children.)

Our approach to literacy has been a bit more organic than what we’ve done for science education.

I highly recommend all parents read The Read-Aloud Handbook.  If you weren’t already committed to reading to your kids every night, this book will make you a convert.  I’ve found that being an overtly avid reader has made people more open to sharing their stories about reading to children.  The nurse who assisted in many of my platelet donations told me that he was reading to his son up until high school, which is something I aspire to.

To aid in reading aloud, we go to the library at least once a week and also own a lot of children’s books.  We shop at thrift stores and library book sales.  (Our favorite part of a library book sale is when we find a book that we’ve taken out repeatedly and now can own.  Our elder son seems to be inheriting our bibliomania.)

There are also a bunch of free or low-cost Worcester-area events that can improve literacy:

  • Library story times at Frances Perkins or the Main Branch of the Worcester Public Library.  The library used to offer pajama storytime one Friday night a month (though they no longer do) and we would go there if we had sufficient napping to cover staying up a bit later than usual.
  • Higgins Armory Museum offers a CastleKids Story Hour (for a small fee which includes a snack and craft) on many Wednesdays in the early afternoon.
  • The Greendale YMCA Branch offers a Little Cricket Story Time for family members a couple of times a week.
  • Our elder son participates in the Alphabetivities class at the Tri-Community YMCA, which introduces him to letters and gives him lots of practice with writing.

Though our older one is not quite reading fluently yet, he would probably also recommend the website Starfall — he loves practicing reading on that site!

Also in this Series:

DIY Preschool: The Background

DIY Preschool: Science and Natural History

DIY Preschool: Science and Natural History

(This is the second in a series of posts about Worcester-area educational activities for preschool-aged children.)

One of the main reasons we wanted a flexible preschool schedule for our eldest was so that he could take Discovering Nature as a Preschooler at the Broad Meadow Brook Audubon Sanctuary. (The Wachusett Meadow preschool brochure describes an extremely similar program.)  We like this program because it takes up a full Tuesday morning (9.30 to noon), and it includes a nature walk (snowshoeing in the winter!) and a craft.  The teacher, Tammy, is really awesome.  So, this has been a really great choice for us.

This year, he also started a class at the Tri-Community YMCA (in Southbridge) called “Investigation Station” which is a bit more science-experiment-y (using magnets, seeing whether things will float or sink, etc.).   Why do we go there instead of the Greendale Y?  Because they’ve got a nice Thursday-morning lineup and because it’s actually easier for us to get there at 9:00am than to attempt to cross the City of Worcester.  (My mother views Southbridge the way most people view Appalachia, so it’s worth getting the weekly eye-roll, accompanied by the, “I can’t believe you’re exposing him to Southbridge” lecture we get from her when she asks our son what he did this week…)

EcoTarium offers two programs for the under-6 set.  Preschool Wednesdays is a morning program for kids under 4.  We went to quite a few of these when our elder son was three and our younger son was a newborn.  There’s a story and presentation of an animal (either live or taxidermied) and a craft.  It’s definitely worth going to because we could always do that for 45 minutes or so, and then spend the rest of the morning exploring the museum.

Other area classes we haven’t tried:

The EcoTarium also offers a program for slightly older kids the first Thursday of the month.  The program is called Budding Scientists and it’s for children aged 4-6.  We’ve never been, mostly because we usually have something else planned for Thursday mornings, and because it’s really difficult to do anything with a five-year-old when you have a two-year-old in tow.  (That’s a nice part of the Broad Meadow Brook program — you can drop off your older one and take the younger one grocery shopping.)

Greendale YMCA offers a science class called The Science Kid for children ages 4-6 and a nature class called Hundred Acre wood for ages 3-5.  Some sessions of those classes are offered at working-parent-friendly times (evenings and Saturday mornings).

My husband notes that there are a lot of one-off things that we’ve done of interest — animal encounters at libraries, visiting Wheelabrator Millbury, and walks with the Greater  Worcester Land Trust (one of his legion of Facebook friends).  But I need to milk this series for all the blog posts it’s worth, so I’ll do a separate post on field trips.

Also in this Series:

DIY Preschool: The Background

DIY Preschool: The Background

(This is the first in a series of posts about Worcester-area educational activities for preschool-aged children.)

My husband (a stay-at-home parent) and I (a work-out-of-the-home parent) discussed quite a few options when our elder son turned three, and again when he turned four.  We knew that we couldn’t afford a really fancy, expensive preschool for our son, and that some of our other options (Worcester Public Schools preschool, for example) didn’t allow us a lot of flexibility.  We knew that we didn’t want to have him attend preschool five days a week, and we knew we wanted his childhood to include as much play and free time as possible, and we knew we had a limited budget.

So, that brought us to find a way to find stimulating activities for preschoolers in the Worcester area, outside of a traditional preschool.  We had a lot more options than I initially thought we would have, so I’ll write a post a day for the next week or so about what worked and didn’t work for us, in case there are others who are interested.

A caveat: I don’t consider us to be homeschoolers, and we’re not planning on homeschooling our kids.  I think sometimes discussions like this can turn into something like this: the parent who’s not doing the hard work of raising or educating the kids brags while simultaneously announcing that, well, he’s not saying his kids are geniuses or anything. 

My husband and I have the option for one of us to be at home with our kids, and we are fully aware of how blessed we are to have that option.  New converts of all stripes — educational, religious, and otherwise — run the risk of alienating others with their newfound passion for the truth.  Well, I’m not a convert to anything, I don’t believe there’s one right way for all families or all children, but I do think that parents might be able to take some ideas from what worked for us.