I am a firm believer in the idea that you can give your child an excellent education with only a library card and that if you have a computer, printer, and laminator as well, then you're completely set. (This would apply for all grade levels, but I'm only going to deal with preschool here.) Access to things to learn (thus the library card) is really all you need. There are plenty of ways to make this information engaging and interactive.
At the beginning of the school year, I spent some time making some more preschool activities. Years ago, I had spent an entire summer putting together preschool activity boxes which formed the bulk of what I did with my preschoolers. They could be played with individually or with an older person (parent, brother, sister) and we still use them. But this year, as I was thinking about my current student population, I realized that it was heavily weighted in the actual preschool or developmentally preschool ages. Especially since some of these children were filling in important gaps which had been missing in their early lives, I decided I needed to supplement my preschool program. I needed something that was a little more purposeful in teaching certain things than I had been doing (which was fine for emotionally healthy, developmentally on target children from a stable environment.)
Thus I created a set of preschool learning games. A while back I came across the book, Kindergarten Learning Games by Mildred Swift and Lois Rather, in my father's stash of stuff from his teaching days and, ahem, acquired it. (As an aside, looking at this book really highlights how different kindergarten is now from what it used to be. In my opinion, I don't think it is an improvement. The book is interesting and worth the 99 cents to buy it used if you are teaching preschoolers.) Inside is page after page of different games that a teacher can make to facilitate listening, following directions, and learning basic concepts. They are simple and straight-forward, and based on the reaction of my group of preschoolers, really fun. They have loved every single one and ask to play them.
The first one is called "Copy Cat". (As you can see, they are nothing fancy. I used the laminator [a lot] and whatever container I happened to have lying around.)
It has laminated circles to delineate the work space and sets of five blocks... one large set for the parent and smaller sets for the children. The idea is the leader builds something with the blocks and the children recreate the building with their own. It was not so hard as to be frustrating, but challenging enough to be fun. They all wanted to play and all wanted to take a turn being the leader as well.
Next is a game for counting and numbers.
Inside the box are laminated cards with numbers of objects ranging from one to eight. (Obviously, you could go up to any number you liked... I didn't think my crew was ready to go past eight.) There are also small wooden sticks and smaller laminated cards with the number printed on them.
You can use this game in a variety of ways. The children can count the objects and match the object with a stick, working on one-to-one correspondence. They could count the objects and match the number card.
They could identify the number card and lay the correct number of sticks on it. Or they could lay the number cards out in the correct order. Or they could do any combination of the above.
Another game I made is called "Find Your Partner".
Inside are laminated pictures taken from magazines which I cut out and then cut in half. It is a very simple form of a puzzle. This is much more suited to 2 and 3 year olds, but G. and L. (who are 4 1/2) really enjoy playing with them. I think they like the laminated shapes and pictures.
The last game I made from the book is called "Is He Happy? Is He Sad?" which is a game for learning to identify emotions. (This is something some of my people really need to work on.) The title is somewhat hard to read, but I wanted to show you that some games can just be stored in a folder.
Inside we have a couple of things. First we have a feeling identification chart, for reference and to give an introduction to the idea of what faces can tell us.
The other items are faces taken from magazines (and laminated, of course) that show a variety of people showing a variety of emotions. (As a complete aside and not to get off on a rabbit trail, but can I just say that it is not easy to find people of color showing pleasant emotions? A disturbing realization that I have discovered from doing this.) Obviously, to use this game, the leader selects a picture and asks the children question about it. Except for smiling photos, which the children were all good at recognizing, it took some discussion to identify other facial emotions.
The last game is one I came up with myself. Prepositions are a little tricky for new English users and not always easy for native preschoolers, either. So I came up with this game, imaginatively called the "Preposition Game."
Inside the box are some blocks, laminated cards with a variety of prepositions, and a small plastic elephant.
The idea is, the child takes a card and either reads it himself or the parent reads it, and then uses the blocks and elephant to show what the preposition means. Here the elephant is demonstrating 'on'. Maybe it was the elephant, but this was a huge hit. Even some of the older children wanted in on it.
On a completely unrelated topic, J. and I went to a screening of a documentary last night made by a friend of ours. It is called Spilled Water: Women in China Defining Their Worth, made by May May Tchao. In it, she introduces four women who live in China and who all live very different lives. They discuss their feelings and realities of being a woman in that society. It was beautiful and very well-done. If you go to her website (link is attached to the title), you can see the trailer. If you are part of a Families with Children from China group, I would highly recommend looking into seeing if you could arrange a screening for your group. Highly recommended.