How To Prepare Preschoolers for a Classical Education

Lately there is a lot in the news about young children and a “college prep education.”   Many of us have read the news story about the school that canceled the kindergarten class show in favor of “college and career” skills.  We’ve heard about the incredible competition for places at expensive private preschools in New York City.

Some of us may begin to wonder whether the rest of us are missing out on the secret ingredient that will ensure our children’s success. Is it possible that the world has gone insane? Even when we rationally conclude that the world has actually gone mad, a part of us worries whether our children will survive in that insane environment. Every year, universities get more competitive (and more costly). Everyone is concerned about their career prospects. How can we possible equip our children to succeed? Maybe those expensive private preschools are onto something.

It is my belief that classical education is a good answer to those questions.  We’ve already talked about why we chose classical.  Now I’d like to talk a bit about a question so many parents of little ones have: how to prepare our preschoolers for that classical education.  What special things should we be doing?  In this article, I’m going to assume that you have almost no prior knowledge, even of basic parenting.  Please don’t take this as condescending; yes, you will see plenty of things you already know about, but that way we will cover all our bases–if there can be such a thing.

First priorities.

Young children need a stable, loving environment that is fairly predictable.  Have routines for mornings, meals, and bedtimes.  Give these things enough time that you aren’t always rushing, and allow for free time. Try to work with their abilities, and not against them; run errands when they are cheerful, relaxed, and fed, not when they are already hungry or tired.  Give them clear and age-appropriate expectations before you go into a situation, so that instructions will be at the front of their minds.  Remember that they are going to make messes, and things are going to be hard sometimes, and react to the inevitable accidents and disasters with cheerful firmness as much as you can.  Take care of yourself so that you can react with cheerful firmness!

Read also: Top 100 Ways to Incorporate Learning – Homeschooling Tips

Time outside.

This is another obvious one.  Kids love to play outside, run on the grass, look at growing things, and just enjoy the world.   All that time outside is not somehow wasted when it comes to things like learning and problem-solving and “21st-century skills.”  It’s helping her grow.  She is observing and learning, experimenting and testing herself.  She is practicing large motor and fine motor skills.  There are few better places for her to be.

Simple toys.

You don’t need a zillion toys, and they definitely don’t have to light up or go beep.  But every child should have blocks to stack, a soft toy to snuggle, a puzzle or so, a car to go vroom with, and a few items to play dress-up in.   The basics will let them play imaginatively and give their bodies interesting things to do; more is not necessary.  That doesn’t mean you need to limit your child to 5 toys.  Just don’t feel like you need to buy lots of expensive items; they are not needed.

Limited electronics and screen time.

It can be so hard to limit the TV, the computer, and the iPad.   Kids love them, they are easy, and we are constantly being told that “educational” electronic toys, videos, and games will help our kids learn more and prepare for their futures.  Then, TV can be a lifesaver when you’re trying to make dinner or bathe the baby–I’m not here to tell you that any TV at all will poison your child.  (I am, after all, a survivor of years of intensive Scooby-Doo exposure, and I’m still here.)  But it is so important to use these things wisely!

Observe your child and see how she does with and without screen time.  Many children (many adults!) are unable to tear their eyes away from a screen; the lights and motion grab our attention and don’t let go.  Many children can only tolerate a certain amount of TV without losing their cool.  When my own kids were tiny, I found out the hard way that I had to limit TV to 20 minutes a day.  More than that, and I had a cranky, whiny mess of a kid on my hands–every time.  You may find that if you turn off all the screens in your house, your day goes better.  TV in the morning may make for a difficult day, so it might be better to save it until the afternoon.

Read also: How Much Screen Time is Too Much for Kids?

Remember that while some screen time isn’t bad, it also may not be very good.  The more time a child spends looking at a two-dimensional image, the less time he is spending in the real world, which is infinitely more complex, demanding, and developmentally appropriate.  Almost any “educational” video or game is not actually as educational as a real life full of people, dirt, sticks, and blocks.  Remember those Baby Einstein videos that were so popular a few years ago?  It turned out that they weren’t educational at all, and watched in large amounts, they were damaging.  This is because small children are built to learn from real life and personal interaction.  They can’t learn their first language from a screen, and they can’t learn well from flat images they can’t touch.

You may have to train yourself to turn off the TV and not to get out your iPad when your child can see you (I know how much they love to play those games!), but keep him away from it as much as you can.  We are now seeing some kids who have spent so much time playing on tablets that they don’t know how to do real-life activities.

Don’t worry that your child won’t be as good at using a computer when she’s an adult.  It’s not that hard to learn to use a word processor, and playing games on a tablet doesn’t have much to do with serious computer work.  She has plenty of time.

Don’t worry unnecessarily.

You play an enormous part in setting the atmosphere of the home.  When you burden yourself with stress about whether you are doing enough for your children’s education, whether you are doing things “right,” and all that, you make yourself unhappy and your children can feel that.  They won’t know that you are feeling understandable fears out of love for them; they will just sense that you’re unhappy.  Sensitive children will decide they’ve done something wrong.

Read also: Unschooling: The Natural Way of Learning

I’m not talking here about severe life problems like depression, unemployment, or family issues.  I just mean that if you’re doing your best, it’s better to remember that and keep a cheerful attitude than it is to stress yourself out over the fact that you are not a perfect mother.  Remind yourself that you’ve done your homework and you are choosing the best you can for your child, and then relax and enjoy the ride.  These are days to treasure.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

When should I start talking to my child about preschool?

Preschool is often defined by educators as the two years before a child’s entry into kindergarten. Others preschools have a minimum age for when they will take children—usually, they must be three by December of the academic year, while some may accept children as young as two. However, going to preschool causes various feelings in both the parent and the kid. Entering a new preschool setting with unknown instructors and children may induce both worry and enthusiasm in a youngster. Parents may have varied feelings regarding their child’s readiness for preschool.

When you listen to your kid, you transmit the message that you value what they think and say. This message instils confidence in your child’s capacity to communicate with others. It’s also a terrific method to strengthen your bond with your kid. Before school begins, take your kid to the preschool classroom a few times. This may help to alleviate anxiety about this new environment. Visiting also provides an opportunity to meet your child’s instructor and inquire about practices and common activities. You may familiarise yourself with these routines and activities by introducing them at home.

Why is it important to engage preschooler in conversation?

The early learning years are characterised by fast language development. Preschooler converse with adults and with one another in order to explain and characterise their reality. They learn to articulate their ideas, emotions, wishes, and needs, as well as to problem solve and engage productively with their peers. When a kid engages in any of these behaviours, parents should attempt to figure out what the child is trying to communicate and continue the dialogue using words.

Relationship development: Every day, children learn about life. One crucial lesson is how to establish and maintain good relationships. Your interaction with a preschooler, whether as a parent, family member, teacher, or friend, acts as a model for future relationships. Rich dialogues educate children how to be active participants in life. Giving children numerous opportunities to talk and interact, asking open-ended questions, encouraging them to think and imagine, and having many back-and-forth exchanges are all characteristics of thick conversation.

Pretend play may be a pleasant approach to help children develop and practise communication skills since children learn best through play.
‘Let’s imagine you’re the mommy on the phone and I’m the small boy,’ for example. ‘How should I approach you if I wish to speak with you?’ You and your kid might also pretend to talk about humorous, intriguing, or even foolish topics using toys or puppets.

What are the categories of questions in early childhood education?

Conversations with adults help children learn, but we sometimes ask children so many questions that they don’t have much freedom to lead.
In a real conversation, adults listen to what children are interested in and enable them to react. In the early childhood classroom, productive inquiries have become one of many successful teaching tools. Productive questions are those that instructors or students may ask that result in a response, with the answer not simply verbal but frequently physically shown by the learner.

Productive questions are not yes/no or low-level, factual memory queries. Productive questions contribute in the growth of student knowledge, help students draw connections between past and new experiences, and foster student curiosity. Consider each of the youngsters you deal with as you reflect on the questions you ask. Use these question categories as a reference when you choose various sorts of questions to scaffold particular children’s thinking and learning.

It is particularly crucial to ask a variety of questions when dealing with children who do not yet have much expressive language or experience answering complicated questions—or when working with children who are dual language learners (starting with questions that require less language).


I’m a writer, new mom and foodie. I love sharing what I know while making others feel beautiful. On this blog, I share my healthy lifestyle, simple meals, fitness tips and experiences.

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Kara Bout It