13 Essentials for the Homeschool Preschool Classroom

I’ve homeschooled for 10 years.

That’s kind of amazing to me, since I once vowed I’d never homeschool my kids and felt pressured to start on a year-by-year basis out of necessity (one son’s special needs)…I’d have never believed you if you’d told me before then that I’d go on to do that! But I digress…

Our oldest two children have graduated. Our third child is now finishing his last two years of high school in a traditional school setting.

With the 13 year gap between our third-born and our youngest, this is the first summer in over a decade that I did not spend planning for the upcoming school year.

It feels SO weird!

Even though my “hardcore” homeschooling decade has passed, I have been doing an informal morning basket time with my youngest for the last year. 

She turned three this spring, and I am putting together a plan for her first year of preschool-at-home, starting this week!

I really enjoy the opportunity to approach this planning with way more wisdom and knowledge than when I first began homeschooling.

One of the many benefits is I’ve been able to boil down which supplies we used the most and which were the most helpful.

Doing preschool at home doesn’t have to be hard.

It also doesn’t require a bunch of fancy supplies. 

(Though they are so, SO fun to browse and buy!)

Here are the 13 things I’ve found most essential for the at-home preschool classroom:

1) A plan.

No stress here, ok? I use the term “plan” loosely.

For preschool, you don’t actually need to make full-out lesson plans for each school day.

(If that’s fun for you, then by all means, go ahead and plan away!)

All you really need are three lists to use as guidelines:

  • A loose daily routine
  • A general monthly theme
  • A list of skills to teach

2) A white board and dry erase markers.

Preferably a white board that’s also magnetic, like this one.

This will probably be THE open-ended tool you use all the way through high school. 

You want one that’s at least 24″ x 36″.

3) A way to play audio.

Some still use CD players. (My daughter has this one on her dresser for quiet time audiobooks.)

For school I now use my smartphone and a bluetooth speaker. We use it for sing-along songs, playing the composer of the month in the background, streaming audio books, and more. So many possibilities!

4) Lots of great books.

Whether you use a library card, Amazon Prime, used book sites, or swaps with other homeschool moms, you’ll want a steady stream of fresh, living books and stories, field guides, chants/songs, and poetry.

Check out my preschool booklist on Amazon.

5) A wall calendar.

We have this one, designed for a classroom.

By doing a simple “calendar time” most mornings, many preschoolers will quickly learn the days of the week, months of the year, and basics of reading a calendar. 

We had ours laminated and I use dry erase markers to write on special activities and events.

We use the included weather and seasons charts as well.

6) A child-sized table.

I didn’t consider this essential with our older kids. We did lots of work at the kitchen table, around the coffee table, sprawled on the floor, on sofas or beds, etc…

But I started homeschooling them when they were already in elementary school.

There’s something really helpful about a sturdy table that fits a little one. She can sit comfortably with her feet touching the floor. She can stand and fidget and easily reach all the materials.

We have this coffee table set up as our daughter’s “kitchen” and this child’s table and chairs for seated activities. They’re both inexpensive and have held up well (with one child — I can’t vouch for how they’d do with multiple children!), and they’re cheap enough that I’ll have zero guilt tossing them when she’s outgrown them.

7) Blank sketch books.

Drawing, coloring, painting, stickers, writing, and tracing can all be done on open-ended, blank paper.

I prefer using spiral bound sketch books so we can turn the pages completely around.

I have one for myself that I use for “anchor charts” and illustrations, and my daughter has several. She has one for each place she might want one – by her table, in her nature backpack, in her church bag, in the car, and in her meeting bag.

You can often find these at Dollar Tree or in dollar bins at other stores. There’s no need to get artist-quality paper, unless you really want to and/or you’re going to let your child explore with a specific medium, like watercolor.

8) Writing utensils.

It literally does not matter what type you use.

A dollar sketch book and a one of the free pens your insurance guy gave you will work just fine.

Really.

Ok, I have to tell myself that sometimes. Because I’m an artsy-fartsy gal who loves having a huge spectrum of writing utensils and other stuff to spread on paper in its glorious color.

Which is cool, too.

Just don’t think you have to have it all. Or have the best.

It’s fun, but you don’t need it.

That said, my favorite writing utensils for preschool include Crayola Twistable Crayons, Crayola Pip Squeaks Markers (I love this caddy they come with!), Gel Crayons, and No-Drip Paintbrush Pens.

9) Magnetic alphabet.

There are so, so, so many quick, simple activities you can do with these “in passing” that will teach your child all kinds of pre-reading skills.

Simply Charlotte Mason incorporates at least magnet activity in their preschool materials. It teaches letter recognition and letter sounds.

I think the DVD I own from SCM may no longer be available (I’m having trouble finding it on their website) but this post has all kinds of resources, including their Delightful Reading Kit.

If I can’t find the SCM resource I’ll follow up on this post with instructions on alphabet magnet activities.

10) Index cards and box for memory work.

It took a little set up and getting used to, but it’s been so wonderful using the Simply Charlotte Mason Memory System.

It’s presented as a way to memorize Bible verses, but don’t limit memory work to just that (or don’t think the system won’t work for you if you don’t have religious texts you want to help your kids memorize).

In our homeschool we’ve added to our memory box poems, rhymes, days of the week, months of the year, Q&A for various subjects, catechism questions, bits of famous speeches, the US Presidents in order (check out the memory rhymes by Carol Barnier!!), States and Capitals, and other short or short-ish memory-worthy things from all our subjects.

And, no, you don’t have to hand write all your cards out. Many of ours I typed on the computer, printed, cut out, and then pasted to index cards.

Besides, you only need to make them as you go. There’s no need to make a whole bunch at once.

To set up the memory box system you just need an index card box (a locking one like this helps prevent accidental dump incidents!), index cards, and index card dividers. Simply Charlotte Mason has full instructions in print and video on their website.

Even if you don’t use the memory box system, index cards are super handy for making flash cards, puzzles, matching cards, and all kinds of other teaching tools.

11) Objects that can be counted.

This could mean actual math manipulatives or fancy math rods, or something as simple as small toys, craft do-dads, rocks, or dry beans.

Just some kind of visual, tactile item your child can count, gather, and sort. Nothing too big or too small. Something between the size of a kidney bean and a match box car.

12) Two or more go-to outdoor areas.

We’re bombarded with reports and articles about how important recess is and how healthy it is for kids to spend time outdoors.

If you’re following a Charlotte Mason or Waldorf approach, or another that emphasizes time outdoors, you’re going to try to spend time outside every day.

This will be so much easier if you have at least 2 outdoor places you enjoy spending time on a regular basis.

I say at least 2 because (a) that allows you to offer your little one the option of Place 1 or Place 2 when they’re reluctant, and (b) it gives you a little variety.

It doesn’t matter whether you prefer your backyard, a park, a trail, or a playground. Just having a place to go without having to figure out where to go can enable you to actually get out there.

13) Dedicated blocks of undivided attention.

Unschoolers might hate me for this, but I think it’s essential to prioritize a minimum of 1 hour every day that you’ll spend 100% focused on your preschooler(s). A half hour outside and a half hour inside.

They can be all in a one-hour chunk or broken into two or more smaller chunks.

Work them into your routine in such a way that you can make sure they happen just about any ordinary day.

These are the times you’ll do your morning basket, memory box, games, activities, read-alouds, and/or just hang out with your child(ren) without distractions.

That means no phone, no screens, and no chores.

Keep this time light and low-pressure. Enjoy your child. Let him/her show you what they’re doing and exploring.

Spend the time bonding, with a little learning worked into the time together.

This right here has made the biggest difference in my relationship with my kids and in their love for learning.

Every household is unique. What would you add to the list? Tell me in the comments!

PIn this! My 13 Essentials for the Preschool at Home Classroom