Having a child that is Preschool aged is hard if you have chosen to adopt the Charlotte Mason philosophy. The whole world tells you that formal education begins at Preschool (3 or 4), while everyone in the CM world is shocked if you begin before the age of 6! What's a CM mommy of young children to do?
I know that Charlotte Mason doesn't recommend starting "formal" schooling until age 6, but that doesn't mean that 3-4 year olds can't benefit from a gentle introduction to some CM techniques. In fact, there is a TON of things you can do with your 3-4 year old children to build up the skills they will need when they are older.
*Disclaimer! I am NOT a CM expert (or purist) by any means! The following is just ways that I've worked on schooling my 3/4 year old while still trying to remain true to CM teachings.
It's never too early to build a love of nature in a child! Basic nature studies build a strong scientific foundation in a young child as they begin to observe how the world works and start making connections and asking questions. Spend as much time as you can outside - playing, having fun, and learning about the world around them. This is applicable year round - through whatever the weather may be granted they are dressed appropriately.
Reading to your children is so so important! Build up a love of good, quality, age-appropriate literature. There are TONS of great book lists out there including my favorites: Mater Amabilis and Ambleside Online.
Charlotte Mason encouraged building up strong habits of obedience, attention to detail, self-discipline, etc. Creating a foundation of these habits while children are still small will lead to smoother days when they are older.
Once your child has developed the fine motor skills to work on a handicraft, this is a useful employment. Handicrafts are wonderful for developing persistence, patience, and attention to detail. The kids are also so very proud of themselves when they are able to accomplish something and see that they created something with their own hands! Simple sewing/weaving projects, and are all things we plan to work on this year. For a younger child "busy bag" type activities are wonderful for beginning to develop the fine motor skills necessary for handicrafts.
While it is too early to start formal Artist or Composer Studies with a 3-4yo child, it is really a great age to begin an appreciation of art, music, and poetry. Our family has found a great way to incorporate these extras into our day by implementing a daily Tea Time. It's nothing fancy - simply the kids normal afternoon snack time. But while they are snacking, I read them poetry, we listen to music, we look at art, or even read history-related picture books (more on history below).
Geography, History, basic "government" can all be taught to young children in a CM friendly way. Learning to navigate through nature naturally leads to discussions and "lessons" on map reading and cardinal directions. Reading living books about historical time periods and different areas of the world help children get a sense of history and geography. As you read each living book, talk about where the authors lived and look it up on a map. Exploring the historical monuments in your area and discussing the natural landforms and habitats in your area are nice hands on ways to learn. Another way to get a sense of history is to look at photo albums and discuss your own family's history.
This is not exactly kosher, but I think even core subjects such as Math, Reading, and Writing can all be begun at an early age. I'll go more in depth about this in a later post, but for now, these are some great websites to read. Math can be broached in a hands-on way using manipulatives to introduce basic concepts such as counting, patterning, 1 to 1 correspondence, spatial concepts, comparison, basic geometry, etc. Writing can be begun by having children trace letters and numbers in sand, forming letters out of playdough, etc. And reading can be taught in a very basic way as well by pointing out letter sounds and basic words.
Thanks for reading!