Homeschooling a 3 Year Old

Updated on April 03, 2012
E.B. asks from Miami, FL
26 answers

Any advice on starting a cuuriculum for my 3 year old. I'm a SAHM and our budget is slim, right now I can't afford to get him into half day preschool. The least expensive I've found is $95 a week. So I've been seriously thinking of homeschooling him. What advice, websites and curriculum can be beneficial and easy to teach. Thanks moms

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answers from Augusta on

wait until he's at least 4 or 5.
at 3 he is still learning by play. they learn A LOT by plat at this age.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I agree with the others read, play, work on colors, shapes, alphabet and maybe some easy sight words. At that age he does not need much more than that.

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answers from Dallas on

I don't think you really need a curriculum for a 3 year old.

Play Doh, read to child, go to park. Play, Play, Play.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Charlotte on

Don't "homeschool" him. Play with him. Have a daily schedule that he can count on. It doesn't mean that you have to do the same thing every day, but it also means there is STRUCTURE. Kids need structure, and they have that at preschool. It prepares them for the structure in kindergarten.

Take him on nature hikes. Talk, talk, talk to him. Read, read, read to him. All the talking and reading amps up his vocabulary. Take him to the library in the morning after breakfast, before lunch. If they have circle time there, take him to that. What they learn in preschool is how to sit in a circle, moving from one activity to another.

Children this age learn by playing. You don't teach colors, numbers and alphabet by drilling. You teach by making it available in all that you do. Going to the grocery store? Point out the veggies, their colors, what they taste like, where they are grown. Talk about the farm and the farmer. Picking out milk? Talk about the cow. (And make sure he has had a nap before going to the store so he doesn't have a meltdown!)

No homeschooling a 3 year old - really and truly. Play, play, play. Read, read, read.


9 moms found this helpful


answers from Eugene on

For a 3 yo: play, read, go to the park, get together with other moms and kids. Play! You don't need curriculum. Go to the library and load up on books. Reading books, arts and crafts books, games, outdoor play ideas. Talk to the librarian. Go to story time. Meet people. Socialize. Be active.

There is a time for academics but now is not the time. Believe me, I was an over achieving homeschool mom for many years and all that busywork was counter productive. Your child is 3. Go have fun.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Provo on

I'm a big teach them to enjoy life and love learning kind of person :p. Field trips...museums...books books books...libraries often have free activities...I try to get my little ones outside as often as possible and find teaching "moments"...write letters with a stick in the mud...point out a bee flying from flower to about what the bee does...make a weather chart with pictures...observe animals and plants in an area and talk about how they interact...draw pictures...laminate small maps for place mats...include non-fiction books and poetry in your reading...even if you don't 'read' the non-fiction stuff...and just talk about pictures. Provide lots of oppurtunities for him to problem solve. Involve him when you cook and bake. Whatever you do...just make it fun...don't stress about it...he'll pick up on it. Unfortunately, we have far too many kids that are good at schoolwork, but lack imagination and the ability to really 'play'. Just my two cents! Have fun :)

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Colorado Springs on

Aw, delightful 3! Right now, read to him in short bits, play with him, expose him to good music, let him sort shapes, colors, etc., learn puzzles (simple ones), play with games, etc.

At 3, do not fall into some curriculum trap. They don't need it. Time with you, learning naturally is the absolute best, especially for boys! Please, please, don't chain him to a desk or table at this age. I mean that figuratively, of course. Boys need to *do* more than they need to sit still. Hand-eye coordination is very important to work on. Spacial concepts might be fun for him. Playing with cars and trucks and blocks as he has interest. Building, destroying. Playing in sand. Getting dirty. I fear we have robbed boys of this time to be little boys. Could this be a factor into the need to drug them so much in school? (Ridalin) I don't know. Maybe. Please, I beg you, let him be a little boy. It is how you can best serve him in his development.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Why start a structured curriculum so early? He's just 3 and he;ll be 17 ready to graduate from high school before you know it. Slow down and cherish these times that absolutely fly by.

His little brain is a sponge right now and learning is fun. He learns with day to day activities with you.... working in the kitchen, doing chores, going shopping, etc. All of these practice colors, counting, and basics.

Get him involved in activities with other children as well. He needs that social activity with peers his own age. If you can't afford a group activity, have playdates with children from your neighborhood, church, or where ever you meet people.

Don't rush him. He's only 3 once.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Formal curriculum should not start until at least 4, if not 5! Kids need play. All the research shows that if you provide kids with a rich play environment, they get everything they need, plus more!

Kids learn. End of story. You do not need a curriculum. Go find some play friends!

6 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

A 3 year old doesn't need a curiculum or formal learning. Let him be a kid. Learn by having fun.

Try the following with a supply of colored blocks ..
stack them and count them as you stack, helps motor skills
sort them by color, helps to learn colors and sorting skills
take a few blocks and lay them out in a pattern, red-green-blue-green, have him try to repeat the pattern

Go to the playground - teach him concepts like, go OVER the bridge, climb UP the stairs, go DOWN the slide, etc

Play Candy Land - helps to learn colors and take turns

Play dominos - helps with matching skills

Have him cut out shapes from construction paper - circle, square, triangle - teaches shapes and using sissors developes fine motor skills

READ READ READ - all different kinds of books with a large variety of subjects. Take him to the library. See if the library has a story time for toddlers and preschoolers. Talk about what you read.
You can start teaching him letters. Choose a letter each week, start with the letters in his name. Make sure it's very visable in several areas of the house. Talk about the letter and the sound it makes. If you see the letter while you're out and about or reading a book, point it out. Remember children this age learn by repetition.

He also needs socialization with kids his age. So he should be enrolled or part of some group. Even having a friend, or cousin over once or twice a week is fine.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Up to the age of at least 4, kids need play. It can include structured play, but they are in the stage of learning to understand how the world and relationships work, social expectations, imitating parents and older siblings (which is play for them), learning to use their bodies skillfully, and letting their imaginations soar. A planned curriculum has never been essential at such an early age for any of the littles I've known.

And in spite of the lack of "formal schooling," most kids learn, quite naturally through repetition and parental coaching, how to count, recognize shapes and colors, recite the alphabet and know the names and sounds of many letters. They often know (although not all kids, especially boys, have the fine motor skills for this) how to write their names or other simple words.

And most littles adore copying the tasks that Mom and Dad do cheerfully, and can become assistant cooks, table-setters/clearers, laundry "folders," even sweepers and moppers with child-sized tools. You can check out sites like for all sorts of "add-ins" that will make the most of your son's aptitudes. These life skills and attitudes will carry him far and last a lifetime.

By the time they enter K, children tend to be educated as thoroughly as they need to be. Those who still have no formal reading skills are generally all caught up by third grade If you plan to continue homeschooling your son, I hope you are doing it in part to play up his unique strengths and support his unique "weaknesses" without pushing too hard, since that's one of the main reasons younger children become bored with or anxious about schooling.

I've been connected to education for most of my adult life, and am so pleased that the home-schooling movement has become one of the primary alternatives to public school. Most schools do well, considering the social and financial constrains the modern teacher must labor under, but they are not the best choice for every child.

So I hope you'll google "homeschooling styles" and review all the approaches that work for different families and different students. If you haven't done this yet, you'll be amazed at the options available. Most of the families I know use a mix of different approaches, often tailored to each student, and I'm generally impressed with how wonderfully the kids respond to this individualized approach.

Wishing you and your son the best.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

You don't need a curriculum for 3 yrs old. Counting, alphabet (letter recognition and sounds), numbers, shapes, colors, days of the week, months of the year, learning how to spell his name, practice basic self-care skills (getting dressed, washing hands properly, etc).

I was in the same boat with my oldest, and formed a co-op group with a few other moms. We each took a week and had "preschool" at our homes. 3 days a week, 3 hrs each day. We all did the same schedule (opening/greeting time, circle time, learning activity, snack and playtime, learning activity, closing time/storytime) and circle time activities (letter of the day, calendar, mini lesson) for consistency, but we got to pick our own themes and activities.

For tv time, put on a learning show like PBS shows, Leap Frog, etc.

Websites: starfall, pbskids.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

At age three we didn't have any sort of educational structure. I took her with me when we went places and answered all the questions she had about things. Every day you can stumble upon many teachable moments. We decided not to do preschool and have no regrets. She's completely ready for kindergarten and is on par or surpassing kids who have been in preschool classes. The only structure in our lives was our regular routine of living and a stable 8:30 bedtime every night.

Read to him. Point out letters. Sound out words. Sing songs. Play.

Three is too early for structured education. Kindergarten teachers are prepared for kids who have been in daycare/preschool since they were born as well as only children who have never been to daycare/preschool. It's the great equalizer.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

At 3,4 and 5 the curriculum should be "play nice with friends at the park" ... in other words, your focus with him should be on social skills, cooperative play, figuring out how to get along, and ahem, manners.... because the world doesn't need any additional asocial or anti-social brainiacs LOL
Look into unschooling and enjoy his childhood with him :)

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

Just enjoy him! Read to him a lot. Do art stuff with him and talk about colors. Go outside and point out trees, grass, flowers. Read books about shapes and talk about "how many" different things there are -introduce him to numbers. Other than that, just have fun. Make sure he has playdates and gets around some other kids regularly, but you don't need a curriculum for this age.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Williamsport on

Even the most academically superior curriculums don't have formal teaching until kindergarten. However, I homeschool my kindergartener as per The Well Trained Mind Guide to Classical Education method (Get the book and start reading now to prepare, it takes a while to decipher and understand-even if you dont' choose that method, it awesome advice on the best way for kids to learn), and her younger brother, who is now 4 has learned a lot over the past 2 years by being there while she learns. Also, she began piano lessons at age four. She's now six, plays piano and violin well, and they have a French tutor twice per week. So technically, he's had quite a bit of "exposure" to learning and tons of reading since age 2-ish. I'm now starting to teach him the piano and violin a bit. I recommend getting the book "What your Kindergartner Should Know", which gives a great overview of kindergarten stories, poems, songs, geography, and history stuff, and start reading him those things (lots of kids books pertaining to the subjects to be had) so he has a familiarity when he gets a bit older. Also, soon he can learn an instrument if he's well behaved enough to sit through lessons.

At three, I focused on reading tons of books to them, talking together about things a lot, playing a lot and discipline to be prepared for real lessons and learning at ages 4 and five and it has worked wonderfully. I can't believe how far ahead my daughter is at age six. Her reading and math are at second grade levels and she has memorized lots of classic poems, Bible stories, Presidents, Geography, Greek Myths, etc, and her little brother has learned a lot also. They both memorized the entire Night Before Christmas (18 verses or so) when he was still three.

A great tip is to get kids books of all subjects from library-a math one, a science one, a biography one, etc instead of always only fun ones. This is great early exposure to learning. Whatever you do though, don't tie him down to any workbooks yet. You can make him burn out on things before it's even time to learn them. Focus on play and reading with substance.

And don't worry about budget. All my 4 yo son has learned has come form the library and the local parks and life itself!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

he doesnt need preschool at 3 .. I think florida has free preschool for 4 year olds.. so next year is free.

there are lots of free or cheap fun things for little ones.. libraries have free story times. check your local library or any nearby libaries..(some libraries do a great job with story time other libraries are horrible) look for cheap classes through the parks and recreation dept .. join a playgroup. gymnastics is fun for 3 years old. swim class is fun.

yes you should begin to teach letters.. and numbers shapes and colors.. but a lesson is 5-10 minutes at this age.. read to your child.. go online. is a wonderful free website...

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Agreeing with everyone else. I'd contact the school to see what he should know by the time he starts kindergarten and work toward teaching him that stuff in a fun way.

The most important thing about preschool is learning how to get along with others and learning to listen and follow directions. Make sure you have your son out in different programs and social situations so he can learn those valuable skills too.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

Get a copy of "What Every Preschooler Should Know" from the Core Knowledge Series.

Also get a copy of "The Well Trained Mind." You won't really need it until Kindergarten, but if you're serious about homeschooling, you can start reading up to get ideas of how you might want to go about it. This book and it's related website are a great starting point.


Hooked on Phonics has a great pre-K reading program. Target sells it in the books section for $25.


There are alot of great pre-handwriting products on the market, to help kids with the motorskills they'll need for handwriting.


Gymboree has some great books on games, songs, and physical activities to sing and do with the pre-school set.


Arts and Crafts are great for developing motor skills and creativity. I really liked these books for ideas for the preschool set.


You can't read to them enough at this age. I highly recommend the following compilations:

The scholastic storybook treasuries dvd series is a great compliment to the short story compilations mentioned above:

You certainly do not need to buy all of these things. They're suggestions. Many of these items can be bought used on for very cheap. You might also want to check homeschool curriculum swaps on homeschool message boards too. There may even be used curriculum sales in your area.

At this stage of the game, you can keep it very simple and affordable. You don't want "school" to last longer than an hour for a child this young. Play is still the best way to learn.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I homeschool my 3 year old. Go to the dollar store and buy a bunch of preschool flashcards. I started with alphabet flash cards. We go over each sounds and letter recognition. I also use number recognition cards and picture cards. I use multi color construction paper and cut squares out of each color. I then put the colored squares on the floor and we over each color one by one. I also 'quiz' him by putting the alphabet and color squares on the floor and ask him to give me one... 'can you give me the blue square?' 'can you give me the letter 'B'? My 3 year old learns very well this way. He mastered all of his letter sounds in one month and is now starting to string them together to learn to read. My son also learns great with movies. I highly recommend Leapfrogs Letter factory

My son loves this!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Hi E.!
As other moms said H., you don't need a curriculum to home school your little one. You will need imagination and sometimes when you don't have it (that!) use the library, google online on preschool topics and you will find tons of material. Also, you may want to search with words like "easter crafts", "Christmas Crafts", "paper crafts", etc.....
You don't even need tons of money to educate him. Just have fun with him , make crafts:
Use construction paper, napkins, disposable plates and cups to make a snow man, a smiley face.
Cut and paste animals (from magazines or just drawings), teaching him about farm animals, zoo animals, etc.
take him to the playground and park.
Sing and let him play with different kind of legos,
and especially READ TO HIM A LOT, show him the letters, color and trace them, draw things that start with the letter you are teaching him at the moment,
Go to the library and share a book, let him choose other books and let him participate in activities that most libraries offer to kids and families. Find that out at your local library.It is fun for him!
Count everything you both see (beans, jelly beans, eggs, ingredients for a recipe, etc.
Play with the bubbles and chalk.
Use your imagination and have fun!!!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Champaign on

My so went to preschool at 3 years old, and they did have a "curriculum." But really, that wasn't what the focus was. Sure they talked about numbers and counting. They had a song about the days of the week, "Yesterday was Monday. Tomorrow is Wednesday. Tuesdays are fun! Tuesdays are fun!" (He's in kindergarten, and he's still learning the days of the week.)

For the most part, what he got out of that first year of preschool was to learn how to be away from Mommy (for 2 1/2 hours twice a week), to learn how to listen to an adult that isn't Mommy (or Daddy, Grandma, etc), to learn how to play with other kids and share and deal with disagreements and not just "parallel play."

If finding a preschool or Mother's Day Out is not an option, I would just try to find a playgroup or two to be a part of. Colors, numbers, counting, letters, etc., are all good skills to be working on, but you might already be doing that. If you read, if you watch Nick Jr, or Disney Jr, or PBS, you're already getting so much of that. Really, it's the social skills and the structure that they need at that age.

You might have already tried this, but have you tried the YMCA (or YWCA), your local park district or churches near by? They often have much lower prices for preschool. Also, you could ask them (especially the churches) if they have any scholarships or financial aide. You might be surprised. I used to work for a church that had a preschool, and we would not have turned anyone down. We had money available, and any child could have attended for free if the parents asked.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

at 3 you're not even really into homeschooling yet, not in the sense of curricula and lesson plans and 'what should he know?' at 3 ALL parents should be homeschooling in that homeschooling is just another facet of parenting.
3 year olds never stop learning. your role is to enrich his environment so that it's a wonderland of opportunities that HE picks through. books, refrigerator magnets, rocks, pots and pans, water play, growing seeds, bugs, pieces of fruit- those are your curriculum materials.
i hope you stick with it up past the point where you MIGHT need a curriculum!
:) khairete



answers from Oklahoma City on

I bought the Mailbox Pre-school curriculum craft books at an office supply store. They have a different one for each month. They have about 20 pages of different crafts, ideas for foods, songs, can make an entire month of stuff to do from one book.

For example, for February:

Color of the month: Red, White, Pink
Number of the month: 2
Topics and Holidays for the month. Hearts for Valentines day, the human heart, Valentines Day, National Dental Month, Presidents Day, Martin Luther King Day,

1st week:
have parents start sending mail to the kids at the center, prepare valentine mail boxes and put each person's mail in it daily. They use it for the valentines party too. Keep it around for future mail. Do a field trip to the local Post Office and see if they will let you watch them sort mail in the back or even help. Some won't since 9-11 but seeing how the mail works is fun. Other topics can be done with this topic, like cival careers, uniforms, types of jobs, etc...or even USA things. They have flags and patriotic symbols in all areas of the mail...

2nd week:
Valentines Day and the color red and white and pink
art hearts and stuff to prepare for Valentines Day

3rd week:
The human heart. My grand-kids still, to this day, will hold up their hands and pump them. They'll say "my heart is this big and moves like this. It moves my blood around by pumping it". They still have their little booklets we made too. They loved this and learned about how their body works.

4th week:
Dental week. Make dental appointment for cleaning. Make a mouth out of a box and use yarn to floss it's teeth, the book has several pages of activities and crafts to do for national dental month.

Each month can be done this way for the whole year, it can be repeated the next year too by just using different items in the books or by selecting different topics for that month.

Here is a link to the website:

As you move down the page a bit you'll start to see the different month books. Those are the ones I have and use year after year in my child care center. They offer so many different activities and crafts.

So much can be done at home. I think that making it all about the activities and crafts makes learning so easy for little ones. Congratulations on doing this. I am sure he will enjoy it immensely.

The April book is full of things to do for Easter and Spring.


answers from San Antonio on

All I know is that this gal's website was GREAT ..... tons of great ideas on here. This particular page talks about what this lady does with each letter of the alphabet and how she integrates each subject into the letter (matching, patterns, reading, science, etc). Love it.

And some of these activities may be below your child, but a lot of them look like a lot of fun.


answers from Los Angeles on

If you feel you want to do something to work with him I suggest you getting a pack of colored paper and a white board.

You can use the colored paper for making your own flash cards and the white board for practicing his letters and such!

Does he know all his colors and shapes and ABC's? That is where I would start and then progress from there with things he needs to know, like how to spell and write his own name...

I *loved* playing Teacher with my much fun! :)

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