This started off as a response to someone in a forum, but I decided to add to it and put it here because it might be helpful to other people, too.
When I had a 4 year old and was looking into homeschooling/unschooling, I was really overwhelmed. I wanted to do right by him and I didn’t quite have faith in the process, but I sure wanted to. What I did know was that a lot of ways of homeschooling required lots of “seatwork” and that wasn’t for him, for various reasons. Anyway, there were a few things that helped me, aside from support groups.
A Homeschool Curriculum for Preschool and Kindergarten was one of the very first. It was simple and not overwhelming and not too different from how we’d lived life before.
This page BestHomeschooling’s Preschool and Learning Activities page is where I found the link the one above this. Lots of the links on that page are really good.
But a lot of things we did were just things I found or things I came up with. We would roll a ball back and forth and count to 100. We had letter magnets and we played with those. He learned a lot from ABCMouse and Starfall, which he just considered “fun”. He watched the LeapFrog shows – their Talking Words Factory is the BEST and helped him a lot.
As a family, we instituted a board game night every week and that’s been immensely helpful. We went to museums and science centers. Also, we played games like domino addition, where we took turns picked dominoes, adding all the dots on them, and whoever got the higher number got to to keep the domino and the person with the most at the end won.
We looked up answers to questions in books and on YouTube.
We read a lot and went to Preschool Story Time at the library every week for months.
We DID pick up some workbooks at Costco, but he hated them, so we never really did much with them. We worked with things I found through Pinterest, through Education.com, through Teachers Pay Teachers. But if it wasn’t fun, we didn’t do it.
Somewhere along the way, I was introduced to Lori Pickert and Project-Based Homeschooling (PBH). I cannot say enough good things about this. Get her book, Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners, and take the Master Class, if you can. She also has a PBH Tip Sheet that I’ve found to be very helpful to keep up the enthusiasm. Do this even if your child is not 4 years old! Join the forums to get support. PBH can be a way of unschooling, too, but you’re helping support specific interests. And even if you decide to do another form of homeschooling – or public/private schooling, for that matter – this can transform the learning process.
They’re only 4 for a year. Each year is different and some of these things are applicable to the other ages, some things they outgrow and move on from. And it differs from child to child.
How to unschool a 4 year old, though, is really how you unschool ANY age: It isn’t so much WHAT you do, it’s HOW you do it. Love them. Spend time with them. Be engaged, help them do things. Answer their questions. Better yet, help them figure out how to answer their own questions. Be there for them. Help them feel secure.
Help them learn to how to learn.