In preschool through 3rd grade, child:
-is instructed in phonics (and other "learning to read" skills such as Greek and Latin roots, etc.)
-talks about text
-develops fine motor skills
-learns to write in cursive (in kindergarten, the focus is one letter per week)
-listens to high quality literature
-copies short passages of high quality literature (daily)
Some things we do to work on these goals (preschool):
-We watch DVDs: LeapFrog Letter Factory and Talking Words Factory.
-We do lessons in Siegfried Engelmann’s Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.
-At bedtime, we read high quality literature. (We’ve read J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan and Wendy, and E.B. White’s Stuart Little. We are currently reading through Beatrix Potter’s The World of Peter Rabbit.)- To prepare for learning to write, we do activities that strengthen fine motor skills.
These are goals I devised for teaching my daughter based on Charlotte Mason's scope and sequence for reading & writing, as well as my experience teaching public school (through 8th grade).
Mason did not believe in "preschool" or "kindergarten," so someone strictly following Mason (the "Orthodox Masonite," if you will) would not begin instruction before first grade.
In my credential program, there were 2 how-to-teach-reading classes. The class on teaching 4th through 8th grade emphasized teaching students how to read to learn, while the class on teaching kindergarten through 3rd grade focused on teaching students how to read. This is how I can best define this period of preschool to 3rd grade: it is simply about teaching how to read.
This is one thing (of many things) I really like about Mason. First through third grades are not cluttered with making students write original compositions, which is quite different from what happens in public school.
In the district where I teach, kindergarteners were assessed in December (halfway through the year!) as to whether they could write original sentences about which they liked better - dogs or cats - and why. While they are physically learning to write, they are also being made to express themselves. Mason understood these were separate skills that needed to be learned separately.
For writing, I will be teaching cursive when we begin formal instruction in "kindergarten." My almost-three-year-old is teaching herself to print - little ones teach themselves so much! Last night, she was coloring with her markers and she showed me that she had written the letters O, D, L, E, and F! For cursive, I like the Spencerian Penmanship books republished by Mott Media, but I'm still thinking about how best to use them with a little one. (I've used Spencerian with my fourth grade class.)
More on Language Arts later.