We did preschool at home last year with a combination of materials. My main goals and focus was on building confidence and general skill groups.
I chose Rod and Staff's Preschool A-B-C series as our spine and later added in Earlybird Mathematics 1A and 1B as well as Hooked on Phonics Kindergarden.
I plan to use a similar sequence with Little Bird, as well. The Rod and Staff books provide a lot of fine motor exercises- cutting, pasting, coloring and were in general relaxed and fun. They introduced all 26 letters and numerals 1-10 over the course of the year. I think it's well laid out and was wonderful for when Sweet Pea wanted to sit and "do school". There's no preplanning needed which worked well, too.
There are things I really like about the Earlybird and somethings that I don't like. It's gentle and still moves at a good pace. It's solely workbook based, though, and any hands on moments need to be planned out. None of the concepts were really difficult so it let Sweet Pea feel like she was mastering things quickly.
Reading was a huge area of obsession for me. I felt in many ways going into homeschooling that whether or not I could teach my children to read, and read well, that that was the barometer for how the rest of homeschooling would go. I'm not saying that's the whole case, but it was a huge make or break for me, mentally. I spent a lot of time researching different reading methods- sight words, phonics, whole language. And then all the curriculum choices! It seemed like everyone had a system that was the one true way. There's all the debate about ages to start and readiness signs.
I think that the learning to read area of homeschooling is close to a mine field. We initially tried Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy lessons, or the DISTAR program. Sweet Pea hated it. I hated it. I felt like I was using operant conditioning on my child. She didn't like the rhyming exercises. It was a flop. She couldn't understand the way they explained blending and digraphs and we took a break.
Shortly after Christmas we started Hooked on Phonics and while I was predisposed to it being hokey Sweet Pea loved it. She got to start reading books right away. It's slow and steady and introduces sounds methodically. We completed the Kindergarden level in just over three months and have now moved into the First Grade level.
One criticism I do have is that it doesn't introduced long vowels and vowel combinations until the Second Grade level. I've started just telling Sweet Pea some of those phonics rules so she can read words with the silent -e ending and double os, for example.
Overall, I'm really pleased with what we accomplished in "preschool". I plan to reuse many of the same materials and methods. And I'm excited to keep moving forward.
And so is Sweet Pea- and really, that's the best part in my eyes.