Beginning of the year: She'd never held a pencil before. What?! She was three and a half! We'd colored, painted, used markers, etc, but I'd never actually asked her to pick up a pencil and write anything formal (though she could absolutely write a handful of letters - all upper-case - including those in her name).
Now: The kid can write, pretty much without assistance, any letter in the book. Occasionally I have to remind her which direction something goes, like the hook in a J or the way the tail of a y faces. But really, she's golden. We still do most of our writing in upper-case purely to make things simpler as she practices, but she can do the lower case letters as well.
Beginning of the year: She could count to 13 independently without error.
Now: She counts to 20, and recognizes her numbers up to 30 (though 10, 13, and 20 still trip her up if they're out of context). She also understands mathematical equations and can add numbers under 10 without any assistance - provided there's a picture to help her figure it out.
Beginning of the year: She knew and recognized all her letters, and had figured out most all of the phonemes.
Now: She knows all her phonemes, can segment them in a word (she can make out individual sounds in a larger word), recognizes the difference between long and short vowels, knows a number of her digraphs (th, sh, etc) and knows about two-three dozen sight words. She rocks at decoding simple short-vowel words; we haven't worked much with long vowels since they usually have a silent e or something more complicated. Cat, Dog, Mom, Dad-style words, though? She's totally got it.
Beginning of the year: She'd never held scissors or cut anything before.
Now: With a little focus, she does beautifully. Her fine motor skills have really picked up with practice this year!
Beginning of the year: She could complete patterns about 70% of the time. She was mostly grasping that concept.
Now: She's a pattern pro! She can replicate and extend, or tell you where you've gone wrong.
I've read some different statistics on how long you can expect a preschooler to hold their focused attention on something, and mostly they say about 20-45 minutes. In fact, several of the curricula I looked into recommended about 45 minutes at most per day for structured activities. I've found with Leah that she really enjoys the preschool process, and most days we spend somewhere between 1.5 and 2 hours doing preschool. Yes, that often includes playing with playdough or painting, but it's usually directly connected to some form of learning that supports our lesson. The girl loves to learn, and has the ability to focus on one activity for a very extended period of time.
She's also kind of a perfectionist - which is definitely not an apple/tree situation, by the way. I'm an easy-going, fly-by-night kind of gal. Yeah. Her greatest challenge is that she likes to do everything to her own level of completeness. With things she enjoys, this can take a while because she wants to get it perfectly right. With things she doesn't enjoy, she gives up super fast because she can't do it perfectly the first time. I... um... have absolutely no clue where that compulsion comes from. It reminds me of no one I know...
With this baby coming, I have seriously questioned whether I will have the time and attention necessary to dedicate to Leah's schooling in the fall. We briefly considered putting her in school, but the truth is that I very firmly feel she needs a kindergarten environment to meet her needs academically and socially, which would place her in kindergarten at four and a half. Beyond that, our family is just called to this. That's the message I've gotten loud and clear as I've prayed over it, and even Casey, who was once a bit skeptical of the homeschool route, told me recently that he prefers the idea of keeping her home.
And, on that front, the truth is we're just going to have to do what we can do. Some days, we may accomplish a lot. Others, we may just give up and watch TV. And you know what? The beauty of this phase is that either is really okay.