Now that I’ve been homeschooling my children for the last 5 years, I think it’s interesting to look back on our initial decision to homeschool and remember that I never even considered homeschooling as an option. My husband sort of told me that he wanted me to homeschool and I was just dumbfounded for a while. After it sunk in, I, of course, LOVED the idea!!
I have learned so much over the last five years! I have gone through many different schools of thought as they relate to children and how they learned. I have developed my own way of interacting with my children and I love every minute of it.
Each child, even within the same family, is so very unique but there are certainly some good Do’s and Don’ts to think about when it comes to starting preschool.
Don’t base whether your child is ready solely on their age.
- As I have watched my children grow, I see each one progress at a very different level than the one before. Same parents, same environment, same food and yet they each blossom into such different little beings. My first daughter was ready to take in structured or on-purpose learning much sooner than her little brother. If I had based things on age, I would have missed lots of time with her and I would have started way too soon with him.
- Pay attention to each child individually for signs of readiness.
- Try a few structured activities and evaluate how your little one is reacting. It’s okay to slow down or stop altogether until you are completely confident that he or she is ready to start soaking in the information in a new way.
Don’t base readiness on other children.
- Doctors have milestones that children are supposed to hit at certain ages. Teachers have milestones that children are supposed to understand at certain grade levels. Everywhere you look, there seems to be a measuring stick that dictates what your little one should be doing and when. It can sometimes be very hard to shut out those voices and just concentrate on your special sweetie to determine what’s right for him based on him and not the measuring stick. The milestones are great things to keep in mind, but it certainly isn’t Bible!
- Just because the little girl in your playgroup was reading at 4 does not mean your little girl is slow if she isn’t. It doesn’t mean that you are a bad mom and the little girl has a good mom – it just means you have different children.
Don’t force too much, too soon.
- If your child seems to be getting overwhelmed with the structured activities, scale them back. It will really be okay!
- Make sure you have a pretty good gauge of what length of attention span your preschooler has.
Don’t expect the child to be ready and willing the very first day.
- If your little one is used to doing whatever she wants, whenever she wants, just know that when you try to sit down and do a lesson the very first time, you may be met with some resistance. Don’t take that as a sign that she isn’t ready for preschool. She’ll just need a week or two of consistency to get used to this new idea.
Do try to introduce some structured activities early.
- When I first started my homeschool journey, I felt that kids shouldn’t start getting “formal” or on-purpose education until they were 10 or 11. Since then, I have learned a little bit more about a child’s brain and have decided that I really want to take advantage of the time in their lives when they learn the most – age Birth through Six. As I said earlier, if you feel that your child is getting overwhelmed, just scale back what you’re doing. But, don’t miss the opportunity to teach them early when their brains are the most ready for it!
- Schedule in some short blocks of time where you are concentrating on your littlest one. Have a small, easy goal in mind – the letter A, the number 1, the sound a monkey makes. Have fun teaching her that piece of information!
Do include all children, from the oldest to the youngest, in your daily schedule.
- Children thrive on a schedule. They know what to expect and when to expect it. Even babies and toddlers start to get used to how the day progresses and will fit into that structure, making your job easier.
- Try to have your little ones doing approximately the same things as the older ones. If the older ones are sitting and learning, the littlest one can be sitting with some blocks or crayons and paper.
Do have expectations for your little ones.
- Just because they are little does not mean they can’t contribute to the family! And, oh! the happiness in their eyes when you praise them for doing a little job or for learning something. When my youngest was 18 months, she would help me by handing me the silverware out of the dishwasher while I put it away. I didn’t have to bend over to get it and it was certainly an age-appropriate chore for her. The smile on her face was priceless when I would thank her profusely for her help and tell her what a good girl she was for helping mommy!
- Much of their learning happens on accident. Just think what you can teach your littlest one while some concentrated effort!
I think we as homeschooling moms sometimes feel that if we aren’t officially homeschooling, then we aren’t doing our jobs. The littlest ones among us have an unbelievable ability to learn regardless and sometimes in spite of their surroundings. Everything is new and their curious nature will propel them into 100’s of learning situations each and every day.
I am not at all ashamed to say that I am NOT an unschooler based on what I believe that term to mean. We have a daily schedule. I wake my children up at a certain time, I put them to bed at a certain time. Math has a time slot and so does Science. I try to pick topics that my kids will love but, for the most part, I pick the topics.
My toddler and my preschooler follow the schedule with the rest of the family – some days they love it, some days … well, not so much. But, I am trying to prepare my children for a world that doesn’t care if they are having a bad day, for a boss who doesn’t care if they feel more creative at 8pm than at 8am, for the possibility of a life of someone else telling them what to do.
So, I am not saying that you should just leave everyday up to itself and hope your little one will learn enough by the time he or she is 6 to begin *really homeschooling*.
During one of my school time slots, my toddler is expected to sit in her highchair beside me and color her letter for the day. If she gets bored, I have other activities ready for her to enjoy – I do not MAKE her keep at it. But, I do make sure she is sitting with us instead of just propelling herself into another learning experience while I try to teach my other children.
At math time, my preschooler sits down with my first grader and me to learn some math – he gets a worksheet about numbers, she gets one about addition. I work through with both of them. When his attention span has reached it’s end, I have another activity that he can do – but, again, he does not get to go roaming free.
Every part of our lives has a balance, and the preschool age is no different! Those toddlers and preschoolers do not have to be a challenge to overcome in your homeschooling day – they can be a joy and a blessing every step of the way with just a little planning!