Being a parent is an exciting thing. There’s just something about watching the little wonders we’ve doted on, fed, and nurtured grow up to be little explorers that just can’t seem to stop getting into things.
Once these little scientists-and that is what they are- reach the age of 3 or 4, we often begin to think about school. The current groupthink of the educational establishment is getting kids started in school as quickly as possible. Hearing the terms “early childhood education” and “early literacy” has become almost as common as hearing the sound of our own names.
Because of this, the use of preschools and pre-kindergarten classes is soaring. But for those of us who have chosen to homeschool, we often begin to think about how we should start homeschooling these little bundles of energy.
In homeschool group after homeschool group lately, I’ve seen so many requests for advice on preschool curriculums and how to get young children to sit still for their lessons. What I’m going to tell you today is probably very different from what you expected to read here:
3 and 4 yr. olds do not need to be formally homeschooled.
At least not in the way most people imagine, which is the drill and kill method favored by the schools.
Furthermore, 3 and 4 yr. olds do not need to be in any sort of school, period. Believe me, they will have many, many years of sit down learning (if that is what you choose), but for right now, let your kids be just that…kids.
Children this young are perfectly equipped to learn through exploration, play, and what I like to call “supervised freedom.” Not only are they perfectly equipped for this, but play is how they learn best.
It is oftentimes the introduction of formal schooling that quashes the imaginative drive that young children are best known for. They begin to get so used to others telling them what to do and how to do it that they forget how to be spontaneous. It’s not the age of a child that causes their innate curiosity to end…it is the introduction of textbooks, curriculums, worksheets, and lesson plans.
I know that- especially for brand spanking new homeschoolers- the lure of all the wonderful preschool resources available, thanks to the worldwide web, is almost too much to pass up. Who wouldn’t want to order those colorful cutesie-wootsie counting books with teddy bears, or the fabulous preschool value packs complete with manipulatives, flash cards, and miniature whiteboards? I get it.
And I’m certainly not telling you not to get these things because a great many little ones do enjoy doing things like this from time to time. So this is where I’m going to finally tell you:
How to Homeschool Preschool
1. Let them play.
Simple enough, right? There are things you can do to enrich this playtime by offering them toys that inspire creativity, such as:
One very important thing about their playtime is to let them make it their own. Don’t tell them how to play or what to play. If you see them using a toy incorrectly, wait and see if they can figure it out themselves. Perhaps they’re using it that way because they choose to. Helicopter parenting is not a friend of learning through play.
2. Read to them.
Read, read, and read some more. You simply cannot read too much to children who want to be read to. Did you get that insinuation there? You will not do your child any good by forcing them to sit for book after book if they’re fighting tooth and nail against it. Let them find their joy in it- do not force it upon them.
One more thing about reading…do not worry about teaching your child how to read just yet, unless they show a genuine interest in learning. Early literacy is just a ploy for the government to get kids in school earlier. Don’t believe for one second that it actually makes a difference when they’re older.
3. Let them help you with daily chores and errands.
Cook with them. Bake with them. Show them how to fold laundry and start the dryer. Let them accompany you to the bank and the grocery store. Show them how to wiegh your produce there and explain why you do it. Help them count out their money for their own purchases. Day to day living provides in-context abundant learning opportunities that even the most expensive and detailed preschool curriculums just can’t compete with.
4. Let them get messy.
When we worry too much about them getting dirt on their knees or paint in their hair, we inhibit their learning by not allowing them the liberty to go all out with their creations. Messes can get cleaned up anytime. Our children are only young once.
5. Employ the use of workbooks and preschool activities when the children are interested.
You might have gotten the impression before that I am against all preschool activities. This just isn’t the case. Preschool workbooks, printables, and crafts are fabulous ways for kids to learn when they show an interest. If your lttle one asks for a counting book, by all means get them one, but do not get upset if they don’t want to do it religiously everyday. Remember that they are children, and they just aren’t designed to sit for hours everyday doing coloring sheets and tracing letters. I suspect this is the reason for such a high number of kids diagnosed with ADHD these days. Adults are placing inappropriate expectations on their ability to remain still at such a young age.
6. Try not to think too much about homeschooling them.
When we place too much emphasis on the fact that we are homeschooling our children, especially our little ones, we run the risk of going overboard with fulfilling society’s expectations of what education is supposed to look like.
Although my 3 yr. old often chooses to participate in activities with her older siblings, I usually don’t consider her one of my homeschooled children. Not yet. This allows me the freedom to give her the opportunity to choose whether or not she wants to be included, and it prevents me from becoming too rigid in my expectations of what this rambunctious 3 yr. old can do.
Does she have workbooks? Yes.
Does she do them everyday? Not even close.
And that’s okay. She’s three. Some days she may jump into doing a lapbooking project with us, while other days she prefers to play upstairs in her room.
Whatever she chooses to do, though, my heart is at peace because I know she is learning, and that has been my ultimate goal all along.
I’ve collected some amazing preschool activities for you to use with your little ones. What I love about these is that they are far removed from the dull form of learning dominating our school system. These websites are filled with wonderful advice, suggestions, and hands-on experiences for your little learners to enjoy. Your children will undoubtedly cherish these moments of learning with you!