After eight years of homeschooling and trying just about every major method there is, I’ve settled on, and become quite an advocate for, simple homeschooling. From our experience with school-at-home all the way to unschooling, one thing I’ve discovered is that children learn best when they are not pressured, rushed, or forced to do things they’re not developmentally ready for. Additionally, the luxury of a substantial amount of time to play is not really as much of a luxury as it is a necessity. Children- especially early elementary-aged children- need unstructured play time in order to explore and understand the world around them.
Last week I wrote about how to homeschool preschoolers, and whether or not it’s actually even necessary. Today I’m focusing on the early years- approximately ages 5-8- and how to simply and effectively facilitate an age-appropriate learning environment.
Despite what the bureaucrats of the public education system believe, children are not all the same, they do not learn best on an assembly line, and they weren’t designed for sitting six hours a day. Keep this in mind as you read these suggestions because only you as the parent know best what will suit your child’s temperament and personality.
How to Homeschool Your Primary Age Child Simply
– Stick to the three R’s.
I say this in a lot of my posts, I know, but the three R’s are really the only true necessities when it comes to an education. Reading, ‘riting, and’rithmetic are the only subjects that your child will absolutely, positively, need in order to function in the world.
Be very careful to not automatically jump into reading and math lessons without taking cues from your child. At this very young age, it is best to allow your children time to develop and learn at a pace that they are comfortable with. I’m telling you, kids who are rushed to do things before they are ready are often the same kids who end up hating reading, math, and learning, in general.
At this stage of the game, it is simply not necessary to begin bringing in every single school subject under the sun. Children are natural explorers. If given adequate time and space, they will undoubtedly find all sorts of things that interest them throughout their days, and these interests will likely cover all sorts of areas, such as: art, social studies, history, science, music, and gym.
You just have to learn to be able to identify the learning in their day-to-day play and embrace the fact that it, too, is educational.
– Spice things up with unit studies.
As I write this, I have three children in this age group. While we often only pursue the three R’s, sometimes the children will request some more activities, which is when we pull our unit studies out.
Unit studies are fabulous ways for children at multiple levels to work together, while still covering all of the major subject areas. At this age, try to keep the unit study activities to a bare minimum, maybe 15 minutes, unless you’re doing an art project, which is more likely to be about 30-45 minutes. You should be more concerned with holding your children’s attention and enthusiasm than with completing every activity on a checklist. Lesson plans can be an excellent guide, but never feel as if you must do everything as written. Trust me. I learned that the hard way.
– Maintain a learning-rich environment in your home.
Homeschooling isn’t just about structured lesson time. It’s about taking advantage of the ample free time you have to allow your children to be creative, active, and curious. Try to keep your home well-stocked in any materials that will enable your children to express themselves, work on fine and gross motor skills, and help them to become critical thinkers. Some ideas are:
– Spend lots of time reading.
– Include your child in your day-to-day responsibilities.
Younger children love to imitate adults. What better way to teach your children about the world than by including them in your daily living? Cook with them, bake with them, assign chores to them, take them to the grocery store and have them weigh things and compare prices. Things that adults consider to be mundane are usually fascinating and wonderful learning experiences for kids.
– Don’t rule out visual media.
I know there are a lot of parents who have sworn off any sort of TV viewing for their kids. I, on the other hand, consider television to be one of the biggest assets in our homeschool.
As with all things, it’s most beneficial when used in moderation, but there are so many educational programs available today. Sometimes it’s much easier to grasp a new concept when you see it with your own eyes, rather than reading or hearing about it.
In a nutshell:
Homeschooling your early age child is not about forcing them to sit for six hours everyday. It’s about providing a stimulating and nurturing environment that will, in essence, give them the skills they need to become lifelong learners.
Here’s an example of what a typical day of an early years simple homeschool might look like:
- Read aloud time (10 minutes)
- Three R’s (10-30 minutes)
- Unit study activities (optional- 15-45 minutes)
- Playing, drawing, crafting
- Outside play
- Helping Mom or Dad around the house
- Watching something fun, yet educational, like “The Magic School Bus“
Remember that children this age are still in their formative years. The most important thing you can do for them right now is to give them the gift of “learning to love learning.” If you manage to accomplish that, the rest is a piece of cake. 😉