I was well into teaching my second child before I truly appreciated the freedom that homeschooling provides. Sure, I knew that home education meant we could choose when to take vacation, or we were free to set our own school calendar ... but I didn't really appreciate the *academic* freedom we had. Chatting with a number of "new" homeschool moms this past month has reminded me again of that freedom.
Our oldest daughter learned to read at age 4 ... actually, she pretty much taught herself. She was whizzing away at math by the age of 5. I remember scouring curriculum catalogs and setting up our "school" space with books and workbooks and pencils and rulers and all those things that mean education is taking place. Or so I thought. My 5 year old "prodigy" hit a wall about half-way through the year. I was so excited about her sponge-like brain and how quickly she learned whatever I put in front of her, that I forgot to let her be a 5 year old!
2, 3, 4 and 5 year olds (and even 6 and 7 year olds) are wired to be kids. They need to run and explore and ask never-ending questions and cuddle and trip and fall and pick themselves up again. They are wired to learn while moving, not sitting still. When my second "student" wasn't reading by 4 or 5 (or even 6) I was worried that I was somehow failing her as her teacher or that she was just lazy. About that time a very wise lady, who was a few miles ahead of me on the homeschool journey, suggested that I close up the workbooks and put them back on the shelf. She described reading great books while sitting under a tree in the backyard, and teaching science while her children immersed their hands in dishwater and popped the bubbles. There would be many years ahead for more formal academics, she assured me.
So to the mom whose 5 year old is "acting up" at the school table while working on workbook pages of math exercises ... and to the mom whose 6 year old can't answer all the discussion questions from the Read-Aloud Study Guide ... please allow me to pass on the wisdom someone else once shared with me. As you begin your school year, let your children BE children. Look for ways to weave learning into your daily activities instead of forcing an academic schedule on your students.
For those 3-6 year olds ... focus on reading great books together under the backyard tree, snuggled together on the couch, or sprawled out on the bedroom floor. Teach them colors while finger painting on huge sheets of paper or sketching outdoors with sidewalk chalk. Learn letter sounds as you pick apples (short *a* sound) or buy eggs (short *e* sound) or eat oatmeal (long *o* sound) for breakfast. Teach simple counting and addition while setting the table (how many plates do we need?) and matching shapes and colors while folding laundry. Even those students who excel in academics at a young age are wired with the need to move, be active, and just BE kids!!
Need some more creative ways to make learning come alive for your youngest scholars? Get a copy of Dr. Ruth Beechick's "Three R's Series" and read and re-read it until it's dog-eared like mine! But spoken as one who is a little further down the homeschool path, enjoy the freedom that allows your kids to be kids even as they continue to learn.
Still on the journey ...
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