Homeschooling–When They Are Young, Part I

I have had a lot of moms ask me about homeschooling.  Particularly what my path looked like as I was beginning to homeschool.  Well, probably a lot like what any baby, then toddler, then preschooler’s family looks like.  Which of course can be very different from family to family, but overall very much alike in that mommy is there, daddy is there as Kiddo learns, completes milestones and become little sponges.  (Sometimes one or both of them might be working, but they are both there at some point during the child’s day or possibly week.)  Birth order also contributes to the specifics–often out of necessity.  None of my three children in their preschool years have gone about learning exactly the same way due do family dynamics just as much as personality.  In my experience of three children, the first child gets more intentional learning time and one-on-one time with his parents.  B is my oldest.  I used to sit with him at the computer so he could “do Starfall.”  I had responsibilities around the home, but other than that had very little to do but to sit with my boy and help him have fun and learn his letters at the same time.  Now there are a lot of factors, including learning style, in what helps a child learn, but B was my child who, other than being read to nearly constantly even as a baby, seemed to truly learn to read from doing Starfall, as well as a heart for books.

Little Man has always loved to learn too, but when he was a preschooler I was already starting a simple Kindergarten curriculum with B, so my one-on-one time was a bit more limited with him since my focus was the older one–getting him equipped to understand that soon this stuff wasn’t just going to be for fun, but a requirement.  So Little Man basically jumped in and wanted to do a lot of the same stuff.  He did some Starfall too.  B was reading by the time he was 4 years old, so Little Man had three people who would happily read to him.  He loved to write, whether it be letters, drawing or just being a part of what we were doing.  I had old hand-me-down workbooks and Little Man enjoyed having one for himself.  It wasn’t always completed or correctly completed, but that wasn’t the point.  Joining in and modeling the behavior of the action of the way we were learning.  And at that point we didn’t spend a lot of time sitting at the table doing seatwork.  It involved reading, cooking, playing outside, collecting things from nature and reading about it, going on walks and finding things that started with certain letters.  I believe it was the year they were 3 and 5, we did a short unit study on Australia–made a book with many Australian animals, watched videos online of said animals, and read about a little girl who lived in Australia.  At the end of the week we got together with some friends who had done the same and did some Aboriginal painting project and made and baked Australian damper.  It was so much fun and did not take hours upon hours of sitting in a chair.

Add in Girly.  She’s 3 this year.  She adds a whole other aspect to our homeschool experience.  I do love it.  Sometimes I also love it when she has her 15 minutes of iPod time in her room and I can get through the necessary math or language art lesson in record time because there is no girly asking for a new color of dry erase marker (She is only aloud to use the nearly dead ones.) or to do her schoolwork.  She is determined to do what “her boys” are doing.  She can write all the letters in the alphabet–most without help.  Not perfectly, but wow!  My mind is blown.  Because I never sat down and showed her.  Until August.  Which says to me, she really already knew it.  The 7 letters we’ve gone over since school started have only been reinforced.  Last year as we worked through the classical history curriculum Story Of The World-Ancient Times after our 5 months of mainly unschooling, she insisted on having a map for herself.  She would color it.  My 3-year old understood the basic concept of a map before she was even 3 years old.  She knows that we color water blue.  As the youngest child, she gains knowledge by watching her “boys” closely.  In all they do.  Not just including their schoolwork.  The girl can build a basic Lego car without assistance and she has also learned the art of putting her elbows on the table–I think simply to drive her daddy bonkers.  I will take a little credit and say she loves to be on her bench and help her mommy cook.  One day I left the kitchen to wash my hands and she had started dipping the fish in egg and cracker crumbs before I returned!  She happily washes the dishes for me, which is an excellent activity to keep your preschooler busy and learn while doing it.  Lay a towel on the floor and take off her shirt and call it good.  (I believe water play (a.k.a. washing dishes) is important in both the Montessori and the Waldorf movement as well.)  She loves to spray mop the kitchen floor and asks to vacuum.  I will happily take all the help I can get, even when I know it might not be thorough or completed as I prefer, because I know she is learning from this.  I do have a curriculum/book that I use with Girly called Little Hands To Heaven that a friend passed on to me.  I never used an actual curriculum before at a preschool age, but I knew she would want some intentional learning time and this has done the trick.  We don’t do everything in the book.  We concentrate on the story and with that there is usually a Bible verse that we sing (because she’s all about singing and music) and an action rhyme.  Then have a letter each week and work on numbers.  At this point it is really review for her.  She enjoys the action rhymes, songs, and routine of “doing a lesson” best.

Obviously this is only my experience.  There are a thousand others out there, but I hope this encourages at least one person.

Next time–Routines and What To Expect From Your Littles

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