Homeschooling Preschoolers: The Natural Option
- Friday, September 13, 2013
I vividly remember the excitement, the fear, and the anxious questions of my heart the day we made the decision to homeschool. I’m thankful that our decision was not “trial-basis only,” because I probably would have given up otherwise. If I’ve learned anything in the last nine years about what it means to home educate, it’s that there are many ways to do it.
My first piece of advice to homeschooling moms of preschoolers: Relax! If you are thinking, “Easy for you to say,” allow me to convince you with five practical reasons why your preschooler will thrive in a more relaxed, educational environment that will better prepare him for learning.
1. Children Learn by Playing
One of the greatest pressures moms of little ones feel is the push to “educate” children at younger ages. Everywhere we look there are “preschool academies,” Head Start programs, and subtle nuances that convince us our children will be “left behind” if they aren’t enrolled in the best program. We clamor to duplicate this model, despite the endless studies that reveal the importance of free, imaginative childhood play and the actual harm that can come from the lack thereof.
Studies reveal that while there may be a marked increase in test scores during the first few years of academic preschool, by the time those same students are in fifth grade, differences between the scores of preschooled and non-preschooled children are indistinguishable. However, there are marked psychological disadvantages for the children who were subjected to longer hours of academic instruction as opposed to a natural home setting during their early years.
2. Curiosity Is a Built-In Classroom
We take for granted the incredible gift of curiosity that God has given to humans; this curiosity motivates us to learn the things we need to learn. Often we exert unnecessary effort teaching information that will be acquired naturally. I remember picking up a preschool “textbook” and flipping through it. There were beautiful worksheets about “up and down,” “opposites,” “front and back,” and so on. All my children learned these concepts without a textbook. In fact, I never consciously taught them any of it. The same goes for counting, colors, telling time, etc.
A mother with a minimal awareness of teaching her children will teach these things quite naturally in the course of a day simply by being with her child. No formal instruction is necessary!
3. Reading—The Best Preschool
If I were going to offer a mom with young children one piece of advice regarding the education of her preschoolers, I would suggest she simply read to them. I would also suggest she read aloud from her own books (great literature and especially the Bible) for them to hear, even though they are above the child’s level of comprehension. Hearing language and the way words are put together is a foundational preparation for further studies.
4. Think Outside the Classroom
Most of us envision education through the only lens our experience allows: a classroom. But most parents fail to realize that the structure of a classroom is not the optimal setting for learning; it’s simply a necessary structure for accommodating a large number of students. When we realized that homeschooling afforded us opportunities that a traditional classroom setting simply can’t duplicate, it radically changed the way our homeschooling looked.
For preschoolers, this involves the freedom to romp outside and learn from the giant classroom of creation, to converse freely with parents and siblings, to learn in the security of home without the negative influences of peers (and the emotional strain that often accompanies that), and to simply live life alongside family, learning the most important lessons of all.
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