Preschool: Start at the Very Beginning
- Monday, June 21, 2010
It was never my intention to homeschool. In fact, when my best friend mentioned that she and her husband were considering it, I laughed and said, "Have fun!" I even bought her a homeschooling magazine at the Christian bookstore and told her to enjoy it but not to bother giving it back to me, because I would never homeschool.
I bet you can guess where this is going, can't you? Several months after my friend told me she was thinking of homeschooling her children, I sensed that the Lord was pushing (dragging?) me in that direction as well. Our firstborn son was 4 at the time, and he seemed to lack self-control even more than the typical 4-year-old boy. My husband and I thought perhaps a few months of doing preschool at home could be beneficial in preparing him for "real" school.
We began in January, he turned 5 in March, and by May he was reading. I thought, "If I send this boy to school in September, I am courting disaster." A 5-year-old who lacks self-control and is already reading in a kindergarten classroom is a recipe for trouble. And so we dived into kindergarten at home too.
It wasn't long before our second son joined our preschool. By that time we had developed an educational vision for our kids, one that just couldn't be fulfilled by the local school.
Our firstborn is now a 16-year-old who is poised to graduate high school a year early, has college coursework already under his belt, and has his sights dead-set on law school. Academically, we couldn't be more pleased.
But academics aren't everything. Aristotle said, "Educating the mind without educating the soul is no education at all." The opportunity to walk alongside each of our children over the course of their childhoods is absolutely priceless. The day-to-day, precept-upon-precept development of character as issues are worked out is what makes up an education of the soul.
I can't ask a schoolteacher with a classroom of twenty to do that; it wouldn't even be possible. The reality is, it doesn't matter how good the country school near your home is, there is no teacher on the face of the earth who loves your child as deeply and wholly as you do. Not one.
That's not to say that no one else can teach our children but ourselves. We want our children to learn from other adults who have Godly wisdom and knowledge to impart. But in the early years, in the foundational years in which young minds form, it is right and good that little ones learn from those who care most deeply about them.
Psalm 1:1: "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful."
There are many compelling questions that arise regarding homeschooling preschoolers, some of which you've perhaps wrestled with yourself:
Schools need Christian children who can be salt and light.
Maybe. But is your preschooler ready for the mission field? Is he ready to stand for his faith and Savior, equipped to walk away from temptation and able to take on the secular humanism espoused in the government schools? Does he know how to respond when a fellow preschooler tells him that being gay is good or that his aunt had a baby without a husband?
1 Corinthians 15:33: "Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners."
All schools do need Christians who can be salt and light, but those who have been prepared to do battle with the enemy presence that is abounding there stand a far better chance of impacting a school and its students for Christ without stumbling into unbelief and faltering into sin themselves. We would be so pleased if one of our children were to become a teacher when the evangelistic opportunities abound in traditional school settings.
I need a break, and it's only a couple of hours a week.
Every mom needs time to rest and refresh. Are you ready, however, to spend the time it will take to undo what your child picks up in a social environment in which you are not privy to the goings-on during the time spent there?
I am always amazed when I come away from a conversation with moms of kids in school. They sigh and complain and roll their eyes at the attitudes their children bring home. They tell stories of having to have long talks with their kids about what is right and wrong, deprogramming them from the secular humanism being espoused in a continuous feed. Then they turn to me and say: "I could never homeschool! It's so much work!" That may be so, but it is always less work to start from the ground up than to try and undo the damage that has already been done.
If you are in need of a break, ask the Lord for respite. Homeschoolers tend to stick together and usually are willing to lend a hand; perhaps you can find another homeschooling mom who'll provide the play date or break you need. Homeschooled teenagers also tend to be available and helpful.
I can't possibly homeschool my preschooler when I have a baby (or two) younger than he is.
Remember that firstborn I talked about? The one who is demonstrating such solid academic achievement? There are seven more children coming up right behind him. Homeschooling with preschoolers, toddlers, and nursing babies underfoot is all I've ever known. I can tell you with confidence that not only can you do it, you can do it above and beyond what you ever asked for or imagined. And not because of you! Because of Him.
My child struggles with self control/shyness/sharing/lying, and I was hoping that some socialization would help her.
The real definition of socialization is "to learn the rules of society." Do you really want your preschooler to learn the rules of society from another 4-year-old? Or are you thinking of socializing?
Over the years, kids who've been socialized solely with their peers tend to learn some good traits, but they learn them because of the impact it has on them socially. They realize pretty quickly that if they lack self-control/are overly shy/are selfish/lie, they won't have many friends and the world (i.e., school) will be a very lonely place. They fear being labeled a "geek" or worse.
On the other hand, the child who is socialized within a vast assortment of ages because he has been homeschooled by loving parents tends to learn that self-control/friendliness/generosity/honesty are character traits that please God, regardless of what benefit they bring to him socially. It's an inward transformation of the heart turned Godward, not the by-product of being thrust into peer dependence.
Our experience has been that our kids learn some of these lessons more slowly than their schooled counterparts, but the fruit is sweet, solid, and genuine, born of being grafted onto the vine by our Savior, who has called them to be His own.
I know the decision to educate your children at home is a magnanimous one. We had to make that choice twelve years ago ourselves, and I went into it with the attitude of a skeptic. Still, the fruit that has been borne because of that decision so many years ago is priceless. And as we see our firstborn launching off into the world in just a couple of years, we are humbled and grateful that the Lord didn't allow us to close the door on the idea of homeschooling. The days may be long, but the years fly by.
Kendra Fletcher is the homeschooling mother of eight, aged 16 down to 10 months. She has never known what it means to homeschool without the presence of preschoolers and loves to encourage other moms who are beginning their homeschool journeys with little ones underfoot. Her website and blog can be found at www.preschoolersandpeace.com.Copyright 2009. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Winter 2009/10. Used with permission. Visit them at www.TheHomeschoolMagazine.com. For all your homeschool curriculum needs visit the Schoolhouse Store. View our new and free resource, the Homeschool 101 Digital Supplement.
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