Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Winter 2010-11 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade magazine for homeschool families. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.
When our firstborn was 2, the pediatrician told me, “If he acts a little schizophrenic, that’s just normal 2-year-old behavior.” I thought it was funny at the time, but as I observed that little guy at play, I knew exactly what the doctor was saying.
Preschoolers are indeed a unique breed. They are at once funny and frustrating, brilliant and very, very dense. They can be riotously happy one moment and throw a whopper of a tantrum the next. They switch gears in a heartbeat. There’s a reason preschool television shows have fifteen-second bursts of activity and tend to change subjects and views just as quickly; those tiny attention spans are enough to topple the best-laid plans of the most organized parents. Phew!
We’ve had seven preschoolers since our firstborn was himself that busy 2-year-old, each with unique and precious facets to their ever-developing personalities. All of them have grown up in our homeschool (although two are still preschoolers), but that wasn’t my plan initially.
We lived in San Francisco when our oldest was 2. Like just about every other urban mom around me, preschool was very much in the picture and the plan. The city was a hotbed of great little learning institutions too. We could choose from multiple Montessori schools, Jewish day schools, mom-and-me programs, church schools, government Head Start programs, Gymboree, alternative schools, bilingual schools, and neighborhood preschools.
The only thing that kept me from enrolling our son was a profound lack of finances and, well, the Holy Spirit. Something just didn’t feel right about dropping him off at a preschool, and so I timidly stuck my littlest toe in the homeschool water and decided to try a bit of preschool at home.
Turns out, preschool at home was a pleasure both to our son and to me. He not only grew academically, but we also could see the beauty that freedom and a lack of institutional learning brought, and I began to wish I’d been homeschooled too.
Overnight, it seemed, that “schizophrenic” 2-year-old became a hilarious but stubborn 3-year-old, then a bright and capable 4-year-old. Kindergarten was right around the corner, but I hadn’t set out to homeschool beyond those basic preschool years. Still, that quiet voice of the gentle Shepherd who leads those of us with young (Isaiah 40:11) was nudging us to keep our young boy at home—in addition to his two younger brothers, who had joined our family as well.
The rest, as the cliché so aptly proclaims, is history. At least, it’s our family’s history. Our children are now 17, 15, 13, 11, 9, 7, 3, and 2. Everyone is growing and learning in our busy, noisy, homeschool. Our 17-year-old used to be 2, and suddenly I am not that 20-something mom weighing preschool options in the big city. Has anyone ever told you that it all goes by so fast?
If you are just beginning this journey of homeschooling and your oldest child is a preschooler, you may be excited and scared all at once. Preschool is a fun time in a child’s life, and there are so many great resources to take advantage of. But preschoolers are a bit schizophrenic, don’t you think? And you may wonder how you will truly handle being with yours all day long.
May I step in right here and offer a little advice? You’re going to need help, in whatever form the Lord provides it, and don’t be afraid to say yes when it appears. Maybe you have the benefit of a mother or mother-in-law who’ll watch the baby for a few hours or take the kids to the library once a week for you. I haven’t been blessed that way, but God has surely provided wonderful friends, and I have had to learn to say yes. It has changed my life.
You’ll also need to take care of yourself. Author and homeschooling mother of nine Elizabeth Foss reminds us: “It is not ‘laying down your life for your child’ when you skip meals, skip sleep, skip exercise, skip showers, and skip private time for prayer. It’s suicide. You have to put on your oxygen mask before you can help them with theirs. Took me nine babies to learn that.” Took me eight, and now my daily prayer time, workout routine, and better eating habits are non-negotiables. This has changed my life.
Sit down with your husband and ask him what he thinks your priorities should be, and record daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals on paper. Where are you going with your preschooler? What’s your main reason for keeping that little person at home? What are the absolutes in your homeschool, and what can you set aside for another season—or skip entirely? What else is on your plate? The truth about homeschooling is that while you’re concentrating on helping your preschooler develop fine motor skills, teaching her to follow directions, memorizing Bible verses with her, and taking nature walks, there is still laundry to be done, meals to make, and messes to clean up. I learned early on (thankfully) to ask my husband to help me prioritize. It changed my life.
Pray. A lot. Ask God what He wants you to teach your preschooler. He is faithful, and He will help you to navigate the copious curriculum catalogs, convention vendor halls, and well-meaning fellow homeschoolers. When I finally learned to put all those things aside until after I had laid my preschoolers before the Lord in prayer, it changed my life.
These days, there are two very busy preschooler boys in my home, as well as six other students covering everything from college coursework to multiplication tables. Life is complicated and noisy and messy and nuts! Maybe even—dare I say it . . . schizophrenic?
Keeping that firstborn home for preschool was just the beginning of our journey, and it very well may be the beginning of yours too. May God bless you tremendously as you endeavor to honor the Lord in your homeschool, and may it truly change your life!
Kendra Fletcher is the homeschooling mother of eight, aged 17 down to 2. 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.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Nadezhda1906