Our son is three. By most accounts, he’s considered a preschooler. That would indicated that he is in a stage before school, and should be prepped for school in the coming year or two, right? That means I should worry and fret, purchase pre-K materials, drill him on his alphabet, numbers, colors, rings around Jupiter, right? For our family, these anxieties are not right. And maybe they’re not right for your family, either.
After prayerfully considering our son’s temperament, the wonderful conventional school options around us, and our hopes for his development, we’ve determined that at this point, we’re going to homeschool for grade school. I’m a lawyer, not a teacher, by trade. Despite that apparent handicap, it feels like a good fit. If you’ve made that determination for your family as well, or are living it out, what does this mean for homeschooling preschool?
The first thing I’ve learned from my other friends who homeschool is to relax!
Before you buy the software that guarantees your kiddo will get into an Ivy League, or invest in workbooks and instructional tomes, remember your child is still a child. One who is navigating and conquering basics like linguistic expression of feelings (fancy talk for temper-tantrums), awareness of physiological urges (ditto for toilet-training), grasping gastronomy and correlative behavior (triple for eating & how food affects you), and navigating interchild relations (you know, figuring out sharing and play with others). Add to the mix perhaps being an older or younger sibling, having multiple care providers, and bursts of hormones. Wow! God designed us to develop over time in a beautiful fashion. Who are we to rush this?
The second thing I’ve learned is to let your child play.
Play unhampered by you. Play in an unstructured manner. Use his or her creativity to fire up all those neurons and grow that brain! That may mean play dates at the park where they can run and explore and make forts. That may mean you have to “prime the pump” by helping to ignite creativity–something like Oh, here are the dinosaurs in the sandbox. Where are they going? Are they going to need you to build a road to get there? I’ll come check on what’s happening with them in a little bit! That may mean having an art cupboard where you can encourage your child to go get the supplies they want and go to town. That may mean lots of books in a basket in your kitchen they can pour over while you’re cooking dinner. That may just mean jumping on a trampoline.
Play can and should involve concepts like colors, numbers, the alphabet, and so on. Use the oatmeal box to point out letters, get flashcards with animals on them to play with in the car, go over colors while you’re finger painting. I’m all for learning tools and books, but letting our son learn through play has helped me to know I don’t have to do it all–and can’t (humbling, right?). As a wannabe homeschooling mama, this is a good lesson to learn from the onset. Songs, games, books all are wonderful and aid our kiddo’s development greatly, alongside and inside unstructured play.
Lastly, I’m in the process of learning to let go of our expectations, and trust in the Lord.
He has a plan for our child, as he does for yours. If I want SuperBoy to be a professional baseball player, or the leader of the pack, or the quickest to know the answer, maybe that’s all about me and my ego as a mother instead of what’s in his best interest. If I want him to be mannerly, kind to others, respectful at church, those are expectations that align with him growing in grace. Homeschooling love, charity, and goodness are far more important attributes to focus on with a three year old above all else. As my mom likes to say, it’s more important to be good than to be smart.