Once upon a time I had a baby. Who turned into a sentence speaking 18 month old that turned into a 3 year old reader who then started computing multiplication in his head around 4, reading through the Bible around 5 and completed his first boxed set of novels just before 6. His drive and focus was amazing and sometimes overwhelming. He was so busy - he never slept. In fact I’ve just now surrendered my 7 year battle of trying to get him to sleep more :) He is who he is. I also have a precious almost 6 year old who cannot get his b's and d's sorted out to save his life. He sees everything in shapes and colors, what it could be instead of what it actually is. He spends most of his time creating and dreaming, living outside of any sort of proverbial box and it's amazing and wonderful. He's taught me a lot about slowing down and savoring. My 3rd born is a unique and incredible mix of the two, who keeps us laughing/crying on a daily basis.
But I remember approaching those preschool years with my firstborn and feeling a lot of pressure to dive into homeschooling - because we could. He was ready. I was ready, I thought. And we’d just spent the past four years playing, puzzling, reading, field tripping, walking and talking and doing all the things. And really, I found schooling, curriculum shopping, all the extra reading and researching so much fun. There is so much to look at and choose from and such great resources available right at your fingertips; Unit studies, coloring packs, busy bags galore. All the seasonal crafts you can think of are just right there! The eagerness and excitement of starting something new and setting up “school” just seemed fun.
I am thankful we started when we did, and how we did and the things we chose to do. But in my few years of parenting, and then diving into it again with my second born, I am just so thankful for the freedom homeschool affords; and if I could impart any wisdom or have the opportunity to encourage any new mamas out there with preschoolers and kindergarteners on their hands...this would be my list of top ten things to remember….
-DO play. For me, that sounded dreadful. What on earth had I been doing the past four years? I was played out. But every study under the sun shows the benefits of early play - even into ages 6, 7, 8 and 9. Let those littles create, dream up and think to their hearts content. **for those busier bodies that go from one thing to the next, structured play and sticking to a loose schedule is so helpful!
- DON’T over plan. They are just so young! Know your personality type - but also know the personality types of your kids. I am a planner to my core, but not all of my kids thrive at the same pace or in the same box that I do. Leave them space to explore at their own pace, even if it looks so much different than yours.
- Less. Is. More. Our natural inclination is to give our kids the best this world has to offer; All the electives, all the classes, all the sports, all the books and experiences. Academically speaking, children don’t need unit studies and tidy curriculum packages at this age. They need structure and they need to know what to expect but ditch the busy work and extracurriculars to let them be.
-Ditch the electronics. If your house is anything like mine, there is a magical thing that happens when an electronic device come out: peace. And. quiet. Mama gets a break. Free babysitting. But these are such precious years to instill self control and wise decision making; if you give a child the choice between playing/reading on a tablet or building with blocks or legos, they will of course gravitate towards the tablet! But as educational as those apps claim to be, nothing...noth-ing… compares to the hands-on play time at such a young age.
***I want to be clear here, life happens in seasons. And if you find yourself in a season needing those moments of quiet or needing a break, I am with you and understand. We are in a season where some days I’m couch ridden or just do not have the capacity to move a muscle - give yourself grace. Use what is available to maintain peace and sanity in your home until you find yourself a little more capable.
-Enjoy the slower mornings, and choose to focus on character and responsibility more than academics; my eldest thrived on the structure of a schedule. Some mornings he was dressed, fed, read to, played with, and finished his morning snack by 7a.m. Which kind of set me on a trajectory of jumping right to it every morning - but mamas, be encouraged that those slower mornings matter. Taking time to instill helpful habits, starting with the Word, snuggling up for a great book or exploring nature on a morning walk - they all matter more than getting in that reading or phonics lesson.
-Read. Read. And then read some more. The end :)
-If something isn’t working, give it some time - if it’s still not working, switch! Sometimes we feel really bound by deciding on something that we stick it out even if it’s making "school" time miserable; Because we have to check it off the list, duh. But it’s just not worth it. I bet one of your goals in home educating is to tailor your child’s education to what works for them - so just keep in mind that if it isn’t working, you’re in charge and can change it!
-Let them lead. If they are driven, let them keep going. If they are laid back, let them be laid back. If art and creativity consumes their day, follow them along and see what can be discovered together. If reading lessons are going great but suddenly there is push back, it’s ok to back off. I once read somewhere that as far “ahead” as kids can be at a young age, and as far “behind” as they can be at a young age - by the age of 10 most children meet around the same spot academically.
-PRAY. Our God is the God of creativity - He delights in discovery. He adores relationship. He is the giver of all wisdom - and He genuinely cares about your heart to homeschool. Before you dive into curriculum and scheduling, spend some time praying over what would be a best fit for your week, month, year. Ask Him to give you insight to your kids, open your eyes to their unique giftings and areas He wants you to focus on. After all, He is the one who made them :)
So I guess I only had 9, not 10.
Stay tuned for Part Two, which will be a list of my favorite preschool and kindergarten blogs, printables, curricula and toys!