Since I was homeschooled all my life I had a good idea of what homeschooling my own children would be like. I remember the fantastic days of school, singing civil war songs around the piano, nature studies, reading so many wonderful books, and watching Andy Griffith during lunch time. 🙂
But I also remember the days where we started really late, my brother and I laughed during the entire devotion, my mom breaking down in tears and getting so frustrated, her worry over our weak areas in school, and trying to juggle school in between doctor appointments and moving six times in six years! Homeschooling takes a devoted mom with a steadfast vision to continue year after year.
When our oldest was approaching pre-school age I was very much into the Charlotte Mason method of letting young children learn through playing, being outside, reading to them, etc. We didn’t do very many workbooks, and I didn’t push him to read young. I still remember being pregnant with our youngest, and being in bed during a very difficult first trimester. He was seven at this point and still hardly reading anything. I was beginning to get frustrated, even though I knew all the statistics about boys being late readers. As I lay in bed I overheard him reading a book to his sisters, and he literally started reading overnight! I couldn’t believe it. He now is an avid reader, and we can’t keep him supplied with enough good books to read!
I have changed my opinions concerning the preschool/kindergarten years as I’ve had more children. Surprisingly, I’ve gotten a little more proactive about what we do, instead of relaxed. It’s still a season of life that I don’t stress about though.(Olivia writing her letters in a one room schoolhouse!)
There are two different approaches that I’ve observed when it comes to preschool and kindergarten.
The first is the super excited first time mom that can’t wait to get started. She takes her baby to infant music classes, teaches her sign language, and at 2 years old is trying to teach her the ABC song. By 3 she is hoping to have the child reading some simple words, and excelling in Kindergarten at age 4. A strict school routine and a formal school area is found in their home. The parents are so proud of their smart child, and they are quick to show off the child’s work to everyone.
The second mom lets the child simply live life, play with lincoln logs and dolls and cars, help the mom in the kitchen, play outside for hours, and teaches him to count using blocks. She traces letters in the air with her finger, and has a special box of salt or sugar that the child makes his first letter shapes in with his finger. Formal workbooks and teaching him to read comes much later, at the age of 6 or even 7.
Both approaches can work. However neither approach works perfectly for the large family. My 4 year old is the 4th child, and I have a 5th, 3rd, and 1st grader that must be engaged in school work every day. By the time I get done with all the necessary schoolwork, I just don’t have the energy to go make letters out of clay, or sit and play blocks with my 4th child by herself.
What I do have the energy for is some scheduled workbook pages that she can do while I’m working with the other children. Olivia begs to do her Horizon’s Preschool workbook, and when we don’t get to it she actually gets pretty upset! Workbooks sometimes have a bad name to them, especially for little ones, but at this point that’s exactly what she needs.
(Yes, that is a princess in the background! She loves her play dress.)
Olivia already knows how to count to 10, her ABC’s, colors and some shapes. Did I sit down and do one on one instruction with her when she was 3? No, not really. She learned most of these things by simply being the 4th child, observing her older sister as she counted and sang the ABC song. She watches Preschool Prep videos, and I sing the ABC song with her about once a week. 🙂
When I started homeschooling I had a hard time getting settled into a routine. I switched curriculum a few times, and I focused so much on teaching my child to read I think I neglected a few other areas. Math does not come easily for him, and we struggle through it every day. Grammar and spelling is another weak area. Those are all textbook related subjects that are learned through sitting down and studying from a book and filling a worksheet out. It’s not a bad thing, unless your child has a learning disability that makes worksheets very difficult. Children learn through observation, through living life, and yes, through workbooks!
I really don’t stress about the preschool and Kindergarten years – I’ve grown to really enjoy them. When my child hits first grade, that’s when I get much more intense with them. I’m doing math, reading, science, grammar, handwriting, and reading out loud with my first grader this year.