Caution: This post contains my rather strong opinion. Proceed with caution.
It happens every fall. Homeschooling mamas and papas second-guess their decision to keep their preschoolers and kindergartners home. Concerned parents lament that their three-year-old preschoolers are not thriving with the expensive curriculum they bought to “do preschool.” Some are certain their four-year-olds are educationally doomed, while others wonder if they should try other curricula or enroll their five-year-olds in a “real” school with “real” teachers and a “real” chalkboard that mama didn’t make with old plywood and chalkboard paint during nap time. Parents groan that if preschool or kindergarten requires this much work, they will never make it through grade school, much less—GASP!—high school!
I don’t like to give advice (bold-faced lie), but I’m going to anyway. Mama…Papa…
Please, sweet Mamas and manly, but caring Papas, breathe! Now breathe again. Now go eat chocolate and come back.
Feel better? Good. Now here’s the scoop, and I’m saying it like it is with no apologies. You have been twice warned.
First of all, preschool? What’s that?
Technically, it’s supposed to be getting a child ready for school, thus the prefix “pre-” meaning “before.” Somehow it has morphed into sending a child to school so she can get ready to go to school. It’s like pre-birth. Hey, unborn baby, let’s be born early so you can practice breathing oxygen. Maybe that will make you more ready to breathe when you’re really supposed to be born and start breathing. Prepping for school is what kindergarten used to be for. When I say kindergarten, I mean for six-year-olds, maybe five-year-olds, not three- and four-year-olds. That’s still preschool playing pretend with a more grown-up name. Am I opposed to preschool? No. But where do you draw the line, people?
Second, what’s your rush?
Why does your child have to be reading before anybody else’s child? Why does he have to be doing the big math and reciting what a noun is before, say, my kids? What is the rush? Do you enjoy adding additional stress and frustration to a potentially beautiful life of learning? Will pushing your son beyond his readiness result in an enthusiastic, lifelong learner, or will it frustrate you and your children and create yet another student who is burned out by fourth grade and never cracks another book once he has his diploma stuffed into his back pocket? Ask yourself if you’re doing this for your babies or for yourself and your personal homeschool critics. (Yeah, we all have a peanut gallery of critics.)
Third, you’ve got it all backwards!
Have you noticed the trend in the “better” schools to try and emulate the home environment? That is because the experts are finally realizing that children learn best in a natural setting. Come here, experts, so I can smack you in the forehead. Children learn on Papa’s knee and walking hand in hand with Mama. That’s how they learn to walk, to talk, to eat, to breathe (oh, wait, nobody has to teach them that in pre-birth). That’s how they learn their colors and counting. That’s how they can learn reading and grammar usage and even foreign languages. That is not how they learn calculus. Parents that take the natural learning environment and turn it upside down are recreating the school in the home…the school that is now trying to recreate the home in the school. It’s like if you draw a picture of yourself drawing a picture of yourself drawing a pic—you get it. Yeah, my head is spinning.
Mama, Papa, please, please, please relax.
Please give your child plenty of time to sit on your lap and follow you and learn from you. Please let your little ones play with rocks and colors and follow ants and build forts. Please don’t prioritize your daughter’s workbook-learning over precious life-learning by your side. Please don’t force your active little boy to sit with a pencil in hand in a chair for two hours a day while you pull your hair out because he can’t write his name. Who cares?! When he’s older, he’ll write his name! Simple as that! Please enjoy these precious early years without squeezing your family into an educational box that someone only recently created and announced as good. It’s not good. It’s just a box. Outside of the box is life!
Some of you are saying, “But my daughter loves workbooks!”
So give her workbooks! Do what works. But if your four-year-old could be in the kitchen cooking with you or planting her own garden, and you’re forcing her to sit at a table writing “Aa” 25 times instead, in my opinion, something’s wrong. If your six-year-old son wants to replicate the four-mile Astoria Bridge out of Legos or “help” Papa change a tire and you’re making him do three pages of addition first, in my opinion, something’s amiss. In my opinion, it’s complicating life to force a small child to do “table work” for 45 minutes, when you could instead wait until he is developmentally ready, teach the same information in five easy minutes, save frustration and tears, and not rob the child of the joy of learning. Not to mention, you can redirect those hours of lesson-planning for your children into time spent with your children. That right there is why I had children, to spend time with them, not plot out a life for them.
Now you say, “But kids need to learn to do hard things they might not want to do, like writing and adding.”
True. But there are other hard things they need to learn that they may be more prepared to tackle at this point in their development, things like saying please and thank you and brushing their teeth and picking up toys and not throwing balls in the house and not cutting their own hair and not tattooing Mama’s legs with permanent marker if she falls asleep during reading time. Things like obedience and patience and sharing and helping siblings and not bullying. Things like chivalry and sitting quietly in church and the lesson 85% of adults still need to learn–the world is round, but you’re not the center. Why make it harder?
Of course, this in no way means that you can leave your child to his or her own pursuits, assuming learning will come naturally. It will come naturally, but it may not be the learning you seek for your little ones. It’s up to you to create a rich learning environment and an atmosphere that makes learning happen naturally.
How do you do that? Good question!
Click here to read 18 of my simple curriculum-free, stress-free, guilt-free, fun-full, family-full, life-full approaches to the preschool and kindergarten years. Buckle your seatbelts, cuz you’ll be the fun parent climbing on the roof dropping eggs on the sidewalk instead of the parent reading about gravity in a book. Yup…that parent!
Oh, I know you all have one last question; “Did your kids ever learn to read with a Mama with this mentality?” Excellent question, Watson. Indeed, they did. One of my children could identify letters before turning two. Two sounded out short words at three. They all start reading aloud in family Bible time around six or seven…but it wasn’t always pretty. Are they naturals? Some, but not all. My son could sound out basic words, but really struggled with phonics and sight words at age five, so we shelved the phonics book. Every few months I would work with him again to test his readiness. Finally at six-and-some-months, BANG! He got it like he gets everything–a semi without brakes crashing into a mega-mall. Now we can’t keep him supplied with books, and at seven he volunteers to read aloud from Scripture at men’s Bible studies he attends with Daddy.
But who cares when they learned to read! What I should care about is if they are using that skill now. One of my girls struggled with her reading. She could read at five and the schools would have called her a success, but she didn’t read smoothly and with comprehension until she was around seven, and didn’t read comfortably with full understanding and enjoyment until around nine. Now she is my most voracious reader who is currently reading classics for fun and The Declaration of Independence for her personal enrichment and to be fully informed about the laws of our nation—I can think of a few (hundred) politicians and a few (million) voters who should do the same.
So yes, Watson, I taught my children to read without tears. And they didn’t cry either. I’ll let you in on another little secret. We don’t even own a chalkboard. Help yourself to some more chocolate.
This is where you get to tell your opinion.
While this is not a homeschooling blog per se, we are a homeshooling (or roadschooling) family, and I do discuss simplifying that aspect of life as well. If you’re interested in more homeschool posts, subscribe to my email updates and contact me with your questions or ideas for future posts.
26 thoughts on “Is Homeschooling Your Preschooler or Kindergartner Stressing You Out?”
I LOVE this post!
I love YOU for telling me that! 🙂
I like your opinion. 😉
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
You’re welcome…three times over. 🙂
With my first started out really early like two (had the time),second around four, he wanted to do what his older brother was doing. after 9 months he caught up with big bro who was on burnout mode. now theyre at the end of first grade together. At first I did about 4-5 hrs of school a day. It was push push pretty much all the time But I felt so accomplished at the end of the day as they finished off a pile of workbooks. At the same time I felt stressed and often got quite loud as I tried to hurry them through all the subjects to start my (real) day around 3. Finally decided that’s it! Im going to start enjoying my kids. Also read L.P.Bennezet’s article on math (a must read). Now they read a short story through twice with me, then draw a picture write a couple sentences about it while I read a long book to them. That’s it! every other book including science is for fun! Now we have time to do the fun stuff I always wanted to do.Math kind of happens in everyday life A LOT! My third boy knows his letters and is starting to read with no formal schooling. He’s teaching his little bro as he learns,(its so cute)! I didn’t have time with five children and hes doing great! I feel like im not doing enough some days but love this so much better than before and articles like this really help! Thankyou so much for writing your experience.
Thank you for sharing your story, Kathy. I’ve heard many families express the same experience in the early years. Blessings with your family. Is that five boys I counted?
four boys and a baby girl
I really love this! We actually do send our little girl to preschool three mornings per week–but it is very low key and there are about 15 kids in the entire school. It’s a decision my husband made, and I’m so glad he did. We are hoping to send her to a university-model school next year–which is 3 half days per week at a Christian school and 2 full homeschool days per week.
ANYWAY, that was some background to say: I’ve been beating myself up over not “doing” our preschool homeschool days as well as I wanted. Our little girl turned 5 in June, so she was really old enough to start kindergarten this year, but we just didn’t have a peace about starting her so young.
On our homeschool days now, my girls love doing things like collecting bugs. So we do a LOT of science (which is humorous b/c it was my worst subject!). I have felt guilty that we do not do much book work. But then I reminded myself the other day: ONE reason you waited to start K with her was because you didn’t want it to be so stressful!!
I have a friend who is homeschooling her daughter one month younger than mine, and her goal is to get through kindergarten in 6 months flat, so they can move on to 1st grade. She told me her daughter is just really smart and ready. I didn’t say this, but I think my little girl is smart as well. But I sure don’t want to rush her childhood!!
Thanks for the post. They grow up too fast. We stress ourselves out too much.
Thank you for your input, Erin. Your schooling choices sound very exciting!
I think the beauty of not pushing the “smart” kids through the textbooks is that you have time to fill their lives with rich learning opportunities they can explore very intimately. I’ve seen my kids really take off in areas where their strengths and interests lie, simply because they have the time and freedom to do so. Then again, we’re not raising Harvard kids. 😉
We too have a five-year-old (July baby) whom we are holding back a year for kindergarten. We’re still teaching her whatever she is ready to learn, but we’re not giving her the kindergarten label until next year. We only give them a grade label for all the people who ask. 😉 I applaud your decision to wait a year and savor her childhood just a little bit longer.
Thank you for sharing your experience and perspective, Erin. Very interesting. Enjoy your babies! 🙂
I agree with so very much of what you say here. Our approach is kindergarten here at home is pretty…minimal. We don’t do much in terms of structured or organized lessons, but she is learning a lot.
I have two minds when I think about homeschooling at this early stage. One is to enjoy life, enjoy each other, and enjoy learning. Great. Check! I also want/need to think proactively about next year. I have no idea if we will homeschool next year. My daughter could be a few blocks away at the public elementary school next August. Given that, I also try to be responsible for setting her up well for that possibility. That means that I am mindful of a few benchmarks I’d like her to be competent in, to help the transition to public school (if that happens).
So I alternate between feeling a-okay about our laid back homeschooling thing here, and then feeling like I need to step it up a bit from time to time to set her up for the possibility of public school.
That IS a consideration. I wonder if perhaps you could meet those benchmarks in a non-stressful manner, such as 20 minutes of enjoyable one-on-one time each day. I do hope you continue to enjoy this precious age.
Great words of encouragement and truthfulness!! I am (sadly finished with graduating six) ending my 27 years of home schooling soon and I am so surprised at the different types of home schooling ideas these days. Please let children be children as long as they can. Let them enjoy their childhood days learning through play and hands-on fun learning games. I know I am a more relaxed home school veteran, but parents are causing so much stress by trying to make their children be academic scholars. They will learn what they need and nothing needs to be started early. ☺
Thank you for taking the time to comment. I always love to hear from people on the path ahead of me. People like you who have been willing to pass on their wisdom and encouragement have been such a blessing to us. Thank you for reassuring me! 🙂
So, the million dollar question: How did your kids “turn out?” 🙂
☺ My blessings are doing wonderfully! All six of my children are either homeschooling their own children or looking forward to homeschooling their future children. Five of the six are graduated; two went to college and have degrees, one went into the National Guard and the youngest is looking forward to a career with the Sheriff’s department. My daughters desire nothing more than to be the best, godly wife and mother they can be and love homemaking! One daughter is married to a preacher-man and has four children and they would love to be blest with more. The other married daughter is married to the preach man’s younger brother who is a sargeant with the Sheriff’s dept. She has two darlin’ little ones and is hoping to be blest with more. My youngest daughter is 21 and is still at home helping family and friends and waiting for her “Mr.Right”. God has blest us so much and my family is such a joy to me. ☺
Thank you so much for sharing, SusieQ! Your family sounds like an immeasurable blessing to you! Thank you for your encouragement to us homeschoolers.
Id love to see more posts on how you do school and how your kids are progressing. I enjoy my stress free schooling but almost cant believe its enough considering how much time I put in before. Im always thinking what if my relaxing now will cause me a lot of stress in catching up later (like housework you know how that goes).
I know what you mean. It is the same concern I had when my older children were small. One of the things that we did from early on is to teach independence. Much of the work my kids do beyond the early years is done on their own.
Also, we are relaxed about formal learning in the early years, but not about hard work. Our kids work hard. They just don’t work hard sitting at a desk with a workbook at age 4…or 6.
My next post which goes live next week talks about what we do with the preschool and kindergarten age group to give them a rich learning environment without pushing them beyond their readiness. It’s all very natural and gentle, and doesn’t require a rigid structure.
The commenter before you, SusieQ, is further along in homeschooling than we are. Her comments may be of interest to you. I’ll be happy to share future homeschooling posts if people are interested. Thank you for joining the conversation!
Id love to email or call you or suzieQ personally to get more of an idea how to do this type of learning with my children, if possible. I have a couple questions I need answered.
Sure, Kathy! Use the “contact me” link down at the bottom of the page and that comes straight to me as an email. If you want to get in touch with SusieQ, reply to her comment (just hit reply beneath her comment) and that goes straight to her email.
Thank you so much for this! I wish someone would just shake me so I could get out all of the ps tape that keeps running in my head!!! Thank you again!
I have to go back and re-read this myself from time to time. 🙂 Let’s shake each other now and then.
Love it! Everything in a nutshell!
I have to keep some of this mind on a daily basis as I am prone to slipping into the mentality that homeschool kids are “supposed” to be smarter than public school kids. I get myself worked up over their struggles, and some of their struggles seem so ridiculous to me, but I know that dad getting frustrated and raising his voice isn’t particularly helpful to them.
I have a son starting high school homeschooling this year, the headache of keeping transcripts begins!