Recently I’ve been reading questions from mums with 2 and 3 year olds wanting to start homeschooling. Everything within me rises up and shouts “NO! This is too young.” And then I stop and think this through. It is all a matter of what you mean by starting homeschooling.
If you mean to start formal education, where you have a time in your day where your child acts as if he was going to Kindy or Preschool then that is what my reaction is directed to. But this is not my understanding of homeschooling and maybe it isn’t yours either. For me, having my kids at home – regardless of the age – is about spending time with them, teaching them the things they need to be successful at their current stage of life and laying the foundations for them to be successful in their next stage of their life. Homeschooling is about relationships, character, life skills, love of learning, growing, maturing, and training. All of this can start at 2!
Regardless of the parents decision to send their child to school or keep them at home 2-4year olds need routine (a pattern to their day), they need productive things to do with themselves, they need relationship building time with mum, dad and siblings. The sad thing is though once parents start thinking about homeschooling these basic needs get swapped for reading, writing and math. This is sad, because they are actually miss laying the very foundation the children need for learning success.
If you have a toddler or preschooler in your home and you are wondering where to go with their day can I suggest you start with a routine around the things that you feel are important for your family. Some examples:
- Reading the Bible, talking about Jesus, and praying
- Learning to look after themselves – personal hygiene and responsibilities (make bed, get dressed, clear your plate from the table)
- Learn to look after the family possessions – chores – empty the paper bins, wipe down the cupboard doors, empty the dishwasher (start with cutlery and plastics – and be prepared for your cupboard/drawers to be a little messier for a while!)
- Reading books together
- Making stuff – my kids enjoyed a ‘box of boxes’ which was our recycle box. Daniel in particular spent hours making things from boxes, tubes, pie dishes etc. I gave him masking tape as it was a mess free option to glue, plus it gave quicker results.
- Learn to focus and have self-control and be obedient (to list just a few of the many character traits that our children need to learn. Though these three are particularly pertinent to young ages I would also make a top priority for gratitude, love/deference, and respect)
- Use fine motor skills: cutting, tracing, threading, snaps and buttons, clapping, playing playdough, tearing and gluing paper (of different thicknesses), play with small toys,
- Use gross motor skills: running, climbing and balancing, riding a bike, dancing or movements with songs/nursery rhymes, skipping and hopping, obstacle courses (one of my kids favourites), playground equipment, ball games, sandpit time
As you can see most of these activities can happen in your home without a curriculum, without planned lessons.
Routine in our house was very important when my kids were little – it helped balance all the important things with the things that just happen. Our routine is only a tool though – it helps us do what is important. We would have outside play time, quiet focus time with me at the table or on a floor mat, inside play time by themselves or with each other, rest and reading times, and chore times throughout the day. We played with the toys and puzzles we had, we read books, we did lots of drawing and colouring. I did have to extend myself to buying paints and glue –that meant mess, and that was something I had to teach myself to accept.
I recommend these books; I used them as resources (not curriculum, not lesson plans):
Before Five in a Row is a great resource as it gives you lots of activities to do with your young child and at the same time be learning. Also lots of great picture book recommendations.
365 TV Free Activities – I drew from this book a lot – physical activities like throwing beanbags, creative projects like fingerpuppets and doing different things with paint, family activities like watching clouds and seeing pictures there (this continues to be a family favourite). We didn’t get anywhere near doing all 365 but I wish we did!
There are lots of things that our kids need to learn and master before they worry about reading, writing and arithmetic. Live life with your kids and watch them grow and learn.