Image by Joelle Inge-Messerschmidt
I’m thinking about the developmental stages of growth in homeschooling; I’m thinking about the ways our growth parallels our children’s and how we forget to account for the fact that we are learning as we go, too.
The “I can’t wait to start” stage: That’s you if your child is 5 or under and you already know you’ll homeschool. It’s as if your child can’t grow up fast enough to let you begin! You’ve done your research, you may already have workbooks lined up, you may have already “played school” with this little tiny kidlet who mostly wants to wear tiaras to bed and climb too-tall walls to walk on—not sit at a table clawing a pencil, dragging it across a page, shaping that frustrating letter ‘q.’
When these moms call, they universally want to know how to “get their kids” to sit still or care about school or make progress. They worry that they are behind (they really do). Their kids are usually “advanced” which often means that they are exhibiting the brilliance that is FIVE YEARS OLD. After all, five-year-olds are incredible human beings. They are developing vocabulary at a rate they will never repeat. They are acquiring information faster than they ever will again. It’s an amazing age for brain development. And it happens whether you homeschool it or not!
Veteran homeschoolers would say to the “I can’t wait to start” parents: “Slow down! It’s like you’re sprinting on mile one of a very long marathon. Save some for later.”
Meanwhile, the best curriculum for the under 5 set (and even up til 7-8, really) is still dress up clothes and face paints.
You’re at home. Stop waiting for a chance to “teach.” You already are! You want your child to learn to write? Write notes to your child. Tuck them under his pillow. Put them in your daughter’s hidey hole where she plays with her Legos. Write riddles on the white board and read them to your kids at breakfast, then solve them together.
Read the ingredients off the back of the cereal box and see if you can spot the same word (“fructose” for example) on each box. Make it a race to find a word that looks just like that on every box in the house…even non-readers can kinda help! And will want to.
Find your daughter’s first initial all day long in every book, on every billboard, in every flyer that crosses your path.
Let your kids dictate emails to you that you send on their behalf to grandparents or aunts and uncles.
Read, read, read to your kids. Not just books on the couch. Not just library books. Read the notice boards at the zoo that describe the animals, read the magazine headlines at the supermarket while you stand in line, read the traffic signs as you drive, read the instructions for how to play a game out loud, read the funny Facebook post you just read, read the text you sent to their other parent…
You want writers and readers? Read and write with your kids, on your way, as you go, all the time. USE these skills. They live in your life right now.
How did you teach your kids to tie their shoes? With a book? With two-dimensional pictures of shoe-tying? No. You got down on the ground and started tying shoes, together. (Or you bought clogs and bypassed the whole thing until your daughter was in tenth grade and finally had to tie a pair of shoes without her mother being present. Yeah, that happened. In our family.)
My point is this: if you can’t wait to start—stop and consider if you haven’t already begun, just by being a parent! If you want to include the conventional subject areas about math and reading and writing, take the same strategy. No need to wrestle a four year old to the kitchen table to “do school.” No need to spend big money on a history curriculum for a five year old.
Live, be, do, share, enthuse, pay attention, play, take trips, dress up, read, write, calculate, take naps, eat food, tickle, cuddle, and be patient.
If you really really really must “start”—whatever that means to you (because you can’t help yourself)—by all means, home educate yourself. Buy books, sit at a table and fill them out, keep records of all you are learning about history, math, science, and language. Teach yourself by the very methods you wish you could foist on your kids. Use those methods, and those materials, in those subject areas, for yourself.
And wait. Save your kids from school a little longer. Include the subjects you want them to learn “along the way, as you go, in the mainstream of your life.”
If you need some support (are plum out of ideas, Family Fun magazine used to be great – may still be, haven’t checked lately, and Jot It Down by Brave Writer seeks to be that kind of resource for you).
Enjoy this phase! It goes too fast!
Cross-posted on facebook.