Today I am kicking off a series called “Nurturing the Pre-School Years” but be prepared that this may not feel much like our modern education system’s version of “preschool.” I’m simply referencing the time in a child’s life before they start school and giving you some ideas about what to do during that time. So let’s talk about how to homeschool pre-school…in theory. Don’t worry, over the next few weeks we’ll get a lot more practical ;).
Call me a grammar snob, but pre-school and preschool mean different things to me.
Excuse me while I climb up onto my soapbox for a moment…
I touched on this in my post about homeschooling with little ones, but let’s just refresh…
“Pre-school” means before school. As in, you’re not doing school yet.
“Preschool,” on the other hand, is a phenomenon that has crept up on us over the last century sending mothers into a tizzy and brainwashing us to think our children need to be “socialized” in a large institution because what we are doing in our own God-given homes can’t possibly be good enough.
Pre-school is about learning through play. It is about the formative years, growing up alongside the example of mom, dad and older siblings. It’s about being raised by your environment in the most natural and nourishing place – home.
We all know the natural conditions under which a child should live; how he shares household ways with his mother, romps with his father, is teased by his brothers and petted by his sisters; is taught by his tumbles; learns self-denial by the baby’s needs, the delightfulness of furniture by playing at battle and siege with sofa and table; learns veneration for the old by the visits of his great-grandmother; how to live with his equals by the chums he gathers round him; learns intimacy with animals from his dog and cat; delight in the fields where the buttercups grow and greater delight in the blackberry hedges.
Charlotte Mason (Vol. 6 pp. 96, 97)
Miss Mason begins, “We all know…” but I really don’t think the collective “we” do anymore. In this information age mothers are taught that more is better and even more is best. This primarily relates to socialization, academics, and extracurricular activities…i.e. the proverbial hamster wheel we are all called to as “good” parents.
Preschool tends to be about performance, checking off boxes called “milestones” and let’s be honest, pressure. Is your child measuring up? Or is he behind? Even if you find a strictly play-based program (do those exist anymore?) with very gentle exposure to academics, it could be too much too soon for your little one.
Okay, off the soapbox I come.
A Side Note of Reality
Ready for a full disclosure? All three of the boys went to preschool.
Understand that this post contains my “older and wiser” advise.
Poor Owen got sent when he was two because I fell into “perceived” social peer pressure (I mean everyone else was doing it…) and let me tell you, mommy peer pressure is almost as bad as the junior high sort.
I do not think I ruined the boys by any means but I do wish I could go back and have a do-over. Instead of dropping them off screaming and crying and reaching for me while everyone told me, “this is normal, they’ll be fine…this is good for them,” I wish I would have packed my littles back in my minivan and drove us home.
If you are sending your littles to a preschool for means of safe babysitting a couple of times a week so you can get a break or buy groceries in peace, that is another issue entirely – we all need help from time to time. Part of the reason I sent mine was to catch my breath. But another (bigger) part was because I thought they needed it. I thought I was incapable of giving them what was necessary for them to thrive at that stage in their life.
I do not hold on to regret but I do want to send a message out to you moms weighing the decision…
Preschool is an unnecessary developmental step for our littles.
A Firm Foundation
While we were distracted by painted finger turkeys (precious though they may be) and wearing red for Valentine’s Day and bringing cupcakes for the Halloween party, I could have been devoting a lot more time to teaching them how to clean up after themselves or snuggling up for a mid-morning story. We could have been out on nature walks, watching birds and embracing the details of changing seasons.
We were so busy during that stage of life trying to get out the door that there was little time to teach them how to dress themselves, tie their shoes, or brush their teeth properly. Everything was so rushed when that stage of life is meant to be so simple.
Of course the challenge is amplified if you have an outside-the-box child (or children) because life skills and solid habits do not come naturally or easily.
If you wait until 1st grade to do formal schooling as Charlotte Mason suggested, that means you’ve got about six years with your child to build a foundation. After the foundation is built, then you can add formal academics, athletics and extracurricular activities. Because really…you’ve got time. They are going to spend the larger part of their childhood with a focus on these things so remember, “for everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven” (Ecc. 3:1-8).
Couldn’t this season be its own instead of a rush into the next?
So what builds the foundation?
Nurturing your young one’s mind, body, and soul.
Now some of this will sound “school-ish” and I don’t deny that there is a place for this in the pre-school years when done gently at the child’s pace. Every child is different; one of my boys did not show an interest in learning to read until well into first grade while my daughter is begging me to teach her letters at age three. You know your child best.
Here’s a snapshot of what we’ll cover over the next few weeks…
- Classic literature
- Early math through play
- Memory work
- Routines & boundaries
- Sensory play
- Outdoor play
- Nature Study
- Family tradition, rhythms & values
Goals for the Homeschool Pre-school Years
Goals for the pre-school years revolve around growing the person. As a CM educator the goal is always growing the person, but there is a special time in the pre-school years that allow you to start off on the right foot. Setting right habits in place during the formative years will make your homeschool run much more smoothly when you do add in formal academics, athletics and extracurriculars. This is a precious and fleeting time where your bond grows stronger with your child as their personality really begins to bloom and it is full of opportunity to nurture the person they are becoming.