Over the past several weeks, I’ve had many opportunities to be with sweet moms who are homeschooling young children. Over and over the same question comes up, phrased slightly differently each time but with the same basic foundation: what should my young child really be doing all day?
Several expressed concern that while their little ones seemed to want to learn something, they quickly tired of sitting at the table. For some reason, their students had little tolerance for being still and focusing on worksheets for more than a few minutes at a time. Since most of us attended school and remember it being several hours long, our youngster’s dislike for seatwork is a bit disconcerting, and makes us worry that we’re not doing a good job and surely must be missing something.
So what of it? What should a young child be doing at home?
There are as many potential answers here as there are children. Please hesitate, mama, to believe and imbibe every prescription you read for “here’s what to do with a __ year old.” The problem is, no curriculum writer is dealing with your __ year old, this year, with your husband and those siblings, in that town, with those health issues, in that church, with those neighbors, with that set of interests … do you see what I mean? You are the one God has chosen as the perfect teacher for this child, this year. You DO know all of that information. And so, you are going to be the perfect architect of your child’s school days.
Your goal with your little one is to introduce them to a world that is exciting to learn about—and you’ve been doing that since the day they were born! You’re already an expert. The truth is, there’s no magic gong that is rung when your child reaches 5 years old, after which peal you’re required to “do school-y things.” There are still trees to climb in your backyard and the local park, birds and butterflies to identify, seashores and mountains to appreciate. There are beautiful poems, complex melodies and delightful art pieces you can take them to see. Much learning can and should take place beyond your kitchen table.
When you are at home, make learning activities fun. Try pouring some cornmeal onto a cookie sheet and letting them draw in it! This makes a great place to copy letters and numbers, and is easy to clean up. Playdough is a wonderful medium for developing manual dexterity and strengthening little fingers—try making your own, then rolling long snakes and letting them cut them apart with safety scissors. Cookie cutters are fun to use with playdough too. And of course fingerpainting is always a favorite. Try encouraging them to make lines, circles, and swirls—and move on to letters and numbers.
When your child does show an interest in reading, you may try something simple like Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. We always pull this out around age 5 and see if it’s a good fit; most often that’s about the right timing but if it doesn’t appeal it can go back on the shelf for a few more months and then be brought out again. This book is designed to be used in brief daily sessions, parent and child sitting on the couch together. If your child gets bogged down, set it aside and come back to it a few weeks later. Really. I promise. You’ll be okay.
Count … everything! Count plates and forks when you set the table, discuss the fractions in a recipe they’re helping you make for dinner, sing songs with multiplication facts in them. Enjoy math … what a concept!
Above all, don’t miss this: Read aloud to your children, no matter how old they are! Many wonderful hours can be spent reading great stories together. Look for books with great illustrations and truthful themes. A wonderful resource for finding books to read aloud is Read for the Heart, by Sarah Clarkson. The Reader and Read-Aloud lists from Sonlight Curriculum are treasure troves of books, also. Reading aloud enhances your children’s imagination and can give them heroes and heroines to look up to, as well as building your store of great family memories.
If you have a young child at home, remember; God has placed within him or her a desire to learn. If you come alongside your child and point out all the wonders of God’s world, encouraging them to explore and discover; and then teach them to read so they can interact with great characters and figures from history as well as God’s Word, you’re well on your way to giving them a truly wonderful education.
Misty Krasawski is the overly-blessed mom of eight children whom she homeschools in sunshine-y Florida. She has been clinging ferociously to the hand of her Lord since she was knee-high to a grasshopper, homeschooling for the past thirteen years, and has eighteen more years ahead of her with the children who are glad she will have done most of her experimenting on those who went before. Her wonderful husband Rob has much treasure laid up for him in heaven for having been called to such a daunting task. After the house goes to sleep she can sometimes be found gathering her thoughts at www.encouragingheartsathome.com.