On a regular basis, I troll through various Facebook pages (“troll” is a such a nicer word than “stalk”) and run into post after post that looks like this:
“I am homeschooling my five-year-old for kindergarten this year and I am overwhelmed! I have already bought a curriculum covering physical science, literature, writing skills, baby basic mathematics, elementary Spanish, and current events, but I’m not sure what to do about social studies.
“And it looks like it’s going to take at least five hours a day to get this all done, and my little boy’s attention span isn’t long enough. Help!
“Oh, and I’ve got a three-year old, and I’m pregnant with my third child.”
There’s something about the word “homeschool” that prompts people to focus on the second half, “school,” and totally ignore the first part, “home.”
If you have young children — in my mind, this is under nine — you don’t need to be freaking out (if you have older kids, as well, you don’t need to be freaking out either, but we’ll talk about this another time). Just because the educational establishment of the day has determined that three-year-olds need to start reading, NOW, and all fourth-graders should be introduced to elementary algebra, does not mean that you need to follow these standards.
After all, you are homeschooling for a reason (see my earlier article, Why Do You Homeschool?), one of which may be because you are uncomfortable with the curriculum expectations of the public school arena, so keep this in mind as you set up your own homeschooling way of doing things.
Young children are little sponges — they want to learn — and as long as we don’t discourage them by heaping on hours worth of what they find to be purposeless work, they will learn. Imagine if there were classes on Basic Toddler Walking 101, or Hand/Eye Coordination Skills for the 8-month-old (sadly, there probably are) — would the child walk any sooner, or get a spoonful of mush actually in his mouth any faster? Probably not; he might even take longer, and you would spend a lot of your time in a state of frustration and concern.
So let’s get back to this five-year-old: I’m betting that he observes the world around him, knows how to bake cookies with mom, sets the table, looks through picture books, draws on walls if you don’t provide paper, understands the dog better than anyone in the household, instructs his sister in the difference between blue and green, and asks endless questions.
What is it that you want him to learn this year? Be realistic about the mind of a five-year-old, and specifically your five year old: Does she know her letters? If not, then play around with the letters — buy some of those magnets that never stay on the refrigerator and make them part of your play day. Show him how to write his name — and don’t expect his handwriting to be straight and proud, as if it were written by, well, an adult.
In other words, start by observing your child, and see what she does in her day already. Anyone who lives on a farm knows that this is what you do with the chickens, or the goats, or the cats: you watch how they interact, what causes them to behave a certain way, what is normal and what is not. Observing the animals you own and depend upon is an essential part of caring for them.
And while we don’t own our children, we are very much responsible for their care — physical, emotional, and educational — and part of getting the thing right is learning about children in general, and our children specifically, so that we don’t ask them to do something they’re not ready to tackle yet — like Latin verb conjugations in first grade.
Next week, on Thursday, let’s bullet point some relaxed, workable ideas you can enjoy with your young child this year.
Do you have older children — more than aged 9 — and you want them to learn to write? The best way to learn writing is twofold — 1) read a lot and 2) write a lot. You can accomplish both of these goals without a workbook.
If you buy anything, I suggest Grammar Despair, which you as an adult may want to read along with your child. Writing well is a matter of practice, and much of what we get “wrong” are common issues that Grammar Despair addresses: What is the difference between “it’s” and “its”? Can you start a sentence with a conjunction? What is the problem with the words, “must,” “should,” and “ought,” and why is it a good idea to limit their usage?
Grammar Despair is an inexpensive paperback, an even more inexpensive digital e-book, and free when you borrow it on Amazon Prime.
“This can be used as a reference or as a daily or weekly lesson book.” — Amazon reader review