The moment a child is born, parents start homeschooling. A child learns from the very moment of birth, and what the parents do impact the child on every level. "Formal" homeschooling, in which a parent makes the intentional decision to not send a child off to a public or private institute of learning, can begin at any time, and often parents consider homeschooling during the preschool age, or between two and five years old.
Homeschooling children ages two to five, or even six, can be wonderful in that you as the parent get to instill the love of learning in your child, and you are the one to see the first light-bulb moments of understanding. I know when I first saw my own child understand that C-A-T made the word that represented our kittens Henry and Rosie, that was a glorious moment.
But, homeschool at this stage (between two and five years old) shouldn't be formal, as in, workbooks and tests and heavy curriculum. Here are six tips you can do to homeschool your preschooler and kindergartener:
Read, read, read
The very best thing you can do as a parent is to read to your child. Starting as a baby, building those building-blocks of words, sounds, and language is crucial to a child's development. A preschooler and kindergartener finally begin to understand that the words on the page correlate to the sounds coming out of their parent's mouth. Ask questions about what you're reading; even though your child is not reading, they are listening, and you can work on comprehension through the active reading of passages. Not sure what books to read? For babies and toddlers (especially those who are apt to tear things), board books are just fine. As children age, move on to larger picture books (but skip the chapter books for now -- they need the visual stimulation of pictures). Don't have the money for books? Visit the public library, or ask for books for the child's birthday and Christmas presents. Visit thrift stores, public library book sales, or yard sales to find books. Even when the child ages through elementary and middle school, continue reading--it's a wonderful bond-building activity.
All those toys you have for your child? Get a few out and get on the floor with your child, and play with him. Make race cars zoom around the rug, or make animal sounds from figures, or play with dolls. Interact with your child, saying things like, "What sound does the elephant make?" or "What makes the car go?" Ask your child what dress the doll should wear today. Be imaginative with your child and ask questions--see what answers you'll get. Go outside and blow bubbles and play tag. At this age, children learn by playing. Get age-appropriate board games and play with your child. Children learn turns-taking, sharing, colors, counting, and many more important developmental steps through playing.
Now, one may ask, "How am I to get on the floor and play when I have a baby to take care of, too?" Put the baby on a blanket beside you, on the floor. Put a couple diapers and wipes nearby, for easy changing access, and play. The point is to be intentional about playing: ask questions, ask your child's thoughts on what a toy should do next, and point out things like the color of a truck or what sound a toy makes.
Introducing Letters and Numbers
For children who show an interest in letters and numbers, buy some alphabet and number magnets for the refrigerator. Don't just stick them on and expect your child to learn them by osmosis. Show them the letters, in order, and be intentional with it. Sing the ABC song--in fact, buy a kid's CD and keep it in the car, to put in and sing while you're driving down the road. I used several different types of books to read to my children growing up that were fun ways to introduce letters, including Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Chicka Chicka ABC, and Dr. Suess's ABC. These are classic books that are fun to read over and over, and use to interact with your children.
If your child is not interested in learning about letters and numbers, continue reading to him. Eventually, it will come. Children learn at their own rate and level, and a cookie-cutter approach will not work on children. All children learn at their own levels and rates, and forcing it only embitters them and makes them hate learning. Be patient!
Allow your child to explore his or her own world. As much as you play intentionally with your child, allow your child to have the freedom to play on his or her own. Put out paper and crayons on a kid-sized table and see what your child draws. If he draws a sun purple, don't correct him--there will be plenty of time for correction later. Allow your child to explore and learn, and this is often hard. Often, the lessons that stick the most are the ones learned the hard way: if a toy is dropped and broken, or if a finger is pinched in a cabinet door, or if the kitty scratches or hisses because his tail is pulled. Often, a child will learn through natural consequences.
Talk with your child. If you're changing a soiled pair of underwear for a child who is learning to use the potty, take the child by the hand and dump the poop off the underwear and into the toilet, telling her, "that's where the poop goes! Into the potty!"
Talk with your child. Explain that we wear rain jackets when it's raining, or we put up our toys at certain times of the day. Announce that it's snack or meal time. In effect, narrate your child's life for him or her. "It's morning! Sun is shining, time to wake up!" "Time to change our clothes! Your head goes through this hole, your arm in that sleeve," etc. Narrate what you're serving for breakfast.
If a child has a learning disorder, such as autism or sensory development disorder, although the child may have a difficult time responding back, continue to talk/narrate. Continue to read and play. It's important to do so, even -- especially -- if a child has a developmental delay or disorder.
As for writing, you want to wait until the child can feed him- or herself with a spoon or fork and demonstrate decent fine motor skills. Then, introduce a big pencil that is used for preschoolers and kindergarteners, and let the scribbling commence! Pour flour onto a cookie sheet, and show how to write letters in it. Buy a dry erase board, as little or as big as you want, and allow your child to write letters on it. Don't try to force the learning, as it will happen. The older the child becomes, increase the structure and discipline of writing appropriately. Use the alphabet books mentioned above and trace each letter as you read them, and have your child mimic you.
Remember, each child learns differently and on his or her own time schedule. No child exits the womb quoting Shakespeare or knowing her ABCs. Read to your child, allow play (both with you and on his own), and encourage listening skills by explaining everything that's happening. Most of all, pray -- over your child, with your child, and by your child.
(C) 2022 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Terrie Bentley McKee is an author and speaker who homeschools her youngest daughter. Married to her husband Greg, they have four children, all of whom have special needs of varying degrees. Terrie is a follower of Jesus Christ and tries to glorify God in all she does. To read more about her testimony, click here.
Homeschooling One Child is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.