I want to begin by stating something that I heard a long time ago when I was an Early Childhood Education teacher. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (and other sources), “(T)he capacity for developmental skills begins in the first five years of life. This is the beginning point for a person’s creativity, communication, team working, problem-solving and critical thinking skills.”
Therefore, it only makes sense that homeschool parents should make it a point to teach preschool — right?
Well, this is a highly debated topic – to teach preschool…or not. It really shouldn’t be though, and here’s why.
It boggles my mind that from birth to age 5, a child’s brain develops more during those five years than any other time in their whole life – any other time in our whole life. Early development in the brain means that a child’s ability to learn and succeed in school and life is impacted greatly in that short time period. Other studies even show that 90% of a child’s brain develops by age 5. The brain miraculously doubles its size in the first year. I have to tell you this, but then I will move on I promise, the brain keeps growing to about 80% of adult size by age 3 and 90% – nearly full grown – by age 5. Mind is blown!
The problem is, these statistics are true whether a child is taught with an intense preschool curriculum or not. We absorb so much information during these years that there is no other time in our lives where we can even come close to that scale of learning.
So, what does that necessarily mean for us as homeschooling families?
What it means is, if you choose a preschool curriculum that works for your child well, then that is awesome. Young kids normally have the capability to learn as much as they can in their preschool years. What it also means is that some parents choose to not “teach” preschool and that is totally OK too. Let me explain.
People assume that the rapid development of a young child’s intellect requires stimulation of a school-type program. -Raymond Moore, educational theorist and author of Home Grown Kids
(This is not necessarily the case.)
Some parents choose to not rush academics. The truth of the matter is that there is no real need to rush it other than it’s your family’s preference and your child’s ability to do so. There is absolutely so much you can do with your child that does not require you purchasing a curriculum when they are early learners. Please do not think I am knocking moms that do this. I think it’s AWESOME when kids learn academically early on, as long as they are not stressed or overwhelmed at the expense of it.
One time I was at a grocery store behind this beautiful lady with an adorable baby. He truly could not have been older than 2. I will not lie to you that this baby was a genius. He spoke so well and I was flabbergasted –so was everyone else standing around listening. I spoke with the mom briefly, and she stated they were doing this early learning video program with him — even when he was only months old. It was amazing.
As awesome as that was, that family’s preference doesn’t have to be our own.
Neither does ours have to be modeled for others. Children at an early age can learn multitudes through play, interaction, and experiences. “Teaching” preschool in your homeschool doesn’t have to look like what some have molded school to look like. Preschool is exactly what it says; it is everything you need to know “pre” school.
Playing is knowledge building. We learn to work with others, we learn manners, how to obey, and with some prompting from parents, every experience can be an opportunity to learn. Many parents choose not to “teach” preschool in the traditional sense because preschoolers are constantly learning anyway.
Here are various ideas you can use for hands-on learning experiences with your preschooler:
Fine motor skills
Music and rhythm is my favorite way to help my kids with small motor skills when I was an early education teacher. Children love music, and it can be easily included in your day. There are so many other ways toddlers can practice fine motor skills to get their little brains working, thinking critically, and little bodies moving. Check out these gross motor activities for your young learner especially on rainy days when you can’t really go outside.
You can even use songs to teach kids to remember facts (think the ABC song!).
Read to/with your young children – A LOT. It is proven that reading to your child builds vocabulary and literacy early on. Embracing reading aloud with your kids as they are young learners can help them enjoy reading their own books as they get older.
Building with blocks
Building with blocks or even LEGO® toys (bigger LEGO® toys for the smaller children, of course) have great benefits from color matching to fine motor skills and counting.
When your child has a doctor’s appointment point out all the things the doctor does. Then your child can pretend to be a doctor or nurse. Take a visit to the fire station and see how your child starts imitating what they have seen. Pretend play is always fun with kids to learn all about community helpers.
Practice homeschool “rules” and routines
During these years you can really practice things they need to learn when it’s time for a normal homeschool routine. Things like sitting for a few minutes at a time coloring or waiting for you to finish speaking and not interrupting. Use transition words when you will do a new thing like “oh, its 12:00. Now, it’s time for lunch” or “At 10:00 we will walk quietly outside”. Routines help kids feel comfortable; practicing before “regular” homeschool will make everyone’s life easier.
I want to mention one last thing. If your child has older siblings who “do school” or you are in a group with other families, you may find that your child asks if he/she can “do school” too. That is just another opportunity for you to build on their knowledge base. My daughter, 12 now, is very studious. Even as a toddler she had a crayon in her hand with some paper. My son, 9 now, was the polar opposite. He couldn’t stay still for a moment, let alone want to sit and write – unless his big sister writing. At which point, he would sit for a moment, make a scribble then be off climbing something again.
If you have a young learner who WANTS to “do school” there are endless FREE preschool printables you can use. With free printables, you can reinforce what they are already learning through “play” like counting or build on their current knowledge and help them start writing letters.
Whether you decide to homeschool preschool with a full curriculum or you choose not to “teach” homeschool preschool, but build on experiences, rest assured your child is absorbing everything they can. They are learning everything they can, be it through a structured lesson or knee deep in dirt. Preschool can be so wonderful either way you choose or any common ground in between.
Just take a moment to remember that the journey should be joyful. The pressure of life can fill you to the brim, but it doesn’t have to be that way when you are with your young learner — while he/she is building on that 90% of knowledge they will learn before the age 5. Enjoy your precious time together and cherish those young beautiful years of their life.
Need some ideas for fine motor skill play or practice for your preschooler?
Miniland Pre-Writing Basic Patterns StencilsFine Motor Skill Toy – BLue Walking Elephant – Helping Hands Tool for Five Fingers – Occupational Therapy ToyYoovi Early Learning Basic Life Skills Learn to Dress Boards – Zip, Snap, Button, Buckle, Lace & Tie 6 pcs/setFine Motor Fun: Hundreds of Developmentally Age-Appropriate Activities Designed to Improve Fine Motor Skills (Key Education)
Jeannette is a wife, mother and homeschooling mom. She has been mightily, saved by grace and is grateful for God’s sovereignty throughout her life’s journey. She has a Bachelor in English Education and her MBA. Jeannette is bi-lingual and currently lives in the Tongan Islands of the South Pacific. She posts daily freebies for homeschoolers!