Homeschooling in the early years can be overwhelming and daunting as we struggle with our feelings of inadequacy and our fears of being unable to teach our children the basics. These feelings can cause us to be quick to run to a boxed curriculum as soon as our children turn 4. I’ve hear parents with children as young as 2 asking in various homeschool social media groups which curriculum they should buy for their 2-4 year old. The best advice you will get? NONE…
Every parent worries about their child not being as “smart” as the “other children” or “falling behind”, but remember this, everybody learns at their own pace. My son, while walking at 8 months old, couldn’t be understood while speaking by anybody but me until he was 4 years old. Abigail, now 10, started walking 2 weeks after her 1st birthday. I think Emily fell somewhere in the middle, walking at about 10 months and talking like crazy. The beauty of homeschooling is that there is nobody to get ahead of and, at the other end of the spectrum, there is nobody to fall behind.
The biggest and most important DO NOT is DO NOT stress. Don’t stress about what you think your child should know by now or what your neighbors kid or other family members kid can or cannot do. Just relax, they’ll get there and there is probably some things your child can do or will be able to do that their child can’t.
The second is DO NOT spend crazy amounts of money on a curriculum for a child that young, they don’t need it. Starting this young with formal schooling can actually have the opposite effect and crush that natural curiosity that all children possess. Think about all your child has accomplished up until now without ANY formal education or training: Walking, talking, running, maybe even colors, numbers, shapes and letters. Do they know what sounds animals make and can they identify different anima;s or objects? I could go on forever, but the point is, all of these things were learned just by living, exploring and observing the world around them.
I do not plan on doing any type of formal education with Emily until she is about 7. OMG WHAT???? She will be SO far BEHIND! Calm down, I’m not worried and nor should you be. Why? I didn’t say she wont learn anything, I said no formal education. Even if she is behind, studies have shown that starting formal education later has absolutely no effect on how well kids learn and has actually shown that kids who start later can catch up to their mainstream schooled counterparts and often fly past them!
Check out these articles for some more information on studies that have been done on the benefits of starting school later:
Ok, so, by now you’re asking me, so what on Earth do I do with my kid?! That list is also endless, but here are some of my favorite things.
#1: Read to your Child: It is never too early to read to your little one. There is no need to struggle with them to sit still or quiet in your lap while you read them a story. Just sit near them while they play or eat and let them listen in their own way. Don’t feel like reading out loud? Audiobooks are a great alternative. Kids can learn so much from listening to and eventually looking at books with you from language to math, science and even history! Here are a few of Emily’s favorites to get you started:(contains affiliate links, clicking the gray link will lead you to where you can purchase these items, will not change the cost or shopping experience to you in any way and will help our family to continue to bring you fun and informative content!)
Usborne Books and More That’s Not My….. Book series are incredible and durable touch and feel board books. They have so many titles in the series there is something guaranteed to interest your little one. What’s even more awesome, Usborne has a lifetime 50% replacement policy. If at ANY time during the life of the book, it gets destroyed, contact your representative and Usborne will replace your book for only 50% of the original purchase price. What other company will do that?
Nibbles the Book Monster. Another Usborne Favorite. Emily loves turning the pages and finding nibbles and seeing him wreak havoc in the other stories. You can even get your own Nibbles plushie! All 3 of my kids fight over him lol. They all want Nibbles. Who can blame them? He’s absolutely adorable! Other Usborne Books Emily enjoys and asks to read again and again are: Bears don’t Read, Shine-A-Light Series,
The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library. A great non fiction series based on the PBS Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That television series and has more books in the series than I can count on all different topics. THey’re fun because they take your child on an adventure with the Cat in the Hat and he explains it in a fun and rhyming way that is easy to understand and you can’t help but remember them!
I could go on FOREVER about awesome books for kids, so I think I’ll stop here for now and create another post specifically about favorite books. However I am going to toss this in here. My mom just bought Emily (3-1/2 years old) a Leap Frog Tag Reading Pen System and she LOVES it! There are times she has actually chosen her tag and books over her iPad! Definitely worth looking into. She loves that she can control what she does and she can have the pen read the words to her or touch the pictures and something happens.
#2 Play Games & Do Craft Activites: Playing games is an awesome way for kids to learn, but some games geared towards small children can be boring and even frustrating for adults as kids navigate and learn how to play. Here is a list of games to start with that are typically well tolerated even by adults!
Candyland: I recommend this one I purchased a different one from Target a while ago and it was in a smaller box. It was a “newer” version of the game we remember but, in this case, newer was definitely NOT better, it folded more, meaning my 3 year old broke it in a matter of days and I was disappointed to discover that the “new” version was also significantly shorter.
Sequence for Kids: This one is a fun game, You only have to handle 3 cards at a time and the goal is to get 4 in a row. Really easy to match them up as the picture on the card looks just like the one on the board.
Race to the Treasure: We love cooperative games! It’s so much fun watching my kids working together rather than fighting over the winner! This one is easy, doesn’t require any reading or counting. You take turns building the path to the treasure and collecting keys before the troll reaches the treasure.
Again, there is so many great board games out there and I don’t want to overwhelm and make this post a million miles long so I will make this a series and make a post specific to preschool games.
Don’t discount the benefits of screen time: I’m all for limiting screen time. I’m also really bad at enforcing this lol. That being said, we do have certain videos and shows we encourage our 3 year old to watch and feel they are not only educational but entertaining and help us have a few moments to focus on other chores or tasks such as dishes, laundry, helping our other 2 kids with a task or project and maybe even grab a moment or 2 of *GASP* the ever elusive peace.
Leap Frog Videos: Emily loves watching these animated videos that teach kids about letters, numbers, reading and math. YOu can find them inexpensively on itunes HERE and they can easily travel on phone or tablet. Or you can get the DVD’s HERE on Amazon.
Signing Time: All 3 of my kids loved and benefited from these DVD’s. They’re fun to watch and teaches kids the start of another language! My kids watched these from around 2 months old and still watch them today! You can buy the DVD’s or rent from Amazon HERE. Unfortunately, they aren’t available on itunes.
Go on an Adventure! Learning doesn’t have to be expensive. It can be as simple as going for a walk around the neighborhood or to a local park. Check out local museums, state and national parks, playgrounds. Barring serious safety concerns, don’t be afraid to let them make a mess and try something you know is too difficult for them. If we don’t fail, we can’t learn.
Workbooks are the absolute bottom of my list: Yes, they’re cool and there are so many to choose from. We have a ton for Emily to choose from if she wants to but we don’t push them. There will be plenty of time for that later. For now, just ENJOY! Enjoy your child and your time together and watching the wonder in their eyes as they see things for the first time, master new skills and discover new interests.