I’m joining in once again with the iHomeschool Network’s “10 in 10” Blog Hop topic for Top Ten Tuesday @ Many Little Blessings.
This week’s Last week’s topic is “10 pieces of advice you would give to a new homeschooler.” (I started this one last week and ended up with a different post instead!).
People come into homeschooling at a variety of points in their kids’ educational journey, but I feel most “qualified” to offer advice to those who find themselves in the same boat I was in — families who decide to homeschool while their oldest child is a preschooler (or even younger).
As I mentioned in my “Top 10” post two weeks ago, we discussed homeschooling as an educational path we wanted to pursue before we were even married. Needless to say, I was a super-excited-future-homeschooler by the time Miss M was about two years old! Friends gave me some good advice, and I learned a few things along the way that I wish I could go back and tell my six-years-ago-self or friends who are in the same spot:
1. Relax and enjoy. This sounds like something that should be the culmination of a list like this, but I wanted to start with it because it’s so important. Keep the preschool/kindergarten years fun! You aren’t going to “mess up” your child if you don’t use the perfect preschool program. You will have plenty of time for serious academic pursuits as they get older, so don’t get too stressed out about it now!
2. Don’t compare. One child may be ready to read at four, while another isn’t ready to read until age six or later. Your neighbor’s kid or some blogger’s kid may be adding and subtracting at age three while your kid can’t even count to ten. Maybe you’re the one doing the happy dance that your kindergartener just figured out multiplication, yet you are puzzled as to why his handwriting is barely legible. It’s okay. Every child develops differently, even within the same family. Kids may be ready to excel in one area while developing typically in another. Follow your child’s cues. Give your child the “work” they are ready for. Are you trying to teach your child the letter sounds but he runs off to play with his cars instead? Don’t sweat it, he might not be interested right now. But if she is constantly asking you to “do math” or he is asking about learning to read, go for it. Don’t worry about the age you are “supposed” to do those things.
3. Don’t fall for “parlor tricks”. Maybe this isn’t so popular any more, but when Miss M was a toddler/preschooler I felt like every mom was trying to “show off” what their kid could do. One could recite the alphabet at 18 months. Another kid could count to 100 at age three. Some kids had gobs of poems and Bible verses memorized in Kindergarten. It’s not those little “tricks” at a young age that matter when it comes to being a good student and a lifelong learner as your kids get older! I don’t think knowing the alphabet at 18 months is any indicator as to whether or not a kid is going to be an early reader. It’s fine to teach kids those skills and have them memorize/learn to recite various things (especially if they love to do it)…but it’s not the end-all-be-all of preschool. Reading books and doing fun, hands on activities together is probably a better use of time.
4. Read and Research. Channel your passion for homeschooling into learning as much as you can right now, so you are knowledgeable to make decisions as your kids get older and you really do need to chose curricula for the 3 R’s and more. There are tons of great books, informational websites and blogs out there to help you learn in your homeschooling journey. While your kids are young is a great time to explore different styles and methods of homeschooling as well as the many curricula available.
5. Try out curricula/methods you find interesting. You don’t really need a curriculum in the preschool years. You even only need a few basic things for Kindergarten. But, it can also be a good time to try out some curriculum products to find out what you might like or dislike. If it wouldn’t have been for trying out the Bright Beginnings preschool curriculum when Miss M was four, I might not have realized until she was older than an all-in-one curriculum is not my style. I didn’t want to have to stay “on the same page” in all subjects. If I wouldn’t have tried Saxon Math K in the few months before Miss M was in Kindergarten, I might not have known that a spiral math program would drive me crazy. It’s much easier to switch things up and make changes during preschool/K than it is as your child gets older and you may have more concerns about sticking to a certain sequence in a curriculum. One nice thing about most homeschool products is you can find resale opportunities pretty easily, whether locally through swap meets and buy/sell email lists, or on the internet through homeschoolclassifieds.com or various message boards.
6. Be sure to check out the many free printables for the preschool and Kindergarten years available on the internet. Not all these activites may be your child’s cup of tea, but I know I wish more of these would have been available when my oldest was a preschooler. A few sites to check out include:
7. Enjoy the flexibility you have with your time. Once you hit the elementary years, the reality is you’ll have to spend more time regularly doing school. While some families are sucessful at homeschooling even if they are on the go every day, most families find they need to have consistent time at home most days for getting school done. Preschool, on the other hand, doesn’t need to be that way! You can much more easily drop everything for spontaneous field trips and playdates. If you want to read all day, go for it. It won’t be quite so easy to do that once you are in the world of spelling lists and 4 digit subtraction problems. 🙂
8. Build your network of homeschooling friends. Homeschooling is so much easier when you have friends to share the journey with you. If you don’t already have a network of homeschooling friends, now is the time to check out play groups, co-ops, support groups and more. If you aren’t finding something in your area that is open to younger kids, why not start your own informal group? It doesn’t have to be fancy — try making an announcement on local homeschooling email lists (if you don’t know of any, check yahoo groups as a place to begin your search), and you’ll probably find other parents of preschoolers who are planning to homeschool and want to make connections.
9. Read, read, read to your child! It can’t be said often enough — your child will learn so much as you read to him or her!
10. Have fun with all the topics and activities that are most enjoyed in the tot, preschool and kindergarten years! The library is brimming with fun books and the internet bursting with ideas to have fun with topics from Astronauts to Zebras and everything in between. Find out what your child is interested and have fun learning about those topics!
What do you wish you could “go back and tell yourself” in the early years?