When my son turned two years old, I was faced with something I wasn’t expecting at his young age…a STRONG desire for learning! I know children are inherently curious, but this was different…he was asking about letters, wanted to know more about them and begged me to tell him more! I was suddenly faced with a strange dilemma…do I nurture this want for learning? How in the world do I do that? Do I follow his pace and just make it fun? Do I break out the workbooks and lesson plans and start ‘schooling’ him?
So, how early can you start homeschooling? I knew I wanted to nurture my son’s natural curiosity, but still allow him to just BE a two year old! I searched the internet for simple ideas on where I could start. I quickly began to see that there were not many preschool homeschoolers out there at the time, or at least ones that I could FIND! I finally found a website that focused on a letter each week as the ‘curriculum’ (much like the Lesson Pathways Pre-K Language Arts Guided Journey). I know many people are probably cringing right now…curriculum…at age TWO?! What is she thinking?! Each week had a specific ‘theme’ that we focused on and learned about. It was also matched up with a specific letter, number and color/shape to learn that week. My son liked it…for a few weeks anyway!
After we spent about 4 weeks on the ‘program’, I could tell he really wanted to do his own thing. He still wanted to learn, but he had no desire for ME to tell him WHAT to learn. I started to think: “What did I do wrong? He was WANTING to learn…Why is he not interested?” Well, the answer was simple. He DID want to learn, he just wanted to learn in his OWN way. He didn’t want me to teach him about cows when he was really more interested in firetrucks that week! So, at that point, I totally switched gears and we focused on learning what HE wanted to learn when he wanted! I hadn’t ‘forced’ anything on him in the previous weeks, but I could tell he just wasn’t interested. The very next week, we moved on to learning about transportation and I found great crafts and fun projects to do that were ALL about trains, planes and cars…he LOVED it! I still kept the general ‘idea’ that the program had as far as using a letter, number and color/shape to go with the ‘theme’ of the week, but the ‘theme’ was picked by my son, NOT by me! Even my experience as a preschool teacher didn’t prepare me for this life lesson. I already knew that each child was different and learned in their own way…but it never truly made SENSE until that moment. How soon YOU want to start will also depend on your definition of homeschooling. In my opinion, you have been ‘homeschooling’ your child since birth. You are teaching them the life lessons they need to know for future skills.
There is no magic early age when children are ready for workbooks or history lessons. Sure, you can teach your child to read at an extremely early age…but is it what you want…better yet, is it what your CHILD wants? There are a ton of great resources out there for those of you who have children that are showing a great interest in learning letters, shapes, etc. My son, to this day, still loves learning with ‘themes’. One week, he will be extremely interested in learning about animal homes, so I will find everything I can on the subject and just introduce it to him. Some projects he LOVES, and others he can do without. There is nothing wrong with exposing your children to learning new things at ANY age, but it should never be forced. If your son/daughter is suddenly showing interest in learning about firetrucks, you could find out if your local fire station is allowing field trips or see if they will let you stop in and just take a look at the truck! You can make letter pictures with firefighters and firetrucks. The color you focus on that week is easy…RED! The possibilities are endless, and you already know your child will be interested in what you have to say because you are talking about something THEY are already interested in!
One of my favorite quotes explains it all: “What we want to see is the child in pursuit of knowledge, not knowledge in pursuit of the child.” — George Bernard Shaw
Keeping that thought in mind, there is no age that’s too early to start learning. We are always learning and always growing. Your job is to continue to expose your child to new experiences and new learning adventures. The time for reading and writing and math will all come on their own when they start grade work! A child who truly wants to learn about counting will learn to count much faster than a child who has no interest, but is expected to learn it at an early age. You will be amazed at how quickly you start seeing learning in the every day…math lessons at the grocery store, or even counting jelly beans or M&M’s. I think you will find that if you let your child sit in the drivers seat of early learning, they will learn much more than you ever imagined they could!
Photo. Stuart Miles