Encouragement Corner: Should My Child Go to Preschool?

Encouragement Corner posts are sort of a mini-seminar for the busy moms who can’t spare the time or expense to go to a major homeschooling conference, but who still need answers to their biggest questions. We’ll be grouping a few of the most-often-recommended articles around a central issue and making those articles easier to share on Pinterest by adding a photo or graphic as needed.

I’m seeing a disturbing trend. More and more families are sending their babies off to preschool at younger and younger ages—sometimes as young as two years old. Now tell me what skills a preschool teacher could possibly impart to two- or three-year-olds that Mom couldn’t do better, faster, and cheaper? Spare me the argument that Mom has to work—that’s another topic for another day (besides, that simply means that the preschool is a more expensive version of day-care, yet another topic for yet another day). I’m really confused by why any parent would think a child of 2 or 3 needs preschool, or why that parent needs to shell out their hard-earned paycheck for someone else to teach their child of 2 or 3 to identify the red ball or the blue square or to count to 10 or sing Old MacDonald Had a Farm.

Yes, my children did both attend preschool, but not at age 2 or even 3, and if I could do it over again, I wouldn’t send them anywhere. My daughter was 4, my son was 5 (late birthday), and they each went for only one year before moving on to Kindergarten. (We also weren’t planning to homeschool at that time, and homeschooling hadn’t even become legal in our state yet.) I’m not sure that my kids gained anything from their preschool experiences—my daughter’s preschool teacher remarked that she often felt that she didn’t need to show up, since my child was a suitable substitute. My son’s preschool class included our friends’ brother-sister twins, who had just turned 3, and my son could be a teensy bit resentful at times that those little kids were in his school class. It was a small class with a wide age range, but there is a huge difference between what 3-year-olds can do and understand and what 5-year-olds can do and understand.

I had sent my kids to preschool as preparation for Kindergarten, for the group experiences of sitting in circles and learning to wait for their turn. As it turned out, I shouldn’t have wasted the money—they were already much better prepared than most of their classmates. The things we had done at home as normal childhood playing were excellent preparation for preschool, for Kindergarten, and for learning in general. I had been holding them in my lap for “story time” from the moment they could focus on a picture book, and it was our daily settling-down session before naptime. I talked about the pictures and pointed out colors and shapes and girls and boys and bears and mice and bowls and hats long before my babies knew what I was talking about, but they loved the lap time, and they learned vocabulary and language, as well as colors, shapes, animals, and objects. We had played games at home, and they had learned to take turns, even when Mom was their only playmate. We had played make-believe with toy dishes and toy tools and dress-up clothes. We had played on swings and walked on a balance beam (a board lying flat on the ground) and climbed on monkey bars and jumped on hopscotch squares on the sidewalk. We had kicked balls, thrown balls, batted balls, rolled balls, and caught balls. We had drawn and colored and painted and sculpted and glued and cut with scissors. Seriously, what else could they possibly have learned at preschool that they didn’t already know? That Mom was too busy to spend time with them? That Mom’s job was more important than they were? That children are supposed to be shuttled off away from home and locked in an institutional classroom for so many hours each day to be looked after by strangers?

Here are the most important things to know about teaching your children:

  • Children can not learn more at school, even preschool, than they can learn at home, and no advanced degree is necessary for teaching a child to sing the alphabet song.
  •  The theory that “Everyone sends their kids to school” is mob mentality that deserves to be questioned. Why does everyone else send their kids to school? It certainly isn’t for the superior outcome.
  • The theory that “If you don’t send your kids to school, you’re trying to hold onto them as babies, and you’re afraid to let them grow up” is also flawed. I happen to think that 2- to 3-year-olds (for preschool) or even 5- or 6-year-olds (for Kindergarten) are much too young to take on the world. Those children need to be at home with Mom, discovering who they are and learning how to react to the world at large under Mom’s protective care. Yes, I’m saying it blatantly: children need to be kept under Mom’s wing until they are ready to be on their own. It certainly didn’t hurt George Washington or Abraham Lincoln or Thomas Edison (or countless others throughout history who didn’t go to institutional schools) to stay home with their mothers.
  • Those uncomfortable knots in your stomach do not mean that you will succumb to loneliness and despair during the 2 ½-3 hours while Little Darling is gone to Preschool each day. That anxiety is trying to tell you that sending your little one off to school is a bad idea in general. Preschool is essentially a “gateway drug” to get parents accustomed to the idea of giving up their children to the control of the institution—why else do you think it’s being pushed for younger and younger children?
  • Yet another theory says “That school has good teachers—their values are just like yours.” I had 30+ different teachers and administrators from Kindergarten through 12th grade, and very few of them portrayed the value system I have now. There may have been a small handful of them who were concerned about me personally for the brief period when I was under their authority, but the system in general defeated any efforts on their part to connect with me. My kids had more than 15 different teachers in only 6 years at church-sponsored preschools and public schools, and the values exhibited by most of those teachers were dramatically different from our family’s values.
  • Mommies are excellent teachers, primarily because they are the mommies of their students. Mommies can tell instinctively when their child is bored, tired, hungry, or jealous, and can tell which of those feelings is responsible for him acting out.
  • A child’s home usually has a ready supply of educational equipment, including building blocks, measuring cups, and empty bathroom tissue tubes.
  • Anything else you need to know can be found in the following articles.

Preschool Is Not Brain Surgery
Social Skills—What Should I Teach My Preschooler?
Preschoolers’ Educational School-Time Activities
Teaching with Preschoolers Around… and Under… and on Top… and Beside
The Importance of Play in Education
The Value of Supplemental Activities
“Stealth Learning” Through Free Play
Don’t overlook this one—even though it says Kindergarten, it is equally applicable to Preschool…
Time for Kindergarten Round-Up?
And finally…
The Myth of Age-Mates

Encouragement Corner: What About Writing Assignments?

Encouragement Corner is a new feature here at Guilt-Free Homeschooling, sort of a mini-seminar for the busy moms who can’t spare the time or expense to go to a major homeschooling conference, but who still need answers to their biggest questions. We’ll be grouping a few of the most-often-recommended articles around a central issue and making those articles easier to share on Pinterest by adding a photo or graphic as needed.

I don’t believe in writing assignments. There, I said it. I never liked creative writing, story writing, or other frivolous paragraphs, essays, or compositions, so I didn’t force my students to write them either. What I used instead was reading — lots of reading, and grammar lessons. I only held a formal reading class during the learning-to-read stage, and once my kids were reading fluently by themselves, I let them choose their own pleasure reading to serve as an unstructured subject. Since they each spent as much (if not more) time telling me about what they had read than it actually took them to read it, I wasn’t at all worried about their reading or comprehension skills. Relaxing with a book at bedtime was a great way to unwind from the day, and it didn’t feel to them like yet another academic endeavor.

I frequently read aloud to them, and they read to themselves from a variety of sources (fiction, non-fiction, poetry, biography; books, magazines, newspapers, web articles, etc.), giving them vast understanding of many different types of writing. Exposure to a multitude of authors showed them how any given genre could be handled in a multitude of ways. My students loved some authors’ writing styles enough to read everything they could find by those authors. Other authors’ writing styles were so cumbersome and awkward that they closed the book and moved on with no regrets for not finishing.

As my students matured and developed their own voice (meaning personal thoughts and opinions) on various topics, they were able to express them coherently, in part because they had read how others had expressed ideas through the written word. Their first serious writing assignments came from a composition class at the local college (taken during their Senior year of high school), where the teachers were impressed with their writing abilities. They could write good summations of their reading and research, because they were already accustomed to reading and evaluating, and the results were scholarly compositions.

By skipping several years of trivial paragraph-writing, my students had been able to read a wide variety of sources. They had learned how to form their opinions into logical arguments. Their minds weren’t cluttered with topic sentences and formulaic outlines. They were able to reproduce any type of composition just by reading it and analyzing the key components. They had read good writing, they had found a voice, and they had many interests which afforded them numerous topics for their composition needs. Delaying the writing assignments worked very well for us.

Linked below are our most commonly recommended articles on writing (as composition, not to be confused with handwriting), to help you decide how to tackle this topic in your homeschool.

Tests, Book Reports, and Other Un-necessities 

Teaching Spelling (and Grammar) Through Reading and Listening

Grammar with Giggles, Mad Libs Style

How Did You Learn to Write? 

How to Adapt Lessons to Fit Your Student’s Interests and Make Learning Come Alive 

Encouragement Corner: My Student Is Trying, but Just Not Learning as Expected

Encouragement Corner is a new feature here at Guilt-Free Homeschooling, sort of a mini-seminar for the busy moms who can’t spare the time or expense to go to a major homeschooling conference, but who still need answers to their biggest questions. We’ll be grouping a few of the most-often-recommended articles around a central issue and making those articles easier to share on Pinterest by adding a photo or graphic as needed.

This is a question we hear frequently. Mom is presenting the subject well, but Student just isn’t picking up on the material, no matter how hard he tries. What’s going wrong?

This problem usually can be attributed to moving ahead too quickly. The student may have been understanding everything quickly up to a certain point, but when that point was reached, he continued on at the same break-neck pace as before, not fully realizing that he had missed something important. As further lessons depended on the missing concept(s), the student became confused, began to work more slowly, and couldn’t catch on to the new material, regardless of how diligently he persevered. I call these “educational potholes,” because the missing information creates a serious bump in the road to progress.

The way to get back on track is to back up and fill in the pothole, but it’s not always obvious where that hole is or what went wrong to create it. A skill can be lacking due to a mix-up or confusion over the information, teaching materials that present the facts incorrectly or insufficiently, moving too quickly and assuming the child is ready to proceed, or from presenting the information in a learning style that is contrary to how the student learns best. The articles linked below will give you some good pointers for checking what your student knows and finding exactly where the insufficient skill is located. Once you’ve found the problem, you can focus on helping your student learn that information correctly. Some of the potholes we found could be explained away in a matter of minutes, while others took a few days or even weeks to adequately reteach (in the case of material not learned in public school that was relearned through homeschooling).

Sometimes we adults don’t remember just how difficult it was for us to learn new things, such as reading, handwriting, or arithmetic. Some of the articles below break those subjects down into smaller segments to help you teach your students one important step at a time.

The most important point to remember in this process is that finding a pothole is a good thing! Your student was obviously hampered by the missing skill, and once he has mastered it, he will be able to catch up very quickly.

For further tips, see:

Meatball Education: Filling in the Potholes of Public School

Handwriting — Beginning Techniques

Why Does Math Class Take SO LONG? 

Building Blocks for Success in Math

Building Blocks for Success in Spelling

Looking for the Hard Part

Learning Styles