Making It Work for You
"There is no one-size-fits-all mindset and no one right way to homeschool," says Flynn Keith. "Most homeschool parents want their children to become capable, responsible, competent, compassionate, independent, happy adults—and the 'schooling' part of that equation is a rather small part of the whole."
If you are concerned about where to begin, never fear—there are a wealth of learning resources for parents exploring the idea of homeschooling their preschool- and kindergarten-aged children. Everything from ready-made curriculum packages to online courses and formal lessons. But keep in mind that it can be a mistake to offer anything too structured or academic for young kids. "Young children learn best through play and exposure to the bounty of life," suggests Flynn Keith. "Play is their work and it does produce 'academic' readiness."
The best course may be to combine a collection of learning-through-play activities with some loosely structured time for looking at books or software together, playing with number and letter blocks, or going over workbooks. This is the case for Rebecca, a stay-at-home mom homeschooling five children under the age of seven. For Rebecca, unschooling, or teaching outside of the traditional perimeters of school (without textbooks, assignments, and so on), is an important tool. "We have been homeschooling for three years now and have loved our experiences," she explains. "We are a very eclectic family, and use a combination of unschooling, some curriculum, and some classes in the community. Our autistic daughter learns best through unschooling, songs, and physical movements."
Preschoolers and kindergartners are at a distinct advantage for homeschooling. "At this age [children are] eager to learn and have fun learning," explains Lewis. But she adds an important caveat: Young children can often have difficulties sitting still for a long length of time. So be sure to incorporate lots of breaks into your homeschooling schedule.
Parents can initiate activities with their children that will inherently provide a lesson, and build a foundation of life-long learning and success. "Children can learn life skills along with some science and readiness skills by helping Mom and Dad cook and clean, or plant and harvest a garden," advises Flynn Keith. Learning through doing is a wonderful way to enjoy and share the process of learning with your child. Take nature walks together; utilize games of make-believe and role-playing; visit your local park, swimming pool, or rec center for good experience with social interaction, development of gross motor skills, and sharing. The possibilities are endless—let your imagination be your guide.