It doesn’t take being in a homeschool group, either online or in real life, to hear concerns about curriculum for 4-year-olds. Or maybe you are introduced to the “homeschooling” mom and her oldest child is 2. Trust me, it happens.
However, I want to caution you to not buy into this way of thinking. Preschool is not a requirement, and beyond the possibility that it is useless, mounting evidence shows that it can even be harmful.
Parents everywhere worry about keeping their child on track, and even worse, worry their 4-year-old will fall “behind.” Do you think our grandmothers worried about their toddler being behind? Where does this idea of “behind” even originate?
Unfortunately, preschool in American seems to be here to stay, so no wonder moms everywhere think they should be creating lesson plans for their youngsters. However, let’s examine the idea of preschool and decide if this is a system we need to model in our homes?
Do we need to homeschool preschool?
Earlier is Better
It wasn’t that long ago that even Kindergarten was considered optional. I attended Kindergarten for half a day, which was probably only 2 hours or so each day. From what I recall, most of our time was spent being read to, some cutting and pasting, and then mad dashes to the toys.
Outside we would play red rover and push each other in this big, round, open ball so they were tossed all around. Certainly, both of these activities are considered much too dangerous for today’s children.
Just as so many of us cling to the bigger is better philosophy, we also have begun to believe that earlier is better. If you can read, write, and add at four years old, of course, that’s a good thing! Why should that presumption be questioned? By learning those things earlier, our kids will be smarter, right?
Head Start launched in 1965 and was intended to be a summer program helping low-income students prepare to begin school, but as with most things, in 1981 it expanded to a full-time program which now even encompasses newborns.
But word got out. Everyone began to ask, “if preschool is so beneficial for low-income children, shouldn’t it be even more beneficial for my children?”
So the rise in private preschools and preschool attendance began. Unfortunately, this is a trend that has yet to reverse, though the development of forest schools gives me hope.
As Americans often do, we ignore information that doesn’t validate our beliefs or has economic ramifications. Study after study has shown that early preschool does have a benefit for low-income children, but even then, the benefit evaporates by 3rd grade.
Additionally, early academic training has even been shown to cause long-term adverse effects on creativity and critical thinking. This causes me concern because we were once a nation of big ideas and amazing innovation, yet we now seem to be more interested in test scores and standardization than ever before.
Changing Nature of the Homeschool Preschool
My oldest will be 17 in a few days, and she has always been homeschooled. When she was preschool age, all the talk was of getting kids in the “right” preschool to get into Harvard. This was all nonsense to me even then, so she played.
At that time, there wasn’t even a big push for “homeschool preschool,” it just wasn’t a thing. This was before bloggers and ideas filled Pinterest with preschool printables and STEM ideas.
However, as homeschooling has become more mainstream and millions of ideas are at our fingertips, suddenly everyone thinks they need to have a curriculum to homeschool preschool. Personally, I don’t think you ever “need” a curriculum, but you especially don’t for your four-year-old.
But I also realize many parents are taking a significant risk and facing criticism when they decide to homeschool, and formalizing preschool is often a way to ease their worries and deflect negativity from relatives.
Here’s the deal, homeschooling takes a lot of courage and fearlessness, so start developing those traits when the stakes are low. There is no reason to formally homeschool preschool. Let it go.
Homeschool Preschool Through Life
It is hard to do, but try to imagine being four years old.
How many activities have you never encountered?
How many picture books have you not read?
How many dandelions have you not picked?
Living in and experiencing the world provides preschoolers with everything they need. Do they need number worksheets and flashcards? No, they figure out math concepts quickly when faced with a package of popsicles to divide evenly with their siblings.
Trips to the library provide ample opportunity to see the importance of letters and words. Visits to the park give little ones STEM activities without the cost and mess.
There aren’t many years in our life when we can crouch down and use our youthful vision to watch the workings of an ant colony. Use them wisely.
Play: The Only Homeschool Preschool Curriculum You Need
New homeschooling moms are excited, and they want to get started, I know because I was once that new homeschooling mom. I remember ordering all the kindergarten books for my just turned 5-year old daughter and quickly abandoning them when they brought tears of frustration from us both.
So here’s an idea: save your time, save your money, and save everyone’s sanity by foregoing the contrived preschool activities and worksheets.
If you want to be creative, stay in part a child, with the creativity and invention that characterizes children before they are deformed by adult society. -Jean Piaget
They will enter adult society soon enough; it can’t be stopped. Surely we can provide them with a few more years of childhood play.
The question is, are we brave enough to try?