First of all, I’d like to define our terms here. Technically we could say that from the first moment we start teaching our children anything (even telling them “no” when they want to pull on the lamp cord) we’re “homeschooling.” For instance, I know some homeschooling parents will say that they’ve been homeschooling “since birth.”
But that is not what I’m talking about. I’m also not talking about potty training or teaching our kids to tie their shoes. I’m discussing what would be thought of as more traditional “schoolwork.”
And I’d like to discuss whether this is even necessary.
I always scratch my head at the parents who are frustrated because their preschooler doesn’t love workbooks and won’t cooperate with their homeschooling plans. If your child doesn’t want to do schoolwork at age 3, then don’t do schoolwork!
On the other hand, if they have older siblings and show an interest in more formal schooling, then go ahead and buy them a workbook or two (I’ll recommend some products you might find helpful in a minute).
The bottom line to me, however, is that it’s simply not necessary to do formal schooling with your preschooler. But informal, educational opportunities abound! Why not do those?
I used a variety of informal educational tools with my youngest child which I want to recommend here. Figure out what fits your preschooler…and do THAT!
Leapfrog DVD’s – Leapfrog has two phonics DVD’s (the “Letter Factory” and the “Talking Words Factory”) that do a fabulous job of introducing your child to phonics in a fun, informal way. In fact, these DVD’s were the only phonics “instruction” my youngest had and he was reading at the age of four. However, I will note that he was precocious with words and there is no guarantee that your child will be reading at four just from watching these DVD’s. But they certainly can’t hurt and they are a relatively inexpensive investment. Leapfrog also has numerous electronic toys that might be worth your while, but I’m not familiar with all of them so I can’t comment on those. But I would certainly check them out if I still had a preschooler in the house.
Explode the Code – If your preschooler is actually interested in sitting down with a workbook (as some with older siblings are) then I recommend the Explode the Code series and specifically the “Get Ready, Get Set and Go for the Code” workbook series. It will offer a fantastic introduction to phonics and you’ll probably be surprised at how much your child will learn.
Signing Time – If you have any interest in your child learning sign language, these DVD’s are the cutest thing and a great tool for your preschooler. My guess is you’ll learn quite a bit of sign language yourself. If you want the lessons to stick, you’re going to need a more formal program when your child is older, but for preschoolers this program can’t be beat.
Little Einstein’s DVD’s – If you have a preschooler, you’re probably already aware of this series. My youngest loved these and they actually are quite educational.
Magic School Bus – These DVD’s and books were also a favorite of my son. Again, they are entertaining while actually being truly educational as well.
Christian Liberty Press Readers – If your child has an affinity for words, as my youngest did, and they are making progress with their phonics, then you might want to give these readers a try. They are very phonetically based and not an expensive investment.
I Can Read Series – I love the “I Can Read” series of books which presents familiar characters, as well as historical figures, in readers that start at a very basic reading level and work their way up. I bought a number of these for my kids and they are a great addition to any phonics program. You can find some of these books at the library, or purchase them for your home library (they’re not expensive). I can’t say enough good things about this series. Give it a try!
Finally, don’t forget that some kids are just not going to be ready to learn phonics (or to do any formal schooling) before age 5 or 6. Don’t push it. You’ll just end up frustrating yourself and your child. And washable markers, construction paper and sidewalk chalk are just as important tools for your child’s education. Above all, enjoy this age…it goes by so fast!