Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Homeschooling: Preschoolers don't count?

People keep asking if we're "going to" start homeschooling. This year everyone's been pretty nice about it when I say we already are, but when my oldest was 3 I got some pretty rude things said and things that weren't really rude but were said in a rude way, KWIM? All were said to me BY HOMESCHOOLING MOMS. Pretty much in a nutshell they were insinuating that if my kid is only 3 years old it's not REAL homeschooling and that if I WAS doing "real" homeschool with a poor little 3 year old then that's tantamount to child abuse, so either way I shouldn't try to associate with homeschoolers as though I was really a homeschooler. This originally came about when my 3 year old's favorite game of choice was to write lines and lines of random letters and then show me that she'd written "words! She asked (more like begged, hounded, harassed...) me constantly to teach her to read. I subsequently bought 100 Easy Lessons and decided to putter through it at her own pace and join the local homeschool group to start getting to know other parents and get my nerve up and curriculum ideas for whenever she was mature enough to start more subjects and/or a more regular schedule of schooling. After a very rude UNwelcome, I stopped talking about homeschooling to other homeschooling parents I knew, and I changed my mind about joining the local group, possibly until she was the apparently locally acceptable age 7 (isn't that something that depends on the kid? Are all kids exactly the same that some can't possibly be ready before or even after the magical age of 7?), and possibly permanently. I just thought it was a shame that the newbie homeschooling parents are in need of the support and everywhere I turned I was all but laughed at for calling myself a homeschooler when my oldest was only 3.

My parents didn't send me to preschool- I was basically home-preschooled by my Nana, then I went to public K, and then my mom pulled me out and homeschooled me through graduation, so despite having never done it myself I have been on the receiving end of this type of education so I have a pretty good grasp of the basics. Despite having this advantage going into it, I still felt very nervous and inadequate and it would have been nice to have local support from the beginning.
I've been thinking about that and the experience has had the positive effect on me that I now make it a point to go out of my way to encourage those parents of toddlers who are home-preschooling. I always feel like telling them, and the parents who say they could never homeschool their kids because they wouldn't be a good teacher, that they already ARE! They taught their kids how to walk and talk and use the bathroom and sing and say please and a million more things already. Just because it's not in a textbook doesn't mean it's not taught, right? Just because I'm humoring my (then) 3 year old's request to learn to read by allowing her to repeat the first 3 of the 100 Easy Lessons once a month or so does that mean I'm damaging her? Just because someone isn't using a texbook to teach their 3 or 5 or 8+ year old does that also mean that it doesn't count as homeschooling? I don't think so. I think that homeschooling is alot more of a mindset of discipleship, and an environment of constant learning opportunities, than it is a set of rules to be followed. I believe that children are very much individuals and that if you're going at the pace they need to keep learning, and they are not becoming turned-off of schooling or frustrated, then the textbook or lack thereof is irrelevant. They are not little cookies all cut from the same cookie cutter. One child might be walking at 7 months but not verbally adept until 3 years, or vice versa. Likewise some kids may be ready for books early, and some may be ready for some but not others. Some might be mathematically inclined at 3 but unable to have reading lessons really "click" until they are 9 years old. Some like my daughter might not be ready for math but are ready (and begging) to begin working on simple reading skills as toddlers.

How about you? Do you other homeschool moms make it a point to encourage the newbie homeschoolers, even if their kids are still quite little? It could mean the difference between someone giving up in discouragement/chickening out, or giving them the confidence to not give in to the pressures of whatever is the popular way to school at the time (pushing academics early or likewise in the opposite extreme hold back kids regardless of readiness signs) and just going with how their own individual kids learn best. If I had not experienced the rudeness myself then I would probably not have really ever thought about this and could have unconciously someday been laughing (good naturedly on my part and hurtfully on hers) at the young mom of preschoolers for how stressed she seemed to be over something that really is so simple hahaha and forgotten how overwhelming it seemed when I was walking in those shoes and how far a little positive encouragement would have gone. We need to remember to be gracious not only to those who don't homeschool and don't understand why we do, but also to those who are hoping to and starting to homeschool and want the encouragement and mentorship that those who have homeschooled longer can provide. If they are laughed at or mocked by those they aspire to be, how easy to want to quit and become one of the (thankfully rare) moms I have met who used to homeschool and are now bitter toward homeschooling and/or homeschoolers in general. Lets remember our words can build up or tear down and focus on building others up!