I have a confession to make: I started homeschooling my firstborn Henry when he was just three years old.
Now, I don’t actually believe that three-year-olds need to “do school.” (And I definitely do not mean to say that three-year-olds who don’t do formal lessons are behind—far from it!) Looking back, I think the main reason I started was because I was excited. I’d already researched homeschooling for over a year, and I couldn’t wait to begin homeschooling for real. Plus, I was desperate for something to think about besides Thomas the Tank Engine and my newborn daughter’s sleep schedule.
Five years later, I smile a little at my eager new-homeschooler self. But, when my daughter Elizabeth turned three, I did it again. I was a lot more relaxed this time around. Most of her “school time” was spent tagging along with her big brother’s read-alouds and science experiments, but I did sit down with her for fifteen minutes of gentle games and academic activities most weekdays. By then, I had seen enough benefits from starting to “do school” early that I wanted to try it again.
Reasons to Start Homeschool Preschool
Many homeschoolers worry that starting academics early will make their kids feel stressed and cause them not to love learning—and these are valid concerns! But my experience shows that it’s possible to start academics on the early side without creating burnt-out kids (or parents). Even now, five years later, I continue to see the benefits that we’ve reaped from starting school on the early side.
Since Henry was three, we’ve started every weekday during the school year with read-alouds on the couch and then some academic work at a table. This means that my kids can’t even remember a time when we didn’t start our day with school. Now, the habit is so ingrained that it feels downright strange to not begin the day this way. I’m grateful for this every morning as we go to the couch and transition to school time whining. (At least, most days!)
Meeting Your Preschooler’s Needs
Preschoolers love undivided attention, mastering new skills, and feeling like they’re BIG. Early homeschooling gives them all three. Both of my three-year-olds adored their school time, because it meant they could spend focused time with me. For my firstborn, doing school with me gave him the one-on-one time he needed to avoid feeling jealous of how much attention his new baby sister was getting. And my second-born couldn’t wait to be big enough to do school just like her big brother!
Taking the Pressure Off
Ironically, while starting early seems like it would lead to stressed-out parents and kids, I’ve actually found the opposite. Spreading early academics over several years removes any pressure to master certain skills by a certain time. Doing this from the start has helped set an overall relaxed tone for our homeschool. Because my kids started working on the basics early, we have plenty of time now for the fun “extras” of homeschooling: poetry and art appreciation, trips to the museum and bike rides. We only do school in the morning most days, and we take the summer almost entirely off. Investing fifteen minutes per day with my preschoolers has proved to have a huge pay-off.
Would you like simple, playful math activities to get your own preschooler off to a great start in math? Check out my book, Preschool Math at Home. Based on the activities I used with my own kids, it will show you how to give your young kids a great foundation with numbers in just five minutes a day.