When homeschooling young children, sitting in a chair with pencil and paper is rarely the best place to start. Reading stories snuggled up on the couch is an amazing way to begin homeschooling. By that definition, I began homeschooling when my oldest was about 4 months old. We had the best board book, Pajama Time by Sandra Boynton. A friend of my mother-in-law gave us the book. I thought it was crazy to start reading so soon! However, we turned the book into a little song and our oldest loved it. It was a favorite book for all our little ones for years.
As our oldest grew, we started with numbers and letters at bath time. We would put several foam letters in the tub and help her put them in order on the tub wall. She loved doing this activity. We celebrated each letter that she knew. We never forced it, but spending time each night, adding letters little by little, before we knew it she had her alphabet down and not just the song.”LMNOP” was still a challenge to say, but since we had the individual letters, we slowed down to learn each letter as an individual. But again, this is not “let’s sit down and learn the alphabet.”
A great way to learn colors is by talking while getting dressed in the morning. “What a nice blue shirt this is,” or “Do you want to wear a red shirt?” Colors can also be learned when coloring or playing with Play-Doh. Or, maybe try to add colors to playing outside. For instance, “Can you kick the ball to the blue cone or bring me the red ball?” Find fun ways of incorporating leaning into what you are already doing.
Math at a young age is so much fun! My favorite way to learn early math involves snack time. It doesn’t matter what the snack is. Start by counting the apple slices. After they can start counting, you can add to them; then after a while, subtract them as you eat them. It can be so much fun to add an apple slice to their plate when they have already had some and then count them together. They are learning and don’t even know they are doing it.
With all of this, what age should you start homeschooling? The above ideas can begin as young as they can start talking, but only if they show interest and if you aren’t forcing it on them. If you show them letters and they are interested in learning that this letter is called “A,” then the next night add the letter “B” and put them in order “A, B.” If your child couldn’t care less, then wait a little while (6 months or so) before trying again. And if they aren’t interested in letters, they might be interested in counting, or colors, or shapes. See what your child does like and work with that. Even advanced children are RARELY ready to hold a pencil and learn to write before 4 or 5. Don’t expect children to sit down and do worksheets or traditional school until they are ready to sit still, sit down, and learn. For boys this can be as late as 8 or 9 years old;for girls its usually younger, but not always.
The beauty of homeschooling is finding your child’s passions, interest, and skills. Build at a rate that works best for each child as an individual. Start a more formal approach to education only when the child is ready to learn. A child who is older will learn at a much faster rate than a younger child who isn’t ready to learn. Make sure you are giving your babies time to be little, to learn through experiencing the world. Encourage your child. Make sure they are working at something and learning diligence, even if it is not educational. Then when they are ready to sit down with pencil in hand, they will learn much faster than those forced before they are ready.
And if you’re not sure if they are ready, pray about it. God will guide you. No parent is perfect. No homeschool is perfect. No matter what we do, we will mess up. But God is great with messes. He has taken liars, murderers, adulterers and more and used them to guide the people of Israel. Similarly, God will take our children and clean up the messes we are willing to give him and turn them into something more beautiful than we could have ever planned. But for any of this to happen, we must trust in God and more importantly, we must teach our children to trust in the ways of the LORD.