While it’s tempting to jump into homeschooling with young children, we encourage families to give their two and three year olds lots of unstructured playtime and a stable routine they can count on. That’s the best preparation they can have for the educational journey ahead. If there are older siblings in the house, the young ones can be included in the homeschooling routine but little should be expected of them in terms of focused academic work. They benefit most from imitating practical work and exploring nature and materials on their own—this provides a solid educational foundation without any formal lessons.
At about age four, many children are ready for a little more structure to their learning. Our preschool curriculum is designed to help parents introduce arts, music, physical games, and stories in a gentle way that still respects and honors the freedom and joy of childhood. At Oak Meadow, letters and numbers are not formally introduced until kindergarten. Of course, through stories, games, songs, and nature explorations, young children may begin to become familiar with abstract academic concepts like letters, phonics, numbers, time constructs (before, next week, etc.), and scientific classification. When children absorb these things in the course of their daily explorations, the knowledge is anchored in experience, context, and relevance. Trying to teach these concepts intellectually in the early years often backfires—children are quite capable of repeating back things they have memorized but if they lack experience of the concept in the real world, the knowledge is meaningless.
For these reasons, and because children are constantly inundated with intellectual stimuli from the wider world, we urge parents to relax and enjoy the early years with their children. Turn a deaf ear to critics who worry your children will “fall behind” if they aren’t learning to read when they are three. Protect the freedom and wonder of childhood. When your children turn four or five, they will be wonderfully equipped to embrace the world of conscious learning.
In the meantime, books like All Year Round , Seven Times the Sun, A Journey Through Time in Verse and Rhyme, A Child’s Seasonal Treasury, and The Rhythm of Family are just a few of the excellent resources that are available for families of young children.