Recently, I posted some of my deliberations about curricula or lack thereof for children of ‘preschool’ age. A very wise friend of mine (one of those women that every young mother wishes she had in her life) emailed me with some very encouraging, simple and practical advice. With her permission, I am drawing from that email to share with the readers of this blog:
God is SO gracious and has brought some joy and fruit from our feeble attempts to bring our children up glorifying Him and living for Him. But there are so many other things we see in their lives that are not the way we would choose, and yet in some cases it is now (apart from prayer and more grace!) out of our hands and control and I see how short and precious every opportunity was that we had with them when they were younger, and thank God that we had them in our care even though we did NOT do the job right or faithfully all the time/so much of the time.
You were talking about preschool curriculum, and I didn’t follow any of the links you put up, but just read your writing about it. Really, I think so much that if you are WITH your boys, that you talk to them, answer their questions, follow leads of things that interest them, read to them, teach them about God, discipline them, and love them....you are on the best ever curriculum. I’m not just saying that to sound cute, but YOU are with them, and you are answering their questions and reading to them, opening their minds to understand the science and geography and even history around them, you are teaching when their ability to comprehend is begging for it, and filling their minds with TRUTH and beauty and “beating out” the things that are not!!
Their deep emotional needs are to be connected, secure and safe and loved by you and your husband and you are providing that all the time. You just can’ begin to imagine all that is doing for them...actually you probably CAN because you know how it was not to have all those things in your life. God gave them parents and its more than obvious that that is their biggest need at this age-and the emotional health and security they get just from you BEING there is HUGE!! Sometimes in the past couple of years my older kids have commented how they realise by getting to know other kids their age, how messed up they are and how their parents have been distant, career minded, divorced or other sad things, and suddenly they have seen WHY that person is battling with life, and sad or messed up in some way, and have so appreciated that we have been strong parent influences and committed to them as they have been growing up-it is so obvious the strength that has given them, even though we have not agreed with them about everything etc, they can already appreciate the positive effect this has had on them. And I think most of the strength it gives children is not even tangible to them, but its forever.
But as far as “education” goes, you know, the thing is that YOU of all people know exactly what they can manage and absorb, because you are with them and know them so well...so you can follow leads that are applicable to YOUR child, and even if you find something called a curriculum, you would still pick and choose what is helpful, interesting and at a level suited to YOUR child, so in the end you are doing your own thing with them. I have 2 little 2 year old friends and they are both ADORABLE little boys but they are so different in what they are interested in! One can pretty much “do” and recognise and figure out anything at all to do with the alphabet, and counts into hundreds and really is thrilled with that! And recite all his books!! But the other would be bored stiff if you tried to make him learn that stuff!! But he knows about baking and lions and Thomas the tank engine...and other things! You know all that...!
But really, the closest I would get to a curriculum would be to do as you have done and now and then read through a list of things that a curriculum would aim to achieve, like learning manners and colours, and catching a ball...or whatever, and see if there are the odd ideas in there that you hadn’t thought of doing, just for inspiration for your boys’ activities! I remember asking a good friend about preschool things and him saying that I should not feel guilty when my friends kids came home from pre school with “amazing” boxes glued together and painted, and that there was a limit to the useful things you could achieve with a class of 20 three year olds, so painting boxes was a crowd activity that could be managed by one poor teacher, whereas being at home with your own children you could do WAY more useful things than that!! AND even slap some paint on a box too if you were desperate! (it really isn’t terribly educational anyway)
Another thing I would do, especially when we were past the first few kids who would get all our attention, and who benefited because I wasn’t tied up doing school things with older siblings, I would try and do the fun craft things in a big way for Christmas, Easter and at birthday parties, so that they would get the opportunity to do them, although we could never cope with fitting them into everyday life. Turns out that my most vociferous crafter is my youngest, who got pretty close to zero help or encouragement to do craft stuff as I was just too busy....but who has all the craft supplies at her disposal and just needs me to be reading to her and she starts producing all sorts of crafts at an alarming rate!
Our school curriculum (Sonlight) didn’t do a preschool or kindergarten curriculum when I started school with the eldest two. But now they do have a curriculum, as people have begged for it- but it is basically just loads of great books! Great stories to read and sciency books to enjoy. If people ask me about school stuff for that age, I suggest that they just order all the books, put them on their shelves and read them whenever the child wants a story...until they have had enough! They are just lovely resources and are real books not “text books” or “work books”.
Also, I think hanging out at home and NOT feeling you have to dash from one activity to another is very helpful- I could see kids that did that not benefiting, whereas being home more you have to get on with your siblings, because they are always there and not always being entertained...and being a bit “bored” and having downtime to just find their own entertainment, and let their imaginations run is really important too. And of course you get the home things accomplished as well, and keep to a schedule.
I have a feeling that I am telling you everything you completely already know!! But maybe it will encourage you anyway! This morning we heard teaching from Matthew 28 v 16-20. V 18 says that Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth...and he mentioned how hugely believing this will affect our choices, our handling of our treasures, our use of time, etc etc....and it certainly effects how we love and train our children too...if Jesus IS in authority, then it SO okay to move in a direction different to those around us if Jesus calls us to, and in so many ways I was challenged (as he went on to say how we should be taking the gospel to others...) to question if Jesus’ authority over all had been and was actually changing how I was doing life – and of course feel that I am not submitting to HIS authority enough, and rather use human logic too often and seek for comfort again and again...but it so does apply to how we spend the time we have with our children, Jesus has spoken about how they should live too....and we are given the job of passing on those directives and lifestyles to them...its not easy, it gets harder...but it’s the only way!
I really wanted to share this email here, because this comes from a mother of seven whose children are all well balanced individuals, secure in who they are, able to weigh up opposite sides of a discussion and form their own view based on evidence, and are extremely well socialized. It was this family who caused me to question many of my views on home education, family and parenting. I hope it also brings encouragement to others who are at an earlier stage in the adventure.