My daughter is turning four next month, and a lot of people are asking me if she’s in school already. For me it’s a strange question. It shows some well-entrenched ideas about “traditional” schooling. And the answer is no and yes. No, because our daughter does not go to a brick-and-mortar school. And yes, because we teach her at home. We’ve been doing that for almost four years now.
I’m happy that we’ve nurtured our daughter’s love for learning this early. It was a challenge for me and my husband as she is such a hyperactive preschooler. But we were delighted with the early results. She started reading simple words when she was a little over 1 1/2 years old, and was able to count up to 50, though with a lot of pauses. At a little over 2 years old, she could read simple sentences and count up to 100, but still with a lot of pauses because she’s still easily distracted.
She’s almost four now, and she can recall events that occurred long ago, what she did at that time, and who she was with. She has also memorized the dialogues of educational videos and favorite movies, and even conversations in the videos taken on our vacations. She has perfect pitch and rhythm, and she can read like a second grader now.
Did homeschooling do all that? We have no idea. But it looks like any form of consistent teaching, done in a spontaneous and fun way, can help children learn better.
Here’s why we love homeschooling:
1. We can do it anytime, anywhere. My daughter is more attentive in the late afternoon and evening, so most of our home schooling is done during that time. When we go out, we like identifying colors and vegetables in the grocery, or counting and reading anything we see. We also try to explain to her what a certain word in a signage means.
2. It encourages creativity, both for the parents and the child. If I don’t have materials, I use whatever’s at home.
3. Our topics can be as simple and as complex as we want it to be. I have a child who is very open to challenges. So, as much as possible, I create activities that make her think.
4. We sometimes play silly, yet she still learns!
5. We have a reason to shop! There’s a study that says that the more books you have in the house, the more of a reader your child will become. So I guess buying more books and other learning materials helps. You don’t actually have to buy brand new books. You can buy used books or books on sale.
6. We’re always on a field trip. Since we’re homeschooling and we have free time, we can easily go to nearby museums or catch a weekday morning concert at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Our daughter enjoys watching choral and orchestral concerts, as well as musicals. She learns best with music and she loves singing and dancing.
7. We get to play games on our computer or iPad. I know that some of you may think that exposing very young children to computers and other gadgets may be harmful. But in my experience, there are cool (and free) apps out there that really help young children learn. You may also want to consider investing in some paid apps, which usually come with a trial.
Smart Apps for Kids website has a lot of suggestions and free downloads.
8. No pressure on learning. One thing I learned is to just follow the child’s learning patterns. Like any other person, each child has his or her own temperament and moods. So if ever I prepared something and it does not go as planned, I am open to trying it out another time or in another way. It usually works after the second try.
Some things to consider about homeschooling:
1. Homeschooling is not “school at home”. It’s about taking away the traditional concept of “school.” Homeschooling takes away the structure we find in schools, but that’s why our family loves it.
2. There should be at least one parent who will dedicate time to home school.
3. Pray for the grace (and patience!) to homeschool, it may not be for everyone. A lot of patience is required, especially when you have a child as headstrong as ours.
4. One thing will not work for everyone. We have different learning curves, styles, and patterns. Be willing to experiment.
5. Take it one day at a time, but make sure to plan ahead. Today might be productive, but tomorrow may not be. You’ll need to have concrete goals and work on them, slowly but surely.
6. Parents are the first and best teachers. Children may learn a lot of things in life but the positive values and good moral behavior is first acquired from home.
About social skills, and this is one thing people worry about when it comes to homeschooling---my daughter is very sociable! As parents, we are there to teach her to respect others before anything else. Don’t forget that during the preschool age, our children should socialize with children their age. We supplement this by bringing our daughter to play with our neighbors, bringing her to church every Sunday, and sending her to play classes once in a while.
Whatever your decision, whether to homeschool or not, just remember that all of us parents have the duty to raise good human beings, not just smart ones.
Here are some online resources:
Kids Activities Blog
The Learning Basket
ABC Jesus Loves Me
Letter of the Week
This piece originally appeared on Touringkitty.
Em Alcantara is a classical singer, music educator and choir conductor. She’s also an advocate of attachment parenting and breastfeeding. She and her husband (a writer and tenor), intend to homeschool their daughter until she’s seven years old.