Homepreschool and Beyond

*Relationship *Routine *Readiness *Reading Aloud

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  • A Balanced Approach:

    Homepreschool and Beyond will give parents the knowledge they need to find “balance” for their family. Find out what young children need to know—and how to teach it. Gain the confidence you need to relax and enjoy those precious preschool years—and beyond.

    “Susan Lemons gives you the blueprint…”

    • 26 Chapters
    • Covers all areas of development
    • Covers all areas of curriculum
    • For a ages 2-8
    • Developmentally appropriate
    • Literature based
    • Spiritual and character building emphasis

Join Us on Facebook

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 8, 2014

Did you know that there is a “Homepreschool and Beyond” Facebook Group? If you have younger children (especially preschool through grade three) and are trying to “live the 4R’s” (relationship, routine, readiness and reading aloud) in your homepreschool/homeschool….OR, if you a “thinking about” homeschooling/homepreschooling, please join us! The purpose of the group is to provide information, support, and encouragement to families like you!! We have 99 members now, and are trying to get more than 100. Won’t you join us HERE?!

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Adult Peer Pressure and the Homeschooling Parent

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 6, 2014

Have you ever considered how much peer pressure homeschooling parents have to endure? First there is the objections of friends and families when we decide to homeschool/homepreschool our kids. Then there is the unrelenting comparisons and academic competition (a lot of it, developmentally inappropriate, due to the curriculum “push down” that has been happening over the last twenty or thirty years of so.)

Is your homeschool (OR homepreschool) being held hostage by the expectations of others? Sometimes it sure feels that way. This is the question Heidi St. John tackles in this wonderful article I just discovered. I really needed this article today. I sometimes feel I’m “held hostage” to the expectations of the next few years…we are starting junior high again next fall. Lots more writing and heavy “academics” are expected. What about you? One thing this article says is that we should be free NOT to do preschool. Hmm. I always enjoyed the preschool years, and it was always fun to me. But how has it been for you?

Do you feel you have to “prove” yourself, and the value of homeschooling, to your extended family? Does that take away your joy? Does planning activity after activity wear you out? Do you feel pressured academically about preschool and Kindergarten? Please. Don’t. Go. There. You have so many years ahead of you. It will all be covered, in time.

Do you have young children, and yet are already worried about “how in the world will I teach Algebra?” Don’t. Go. There. God will provide a way!! It’s OK to let your little ones be little, and enjoy them at the age they are at right now. It’s OK to let them spend the day playing. Please, DO. I would much rather see parents swing the pendulum towards “no preschool” than swing it towards an academic-type homepreschool: Worksheets, two or three years of “alphabet” type activities and so on are not what preschoolers need! Remember, they will pick up those preschool “facts” (A,B,C’s, numbers, colors, shapes, and so on) simply through good parenting, if you trust them to do so. And if they haven’t learned all their “preschool” facts before Kindergarten, then teach them to them in Kindergarten! Remember, as homeschoolers, we don’t have to make our preschoolers “ready” for Kindergarten. Instead, we can make our Kindergarten ready for them!

Remember not to overlook the forest for the trees. Remember WHY you are homeschooling/homepreschooling. I hope that it is for spiritual reasons.

What is really most important at this age? The 4R’s: Relationship, Routine, Readiness, and Reading aloud. Throw in lots of play, art, and music and you’ve got it covered. Really. Trust me on this!! If you need a refresher, please revisit my tabs (above), and explore the articles on “readiness” in the archives. You also might want to take a moment to read the “Goals for the Balanced Mom”. But for now, PLEASE take a moment to read this fantastic article (linked above). Think about it, and pray about it. Then ask God what priorities HE would ask of you for this year. What should your children be learning this year? How should you teach it (what methods should you use?) Ask for a bold vision, and then when it is given, don’t be afraid to obey God and follow his vision…no matter what that vision may be. It may have to do with academics. It may have nothing to do with academics. Most likely, it will have to do with building relationships with God and family, teaching morals and character, learning to love those basic Bible stories, being consistent and intentional, growing your patience, spending more time in the Word and in prayer as a family, and so on.
Hugs! ~~Susan

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Deciding to Homeschool or Hompreschool, Early Academics, Elementary School, Encouragement, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling, Kindergarten Readiness, Parenting, Spiritual Matters, Uncategorized, Vision | Leave a Comment »

The 4R’s Re-visited: Building Relationships With Our Children

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on June 14, 2014

Building relationships should be the focus of our lives and our homes. As I say in my tab on relationships (above),

“Developing relationships is the most important part of any homepreschool/homeschool. We must help our children grow strong, loving relationships—first with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and next within our families. Many of us say that this is our priority, but in truth, it is not. If helping our children develop a close relationship with God was really our priority, it would be reflected in the amount of time we spend reading Bible stories to our children, memorizing the Word with them, praying with them (and for them), and worshiping together. (Discipleship.)
If it really is our priority to build strong, loving relationships with our children, that priority should be reflected in our behavior as well. Specifically, it should be reflected in the amount and type of time we spend with our children. Children need both quality and quantity time. Quality time involves more than just our presence—a warm body alone is not enough. (Too often we are “with” our children without paying any real attention to them.) Instead, our relationship-building efforts should be concentrated in several specific areas: Building quality conversations (which is a two way street, involving listening and speaking), time spent playing together (which lets us into their imaginary world), and time spent reading aloud to our children. Reading aloud to our children is one of the most important ways to build relationships with them, and also, help them learn.
I’m sad to say that we too often neglect what is most important (building strong relationships) in favor of other priorities (early academics, our own interests, etc.)
We must take the time to “make the main thing the main thing”, and teach our children about the Lord while they are young.”

Here are some ways to build relationships with our children—and help our children build close relationships with God.

~Spend quality time with your children. Be fully engaged: Not half-listening while you are updating your status on Facebook, watching television, or talking on the phone. In fact, limiting your screen time will do a lot to help you build relationships. But take it even further: Limit your children’s “screen time”, too. Even having the television on in the background has been proven to be detrimental to young children. In truth, the television (and even those special “educational” programs and DVD’s) is not good for young children. They are not what they need. Nothing can replace face-to-face interaction with real people.

~Spend time talking to your children. Have real conversations, which involve listening and talking—a back-and-forth proposition. Let them tell you about their latest toy, art project, or whatever. Even if you really could care less about it, act as if you do care, and make yourself listen attentively. Pray and ask God to help you care. God cares about even the smallest detail of our lives. We should care about our children in the same way.
Set aside time for talking with your children, and take advantage of the time that happens naturally, during your normal daily routine–dinner time and bedtime are wonderful opportunities to connect with your children, no matter their age.

~Play with your children. The window of opportunity is small! Soon enough your children won’t be as open to this. While they are young, children welcome their parents into their pretend world. This not only helps you build closeness with your child, but helps you understand their thought processes, too. Often children’s play reveals a lot about how they feel, what has been bothering them, and so on.

~Play games with your children! Begin to teach your children to play games (not computer or video games, but board games and card games) when they are three and a half or four years old. You can introduce the “rules” gradually, if you want to; you can even use small treats as counters, if you want to. The key is: Make it fun!
Games teach lots of important social skills, attention skills, and can “teach” pre-math skills, too. For more game ideas, see my post on “playing games with preschoolers.”

~Reading aloud to your children: Reading aloud is a natural bonding time. Pick a classic picture book, get comfy, cuddle, and read!! Allow your children to participate in the reading by chiming in with repetitive pages, pointing to the pictures, and so on. Allow them to ask questions, and take the time to answer them….in other words, pay attention to them! Don’t just rush through the book as if reading is a chore to be done as quickly as possible. Suggested book: I Love You Forever, by Robert Munsch.

~Use a gentle, loving touch: Touch communicates so much. A touch of the hand, the ruffling of the hair, holding hands, cuddling…all of these communicate love.

~Say the words: “I love you.” Say them often! In our family, we sing “I love you” songs, and even have a secret signal that means “I love you.” The words, “I love you, no matter what,” or “I love you forever, to the moon and back,” mean the world to children. We even sing songs of our love for them (“I love you, a bushel and a peck,” or “You are my sunshine.”)

~Make holidays special: Keeping family traditions gives children security, draws us closer to each other, and bonds our family together in a distinct unit. Many of the holidays also gives us the opportunity to share our faith with our children.
~Do special things for your kids: Surprise them with their favorite dinner or favorite treat. Tell them why: “Just because I love you.”

~In summary, the key to developing close relationships with our children is three-fold: love, conversation, and time.
Let your little ones be strongly attached to you. Don’t rush preschoolers into premature independence through a lack of the time and security that you can provide. Let them know you love them. Set aside/plan special time to spend with them. Talk to the all the time, and let them talk too: Really listen. Be there for them. Give them the security of knowing they can count on you to care for them, no matter what. These simple things are all you need to help you grow close, loving relationships with your children.

© 2014 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author. Short quotes that link back to this site are OK.

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Homepreschool and Beyond Is on Facebook

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on June 10, 2014

I want to invite you to join me and my Facebook friends by joining our group, “Homepreschool and Beyond.” The purpose of the group is to share information and support with those families who are trying to live out the 4R’s, as listed in my book: Relationship, Routine, Readiness, and Reading Aloud. It is aimed at parents of younger children (preschoolers through third grade or so), but everyone is welcome. It is a place where I can answer your questions and share ideas, links, and more. Please join us!
If you need to know more, please check out the tabs above on the 4R’s. And keep your eyes open for new posts about the 4R’s, coming soon!


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Homeschool Parents: Are You Worried About What Your Children Are Missing?

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on May 13, 2013

   Many parents who are considering home schooling worry about what their children will miss if they are homeschooled. They worry that their children will be lonely. They worry that their children will not know how to cooperate with others during group activities. They worry that their children won’t “fit in.” These questions boil down to THE question, “What about socialization?”

   What we worry about as homeschooling’s greatest weakness is actually homeschooling’s greatest strength. Home educators have the unique opportunity to “civilize” their own children through training, teaching social skills, and real-world socialization with people of all ages and races.  Children develop true, lasting friendships with children from like-minded families. Park days, field trips, and church activities—rounded out with work and service opportunities—provide ample, POSITIVE social interactions. The artificial world of a classroom, where children are all the same age and all do the same things at the same time, cannot compare to the real world of home, work, and family.

If you are still worried about the things your children might “miss” if you homeschool them, consider the list below.


Things Children “Miss” When they are Homeschooled


  1. The religion of secular humanism and other new age philosophies.
  2. Being taught moral relativism and even a tolerance of sin (otherwise known as “political correctness”.)
  3. Social contagion (“catching” the “contagious” attitudes, behaviors and immoral knowledge of peers, and even teachers.)
  4. Peer pressure (pressure to “conform” to group norms in order to “fit in”).
  5. Peer dependency (relying on peers for love, support and advice instead of relying on parents).
  6. Sexual harassment, bullies, gangs and drugs.
  7. The fear (and reality) of school shootings and other violence—fights, bomb threats, gang fights, school lockdowns, police chases, and so on.
  8. Catching (frequent) illnesses, diseases and head lice.
  9. Feelings of insecurity (feeling unwanted or rejected by their parents as a result of being pushed from the home nest before developmental maturity—see Home Grown Kids.)
  10. Being taught the test, and then promptly forgetting it.
  11.  Inadequate, inferior education.
  12. Lots of wasted time (while the teacher quiets the class, passes out papers, takes attendance and so on.)
  13. Being or becoming unwilling or unable to speak to or relate to anyone who is not their age or in the same grade.
  14.  Being bored by work that is too easy, OR being labeled “learning disabled” because of work that is too hard (it will come easily when they are developmentally ready!)
  15. Sex education, death education, and “outcome-based” education (“lessons” whose goals include changing your child’s attitudes and/or beliefs.)
  16.  Not knowing who your teacher will be the next year, or who your classmates will be.
  17. Being away from your family all day.
  18.  Having separate lives from your own siblings; growing apart from them.
  19. . Having to send your child to a school nurse if s/he is having an asthma attack or needs an Advil.
  20. Having to get a doctor’s excuse for every time your children aren’t feeling well or are sick (OR every routine doctors/dentist appointment, etc.Missing school while sick (we just “do school” later—our kids don’t miss anything.)
  21.  Getting arrested for bringing nail clippers to school.
  22.  Having to use filthy bathrooms (or avoiding them all day, to the point of physical pain….in my high school, the bathrooms were favorite hang-outs for the smokers and dopers. If you had to go, you had to breathe it.)
  23. Having to endure holidays you don’t celebrate (such as Halloween, in our case) and being forced to ignore holidays that you DO celebrate (or ignoring their true meanings.)
  24.  Cafeteria food (or soggy packed lunches.)
  25.  Enduring a year with a teacher who can’t teach.
  26. Hours of homework each night, leaving no family time.
  27.  Compartmentalized education—nothing inter-relates (not even God…)
  28.  Growing up too fast, but never really growing up.
  29. The systematic undermining of parental authority, teachings and beliefs.

I bet you can think of even more things to add to the list! Are you feeling more confident about your decision to homeschool now?  How about a real “shot in the arm”? Remind yourself of the following reasons to homeschool, and the advantages of the homeschooling lifestyle:

Reasons We Homeschool

  1. To obey the Lord.  Since we believe the Lord has called our family to homeschool, and that the scriptures command parents to teach their own children, we homeschool to obey the Lord2.   We want our children to grow up to be Christians, and not stray from our faith/morals.
  2. We want our children to receive a Christian education and develop a Christian world-view.  We want them to learn truth, and use the Word of God as the ultimate standard for truth.
  3. We want to protect our children from immoral and ungodly influences, especially before they are old enough to learn discernment.
  4. We want our children to learn to stand up (and speak up) for their beliefs.
  5. We want our children to develop Godly morals, habits, and character traits.
  6. We want our children to have a developmentally appropriate, individualized education that is customized to their learning style, interests, talents and abilities (we want them to have the freedom to learn at their own pace/we can choose curriculums and methods that fit their needs.)
  7.  We want our children to enjoy an old fashioned, traditional childhood. We seek to preserve innocence and imagination for as long as possible, and provide plenty of time for play.
  8. We want our children to know how to read, write, and do arithmetic.
  9. We want our children to love to read, and to be read to (for longer and longer periods of time) daily.
  10. We want our children to love to learn, know how to learn, and how to do research (and we want our children to be curious.)
  11. We want to help our children prepare for real life, have real-life experiences, and develop real life-skills.
  12. We want our children to develop discernment regarding dress, music, literature, friends, politics, religion and morals.
  13. We want our children to be independent and critical thinkers.
  14. We want our children to understand the flow of history—how one event influences others—and we want them to understand how church history is interwoven throughout it, influencing it “behind the scenes.”
  15. We want to expose our children to the best in art, music, and literature…and we want them to appreciate/enjoy art, music, and literature!
  16. We want our children to grow up without becoming a part of the rebellious teen sub-culture. We want to be our children’s culture.
  17.  We love our children and want them to be with us.  We enjoy their company.
  18.  We like being able to tailor our school schedule to fit into our family’s schedules, sick days and vacation times.
  19. We want to socialize (or civilize) our children ourselves, instead of letting them be “socialized” by their secular, untrained, and often unsupervised schoolmates.
  20. We want to know who our children’s teachers are every year.
  21. So that we can encourage our children’s interests, bents, and hobbies (these often turn into careers.
  22. We want our children to be successful in the Lord’s eyes, not the world’s (we homeschool with eternity in mind.)
  23.  We want our children to develop true, deep, and long-lasting friendships with people of all ages and races, based on common beliefs and interests (not simply “you’re my friend because you sit next to me in class.)  We enjoy socializing with other FAMILIES, not just having our children socialize with other CHILDREN.
  24. To promote sibling love and bonding: we want our children to be each other’s best friends.
  25.  Because we want our children to homeschool our grandchildren.
  26.  Because God gave these children to us. We are responsible for them. They are under our authority, not the governments.

Here are a few other, far less serious reasons we enjoy the home education lifestyle:

    27. So that we can “do school” in our jammies or sweats.

28.  So that we can “do school” wherever we want to (outside—on a blanket in the back yard, in the fort, or on the patio with a dog on our laps….or inside, in front of the fireplace, on the couch, at the kitchen table…or wherever (we control the atmosphere.)

29. So that we can “do school” via fabulous fieldtrips (A.K.A. family trips/vacations OR support group fieldtrips), when the opportunities arise.

30. So that we can provide our children with lots of hands-on learning.

Read these lists over when you are feeling discouraged, overwhelmed or inadequate.  Remember, if God calls you to homeschool, HE will give you the abilities and self-discipline you need to carry it out.  Be assured, you HAVE made the right decision.  Your children aren’t missing anything God ever intended them to have.

© 2010, 2013 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Taken from Homepreschool and Beyond, used with permission. 

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The Best of “Christmas Past”

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on December 19, 2012

   Wow, time has really gotten away from me this year. How can it possibly be so close to Christmas already? I have to admit, I’ve had a hard time “getting started” on Christmas this year–and here it is, almost upon us. But I’m determined to get lots of “fun stuff” done in the time remaining!!

   This week the boys and I are going to do our traditional Christmas prep and fun–baking, crafting, and so on. As per tradition, we need to make Dad his popcorn balls and homemade beef jerky, as well. If I get around to it, I will try to post about some of our crafts this year. But for now, here is a round-up of my posts from “Christmas past”: 

The “Christmas Gift” saying tradition

Teaching Children about the Symbols of Christmas

How to make “Button Trees” (an easy, last-minute craft, if you have time to head over to the craft/fabric store)  

The Importance of Keeping Traditions (an overview of a chapter from Homepreschool and Beyond.)

The Stuff Dreams are Made Of (encouragement to make the fun stuff happen this year–yes, there is still plenty of time left for the fun stuff!!)

    Christmas blessings!

© 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.                     



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What Your Preschooler Needs, Age-by-Age

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 13, 2012

Two year olds:  This year marks a transition from toddlerhood to childhood. Imaginative play will blossom for your child this year; his thinking and speaking skills will grow in amazing ways as well.  Be sure to choose toys that encourage this:  Play phones, dolls, play kitchens, blocks, cars, and so on.  Duplo- sized Legos are also great for imaginative play, as well as building hand strength and dexterity.  Favorite toys at this age: Fisher-Price Little People sets, (these will be favorite for a couple of years), stack and nest cups or blocks, knob puzzles, and beads to string.

Two-year-olds need plenty of time to play outside as well—sand play, tricycles, and swing sets are popular, along with play props like balls, hoops, etc. Occasionally, bring inside toys outside to renew your child’s interest in them. (NOTE: Supervise your two-year old when s/he is outside at all times! Some two year olds still like to eat or throw sand–and two year olds are notorious for climbing where they shouldn’t.

Your child’s daily routine should be expanded again to include music (listening, rhythm band and singing), finger plays, and art experiences: painting with watercolors or tempera paint, and simple craft projects using paste or glue. A collage is a great way to start.

Many two year olds don’t seem to stop moving from morning till night.  They need our help to calm themselves.  Music and reading aloud do this beautifully.  Be sure to plan some read aloud times—at least once mid-morning, after lunch/before nap, and again before bed. Throughout the day, alternate boisterous activities with quiet ones like reading or play dough. This helps keep your child from getting overtired, and keeps emotions on an even keel.

Three and four year olds: Your child is officially a “preschooler”!  But that doesn’t mean he’s ready to be drilled on his colors, numbers, or alphabet. Instead, help him learn those “preschool facts” through play and reading aloud. Continue to talk, talk, talk to your preschooler, naming everything you see, and explaining everything you do. This grows his vocabulary and his understanding.

Children this age are ready for short “preschool” schedules of their own. ” Preschool” at homel doesn’t need to take longer than an hour or two, and can be interspersed between your older children’s school work.  Include Bible stories/devotions, calendar, music, finger-plays, and story time daily; try to provide an art experience at least three days a week. You can also explore cooking and baking activities and simple science experiments once in a while.

Begin memory work with your child if you haven’t already. Simply repeating scriptures to your child over and over or listening to scripture memory songs will produce quick memorization in most children this age. We often practiced our memory verses in the bathtub, where I had a captive audience.

Introduce your child to (safety) scissors and pencils, pens, and felt-tipped pens if you haven’t already, and begin to leave age appropriate art materials out for him to use whenever he wants to. The added blessing of these activities is that they can keep your child entertained for long periods of time while you school your older children.

Games are great ways for preschoolers to learn. Use store-bought games like Concentration, Hi-Ho Cheerio, Bingo, Dominoes, Chutes and Ladders, and Candyland to teach your child those “preschool facts” painlessly (counting, turn-taking, matching, and more.)  It’s easy to make your own card games, bingo games, matching games, and felt board games, as well. Remember to be patient and wait for interest and readiness when it comes to early learning. Studies have shown no long-term benefit to early formal academics, and lots of possible harm. (Remember, Homepreschool and Beyond has an entire chapter full of tips and ideas for learning games.)

Play for preschoolers: Three year olds and four year olds have more patience than two year olds do, and enjoy playing with more complicated building toys. They love blocks such as CitiBlocks, Dr. Drew’s Blocks, or the classic “Unit Blocks” (read about the benefits of block play/what children learn HERE.)  A good set of blocks might be expensive, but they will be used for many years. Even older children and adults enjoy Citblocks or Dr. Drew’s Blocks. My boys (9 and 11) still play with ours now and then–just look at the complicated designs possible on the websites above and you’ll see why.  IDEA: Combine blocks and cars or blocks and plastic animals and you’ve got twice the fun—kids will build towns, garages, zoos, and more

      Preschoolers also enjoy more complicated puzzles, games, and imaginary play. If you haven’t introduced prop boxes yet, now is a great time to do so!  Prop boxes are easy to put together from household items, and really do encourage imaginary play.

 Finally: Remember to “keep the main thing the main thing.” The main thing preschoolers need to be taught is to know about and love the Lord,  to love their family, and to obey their parents. They also need other “moral” lessons, which should all be framed within a Biblical perspective–lessons about telling the truth, being kind, being forgiving using self-control, etc etc.  These lessons are  far more important than any lessons intended to teach those  “preschool facts” that everyone seems to worry about (colors, shapes, numbers, alphabet.)

Other posts you might enjoy: What Preschoolers Should Be Learning: The Best Curriculum for Preschoolers 

The Four R’s for Early Learners (Preschoolers) 

The Goals of Spiritual Development


© 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.     


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What Your Baby Really Needs, Age-by-Age

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on August 16, 2012

As promised, I am continuing my series on providing the best for our youngest children. Today we will tackle the needs of young children from 9-12 months, 12- 18 months, and 18-24 months. The next post will cover three,  four and  five year-olds.

Remember, it is assumed that you are continuing what started at infancy–and at each stage before, as appropriate: Working to build a close relationship with your baby, teaching your baby about the Lord, praying for and with your baby, playing with your baby, reading to him, singing and talking to him, and so on.  This post is  simply meant to help you see what is going on with your baby, and how you can optimize their development at each stage.

9-12 months:  Crawling, cruising, walking, climbing–perhaps even talking!  Baby is learning or doing something new every day…often something that will amaze you. Be sure to keep a close eye on your baby. This is difficult, since we all have to go to the bathroom sometime! I warn you because this is the age when you are likely to walk into a room only to find your baby perched on top of the piano, as my mother did with me.

Try to keep your baby interested in the things you want her to explore. Set toys out on your coffee table so that baby can cruise around the table and play with toys from a new perspective. Babies love push and pull toys at this age—these toys help them with their balance and teach them cause and effect, as well.

Try pulling the cushions off your couch and making a “baby  obstacle course”—or putting blankets over a table to make a tent.

At this age, my babies loved push-along walkers like these. They also loved things that go: Balls, cars, etc.  There is never a dull moment at this age, to be sure, but your baby will never be more fun, either!!

12-18 months: Your baby is now officially a toddler! Baby understands more and more, and is learning how to communicate through pointing, gesturing, and making sounds. The number of words your baby will understand or be able to use is directly related to how much time you spend talking and reading to him, so keep it up!  Most babies this age will have quite a few words:  “mama”, “dada”, “bye-bye”, “uh-oh”, “all gone”, and so on.  Some baby’s first word is “NO!”  Soon he will be stringing words together to make sentences

Some parents discover that this age is the real start of the “terrible twos”, and also, of a need for (gentle, but firm) discipline.  Now is the time to begin to teach your baby to come when called, and to respond to the words “stop” and “no,”  if you haven’t already. Thank-goodness toddlers are still easy to pick up and carry away from the carnage, when necessary.

Part of the reason baby gets so frustrated is because he can understand far more than he can express. If you want to help your baby communicate more efficiently, consider learning some sign language and teaching it to your baby.  Sign language is proven to decrease frustration and tantrums, and increase baby’s abilities to communicate (many parents start doing this when their babies are tiny.)

Your baby is learning lots of new skills and wants to try them out–sometimes in inappropriate ways. Additionally, you should know that some babies have the tendency to concentrate so intently on their emerging skills that other skills are put on the back burner for a while.

Babies this age usually love alphabet blocks, stacking and nesting cups, and best of all, plastic jars and small toys for filling and dumping (dropping toys into the plastic jar, and then dumping them out.)  I used to clean out old plastic milk cartons and then cut a small slit near the top, and a larger one (large enough for hands to reach in) near the bottom. All my babies loved fitting the lids from baby food jars into the top slot, and then watching them fall through to the bottom. (Tip: Discovery Toys has some of the best toys for babies that I have ever seen.)

18-24 months: Baby’s daily routine is changing, sometimes day by day. Some babies this age are ready to give up their morning nap. Your baby’s daily routine can now be expanded to include first art experiences. Start by finger painting with pudding in the high chair and then introduce fat crayons, play dough, stickers, etc. Watch carefully that your baby doesn’t eat the art supplies!

Music is very important for toddlers. Play classical music quietly in the background during playtime, and be sure to introduce children’s music by artists such as Raffi (the Singable Songs for the Very Young collection is a great choice),  Linda Arnold (Bathtime Magic is my favorite—and yes, we’d play it during bath time!), Parachute Express,  or the Wee Sing Series (especially Wee Sing and Play), if you haven’t already. Sing to your toddler in the bathtub (“I’m gonna wash that dirt right outta your hair” from the movie South Pacific) and during your daily routine (“This is the way we wash our hands”, and so on.) Check out a whole day’s worth of singing ideas at This Reading Mama.

          Baby should love to be read to now, and have books available to look at whenever he wants them.  Babies this age love books that teach sounds (what does the duck say?), and books that include repetition. For suggestions, read my post titled, “Reading Aloud to Babies and Toddlers.”

© 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

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What Your Baby Really Needs, Age-by-Age

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 28, 2012

Every summer, homeschooling parents spend hours pouring over catalogs and planning their children’s next school year and curriculum. We lay out schedules, set goals, and most importantly, pray over our children’s lives and needs.

I can’t help but wonder: Do we spend half as much time planning for the needs of our babies, toddlers and preschoolers?  Don’t they deserve some planning time, too?

No matter your child’s age, a good place to start is by remembering the 4R’s: Relationship, routine, readiness, and reading aloud. Keeping these in mind keeps our goals in proper perspective, helping us to  make the main thing the main thing (Relationships with God and family always come first!)

Even though it is a good idea to spend some time planning for them, babies, toddlers and preschoolers don’t need an academically-based “curriculum” (even though they are being offered nowadays!)  Work books and flash cards are not appropriate; their best curriculum is life. But the types of learning experiences they need are unique, and not always accomplished without some thought and planning. So here are some thoughts to help you plan for your baby/toddlers needs, age-by-age.

 What Your Baby/Toddler Really Needs, Age-by-Age

 0-3 months:  The goal of baby’s development at this age is simple: bonding with family and growing secure in the love and consistent care he receives. Additionally, to boost brain development, babies need to be read to, sung to, and talked to. Most of all, babies need to be immersed scriptures, praise songs and prayer.

Babies (and toddlers) are unique in that while they require their own daily “lessons” about life, the truth is, they often become the lesson for the rest of the family. They teach our older children patience and selflessness–how to put another’s needs above their own. They teach them to be loving and gentle with those who are young and fragile.

Homeschooling with a baby in tow is exhausting, but it can be done!  Plan to take advantage of baby’s nap-times for your older children’s school work.  We always saved mid-morning nap-time for phonics, math, and other subjects that require intensive “mommy-time”.

Consider streamlining your school time for a season. After all, you need your rest, too! Alternate science with history or geography, or simply read aloud to your children to cover those topics. Try doing only four “formal” subjects a day:  Bible, math, language arts, and a unit study (reading aloud about history or science.)  In addition, be sure to incorporate art and music into your daily routine, via free-choice activities or planned activities—at least two or three days a week.

 3-6 months—continue as before AND: Babies at this age are learning to control their bodies. Now that their eyes can focus at longer distances, they are becoming more interested in their environments. God designed babies to be especially interested in faces.

3-6 month-olds need opportunities to strengthen their muscles and take in the world from new perspectives. Make sure to give you baby plenty of “floor time”—time on the floor, on his belly. This gives him opportunities to strengthen his neck muscles, arm muscles, and back muscles. Before you know it, your baby will be rolling over, scooting, and then crawling everywhere.

Change your baby’s perspective by moving him from the floor to a swing, or to a bouncer seat (once he can support himself/hold his head up.)  Provide rattles and other safe baby toys so that he can learn to control his grip. Once grabbing on is learned, learning to let go is next (and often harder!)

Expose your baby to different textures. Try laying baby on carpet, a soft blanket, or a smooth, cool parachute; lay baby on her back, on her belly, and on her side for a change of pace.

Finally, be sure to take the time to enjoy your baby’s developing social skills. Respond to your baby’s coos, then wait for her to answer you—thus making your first conversations. Play tickle games, make faces at baby, and watch as baby learns to make them back at you.

 6-9 months:  Baby’s really on the move now!  Rolling, scooting, or even crawling his way into trouble.  If you want to school in relative peace, you’ll need to make liberal use of playpens or gates…and nap-time.  We gated off half our house with an extra long gate, and closed doors to keep our babies where they needed to be. Make sure your house is “baby-proof”.  We had to gate off our older children’s rooms so that the Legos and other toys with small parts were out of reach for baby.

Increase the amount of time spent reading to baby, even if you only look at the pictures and talk to baby about them. And if you haven’t already, introduce your baby to classical music, folk music, and of course, praise music. Many babies will try to “dance” while cruising (holding onto a table for balance while trying out his wobbly legs) and some may even try to “sing”.  My oldest would cry whenever there was a break between songs, then “dance” again once the music started back up!

Let your older children take turns entertaining baby, and make sure they learn all the little baby songs and ditties you enjoy with baby, so that they can share them with their own children someday. (“X Marks the Spot”The Wheels on the Bus (move baby’s arms or feet for the wipers, etc.), Open Shut Them, Jesus Loves me, and so on.

At this age, my kiddos loved their bouncy seat (the kind that hangs in a doorway.)   The “jumparoo” looks like a good modern alternative. They also enjoyed sitting, propped up in their “Boppy”.

          Finally, a  warning about television: Even if your baby is interested in the television, try to keep it off completely when s/he is in the room…even those videos designed for babies can’t compare to interaction with real people and real things. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age to two shouldn’t watch any television at all. Experts have linked television viewing to the development of ADHD, claiming it “rewires” children’s brains.

Next post: Ages 9-12 months, 12-18 months, etc. 

© 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

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At-Home, Summertime Fun for Young Children

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on June 9, 2012

   Sorry I haven’t posted in such a long time! Life has been a little bit crazy around here. But I’m back, and hope to post more often, although I can no longer promise a post a week. I’m realizing that I’ve been spending too much time on the computer.

   Anyway–it’s summertime again, so I thought I’d brainstorm some activities that are inexpensive but will keep your kids busy and playing happily this summer. Some are for at home, and some are not, but I hope this list will inspire you to plan some fun for your kids this summer. Make the TV a special treat, not an everyday obession…save the movies for once or twice a week. Instead, have some fun with your kids!!

Summertime Fun Ideas

*Set up a tent in the back yard*OR hang a blanket over the clothesline or a swing set*

*Color with sidewalk chalk

*Paint with water outside on the cement

*Set up a snap-set side pool; add ice to play with, water toys (measuring cups, Barbie dolls, boats, duplos, etc OR set up the pool under the end of a slide, and make a “water slide”)

* Play with toys outside on a blanket

*Read favorite picture books on your blanket

* Paint/watercolor outside (set up an easel on the fence)

*Paint with chalk paint (available at all the major retailers near the sidewalk chalk/other summer toys

*Make homemade play dough

*Blow bubbles

*Play at the park

*Go on a nature walk

*Paint rocks (collect them at the beach/river)

*Go to your local furniture/appliance store and get a large box or refrigerator box; cut out a door and window/paint or color with felt-tipped pens; put pillows inside. After you’ve played “house” awhile, set up your house outside on the sidewalk. Draw ‘roads” with sidewalk chalk. Drive trikes on the road…you can be the police-lady. OR, make a whole town out of boxes; make stop-lights, too.

*Play with sand and water OR make mud pies

*Make an aluminum foil river

*When the weather is nice, spread out a blanket on the patio. Set up blocks and cars or blocks and plastic animals to play with. (There is something novel about playing with “inside” toys outside.) You can combine the blocks with sidewalk chalk to make a city or a zoo with roads, trees, signs, etc.)

*Set up blankets over a table inside, and play underneath

*Invite friends over to decorate their trikes with crepe paper, and then have a parade

*Read books about the ocean, then go to the ocean!

*Go fishing

*”Fish” inside with homemade “fishing” poles: tie yarn to a small stick or dowel; tie on a doughnut magnet; cut out “fish” from construction paper and put a paper clip on the fish’s mouth, then go fishing!

*Bath fun: Add ice to the bath, and watch it melt; “paint” on the sides of the tub with shaving cream; add measuring cups, plastic spoons, etc to bath with shaving cream and make “milkshakes”, etc

*Eat meals outside

*Have a tea party (let your girls dress-up on your old dresses or in square-dance petticoats first)

*Play soccer and volleyball with a beach ball. Even babies love beach balls and can play soccer: Hold your baby under the arms, and help them “kick” the beach ball by swinging them towards it.

*Set up hula hoops into a “path” and have your kids jump from hoop to hoop

*Set up a large sensory bin outside (birdseed, beans, sand, rice, etc….make sure your kids don’t put it in their mouths!)

*Let your kids “wash” plastic dishes in the kitchen sink

*Set up a large plastic bin with water and water-toys outside. Sponges are fun, too.

*Take your kids to vacation Bible school, or set up your own for the neighbor kids in your backyard.

*Christmas in July: Make time for all those neat projects and crafts you never got to last year, or get a head-start on Christmas by making Christmas presents NOW.

*Have your husband help your kids learn how to saw wood and pound nails into scraps of lumber (supervise carefully.)

*Go to Lowe’s Saturday “make it and take it” classes

*Enroll in summertime classes at your local craft store

*Take swim lessons

*Host a swim party or sprinkler play party

*Do “float or sink” experiments. Try to predict which items will float.

*Make Home-made ice cream: Follow your own recipe, or make “ice cream in a can”

*Learn how to jump rope, play hopscotch, and for older kids, learn how to play jacks or marbles

*Have a game day: Learn a new board game or card game.

*Make homemade popsicles or “fruit-sicles” (blend cool aid with real fruit, then freeze.)

Please share your ideas in the comments, and have fun this summer!!



© 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

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Circle Time for Preschool at Home/Homeschool

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on April 12, 2012

When I was a preschool teacher, I always felt that circle time was the highlight of the day.  As a homepreschooling mom, that feeling intensified.  It absolutely was the best part of our day–and still is.  I’ve heard that some moms object to the words “circle time”…they prefer the words “lap-time” or “mommy time” instead.  Whatever you call it, it’s tons of fun.

We actually do TWO circle times a day.  One is first thing in the morning (Bible time), and the other  is a little later in the morning (our unit study or story time.)

What do we “do” during circle time?  What makes circle time different from story time?  To me, the difference is the fact that circle time includes more than just stories.  Circle time traditionally includes various activities such as calendar, finger plays, music, and story time.

There is really no right or wrong way to do circle time; experiement and see what you and your children enjoy. But to give you some ideas, here’s what we did during our first circle time of the day with all our  preschoolers (Note:  We do pretty much the same with children of all ages):

1.  Worship/music:  Hymn of the month, praise and worship songs, Bible-memory songs, or Sunday-school type songs (the calmer ones.)

2. Bible memory work/catechism

3. Bible story and/or devotional.

4.  Prayer

Afterwards, we do our chores together and then play outside (weather permitting.) Next is morning snack, and then our second circle time. During our second circle time (unit study) we:

1.  Do calendar:  We sing “days of the week” and “months of the year” songs, add the day’s date to a pocket-chart calendar, figure out the current day of the week and month of the year, and recite the date while pointing to the calendar (“today is Monday, September 21, 2010.”)  (We would sing the months of the year song from Greg and Steve’s “We All Live Together” volume 2.)

2.  Have fun with finger plays, patriotic songs, folk songs, fun (active) Sunday school songs, silly songs, movement to music, rhythm band, and so on.  This is so fun, and gets all their wiggles out before story time starts.

3.  Story time

Sometimes we switch things around during our second circle time or add other activities, such as poetry (listening), picture study, or show and tell (my kids LOVE show and tell; it helps them practice their language/speech/oral composition skills);  we might even “practice being good” (act out appropriate behavior—see my book!)

Keeping Circle Time Fun

“Short and sweet” is really the trick to keeping circle time fun—as is alternating the more active parts of circle time with the quiet ones.  As an overall rule, it is better to leave your children wanting more versus frustrating them with too long of a circle time.  Other ideas:  Spice up your circle time with felt board activities/stories, Monkey Mitts, puppets, and other musical/finger play/musical props/learning props.

After story time, we move on to the rest of our daily routine.

Circle Time for Older Children 

We enjoyed circle time so much with our young children that we’ve simply continued it even when our children got older, with a few tweaks:

-Remember to change your content according to the children’s abilities, attention span, and interests.

-Parents of children who are in grades Kindergarten until grade three or so  should recite the flag salute at some time during the morning.  We chose to keep Bible first, since it is most important; we’d do the salutes and calendar right before our first “academic” subject of the day (math). Once they learned it, we discontinued it.

-We still use the same basic structure during our second circle time, but we call it “unit study time” with our older kids.  Our “unit study time” routine generally runs like this:  Drills/recitation (we’re used ABeka’s bird, insect and plant cards to memorize the most common critters/flowers in our area; we’ve also learnied to recognize the major instruments in the orchestra by sight.  Other times we’ve memorized the presidents in order or memorized the capitols.)   Next is music/singing (once the kids are older it’s great fun to learn longer folk songs and rounds.)  Afterward, we read aloud and discuss what we’ve read.

-We usually save our second circle time until Bible, math, and language arts are completed for the day.

-After our second circle time, we might work on a notebook page, a timeline card, an art project or a science/cooking experience that’s related to our unit, or we simply might be done for the day.

I hope this gives you some ideas for circle time at your house!



© 2010, 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

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Reading Aloud to Babies and Toddlers

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on April 1, 2012

Reading to our babies is one of the best things we can do to encourage their language development…and in the future, to help them love to read.  The best time to start reading to babies is before their birth.  Reading the same book to them everyday helps them become familiar with your voice and experience the rhythms of language.  Once your baby is born, continue reading to him everyday, even if it seems he isn’t paying attention.

If you have missed this opportunity, don’t be discouraged.  It’s never too late to start reading to your child!  If you have a squirmy, resistant toddler, read on for suggestions.

Read to your child everyday, even if he doesn’t seem interested.  Try to make reading fun—for toddlers, you can experiment with books to touch (like Pat the Bunny) and sturdy board books that don’t have many words.  Most toddlers are interested in animals, so look for books about animal sounds.  A perfect choice is Eric Carle’s The Very Busy Spider, which has textured pages to touch, and a simple text including animal sounds.

If your child continues to refuse to sit on your lap and listen to a book, try the following:

-Read to your child while he plays near you.  Hold the book towards your child, so that if he looks at you, he can see the pictures.  Don’t force your child to sit on your lap to listen to a book-we want books to be associated with positive experiences.

-Keep sturdy board books or cloth books in your toddler’s toy box, and stand books up near your baby when your lay him down for “tummy time”.  They might get chewed on a little, but that’s ok.  The idea is to help you child associate books with enjoyment.  (Supervise chewers carefully!)

-Try reading to your child when he is tired and wants to cuddle-like right when he wakes up or right before bed.

-Try reading to your  baby when she is  in their “quiet-alert” stage.  For older babies, this might mean right after a meal.  For nursing babies who fall asleep after nursing, try reading to them after bath time, or right after a diaper change.  Experiment—try reading several times during the day to find what works for you and your baby.  Once you find a time that works, try to make it a habit.

-Choose the right book!  Books for babies and toddlers should have bright, realistic illustrations (or photographs), simple, short sentences, and include rhyme and/or repetition.  Books you can “sing” to baby are especially good choices.

-Some toddlers seem to need a sense of “control” in order to sit still for a book.  In this instance, I usually let them have it (in moderation.)  I let them turn pages, for example, ask them to point to things in the pictures, and so on. But I never let little ones grab, tear, or throw books. Toddlers must be taught to treat books carefully.

-Very squirmy toddlers might need a specially  modified read aloud time for awhile: Don’t linger too long on the pages; shorten or skip text if you have to, or even  just “talk” to them about the pictures in short sentences.

Other Tips:

-Don’t read in “baby talk”.  Use real words and complete sentences. It is OK to use a sing-song, higher pitched voice, if it seems natural to you to do so.

-Encourage toddlers to chime in with repeated phrases or sounds when they can.

-Don’t worry about variety: It’s OK to read  a few favorite books over and over for now. Babies and toddlers love repetition, and learn through it.

Here are some of our favorite books to read to babies and toddlers (in no particular order):

Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See, Bill Martin

Goodnight Moon; The Big Red Barn, Margaret Wise Brown

The Three Little Kittens, Paul Galdone

Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed (board book), by Eileen Christelow

Ten In the Bed, by Penny Dale (out of print–from Discovery Toys–a ‘singable” book.)

Very Busy Spider, The, Eric Carle

Read-Aloud Bible Stories, by Ella Lindvall (Great first Bible stories with short sentences.)

Farm Animals, Baby’s Animal Friends, (chunky board books) by Phoebe Dunn (there are others in this series, by different author. These where my baby’s favorites.)

The Foot Book, Dr. Seuss (short sentences, lots of repetition.)

Wheels on the Bus, (a pudgy board book), by Jerry Smath (another singable book)

The Pudgy book of Mother Goose, by Richard Walz

Little Golden books, such as:

-The Animals of Famer Brown, Richard Scarry

-Old MacDonald Had a Farm, (there are several  versons of this-they are all good, and fun to sing.)

-My First Book of Sounds, by Melanie Bellah and  Kathy Wilburn

-The Jolly Barnyard, by Annie North Bedford and Tibor Gergely

© 2010, 2012  Susan Lemons all rights reserved. 

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The “4 R’s” for Early Learners (Preschoolers)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on March 13, 2012

We’ve all heard of the “Three R’s”:  Reading, writing, and arithmetic. Most people believe that these are the basic building blocks of education for all children—even preschoolers.

But have you heard of the “Four R’s”?  The four R’s are not only for preschoolers; they are for children of all ages. They are the real building blocks of education–especially for preschoolers. The four R’s include:  Relationship, routine, readiness, and reading aloud.

Relationship is the first and most important part of any child’s education. Our first responsibility as parents is building a relationship of love and trust with our little ones. Once our children learn to love and trust us–ideally during infancy–we can begin to teach them how to have loving relationships with others. The most important relationship we can help our children develop is their relationship with God. (For more, see my tab on Relationship.)

Routine is the second building block.  Preschoolers need a regular daily routine that they can rely on. They need to have regular times for meals, snacks, naps, and learning activities. Even older children rely on that sense of “what comes next”; it keeps them on an even keel emotionally. I’m not talking about a down-to-the-minute, oppressive routine; just a simple plan for the day that gives children security and regularity. (For example routines for children ages 2-3 and ages 4-5, see my tab on routine.)

Readiness: Children of all ages need to develop readiness before they tackle any new task.  “Readiness” simply means that the child is physically, emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually ready for the experience.  Readiness has everything to do with maturity…and since children mature in their own, God-given time-table, parents must learn to be patient and wait until their child is ready…no matter what their neighbor’s child is capable of.

Parents who wait for signs of readiness, interest, and even natural learning to take place will save themselves and their children hours of frustration.

Readiness is especially important during the first eight years of life.  During this time, there is a vast range of “normal” development.  That’s why homepreschooling/homeschooling works so well:  Parents can individualize their children’s learning.  Where their children are “ahead”, they can let them move them along without holding them back.  In areas where their children struggle, they can slow down, relax, and give their children time to develop readiness.

Reading aloud:  Reading aloud to your children is the single most important thing that you can do to help them learn.  Reading aloud, and the discussion that goes with it, does more than teach the content of the book you’re reading:  It also teaches pre-reading skills such as learning that letters make words, learning that print moves from left to right, learning to value and enjoy reading/language, learning the basics of grammar, learning correct pronounciation, and so on.  It also is a great relationship builder!

I believe that these “4R’s” should be the foundation upon which homepreschooling/homeschooling rests. If these priorities are kept in perspective, everything else naturally falls into place. You may ask, “but what about the traditional 3R’s: Aren’t they important?!” Sure they are…once your child is developmentally ready for them. Most preschoolers aren’t. We have to remember that the curriculum in the public schools has been pushed down to the point that what used to be taught in Kindergarten is now taught in preschool, and what used to be taught in the first or even the second grade is now taught in Kindergarten. No wonder so many children are struggling in school! Preschoolers haven’t changed, but the curriculum has…drastically. Yet many parents expect their children to master it.

I take a different approach: I believe we should give the kids an old-fashioned, relaxed, play-based preschool/Kindergarten, and then slowly, over the years, notch those expectations up. You might say: Expect LESS of them when they are little, but MORE of them when they are older. Most public schools have it the opposite way: Expect MORE of them when they are little, but LESS of them when they are older.

This isn’t to say that preschoolers can’t learn. Preschoolers can (and do!) learn so much. In fact, if you take a look at the “skills lists” in Homepreschool and Beyond, you will probably discover a lot of things that you would never think that preschoolers could or should learn (especially about the Lord, or about nature, science, and the world around them.) In these areas especially, I think many parents underestimate their preschoolers. However,we need to remember that the way preschoolers learn is unique (they learn primarily through play,hands-on experiences, and through being read to and talked to) and the things they should learn are not simply their colors, numbers, and alphabet. There is a whole, vast world to explore, and preschoolers are very curious.

By using the foundation of the 4R’s, we can keep our priorities in order (make the main thing the main thing–relationships), and we can lay down a firm foundation for our children’s later years.

In my next post, I will briefly talk about specifics: What specific things do preschoolers need to be learning or doing, if not early formal academics?

© 2010, 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Academics for Four Year Olds, Academics for Preschoolers, Curriculum, Early Math, Goals, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Kindergarten Readiness, preschool at home, preschool curriculum, Readiness, The 4 R's | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Preschool at Home: You Can Do It! (Easy Ways to Help Your Child Learn at Home)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on March 6, 2012

I often receive phone calls and emails from parents who are excited about homepreschooling.  Many ask me how they should get started, or what curriculum they should use. The truth is, homepreschooling is not something parents suddenly “start”…every parent who has preschool-aged children is already homepreschooling!  After all, you taught your children to talk, didn’t you? And who held your baby’s hands while he was learning to walk?  You did, of course.  You are already a teacher, and already the facilitator of your children’s natural growth and development.

Parents nowadays have been programmed to think that they cannot possibly teach their own children.  The so called “experts” have encouraged them to think that they are not “qualified” or smart enough to homeschool—even at the preschool level!  But parents needn’t worry that they are not “qualified” to teach their own preschoolers at home.  The truth is, you are the expert when it comes to your own children.  No one knows and loves your children as you do.  As a homepreschooling parent, you can assess your child’s interests and readiness, and then carefully move them ahead–without pushing them.  No “preschool” can provide the amount of attention you can…and no “preschool” can individualize your child’s curriculum to fit your child’s own learning styles and interests as you can.

After all, it is God’s design that children be loved and raised by families, not institutions. Within a family, children grow strong, secure emotional attachments, which are vital to healthy personality development. Within a family, children are able to grow close relationships with people of all ages, including their own siblings. Within a family, children receive individualized attention, and children’s speech and vocabulary is enhanced by 50-100 times more individualized responses than they would receive in an institutional preschool (source:  Moore’s Home Grown Kids.) Within a family, children’s character is molded, and their hearts are gently drawn to God.

Homepreschool doesn’t have to be hard or expensive.  The best thing you can provide for your preschooler is your time and attention.  Your children will never need anything or anyone as much as they need you!  Most of what your children need to learn can be taught simply though good parenting.

Here are some simple, developmentally appropriate things that all parents can do to help their children learn.  Good parents do these things instinctively, but it is always good to be reminded about them:

1.  Provide your child with a stimulating home environment, rich in books, music, and open-ended play activities that grow with your child as he does: Play dough, blocks, cars, dolls, puzzles and so on. As your child gets older, have art materials available for your child to use anytime: Paper, crayons, felt-tipped pens, scissors and glue.

2.  Give your children lots of free time for creative play. Play is greatly under-valued in our society. Through play children release stress, get exercise, get a handle on their emotions, and learn skills vital to their academic growth.  Give your children time to play outside every day, weather permitting. If you can, provide a swing set, tricycle, balls and other outside toys; pets to love and care for, gardens to tend, and so on.  Inside play should play should be “creative” or “dramatic” play, as much as possible.

3.  Have your children work alongside you. Children need to learn to work with cheerful attitudes. Working is almost like play to the young child; they are practicing/pretending about their future adult roles. Teach them how to work while they are young and willing. Working together should be a bonding experience for you and your child, and an important learning experience for your preschooler.

4.  Try to make all “learning” fun at first.  As much as possible, let all “academic” learning take the form of games and play. If your child resists, back off for a while. It is much easier on both of you to wait for readiness and teach something in ten minutes than it is to spend ten hours (or days!) trying to teach the same skill before your child is developmentally ready.

5.  Read, sing and talk, then read, sing and talk some more!!  Help your child grow his vocabulary and base of knowledge about the world through conversation, lots of reading aloud and singing together. This is the true heart of homepreschooling.

6.  Provide your child with the opportunity to succeed by giving plenty of practice with new skills and concepts learned–through repetition.  We may become tired of hearing favorite books or songs over and over, or practicing jumping off the steps over and over–but preschoolers don’t!  Repetition strengthens and reinforces learning.

7.  Limit passive entertainment. Even “educational” television or computer games can’t match interaction with real people or real objects when it comes to learning. Most children spend more time watching television or playing computer games than they spend sleeping—much less playing!  Too much passive entertainment can be harmful to young children’s development. Commonly observed effects of too much television or computer time include over-stimulation, shortened attention span, and a reduction in active playtime. Don’t let the television replace real life experiences, play, reading aloud and conversations in the life of your family.

8. Introduce your child to the best in art, literature and music. Art and music are more than just “extras” your child can do without; they are vital to healthy, normal, early childhood development. Enjoying literature of all kinds with your children lays the foundation for literacy. (Several chapters of Homepreschooll and Beyond are devoted to these topics.)

9. Explore the real world together. Visit the grocery store: Purchase new foods to try, and talk about where they are grown/how they are made. Visit your local state and National Parks; explore the streams, mountains and beaches, taking time to wade in the streams, toss rocks in the water, and look for wildlife. Visit your local fire station, police station, train station, and airport. Plant a garden in your own backyard. Work, play and experiment together, and talk about everything you do.

10. Remember that your children are learning all the time, whether you are aware of it or not.  Homepreschooling parents simply take advantage of this fact, and choose to embrace a lifestyle of learning–consciously deciding to take advantage of those “teachable” moments. Life itself is the very best curriculum for preschoolers.

        You CAN provide everything your children need for early learning. Your children will never need anyone or anything more than they need you. Let them have the love, time, and attention of their own parents. That’s all they really need.

*This is a compilation of excerpts from: Homepreschool and Beyond: A Comprehensive Guide to Early Home Education, by Susan Lemons, used with permission.  Much of the material in this book was originally printed in Home School Enrichment Magazine, and is re-used with permission. You can read the complete article, What Your Preschooler Really Needs, HERE.

© 2010, 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Deciding to Homeschool or Hompreschool, Encouragement, Family Life, Getting Started, Homepreschool, Homeschool Preschool, Mothering, Parenting, preschool at home | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

PE for Homeschoolers/Homepreschoolers (Activities, Games, and More)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on February 27, 2012

If there is one area that homeschoolers tend to neglect, it has to be PE. I think many homeschoolers have the attitude that, “if we have to be weak in one area, being weak in PE isn’t so bad.” After all, the public schools are weak in PE, too: Many schools are shortening recesses and shortening or eliminating PE altogether.

There are lots of ways to cover PE…you can even enroll your children in outside-of-the-home activities if you desire (many sport centers even offer classes for homeschoolers now. There are also sport opportunities available through city leagues, private classes, etc—and sometimes PE is offered by homeschool support groups.) However, for the sake of this post, I’m going to stick to providing PE at home.

PE at home isn’t hard to do; it just takes a time commitment. I recommend that you make sure your children spend some time playing outside every day, weather permitting. An hour a day is a good goal (you can even break it up into 15 minute segments if you need to.)

If you don’t have any outside space available to you at home, you’ll have to get creative. A few ideas: Taking off for the park a two or three days a week; purchasing a rebounder, and using it inside; jumping rope; purchasing an exercise DVD, and doing it together; exercising with your Wii. You could also run in place, do sit-ups, jumping jacks, and so on inside.

Even if you do have a backyard, just getting your kids outside to play isn’t really enough. Two or three days a week, plan to go outside with them and lead them in a more “official” PE time. Use this time to build their coordination, strength, endurance, and sport skills (listening skills, too!)

Here are some ideas that are appropriate for children of all ages (unless otherwise noted):

Work on specific sports skills: Throwing and catching balls of all sizes; throwing and catching bean bags, Frisbees, etc; bouncing balls (dribbling); controlling a ball with feet (soccer skills, including kicking); batting skills; basketball skills (making baskets; throwing with good aim, passing, etc)  AND whatever sport skills are important to you or your child. You might even want to choose a “sport of the month” or “skill of the month” to work on.

*Jump rope play: Learn to jump rope (5+) alone and when others turning the rope for them; have two people hold the rope, or tie it to something on one end (I tie mine to one end of our swing set) and then: wiggle it and have your kids try to jump over it without touching it (we call this playing “snake”); jump over the rope when it is held up (“high waters”); lay the jump rope on the ground and walk on it like a balance beam, and so on (get creative!)

*Play outside games: Some games need multiple players, but many can be adapted for even one child (and a parent.)  Examples: Hide and Seek, What Time is it Mr. Fox, Horse, and so on. (see below for other specific suggestions.)

*Practice coordination/build stamina with props: Use hula hoops to make paths to jump/hop/step over; learn to twirl and throw the hoops, etc; balance a ball on a Frisbee and see how far you can walk without dropping it; dance or move while holding streamers, and so on. Go to any dollar store and you are sure to find some props for PE on the cheap.

*Do stretches then calisthenics: Jumping jacks, sit-ups, etc (My Fit has a list of suggested exercises.)

Specific Activities:

*Play kickball, soccer or baseball with a beach ball or other large ball

*Set up “target practice” with bean bags and laundry baskets (you could also use Nerf balls or wiffle balls.)

*Use old 2 liter soda bottles as bowling pins, and a softball as the bowling ball and “bowl”

*Set up an obstacle course and have your children run through it. Use a stop-watch to see if each child can improve their time.

*Learn how to play “four square” (6+), hopscotch, (5+) jacks (6+), and Chinese jump-rope (6+), marbles and croquet (6+)

*Play “red light, green light”: You can play this with even one child. The basic directions are HERE (along with some other fun games); or, play it by having children run, hop, crawl, walk backwards, etc on the “green lights.”

*Play “Simon says” the usual way, or: “Simon says climb up the slide, then run over to the fence and touch it, then walk backwards to me. Ready, set, go!” Or, “Simon says do 25 jumping jacks.”

*Try having your children move in different ways: Hop, skip, jump, run; walk backwards, crab-walk; walk toe-to-toe, tip-toe, walk on heels, tiptoe, side-step, and so on; try moving  like animals: turtle, rabbit, gorilla, lion, dog, cat, bird, and so on.

*Make your child into a living wheelbarrow: Have your child get down on his hands and knees in front of you. Pick up your child’s legs at the ankles and have your child “walk” on his hands. This is a great workout for his arms and back.

*Older children will enjoy playing ping-pong, laser tag or dart tag (with Nerf guns.)

*Have several children or a co-op group? Try rely races: Have children pass a ball over their heads then between their legs; run to a spot, turn around, then tag the next person in line; or, have children run to a specific spot, pick up an object, run it back to the next person, who then runs to the same spot and puts in down, and so on. Games are also tons of fun. A larger group with several adults for supervision can even play more complicated strategy games like capture the flag. Other fun: parachute play (you can substitute a large sheet for a parachute.)

*Some days, you just can’t do everything you’d like to do PE wise. Perhaps your kids need PE, but you aren’t feeling good…perhaps you are over-committed (or just overwhelmed) for that day. That’s the time to use a back up plan. Make up a simple plan to use when you need to get your kids moving but you know you can’t be overly involved.  Have them: 1) Walk around the yard 3 times. 2)  Do 25 jumping jacks. 3) Jump rope 50 times. 4) Walk around the yard one more time. 5) Play outside for at least a half an hour.  Make your own plan, including activities your children know and enjoy. Use it on the days you don’t do formal PE with them, or the days when you need a break.


There aren’t very many websites or blogs that have ideas about homeschool PE on them, so if you have any links or ideas to share, please share them in the comment section.  If you are looking for some fun props and toys to use for playtime and PE, check out Hearth Song for some unique outdoor toys. Finally: Have fun. Try to make PE fun for your kids. They will get more out of it and be more cooperative, too.

© 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Portions of this post are taken from Homepreschoool and Beyond, used with permission. Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Elementary School, Homepreschool, Homeschooling, PE, Play | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Enter for a Chance To Win Homepreschool and Beyond

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on February 22, 2012

Home Educating Family Magazine has posted a review of my book, Homepreschool and Beyond on their review website. Hop on over, read the review, and enter for a chance to win one of two copies of Homepreschool and Beyond. Good luck!


Posted in Book Reviews, Homepreschool and Beyond, Reviews of Homepreschool and Beyond | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Homeschool in Freedom: Breaking All the Rules, Part Two

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on February 20, 2012

-There is no rule that says that you must involve your child in every out-of-the-home activity available so that your child is properly “socialized.” While some such activities are enjoyable and recommended, remember to find the balance: After all, you have to be home to homeschool! Only participate in activities that provide positive socialization, and those that do not wear you (or your children) out. Remember that the home is the primary place for teaching manners and proper socialization; in reality, your children need little more.

-There is no rule that says that you have to do fifteen different subjects in one day. That is how many subjects some curriculum suppliers offer: Bible, math, reading, phonics, grammar, writing, handwriting, spelling, vocabulary, history, health, science, art, music, and foreign language. Alternate your lessons by day of the week, by unit, or by semester so that you are teaching either science OR history, spelling OR vocabulary, grammar OR writing, science OR health, but never everything in the same day. (Read my post “How Many Subjects Do We Need to Teach, Anyway?” HERE.)

As for grammar: Grammar  can be saved until your child is reading well (till phonics is done, or even later.)

-There is no rule that says you have to do school Monday-Friday, August through May. Many homeschoolers use a year round plan, taking their vacations off-season, starting school early or “late”, and so on. If you want to do a four day week, you can. If you want to do school on Saturday, that’s OK. It’s also OK to count your vacation days as “school” days if you are doing something educational (visiting a state park, museum, etc…field trip!)

-There is no rule that says that you have to start school at eight o’clock. Not all of us are morning people; many of us do our best work in the afternoons.  Oh—by the way—it really is OK to homeschool in your pajamas.

-There is no rule that says that you have to use textbooks. Often, especially in the early grades, the same material can be covered in a much more interesting way by reading aloud real books to your children. Remember, ANYTHING we use to help our children learn is “curriculum”, including real books, videos, games, activities and even un-planned, real life experiences.

-There is no rule that says you shouldn’t use textbooks, either. As a dear friend reminded me recently–textbooks are not intrinsically evil! Textbooks are merely tools that parents use to help their children learn.

A few words of advice: If you do choose to go the textbook route, don’t turn too much of it over to your kids to do independently. Make sure you follow-up on every lesson immediately, and discuss the lessons with your children— even when they can read them independently. Additionally, make sure that textbooks aren’t your children’s ONLY reading. Continue to read good literature aloud to them, even when they learn how to read themselves; and once they learn to read, make sure they read LOTS on their own, too. (This is so important!) Plan time for those “electives”, which are more than  “optional extras”—subjects like art, music, and PE are vitally important for normal development, and tons of fun, too. Additionally, give your children the time they need to explore their own interests (academic and otherwise.)

Personally, I tend to use real books almost exclusively during the early years (pre-K-First grade, at least), but I slowly edge a little more towards textbooks as my children get older. We usually end up using a “mix” including (an abundance of) real books, and some textbooks, too.

-There is no rule that says that you have to use a textbook—or any other book, for that matter—in the “traditional” way. Textbooks make great “spines”, to which you can add living books and real-life activities. Together, they make a great whole.

Books don’t have to be used as a whole—feel free to skim them, read only applicable passages out of them, and so on.

It’s always a great idea to set out a “library box” or “book basket” to encourage your children’s interests in reading, and/or supplement their curriculum.

-There is no rule that says you have to finish the entire book/text in a year’s time:  most public schools don’t; they simply drop them at the end of the year, potentially leaving out large chunks of learning. We don’t have to do that. We can pick up where we left off the next school year, or even extend our school year and continue working through them until we are done.

If your child is struggling with a new concept, slow down. Feel free to supplement lessons or repeat them until your child masters the concept and is ready to move on. Homemade games are awesome teaching tools to help your children memorize their math facts, practice handling money, or  practice phonics/reading.

NOTE: Most textbooks, especially math texts, include a review section at the beginning of each year. If your children need it, use it. If they know the material and are ready to move ahead, let them. Curriculum is a tool, not a slave-driver.

-There is no rule that says that all your teaching materials or textbooks must all be the same grade level. One of our greatest blessings as homeschoolers is the ability to individualized our curriculum and methods to fit each child. That may mean that your child is “in” the third grade, but is using a fourth grade language arts text, a second grade math text, and a third grade science text. That’s OK! Remember that mastery is the goal. Also remember that you will have a year or two’s wiggle room come high school, when many kids do only two or three years of math and science. You can use those years (or the junior high years, which are often review anyway) to “catch up”.  (NOTE: Find out what your state law says, though. Some states require yearly testing/grade level achievement. Find out what your leeway is. If necessary, hold your child back a grade. You can always bump them back up again, later.)

-There is no rule that says that you have to purchase your entire curriculum from one supplier. Most homeschoolers are “eclectic”, mixing and matching curriculums/suppliers to find what fits their children and their teaching style.

-There is no rule that says that you have to do every activity that the teacher’s manual suggests. Remember that most curriculums, especially textbooks, are written for classroom use and thus must contain “busy work” for the children who finish their work early as well as extra work for children who are struggling. DO ONLY THE WORK THAT WILL BENEFIT YOUR CHILD; don’t feel obligated to do it all! That’s a sure recipe for burn-out.

-There is no rule that says that you have to use the teacher’s manual, if it is no help to you. I rarely  buy teacher’s manuals at all until after the third grade or so—and even then, they are often used as an occasional reference, only (my exception: math.)

-There is no rule that says that you must give your child tests—and if you do, remember that you should only give tests if you believe they will be a help to your child (or you.) Homeschooling parents who are involved in their children’s learning usually know if their children know the material or not. Other than spelling tests, we give very few tests until after the fourth grade.

I do think it is a good idea to make sure that children begin to learn how to take tests by 5th or 6th grade, so that they are “in practice” for standardized tests, if they are required. Additionally, I believe it is important for junior and senior high kids to practice taking tests and doing the questions at the end of chapters, so that they are prepared for college (used to using/finding information in textbooks and used to writing the answers as well as preparing for tests.)

-There is no rule that says that if you do give your child tests, they have to be written. First tests, especially, can be given orally, in a game format, or whatever other creative way that appeals to you.

-There is no rule that says that school should take five to six hours every day. In fact, if you are taking that long, it’s probably too long. Short lessons are best.  Remember that homeschooling is more efficient that public school—we can get twice as much done in half the time.

On average, plan for 10-15 minutes per academic subject–per day– per grade—MAXIMUM. For example: Kindergardeners and first graders spend 10-15 minutes per subject; second graders spend twenty to twenty-five minutes, and so on, until you get to around forty to forty-five minutes per subject—then stay there. Yes, the public school’s class periods are longer—but they waste so much time settling kids down, taking roll, and handing out/collecting papers that they are lucky if they get 30 minutes of actual teaching time in each class.

Exceptions: If your children are older (junior high/high school)—and even then, I’d be sure they got breaks every 4o-45 minutes or so.

NOTE: I do allow my children more time when they are doing work on their own initiative, or when it is something hands-on or for fun (art projects they don’t want to stop, when I am reading an exciting book to them and the kids are begging to hear more, and so on.)

-There is no rule that says that your children must have homework: Most homeschoolers don’t. They get their work done during school time, or save it for another day.

-There is no rule that says that you have to pre-plan your lessons: I plan at the beginning of the year or the beginning of a unit/topic. Once we start, we just “do what comes next” and write it down later. This gives me leeway to adjust what we are doing if it isn’t working, to take extra time to master a hard subject or to explore a subject we are enjoying, or allow for sick days. I keep “journal-style” lessons, writing down what we do after the fact. (I do know which books we are reading next, etc.)

-There is no rule that says that you can’t include non-traditional subjects, or that you have to cover the traditional subjects in a traditional way: It’s OK to count chores as “life-skills”, baking as “home-ec”, and outside play time as “PE”. In fact, I recommend it. Remember that anything educational that you do, no matter the time of day or day of the week, is part of your homeschool’s curriculum and therefore should be counted as “school”.  Homeschoolers are always in school!! If you’ll count all the educational things you do on a day to day basis, you’ll be amazed.

-There is no rule that says that your preschooler has to know all his alphabet and numbers before starting Kindergarten. What else is Kindergarten for?! Kindergarten is the best time to cement those preschool “facts” and begin a slightly longer, more disciplined daily routine. Remember, we don’t have to make our children ready for Kindergarten—we can make Kindergarten ready for them.

-There is no rule that says that your child has to learn to read in Kindergarten—or even first grade. Learning to read, like learning to walk or swim, is very much a developmental task and should be approached on an individual basis–depending on readiness. (See my previous post , the tab on readiness, and the archives on “readiness” for more.)

-There’s no rule that says that you have to teach state history in the fourth grade (we did it together, when the kids were in grades 3 and 5) or do a science fair project in the fifth grade (unless you think it would benefit your kids.)

-There’s no rule that says that you have to teach your kids what the scope and sequence says you should for history or science, or that you can’t teach your children the things they want to learn, instead. In fact, some of the best learning happens when we give our kids the lead. (Scope and sequences are pretty arbitrary when it comes to history and science topics. Does it really matter which year you teach your children about the states, or insects, for example? Nope. Cover it whenever you think your kids will get the most out of it.)

No matter your chosen homeschooling method, I think it’s a great idea to take some time off once in a while and let your children choose their topics (often called the “delight-directed” approach.) If your child has a topic she loves, encourage her to take some time to pursue it. Feel free to take off on a “rabbit trail” once in a while and explore topics of interest when they come up without feeling guilty. Many times these topics will lead your child to learn more (about every subject) than you ever dreamed. Sometimes these topics lead children towards their future career paths.


Many times, homeschooling parents discover that they have to break free from the “public school” mentality and its rules in order to give their children the best and most efficient education they can. Just like their kids, they need time to “detox” and eliminate the “public school” mentality. Don’t be afraid to re-examine the rules or “step out of the box.”  Remember that YOU are in charge of your child’s education. You get to make (most of) the “rules”, so don’t worry if you are “breaking” them or adjusting them to fit your needs. The ability we have to individualised our materials and methods is one of our greatest strength as homeschoolers. Don’t be afraid to use it.

© 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Education, Elementary School, Encouragement, Homepreschool, Homeschool, homeschool methods, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschool/homepreschool | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Homeschool in Freedom: Throwing Out the Rules

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on February 18, 2012

Many homeschoolers, especially new homeschoolers, live under a self-imposed set of “rules” based on their perceptions of what homeschooling should be. These unspoken “rules” are often based on our experiences with public schools. These “rules” often hurt us and our kids. They need to be discarded and replaced by the rule of true freedom. Here are some of the rules that I’m talking about:

-There’s no rule that says that you have to be perfect to homeschool: You don’t have to start out with tons of patience or wisdom; often God gives us that along the way. If you feel challenged by this, consider it an opportunity that God is giving you to step out in faith, grow in your spiritual walk with Him, and grow your spiritual gifts.

-There’s no rule that says that you have to be supermom: Many new homeschooling moms try to “do it all”. Sometimes they feel they have to prove themselves to others; other times they just don’t want to give up their mental picture of what homeschooling should be like. The expectations we put on ourselves are often unrealistic and have to be revised. Expect it and don’t let it depress you.

The hardest part of homeschooling is NOT the academics; it’s balancing homeschooling with the needs of daily life (keeping the house clean, the laundry done, doing errands, etc.) You may have to get help for a time, or even lower your standards for a while. Remember, it’s the eternal things (relationships) that matter most, not how clean your house is. Enlist your kid’s help, no matter their age, and you’ll find your “balance” soon enough.

-There’s no rule that says that your kids have to be “super-kids”: There is a perception out there that all homeschooled kids are above-average, if not brilliant. The reality is, most of them are simply “normal” or “average” academically, and that’s O.K.

Many homeschooled kids come across as “smart” or “mature” simply because, in general, they are polite, have good vocabularies, and are not afraid to talk to adults.

Putting things in the proper perspective is important. Remember those “main things” we want our children to excel at: Relationships, spiritual knowledge, wisdom (which is applied knowledge), maturity, manners, common sense, and a love of learning. If they have those things, they will have an amazing advantage in all matters, academic or otherwise.

-There is no rule that says that if you choose to homeschool now, you have to homeschool forever; many folks homeschool from year to year. Any amount of time that you can homeschool your children will be beneficial to them.

The only time this rule applies is during high school. If you start homeschooling your high school aged child, you should plan to homeschool them all four years, since enrolling them in public school can be problematic (some public schools will make them start as a freshman instead of counting the classes you’ve already done at home, for example.)

It is also important to remember that no matter how or where your children are educated, we, as Christian parents, are responsible to see that they receive a thoroughly CHRISTIAN education. As Daniel Webster said, “Education without the Bible is useless.”

–There’s no rule that says that you must have a college degree or a super high IQ to homeschool your kids: Remember, studies have shown that homeschooled kids do better than publically schooled kids do–no matter the educational level of their parents. You don’t have to “know it all”; you can learn along with your kids. All you have to do is stay one lesson ahead of them.

-There is no rule that says that you  have to know how to do algebra or be able to speak a foreign language in order to homeschool: Let’s face it, we all have subjects that we are weak in, don’t know, or just don’t like. But don’t worry; you don’t have to know it all! There are many non-traditional ways to cover those hard subjects: As homeschoolers, we are free to use video curriculum, curriculum on computer, or co-op classes. Some homeschoolers recruit other family members to teach those subjects they love or specialize in. If you still don’t find a workable resource, get creative: My daughter covered her foreign language requirement in high school through being tutored by a foreign exchange student. She learned to read, write, and speak Japanese, which is not a language commonly offered in high schools. Where there is a will, there is a way.

–There is no rule that says that you must involve your child in every out-of-the-home activity available so that your child is properly “socialized.” While some such activities are enjoyable and recommended, remember to find the balance: After all, you have to be home to do homeschool! Only participate in activities that provide positive socialization, and which do not wear you (or your children) out. Remember that the home is the primary place for teaching manners and proper socialization; in reality, your children need little more.

-There is no rule that says that you have to do fifteen different subjects in one day. That is how many subjects some curriculum suppliers offer: Bible, math, reading, phonics, grammar, writing, handwriting, spelling, vocabulary, history, health, science, art, music, and foreign language. Alternate your lessons by day of the week, by unit, or by semester so that you are teaching either science OR history, spelling OR vocabulary, grammar OR writing, science OR health, but never everything in the same day.

As for grammar: Grammar  can be saved until your child is reading well (till phonics is done, or even later.)

-There is no rule that says you have to do school Monday-Friday, August through May. Many homeschoolers use a year round plan, taking their vacations off-season, starting school early or “late”, and so on. If you want to do a four-day week, you can. If you want to do school on Saturday, that’s OK. It’s also OK to count your vacation days as “school” days if you are doing something educational (visiting a state park, museum, etc…field trip!)

-There is no rule that says that you have to start school at eight o’clock. Not all of us are morning people; many of us do our best work in the afternoons.  Oh—by the way—it really is OK to homeschool in your pajamas.

-There is no rule that says that you have to use textbooks. Often, especially in the early grades, the same material can be covered in a much more interesting way by reading aloud real books to your children. Remember, ANYTHING we use to help our children learn is “curriculum”, including real books, videos, games, activities and even un-planned, real life experiences.

-There is no rule that says you shouldn’t use textbooks, either. As a dear friend reminded me recently–textbooks are not intrinsically evil! Textbooks are merely tools that parents use to help their children learn.

A few words of advice: If you do choose to go the textbook route, don’t turn too much of it over to your kids to do independently. Make sure you follow up on every lesson immediately, and discuss the lessons with your children, even when they can read them for themselves. Additionally, make sure that textbooks aren’t your children’s ONLY reading. Continue to read good literature aloud to them, even once they learn how to read themselves; and once they learn to read, make sure they read LOTS on their own, too. (This is so important!) Plan time for those “electives”, which are more than  “optional extras”—subjects like art, music, and PE are vitally important for normal development. Additionally, give your children the time they need to explore their own interests (academic and otherwise.)

Personally, I tend to use real books almost exclusively during the early years (pre-K-First grade, at least), but I slowly edge a little more towards textbooks as my children get older. We usually end up using a “mix” including (an abundance of) real books, and some textbooks, too.

(To be continued)

© 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Education, Family Life, Family Rules, Homeschool, homeschool methods, Homeschooling, Methods | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

The Truth About Early Formal Academics (revisited, with lots of new research links)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on February 8, 2012

We’ve all heard these sayings about education: “the earlier the better.” “Let’s start our kids early, and give them an advantage.” “Early readers do better in school,” and so on. But are any of these widely held ideas true? Is there any proof to back up these sayings? The truth is, not one single study that has shown that early formal academics are beneficial to normal young children from loving homes. No study has shown any long-term benefit to early formal academics, and there is no proof that learning to read earlier is better than learning later. However, there is considerable proof that early academics can cause harm.

Consider this: Until the last 30-40 years or so, most children weren’t introduced to the alphabet in a formal lesson type of way until Kindergarten–and even then, often only the upper case letters! Nowadays, many children are taught the alphabet in preschool—or even before (as toddlers.) The results have not been encouraging. In fact, the more the public schools demand of young children, the worse America’s children do—academically and behaviorally. I don’t think this is a coincidence. Look at the evidence for yourself:

-More and more children are being diagnosed with learning disorders. Many developmental experts believe this is due to the recent “push down” in preschool/school curriculum, combined with a lack of time for play and other more traditional preschool-type activities.  On average, 1 in 6 children are diagnosed with some type of  developmental disability, a 15% increase between 1997-2008 (this is mostly due to attention deficit disorder.)

-School/academic  preschool often presents unique problems for boys:  Boys are more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit disorder  than girls are, probably because boys naturally have higher activity levels than girls do, and thus have a harder time sitting still (or listening, or being quiet, etc…). Additionally, in general, boys mature later than girls, and often are not ready for formal academics.

-Literacy and literary knowledge continues to decline. The web is abuzz with commentators questioning/lamenting: “Is reading dead?”  Even Steve Jobs is quoted as saying, “It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore. Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year.”

But there is hope…Most commentators  conclude that reading is not dead–it’s just changing. Less people are reading the great literary works, and more are reading in short snippets–tweets, texts, and blogs versus reading real literature. If that is true,  reading is in its death throes as far as I’m concerned. Thank-goodness homeschooolers are still keeping it alive! (For more, read the Literary Crisis  or read the shocking statistics about reading in the U.S.)

-Studies have shown that children whose preschool experience was child-initiated did better in elementary school. From Moving up the Grades: Relationship between Preschool Model and Later School Success, by Rebecca A. Marcon, University of North Florida: “.….By the end of their sixth year in school, children whose preschool experiences had been academically directed earned significantly lower grades compared to children who had attended child-initiated preschool classes. Children’s later school success appears to have been enhanced by more active, child-initiated early learning experiences. Their progress may have been slowed by overly academic preschool experiences that introduced formalized learning experiences too early for most children’s developmental status” (emphasis added; read the entire article HERE.)

-Many parents/schools are “miseducating” young children. From “Academics, Literacy, and Young Children,” Childhood Education, Spring 2000, by Elizabeth M. Nel: Important points: “Miseducation…(It) puts a child at risk for psychological damage (Werner & Strother, 1987); what is worse, it is apparently for no good reason, since the benefits of early reading instruction are relatively insignificant. …Therefore, with respect to literacy, developmentally appropriate preschool academics do not involve formal reading instruction, but rather they promote print awareness (Kontos, 1986) by exposing young children to letters, words, and numbers in meaningful contexts (Lesiak, 1997).…Reading to children is one of the best ways to model literacy skills (Bus, Van Ijzendoorn, & Pellegrini, 1995). Reading should not be limited to a set story-time, but rather should be shared with children throughout the day.”

-There is no advantage to learning to read early: From Rush Little Baby: How the Push for Infant Academics Might Actually be a Waste of Time-or Worse, by By Neil Swidey, October 28, 2007, The Boston Globe: (Watch the video, then scroll down for the article. It’s long, but worth the time; and it’s not only about infants.) Quote: “A classic study in the 1930s by noted researcher and Illinois educator Carleton Washburne compared the trajectories of children who had begun reading at several ages, up to 7. Washburne concluded that, in general, a child could best learn to read beginning around the age of 6. By middle school, he found no appreciable difference in reading levels between the kids who had started young versus the kids who had started later, except the earlier readers appeared to be less motivated and less excited about reading. …”Many efforts to teach a child to read before 4 or 5 years of age are biologically precipitate and potentially counterproductive for many children. ‘The danger in pushing reading too early, Wolf says, is that, for many children, we may be asking them to do something for which their brains are not ready. You run the risk of making a child feel like a failure before they’ve even begun,’ she says. And while the gains from early reading may fade away, the damage from being tagged a slow kid at a young age has the potential to be permanent.’” …..”Study after study shows the best thing parents can do for their children is give them a nurturing, rich, vibrant environment, reading to them often and exposing them to lots of language in organic ways. Reading books out loud is most effective when the parent uses the words on the page to help the child make connections to his or her own world.” …”As long as parents are exposing their children to a nurturing, vibrant environment, reading to them regularly, and speaking with them intelligently, they should feel free to put the flash cards away.”

. -Harm is the result when children enter an academic first-grade program too soon: This is from a surprising source–The Longevity Project,  a twenty year project at the University of Riverside: (My summary):  According to the study, these children had adolescent problems, problems later in life, and “an earlier DEATH!” Now THAT’S scary!! (NOTE: The study results regarding early learning are toward the end of the video, linked above.)

My conclusion: We should relax and enjoy the preschool years! Following your children’s lead when it comes to early academics is the wisest choice. Watch your children for signs of interest and natural learning, so that you neither push your children, nor hold them back. Remember, our goal should be to find “balance”….we do this by addressing the needs of the whole child (spirit, mind, and body) and by using an individualized, developmentally appropriate approach. This is more than just a “good idea”; it is a necessity, since every child is different and develops at his/her own, God-given time-table.

Finally: It’s important to know that most, if not all of the studies that are highly promoted as showing  the “benefits” to early formal education have been done on “at risk” or “disadvantaged” children, NOT children from average American homes. Furthermore, the studies showed that any “advantage” the children gained was short-lived, and disappeared altogether by the third grade. Furthermore, the studies ignored the negative effects of early formal education, such as those listed above (and more.) Still not convinced? Check out the links below, and the following books:

 Links About Readiness:

Best Homeschooling (ALL these articles are great!)

Preschooling at Home: My article, What Your Preschooler Really Needs (lots of good resources on this site.)

Is Five Too Soon to Start School? (from the U.K.)

Should Preschools be all work and no play? (This highlights a lot of the research I mention above in a practical way. Remember, as homeschoolers, we don’t have to get our children ready for Kindergarten; we can make our Kindergarten ready for them, instead.)

Paula’s Archives (another great collection of articles)

Books about Readiness/Early Learning:

Endangered Minds: Why Children Don’t Think-and What We Can Do About It, Jane M. Healy, PH.D., Simon and Schuster Paperbacks, 1990.

Home Grown Kids, Raymond and Dorothy Moore*

Miseducation: Preschoolers At Risk, David Elkind*

Einstein Never Used Flashcards, Kathy Hirsh-Paskek, Roberta Michnick Golinkoff

The Three R’s by Ruth Beechick*

(Remember, there is a whole chapter on the issue of readiness in Homepreschool and Beyond.)

 © 2010, 2012  Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Academics for Four Year Olds, Academics for Preschoolers, Early Academics, Homepreschool, Homeschool Preschool, Kindergarten Readiness, preschool curriculum, Readiness | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

How Do You Measure Success (In Homeschool/Homepreschool)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on February 4, 2012

(Note: This is a previous post that I updated.)

This morning I wrote  a submission for a blog that asked the question, “what makes your home learning method unique?”  The question had three parts to it:

1) What makes your method unique—how does it differ from mainstream, curriculum-based methods?  (Using the 4R’s as the  foundation to all I do.)

2) Why did you choose this path?  (Brief answer:  Because I believe in a balanced, whole-child approach that makes the main thing the main thing–versus methods that concentrate almost exclusively on one area of child development—usually academics.)

3)  How do you measure success?

Number one and number two were self-evident and easy for me to answer.  The last question, “how do you measure success?” was way more difficult.  Here is my (final) answer:

Like most other homeschool moms, I write out yearly goals for my children,  However, the real measure of success is not as simple as a completed math program or a high test score.  Instead, I ask myself the following questions:

About Relationship:

-Am I keeping relationships at the center of our home and our homeschool/homepreschool? Do I prioritize my time to reflect the fact that relationships (with God and with family) are the main thing?!

-Are my children growing in their relationship with the Lord? (Knowledge, understanding, wisdom, character, holiness?)

-Do my children want to please God?

-Do my children hunger after God’s presence/God’s Word?

-Is our parent/child relationship strong and growing?  Do we really talk to each other (conversation–a back and forth proposition?)

-Are the relationships between siblings/extended families strong and growing?

-Do I spend time playing with my children (entering into their world?)

-Do I make the time for relationship-building activities?

About Routine:

-Is our daily routine helping our days run more smoothly?

-Has our routine helped us develop helpful habits?

-Can my children depend on the security of “what comes next?”

-Does my routine include short lessons alternated with play breaks?

-Have I included the “fun stuff” (art, music, nature walks, play, PE etc) in our plan, so they are not overlooked?

-Do my children have plenty of free time for creative play and outside play?

About Readiness:

-Am I watching my children for signs of readiness before introducing something new (interest/curiosity, developing abilities, natural/independent learning?)

-Do I decide what to teach my children strictly according to someone else’s list or timetable (scope and sequence–“what’s expected,” age-by-age), or do I let my children’s own maturity/abilities/interests guide me?

-Do I follow my children’s lead when teaching something new—keeping lessons short and fun (game-based) and stopping if my children express frustration/disinterest?  (Note: Balance this with the knowledge that as children grow older and their abilities increase, they will have to learn some things that they may not want to learn or may not be interested in.  After all, who asks to learn long division?)

About Reading Aloud: 

-Do we spend lots of time reading aloud and discussing what we read/have learned?

-Do we read a variety of different types of books aloud (depending on age:  picture books, storybooks, biographies, poetry, historical fiction, non-fiction, etc?)

-Do we have a variety of different types of books available in our home for our children to choose from/read/browse through independently?

-When I read aloud to my children, do I take my time and enjoy it, too? Do I use expression (making silly sounds and different voices/accents as appropriate) or do I speed through, just to “get it done?”  In short–do I make it special?

About Academic Goals: 

-Are my children achieving reasonable (developmentally appropriate) learning goals, bearing in mind that the abilities of normal children vary greatly from child to child?

-Am I challenging my children without pushing them?

-Do I remember that most people expect far too much of young children, and not nearly enough of older children?  Have I adjusted our expectations/learning styles/curriculum accordingly?

I could share lots of other things that I want my children to achieve—spiritual skills/knowledge, physical skills, skills related to specific learning/academic areas, life skills, etc….and as I stated, I do make yearly, detailed lists of these items for each child.  But as I thought about how I really measure success, I realized that the main measure of my success as a homeschooling mom continues to be centered around the 4R’s.  It seems to me that when the 4R’s are kept in mind, the rest falls into place naturally.  With the 4R’s as a foundation, the needs of the whole child are addressed (including academics.)

Yes, I definitely believe there is more to measuring homepreschool/homeschool success than simply measuring what our children “know” academically (ABC’s, 1, 2, 3′s, test scores, etc.)  True, test scores are important, but they aren’t “the main thing.”

Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.  Matt. 6:32

Live the 4R’s!


© 2010, 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Family Life, Goals, Mothering, Spiritual Matters | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »


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