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

Archive for the ‘Readiness’ Category

The Basics Of Homepreschool: Starting Early? Curriculum, Methods and More

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on September 3, 2014


How to Start Children Early—Curriculum, Methods, etc:

First of all, I have to make it clear that starting homepreschool–a deliberate, set-aside time to help our preschoolers learn–does not mean it is time to start formal academics. Study after study have shown that the current push-down in curriculum just doesn’t work. No study has shown any benefit at all to learning to read at age five or younger, versus learning to read at age 6, 7, or older—and in fact, studies have shown that children who learn to read later not only learn to read more quickly and easily than other children do, but they do better academically throughout their entire lives. This is because they spent their early years learning and doing real things instead of concentrating solely on formal academics.

Preschoolers should spend lots of time being read to, playing with science, taking nature walks, doing art, listening to music, singing, and playing, playing, playing! All these activities boost thinking skills, creativity, and vocabulary, and THAT benefits them throughout their whole lives. (This is true, meaningful learning for preschoolers. See the tab, “Goals of Homepreschool” and “Goals for the Balanced Mom” for more.)

Preschoolers don’t need “curriculum” as we’ve come to think of it, either. For preschoolers, life itself is the curriculum. Preschoolers can learn about science—plants, animals, weather; social studies—communities and community helpers; art; music; pre-reading skills; social skills; sport/physical skills; speech/language skills and pre-math skills—all through having parents who talk to them, read aloud to them, play with them, and provide real life experiences for them. (Don’t make the mistake of concentrating only on formal academics and “readiness” skills, when there is so much more that preschoolers can and should learn! See my tab on “Readiness” and “The Truth: Early Academics” for more, including links to research on the subject.)

How to Get Started

The best way to start homepreschooling is not by running out and buying workbooks for your preschooler, as I stated above. Workbooks are not developmentally appropriate for most preschoolers. Instead, start by establishing a simple daily routine for that includes a story time, art, music, and so on. If you want to, you can decide ahead of time what you’d like to read to your children about—choose themes or units, and then run to the library and find all the picture books you can about the subject. Then, simply read, read, read. If and when you can, throw in activities that go along with what you are learning about. For instance, when you do a farm unit, visit the grocery store and talk about how and where things grow; buy some whipping cream and shake it up to make butter. When you learn about zoo animals, visit a zoo. When you learn about community helpers, visit the police station and the airport, and so on. There are many “homepreschool” co-ops and homeschool support groups that offer these types of activities or “field trips”. (See my archives on unit studies for more.)

Methods: The Importance of Reading Aloud, Conversation, and Playing with Our Children

Reading aloud is the single most important thing parents can do to help their children learn, no matter their age. When you read to your child, you are teaching more than just the content of the book. You are teaching them about language, letters and print—that letters make sounds, and sounds make letters; you are also teaching them that we read from top to bottom and left to right. You are teaching them about grammar, vocabulary, and rhyme. You are growing their attention span, speech skills and more. {For more, see my tab, “Reading Aloud” and the archives on reading aloud and book lists.}

Conversation is vitally important to learning. Conversations always include the skills of listening, and then responding, which is different from just “talking at” our children. We can use conversations to build relationships with our children, to teach our children, and to facilitate their learning

Playing With Our Children:

It is important to watch our children’s play AND play with them. By watching their play, we can detect new behavior problems and nip them in the bud; we can discern their emotional state, and help them where needed; we can take advantage of teachable moments, and we can learn about their health (observing children’s play/behavior allows us to catch illnesses early.) Best of all, playing with our children builds close relationships and is tons of fun! {See my article, “Why Preschoolers Need to Play” for more, including links to research about the importance of play.}

Next time: Important Skills to Develop, Fun and Games!

© 2010, 2011, 2014 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Portions of this post are taken from or similar to passages in Homepreschool and Beyond, used by permission of the author. Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Academics for Four Year Olds, Academics for Preschoolers, Challenge to Parents, Curriculum, Early Academics, Getting Started, Homepreschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschool/homepreschool, Kindergarten Readiness, Readiness, Reading Aloud, Routines | Leave a Comment »

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 »

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 »

Off to a Rough Start? Advice for Parents of Young Learners (pre-K-grade 3)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 2, 2011


   Note:  This is a classic re-post that orginally appeared on my Home School Enrichment blog several years back.  Thanks HSE, for giving permission for me to re-post it!

  
     Have you been thinking: “Here it is, only October, and I already feel like a failure as a homeschooling Mom?” I feel a little like that right now, too.

      It seems as though September was nothing but one interruption after another.  We had one child struggling with an ongoing illness, along with all the requisite doctor appointments; we had unwelcome guests in our house—two mice—which meant traps, then cleaning and sterilizing; we ALL got miserable colds, and finally, we finished off the month with our annual off-season vacation.

     Not enough school has been completed!  I already feel “behind”.  My plans have been set aside, and my vision for the first month of the school did NOT come true. 

     What should you do if your year has started like ours? First of all, and especially if you are new to homeschooling: Realize that “some days are like that.” Actually, some months are like that. I always tell new homeschoolers that the hardest part of homeschooling is not the academics—it’s life. It’s dealing with interruptions, illness, errands and laundry. This is a normal part of homeschooling that we all must learn to deal with.   

     Another important thing to remember is that there is nothing as hard to deal with as unrealized expectations.  They can be heartbreaking. Many homeschoolers, especially new ones, envision the “perfect homeschool”: Cheerful, obedient children who love to learn; a patient, totally organized Mom whose lessons plans are legendary and always completed. It’s hard when our dreams don’t match up with reality.
 
     So what should you do if your year is off to a rough start?  Here are some ideas:

-Pray and ask the Lord to renew your enthusiasm about homeschooling. Ask the Lord to give you HIS vision for your homeschool.

-Take an eternal perspective: Remember that this time at home with your children is just a “blink” compared to eternity. We want our children taught in the way that most benefits their eternity—and that is homeschooling. 

-Feel behind? Ask yourself, “Behind WHO?” Remember that the public schools expect too much of young children, and not enough of older children. The goal should be steady progress (slow and steady wins the race.) Preschoolers and Kindergarteners need time to build a foundation of basic knowledge about the world, and a wide vocabulary before they are introduced to formal academics.

-Re-examine your expectations. Are they appropriate? Often new homeschoolers spend TOO much time daily, and expect TOO much from their children—especially YOUNG children. 

-Re-examine the readiness issue: Has what you’ve been expecting of your young learner been inappropriate?  Is your child resistant? If so, perhaps you need to back off a little.  

-Re-examine your routine. Is it appropriate? Does it include plenty of breaks, and time for younger students to play? Do your children have regular bedtimes, and a set time to wake up? Do you? Do you get up and dressed BEFORE your children do?

-Consider shortening your lessons, doing more work orally, and generally “lightening” your load. Charlotte Mason says that short lessons actually build children’s attention spans.  After all, it is better to have your child fully engaged and paying attention for a short lesson, than having him squirmy and inattentive for a long lesson. We want our children to look forward to school; we want to keep them begging for more.

 -Consider changing to a year round schedule. A year round schedule allows you to take time off when you need to. You can take time off for family emergencies, illnesses or cleaning days without worry. We take off extra time around the holidays in exchange for schooling part of the summer (when it’s too hot to do much in central California, anyway.) During the early years of schooling (K-3), we follow a four day week, and only three days include an academic emphasis; one day is used for park days, field trips, library time, art, messy projects, nature walks, games, life skills, catch up work, etc.

-Make homeschooling your priority. Schedule everything you can around it. Don’t let the phone or appointments take you away from school time, unless it is absolutely unavoidable.

-If you haven’t already, take the time to write down the reasons you decided to homeschool in the first place–as well as some basic goals. That way, when you have a tough day (or week), you can re-read them and remind yourself that those reasons haven’t changed.  You’ll probably see that your important goals are being met, as well. (These are usually spiritual or behavioral in nature.)

-Plan time for the fun stuff: I know this doesn’t make sense if you feel “behind”; our tendency is to double the school work instead.  Resist that temptation or you and your child will quickly become frustrated and burnt out.  Instead, plan the time you need to enjoy art and music with your children.  Art and music are more than just “extra” subjects; they teach skills vital for young children.  Furthermore, they lighten the mood in your home, make learning fun, and give you and your children the opportunity to feel successful.

-Start over:  If you are new to homeschooling and feel as if September has been a bust, give yourself a chance to start over.  Count the days you have done as “practice”, or time to break into your school routine, and then start over.  That’s right, start over from right where you are, only adding the necessary adjustments. 

-Finally, remember that whenever God calls us to do something, He will give us the strengths and the abilities we need to complete it.  Don’t let a rough start make you reconsider your decision to homeschool…don’t give up.  Implement some of the changes I’ve suggested, and hang in there.  It does get easier.

Live the 4R’s!

    ~Susan

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

Posted in Academics for Four Year Olds, Academics for Preschoolers, Challenge to Parents, Curriculum, Early Academics, Education, Elementary School, Encouragement, Family Life, Getting Started, Homepreschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling, preschool at home, preschool curriculum, Readiness | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Preschool at Home for Gifted Children

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on June 5, 2011


NOTE: I hate the word “average”, because all children are blessed and gifted in their own ways! I just can’t think of another word to replace it…

         My advice to parents of gifted children is basically the same as my advice for parents of “average” children. These are the things I recommend:

-Provide a rich, stimulating but calm home environment. Follow the general guidelines for homepreschooling, emphasizing the 4 R’s (see tabs); remember, routine is especially important for emotionally sensitive, easily over-stimulated children.

-Provide lots of opportunities for hands-on exploration, including nature walks, simple science experiments, “field trips”, etc to make learning “real” to preschoolers.

-Provide quality, traditional toys that encourage creative thinking (Dr. Drew’s BlocksCiti Blocks, Tegu magnetic blocksDuplos, pattern blocks and cards  etc.)  When they get older, switch to Legos , Magnetix and Geomags, etc. Timberdoodle and Hearthsong carry good selections of creative, educational toys and puzzles for children of all ages and abilities.

-Introduce your preschooler to the best in art and music (looking, listening and doing.)

-Keep the amount of “seat work” short and sweet, even for gifted children. Better yet, let it be child-initiated only until age 4-5, depending on the abilities of your children. Remember that writing skills often lag behind verbal skills, so be patient.

– If your child is truly advanced academically, consider trying learning games and Montessori-style (hands-on) learning experiences to replace seat-work, or at least to supplement it.

-Consider yourself a “facilitator” of your child’s learning. Provide your children with the materials they need to learn independently.  

-When you do start formally “teaching” your preschooler, remember that you don’t have to teach the things that s/he already knows, even if your child is several grade levels above his/her age level. BUT…. you may want to check and make sure s/he has fully mastered concepts (phonics, etc) before moving on.  Fill in any holes, and then let them move ahead.

-Be careful to find the balance between encouraging/facilitating advanced abilities and pushing, which often results in burnout.

-Even if your child is several grade levels ahead of his/her peers, remember that it doesn’t automatically follow that you should treat him/her like an older child in every way, or that you should get frustrated if s/he doesn’t want to keep advancing academically at the moment. He’s already ahead!! Relax and enjoy the journey; learning may come in spurts.

-Remember that some preschoolers have the tendency to temporarily SLOW DOWN/almost stop practicing other skills while new skills are emerging. They seem to concentrate on one major skill at a time. Just think of babies; many previously verbal babies will become less talkative while learning to walk. Once they master walking, the babbling picks up again to its previous level. Some preschoolers tend to be like this, too, concentrating on one skill at a time. The new skill seems to consume their every thought. Even so, be sure to contact your pediatrician immediately if your child SUDDENLY loses skills altogether, dramatically regresses, or if your heart tells you “something’s wrong.”

-Encourage curiosity and a love of learning.

-Allow lots of time for creative play.

-Continue to read aloud, even to readers.

Remember that:

-Preschoolers can learn more than just those traditional “academic” facts (colors, letters, numbers, learning to read, math) we associate with the early years.  In fact, all preschoolers, included gifted preschoolers, can learn a lot about science/nature, people and how they live (or lived in the past), holidays and traditions, art, music, poetry, love of literature, and so much more. Work on building that simple base of knowledge about the world, and the vocabulary to go with it. This is done through conversation, real-life experiences, and reading aloud.

-Remember that building vocabulary is vital for young readers; it is necessary for reading comprehension.Reading has no value to your child if he/she doesn’t understand what he reads.

-Preschoolers are capable of memorizing many facts. Many parents make the mistake of thinking this means their children are gifted. This may or may not be so. Truly gifted children differ from “average” children because they tend to understand the meaning of the facts they memorize (and often how to use those facts). Remember that knowing the facts (alphabet, letter sounds, numbers) doesn’t automatically mean children are ready for the next step. Be careful not to push your child too far ahead.

-Follow his/her lead. The goal is not to push our preschoolers, but not to hold them back, either. One of the marks of a truly gifted child, in my opinion, is that they will not allow themselves to be held back. They will push and push to learn, and often teach themselves to read, do math, etc. They will spend a lot of their free time pursuing academics. Our job is to facilitate this learning/exploration without demanding that they sit down and do hours of work sheets, just because they can.

-If your child is begging to be taught to read and you’re sure s/he is ready, go ahead and try a few short, play-based lessons. If your child enjoys the lessons and seems capable of learning to read, let him. But if your child resists or is disinterested, back off.

-Remember that there is no proven academic advantage to learning to read early, or having an academically based preschool/Kindergarten. To the contrary, studies have shown that children who are provided with a play/exploration-based preschool/Kindergarten actually do better academically throughout their lives. 

Advice for Parents of Young Readers

-If your child has taught himself to read, be sure he doesn’t strain his eyes by reading for too long at a time. Give him/her frequent breaks to look away at the horizon. This can help prevent nearsightedness.

-Make sure the books you allow your child to read are not only appropriate to his/her reading ability, but to his/her social/emotional/spiritual maturity; double-check the content. Early readers should start by reading picture books, and then move up to longer picture books and short chapter books that focus on animals and family life. The goal should be to avoid mature content (too intense, scary, or complex.) See my “book list” category for ideas, as well as chapter 7 in Homepreschool and Beyond.   

        Finally, I’d like to remind parents of gifted children that:

-Sadly, parents of “average” children often feel threatened by gifted children. So when you share with other parents about your child, be sensitive to the fact that some of them might feel that you are bragging or implying that their child should have the same abilities as yours…even if that is not your intent. Bear this in mind and try to be especially tactful and understanding of others.

-Don’t assume that ALL your children will be gifted in the same areas/ways

-Don’t assume that because your child is gifted, everything will come easily to him/her. As I stated in my previous post, some children are gifted in only one area; others are gifted in one or more areas but have learning problems in others, and so on. Each child is unique and so the variations are endless.

-Don’t assume that because your child is advanced now, s/he will always be advanced.

-Be sure to teach your children that their abilities and talents are a gift from God. Remind your children hat God has a plan for their lives.

-Especially gifted children may have tendencies towards arguing with adults or correcting them. Each family will have to deal with this in their own way (it may be a discipline issue.)

-Remember that academics are only a small part of life. Relationships (with God and family) are the most important thing in the life of your child; keep them the main thing.  Don’t “overlook the forest for the trees.” Don’t concentrate so much on academics that you over look activities that are important/developmentally appropriate for your child’s age. Even gifted preschoolers need lots of time to play and explore, make messy art, sing, do finger plays, dress-up, play games, etc, etc. See “Goals of Homepreschool” for more.  

~Susan

© 2011 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

 

Posted in Academics for Four Year Olds, Academics for Preschoolers, Challenge to Parents, Early Academics, Family Life, Gifted Preschoolers, Homepreschool, Homepreschool and Beyond, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling, Kindergarten Readiness, preschool at home, Readiness | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Generations Radio Interview

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 22, 2010


      Ever wonder what I sound like?  I’m sure it won’t be what you imagine.  But if you’d like to know, you can listen to me on Generations Radio

    I was blessed to be interviewed this week by Kevin Swanson, a Pastor, author, leader in the homeschool community, and a homeschooling dad. 

    We talk about my book, the advantages of homepreschool versus institutional preschool, building relationships, the importance of conversation, music, and lots more.  You can listen HERE.

     Live the 4R’s!

                     ~Susan

Posted in Homepreschool, Homepreschool and Beyond, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Kindergarten Readiness, Mothering, Music, Parenting, Picture Books, Play, preschool at home, Radio Interviews, Readiness, Reading Aloud, Susan Lemons, Teaching Reading | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Helpful Advice for Homeschooling Elementary School-Aged Children

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on June 12, 2010


Simplify the Curriculum, or “Colette’s List of 10 Things  (with my own comments added):

1).  Keep everything as simple as you can. Jesus wrote with a stick in the dirt, and He was the greatest teacher that ever lived. He used no curriculum or flannel graphs or lesson plans. Homeschooling can be made far more complicated than it should be. A simpler approach is much more effective.

     Why do we make things so difficult for ourselves?  Why do we feel we need to spend hundreds of dollars on curriculum, “educational toys”, manipulatives, etc to homeschool successfully?  Why do we glue ourselves to one single method or curriculum? 

      Remember, there is no perfect curriculum.  There is no special toy/manipulative or magical homeschooling method that will teach your children and solve all your problems.  The truth is, we can make almost anything “work” as curriculum if we need to–in fact, before buying curriculum, it’s always a good idea to ask yourself if it is really necessary at all.  Many topics can be taught naturally using real books and discussion. 

     The key to homeschool success is relationship–your relationship with your children; the time you spend working with them one-on-one; your ability to individualize your methods and curiculum; the time you spend reading aloud and then discussing what you’ve read.  Relationship is more important than curriculum (or method.)

2).  Stick to the 3 R’s. They form the foundation of life-long learning in every field because they are the tools of study. There will be no need to formalize any other subject if the children are doing their best in these 3, because people who are well grounded in reading, writing and math will approach other subjects boldly, independently and confidently.

     I have to add Bible to that…I believe our most important subjects are Bible/Christian Character, math, and language arts.  We should concentrate most of our time on these.  Be sure to go for mastery, not just “exposure” in these subjects.  I have a good friend who says, “If your child knows and loves the Lord, loves to learn, can read and write well, knows basic math, and knows how to do research –then what else does he need?”   (Thanks, Peggy!)

     Do you worry about “gaps”?!  Things your children will miss?  All children have “gaps”.  You have them, too.  There is simply too much to learn; no one can master it all.  But if you love to learn and if you know how to do research, you will want to fill those gaps when they come up–and you’ll know how to do so.  You will be a lifelong learner.

     Don’t get me wrong; I do want my children to know science, history, geography, etc.  We do teach those subjects in our homeschool.  I also believe that art and music are important.  But sometimes we overlook the fact that our children learn lots from real life, being read to and through independent reading.  We make things harder than they need to be.  If your children haven’t mastered the basics yet, try concentrating on mastering them  for awhile.  For your other subjects, read aloud to your children, and discuss what you’ve read.  Also encourage your children to explore their own interests during their free time. 

3).  Let the children teach themselves as much as they are able to. This teaches them responsibility, intellectual independence, and builds confidence. It’s also better for the parent/child relationship because you can focus on parenting instead of playing schoolteacher.

     I agree, and yet disagree with this one.  I make it a rule not to do anything for my children that they can do for themselves; I encourage them to learn how to work “independently”  in their chores and their schoolwork (more and more as they grow older.)   But that doesn’t mean I expect to totally give up my role as “teacher-mom”  and turn all learning over to my children.  I think there has to be a balance of independent work and facitiated learning/discusion. 

      Sometimes in our haste to make things easier for ourselves, we turn too much over to our children too soon.  To make the most of our homeschool, we need to maintain our involvement in our children’s school work.  At the least, we should introduce new concepts and discuss them; introduce new assignments, communicating to our children exactly what is expected of them; supervise/check in on our children as they work; read aloud/discuss their learning; ask them to talk to you about what they’ve learned (or narrate–either verbally or through a report), and finally, inspect (check) their work immediately upon it’s completion.  If we overlook these things, we miss out on the best parts of homeschooling and in my opinion, let our children down. 

     I must admit, I didn’t do the best job with this for my older set of children.  I was so busy with my little ones that I entrusted them with too much independence too soon.  I didn’t discern their true needs.  Be careful to find a balance in your homeschool, so that you don’t repeat my mistakes.  (Note:  Plan to sit right with your children while they are doing their assignments for the first few years.  Maturity comes before independence.)

4).  Use the most direct method available. For reading, read. For writing, write, for math, do it, and for Bible, read it. Don’t fall for catchy curriculums or methods that are really just something else for you and your child to learn. 

     See my post, “Homeschooling Early Elementary…Keep it Simple”, HERE.  

5).  Don’t worry about your child’s age or grade. Just let him do the best he can each day. Children grow intellectually like they do physically: in spurts. Although we may have an audience of skeptical relatives, homeschooling is not a circus, and we refuse to train our children to do tricks for people.

     Our goal should be to find out where our children are now, and then move them forward from there.  Slow and steady wins the race!  We tend to expect far too much of our younger children, and not nearly enough of our older children.  Instead, duing the early elementary years, back off a bit and wait for readiness.  Children in Sweeden and Switzerland don’t even start school until they are 7, and yet they outscore American children on standardized tests.  (See my tab, “Readiness”, and my archived posts on readiness as well.)

 6).  Minimize distractions in the home. Watch for excessiveness in entertainments, snacking, outings, phone conversations and the like. These sorts of things can easily get out of hand and compete with the effectiveness of a homeschool and sap the family of time and energy.

     Such distractions also get in the way of our children’s time to play,  explore their hobbies/interests, and so on.  These are vitally important to children of all ages.  Distractions eat up our own time as well; especially the time we could be spend reading the Bible,  playing games with our children, and giving them unrushed, real life experiences (cooking, nature walks, art, etc) they need.

7).  Seek quality over quantity. A few tapes of great music, a small case of carefully chosen books, a few special play mates, and an occasional outing is better than a large, but poor quality collection.

     Often we spend hundreds of dollars on these things–with the best of intentions–only to have them gathering dust on a shelf.  Start with a few of the best, and use them.  Once your children become familiar with the books and CD’s you have, you can add more.  This saves you from stress and guilt…and it saves money, too.  Sometimes I think we give ourselves so many options that we don’t know what to do; we’re like toddlers overwhelmed by a mountain of toys.  Less really can be “more.”  Believe me about this–I’ve learned it the hard way.

8).  If you must document your school activities, do it after the fact. This way you will not make promises you cannot keep. If you are required to make lesson plans, be as vague as permissible. Don’t let transcripts, diplomas, records and tests determine your academic plans. Focus on learning and the rest will follow.

     I don’t know about you, but I hate those “teacher plan” books…I dispise those empty boxes (even if I planned my day that way–i.e. alternating subjects.)  This year we’re using a simple, journal-type planner.  I added my own tabs to divide up the weeks, as well as tabs for writing down the books we read, resources we’re using, etc.

9).  Put the needs of your youngest, most vulnerable children first. If an older child gets a little behind in school, I’m sure you can forgive yourself. But if something happened to the toddler while you were busy homeschooling, I don’t think you would be able to say the same.

     Once we’ve given our youngest what they need, they will be content to let us work with our older children.  See my tab on “Routine”, and my article, “Keeping Little Ones Busy.”

10).  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul and don’t neglect to seek him early…giving him the first fruits of your day and teach your children to do the same. I know that you are tired and that there aren’t enough hours in your day, but we serve a God who can make the sun stand still.

     Examine yourself:  Do you “make the main thing (JESUS!) the main thing”  in your personal life/homeschool/family life?  Do you spend time in the Word everyday?   Does your life reflect your most important goals?  Do you live out your faith?  Does your life rotate around GOD, or your family/homeschool?  (OUCH.)   I know I have a long way to go regarding these matters…I’ve been very convicted lately about truly living out my most important goals.  

     For more about “the main thing”, see my post, “Challenge To Christian Parents.” 

     Live the 4R’s!   ~~Susan

     Info about this post:  Simplifying,”   according to my information, this was orginally posted on the RC4JC Yahoo group and is used with permission:  “Anyone can use Colette’s list of 10 things; she’d like it if they credit the e-group or her by name, but it’s otherwise free for use without any conditions.”  (If this information is incorrect, please let me know so I can give credit where credit is due.  I did my best to find the orginal source.)

Colette is one of the moderators of the Robinson Curriculum email group:
Robinson Users for Christ

Simplify the Curriculum © Colette Longo, used with permission.  Other portions of this post: © 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Curriculum, Elementary School, Encouragement, Goals, Holiness, Homeschool, Homeschooling, Methods, Readiness, Reading Aloud, Relationships, The 4 R's, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Me and the Moores: What Peaked my Interest in Homeschooling

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on May 19, 2010


        Way back in 1990, when my oldest was two, I heard Dr. Raymond Moore talk about homeschooling on the radio show,   Focus on the Family.  That single show started our family down a path to a major lifestyle decision–homeschooling. 

        Before my son was born, I was a huge supporter of institutional preschools.  I planned to keep teaching after our first was born.  I thought I’d find a preschool/daycare situation where I could take my baby to work with me…I was also considering starting my own home daycare.  But once I held my son in my arms, I saw preschool/daycare in an entirely new light.   I realized how much time it takes to care for a baby.   I remembered the preschoolers I worked with and saw them through new eyes…the eyes of a mother.  I realized that most of the children I worked with were lost, confused, and hungry for love and attention.  I knew I wanted better for my little boy.

        After hearing that radio show, I knew in my heart that the solution for us was homeschooling.  I’d already realized that I enjoyed the company of my then 2 year old way too much to ever send him away to preschool, but before the show I had never thought about homeschooling him.  I don’t know if I’d even heard of homeschooling.  

        I started to research homeschooling right away.  The first thing I did was to check out the book, Homegrown Kids from the library (Dr. Moore’s book).  I didn’t agree with everything in the book, but my background in Child Development told me that his emphasis on readiness and natural learning was right on the mark.  

        Dr. Raymond Moore is considered to be the “father” of the homeschool movement, and rightly so. The Moores have been at the forefront of the homeschooling movement since the early 1980’s.  The Moores emphasize developmental readiness, and introduced the idea of an “Integrated Maturity Level” or IML.   The IML includes our children’s cognitive, physical (including eye sight, eye-hand coordination, small muscle strength, and general coordination), and social maturity, which often doesn’t “come together” until age 8-10; therefore, the Moores suggest that children should learn in natural ways and not be forced into formal academic lessons until that time.   The Moore Formula encourages us to provide our children with approximately equal amounts of 1) manual work (think, life-skills!), 2) service (in the home or the community), and 3) “school” or study time (for young children, reading aloud and natural learning.)  I would add play to the list, especially for younger children. 

        Although the Moore’s method is often called “delayed learning”, it is anything but.  As I stated in my post, Preschool Myths, waiting for readiness is not the same as withholding learning.  It’s very different from un-schooling, as well.  The Moore’s advocate neither pushing children nor holding them back; they simply discourage “formal” or workbook/textbook type learning early on.  Instead, children learn through loving, consistent care and conversation (relationship),  a regular routine, lots of reading aloud, unit studies (delight directed), real life/hands-on experiences, games and oral work, and often through starting their own home business or helping their parents with theirs (a large component of their method.) Obviously the Moores have had a huge influence on me, since I am definitely a proponent of relationship, routine, readiness, reading aloud, and unit studies!

        The Moore Formula meshes well with many other methods, including Charlotte Mason (lots of lit; few if any textbooks, short lessons, oral work, etc) unit studies (lots of books and hands on/life experiences) and the Beechick method (again, lots of books and reading aloud, readiness, life experiences; emphasis on correct dating of early history), and even Montessori (life skills, hands-on activities, using real, adult-sized tools versus toys.)   

         Personally, I don’t go quite as far as the Moores do when it comes to delaying formal academics…Dr. Moore would have us wait for any type of formal academic lessons until our children are 8 years old.  Instead, I believe a more balanced approach is in order.  Having had an early reader (reading well at age 5-6) and a later reader (not reading much at all until age 10), I believe I see both sides of the issue.  I do believe in planning short, play-based lessons for the early years, but I believe they should be done carefully, with readiness and interest in mind.  Even so, I do see the good of the Moore Formula and I think their research is very comforting to parents of young children.  I recommend that parents of preschoolers and Kindergarteners (especially) read Home Grown Kids–if for no other reason than to help them relax and back off from an emphasis on formal academics during the preschool and early elementary years.  

        Reading Home Grown Kids helped me let my young children be young children, without worrying about a check-list of “facts” and “skills” they should conquer by age 4 or 5.  Their research held me together when my second born was struggling with reading.  The Moores are right–delayed readers do just as well or better than children who learn early (and I might add, there is not one study that shows that learning to read early is beneficial in the long run.)  My daughter went from struggling to read the simplest books (Boxcar children–at age 10) to reading Lord of the Rings so fast it made my head spin.  She now holds our family record for the most books read in one year, and she wants to be a Christian fiction writer. She never goes anywhere without a notebook, and she loves to read.

        I guess my point is, if you haven’t read Home Grown Kids, it’s worth your time.  If you want to get into the nitty-gritty of the Moore’s developmental research, read Better Late Than Early, too.  The book, The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook shows how the formula works in real families.

        To find out more about the Moore Formula, check out these links:

Read explanations of the Moore Formula HERE

Read articles about using the Moore Formula HERE

Read the article, Learning How to Think by the Moores (great ideas, except for the line about “the family democracy”; I don’t know about you, but our family is NOT a democracy!) 

Read the article, Unschooling and the Moore Method, by Dorothy Moore HERE.    

 © 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Curriculum, Deciding to Homeschool or Hompreschool, Elementary School, Encouragement, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Methods, Readiness, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Curriculum for Babies?!

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on May 4, 2010


         A day or two ago I got an email from a reputable homeschool supply company describing their newest product—a homeschool curriculum for babies. 

         I object.  In my opinion, babies do not need “curriculum”.

         Don’t get me wrong…I’ve often stated that I homeschooled my four children “from birth” (maybe I’ll quit saying that.) But to me, “homeschooled from birth” refers to the fact that my children were cared for at home versus being sent away for childcare–not that I actually used a  “curriculum” to “teach” them at such a tender age. 

         I have to admit, the idea of an infant curriculum makes me mad.  Perhaps it’s just me.  Perhaps it’s just semantics, but this is a personal pet peeve.  We developmentalists have enough trouble encouraging parents to relax and enjoy the preschool years without the need for curriculum (and the pressure that goes along with it) without curriculums being offered for babies and toddlers. 

         I decided to see if this was an unusual phenomenon, so I Googled “curriculum for babies” and found that this is not a new or unusual thing.  I quickly found other curriculums—for babies as young as three months old.  Additionally, our state and national governments are developing national curriculums for babies, which include “benchmarked standards” (is your baby rolling over yet?  Well, why not?!)  Can you imagine?  What’s next, the child development police? 

         Time for a reality check.  The common definition of “curriculum” is a “course of study; an integrated course of academic study”.  Do babies need academics?  No, of course not.  My definition of curriculum is very different; I say that curriculum is “anything and everything that helps your child learn.”  In this sense, I guess you could call developmentally appropriate toys and such baby’s “curriculum”.  Even so, do parents really need to spend hundreds of dollars on something like this?  Do babies really need to be “educated”? 

         Many of the “toddler curriculums” I found include workbooks. I definitely have a problem with this.  Toddlers do not need coloring books, cut and paste books, and so on.  The term “toddler” traditionally refers to babies once they are learning to walk (toddling)–until they walk with good coordination–usually children between the ages of eleven months until the age twenty-four months.  Children this age do not need any type of workbooks. 

         It certainly is true that babies and toddlers are learning and growing at an amazing rate, but I object to the idea that they need any type of pre-planned “curriculum” to “maximize” or “optimize” their development (you’ll hear lots of phrases like that if you research early curriculum or “educational” toys.)   In fact, I object to the term “curriculum” having anything to do with babies and toddlers and I can’t imagine the type of guilt and stress such “curriculums” must place on young parents. 

        The more companies carry such products…the more websites offer such “curriculums”…the more parents will feel that such “curriculums” are necessary.  The temptation for many parents will be to rely on the curriculum, making it a slave driver while turning the happy, fleeting years of babyhood into a “to do” list.

        Rest assured, your baby does not need any type of pre-planned curriculum to grow up healthy, happy, physically coordinated and intelligent.  All they need is loving, consistent care from their parents, and an enriching home environment.

        Next post:  If babies and toddlers don’t need a curriculum, what do they need?  How do we provide an enriching home environment for babies, without going overboard?

        Related posts:  Check my archives on the topics of “Babies,”  “Readiness” and the tab,  “the 4 R’s:  Readiness.”

 

© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Babies, Curriculum, Mothering, Parenting, Readiness | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Common Preschool Myths Debunked, Part 3

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on April 11, 2010


 Myth #5:  Waiting for children to develop “readiness” is the same as withholding academics from them.

Truth:  Waiting for readiness is not the same as withholding academics/learning from your children. Don’t think that being careful not to push early academics means that you are holding your children back or not exposing them to academics at all.  (I don’t believe in holding children back if they truly are ready; nor do I believe in pushing….I believe in balance.)  Preschoolers are learning all the time, whether we are aware of it or not.  If you provide your preschoolers with a print rich, stimulating home environment and read aloud to them everyday (preferably several times a day), your children will learn.  These developmentally appropriate activities are “teaching” your child more than you can imagine.   The goal of my approach is balance.  A balanced approach addresses not only your child’s academic needs, but his spiritual, physical, and emotional needs as well. 

     The thing to do is watch your children for signs of readiness, interest, or natural learning.  When you see those signs–when your children begin to ask you about letters and numbers–-that’s the time to begin short, play based lessons in the form of hands-on activities and games.  You can use store bought or home-made games like Memory or Lotto games, High-ho Cheerio, Leap-In-A-Line or Leap Frog Letter Factory Game  and so on.  You can find all kinds of file folder games for free online, or make up your own “Bingo” games/card games.  Your children will be having so much fun that they won’t even realize they are learning.   No expensive “curriculum” required, no pressure; just have fun together and your children will learn.   For more information about early academics, be sure to see the post, “The Truth About Early Academics” for more information.  Also see the tab, “Readiness” for more links and resources.

 Myth #6:  If my preschooler/Kindergartener has learned her letters and letter sounds…so that means she is ready to learn to read, right? 

Truth:  Maybe, maybe not.  How do we decide that our children are ready for the next step?  As I said above, we need to “watch for the signs.”  There are many signs we need to look for before we decide that our children are ready for formal reading lessons.  For a detailed list of readiness skills, many of which might be new to you, read my article, “Preschool or Kindergarten?”   Just remember, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning or wisdom…NOT phonics.” (Mary Schoalfield.)  

  © 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Curriculum, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Readiness | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Common Preschool Myths Debunked, Part 2

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on April 8, 2010


 Myth #4:  The Importance of early (formal) academic education.  Everyone knows that “earlier is better,” right?  In our competitive world, anything we can do to give our children an “advantage” is a good thing.  Besides, why not take advantage of all that brain development?

Truth:  Earlier is not  better.  The idea that we have to teach our preschoolers academics in order for them to “succeed” in school later is an idea promoted by the public schools, because of their inappropriate pushdown in curriculum. It is not supported by any of the research coming from the academic world.

          Developmental research has proven that in general, (most) young children are not developmentally ready for formal academics–and that early formal academics can even be damaging.  Some of the dangers include:

~The tendency to overlook other, more developmentally important activities in favor of an academic emphasis.

~Dr. Raymond Moore, in his books, Home Grown Kids and Better Late Than Early states that young children who spend too much of their time doing workbooks or other intensive/close-up work increase their risk of becoming nearsighted (eye strain/damage)

~ Many experts believe that early formal academics increase children’s risks of developing learning disabilities–including ADD and dyslexia.  

~Children who start formal schooling very young often “burn out” on academics just when they should be getting excited about learning.  

~Parents who try to teach formal academics to young children often face a difficult task, increasing the likelihood of parental frustration and possibly burnout.

 You should also know that: 

~Studies have shown that any academic advantage or gains your preschooler might make will disappear by the third grade (so what’s the use?!)

~It is true that young children are learning all the time; they seem to be learning “like sponges”.  But research has also shown that young children’s brains work differently than older children’s /adult’s brains do.  Young children need more hands-on/real life experiences than older children do if they are to make sense of the world and internalize the meanings of symbols (things that stand for other things, such as letters, which stand for sounds, and numbers, which symbolize amount.)

      I want parents to be aware of the research on this issue, and “tread softly” (i.e., proceed carefully.) I’m not putting down the parents who decide to teach their young ones to read, but I do worry about the trend and I don’t want all parents to think that because some people do, everyone else should, too.

      Finally, remember:  There are always exceptions to the rule.  Some children are ready to begin phonics/reading at a young age. Even if they are, though, I think it is wise to ask ourselves—is learning to read the best thing for them?  Just because they can learn phonics/learn to read/do math–should they?  Are there other, better ways to spend your child’s time?  Are the benefits worth the risks?  Will early reading offer any long lasting benefits?  You must decide for your children.

       Dr. Ruth Beechick, in her book, the Three R’s, talks about a study that was done to settle the issue once and for all.  It was done by a school district.  They had two classes of Kindergarteners.  In one class, they focused on early academics:  Phonics, reading, math, workbooks, etc.  In the other, they took a play based approach.  They did no formal reading lessons at all.  Instead, they read to the children, played with science (learned about nature, played with magnets, melted ice, did real life and play activities.)  They assessed the children when they were in the third grade to see which class was doing better.  The result:  The “play-based” Kindergarten children were doing better!  They learned to read later, yes—but they learned to read more quickly and easily than the “academic” children did.  They had higher reading scores and better vocabularies than the “academic” children did, too, because they had spent more time living “real life” and doing/talking about ‘real things.”  …Earlier is definitely not better.   

~~To find out more, see the tab, “Readiness”; see the tab, “Important Links” and scroll down to “Readiness”; see the tabs, “Preschool Goals” and “Goals for a Balanced Mom”; see the tab, “My Articles” (What Your Preschooler Really Needs, Why I Flunked Kindergarten, Preschool or Kindergarten?); see my posts archived under readiness, especially “The Truth About Early Academics.” 

 

This post contains excerpts from the book,Homepreschool and Beyond”; used with permission.  © 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Curriculum, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Readiness | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Call to Action: National Educational Standards

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on March 27, 2010


       Note:  This blog is not about politics, and I’ve avoided posting any articles or links about my personal political beliefs unless they have something to do with the state of America’s educational system or our freedom to educate our children as we see fit.  This is one of those times I can’t keep quiet.  Please read the summary below and take the appropriate action.

      No doubt you have heard about Obama’s proposed national standards for education.  Perhaps you have been concerned, as I am, about the affect these standards could have on young children (the continued pushdown of curriculum), and on homeschoolers (who often are required by state law to keep their children at state “grade level”, no matter how inappropriate that “grade level” might be.)  Even those of us not required by law to keep our children at a certain educational level will be influenced by these standards, either through changes in homeschool curriculums because of the standards or through public/peer pressure. 

       The new National Standards proposed are disturbing.  They are not developmentally appropriate, and many of the “requirements” and unclear and open to subjective judgments.  If they pass, they will put increased pressure on young children and on homeschooling families. 

       These standards will, in my opinion, lead to a national curriculum and take away public school teacher’s abilities to be innovative or creative (opportunities to improvise/individualize the content).  From what I understand, every classroom in America would be required to teach the exact same thing in the exact same way on the exact same day across America. (Not to mention–who would write our “national” curriculum?  What type of social engineering/Outcome-based garbage might it include?)

       Most of all, I worry that these standards will eventually be used as an excuse to regulate homeschools and private schools.  If they were made to apply to homeschoolers, they would take away our abilities to choose our own curriculum or individualize our curriculum in content and method–and this has been one of our greatest strengths.  Additionally, these standards would take away our ability to move our children along at their own pace…letting our little one’s maturity set the pace, instead of the curriculum.  Curriculum would become a slave driver instead of a tool. 

         There is still time to do something about this.  First, read the position statement put out by the Alliance for Childhood and Early Childhood Health and Education Professionals.

         Next, go to the Alliance for Childhood’s website and follow the step by step directions to add your own comments to the proposed standards.   I won’t lie to you; it’s a pain.  But we only have until April 2nd to make our voices heard.  Please take the time to express your opposition to National Standards today.

© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Curriculum, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Readiness | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

What Should a Four Year Old Know?

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on February 13, 2010


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         I have been disturbed by the trend in homepreschool circles to push young children into early academics.  So many parents have fallen for the public school’s curriculum push down and believe that they must force feed their preschoolers academic “facts” to get them “ready for Kindergarten”.  Somewhere they have found a list of skills that “every four-year old should know,” and with the best of intentions, they diligently teach this list to their preschoolers…turning life into a list.  While seeking the “good” for their children, they overlook the “best”:   The things their children really need:  Relationships.  Routine.  Readiness.  Reading Aloud.  Imagination.  Play.  And most of all, learning about God.

        Here is one of my favorite articles about what preschoolers should be learning.   Note that embedded in this post from Magical Childhood, is a link to World Book’s Scope and Sequence (a traditional “list” of what children “should” know).  Take a look at it; I think you’ll be surprised. 

      What should a 4 year old know? 

          By Alicia Bayer of Magical Childhood (used with permission.) 

I was on a parenting bulletin board recently and read a post by a mother who was worried that her 4 1/2 year old did not know enough. “What should a 4 year old know?” she asked.1.  She should know that she is loved wholly and unconditionally, all of the time.  

Most of the answers left me not only saddened but pretty soundly annoyed. One mom posted a laundry list of all of the things her son knew. Counting to 100, planets, how to write his first and last name, and on and on. Others chimed in with how much more their children already knew, some who were only 3. A few posted URL’s to lists of what each age should know. The fewest yet said that each child develops at his own pace and not to worry.

It bothered me greatly to see these mothers responding to a worried mom by adding to her concern, with lists of all the things their children could do that hers couldn’t. We are such a competitive culture that even our preschoolers have become trophies and bragging rights. Childhood shouldn’t be a race.

So here, I offer my list of what a 4 year old should know.
 

1.  He should know that he is safe and he should know how to keep himself safe in public, with others, and in varied situations. He should know that he can trust his instincts about people and that he never has to do something that doesn’t feel right, no matter who is asking. He should know his personal rights and that his family will back them up.  

2.  She should know how to laugh, act silly, be goofy and use her imagination. She should know that it is always okay to paint the sky orange and give cats 6 legs.  

3.  He should know his own interests and be encouraged to follow them. If he could care less about learning his numbers, his parents should realize he’ll learn them accidentally soon enough and let him immerse himself instead in rocket ships, drawing, dinosaurs or playing in the mud.  

4.  She should know that the world is magical and that so is she. She should know that she’s wonderful, brilliant, creative, compassionate and marvelous. She should know that it’s just as worthy to spend the day outside making daisy chains, mud pies and fairy houses as it is to practice phonics. Scratch that– way more worthy.  

But more important, here’s what parents need to know.  

1.  That every child learns to walk, talk, read and do algebra at his own pace and that it will have no bearing on how well he walks, talks, reads or does algebra.  

2.  That the single biggest predictor of high academic achievement and high ACT scores is reading to children. Not flash cards, not workbooks, not fancy preschools, not blinking toys or computers, but mom or dad taking the time every day or night (or both!) to sit and read them wonderful books.  

3.  That being the smartest or most accomplished kid in class has never had any bearing on being the happiest. We are so caught up in trying to give our children “advantages” that we’re giving them lives as multi-tasked and stressful as ours. One of the biggest advantages we can give our children is a simple, carefree childhood.  

4.  That our children deserve to be surrounded by books, nature, art supplies and the freedom to explore them. Most of us could get rid of 90% of our children’s toys and they wouldn’t be missed, but some things are important– building toys like legos and blocks, creative toys like all types of art materials (good stuff), musical instruments (real ones and multicultural ones), dress up clothes and books, books, books. (Incidentally, much of this can be picked up quite cheaply at thrift shops.) They need to have the freedom to explore with these things too– to play with scoops of dried beans in the high chair (supervised, of course), to knead bread and make messes, to use paint and play dough and glitter at the kitchen table while we make supper even though it gets everywhere, to have a spot in the yard where it’s absolutely fine to dig up all the grass and make a mud pit.  

5.  That our children need more of us. We have become so good at saying that we need to take care of ourselves that some of us have used it as an excuse to have the rest of the world take care of our kids. Yes, we all need undisturbed baths, time with friends, sanity breaks and an occasional life outside of parenthood. But we live in a time when parenting magazines recommend trying to commit to 10 minutes a day with each child and scheduling one Saturday a month as family day. That’s not okay! Our children don’t need Nintendos, computers, after school activities, ballet lessons, play groups and soccer practice nearly as much as they need US. 

They need fathers who sit and listen to their days, mothers who join in and make crafts with them, parents who take the time to read them stories and act like idiots with them. They need us to take walks with them and not mind the .1 MPH pace of a toddler on a spring night. They deserve to help us make supper even though it takes twice as long and makes it twice as much work. They deserve to know that they’re a priority for us and that we truly love to be with them.  

And now back to those 4 year old skills lists…..http://www.worldbook.com/wb/Students?curriculum
Since we homeschool, I occasionally print out the lists and check to see if there’s anything glaringly absent in what my kids know. So far there hasn’t been, but I get ideas sometimes for subjects to think up games about or books to check out from the library. Whether you homeschool or not, the lists can be useful to see what kids typically learn each year and can be reassuring that they really are doing fine.
http://www.redshift.com/~bonajo/early.htm

I know it’s human nature to want to know how our children compare to others and to want to make sure we’re doing all we can for them. Here is a list of what children are typically taught or should know by the end of each year of school, starting with preschool:

If there are areas where it seems your child is lacking, realize that it’s not an indication of failure for either you or your child. You just haven’t happened to cover that. Kids will learn whatever they’re exposed to, and the idea that they all need to know these 15 things at this precise age is rather silly. Still, if you want him to have those subjects covered then just work it into life and play with the subject and he’ll naturally pick it up. Count to 60 when you’re mixing a cake and he’ll pick up his numbers. Get fun books from the library about space or the alphabet. Experiment with everything from backyard snow to celery stalks in food coloring. It’ll all happen naturally, with much more fun and much less pressure.

My favorite advice about preschoolers is on this site though:

What does a 4 year old need? 

Much less than we realize, and much more.

       Visit Magical Childhood at http://www.magicalchildhood.com/index.htm .

(Thanks, Alicia!)

Posted in Goals, Homepreschool, Mothering, Parenting, Readiness, Relationships, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | 8 Comments »

The Truth About Early Academics

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on February 6, 2010


                Until the last 40 years or so, most children weren’t introduced to the alphabet (in a formal lesson type of way) until Kindergarten.  Nowadays, many children are taught the alphabet in preschool—or even before (as toddlers.)  The end result has not been encouraging: The more the public schools demand of young children, the worse America’s children do—academically and otherwise.  More and more children are being diagnosed with learning disorders; many developmental experts believe this is due to the “push down” in curriculum combined with a lack of time for play and other more traditional preschool-type activities.  Why would we, as homepreschoolers, want to follow that model?  

       Perhaps we’ve only heard one side of the argument. 

       The truth is, not one single study that has shown that early academics are beneficial to young children.  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.  But don’t take my word for it; read the articles below for yourself.  They are worth your time.

 Resources about Readiness:  

 “Moving up the Grades: Relationship between Preschool Model and Later School Success”, by Rebecca A. Marcon, University of North Florida

Important points: “Children whose preschool experience was child initiated faired better than peers in the transition from the primary to the later elementary school grades. Not only were their overall grades following the transition significantly higher, their school performance improved or held constant in all but two subject areas (music, social studies) despite increased academic demands of the next grade level.….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.”  Read the entire article HERE.  

 “Academics, Literacy, and Young Children,” Childhood Education, Spring 2000, by Elizabeth M. Nel:

Important points:  “According to Elkind (1987), academic learning fueled by motivation other than the child’s innate interests constitutes 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 storytime, but rather should be shared with children throughout the day.”  Read the entire article HERE.   

 “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.)

Important points:  “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.”

Read the entire article HERE.

        Relax and enjoy the preschool years!  Follow your children’s lead when it comes to early academics!  Watch your children for signs of interest and natural learning, so that you neither push nor hold them back.  Find the balance.

© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. 

Posted in Babies, Curriculum, Encouragement, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Readiness, Reading Aloud | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »