My boys, ages 1, 3, and 5 have been eyeing the new books, supplies, and schoolroom with excitement and finally break down my desire to begin in Fall. We start. Running out of the gate, full steam ahead! They love it! I love it. This is great. Day two, day three....and then the new wears off a bit and a hesitation starts in my eldest when I suggest we head to the school room. I watch his exterior change. No more shiny eyes, shoulders hunch, and he wants to keep playing. My heart tunes in to his. Why? Why is my son suddenly choosing to avoid our newfound adventure? I watch his shiny blonde head in the playroom, imagining, singing, and his body twirling and stretching. I had tried to make our homeschool fun, but I had not kept the wonder!
That’s it, mamas. Nothing too wild or difficult. The best advice I can offer a mama homeschooling littles (children under 7) is maintain the wide eyed wonder. When you pull out the read aloud, pull out the peg dolls, the silk scarves, the tinker toys, the blocks, the fort making supplies....something, anything, to invite them to jump into the story and live with the characters. Make the food the book describes, do a craft like the main character, visit somewhere like the setting, anything you can to keep their minds alive with wonder about the lives and experiences of those in the stories you read.
When they show interest in letters and reading, please don’t buy a full phonics or reading curriculum and expect them to spend 30 minutes a day sitting with you learning to read. Choose something light and natural, with play and whimsy built in. The Peaceful Preschool does this so innately and beautifully. If you do use a phonics curriculum try something brief. I found a wonderful little phonics set called “Dash into Reading” that takes all of 5-8 minutes a day and incorporates horses, pirates, dogs, rats, young children, games, and beautiful watercolor pictures all in its simple lessons.
When your child begins to count their toys and recognize numbers as you wander through the grocery store aisles, don’t hurry to find the best math curriculum out there. Instead, encourage them to sort their toys, count beans, the wings on bugs, the legs on a butterfly, have them paint what they see and count too! Let them enjoy the wonder and discovery they are naturally prone to.
Don’t be afraid to spend days outside with your littles, mama! Whether you call yourself Charlotte Mason, Classical, Montessori, it doesn’t matter. Get those littles outside. The sunshine, the trees, the bugs, the natural world - it saturates, invigorates, and soothes their little souls. I have a very active and excited little tribe of boys that comes alive and even focused in the woods. Find a small group to spend hours with at a stream or field. Explore, play, investigate, bring lunch, read! You will be rewarded with great naps and lots of smiles all around.
If you are still reading, thank you and welcome to the journey with me. Let’s explore a week at Arrow Hill Academy.
On Mondays and Tuesdays we begin our day with about 3-5 minutes of reading from a great book (The Ology). Then we sing a hymn together and go over the alphabet/letter sounds and our scripture. We do this at breakfast and the boys have come to expect it. Then we are off! Lunch is packed, swim suits or play clothing is on, and we bustle to the car! Out to the woods for 4-5 hours. We explore and play and read and eat with friends at the same location for 8-12 weeks at a time! It is a wonderful little program I help direct called Free Forest School.
When we arrive home, we rest. My boys often sleep 2-3 hours on these days! Later, we may read or do a craft or poetry together. I typically allow my eldest two to choose the rhythm for our afternoons on these days.
The rest of the week, we start out with our bible and hymn (morning basket) routine at breakfast and then head to our schoolroom for a read aloud from The Playful Pioneers. My boys love Almanzo and talk about him and play “with” him unprompted throughout our days. While I read, they draw or play with blocks or get out our vintage Playmobil log cabin, Native American figurines, and toy animals.
After our reading, we talk about the book, draw together, cook, or enjoy a craft. I have a gentle math and language arts curriculum if and when my eldest wants to do it, and I offer it daily. When he chooses it, we love the game based learning it incorporates and my 3 year old often joins in! We use Dash into Reading for phonics on these days and sometimes play the games it has too.
On the days we don’t stay in the woods, we enjoy outside time in the afternoons and my boys collect bugs in the yard, write in the mud with sticks, or kick balls, and watch birds and squirrels. Our academic pursuits in the schoolroom might last an hour, or they might be 30 minutes. Then, we play and cook and enjoy time exploring and having fun!
If I can leave you with any great nugget, any strong encouragement, it would be that you watch that little one and keep their wide-eye wonder! If it begins to lack it's luster, watch them, assess, take inventory, and make adjustments.
Our littles need us to be the great protectors of their childhood. The ones that guard their inquisitive souls from the dull and the sedentary.
So, mother of littles, go and set up a homeschool adventure around that wide eyed wonder, create an atmosphere for it to thrive and roam and indulge because all too soon it will naturally settle and they will leave Never Never Land and alight in our beautiful school rooms with logical minds ready for academia.