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What about preschool?

 By Kim Jaworski, Homeschool Resource Specialist

There is a lot of talk about all day kindergarten and preschool, too. As homeschoolers, what does this mean? Should we start earlier? Should we spend more time on academics with our young kids? Quite honestly, no. While the government and our communities may offer these options, none of it is required in anyway. In fact, in Minnesota, even schooling isn’t compulsory (required by law) until you child is 7 yrs old on Oct 1 of that school year. Preschool, Kindergarten and First grade exist just by social custom, not requirement. So there is no paperwork required to keep a Kindergartner or 1st grader home. If you live in a state other than Minnesota, check your state compulsory education laws to determine the minimum age requirement for education.

So, what’s a homeschooler to do with a 4,5 or 6 yr old? Especially if you’re homeschooling older children, your youngsters may be clamoring to do schoolwork of their own. There’s nothing wrong with that. But if your child couldn’t be less interested, there’s nothing wrong with that either. The book ‘What your Kindergartner Needs to Know’ or ‘What your First Grader Needs to Know’ can give you some idea what basic skills are usually introduced in those grades. You can use this material as a sort of check list. Check off the skills that your child has already mastered and plan some activities to explore new skills. None of this is too difficult, and you don’t need to worry that you’ll miss something. You can play with shapes and letters and numbers. You can cut with scissors, jump on one foot, tie knots and draw pictures with crayons. If your child is ready, you can tackle some word decoding (sounds that letters make) and short words. But above all, play. These early years should be full of play and exploration and imagination. Don’t waste it thinking that little brains need to be molded or made to yield to some structured learning. Play. Sing and dance and bake cookies. Make mudpies, splash in a puddle, watch ants march along the sidewalk, rescue worms from the rain, watch tadpoles become frogs and caterpillars become butterflies. This is the work of early learning. This is what young brains need to grow healthy and bright and happy.

Just as we know it’s wrong to put children into windowless factories and make them work, forcing them to learn from boring textbooks and contrived experiences isn’t healthy either. Give them REAL experiences and share those experiences. It will make all the difference.

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