Thursday, September 03, 2009

What's the Best Preschool or Kindergarten Curriculum

"I need your help. I'm at my wits end looking for just the right curriculum for my girls!"

"How old are they?"

"3 and 5."

I can't tell you how many times I've had this discussion with new homeschoolers. The best homeschool wisdom I ever heard was from my friend Becky when she told me 15 or so years ago, "I don't do kindergarten."

Since those early years, I've grown more and more fond of the Better Late than Early philosophy. As a homeschooler, I do not strive to imitate school. Instead I strive to instill a love of learning in my children that will live well into their adult years.

With that in mind, I try to keep learning as natural as possible in those early years. My experience has been that putting a 3 or 4 year old down at a table with formal lessons backfires in the long run. Oh, they may learn to read at an early age but are you killing their natural desire to explore and learn on their own? I think so.

It's been a lot of years since I read the Moores' book on this subject but, if I recall correctly, studies show that early learning does not translate into academic success later on. They maintain that it is better to wait until 8 or even 10 to begin formal studies. It is enough that they are in a loving and supportive home.

That doesn't mean that you chuck education and watch TV all day. Instead, I think, it means creating an educational yet inviting environment in your home. In those preschool and kindergarten years we just play and explore leaving formal schooling for later. We focus on the joy of discovery.

For example, instead of formal reading lessons I might naturally introduce letter sounds when sitting on the floor building blocks with my littles. "Oh, look! An "M" that says mmm like Mommy." Or we might count/add/subtract blocks in place of a math book. Instead of a science program, walks in the woods or park and observing animal and plant life.

I read aloud a lot so that when we do get around to formal phonics lessons, they are so in love with the written word that they are excited about reading lessons so they can read their own books. Think Charlotte Mason and living books.

I try to make learning an enjoyable and natural process. For preschool that means lots of play at our house. And kids do learn a lot at play. They learn to share, follow rules, logic, small & large motor skills and more.

Does it work? There have been times over the years when I've wondered whether my pedagogical approach was too off the wall. But now that I have adult children, I doubt it far less. Look at my oldest son. I didn't begin formal science lessons with him until high school. Up until then science was real books, exploring, nature studies, etc. Yet, he scored a perfect ACT score in science. A 36 out of 36. He is definitely an example of a Better Late than Early child. He did not take off reading until he was 10. And yet again he did great on his ACT -- a 35 out of 36 in reading.

So, if you're totally stressing over just the right curriculum for your 6-year old, take a deep breath, grab a ball and head out to the park to play with her.

6 comments:

Kelly M. said...

Maureen,
After reading your book FTLOL (within a week of the conference) and another Moore book, I totally switched up how we're homeschooling this year. My kids are all small but I felt pressure to "do school" with them from an early age. I knew something was wrong when my 6 year old started everyday stating how much she hated school and I agreed. This year, its going to be a lot more good books and a lot less workbooks. Wish me luck!
PS Thank you for your previous post and for all the prayers. Fulton is very lucky to have so many people rooting for him.

Maureen said...

I'll wish you luck and say a prayer!

May your homeschool be a great source of grace and joy!

Someone just left another message for Fulton. God bless him!

Dianna said...

So my question is this: What do you do then with a young one who is READY for it? I had no intentions of starting school with my oldest (who will be 6 in October) any time soon. When he was 4 he was sounding out words, so I figured I better help him out with it. That got him even hungrier for learning so we started Kindergarten last year and we're doing 1st grade now. There are times that I wonder if we've gone too far, but it is never because of his resistance (other than to the "boring" stuff, which will be weeded out).
What are your thoughts?

Maureen said...

That is a predicament Dianna -- a good predicament.

My 7 year old is no where near ready to read but loves math. So, when he was 5 he begged for a workbook and I obliged. He finished the whole MCP-K in a matter of weeks. But then he was done for the year. He wasn't interested in going to the first grade book.

This last year he asked for some workbooks at Sams. We had fun doing them together but there was never any pressure. Just his own pace at that age.

I would never deny a child a learning experience. I think that if a 6-year old is asking to be taught, I say go for it. After all, the point is instill a love of learning. If she wants to learn to read, go for it. Just keep it fun -- for her and for you.

And to encourage her, read a lot of real books together. You can read nice chapter books aloud to her and she can read simple books to you.

Ashley LS said...

I wish I would have read this 5 hours ago when I started researching kindergarten curriculums! :)

Homeschool Mother said...

Great post! Love your advice on taking your kids to the park with a ball and playing!