Thoughts on Homeschooling Young Children
By Mary Hudzinski
Much press has been devoted to the “early academic education” vs the “delayed academics approach”. What is missing is a look at ways in which parents can encourage their children to develop the skills they will need to be educated, competent adults. This encouragement starts at birth, but the focus of this article is on the activities one can use to encourage children between the ages of 4 and 8.
The primary purpose of language arts education at this level is to build confidence and facility with the spoken language – using proper sentence structure, expanding vocabulary, and using books for fun and information. To that end, reading lots of books – picture books, chapter books, beginning readers TO the child is imperative. Lots of experiences – trips to the grocery store, the post office, the library, and any other places you can think of is helpful. After the experience, discussing what was observed, what was learned, what was new/different, job responsibilities can all expand the learning that happens/happened. This is the time to use language that may be unfamiliar to the child and be sure that the child hears it correctly and has a rudimentary understanding of the new words. For example, discuss the various fruits and vegetables seen in the produce section of the grocery store. Start with the word, produce. What is it? What are other sections in the grocery store (meat, dairy, etc)? What kinds of foods are found in the produce section (fruits, vegetables)? Where do some of those fruits and vegetables come from (kiwis come from Australia; the corn is grown locally)? Maybe use a globe or a map to find these places in relation to where the family is located.
A journal really helps. Let the child draw picture entries, copy text that is important to him or her, or give dictation to an adult who can write more easily. The point of this exercise is NOT to practice penmanship but to use language for expression. Sometimes a picture and some dictated sentences can be a motive for the child to attempt to read. Periodically reviewing the previous entries can encourage everyone at progress and remind them of experiences enjoyed. Occasionally give an assignment such as, “write (or dictate) three sentences about the weather” or “Let’s write a poem. Each line starts with the next letter of your name.” Then, write the child’s name down the left side of the page, one letter per line, and have the child think of one word or phrase that describes himself that starts with that letter.
E – enthusiastic
M – maker of pretty pictures
M – messy
A – artistic
Another activity that is fun is to create a notebook of sounds. Create one page for each beginning sound that the child can identify. Cut or draw pictures of things that start with that sound. Put the pages in a notebook/binder/folder and add to each page or add pages as appropriate.
There are some readiness skills (pre-reading skills) that can be worked on – this link has an excellent description of those skills and how to build them at home:
Other informative resources include:
- The Charlotte Mason Approach
- Homeschooling: The Early Years: Your Complete Guide to Successfully Homeschooling the 3-8 Year-Old (by Linda Dobson)
- Homeschooling Today – www.homeschooltoday.com
- Homeschooling Information and Resources (from Home Education Magazine) http://homeedmag.com/gettingstarted.php