Help! My 5-year-old won’t “do” school!

Help! My 5-year-old won't do school
Written by Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool and founder of Steady Mom

On occasion emails pop into my inbox from mamas concerned about their children.

Are these kids on drugs? Hanging with the wrong crowd? Suffering from serious diseases?

No. Usually they are five or six-year-olds, often boys, and they don’t want to do school.

Here’s an example of what I mean (I’ve created this sample based on questions I often hear):

Dear Jamie,

My son is five. He would love to spend his time doing Legos, drawing, and playing outside. Rarely does he want to sit down and practice writing his name or anything else. What do your kids do all day?

What does academic learning look like at five and six? What are “school” hours in your house?  Do you ever worry that they are learning appropriately? Thank you for taking the time to share any advice.”


Concerned Mother

My response:

Dear Concerned Mother,

What you’ve described is a perfect curriculum for a five-year-old–Legos, drawing, and playing outside sound fabulous! Read-aloud to him; he can even play or draw while you read–or you can read during meals if he won’t sit still otherwise.

Play creates a strong foundation for all the academic work to come, and you want him to feel that learning is just another facet of play–that won’t happen if forced before he’s ready. My kids are just as likely to pick up a handwriting book on Sunday as they are to get out blocks or toys, because to them it is one and the same.

Your job is to create an environment that fuels learning inspiration–books, workbooks, maps, manipulatives, art supplies, and more. Then let him gravitate to what comes naturally. I recommend reading How Children Learn by John Holt and Leadership Education by Oliver and Rachel DeMille.

Head to the Sonlight catalog to find booklists for titles to read at this age. I suggest you look at their P4/5 list for a five-year-old and invest in the books that would most interest him (or get them from the library). It is perfectly fine if he doesn’t want to write his name yet–make sure he sees you writing. Set the example you want him to follow.

We don’t have official school hours; our goal is to naturally blend learning with life. We do have times when we read together–once a day the kids choose books and in the afternoon I read from a chapter book. (We’re currently in the midst of The Wizard of Oz.)

In the mornings the kids have what we call sections–during this time they play and may work on a project (like handwriting, writing a story, etc). We bake together, play outside, and follow up on their interests and questions. We also integrate activities from the Oak Meadow Kindergarten program into our day.

It’s much easier to teach a child who wants to learn. As parents we look for the gifts God has planted, and help them grow at the proper time. This is the beauty of crafting an individualized education for each child.

I don’t worry (except during the occasional freak out moments–which happen to us all from time to time) if they are learning “appropriately.” We don’t typically worry about when our kids learn to walk or talk, right? It’s natural. Learning is too, though most of us have grown up thinking otherwise. And many traditionally schooled children burn out so quickly that it’s the last thing they want to do.

But when that desire hasn’t been stifled kids want to learn, and they do it in their own timing. You’re there as the mentor, inspiration, and model when they’re ready.

In comparison, traditional schooling decides that every child is ready based on age and then seeks to make them learn, labeling them “behind” if they can’t keep up. There’s no need to structure a homeschool that way. Young children thrive in an atmosphere of freedom and connection, instead of force.

You’ll find out what fits best as you baby step your way. Just like with mothering, listen to your intuition!

With love and respect,


So many of you are much further ahead than myself on the homeschooling journey! What advice would you give to moms of five and six-year-olds?

About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She is the co-founder and editor of Simple Homeschool, where she writes about mindful parenting, intentional education, and the joy found in a pile of books. Jamie is also the author of a handful of titles, including her newest release, Give Your Child the World.


  1. While I appreciate this viewpoint, I respectfully disagree. I don’t think a (4), 5, or 6 year should be forced to do hours of seatwork, but I think a little is acceptable. My just-turned 5 year old can write her name and has been able to for about a year. That’s because I “forced” her to sit and write or trace her name once every day. She didn’t like it because it was hard for her at first, but as I told her, everyone has to learn to write their name. Writing it (or tracing it at the beginning) took about 5 minutes and then she was free to do whatever she wanted. Learning in general is a natural thing, but our brains are not wired naturally to read and write. A good book that discusses the reading brain is “Proust and the Squid” by Maryanne Wolf. I strongly feel that letter sounds and other areas of phonemic awareness should be taught at an early age. It is best taught in a multi-sensory method. My oldest could name all letter sounds and was starting to blend them by age 4 1/2. My youngest, definitely an early-learner for this, was doing it by age 3. These are not age guidelines or requirements, children learn at different ages, but it should be introduced.

    • I have “forced” my now 6-year-old to do seatwork and it has failed miserably! Recently I have allowed learning to happen naturally and he is finally truly learning-and reading! Since we have relaxed our approach, our 2.5 year is also beginning to read!

      • Erin McGuire says:

        Yes! Same experience here. My first born struggled and I pushed and pushed…. My next child loved seat work, read very early, etc (naturally) so what did I do with my next? Push! And it failed me…. I no longer force anything, and when it’s time for seat work, I make it fun for her. Instead of writing/spelling curriculum she enjoys writing and sounding out our grocery list. I will incorporate math by giving her the weekly ad and she will find and label the price of everything. The pride she has when reading her list off at the grocery store is the same pride by middle child had when she’d get 100% on a spelling test. They all learn differently, it’s our job to conform to them.

    • The article specifically talks about boys at this age. Being a mother of a boy and a girl, I would agree with this article. Boys learn much differently than girls and it takes different strategies to facilitate learning for both. Every child is unique and different. What works for one may not work for another….it is important for moms to not get discouraged if their children don’t fit their expectations. Learning will come as long as we don’t squander their spirit in the process.

    • We do share different views, Kristen, but I’m glad you felt comfortable giving a voice to what has worked for you. And you’re right, sitting at a task for five minutes is very different than sitting for hours.

      • i definitely see the difference in between my 2 little ones (5 year old daughter and 3 year old son). when my daughter was my son’s age (just turned 3) she loved worksheets. i bought her little books from walmart and she’d do them for hours. (she still loves this kind of work. i think she’s task-oriented like her mommy.) my son can’t manipulate a pencil very well yet and isn’t interested in doing so. he likes to scribble in coloring books, but that’s as far as it goes. he is interested in the sounds of letters though (i think b/c he’s heard his sister working on it so much). he likes to look at books and hear what sound words start with. nothing structured at all, but for now it’s what he’s interested in (and he is only 3 after all. but i can see this kid having trouble slowing down for seatwork in the future. just a hunch. then i’ll have to come up with a new plan.) 🙂
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    • Kristen, I respect your opinion. However, my boys have proven your theory false. They have never been forced to sit down and learn, we don’t follow any curriculum. I read to them everyday, they play learning computer games, and for writing, I’ve done nothing else other than provide them with sidewalk chaulk, markers, crayons, and fun mazes to trace. So, my 6-yr-old is reading and printing, much more than his name. He is printing difficult dinosaur names (Giganotasarous for example) and even starting to print sentences, and is now wanting to learn about punctuation. My 3-yr-old is begging me to teach him how to read because now he sees big brother doing it. They are living examples that children are wired to naturally lean to read and write, because they see mommy and daddy doing it all the time.

    • We should never force them, they are just so little at the age of 4,5, or 6. Instead of forcing to do what they are obviously not ready to do. Wait and see how without forcing they write their names and learn other things without even you teaching them.

  2. I can’t recommend enough the book “Why Gender Matters” by Dr. Sax. It will blow your mind about gender differences (neurological, physiological, etc.) between male/female and and it is all about why and how the two genders learn. It is geared toward parents and teachers, though it could even help with communication between spouses!
    Really, can’t recommend this enough on this topic.

    Sarah M
    Sarah M’s latest post: This Moment

  3. *claps*
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  4. Thank you so much for this post! I am a new mom to homeschooling, having pulled our daughter (6) out of first grade just this past November. She was constantly getting reports of “bad behavior” i.e. fidgeting, talking, doodling. The final straw was when her self esteem dropped because she was in the “dumb” reading group along with the fact that she was beginning to HATE school and anything that resembled learning.
    Now I am trying to find a good balance for her that still encourages her to learn but also is respectful of her age, seeing as she was the youngest in her grade and she really should have waited a year to start school. I felt guilty for letting her play and craft so much…. but this post makes me feel a lot better about how it is more important to create an atmosphere of learning.
    (I guess I am doing a pretty good job though, she now can read and reads everything she sees and is ahead of her grade as far as math and science goes!)
    Connie’s latest post: Crafty Goodness

  5. Call me a cynic*, but I always have a little chuckle about parents (myself included!!) who worry about 5 and 6 year olds who don’t seem to ‘get’ doing ‘schoolwork’. Considering that in some countries these kids wouldn’t even be considered old enough to start school, I say it is time we all chilled out a little, and loved your response.

    *I’m the one who laughs when I read parents who make out they are ‘experienced, expert’ homeschoolers, and it turns out their eldest child is three. They’re out there, trust me. I wonder if anyone has done a study of how many parents are ‘committed homeschoolers’ of kids preschool age and below, and how many are the same once the kids are say six, and then ten? I think it would be fascinating.
    Natalia’s latest post: Ten Questions with Hannah Robinson of A Handmade Childhood

    • Great point about education in other countries that start much later. Finland, starting at age 7, is always an interesting example!

      • In Finland, though, most kids go to preschool starting quite early and most kids go to them. While official “school” doesn’t start until 7 kids are definitely doing preschool work earlier. I’m not sure how this work compares with kindergarten or grade 1 here but it’s certainly a different environment from homeschool.

        • We live in Denmark, where formal education starts at 6 years old. Although it’s the norm for children to attend daycare from about 8 months and onwards, there are no formal learning activities until the spring before children attend school (the year they turn 6). It doesn’t seem to affect them negatively, so I wholeheartedly agree that play is a very important way to learn. If your child isn’t interested in doing worksheets or writing, find a more interesting way to “teach” them what you want them to learn! My 4 year old son was more interested in writing letters in the snow, dirt, sand, ketchup, etc, than on paper with a pencil for a long time! I do also believe that children DO want to learn to read and write, and that they are ready at different times.

  6. My children are only 4 and 6, so our homeschool is much like yours. I anticipate adding more structure next year when my oldest begins 1st grade. My youngest is a boy, so I have to keep remembering to let him develop at his own, different pace and yet to support him when he does show interest in writing and letters!
    Rachel at Stitched in Color’s latest post: Bottled Rainbows Joining Blocks

  7. So true. You might enjoy reading about my experience and thought process on this matter in an entry I wrote called “A Kindergarten Dropout,” which can be viewed here:

    Another Relaxed Oak Meadow Mom
    Nance’s latest post: Life Without School – Entry 730

  8. Hi Jamie,
    My intentions were to comment a simple “Great post. I’m with ya'” kind of response until I read others’ comments.
    I consider myself an “expert” homeschooler because I have been at this 17 years and have graduated three of my six children.
    I can tell you this…you can force a child to sit and write…but what are the long-term consequences? A love of learning? I think not. A bad attitude toward learning because learning will forever be equated in that child’s mind with something they had to be made to do. This bad attitude toward learning will migrate into other areas of a child’s life…especially in the teen years. (As an aside…if our brains are not wired to read and write, and yet we are created in the image of God, what does that say of our Creator? Of course He wired us to read and write and design buildings and machinery and understand the complexities of the human body and other galaxies of the universe, and all the other myriad things that everyone learns in their own time.)
    I do believe that a child needs to be taught discipline. But that is better taught in a gentle fashion in other areas of their lives–like picking up their toys when done playing with an explanation as to why and with an example set by mom, dad, and older siblings. Trying to teach a young child (and I’m talking about early elementary age here…a high school student should be developed enough and have the discipline enough to get his school work done when asked for it) discipline through something that you want him to love doing is, I think, counterproductive.
    I’m sorry for rambling. There is so much more I could say and perhaps I should address this topic on my blog in the near future.
    My strongest advice in all of this is to follow your child’s leading.

    • loved this!! Thank you! And I love Dr. Raymond Moore’s book Better Late Than Early…so, so good.
      Aimee’s latest post: Off to Camp!

    • Amen.

    • I can’t thank you enough, Carol, for taking the time to share your experience with such a thoughtful response. It’s such an encouragement to hear from someone who has been at this for decades!

    • So nice to hear from a veteran mom with graduated homeschool children! Thank you for sharing your view on this.

    • Natalie says:

      Thank you for responding to this. I have found it very interesting to see so many homeschool groups, experts, and bloggers espousing information about how to “do school” when the children they are caring for are all under 5 or 6. At that point in my opinion you are parenting. Parenting involves playing with your little ones, and yes they will learn things along the way. Homeschooling an obstinate middle school boy who would rather watch movies or play video games with his buddies is a far cry from singing the ABC’s.
      I would also like to add that in the grand scheme of life, there is a lot of time for sitting down and doing work. However, there isn’t a lot of time for getting muddy, playing legos, and just having a good time. One of the blessings of homeschool is that you can honor the personal growth of each child. Reminding myself that this isn’t a race, I don’t need to compare my child to someone else’s, and my personal worth isn’t based on how compliant my child is. Great topic for discussion.

  9. Readiness is key! 🙂 I have watched all my children learn at such an amazing pace when they are ready! I simply offer young children the learning opportunity (e.g.: cutting paper with scissors) and if they don’t enjoy it, or aren’t interested, then I leave it for a few months. When they are ready, to cut with scissors, maybe, then that’s all they want to do all day!

    Have educational toys on their shelves and try vary what they could work with; playdough and threading beads for fine motor skills, counting, matching, colour games or activities, and balls, bean bags and hoops for gross motor games.

    Above all these, I agree, read stories together. Let them listen and tell back the story, draw pictures or make a craft for that story and they will learn!

    Formal lessons are not necessary for young children! I wrote How do pre-schoolers learn without formal school? I would relax and not worry. A 5-year-old-boy should play! Let him learn and play!
    Nadene’s latest post: Purple! Sketch Tuesday

  10. I like your response..There is no reason a child that age should have to sit there and “do” school. Are you kidding..and yes, I do have some 16 year old son has always been homeschooled and we went through this.. My best advice..relax and have fun!
    little islands’s latest post: Movie Night!

  11. Jamie,

    As an “more experienced” homeschooler by a mere 5 years (Carol & little islands are the real experts here having more experience) I couldn’t agree more. Can I bang my fist on the table and say “here, here” like we’re in the house of representatives?

    There is NO rush to teach young children things they aren’t willing and interested to learn. I honestly believe it is counter productive. What’s the point?

    I have a 10 year old boy is who incredibly intelligent, sensitive, kind, can talk your ear off about animals of all kinds, is an amazing artist, who is just now getting the hang of reading – because he’s now ready. And he wants to. He asks for it every day. Is he behind? Not a chance. He’s well ahead (though we don’t compare) in many areas – his compassion and artistic talents come to mind immediately.

    Having said that I’m not opposed to small amounts of sit down work for youngsters but I didn’t start till my children were seven or eight, and I could have waited till later with my son. Better late than early.

  12. It completely depends on the child. Some kids are very agreeable to “seatwork” (although I despise that term), while forcing others to do it is completely counter-productive and a waste of time. I will add my name to the list of people that say “When a child is interested and ready, they learn at an extraordinary rate.”
    Shannon {Discipline Project}’s latest post: Sticking To The Routine

  13. LOVE this post… confirms what I’ve been sensing in my spirit regarding my 6 year old son.
    I do have a question, though. In our state we are required to report 180 days, 4 hours per day of schooling. How do you ‘report’ school time when you take a more relaxed approach? What kind of records do you keep? How do you plan?
    No one is badgering me about records… but I feel this sense of guilt, like I must be doing something wrong by being more relaxed. I want to serve my children well, and I can’t quantify relaxed playtime and storytime like I can quantify number of workbook pages done…. so I feel that we’re not doing enough. And yet, a relaxed approach works so much better with our family (4 kids – ages 6, 5, 3, and 5 months).
    Sorry to ramble… this has been on my heart alot lately…

    • Great question, Steph. Often those who follow a more relaxed approach tend to school year-round, therefore the 180 days isn’t an issue. I also love the Leadership Education approach, which sets a time for “school” in the day but allows the children to choose the content of that time.

      So school hours might be from 9-1, during that time would be read-alouds and anything you as Mom want to share, the remaining time would be the children selection what they’re going to work on/play with.

      You can find more info as this blog:

      Relaxed sounds great for your kids’ ages.

    • Steph…I felt this same guilt (have same state requirements). We do some formal work (mainly to introduce concepts and periods of history and great literature) and allow a lot of unschooling. Way too hard to keep up w/recording all the hours of unschooling…nearly went batty (although blogging is a great way to journal about it!). So I just typed up a list of everything in my house that was learning oriented along with goals I had for them. I labeled it a Elementary (K-5th Grade) Scope & Sequence) knowing that eventually we would hit most of that information. It has satisfied my state and my mind. I know between my formal and their informal play-learning, we are covering the hours and I have banished the guilt of checklists! I wrote about it here on my blog with a sample of my list:

      I just print this off once a year and hand it over to the state. Done. Of course, your list will be different based on what you have available and what your family goals are but I bet it will surprise you how thorough and long it quickly becomes once you start writing!
      Amy @ simply necessary’s latest post: Spontaneously Captured

  14. Thank you so much for this much needed advice. I tried school with my 5 year old and failed miserably! I felt like a total failure as a mom, especially a homeschool mom. Then a sweet teacher friend spoke some much needed truth in my life and affirmed that my son was very smart and though he didn’t meet what a school system expected, he was getting much more character and one on one training, that was more important. She was a teacher and assured me that he would get a longer attention span – “just let him bloom in his own time.”she told me!

    So we worked on character and had tons of time set aside for mommy reading great living books. Then 6 months later – when he was 6 something clicked and he asked to read, he began sounding out things right and left. I couldn’t believe it! I learned how to get on his level, we turned Lego’s into a math lesson on patterning. We discovered that he loved to touch things, so we dove into life science and acquired moths, caterpillars, a Venus fly trap, etc.

    This journey has been so much more than learning to read and write, it has been a faith lesson for this hard headed momma! I’ve learned to not take myself so seriously, create an atmosphere of learning with my words and actions, I learned that everything we do together is an opportunity to learn and that my children’s very character is being written in those unseen, seemingly insignificant moments together on the floor playing logos!

    Thank you so much for this article, I wish I had read something like this a year ago – but thankfully God sent others into my life to speak wisdom.


    • I also wished someone would have told me this at the very beginning, Melissa. That’s why I’m passionate about sharing it now! So glad God met you where you needed it.

  15. My oldest is six (almost 7 now), and in regards to the handwriting issue, some of the best advice that I got is not to let handwriting hold back a child who is interested in “seat learning” but struggles in that particular area. Handwriting has been a struggle for my daughter for a long time. Most of last year, I would do a lot of the writing for her while we worked on math or phonics. Though she “freaked out” when given a pencil and asked to work on these subjects, if I held the pencil and wrote what she said to write, she was more than happy to work on these subjects.

    Over time I also discovered that while she absolutely HATES the paper with little dotted lines in the middle, if she is given a totally blank sheet of white paper or even a piece of wide-lined loose leaf paper, she was a lot more excited about writing. We have done some basic spelling lessons this year, and she will write huge and maybe only get 4 words on a page — but then she is happy to be doing it and will spell the words correctly! Who cares how big the letters are?

    Another surprise for me was that a couple months ago, this girl who has hated handwriting asked to learn cursive! I thought that she would drop her interest in it once she actually tried it…but much to my surprise, she is slowly learning her cursive letters (working thru a workbook at her own pace). I am wondering if she will be a kid who will have nice looking cursive writing before she will have “nice” looking printing.
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  16. My 5-year-old boy *does* write almost every day, but he asked one day why it’s hard to make letters and I explained that it takes practice to get stronger. Now he chooses to write pretty much every day out of his desire to get better at writing. Even on projects we do that don’t include writing he’ll often include at least his name.

    I do agree with a previous poster that writing should be required daily *at some point*, but I don’t know that 5 is the age/developmental stage to push that.

    I think part of why our 5-year-old boy reads and writes is because of what Jamie mentioned- we set the example. We read a ton as a family, he sees me and my husband reading every day, he sees me writing all the time, we watch science shows together, we sew and knit together, we make our food together, practice instruments- and it’s all stuff that my husband and I would do even if we didn’t have children. We don’t do those things because it’s good for the kids or because it’s an “educational activity”, but because it is work we enjoy.

    The other part is that this kid wants to communicate and I think he’s seen and understood the importance of the written word in our home. He’s been a “word” kid for a long time, and I wasn’t terribly surprised when he first asked me to show him how to write his name. My almost 4 year old? I’m not sure he’ll follow in wanting to read as early, but he has been getting books out and copying letters for a few months now…

    And as a side note… we’re admittedly early in our homeschooling journey (and I’m the first to admit that I’m still learning how this works!), but this is a lifestyle thing for us, not a “try it out” thing. I was homeschooled for most of my education, and I believe it was one of the most valuable experiences of my life.
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  17. Love it!
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  18. Thank you so much for this. And what a lively conversation!

    I agree! Sometimes getting my son to participate in “schoolwork” is like pulling teeth. My six year old has all sorts of difficulties with writing, which was ultimately one of the major reasons we pulled him out of school halfway through first grade. He is so smart and so interested science and technology and he was so bored at school. And right now, as I type this, he is in our dining room building a Lego Mindstorms robot.

    I do require a very small amount of writing practice from him every day (one sentence and he has to write numbers from 1-10). But for the most part, I agree that less is more with “seatwork.” The more I try to push him, the more he pushes back. I try to keep the sessions short and fun, and easy enough that he will be able to do it easily. We usually journal about whatever science experiment we are doing, or perhaps he may write a letter to a grandparent.

    And I have finally come to terms with the fact that there is ALOT to learn as far as Legos are concerned! I am astounded with the creations that my son comes up with. I’m convinced that he will be an engineer of some sorts someday because he can see something and then go off and build it–with no instructions!

    I am very new to homeschooling–less than a year, but I have to agree that relaxing is the best answer. It’s worked for us.

  19. What an encouraging post and also so many great comments! These are some of the same conclusions that I’ve come to in my (somewhat short) homeschool journey as well. My daughter is the oldest and she’s been homeschooled from the beginning (4 years now). So when my son was the *right* age we began as we had with his big sister and I quickly discovered it was not going to be the same journey at all. For one thing, his attention span and patience is nil. Secondly, he wanted to *take a break* about every 5 minutes:) So I quickly adjusted our schedule. He does seatwork in tiny bits: handwriting, math, grammar. He loves our family subjects the most: art, music, science and history. He is a good reader, but he hasn’t seemed to enjoy the school readers that I had ready for him (the ones his sister used) and would complain about having to sit and read (although he loves to be read to). So I have recently switched my approach there and have started letting him choose his own books to read (early readers that I’ve picked up for him here and there) and he seems to love that and is doing well. Even though he’s just as bright as his sister and even catches on more quickly at some things than she has, his maturity level isn’t ready for much book work. I definitely do not want to squelch his love of learning, so I am striving to fill our home even more with fun, educational toys, games, etc. that will keep him learning no matter what.
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  20. Yay! Most parents naturally intuit that five is too early. Developmental theorist support it, and lots of other countries support later academics. No one knows at 10 years who could read and write at 4. Than you for this answer!
    kimberly’s latest post: A Fabulous Fayre!

  21. So, I haven’t read all the comments, but something a lot of people fail to consider is PS teaches reading and writing at a very young age, before many kids are developmentally ready for it because it’s sooooo much easier to teach the masses all the other subjects if they can read and write on their own.
    Well I’m not teaching the masses. I can read to him and he can answer questions orally rather than writing everything down.

    So often I hear about kids, esp boys, being put in the ‘slow’ class for reading then magically, around 3rd-4th grade they catch up almost overnight-because they hit the point where a light bulb goes off (that point where they are developmentally ready to read!) But, these poor kids have been labeled ‘slow’ or ‘behind’ for the past 4-5 years of their lives-so what has that done to their self esteem? To their natural curiosity? To their love of learning? To their view of reading?

    And the PS keeps pushing kids to do more and more younger and younger in hopes of getting our international test scores up (we’re at the bottom of the pile consistently!) But it’s not doing any good because all they are doing is pushing against nature by trying to make kids do things before they are developmentally ready. If you google international test scores you’ll notice the list for 12th grade is much shorter, because not all countries have that many grades, but they still test above us in the lower grades….

    Our country is out sourcing so many jobs and hiring people from other countries to do jobs here because our kids in this country are so poorly educated. Many people think it is a money thing (and to an extent it is in some fields) and many people have become very racist because ‘all of the foreigners taking our jobs’ but it’s not about color of skin it’s about education, we’re simply not keeping up with other countries educationally. But we’re so dumb as a country we’d rather complain about the color of someone’s skin or what country they were born in rather than fix our educational system.

    mmmmm…when did I get on this soap box? Guess I should step off it now 😀

    • I find your example interesting, because that’s pretty much what happened with my husband. He basically could not read at all when he was first in school, but in 3rd grade something “clicked” and he started reading middle school and high school level books.

      • From talking with other unschoolers it seems it’s natural for kids to learn to read on their own between 8 and 12, not 5 or 6 like the PS expects. And, like you mentioned, once they start reading they don’t slowly progress from 1st grade reading to 2nd grade reading, etc it’s in a matter of just a few months they are reading no only as well as, but better than their PS peers.

        • this really inspires me. I love books, my 9 year old is a different story. He is two grades ahead in math and behind in reading, according to curriculum, testing, etc. I stress about his hate of reading and how it is hard for him. He is getting better and this gives me hope that it will just click and that I need to relax.

    • I agree with the labels. My brother-in-law (sergeant in the military…very smart guys) does not see himself as smart b/c of this late reading thing. He was already labeled and carries that around with him to this day. He thinks he hates to read and is quick to label himself. I would beg to differ. He is a compassionate, intelligent, God-fearing man whom my sister is blessed to be married to.
      Amy @ simply necessary’s latest post: Spontaneously Captured

  22. My oldest is almost 7 and a boy. He has loved learning from the beginning and though he did struggle learning to write his letters at first I gave him letters to trace and let him “practice” with playdoh and arts and crafts (filling in letters, by gluing something in them). If I had thought of Legos I would have had him practice making letter shapes with his Legos. I let him learn at his pace and now at the end of first grade he has learned by leaps and bounds and is looking forward to learning cursive. I began teaching him how to write, when he began reading, but it wasn’t anything intensive and didn’t take much time. Even now, he can write well, but gets distracted easily and doesn’t care to sit still. I let him have a little freedom about standing up to write, as long as it looks neat (like I know he is capable of doing). He is very smart and loves to learn, but does have days where he really has a hard time concentrating. Sometimes he just needs to run outside a little or get over a bad attitude, before he can continue.
    Suanna’s latest post: Is your room clean

  23. Great discussion, Jamie. I am so happy to be back at this stage of life/homeschooling once more with my third child. She is so much like her big brother, 15 ys. Both busy, love to be read to, draw, and so forth. Not so much into sitting still for formal seat work for long periods at all and yet, obviously learning all the time (I mean to say that my teenage son was this way at 5/6 ys old but now he does challenging academic work with ease and maturity). My middle child at four years old was begging for work books (not a joke) and although doesn’t love that kind of work now, at 11 ys old, has always been entirely different in learning personality than her siblings. I’ve been at this now for 10 years and continue to be amazed at just how different each child can be and see how much – even at the older ages – does depend on developmental stage. Certainly, we can attempt to force learning but how much more amazing, and productive, to observe kids when they are developmentally ready for a new task or challenge – whether that be swimming a lap in pool or writing their name. There is great pressure on mom’s of 5 and 6 year olds, though, to prove to others that their children are intelligent and not lagging behind and I feel both annoyed and saddened by this as the children are the ones who really lose out. While I am far from an unschooler I can attest to the fact that respecting each child’s readiness in different areas and allowing them to have a great deal of say in what they are interested in and what they are ready for really will not, in the long run, hold them back at all as long as we offer a rich environment of learning & creativity in our homes.

  24. this couldn’t have come at a better time… we will be HSing our 6 yr old for 1st grade (he’s finishing his public school kindergarten year now). the homework he is sent home with is astonishing. huge packets on top of what they do at school. it is all seat work and he cringes at the pages. it is pulling teeth to get it done by the end of the week.

    i couldn’t agree more with what you’ve said jamie and so many of the commenters. he is big into legos (patterns, counting and such) and has been randomly reading signs he sees outside and shaping pieces of paper into letters. when he isn’t forced to sit and work on 8 pages of seat-work he is thrilled to “learn”. i can’t wait to dive in, to figure out exactly how he learns – instead of him fighting for the attention of his teacher with 20+ other kids on totally different “levels”.

    thanks again ladies!

  25. Ali Federwitz says:

    This was a very timely post for me. I am just getting ready to purchase curriculum for my 5-year old and I didn’t know if I should start with something geared more toward Kindergarten or preschool. She’s been attending preschool at our church but we are soon going overseas and I will be homeschooling her. With the post and it’s corresponding comments, I’m definitely sticking with preschool type books and activities and I’ll just see where she takes it! Thanks!

  26. At the beginning of this year I started a formal structured type of school with my six year old and watched the love of learning disappear until she hated anything that had the lable of “school work” attached to it. It was frustrating for both of us. Now we spend our days reading, crafting, playing outside and doing science experiments. Posts like this help me not to feel guilt. Thanks!

  27. Great post, Jamie. I can’t say anything that the previous commenters haven’t already … but it’s one I’d like all moms of preschoolers who are considering homeschooling (especially boys) to read!
    Hannah’s latest post: Winner! Organized Simplicity

  28. My daughter is almost 3 and I always have worksheet style activities available (she has really good motor, gross and fine), but never forced. It’s always a question. Somedays, she eagerly traces letter after letter. It’s great, because over time we’ve determined that she learns her letters better this way than so many of the other toddler ways people encourage (she’s been tracing letters for over 6 months now). Other days she’d rather play in her room, go outside, bake, free-draw, or do our other “preschool” activities, like magnets, and a balance. I think it’s so true that the best you can do is offer them everything in your means, and they’ll latch on when they are ready.

  29. Stop doing ‘schoolwork’ and start playing games! My daughter hates it when something has to be explained by me, she wants to figure stuff out herself. She also dislikes ‘doing work’. So we just play games. At least, she thinks we just play games. In fact it’s ‘schoolwork’, although as an unschooler I dislike that work, but we count with marbles and doing games instead of with a worksheet, at a table and me explaining everything to her.

    I do have worksheets, it IS available and she does do them but because she wants to, it is just fun and play to her. And ofcourse, I have mostly worksheets that look fun. For example, we have Miquon for math because playing with cuisenaire rods is a fun game, and we use candy and marbles on the miquonsheets. She picks worksheets likes she picks a coloringpage, for her they are the same. Plain fun.

    Just do not force your child to learn, it will not work and just make everyone frustrated. Hide the workpart, don’t use that word even, and just wrap it in play.

    • LOL…my 7yo daughter is the same way with math. She picks them randomly…HATES to do them in order. This was a struggle at first for me b/c I see math as one of those few subjects that need to be taught sequentially. We were doing math u see w/great success w/my son and, although she was excited to do it, had to back off w/her b/c she was not ready for place value. We just backed off math all together and let her “pick” her own worksheets. She is now doing math in her head and it took only one day for me to explain place value and carrying in addition to her b/c her mind is now ready to accept it.
      Amy @ simply necessary’s latest post: Spontaneously Captured

  30. My son was 4 years old when he tried to comfort me as his older brother went off to 1st grade by telling me, “Mommy, don’t worry, I’m never going to go to school.” He meant every word of it!

    He is now a 28 year old, college graduate and a Lt. in the United States Army, a father of two and still fighting conforming to the ‘norm’.

    Every child needs to learn discipline and what their place is in the world and what is expected of them to fit into that world. Every child is different and not every child fits the mold we expect them to fill.

    There is no black and white, right or wrong. That’s why He gave us parents – children need guidance.

    I was lucky that before my son entered high school we finally found the curriculum that “clicked” for him. He graduated High School not only with honors but scholarships.

    He graduated college Cum Laud. There has never been a prouder day in my life!

    Treat every child with respect but give them a direction they can follow – the rewards are indescribable!

  31. I love you! LOL I saw this headline and cringed, because it makes me so sad to see that sort of talk from well-meaning parents. I couldn’t agree with what you wrote more.

    Our number one priority should be to instill a love of learning in our children. Everything else falls into place and is EASY when we set up an environment where we’re an educational team instead of having a controlling and artificial environment set up.

    My kids are in pre-k, 3rd, 5th and 7th grade and all of them are still enthusiastic about learning because we’ve set up a homeschool environment filled with hands-on activities where they get to learn through life, play, books, experiments and all the “rabbit trails” they choose to follow. They’re all well above “grade level” and love homeschooling (which also means I love it, since it’s not full of power struggles and frustration).

    Oh, and my kids (even the three year-old) can write their names, without ever being forced to sit down and practice it — despite what that first poster believes. The oldest three all learned to read quite naturally too and are all voracious readers. Children do NOT need to learn anything through force or artificial practice, unless mine are supernatural. 🙂
    Alicia’s latest post: Science freebie roundup – 23 free magazines- curricula- classes- DVDs and more

    • I’m laughing to myself about the name thing. My 5yo son (whom I’ve never forced to write) is wanting to write his name. His name is Lucius…Luc for short. But we call him Lukey. He spells his name Lucei (thought of by himself). I thought shortly about correcting him then thought better of it. One day he will not want to be called that any more (my oldest son informed me at 5 that he was not Gabey but Gabe with a silent e to ALL my extended family when he was done with his babyish nickname) and we will have it to hold as a sweet memory. One day he will just want to be Luc and will know how to spell his name just fine! I have 4 out of 6 kids who have learned naturally how to spell their name. Naturally because they wanted to “mark” their creations and asked me to help them or figured it out on their own.
      Amy @ simply necessary’s latest post: Spontaneously Captured

  32. Thank you for this post! My son who is just about to turn 5 in a couple weeks is the same way. He loves to run, play legos/blocks, dig in the dirt. He even is good with writing his name and doing mazes but no way does he want to practice letters or trace, not even big into drawing or coloring. My common sense tells me he’s fine. But I second guess myself because I am surrounded by families that send every 3 and 4 year old to preschool (even stay-at-home moms like myself!) Thank you for reassuring my gut instinct!

  33. Great advice, very comforting for mom’s of little ones!
    Janet Costello’s latest post: Question 1

  34. This is definitely one of my favorite posts. I’ve taken this approach as well and have seen a huge difference – not only in our schooling and what we accomplish, but in my own heart and the peace I feel, as well as my relationship with my children. It makes me think we must be on the right track!
    Leslie’s latest post: Reader Response- Parenting Styles

  35. I’m late to the party, but still I wanted to say how important this post is, Jamie. I’ve been homeschooling for an awfully long time now–my oldest is almost nineteen and my youngest is nine–and it took me years to fully come around and realize that there’s no point in forcing learning on a kid if he or she doesn’t want to learn. *We* don’t want to learn if there’s not a valid reason for it–why should our kids? If I five-year-old doesn’t want to sit down and learn to write his name, we might consider what scenarios might make him *want* to learn to write his name. He wants a library card? He wants to label a bag of candy as his? If he doesn’t have an authentic, motivating reason to write his name, maybe now isn’t the time for him to learn to write his name. And doing it because five-year-olds in school do it isn’t an authentic, motivating reason. 🙂

    I think writing is an area in which many homeschoolers tend to fixate on what schools do. As Sonita so wisely pointed out above, “something a lot of people fail to consider is PS teaches reading and writing at a very young age, before many kids are developmentally ready for it because it’s sooooo much easier to teach the masses all the other subjects if they can read and write on their own.” She’s absolutely right. There’s no real reason kids should learn to write at five, and do all their own writing by six. In fact, taking dictation from kids is something that schools can’t feasibly manage, but it’s a fantastic tool for homeschooled kids. As parents, we can write down what they have to say, helping them develop their voices as writers, and let their physical writing develop more slowly and organically. This is something I’ve written about fairly extensively on my blog, if others are interested.

    I’d never heard of the Leadership Education approach until now, but that sounds just like how our family ended up homeschooling, after lots of trial and error. (I used to be an elementary teacher; my kids needed to re-train me!) I sometimes jokingly call what we do “structured unschooling”; Leadership Education has a better ring to it!

  36. Thank you for posting on this subject. I’ve home-schooled my 3rd and K daughters from the beginning. I’m struggling with my 6-year-old who doesn’t like to do anything ‘productive’–it’s like pulling teeth to get her to clean up after herself, even with step-by-step guidance and encouragement. She’s complaining after only 5 minutes of Picture Me Reading or math manipulatives (I probably do 20 minutes of ‘school’ with her a day–the rest of the day is creative free-play and crafting). We use manipulatives, stories, pretend, games, etc. If it wasn’t her idea, though, she fights me on it. Yes, she’s only six, but her lack of responsibility for even the most basic tasks which contribute to our family is worrying to me. How much can you leave a child like this to their own devices and inclinations? Do they just wake up one day wanting to contribute and participate? We’ve tried stickers charts, rewards, etc. None of it makes an impression on her. ???

    • If I were in your shoes, Amy, I would most likely drop the academic side of things and focus on the work side. I’ve found that my children this age still work best when I am working alongside them–not so great when given an “assignment” and sent off to complete it. They’re still so focused on relationships and want to be with you at that age.

      I do believe children are intrinsically motivated and will absolutely want to learn and participate. It’s easy to doubt that in the heat of the moment, I know! I highly recommend the Leadership Education book I mention in the post above.
      Jamie~Simple Homeschool’s latest post: Low-Maintenance Curriculum for a High-Maintenance Family 2011 Curriculum Fair

  37. My daughter was resistant to learning to read. I tried to do formal with her but after basic phonics (short vowels) she was done and wanted nothing to do with it. I listened to my inner mommy voice and backed off, even though the panicky-report-to-the-state side of me was worried that she was a year behind. She (really and truly) did just decide to read one day. She discovered Junie B. Jones chapter books (I read one aloud that she checked out from the library – yes, I let my kids check out chapter books even if they never actually read them) and was hooked. She is 7 1/2 and now reading American Girl history chapter books for school and loving it. She still asks for the occasional help w/a word but does fabulous and I never make her feel belittled for asking. Her one quirk (that drives her brother batty) is she HAS to read out loud. She likes expressing the voices and character qualities. Hmm…theater in her future? We just make her go to her room or an alone spot where she won’t bother others with this.
    Amy @ simply necessary’s latest post: Spontaneously Captured

  38. Joyful Mama says:

    I really enjoyed the article and all the comments, even though my daughter is very advanced and loves doing school. She was reading at a 3rd grade level at age 4 1/2 and now in 5K, 1/2 through 1st grade work and soon to start 2nd grade work. Some people I tell she is so advanced think I must be pushing her- but actually just the opposite- I let her work at her pace and she is the one begging to do school work everyday! (Just the way I want it- for her to love school and learning!) There are times when I ask if she wants to do a certain subject and if she says no we don’t do it (she is usually tired). I think a relaxed approach is really the best. My goal has been to keep all schooling a POSITIVE experience. Forcing your kids to work when they are tired or not developmentally ready is not a good idea! And we have such a wonderful opportunity with homeschooling to keep it a POSITIVE experience, unlike if we send our kids to schools.

    Here is some recording keeping tips that have worked for me. For those of you who have to keep records of hours of work- this is what is working wonderfully for me. I used Excel and wrote out all the subjects we do: Language Arts, Reading (which includes children reading on their own), Math, Social Studies, Science, Health, Nature (outside play counts as nature time at our school, you could list out other subjects or just put other subjects (I iniatially had them all listed out but then it seemed overwhelming, so I just did one box and listed it other subjects- which includes Art, Computer time, Music, Bible, etc. And then I did another box Educational Activities (which includes anything hands on- puzzles, field trips, going to the library, playdates with friends, going to church, etc. There are tons of things that could be counted for this. And after I listed all the subjects across the top, I numbered 1-31 down the side columns. And there now I have a one month record keeping of subjects completed each day.

    And instead of figuring out every minute we homeschool, I estimate time spent on schooling or educational activities (like if my daughter spends an hour writing letters for fun- that is an hour of school time). I mark an X by the days we do full days of school (which in our state is 5 hours a day) and I marked a 1/2 of circle for the days that we do approx. 2 1/2 hours of school/learning activities. And if it more than that like 8 hours- then I marked an X and a half colored circle (so we get credit for 1.5 days of schooling). Keeping track by 1/2 and full days is ALOT easier than keeping track of minutes or hours of schooling. And honestly is is so easy to get a 1/2 day with just natural things like reading and my daughter writing letters to people for fun or playing outside (Nature). In keeping track of school- I keep track of structured and unstructured learning. Most people don’t think of unstructured learning as school hours, but I do. If my daughter reads books for 2 hours on her own- that is 2 hours of school. If she spends an hour writing out pretend flyers for a library reading program activity to hand out for fun- that is 1 hour of school time. All of her own learning counts, as well as table work we do together.

    Another thing we do to keep homeschooling relaxed is homeschool year round, homeschool on the weekends as well as the week (who can limit learning to just weekdays???), we homeschool all through out the day…and my focus for table work is to try and do just 2 subjects a day. My daughter prefers to work longer on fewer things. Every child is different though…but I was overwhelming myself trying to think of getting 5 subjects in a day, every day. Two seems manageable and we don’t do table work every day, but we do learning every day!!! So really almost everyday we get at least a 1/2 day of school in (2 1/2 hours). Even Sunday can count- going to church and Sunday school is almost 1/2 day of school (2 hours approx).

    I think it really helps to see learning as more than tablework, even though tablework is an important part of schooling and does need to be done too. But all kids are different and it is wonderful to be able to advance our kids (who are advanced) or go slower with our kids who need a slower pace with schooling! The most important thing is just to keep schooling and learning a POSITIVE experience!!!

    And a resource that I wanted to share that I really enjoyed is How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way…so many wonderful ideas!!! This is an awesome book. My second child is very much a hands on learning, not a book learner like my oldest child. So we will be doing lots of learning Montessori style. And another thing I really liked about the Montessori is giving our children freedom to choose their own learning (while providing them the structure through carefully laid out planning), and I have already been doing this by letting my oldest daughter choose which schoolwork she will do each day and it does work GREAT!!! Anyways this a great and encouraging book that you might want to check out =)

  39. Karin Hultstrand says:

    Hello Everyone,
    I have homeschooled my 6th grade child ( a January birthday!) previously for only one year ( avid reader and has always, always done well in school and with every possible kind of teacher) and my now 6 year old for 5 months last year after having removed him from a severely regimented 2 1/2 hour Kindergarten program. The Kindergartener had just turned 5 (Sept. 2010) and was getting bad reports from the get -go about his pencil grip, lack of knowledge of sight words, inability to write….etc. The teacher held a beautifully written paper and then my son’s to clarify how there was something very wrong. I felt sick to my stomach continually about my son until I finally pulled him out of the funereal environment…when I visited, it was always dead-quiet…no happy hum of little learners. He was fine in school but not alive..lost his personality which is happy and spirited and never discussed anything that went on at school …except for mentioning a few friends here and there. When I began homeschooling him last February, I did use workbooks and such and by March he was reading amazingly already ( books containing fun stories with the sight words mainly) and learning but this wasn’t without a struggle. I found creative ways to learn the sight words by tossing a ball or jumping on “stepping stone” numbers. He was and can read up to a level E reader at home now. The problem is that this year at school he will not show anyone his reading ability and he is called an emergent reader and bringing home picture books with one word on a page. Does anyone have problems with their 5 or 6 year old boy not showing how beautifully he can read at school? This guy can read Fly Guy and The Little Red Hen and from a First Grade basal reader that I used years ago , yet when he is tested he does not show what he can do consistently. (usually the testing occurs with an individual whom he has never met before and I think he doesn’t see why he should perform for this particular person) He is an amazing little guy…just turned 6 but will not show what he can do. In some ways, I think he acts more mature than his same aged and older peers and beyond his years. Maybe he just isn’t ready emotionally….maturity-wise. I feel like he is regressing at the local public school because they are now reviewing one letter every four days. He did this in pre-k. The reason that I won’t homeschool C is that I cannot get him to be serious about learning at home. There are many things that he would rather do and I take the learning a bit seriously….we have been through a phonics book and a first grade math book and read a lot daily. I incorporate fun but am on the serious side in a lot of things. I think it is better for C to learn from others at this point but am seriously worried about the slow pace at school. He seems happy and actually likes school and does better than I expected with the full day. He is a late bday…Sept. 14 so he just turned 6. The reading teacher’s results are inaccurate. C just sat down and read from a level E reader tonight with 2 mistakes (I think) that my husband pointed out after reading 5 pages. HELP…why won’t he show what he knows to his teachers…would you care or just let him go along and not worry about it??? HELP. I mentioned this but the teachers are apparently seeing something different. 🙂 Karin

  40. This is very interesting, as I have had people ask me this type of question, but coming from the standpoint of “how do I make my 5 year old (girl) so interested and into doing schoolwork?” Ummm…I don’t. It was HER timing of being ready. She has shown me again and again that she will do things when SHE is ready. And for her, mostly that means ahead of others. But my second child (also girl) seems more “behind” than others. I don’t worry about it, I go with the flow. I do school stuff with my 5 year old because she WANTS to and loves it and thrives on it. But that doesn’t mean it is right for every kid at that age. I think that unfortunately it makes life harder for those whose children are more “behind” because our society looks at the outward. They look to see if your child can read, or write, or whatever. Because my daughter is doing well with those things, I often get praise. But really, I didn’t teach it to her. I just did what many moms do. I set the stage for learning eg. we read aloud and things like that. So I sort of have it easy that way (at least with this child). But the sad thing is that the moms whose children are more “behind” get critisized and then they question that maybe this homeschooling thing isn’t working. When actually its not THEM its just their child’s own timetable. Go with it and enjoy them where they are at!

  41. Oh I wanted to add…this reminds me of the toilet training issue. 🙂 They DO train eventually. My first child was easy that way. Just decided, and that was that. My second child…well let me just say that I am likely to soon have a 3 year old in diapers. She’s not ready. At all. And I am backing off, because otherwise its stress. She won’t be in diapers forever!

  42. My 5 year daughter doesn’t want too do her school Work at school

  43. I agree but my husband is very supportive of the School-at-Home approach. He only agreed to homeschooling because of where we are currently living (Mexico City) and I have about a million reasons. I feel like I have to keep my almost 6 year old at grade level just in case my husband changes his mind and we need to send him to school. So frustrating. So I will just keep praying about it!
    Emily @CreativeDisaster’s latest post: Dutch Apple Pie

  44. I am the mom to a wonderful, loving, highly inquisitive and vivacious 6-year old boy. I would like to thank you for this blog becuase it has made me feel a lot more peaceful. I will not get into the nitty details of my situation, but I would appreciate any words of wisdom. We live abroad as expats in a very traditional system. We put my son into what we had hoped would be more of an alternative school (not an international school), and for 2 years he was happy and we didn’t hear of any problems. (We didn’t hear much positive reinforcement either…) This year, in what would be the equivalent of Kindergarten, my husband and I have been told that he is disruptive and doesn’t want to do the seatwork. In fact, we didn’t hear much positive at all, no sandwiching the negative between the postive, only problems, problems, problems. (Yes, we are looking into different schools). No wonder it seems that my son has lost self-confidence. From a little boy who thought he could conquer the world, I now generally here that he feels like he is not good at anything and doesn’t want to try anything. In the USA, he started at a Montessori and was starting to read at 3, because he wanted to…(He spoke at 6 months old.) The teachers seemed surprised when I told them that he spends his time at home writing in 2 languages and trying to read everything he sees. Of course, he is writes phonetically, but I encourage the writing, not correcting the mistakes. It was like they did not know my son at all, but what was more apparent is that they were not sure how to deal with a child who is “outside of the box” in terms if their curriculum. Now, I am the only income producer, so homeshooling is not an option for me. (My husband will not do it.) Would any of you have any advice on how to handle an in-school situation such as this? I am very stressed and withou much of a support network. All I want is for my son to love to learn and to get his self-confidence back.

  45. I was happy to come across this site and read about how kids learn better at there own pace. My son has never attended preschool because he stays home with me but he turned 5 on the 19th of January this year and I was excited about him going to kindergarten until I read what an assessment might require of him to be considered “ready”. I am now worried that he may not answer enough questions in the correct manner. He learned how to write on his own without much direction, just by copying words off of books, DVD cases and the computer. He knows how to write his first and last name, mine, his fathers’ and sister on his easel and on plain paper and pretty much any word that’s put in front of him as well as numbers. At the age of 3 he could get the computer up and running and go to nick jr. and pretty much any website he sees his 15 year old sister go to just by typing a few letters in the search box and recognizing where he wants to go. Also he knows how to find his shows on the DVR and turn to the channel he wants to see at the time it actually comes on (lol I have to ask him sometimes how to do it myself cause I don’t watch much T.V.) He does struggle with understanding some things we ask of him and gets frustrated when he can find the right words to say when he wants something. I tried to read to him on numerous occasions when he was younger but he didn’t want anything to do with books but at about 41/2 he started to let me read to him little by little and now he wants me to read to him all the time (and I try my best to accommodate every request) and even reads a few words by himself. I’ve started to make games out of things such as the alphabet ( he can recite every letter) and saying his numbers up to 10 by having him say it before he gets a cookie or my IPad (which he thinks is his). He picks up things quickly just by hearing and watching carefully (picking his sisters’ door lock to get her DS) if I just act as though it’s not so important. I don’t want to force him because I know he’ll get it but I worry if I’m doing enough to prepare him for what lies ahead this fall.

  46. I’m just reading this post and these comments in February 2012, after doing a search titled “my 5 year old dislikes homeschool”. I’m so glad I found this posting. It’s very encouraging. I loved school (I was not homeschooled), structure, rules etc. I have two higher degrees and never really disliked going through the process of getting them. However, my husband and I have decided to homeschool our children. My son is 5 and announced to me today that he wants to go to school, because it’s fun. I asked him how he knows school is fun when he’s never been. He basically thinks it fun, because of what’s portrayed in his favorite movies and shows. What I quickly realized is that he’s really saying homeschool is NOT fun. I’ve been feeling like I should relax quite a bit and just stop academics. I’m teaching him to read using alphaphonics, which is honestly painful sometimes (for both of us). He hates writing letters also (even though he does a decent job with it). He doesn’t like to sit still for anything unless it has to do with dinosaurs, art, or listening to stories being read or told. I just could not bring myself to relax with the reading and writing. Now, after reading all of these posts, I think I’ve found the inspiration and encouragement to CHILL OUT! I want my son to love learning not hate it. Thank you to everyone who chimed in on this topic. Your comments are so very much appreciated.

  47. this is such an encouragement to me! i have a 5 year old boy who absolutely doesn’t like to write and “do” school. but amazingly, he is learning to read and is quite good in math?!

    im a new fan of your blog 🙂 see you around!

  48. Well said! Kindergarten can be so much fun and they can learn so much without any force.
    Heidi’s latest post: Socialization for Homeschoolers

  49. Thank you x 1,000 for posting this! I only wish I would have seen it one year ago when we began our first homeschool year. You are SO spot-on about the importance of play; the difference I’ve seen in my son since he’s had time to dream has been *astounding*!
    Angela’s latest post: Hiatus…

  50. Sorry for the correctness, but I used the translator.
    I am an Italian mamma, I do homeschooling with my third child of 8 years and I’ve always been a big question: how to reconcile with dyslexia unschooling?
    Thanks to who answers me.

  51. I agree that a more relaxed approach is generally best, especially when learning opportunities are abundantly provided. I’ve been having a bit of difficulty with my 5 1/2 year old. He began “reading” by memorizing words we read to him so he would recognize it by sight. When he began doing that with so many words, all day it felt like, I decided it was time to show him how he could decipher the written word himself. But now, lesson #81 in Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, some days are a big struggle to get him to sit for a few minutes to read the lesson. Honestly though, he doesn’t like anything that resembles work, even if it is physical, so I feel it is more of a “I don’t want to do something if you tell me to” thing, rather than a reading struggle, especially since he reads very well. I plan to finish the book with him, but then give him more leeway in choosing what beginner books he wants to read and when.
    Mama’s latest post: fostering creativity

    • “he doesn’t like anything that resembles work, even if it is physical” – got one of those. His saving grace is that he is a voracious reader of any printed material.

    • My now 6 year old boy really resisted reading 100EL around the same point as your son. We just dropped it for a month or so, and read other easy books. When we picked it back up, there was no more resistance, and we were able to finish the whole book. I wonder if you did the same if that would work for you too.

    • Just my two cents. I tried the teach your child to read in 100 days and it was not a good fit for my daughter. We tried hooked on phonics and the first set was great for her easy and fun books, very simple lessons, but after that she lost interest. I tried to bribe her to keep going and finally realized she was only doing it for the bribes. I let her stop doing it and in a few months she came back to it on one condition. She didn’t want to do the lessons she just wanted to read the books. Poof, that easy she was reading. I really think dropping the rope with kids is sometimes the key. They will resist just because you are pushing. As soon as I let her have her way, her way was exactly what I wanted. Maybe not the way I wanted but she sure as heck learned to read and fast. She’s now way above her reading level for her age even and loves to read. You might find if you stop the lessons and just let him pick out beginner books at the library he will happily be reading. Maybe not right away but he will learn because obviously he wants to, just not your way it sounds like.

  52. Sunshine says:

    Dear…he is doing school. Read Rudolph Steiner! Kids do not start learning academically until 8-12…usually closer to 12. Play with him. Do Legos….you might look into Charlotte Mason’s narration work & her nature journals….I am my 4 year old doing it and she loves it! You are doing fine! So is your son!

    • I would love to hear how you are doing a nature journal with your four-year-old. I have a four-year-old, and would like to start that, but many of the things I have seen are for older children.
      Johanna’s latest post: 2 Great Board Games that Don’t Require Reading

      • I just started doing nature notebooks with my kiddos…boys ages 4 and 7. For both boys we go on our nature walks and I take pictures of the things they find of interest with my phone. Then when we get home we look over the pictures and find out what we were looking at. The older one will draw pictures of branches with thorns or spiderwebs. For the little one I will google whatever it is with “printable” or “color page” after it and I will print it out and let him color it. When the boys are finished with their drawings/coloring I hole punch them and put them in a binder. They love showing daddy their notebooks when he gets home.

      • I do nature journals with my kids. Nothing fancy. We go on a walk and they pick something to bring home. A leaf, acorn, or flower etc. They each have a real drawing notebook that is ONLY for nature journal, no random coloring. They draw what they see (I make them use colored pencils for this) and I label (and date the picture too!) the items for them. It’s fun to look back in the journals and see what they drew when they were really little. Sometimes we take the journals with us, but that is a little harder to manage with little ones. As they get older I am encouraging them to write about what they saw, felt, smelled, heard, and so on.

  53. Love this post. I remember it from when you posted it before. I agree 100%! Yet it’s always easy to forget this and think we should be doing more “school-like” work. I always have to remind myself that play, fostering imagination, play, storytelling, play and play are our main priorities! 🙂
    shelli : mamaofletters’s latest post: Will T.V. Hurt My Kids? Part 2 of 3

  54. My 9 year old still doesn’t particularly enjoy work that makes it feel like school. I’ve had to work around this to make learning fun, this includes lego, being outdoors lots, playing board games, playing educational computer games etc. If he finds it fun, he learns more and enjoys it. I feel this is the best way to learn.

    You’re blog posts always help too!

  55. HeatherHH says:

    We live life naturally, pointing out the things around them, playing, etc pretty much exclusively until at least 6 years of age. Around 4, I will start practicing counting with them, but that’s about it for any formal schooling. Around 5, I will pull out Phonics Pathways and start working from that for about 5 minutes a day and spend about 5 minutes a day for very informal math. Only at 6, do we start into more formal schooling, and even then it’s only about 1 hour total a day, and a good chunk of that 1 hour is me reading aloud from our science and history books.

    There’s no need to rush. Start them later, and they’ll learn it faster and are less likely to burn out and hate learning.

  56. Lana in MI says:

    My 6 yr old son (will be 7 in july) has really struggled with school. We sent him to a Catholic preschool for a year and a half. We waited until this past school year (he was 6 when he started) to start him in Kindergarten. We put him in a Montessori Charter School for this. He cries when he has to go to school. He cries every day AT school. He has many melt downs. He tells me he hates school and just wants to be home and PLAY. It breaks my heart. I’ve started thinking about homeschooling both him and his 8 yr old sister. FEAR has stopped me from moving forward until I saw this blog. GOD is talking to me.

    • Katherine Barron says:

      Dear Lana,
      Do it! You can always put them back in school if you hate having them home. Give yourself a transition period to get used to all being at home. Relax. Have fun. ENJOY YOUR CHILDREN. Why spend the most precious years of their lives fighting with them? You won’t regret it!

      Mom of 3 boys who doesn’t always love them like she should, but wouldn’t put them in school even on the WORST homeschool day

  57. Homeschooling can be overwhelming at first. Little kids need lots of variety d they need to be excited about what they are doing. I have now been homeschooling for fourteen years.. I have found some of my best homeschooling ideas from posts others moms have shared. Use the internet!! You can d
    find so many ways to use play to teach. I struggled to do this with science the way I really wanted to.
    One of the best science helps I have found for teaching science the way I always thought it should be taught (through experiments) is the company Superchargedscience. Their e-science online experiments are amazing. The teacher demonstrates the project on a video so that the kids can see exactly what to do. You are given a list of materials ahead of time so that you will have everything you needs. The experiments really work!! My kids have had a great time exploring topics they are interested in and learning first hand the science principals they need to learn.

    They give away a lot of free stuff and have free live classes where the teacher teaches in real time and the kids  can interact with her. She also keeps us posted on events like the Mars landing so I don’t forget to let my kids know what is currently happening in the science world.

    Right now you an Get a  Free Homeschool Science Guide With Over 30 
    Go to

    Once I had a few ideas that I thought I could really do, I decided to give it a try. Fourteen years later, as my other children came along, I had to keep adapting to their changing needs.
    I found some really cool stuff on pintrest homeschool yesterday. Check that out, too.

  58. “As parents we look for the gifts God has planted, and help them grow at the proper time. ”

    This is so beautiful! I love that.

    • Brij Mohan says:

      My child is five years old.He is going to school from two years.But he donot know how to write one.He is not conterate in his studies.I m very worried about him.What I do .I dont know.He is not see in his note book. When he is two years old,he has brain fever.May be this is the reason of that.Now what should I have todo .please suggest me

  59. Help advice needed.
    My 4.5 year old son has been in reception since 4yrs, he has now been given an informal learning plan to aid his concentration and improve behaviour. Teacher told me that he was not sitting still during carpet times and at assemblies as his peers. He wouls also yell out and make silly noises during carpet time which was distracting. She has now placed him on a reward system as part of the individual education plan. My problem is that this is a very creative, free spirted confident boy, who expresses himself very well. I just feel awful having to put him into an education system which is labelling him at this very tender and impressive age. She did mention in our last meeting that he is very good at rembering facts and science, geography, and likes to concentrate on things he really enjoys, but that we need to channel this so that he also does the things he does not lke. He is often not keen on writing or colouring, but will want to build lego blocks, story-telling and talks bout bid machines, ships, cranes and animals all the time. He general knowledge is pretty good and he likes us to read science books, he is not an artist often I have to ‘force; him to write his name, or a few words, or colour in. He is also not that keen on reading by himself, but loves being read to. He loves books but does not seem to show an interest in reading by himself. I spend so much time with him developing skills, writing, reading, phonics I am feeling like I am failing him in some way, he is my only son and I have to put so much extra hours in to help him keep up with school? I can’t believe that he can be soo far behind. At hom ehe shows some really insightful and intelligent attitudes, likes to take the lead and really loves nature, learning about animals, history such as romans, vikings, so how do I move forward now. His results for Spring this tem was dire (he got an D for english, literacy and communication), he hot a C for maths and numeracy and B for science/environment. I just think this is all a bit too much for a 4 and 1/2 year old? I did not start to read and write until I was 7, and I went on to do 2 degrees at university? It just all seems a bit much too soon, and then they burn out before college
    Please help!
    Megan’s latest post: On the introverted mom homeschooling extroverted children

    • If you are following this site you are thinking about home schooling. Why not try it? Do you really this if you give him an extra couple years to pursue his own interests even if that isn’t reading that he won’t learn to read? Reading your post you know what is right, now following your instincts. He is clearly too bright to be forced to fit someone else’s mold for him.

  60. We are in Ontario Canada, my son is now 5 1/2. Last year he started JK, full day everyday. He was tested at reading at a Grade 2 level and other than some issues such as fumbling with lunch containers, and early writing difficulty did well. 30 kids in the class with a teacher an educational assistant and early childhood educator to assist with class size. This year we put him into French Immersion every other day. Class size is 18 kids with one teacher and a student helper. My son cries about school, asks if it is the weekend yet and says he wants to quit. The teacher thinks he has a learning disability because he seems disinterested however at home he can do many of the tasks that he isn\’t completing in class. He has been referred to an occupational therapist, and when i spoke to the case worker she had said that he would not get help until grade 1 anyhow as he is 5 years old and his behavior is common. His teacher says that grade one will be difficult for him. A child in every other day schooling is expected to learn as much as full day everyday children in preparation for grade 1!!! Not fair! He hates school, I feel awful…this is not how it is supposed to be, I am terrified that he will be scarred for the rest of his learning years.

    • Adele, there are so many people homeschooling successfully in Canada and I’m sure you could too! Schools are so quick to label children at such a young age, when really that is exactly when you want to nurture and cultivate their love of learning. My friend Renee is a Canadian homeschool blogger, maybe visit her site and see if it’s helpful, too?

  61. I always come back and read this post when we are having one of those rare days when my kids don’t feel like interrupting their play for anything else and I forget for a moment that this is totally okay. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your wisdom and perspective.
    Abbey @ Surviving Our Blessings’s latest post: Five-Minute Friday: Grateful

  62. There are so many aspects of educating children that one can worry about. The phrase ‘learning appropriately’ struck me as funny for some reason. I’m not sure after 15 years homeschooling that I knew there was such a thing as learning appropriately. Are they learning? Then it’s appropriate.
    April’s latest post: Definitive Photographs: Snapshots of Memories

  63. We pushed hard through kindergarten and first grade, and I really regret it. If I could go back, I wouldn’t do half as much formal work as we did. It just made everyone unhappy. My son did not want to sit. 🙂 We start second this year, and are planning to ease off the gas pedal and try to have more fun.

    He has naturally slowed down (physically, not mentally!), and is starting to choose to sit and read or do other activities.

  64. Amanda Free says:

    I live in Mississippi, and we have compulsory attendance laws that kick in at 5yrs old. We have it pretty easy when it comes to what is taught but we do need to prove that the kids did something 180 days a year. I don’t ask for more than 30 minutes of “school time” out of my kiddos (all under 6) and we do those workbooks from the grocery store. Until they get to about 8 to 10 we are only worried about reading, basic math, and fun!

  65. I loved your remark about learning academically at ages 8-12, I’ve always homeschooled my son. He learned at age 3-4 what most kids learn in first grade in school. However now at the age of 11, he could care less. ? I’ve read to him everyday since birth. Not sure if I should just wait on him or push harder. Thanks for your time any help would be greatly appreciated.

  66. Yvette Edwards says:

    Relax, relax, relax. Read to him, read to him, read to him. Get books on disc for him to listen to while he plays legos or draws! If he likes legos, start learning to count with them. Simply asking him to build a tower, 5, 7 or 9 bricks tall will incorporate this. There is also lego math if you google it. Use his interests to make learning fun. Have him build a lego creation and have a challenge to see if you both can draw a picture of it. Take turns pointing out how your drawings are alike the creation and different than the creation. Outside start studying all nature. Simply taking a walk and getting to know the types of trees in your neighborhood is learning. If his favorite thing outside is a frog, for instance, take out all the books you can find on frogs from your local library and read them aloud to him. Factual books and fiction too—-Like Froggy rides a bike. Check out your local library. They are an incredible resource and always have wonderful weekly and monthly activities for kids of all ages!!! Remember, you are his mom and your were chosen for this job.

  67. Haha! I loved that you wrote you don’t stress except for the occasional freak out moment! 😛 That happens to me all the time, but I wholeheartedly agree with what you say. I have a 6 and a 5 year old and our school is very short and bare-boned. The rest is learned through play.
    Purva Brown’s latest post: I Don’t Buy the Hype about Early Childhood Education

  68. I was a child who didn’t want to do “schoolwork” when I was that age. I always had something else to do or a sibling to play with. I graduated from a state university with a 3.9 GPA and am starting a Ph.D program in the fall.
    Don’t freak out.

  69. This issue is a monumental struggle for me! I read through many of the comments after reading the post and, while they were reassuring, I just can’t allow myself to be completely relaxed and abandon bookwork, even though my son just turned 6 and my daughter is only 4.

    I absolutely loathed school (attended large suburban public schools), feel it totally extinguished my love of learning (for a time), hated the constant peer pressure and conditioning (the conditioning I can see more clearly in retrospect as an adult), and begged my parents to keep me home and just let me read and draw, which is all I wanted to do as a child. But now that I’m homeschooling my own children, I feel pressure – mostly internal – for them to be exceptional and ahead of their peers academically. I guess I’m afraid of being judged a “failure” if my kids aren’t on par or ahead of their ps peers, or afraid (and I know it’s crazy to project this far, but still) that they’ll grow up and resent me for not giving them an adequate education. The latter fear stems mainly from talking to a childhood friend who was homeschooled. She joined my Girl Scout troop in the 3rd grade, at which point she couldn’t really read. I remember my mom being horrified by that fact. When I began to consider homeschooling my own kids, I got in touch with her and asked her a few questions about her experience, how she felt about it, etc. She said that while she was glad she didn’t have the peer pressure / peer molding that many of her friends did, she felt that her mother did not give her and her siblings an adequate education, and she was totally unprepared for tests such as the SAT. She came from a very large family (9 or so and she was one of the oldest) and said her mother just handed her and her siblings textbooks and told them to teach themselves. I also have another friend who homeschooled her children through the 4th grade (they’re older teens now) and told me that she took a very relaxed approach to teaching her oldest son to read, and he read very late and struggled a lot. Now she says he is still a weak reader and he blames her for it! They seem to have a good relationship so I imagine the blaming is in a somewhat joking manner, but still…

    These experiences loom large in the back of my head, even though I’ve heard other more positive experiences from other adult friends who were hs’ed. I pray often that God will help me relax, and trust in and be confident in this path we’ve chosen! And I prayed a ton before we finally definitively settled on hs’ing, so I guess I should have faith in the decision itself, too! Simple Homeschool is super helpful to me, too. Thanks for all you do, Jamie 🙂

  70. Two Great books to use with kids this age are 100 easy lesson which covers phonics, handwriting, and reading comprehension in short 20min lessons.
    The other one is Math magic which has simple hands on math lessons/games with very short one pg practice with each lesson. If you followed these two books, even loosely, and included lots of out of the home learning experiences as well as reading your son would be getting as much or more then any public school child in the way of academic learning!!! Don’t worry so much, kids this age are learning all the time, no matter what is going on!

  71. Just now seeing this post after googling “my 6 year old doesn’t want to write”. My youngest has just turned 6 and I’m homeschooling him (very casually!), but I need to get him ready to enter a school in South Africa in January. He hates writing, but I feel he needs to be better at it to be ready for school. What advice would you give?

  72. My son is 9 and he still hates to write! What I do to make it not so confrontational is to ask him what he wants to write about. If he’s interested in what he’s writing about then he’s more willing to cooperate. I’ve had to change a lot of my preconceived ideas about what I thought homeschooling should be. We are blessed with being able to homeschool our children. We have the freedom to make things work for them and not force “certain material”:)

  73. Hello Ive home schooled my 6 year old son all his life but he doesn’t seem to want to learn anymore he cries he doesn’t want to go to school nothing I feel like a falure please help

  74. Thank you so much for your site Jamie! You are so supportive. I home schooled my 7yo for k-1 with oakmeadow and now he is in a Waldorf based school for 1st grade again. He could not have been exposed to more books and reading than he has been and still struggles with basic reading and writing. He loves hearing Treasure Island, Kidnapped, Swiss Family Robinson, Harry Potter, the Iliad and other advanced books. I am getting him tested for learning issues next month and hope that helps out as I may be homeschooling again next year. I hope I learn how to best help him. So glad I found your site.

  75. I started homeschooling my 5 year old son this year instead of sending him to kindergarten. He is very hyper and can’t sit still for more than a few minutes. I read the TJE book and got some advice from teacher friends on teaching hyper kids. I had tried teaching him to read with the 100 easy lessons to teach your child to read book, but my son couldn’t handle it. So I switched, and we started making letters out of playdough. This kept his hands busy so he could pay attention. We do this for about 15 minutes each day. For the last few weeks we have switched to writing on a chalkboard. I write a word, he sounds it out, writes it himself, then sounds it out again. He loves it! I’m still using the lessons found in the book, but making it more fun.

    I also for the past year have made sure my son knows where to find the scissors, glue, and paper. He taught himself to cut on the lines, and makes amazing creations every day all on his own. We probably have “school” for a max of an hour a day, once you add in counting and adding, which I make fun with different activities. He’s loving it and begs to have school every day. We also read educational books like the ones Usborne has every night. He can’t get enough of those.

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