Written by Kara Anderson
The first time I tried to read Robin Hood to my kids, they were 1 and 4.
A relative had given us a set of beautiful, bound classics from the 50s – books her own children read, and I was determined to share them all with my kids.
Of course, I thought, I should definitely start as soon as possible. And so we began with Robin Hood one early September.
We (well, I) were very into Waldorf Education then, and so I decided to incorporate Robin Hood right after Circle Time – right after we blew out our Circle Time Candle, which I always placed on the floor, because I saw someone do that once.
So to recap, I was preparing to read a one-pound, 1950s-era version of Robin Hood to my two children – one a baby, still fitfully nursing in my lap, and the other a precocious boy who just really wanted to climb the furniture.
And I had a lit candle, on my rug.
Just to recap.
Looking back, I had fallen into a familiar trap, that of wanting to Make Homeschool Real with my tiny people.
I figured I was teaching my kids valuable things, but by mid-year I was so burned out that we sent our son to a very fancy preschool that had a tree growing in the library.
I needed a minute.
Eight years later, my missteps are obvious. I tried to do too much, too soon, with people who were way too small.
I put too much pressure on myself, and I let people on the internet boss me around, making me into some kind of inexperienced homeschool method purist.
But my intentions? My intentions were good.
I was eager and excited. I was committed. I was willing to pushpushpush to make homeschooling work.
I see this now amongst moms I meet – moms with tiny people. Moms of toddlers share stories about trying to balance schoolwork with potty training, and I want to hug them, and tell them for goodness sake, stop trying so darn hard.
But I get it. I do. Because I was that mom.
So here is what I recommend to parents wanting to get started with homeschooling their little ones:
The absolute No. 1 thing I would recommend is to read good books together. You can begin with Robin Hood if you all are really into it, but I would maybe start a little more simply.
Go to the library and pick out bags of books. Don’t worry too much what you grab at first – the good ones will keep coming home somehow.
Let your kids play. Let them climb and splash and make great towns out of animals and blocks and Lego. Let them dress up, and wear capes to the supermarket and make clothes for their stuffed friends.
Play with them, or if playing is hard for you, try one of these ideas and don’t feel bad about it.
Do “life” with your kids
One of my mistakes early on was to separate “school” from “life,” when of course one of the biggest benefits of homeschooling is that the two are intertwined.
It initially seemed like a lot of extra work to let my kids “help” with things like laundry or cooking. When I relaxed about those things, though, and began to see them as valuable learning experiences, I found we all suddenly had a lot more time.
I can’t emphasize this strongly enough – you do not have to do crafts to be a good homeschool mom.
But if you like artsy stuff, and if you have a high tolerance for mess, go for it. Make art supplies available, and occasionally make a batch of play dough or paint some T-shirts.
But only if it’s fun and everyone enjoys it.
Repeat after me: Crafts should not be stressful.
But again. Only if it isn’t stressful. I have never been so relieved as when a friend of mine told me that she didn’t go to the science museum with her kids because it stressed her out.
Sometimes, “fun stuff,” doesn’t work in a certain stage of motherhood.
So I am telling you now – go to the park, the science museum, the library, but only if it works. If not, it will work eventually, I promise.
Consider a simple curriculum
For preschool, I love Five in a Row. But don’t feel like you have to do all the crafts or read every book.
It takes most homeschool moms years to learn this, so here’s an insider tip I had to learn the hard way: Curriculum is not the boss. You are. Make it work for you, not the other way around.
Make everyday moments count
Talk to your kids. Answer their questions, and when you don’t know the answer, look it up together.
Look for community
Begin to look for a group that can offer some support and friendship.
But don’t settle.
If the vibe feels off, it probably is. Trust yourself! You will find a group eventually, even if it’s just a small group of close friends.
In fact, to sum up all of this advice, I would say the following:
You don’t have to force things. You don’t have to push. You don’t have to decide or declare anything yet.
Just enjoy these years with your kids. Get to know them: their hearts, their passions and their questions.
And then wake up tomorrow and do it again.
Before you know it, it will feel very real and important, and most valuable of all, you will know that you are capable of homeschooling–because you’ve been doing it all along.
What advice would you give to a parent really eager to start homeschooling?
Sarah B R
Reading yes. Everything else happens from there. Life is school yes. My daughter learns so much, even academics, without me actively teaching it, just from life. Like when she stared at the digital clock of our hotel room everyday & figured out that there are 60 seconds in a minute.
Sarah B R’s latest post: If time won’t stand still, maybe I can
“right after we blew out our Circle Time Candle, which I always placed on the floor, because I saw someone do that once.
So to recap, I was trying to read a one-pound, 1950s-era version of Robin Hood to my two children – one a baby, still fitfully nursing in my lap, and the other a precocious boy who just really wanted to climb the furniture.
And I had a lit candle, on my rug.
Just to recap.”
I laughed a bit too hard at that because yes I have been there. in fact 3 years in i’m still there occasionally. 😉
I think this is good solid advice, made even sweeter by reminding me that I’m not the only person who tried to shush themselves because they wanted to live up to what they thought other people were doing. (We’ve spent our own time in the world of waldorf and I too had to eventually just take from it what worked for us, and let go of the rest… she says as she finishes poetry tea and lets her kids watch lego star wars shorts while she has a much needed shower…)
I like that Katie. I think a lot of us do try to shush ourselves, because we want to do things “right.” Showers are important and we poetry tea and Star Wars Legos all the time. So far, so good! 😉
You’re right on the money! (My 17 year old would probably cringe at me using that expression. :)) I’ve been having these same thoughts about this the last few weeks and actually just wrote two posts along these lines. We need to be careful not to rush our kids for the sake of wanting to fulfill the expectations of a certain label. FIAR is awesome, and, like you said, it’s completely up to you how you use it. Since I have three different sets of kids homeschooling- 3 Littles, 3 Big Kids, and 3 Teens- and am using two separate unit studies- FIAR for the Littles and Konos for the Big Kids- it was way too hectic doing both unit studies daily. I now use them every other day, so, while it takes us two weeks to cover a FIAR book, we are immensely happier and more relaxed. And a candle on the floor? Such bravery. You are my hero. 🙂
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Yes — I had to learn the hard way that there’s no rush with FIAR, and when we did, we enjoyed it even more. And also, the candle thing? Thank goodness I didn’t burn the house down, right?!
Such good advice! Having graduated two and still teaching one, this is exactly what I would say if I could use words as beautifully as Kara. Mostly I tell moms to just relax and don’t stress about school — especially in the elementary years.
I’ve written oh so similar blog posts as well, about the rush to start school with little ones. I love your points; Julie Bogart has also shared on this very topic in the past. Her advice? S l o w down, and enjoy this time with your young children, and spend these pre-homeschooling years educating yourself!
In my former life I was a Montessori Directress, and I was similarly eager to start homeschooling my little ones … I loved the idea of it (reading while snuggling up in blankets, beautiful lessons (ahem – another onetime Waldorf mama here!), and fabulous curriculum to lose ourselves in). The reality though was that my young children were just as happy to putter around with me, read great picture books, and be allowed to explore Art through finger paints rather than flash cards of the great artist’s works.
Relax! Enjoy! It will be fine <3
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Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley
This is perfect! I wish you had written it a few years ago 😉 I think it can be so hard for those of us who have been through the public school to shake that mindset. The student in you needs to do it “right” and it’s hard to let it unravel as it should.
Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley’s latest post: On Motherhood
Yes! We are so nervous and taking on so much responsibility. It comes from such a good place, but it can also be so overwhelming and exhausting.
I love this and am sharing it with friends-thank you for speaking truth from such an honest place! We’ve been there, too, and are truly just barely past these pre-schooling years ourselves! So thankful for this wisdom and encouragement! 🙂
Thank you Cat! Sometimes when I get really honest, I get a little bit scared, so I appreciate your comment very much! 🙂
Kris @ Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers
I love this. Just absolutely love it.
Oh! Thank you Kris!! <3
It’s funny, the more my four kids and I just let things flow and the less I push, the more they learn. I can relate all too well to the story about the Robin Hood book. It has taken me a few years to learn to breathe and realize that my kids learn A LOT just by being around me and talking to me and by following their own interests. I make sure that some form of Reading, Writing and Math is accomplished on a daily basis. Every else just flows on its own. Most parents who send their kids to school are astounded that I homeschool four children. They wonder how I find the time. They apparently think we spend six hours at the kitchen table poring over textbooks. Real learning happens in all types of places and in many different ways. I wouldn’t give up homeschooling my kids for anything. Life is way too short to not share these beautiful childhood years with them.
Thank you so much for this post! I am in this right now and needed to hear this. My 3 year old (my oldest) is so bright that some days I think I’m doing her a disservice by not “teaching” her more. So, thank you, I feel I need a weekly reminder of this!
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Thank you for this. It is so real. I needed to read these words and the Lord knew that I did…. so ,Thank you 🙂 Blessings , Amy
I really needed to read this. Really, truly needed it. My oldest is two months shy of 3 years old, and I have been reading every Montessori, Waldorf, and homeschooling book I could get my hands on while trying to design this big and beautiful pre-K curriculum – even though I have intentions of unschooling. (Talk about your walking contradiction!) This is coming from the mom who reads my sons (2 years old and 4 months old) John Keats poems and teaches ABCs haha. All this child needs to do is run around, get messy, and have fun. Thank you for reminding me!
Thank you for this Kara I really needed this. I am actually having second thoughts of homeschooling my daughter mainly because I am afraid I wont be able to teach her anything. I am also stressed out everyday with my daily household chores. Good thing I read this post. I am so inspired! God bless!