Homeschooling in the Early Years

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This post is sponsored by Oak Meadow, my favorite complete curriculum for the early years of homeschooling.

I’ve been homeschooling for four years now. It’s been an amazing experience for my family. Looking back, I am pretty proud of the way things have gone for us, and the decisions we have made for the kids. Here is what we did, and what I wish we had done differently with our oldest child.

Focus on Family

In the early years, school and life blend easily together. Stories at bedtime can be used to teach. Songs can be sung together over breakfast. Chores are life-skills that must be taught.

Even if you choose to use more structured curriculum it’s easy to combine subjects and stick together when the kids are little. Life is so much simpler when you only have one science program to teach and one history program. ONE complete curriculum. Whenever possible, pick a curriculum, and adapt it to your various kids.

Find a Routine

So much of your school day can fold seamlessly into family life. I was fortunate to have a curriculum to help me figure this out- Oak Meadow would have me read or tell a story before bed, which would then be the main topic of conversation for the next day. Songs and lessons could be done over breakfast or lunch when we were already at the table. Playtime could be tied into the lessons.

Once we had a routine of when we read, and when we worked, and when we played, it was easy to go about the day with a routine that kept all of us happy, sane, and learning.

Spend Time in Nature

Little children need to be outside. The world is a magical place. Let them go outside. As much as possible, use nature as a teacher. Science can be taught in the backyard. Stories can be read in the garden. Let them have time to stare at the clouds, and look through the grass for bugs, and plant flowers.

Limit Screen Time

This is huge. HUGE. Keep the TV off. Keep the Kindles and the iPads and the smart phones to a minimum. If your children struggle to play alone, or seem to lack an imagination, I would assume they probably are enjoying too much TV. If you turn it off, the first couple days may be a struggle, but soon they will learn to play again.

Let Them Be Little

This is the one thing I wish I had done differently with my oldest. He is a very, very bright child. He learns quickly, and schooling him has been a dream. If I teach him something, he masters it almost instantly. He was easy going, and clever, and so happy to be learning. And I was happy to keep on teaching. If the lesson was one page long, he would complete it in five minutes, and I’d allow him to keep working as long as he wanted. He would sit at the table for an hour, and work through two weeks of math while I cooked.

It was heaven.

When we first found Oak Meadow, I remember chatting with a curriculum advisor about Bug and what level he should be placed in. He was young, but he was so bright. Looking at the topics covered, I knew he would do just fine in the third grade books, despite the advisor gently suggesting I not rush him, and place him in second grade instead.

I insisted that he needed third grade, and so the order was placed, and the books arrived all shiny and beautiful. Our third-grade year went swimmingly. He thrived on the program. And then it was time for fourth grade, and fifth grade. And then, I realized what I had done.

Oak Meadow is designed to be so much more than an academic program. It absolutely solid academically. It also is designed to meet a child’s emotional needs. It is designed around a child’s social and emotional development. While I am a pretty awesome mom, and I totally know my child, I didn’t really know what to expect as Bug grew older. While he was eager to learn as a young student, as an older student, he has started to flex his independence, and he’s a little sassy, and a lot sensitive.

He is still very bright, and he is still capable of working through Oak Meadow 5. But it would have been easier on all of us were he a year older, and more settled into himself, and more confident of his abilities.

The same thing has happened with math. He FLEW through basic math. He finished Math 5 over a year ago, and instead of moving him on to sixth grade (and pre-algebra too early) we have pretty much sat in a holding pattern for a year, waiting for some maturity to come. He’s ready to move on now, but again, life would have been so much easier had we just closed the math book after a lesson or two (instead of 10) and just went to play instead.

Childhood is about so much more than academics. Let them be little.

What wisdom to do you have to share about homeschooling your little ones? Share it in the comments!

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  1. Let them be the individual that God created them to be. Each of my 5 kids is so different than their siblings. There are similarities, but not exact matches. I spent so much time worrying about who walked first, who was the most verbal, and blah, blah!

  2. Well we are just about to embark on our homeschooling journey so I don’t have any been there advice, but I love the advice to not rush the early years. To keep myself from doing just that I let myself run wild and plan how I’m going to teach my topic in detail. Then remember it needs to wait and there is no rush. I can come back to reality then, knowing it’s all planned out.

  3. I have the same issue! We also have a year without formal math after my daughter took prealgebra for hight ability learners when she was 8yo!!! Now that we stopped acceleration she is healthier than ever!!! She is the happiest kid! Please let every child play and just be!!!

  4. They are only little once….I hope to slow down and enjoy these years with my youngest child while I have them….

  5. I don’t have any advice yet since we are just beginning our journey but if its like anything else in life, I’m not going to worry about the destination but going to try to enjoy the ride!

  6. We just started using Oak Meadow Grade 4 after I came across your awesome reviews. So far I am LOVING it! I’m saving up to purchase the 1st grade level for my younger two and would love the opportunity to read the early grades guide before jumping in. Thanks for the opportunity and for supporting such an awesome company!

  7. I am a mother to a 3 year old and a 1 year old. My husband was home schooled for most of his schooling, and I went to public school for all of mine. We decided to home school our kids (even before we had any) and I am so excited! Sometimes I have to remind myself not to get ahead of myself with wanting to teach the 3 year old. I remind myself to let her play and explore, that formal learning will come later. I just recently found your blog, and I’m loving all the helpful posts! I need all the help I can get!

  8. Enjoy it all! It really goes by so quickly, and the academics don’t matter as much as your relationship(s) with your child(ren). Don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know something, and model how to find the answers. :o)

  9. We’re pretty eclectic homeschoolers but I’ve used bits and pieces of Oak Meadow with my girls since we started 3 years ago. I love the rhythm and connection with the natural world. It’s helped me to calm down about striving and let things unfold naturally. This is going to be especially important with my youngest who is starting kindergarten this year.

  10. We are just starting to homeschool and my oldest just turned five. I frequently feel torn between trying to make sure he gets and early start with everything, and relaxing a little bit and making sure he’s enjoying his childhood. I really feel like childhood is the time to play, and as you become an adult you’re ready to settle down and start working hard. Trying to remember this when I freak out that he’s not reading yet! 🙂

  11. I started doing homeschool using oak meadow through an online public charter school. My girl should’ve done first grade but I thought it would be too slow so I moved her up a grade. I wish I’d left her in first. So now in 4th we are taking things slowly.

  12. Take it day by day. Let them see the fun in it first. Start slow. Give them breaks. Have fun. If they aren’t feeling something, try it a different way. Try it hands on or use audio. Do it outside as much as possible. Most importantly, love them.

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