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Thoughts on Preparing Preschool-Aged Children for Being Homeschooled

By Pete and Becky Storz

A question that is asked frequently in homeschooling discussion groups is: "How do we prepare our preschool-aged child for being homeschooled?" The parent asking the question is usually very earnest, their desire to do what is best for their child and their nervousness at considering something so unfamiliar yet so important quite evident.

Probably, most of the hard work of preparation needs to be done by and for the parents - thinking through their reasons for homeschooling, learning about homeschooling methods and philosophies, learning the requirements of their state's laws, learning about available curricular resources and beginning the selection process, arranging family finances, and finding local homeschooling support. Formal "preparation" of the child is really not a major task, and minimizing the degree of formality for the child in the first years of homeschooling is often the best thing to do. A family can, however, examine how they have been raising their child, their child's toys, and their family's activities with a view to make adjustments that will be fun for child and parents, and help make the transition to being educated at home come more naturally. Think of it as "home-pre-schooling."

Mom and Dad should choose toys and games that incorporate learning in the process of playing with the toy (rather than special "learning" gadgets) and stimulate a child's imagination, creativity, and curiosity. Plan family activities that similarly stimulate all those qualities, and show your child that learning is something that Mommy and Daddy continue to do and enjoy. Teach your child by example that learning is fun and leads to more fun.

Avoid the "canned" toys, the ones that do the playing and imagining for your child, and leave for your child little more than string pulling, tummy pushing, and switch flipping. Go for color, shape, alphabet, and number blocks, building blocks such as Legos, non-talking, general-purpose dolls and trucks (whatever your child prefers), Tinker Toys, musical instruments, puzzles, books, etc. that encourage the use of imagination and creativity. Don't forget the art stuff - colored paper, crayons, paints, glue, and clay, and while you're at it, buy a tarp at the hardware store to protect stuff and make clean-up easier. Have fun with your child!

Do fun, exploring things like rock, bug, or shell collections, nature trips, taking apart mechanical things, having their "own" garden, hands-on "Children's Discovery Museum" or "Exploratorium" (these are San Francisco Bay Area examples) type places, and visiting historical sites (the kinds with demonstrations and hands-on activities - "living history"). Look into groups such as AWANA, Bluebirds (Campfire), Daisies/Brownies (Girl Scouts), and Tiger Cubs (Cub Scouts). Have fun with your child!

Read to your child, a lot! For a toddler, it might mean reading one or two of their favorite storybooks over and over and over until the book's covers fall off. But as your child grows older, they'll grow out of that, and you'll be able to move on to longer books with stories that you'll find interesting as well. Elizabeth Wilson's book, "Books Children Love" is worth seeking out, both for books to read to your child, and later as a source of ideas for books your child can read. Also check out: Classical Christian Education Support Loop: 1000 Good Books List and KidSource Online: Timeless Classics. Be sure to find a good Bible stories book (or set of books) at the Christian bookstore. As your child grows older, look for Bible story books that have good chronological continuity, and are more detailed and complete. This will help your child understand that the Bible is more than a collection of disconnected stories (Sunday Schools tend to pick stories by theme rather than chronologically). Mom and Dad might learn from these books, too. Keep the reading time fun. Also be sure your child sees Mom and Dad reading as well. Even several years from now when your child starts reading with confidence and wearing out their library card, keep reading books to them that are a bit beyond their reading capability. Encourage your child to keep on reading by providing a good taste of the kind of fun that can be found in books. Have fun with your child!

Remember that learning isn't just out of books, doesn't just happen from 8AM to 3PM, and doesn't just happen in a classroom.

If you do as many of these things as interests your child and suits your family, your child will be encouraged to become a life-long learner. You will also be laying the foundation for a wonderful, close, family relationship with you and your child that will last a lifetime. Not a bad payoff for having fun with your child!

Copyright © 2005, Peter and Becky Storz and Homeschool Christian.com

About the author: Pete Storz grew up in Woodland, CA, near Sacramento. His family attended a Lutheran church, and for grades 1 through 3, Pete attended the private school run by that church, and public schools thereafter. Pete attended a college in Phoenix, AZ, graduating with an Associate's degree. While in Phoenix, Pete worked in a Christian bookstore and tape library, was involved in a ministry that reached out to Jehovah's Witnesses, and ran sound for several local contemporary Christian music bands. Pete moved to "Silicon Valley" to work in electronics and be closer to his parents. He met Becky in 1978 at a church, and they were married in 1980. They have three children, Suzy, Chris, and Katie. Becky first heard of homeschooling on a Focus on the Family program, and about a video seminar by Dr. Raymond Moore that was to be hosted at a nearby church by his daughter. After attending this and a seminar by Gregg Harris, Pete and Becky were encouraged to believe that they could homeschool their children. Remembering that first year or two, when support was crucial but hard to find, Pete and Becky started a support group in 1992 with a special emphasis on fellowship, person-to-person support, and helping new homeschoolers get started. Though Pete and Becky stepped down from leadership after 4 years, SELAH Christian Schools continues to assist homeschoolers in the San Jose, California area. Pete and Becky continue to publish a resource directory for San Jose area homeschoolers as well as other support activities.

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