There are many questions facing a homeschooling parent. One of the biggest is when to start homeschooling.
Before I answer that question, let’s get something out of the way.
Homeschooling is life. Life is homeschooling.
And it’s an adventure.
True homeschooling is not “School-at-home”, where your child sits at a desk for five hours a day working from textbooks.
Some people homeschool this way and it works for them. I couldn’t. There were too many exciting things to look at, read about, experiment with.
We never spent more than 3 hours max on bookwork on any given day throughout our school years (including high school).
But back to our topic:
From the time they are born! If you’ve taught your child to sing a song, tie their shoes, or how to dress themselves, then you’ve been homeschooling for years.
Any thoughtful parent homeschools their child long before they are officially ‘ready’ for formal schooling.
Homeschool is about making use of learning opportunities. Seizing the moment when your kids ask a question about the weather or the stars or laws of the country or how we get milk.
Homeschool is about teaching your kids how to learn and where to find information. It’s about keeping their natural curiosity alive. It’s about teaching them to work, to solve problems, and resolve conflict.
Homeschool is about exploring nature, observing animals and plants, and taking things apart to see how they work.
It’s about allowing your kids to flourish in the areas they excel in, and strengthening their weak areas.
Homeschool is about communication, innovation, setting goals, persevering through difficulties, helping your kids find their passion and purpose in life, and about building character.
Now! No matter the age.
You should start homeschooling the moment your child is born. Because life is homeschooling.
To give you an idea of what this looks like, here’s an extractof the year-end report I wrote for my kids in 2005. They were 10, 8, and 6 at the time. This will give you an idea of the learning we did that year, without textbooks (we did do some textbook work too).
Oh, I got horribly sidetracked. We were having such fun doing real life we forgot about the important stuff! The books!
Let’s talk about formal schooling.
A child is capable of learning many things before he is officially ready for formal education. By now you should have been doing lots of the things we’ve talked about so far.
In their book, Better Late than Early, Raymond and Dorothy Moore use psychological studies to show that most children are not ready for formal education until around 8 to 10 years of age. They suggest that formal learning should begin, at the earliest, at around age 7.
They maintain that a child will learn quickly and more effectively when they are ready. By waiting, you will reduce the frustrations of a child attempting to tackle concepts he is not ready to tackle.
When should you start formal schooling with your child?
When they’re ready.
Formal schooling is merely the continuation of the very natural act of observing what your child seems eager to learn about the world around them, and helping them learn step-by-step, at a pace that keeps up with their desire but doesn’t frustrate.
Here are some signs your child is ready for more formal learning:
If your child meets many of these criteria, then use trial and error. Try doing some bookwork and see how your child copes. They might start off well but then fizzle out. Back off. Give it some time and try again later. The last thing you want to do is burn your kids out before they even get started.
It’s ok for your child to struggle a little, but if the experience is more negative than positive they will soon lose the desire to continue.
Don’t start too soon. If I could go back and do things again I’d wait a bit longer with my kids. One I started at 8, the other two at around 7. I know with at least one of them I should have waited much longer.
Does that mean you do nothing while you are waiting? No! There are lots of ways to teach language, math, and reading, without using formal methods. And in the meantime, do life!
But do it with intention. Do it with purpose. Talk about what you are doing. Observe. Listen. Notice. Analyze. Think.
See life through new eyes. Recognise learning opportunities. Rethink your ideas about what school is. Set yourself free to learn with your kids and start an adventure you’ll never regret.
Have your ideas of homeschooling changed? What do you need to do differently today? Is your child ready for formal schooling or should you wait a while?