It was October when I realized my kindergartener was not making visual connections. She joyfully anticipated “school” every day, and I devoted 30 minutes of time to her four days a week. We had been cruising through her pre-reading curriculum, and she loved chanting “B stand for buh in b-b-bat.” But then I realized she wasn’t recognizing the letters I was holding up as we chanted. In alphabet order, she could chant the alphabet song and figure out what a letter was, but when I would point to letters out of context, she couldn’t name them.
If she was my first child, I would have been devastated. But I’ve seen this before.
I was ready, so we charged ahead before she was ready.
She struggled with learning her colors as a preschooler, and her siblings and I were certain she was color blind. We put it aside for several months, quit trying, and I made a note to bring it up at her next visit with her pediatrician. And then one day, it clicked for her.
Her older sister “quit” Kindergarten three times. Her issues were more about stubbornness and following anyone else’s schedule (other than her own), but each time after a break of a couple of weeks (or months), she would come to me and want to pick it back up again. Secretly, I wondered if she would ever learn to read. But at 7, she clicked into overdrive, and flew through the lessons, and at age 9, reads better than grade level.
In our current culture, parents are dangerously attracted to teaching academics before little brains are ready. My educator friends have immense pressure to start teaching reading and math to preschoolers and young kindergartners, despite trying to convince parents that it is too soon. Homeschooling parents can be even more driven to jump in too quickly.
Frankly, working on core character issues, teaching chore and household tasks is harder and less rewarding. Teaching a kid to read is exhilarating. No one pats a stay-at-home parent on the back for teaching their child to tie their shoes, get along with their siblings, or wash up their breakfast dishes. (“Really, I have a college education for THIS!”) The temptation to start in on academics quickly is powerful.
So what if you started in too soon? What now?
Stop. But don’t quit taking the time for your child. Maybe you need to play a game together. Work on learning to wipe down the counters. Just snuggle up with a book. All of these things will pay dividends in the long run.
Investigate your child’s learning style. Resources abound including online quizzes and this excellent article by Inge Cannon on how to determine how your child will best learn. If you start to recognize this information, you will be ready to start more formal learning when your child is ready.
Let them linger. My youngest isn’t ready to read, but she comes running when I instruct her older siblings in history. She is also known to chant the list of linking, helping, and state-of-being verbs with her older sister. She jumps in on any art projects the older ones do. She loves picking and choosing what she will participate in, and when she is ready to read, she will be ahead of the game. Younger siblings greatly benefit by just being present while you teach. If it is your oldest, let them help you as you cook, bake, clean, or watch you read. All of these things are molding their learning behaviors.
Dare to ignore peer pressure and focus on your child. You know you do it. You listen to the other moms at co-op talking about their child’s prowess academically, you read their Facebook posts, and family members ask what you are “doing” in your homeschool. It all adds up to pressure to demonstrate your value by what your kids are accomplishing. Don’t do it. Get yourself out of the equation and determine what is best for your child.
Know your state guidelines and what you do and do not have to do at this stage. HSLDA has this information on their website. If your state doesn’t require you to notify your school district that you are homeschooling until your child is older, don’t. Even if you do have to demonstrate that you are schooling, those requirements are usually easily met without pushing your son or daughter to do what they are not yet ready to do.
Keep your eye on the prize. I know some early learners who had lost all interest in schooling by high school. They were reading by 5 and were exhausted by 14. Some will be ready for academics early and never lose that interest. Most children, however, need more time. One of the best benefits of homeschooling is creating life-long learners, people who find absolute joy in learning. So yes, reading is an essential skill. So is balancing a check register, but we don’t ask our 4-year-olds to master it.
Mid-year is a great time to evaluate what is happening in your school. If you are dealing with constant frustration, opposition, or looking into a little clueless face, take a step back. You won’t regret it in the years to come.
Photo Credit: First image graphic design by Charity Klicka.