Quick! What’s the correct answer to this multiple-choice question:
Should I homeschool my preschooler?
Well, what did you choose?
Any good home educator, economist or lawyer will tell you the correct answer is:
Wait for it…
C. It depends! 😉
OK, sorry for the trick response. In all seriousness, though, the answer will be different for every family. After all, isn’t that one of the benefits of homeschooling – we have the freedom to choose what’s best for our children?
Let’s examine some of the arguments for and against homeschooling preschool, and see which side your family will choose:
Arguments for homeschooling preschool
- It creates order and structure in the home.
For Type A moms, homeschooling preschool is a great way to establish a routine with their young children. They may have set times for reading, building with Legos, working puzzles, counting, etc.
If your child thrives on orderly processes and habits, setting up preschool in this fashion will give them stability and reduce any confusion from unexpected detours and distractions. You can vary the routine, but a general structure helps set up reasonable expectations as you start your homeschool.
For more ideas on preschool activities, check out Pinterest and HSLDA’s Homeschooling Toddlers to Tweens: Preschool through Middle School.
- It can help foster a lifelong love of learning.
Check out Olivia Brodock’s satirical guest blog post on Teaching Good Things: “From a Homeschool Victim Who Obviously Survived.” We’ve all had good days and bad days, but her recollections and tongue-in-cheek conclusions resonate with a lot of homeschool graduates, including me!
She writes: “We, my siblings and I, were ‘encouraged’ to be always learning, to find the ‘why’ for everything. Even now as an adult, my mind seeks out reason for everything.”
For many homeschoolers, that encouragement to learn starts in preschool. Whether it’s helping Mom measure something in the kitchen or counting bubbles in the backyard, learning should be fun!
- It can give children a head start on their education.
By starting early, preschoolers can often reach grade levels above their peers, freeing them up to proceed at their own pace.
It also means your children don’t have to waste time going over subjects they already know. How many of us who attended a traditional brick-and-mortar school remember learning lessons, but then twiddling our thumbs while teachers worked with the students who hadn’t got it yet?
Arguments against homeschooling preschool
If the above arguments have convinced you that homeschooling preschool is absolutely necessary, wait just a minute! Equally compelling reasons to wait are below:
- It can be more of a “peer-pressure” temptation than a real need.
Many mothers admit to feeling pressure from outside sources to enroll their kids in a preschool-type setting. Maybe it’s the idea that their children need exposure to multiple teachers and experience in a classroom setting. Or perhaps these moms don’t feel confident that they could do it all by themselves.
These reasons don’t stand up to closer scrutiny, however. Whoever said putting 3- to 5-year-olds in a classroom, for multiple hours in a day away from their parents, was ever the norm in history? For centuries, children learned just by being with their families.
If you don’t feel confident yet that you could homeschool your preschoolers, take heart! As your child’s parent, you are already a qualified teacher. You’ve probably taught them to walk, talk, eat and go to the potty (or you’re working on it).
As one area mom writes, “I am so glad I was the one to teach my daughter to read, add, subtract, count by groups, etc… it’s been so much fun, I would have missed it and given it away to someone else.”
- Depending on the child, too much structure can actually hinder learning.
Did you know that babies process information differently from adults? Alison Gopnick, a psychology professorat Berkeley, wrote a fascinating op-ed article in the New York Times about how babies “aren’t trying to learn one particular skill or set of facts; instead, they are drawn to anything new, unexpected or informative.”
In other words, she writes, babies should be encouraged to do what they do best – explore.
“Babies and very young children are terrible at planning and aiming for precise goals. When we say that preschoolers can’t pay attention, we really mean that they can’t not pay attention: they have trouble focusing on just one event and shutting out all the rest.”
So if you’re trying to make Junior sit down for an hour and concentrate on a particular word in a particular book, and he’s scrambling all over your lap and then trying to vault across the room, he just might be learning in ways you can’t yet see!
If you do construct some sort of preschool routine, don’t fret if your child doesn’t stick to it or adapts it. Veteran homeschool moms often leave the preschool learning to grocery store “field trips” and just getting stuff done around the house!
- Homeschooled children typically perform well academically, regardless of preschool “education.”
According to statistics from the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), homeschool students typically:
- Rank 15 to 30 percentile points higher than public-school students on standardized achievement tests.
- Perform well regardless of their parents’ formal education level or family household income.
- Score above average on college entry-level tests like the SAT or ACT.
So there you go! In the long term, homeschooling preschool likely becomes a moot point. It’s just one step in a long academic journey, which may or may not be the best option for your family.
Check out 11 common mistakes that homeschoolers make, especially in the early years.
This blog post was originally published in November 2014. It has been updated for timeliness and detail.