Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Homeschooling, part 2: When Do I Start?

Many people have asked the question, "When should I start homeschooling my child?" That is a very good question... one that does not have a right or wrong answer. You can start at any age, as long as you start your child by the age they would be required to start Kindergarten. This is usually the school year that has your child turning five years old. Some states do not require a child to start school until their seventh birthday. Different states have different laws, so please check the laws for your state to know for sure. You can check these on the Home School Legal Defense Website. If you have an older child that has been in Public or Christian School, you can start homeschooling them at any age that you feel this is God's will for your family. Just as a reminder: Remember that homeschooling is not God's will for every family and that you and your husband should seek God on the matter of your child's schooling to see what He would have you to do.

Birth to 1 Years Old

The Bible teaches us to train our children, and I believe this starts at birth. You do not have a scheduled or structured schooling at this age. Children this age learn best through play. There are many opportunities that present themselves during the day, if you pay close attention, that you can "grab" and use as a learning time.

As a baby or toddler, naming the parts of their body as you tickle them, using the words "up" and "down" in connection with the action, and singing your favorite "learning" songs to them can go a long way. With toddlers, you can name specific colors as you play. For instance, "Mommy is going to pour some tea from my purple teapot!... Oh! Look at my pretty pink cup!" Using descriptive words in this way will help your child learn their colors.

Sierra was potty trained by the time she was 19 months old. Our incentive for going on the potty was a treat of three M&Ms for each potty she made. Before she could get her M&Ms, she had to count them and tell me what color each one was. This was a great learning tool. Something similar might work for your children.

2 Years Old

By age two, children have not really changed a whole lot in the way they learn new material. Repetition is always the key. Children this age tend to resist a sit down and learn approach even more, as they are in that get-up-and-go and Terrible Two stage of life. Helping them to learn through things THEY like to do is the best approach with children this age. They tend have an uncanny ability to be able to block out and ignore anything that is not THEIR idea of fun. Grab those teaching moments while they are playing, and really capitalize on making those moments FUN! 

3 Years Old

This is the age that some parents really start to consider schooling for their child. Children at this age are just beginning to get to that point where they can sit and focus for a short amount of time. If you are contemplating starting your child at 3, but are not sure if that is what you want to do, try it out for a few weeks to see how it goes, and make your decision from there.

Hannah at 3
Three year olds have the attention span of... well a 3 year old. They do not yet have the ability to focus very well, so if you do decide to start schooling at this age, short, 10-15 minute bursts of schooling are best. If you try to sit for much longer at a time, you may frustrate your child and completely waste your own time. Remember!!! SHORT 10-15 minute bursts of structured learning broken up by LONG periods of play. ...And, Mom, yes, 3 year olds STILL LOVE to learn through play :).

4 Years Old

Take advantage of learning moments!
This is what is considered Pre-School age. Many parents send their children to K-4 at this age. Some children, however, are not yet ready for structured learning by this age. Remember that each child is different. Children mature in different areas at different paces.

I have been doing structured learning with my oldest, Sierra, since she was 3, but my 4 year old, Hannah, is still at the point where I am not quite sure if she is ready for that yet. We are planning to give it a try this year, although we are planning to use an easier, play-based approach this year as we are using a K-3 curriculum for her. We will see how it goes.

Children at this age are usually ready for about half a day of learning, provided you break it up. For instance, you might have 20-30 minutes of class, followed by a 5-10 minute break. Four year olds also learn well through play, so any time you can reinforce a learned principle through acting it out, playing, or any type of movement, the better it will stick!

5 Years Old

KINDERGARTEN!!! AHHHH! LOL Many states require children to start school by age 5. Some states do not. Again, check the laws for your state. Some children are still not ready for schooling by this age. Only you, as the parent, can be the judge of that.

Five year olds are usually ready to start doing a half to full day of school work, depending on their ability to sit still, listen, and focus. You should be able to gauge the ability of your child and figure out what approach will work best for your child. It is still wise to break the school day up into 20-30 minute increments with small breaks in between for two reasons: at 5, children still lose their focus easily and are able to stay focused better if they can have small breaks to refresh themselves; and, because of the growing their little body is enduring, it can be physically painful for them to sit still for long periods of time.
Learning about sled dogs!

It is still a smart move to reinforce learning through movement at this age. Any time you can provide ways for children to use as many senses as possible in learning, the better they will learn and the longer they will retain it. For instance, if they are learning about leaves (hearing), you might take a walk through the woods (to expend energy :)), pick up some leaves (looking), and make a pretty picture by gluing them to paper (touch). You might have a snack of "leaves"/ salad :) (taste),  and talk about the different smells of leaves throughout the different seasons of the year.

It's Up to You!

Whatever age you and your husband decide to start your children's structured schooling, know that they are at an optimal age to learn! Their training is in your hands, and their best interest is in your heart, so just pray about it and do what you think is best for your child! There is no right or wrong answer for what age you should start school at, so go with your gut, and trust your instinct!


  1. I think I started homeschooling at about 2 months old! I would read "Goodnight Moon" to my daughter and she would try to eat the book. That was what was considered "age appropriate" for her. The reason I call it homeschooling is because it was systematic. I read to her each and every day and she loved it. I talked to her intelligently describing everything to her. By 18 months she could point out all the colors correctly and also knew what they were in sign language. I taught her to communicate her needs with sign language before she could speak so I always knew what she needed. She knew several sight words and letters by 19 months old and by 2 she knew her whole alphabet. I'm convinced that you can teach a very young child anything as long as you make it seem like play. I highly recommend "Native Reading" by Timothy D. Kailing for play-based reading for small children.

    1. Thank you for your input! That is great! The greatest learning potential is prior to the age of 5, so we start with our children at birth too :). Sierra, my oldest, knew her letters, letter sounds, colors, numbers, and how to count by 2. She just turned 6 in March, and she is starting 2nd grade Monday. Her reading level is better than the few 5th and 6th graders I know, and better than the 2 teenager I have come to know well (but the teens are public school products, so that is not saying a whole lot).

      I also start my children on sign language at an early age. I learned it as a child due to my sister's inner ear disease, so I try to incorporate it into our days as much as I can. My 13 month old uses a few signs, like "more", frequently.

      Great job with your daughter!!! I will definitely look up that book! I am also on the lookout for books to add to my child rearing, homeschooling, or wife collection :). Thank you!