We've been preparing our son, three-and-a-half, for preschool at home for several months now, excitedly telling him how he's going to be preschool age and doing "preschool things." We did this, not because he will be starting something formal and serious in the fall with us at home, but because we wanted him to know that he is included. Homeschool is not just something for his big sister and me, it's a family event.
It's for this reason that I believe our early years homeschool will be much different the second time around.
Preschool, The First Time Around
With my first child, I tried to follow Charlotte Mason's advice for the early years very closely. We went outside for hours a day, gave careful attention to natural objects, practiced a foreign language, and read good books. All of these things were enjoyable and lovely, until my daughter started to crave more.
For awhile, I missed the point.
The objective should not be to avoid formal lessons at all costs.
The point in delaying formal lessons is not to hold back an eager child, but to protect a reluctant one.
Charlotte Mason Preschool, The Second Time Around
This time, I'm not going to feel guilty for following my little guy's lead. I'm not going to try to hold him back from learning when he's interested and ready. I will let him participate in lessons with his sister if he wants, in order to make him feel wanted and included. In Home Education, Charlotte Mason said that the younger siblings will want to join in-- and to let them.
“There is no distinction between big and little; the latter love to follow in the wake of their elders, and, in lessons or play, to pick up and do according to their little might.” Home Education, page 45
This time around, we're going to spend much more time inside. With big sister doing her first year of lessons, we just won't be able to pack up and get into nature as much. We will, however, spend a lot of time in our backyard, holding lessons on a blanket beneath our apple tree.
This time around, I'm not going to stress so much about the books that I read. The bulk of the books read will be for his sister, and I chose them so that he might listen in and enjoy them, too. I won't have hours a day to sit and read to him, like I did his sister when she was younger. But, the ideas will still fill our home and surround him in truth, beauty, and goodness.
This time around, I will not worry so much about social development. All of those "what about socialization" questions had me worried before. We spent lots of time with homeschooling groups, even before we were homeschooling. This time around, I see that my three-year-old is socially developing quite well, and that spending time with his siblings has been the best social development possible for him.
This time around, I'm going to worry a little less about what other people think, and focus more on what the Holy Spirit has for our family. In the past, I too often made decisions based on what I was "supposed" to do rather than what I was called to do. In our Charlotte Mason preschool this time around, I'm learning to pray and trust rather than discuss and worry. I will give myself a little more grace, knowing that my children are always learning, just through the life we have together.
And for these reasons, I know my little guy will be off to a great start.