Exploring Homeschooling for a Preschooler

homeschooling a preschooler

I promised myself we'd start when she turned three. Or rather, that I'd at least put in more effort and add some structure to her homeschooling. Well, D-Day has come and gone and I am at the starting line, trembling.

Where do I begin? A letter a day? A book a week? A theme a month? There are so many options, so many choices; as a pathological collector, that is a recipe for frustration and a cause for the failure to launch. 

But launch we must. Not because I want her to get into a prestigious preschool program or to learn to read before she's four or be better at math than both her parents combined, but because I realize that she is now three and time is passing too quickly.

She woke up one morning and she was three. The toddler in the house was gone and a little girl has taken her place.

homeschooling a preschooler

Time is passing and she is learning more and more about the world. I want to be there when she discovers what a snake's skin feels like, or how a shell's ridges look up close, or the meaning of the word "evaporate". I want her to know what makes plants grow and what roots are for. She will have questions (she already has so many) and I want to be there to answer them, or to say, "I don't know. Let's find out, shall we?"

Because of her constant quest for answers beyond my capacity, she has already learned the power of Google, which has (sadly, but unavoidably) taken the place of the encyclopedia as the resource of choice for answering the "what is" questions. "What is a griffin?" "What is a hive?" "Can you show me what a skeleton looks like?"

But it is easy to instruct; it is hard to teach. The former requires information; that, I have enough of. The latter requires patience and grace and I am lacking in both. A good teacher must not only have the ability to teach but the humility to be taught, and the wisdom to know when there is a lesson to be learned.

Patience is a hard subject and I fear that I fail too many times. She and I are so different. Or perhaps I was once like her as a child, insatiably curious, a natural explorer, but I learned to color inside the lines and have since forgotten what it's like to read between the lines of the instructions and wonder, but what if there is another way?


This is our typical activity session. The prepared activity goes unnoticed or is dismissed. She is suddenly tired. She finds fault in my explanations and is unconvinced by my cajoling. She refuses to participate and, perhaps even more infuriating for me, refuses to clean up. Then she takes the materials I prepared and does something completely different, wonderfully creative, and entirely self-directed, but by then I am already too frustrated and resentful to be generous with praise and attention.

I wish I could be the uninvolved third party, a casual witness to the scene, who is not in charge of preparation, education, or clean-up. I wish I could put 100% of my energy into noticing all the things she does right instead of having half (or more) of my mind on high alert to spot the things she does wrong that "need correcting", the puddles that need cleaning, the paper and ink being wasted, the difference between my child and Instagram child exhibit A. Some days, I wish she were more like me; most days, I wish I were more like her.

But wishes will get us nowhere, and we have to start somewhere.

Okay, let's begin. But, first, a contract: I, a mom and a teacher, do so solemnly swear to be patient with my child and gracious with mistakes, and to afford myself the same grace and gentleness I give my child. Because there are many tests, but there are no grades, and the only measure of success that matters is what you both learned from the process.

She? She has only to be herself—but she already excels at that.

(Note: I started writing this post the day she turned three, last November. We still haven't started. Help!)