When I first began homeschooling I thought I had to have the most rigorous and challenging curriculum out there. At that time, my oldest son was just three years old. I purchased a $400 curriculum and got to work five days a week. We sat for hours doing “school” work. It was awful! He did learn but it was horrible for both of us to sit for hours. He just wanted to play with his brother and explore outside.

About six months into it, I decided we had had enough. We were in a downward spiral and neither of us was happy. I sold the material from that boxed set of curriculum and played with my son. We included my middle son, who was two. We had so much fun just sitting outside and drawing leaves. We would go on walks and collect pinecones and make birdfeeders out of them. We did puzzles and played games.

You see, you don’t need some big curriculum at such a young age. Even now, when my children are all a little older (3rd, 2nd, and pre-k) we still do minimal school work. My older boys have more work than my little guy but we all have plenty of time for free play and exploring outside.

After reading several books, hearing different speakers, and talking to some homeschool friends, I came to the conclusion that more is not necessarily better. Doing cursive handwriting at four years old does not make my child any smarter than if he learns at nine years old. It is a skill. They will eventually learn this skill. I also don’t like to push my little ones to learn something before they are ready.

Studies have shown that when children are given large workloads at younger ages, they get burned out more quickly with school. This means that they will start to suffer through school and not look forward to learning. It means they will not be as excited to acquire new skills.

I am not saying to just let your kids run around “free range” (unless that is really your thing). I am saying to know your child’s limits and enjoy them while they are little. There will be plenty of time as they grow older for sit down work. The middle and high school years will be filled with rigorous learning and challenging curriculum. Let them be little now while they are little.

I know it’s not easy to do this with everyone saying what a child should know by a certain age. We have been programmed to think that if one child can do something a certain way, then every child should be able to do it that way. That is simply not true. Each of my children learns at a different pace. Each of them has their own strengths and weaknesses. We work through them together and they feel better equipped after they have “mastered” a certain subject.

While my children are young, I want to watch them get excited about what they are learning. I want to observe them really digging deep into things they love. I want to play games with them while they still want to. I want to do puzzles and build Lego sets and chase rainbows. They will only be little for a short time. You can’t get these years back.

Learning takes place in all kinds of settings and in all kinds of ways. Let them help with setting the table. That’s home ec. Go stargazing. That’s astronomy. Go for a hike and observe all the different plants and animals. There is your science. When children are little, learning can be fun and exciting. It doesn’t have to take place in a sit down setting.

No matter how old your children are, have some fun with them. If your high schooler has a big science project, help them. Do it with them and learn a few new things yourself. All the while, you are learning about your child and how they deal with certain issues. You are also getting involved and that’s what children need most. Involved parents who aren’t always so serious about everything. Take a break and go for a nature walk once a week. See what it brings out in your child…and yourself.