As a homeschooling mom, I used to feel overwhelmed by the thought of teaching my young children everything they need to know.
What if my two year old can’t say his ABC’s?
What if he can’t read by first grade?
What if my five year old can’t tie her shoes?
WHAT IF I MESS UP EVERYTHING?
After nearly twelve years of parenting, I don’t sweat the small stuff nearly as much as I used to.
I’ve learned that education is more about life and less about fancy curriculum.
More about life and less about lesson plans.
More about life and less about achievement tests.
And the stuff I’m apt to over-look? That is very often what matters most!
Over the past eight years, I’ve homeschooled four preschoolers (and I still have one coming up in the ranks!).
Here are 10 things I believe every preschooler needs his (or her) mama to teach:
1. Teach them God’s Word.
Our children are never too young to hear and learn Scripture.
“Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little.”
Isaiah 28:9 & 10
I don’t believe this point can be over-stated. As parents, it is our job to teach our children God’s Word. It’s not the preacher’s job or a Sunday School teacher’s job. It’s our job and our privilege to lead our children toward Christ.
“And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children.”
2. Teach them to be kind.
Our fallen natures are selfish and egocentric, so kindness does not come naturally. Little ones are rather famous for wanting the biggest piece of cake, the most toys, and the last drop of milk in the cup.
So how do we teach our children to be kind? By example. By consistency in the home. By patient training.
A practical exmple: When my baby or preschooler swats at another child, I don’t hit his hand; I gently stroke it with my fingers and say, “Gentle hands, gentle hands.” I’ve watched my preschoolers learn to do this with their little siblings; they teach their baby brothers or sisters to be gentle, and they learn to be kind in the process.
3. Teach them to be helpful.
My preschoolers have always loved to pull up a chair beside me in the kitchen and “help.” Whatever I’m doing, they were always in the middle of it. Yes, it slows me down, and sometimes I’d much prefer to just get things done!
There are many “little” chores a preschooler can do. Here are a few:
- Pick up toys.
- Set the table.
- Rinse dishes.
- Help stir batter while you bake (just keep them away from the hot stove!).
- Take out the trash (small trash cans).
- Bring in light bags of groceries.
- Clear his dishes off the table after a meal.
- Bring a diaper or bib for the baby.
4. Teach them to be autonomous.
Why do I want my child to be autonomous? The word simply means to “self govern”, and it implies the opposite of “dependent” or “helpless.”
5. Teach them that they can choose to obey.
When my kids are young and small I can make them obey, but I can’t really make them want to. True obedience comes from the heart and it has to be a choice.
A practical example: A lot of times I ask my children, “Will you choose to obey?” This question often helps separate childishness from willful disobedience.
6. Teach them truthfulness.
I’ve watched parents laugh about their children’s lies, make excuses for them, or completely ignore this issue. Lying is not acceptable!
Most children will lie at some point. How we respond is very important in training a child and shaping his worldview.
7. Teach them self control.
We had an issue with one of our young sons sneaking into chocolate candy after I told him he couldn’t have a piece. This happened several times, and nothing seemed to motivate my little man to obey.
After the third or fourth chocolate episode, I sat down with my little man and asked him why he was disobeying. He began to cry, “I don’t know why I do it! I don’t know why I’m naughty!”
I realized that I was dealing with a small boy who was frustrated by his own lack of self control. I asked him if he wanted to obey, and he said he did.
“You have to tell your hands no.” I held up his hands and said, “These hands want to disobey. They want to do naughty things when Mama isn’t looking. You have to say, No, little hands.”
We sang the song, “Oh Be Careful Little Hands”, and that became my son’s new favorite ditty.
Has he obeyed every time since then? No. But I still hear him singing it to himself around the house. He is getting it.
8. Discover the world with them.
Children are full of natural curiosity! It’s easy to disregard or ignore their endless questions, but these are often perfect opportunities to teach and train.
A practical example: My three-year old came crashing into our dining room one day, begging me to come to the garage and see something. I was in the middle of helping his brother with school work and I really didn’t want to be interrupted, but his face looked so hopeful that I followed him into the garage.
“See, Mama? It’s a bird!”
Sure enough, a sparrow had wandered into our garage and was singing his heart out. My son was enthralled with his discovery I called his brother and sisters in to see too, and they were impressed with his observation.
Later, I gave him a book about birds and he found a picture of sparrows. It was such a little thing that I could have easily missed it. Sparrows are a common thing to us, but in the eyes of a child every discovery is new and wonderful.
9. Teach them to serve others.
Last year, I was pondering how to teach my kids to serve others when I realized that I was overlooking opportunities to praise my kids for doing things for others.
I expect my daughter to set the table before a meal, but am I thanking her for serving the family by doing it? I expect my son to take out the trash because that is his job, but am I helping him realize it is also a way of serving the entire family?
When I began attributing value to simple things, like household chores, feeding a pet, or handing an object to someone, everyone began to see menial tasks in a new way.
10. Teach them that their bodies are special.
It’s frightening to realize how many young children are exposed to indecency and false ideas about sexuality. I realize this article is about preschoolers, but it’s important to lay a solid foundation of truth in our children’s lives.
“As Christians, we must understand that there is a great value in being first. If lies about sex are bombarding our children, we should do all we can to lay a firm foundation of truth in them. If the world is screaming at our kids, it is unwise for us to be silent.”
I don’t give details about sexuality to my children, but they do know that their bodies are special and definitely “off limits” to other people. They have been taught to tell someone “NO” if they try to see or touch their bodies, and to come to either my husband or me and tell us what happened.
11. Teach him about the three R’s.
You knew this was coming, right? I mean, this post is all about homeschooling and teaching preschoolers!
Yes, the three R’s are important. I included them last on this list for a reason, and that is because, for the little people, work books and formal schooling really aren’t the main thing. But they do have their place!
Several years ago, I was stressing and fussing to an older, wiser friend of mine regarding my apprehensions about teaching my young children. She listened to me for a while, then calmly replied, “Kristy, if you’re doing more than an hour a day of school work with your little ones, then you’re over-doing it.”
I took her advice to heart and haven’t regretted it.
For my preschoolers (mostly 3 and 4 years of age), I find that very informal “school work” throughout the week lays a healthy foundation and piques interest for further learning. My little ones “do school” maybe three days a week and enjoy coloring in work pages (or plain pieces of paper) while their older siblings work on lessons.
Other learning projects that my preschoolers enjoy: