Do you really need a curriculum for pre-school?

Do you really need a curriculum for pre-school? I am kind of just doing my own thing with my 3 and 4-year-old. Some of the curriculums are pretty expensive. Is there one that is totally worth it?

I found this question in the forum discussions.  I was searching for this topic to write a blog post.  I was surprised to see that I had not commented on the post, but then I looked at the date, December 2008.  I had just begun the Charlottehomeschooling website that fall and was 8 months pregnant with my third child.  I was working outside the home and was homeschooling my 6 and 11-year-old children.

I sometimes forget that the decision to homeschool my oldest child was a relatively easy one for me.  Academic learning came easy to him and easily held his interest.  I often wonder if one of my other children had been born first if I would have begun homeschooling from the start.  I realize that all children learn differently and in their own time frame.  I have friends and know many people with “late readers” and friends who intended to homeschool but felt it just wasn’t’ the best fit for their child or their parent-child dynamic.  We all need to do what works best for us and our children and that can change over time.

When I see people inquiring about purchasing curriculum for preschool-age children… I will admit it, I cringe.  I cringe because it conjures in me the image of “recreating school at home”.  There are those homeschoolers who are categorized as “school at home”.  I realize they may not refer to themselves this way, or maybe they do.  I don’t know. What I do know, is that children learn through play.  I know what was taught 40 years ago when I was in kindergarten which was just getting started in our rural suburban Ohio town where I began school.  The beginning year for kindergarten varied across this country within each state and even each town.   Kindergarten was added to be a “preschool”.  I have my kindergarten report card from 1976.  And I am aware of what is now being taught in kindergarten as well as preschools.  Children are being pushed at a  younger and younger age to read and to write. They are being pushed to do formal academics at earlier ages.  Our country prides itself on this push for “early start to learning”.  Daycare for 1-year-olds is called “preschool”.  Somehow, someone decided that learning early was better.  Better for who?

My kindergarten report card reads:

  • cuts with scissors
  • gets along with others
  • recognizes the letters of the alphabet

Did you catch that?  Recognizes the letters of the alphabet was a skill that Plain Township Ohio felt was important for 5 and 6 years old to accomplish.  I remember a few things about kindergarten and one of them is The Letter People.  We had inflatable letter people with faces and personalities and we would watch a  move about each letter of the alphabet.  Miss O was Obstinate.  I remember her because my parents called me, “Miss O”.  And Mr. M likes to munch macaroni.  I think we even got to touch or possibly play with the inflatable 3-foot size letter person.  Now children are expected to be reading by the end of kindergarten.

Here in North Carolina, we can not even register our homeschool until our oldest child or child to homeschool is seven years old.  What people may not realize is that this is because the compulsory age for schooling in NC remains to be seven years old.  Meaning, children do not have to legally attend school until they are seven.  People may think the south is backward in their education.  Yet, I think there is much wisdom to be learned in this old law regarding mandatory schooling beginning at age seven.    Someone recently told me that in, I believe it is Sweden, that they do not use formal academic learning in school until age 8.

Yet, most of us attended school from the age of 5 or maybe we even went to preschool first.  We have all been indoctrinated into the belief that learning happens in school.  But is that the only place children learn?

Think about it.  Did you take your child to “walking classes”?  Did you follow a set protocol to help your child learn to walk?    (NOTE: I am NOT talking about kids with special needs.   As an Occupational Therapist,  I understand there are exceptions).  When did your child learn to talk?  Did he learn to talk because you put him in preschool?  My oldest child attended “preschool” from age 1 to age 4, but he did not learn academics in preschool.   Because we had that experience, I learned that he was learning at home with me and his dad.  I witnessed first hand that he learned his letters, numbers, and even to read and write being home and interacting with us.  He learned through play.  He learned through living life.

Wait! -You might say.  But reading and writing and math, well that is different from learning to walk and to talk.  Is it?

I have witnessed first hand with all three of my children that learning academic skills can happen just like children learn to walk and to talk.  All children are different and learn in different ways.  All people are different and learn in different ways.  Have you stopped learning? I know I haven’t.  I learn alongside my children every day.  Sure some of us need more structure than others.  You can have a structure in your life without re-creating school at home.  Some kids might like the idea of “school at home” especially those who have never been to school.  Yet, if you have taken your children out of school to homeschool them, then it was most likely because school was not working for them.  Surely they do not want school re-created at home.

Back to the question.  “Is there one that is totally worth it?”  The curriculum can be very expensive.  I did not purchase a curriculum when I began homeschool because my son was already learning to read and write.  I was living on a tight budget and was determined to homeschool without spending a large amount of money.  Looking back on those days, I am glad I did not have extra money on hand to buy a curriculum.  I did not even do any research into the curriculum.  I realize others begin the search because like all of us, we want to help our kids.  We want them to succeed.  We figure they must learn to read and write.  And most of us figure it needs to happen at a certain age.  An age set by school standards.  A standard that has changed over time, as I demonstrated early with my excerpts from my kindergarten report card.

You want to homeschool your child and you want to help them learn to read and to write.  So where do you begin?    I recommend going to the library, at least once each week.  We attended storytime at the library from the time my oldest was about one year but there is even storytime for babies.  My youngest used to like to run around the library and grab books off the shelves, randomly.  I could go online from home to order books I wanted and they would be waiting for me at the library.  I still took my youngest to the library.  I was lucky that my older two were much older and could look for books themselves.  We did not go as often with him until he was older.

With the internet, it has become so easy to learn with your child.  Take a walk.  What interests your child?  Talk about it. Go home and look it up on the internet.  Do that together if that works for your child, or you look it up and find books or other resources for your child to pursue at his leisure.

But wait-  before I get lost writing about ways to learn “academic skills”.  Take your child outside. Take him to the park. Find other homeschoolers and meet up at the park or at an indoor play location.  Allow your child the free time to play and explore.  Children learn through play and exploration. They learn more than academic skills in this manner. They learn about themselves and how to interact with others.   Involve your child, if he or she is willing, so don’t force it, with everyday activities like grocery shopping, including making the grocery list. Include them in banking and going to the post office and watching the repairman come to fix the dryer or replace the furnace.  Your child will learn about living in your community and about life.

I realize I need to write a Blog Series on this topic.  I will add just a few more things before I wrap up this post.  Pay attention to your child. Watch him as he plays.  Engage with her in her play and listen.  The first step in homeschooling your child from preschool age is to learn their learning style.  Know that you do not have to have it all figured out before you start or by the time they are 5, or any age for that matter.  I continue to say, that I am figuring it out and adjusting as I go.  And my children are now 17, 12, and 5 and have been always homeschooled.   I made a “kindergarten book” for my oldest when he was 5 and we did things in the book each day.  It was just a notebook and he decorated a page for the cover.  We had a section for values.  We have an old book series called “Value Tales” and would read the books and talk about the value and look up the meaning in the dictionary.   Over time, I unschooled myself and moved away from the structure.  Yet, my oldest likes structure and has always asked for more structure.  Pay attention to what works for you.  And question yourself when you think things need to be a certain way.  Do they really?   Try things, change what doesn’t work. If you buy a curriculum, don’t feel like you have to follow it exactly or even complete it.  If cost is an issue, look online for free materials.  Find other homeschoolers online and in person. It helps to have a community.   Remember, we are all learning all of the time even when we are not in school or doing “school work”.

Read more of my blogs here: