To the mama asking about preschool curriculum in the Facebook group,
I can tell by your post that you’re feeling a little nervous as you take these first steps into the world of homeschooling, whether you intend to homeschool forever or “just for now.” And I know you’ve already spent a lot of time thinking about what you’re looking for, trying to find it, and second-guessing every cart you’ve filled. Before you begin to comb through the two hundred responses you’ve already received on that Facebook post, there are some things you should know.
You see, I’ve been there. I’ve been in your shoes. I remember those first months like they were yesterday. I spent so many hours spiraling down rabbit holes of curriculum online, wondering what kind of homeschool tone I wanted to set, worrying that I wasn’t doing enough, or that I was doing too much. Determined, I tried asking for recommendations in the homeschool groups on Facebook. Hundreds of responses in three different categories pinged away in my notifications for the next several days:
- A hearty list of favorite curriculum choices, many of which not did fit my criteria (secular, nature-filled, and covering more than just numbers and letters) or my budget (small!)
- A slew of parents telling me not to use a curriculum at all, usually with a great deal of passion and conviction in their responses.
The first category left me feeling almost more overwhelmed than when I’d started. Why was it so hard to find what I was looking for? The second category of responses helped me feel a little better–I was not alone. The third category, frankly, left me feeling hurt and frustrated. I knew the early years were meant to be light, full of play, and free of pressure and expectations. I had no intention of enforcing hours of “schoolwork” upon my children at that tender age. I just wanted some guidance, a little direction, some inspiration to help me fill their days with wonder and delight, even when I was sleep-deprived, juggling work and homeschooling, and devoid of any semblance of creativity. I just needed a little help.
The thing is, those parents that responded in category three weren’t trying to hurt my feelings, and they aren’t trying to hurt yours. They are trying to help, and they’re right. You don’t need a curriculum for the early years. These formative years should be play-based, free of pressure, and gentle. But every child, and every family, is different. Some don’t need guidance or structure at all, and some do. And neither is better than the other–it is not wrong to want a curriculum to help you along. It’s also not wrong to skip the curriculum completely. It’s all about what you need, mama, to help you feel confident and supported as you begin this homeschool journey.
Truth #1: Learning in the Early Years Should Be Play-Based
This is absolutely, 100% true. Play is the work of childhood. It is how we learn. It is the most natural form of education there is. Whether you decide to use a curriculum or not, make sure that most of your child’s day is dedicated to open-ended, unstructured play. (Bonus points for making this happen outside as often as possible.)
Truth #2: You Do Not Need a Curriculum for the Early Years (But It’s Perfectly Fine to Want One!)
Truth be told, you could fill your child’s time with nothing but reading together, unstructured play, and going about the proceedings of your typical day (which can be bursting with learning experiences) and your child will be just fine. Those homeschoolers chiming into your post are completely correct–you don’t need a curriculum. But that doesn’t mean you’re wrong for wanting one.
What many responses in these online posts fail to address is the need for the parent educator to feel confident and capable in these first years of homeschooling. While some parents feel perfectly confident educating their child sans-curriculum, many do not–especially in the first few years. But it’s essential to look at the big picture. If a parent is able to develop confidence in the style of homeschooling that works for them and their child, they are more likely to a) stick it out, and b) find their groove as they begin to feel like “they’ve got this.” If that requires the assistance of a curriculum, then there is absolutely nothing wrong with using one.
Truth #3: Whether You Use a Curriculum or Not, YOU Call the Shots
The curriculum is not the boss, you and your child are. You don’t have to use it precisely. You don’t have to march through, week by week, staying on schedule and doing all the things. You don’t even have to go in order. The curriculum is there to assist you when you need it to. It works for you. You do not work for it. (Click here to read “On Homeschool Curriculum: Commit to the Journey, Not the Map.”) Never forget that, state requirements withstanding, you are in charge of what goes on in your homeschool.
There are SO many philosophies in the homeschool world for you to explore. Waldorf, Montessori, unschooling, Charlotte Mason, classical education–the list goes on and on. There are homeschoolers that follow ONE philosophy very strictly, and homeschoolers that mesh up the parts they like of all of them. Again, there’s no “one right way” of doing this. The best approach is the one that works for you and your family at this season in your lives.
Truth #4: You Can Change Your Mind
Whatever decisions you make right now, know that you are free to change your mind at any point. You don’t have to struggle through a curriculum, routine, or philosophy that just isn’t working. This is not public school, where a mandated curriculum must be followed until June 2nd. The beautiful thing about homeschool is that you have freedom. Freedom to experiment. Freedom to honor your child’s own pace and learning strengths. Freedom to find your own strengths as a teacher. Freedom to change your mind.
Never feel pressured to stay the course when you or your child are completely miserable. It doesn’t matter if everyone in such-and-such Facebook group raved about a certain curriculum. If it doesn’t work for you, you don’t have to do it. There is no reason to put unnecessary pressure on yourself or your child, especially in these precious early years (that are over so quickly.) This journey should be joyful. It should be gentle, for both of you.
“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” – William Butler Yeats
I ultimately decided to write my own curriculum for the early years. I had a crystal-clear vision of what I wanted for my girls and knew I couldn’t be the only one looking for it. So I spent over a year developing two volumes of early years curriculum, filled with nature, the arts, and lots of beautiful children’s literature. Blossom and Root Early Years has since helped hundreds of families to give their children a beautiful beginning.
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