Sunday, January 27, 2013

Monday, January 14, 2013

Homeschooling Young Children: Let Them Be

One of the strange things about homeschooling is this notion of young children. I see mention of this species everywhere. When I read it, I automatically think, oh, they must mean those small and loud people that go to colorful rooms called preschool where they paint with their fingers and sing songs about an old Scottish farmer who had a lot of different animals. That's small children! I got it!

Except I don't get it.

I skim read this part of the book, because honestly, what does this have to do with me? I don't have small children. There is no need to read this section thoroughly, please get to the part where it talks of big children and their big capabilities, thank you.

Then a word or three jumps out during all this skim reading of young children. Words like, "ten years old" or "eight to eleven years old." They are using those words to define young children and I'm beginning to wonder if I have undiagnosed reading comprehension problems.

What are they talking about? Eight-, nine-, ten-year-old children are not young. They are....I don't know what they are, but they aren't young!

Then I realize what has been lost during our five years spent in government education and it makes me incredibly sad.

My five-year-old kindergartner was never a five-year-old kindergarten. He wasn't expected to act his age. He was expected to act older and be prepared for first grade, which is really like second grade. My kindergartener was expected to be a near second-grader.

My third grader was never a nine-year old. He had to prepare for a state-wide standardized writing exam in the fifth grade while in the third grade. My third grader was expected to be something akin to a fifth grader.

Since I pulled my boys out of government schools in 2nd and 4th grades, I don't know where it stops. I know 5th graders are expected to be middle schoolers, because I heard about prepping kids for middle school in the 4th grade. I don't know why that mentality would change for middle schoolers, who I imagine are expected to be like high schoolers and high schoolers are expected to be like college students?

And so I read these homeschooling books and articles and see them refer to children as something other than miniature adults. This notion still strikes me as something new, even though I work every damn day to peel away the layers of preconceived notions I have of children and how they learn best. It's so easy to slip back to those old ideas, familiar and ingrained as they are.

The challenge is not to get my 10-year-old to write 3-5 paragraph essays.

The real challenge is to hold onto that deeper wisdom that knows sooner is not always better.

They are young children. Let them be.