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My Worlds Collide

By Kathy H. Lee

Blogging about homeschooling for Gryphon House seems a bit like my two worlds have collided! In my professional life, I’ve written a couple of books for Gryphon House and have enjoyed speaking at conferences and encouraging teachers and administrators to be passionate about their careers as early childhood educators.

My personal life moved in a very different direction when my husband and I adopted our first child. We knew we wanted to homeschool our children, but as an early childhood speaker, people often ask me why. The easy answer is that I am passionate about children! I want to witness those “a-ha” moments in their lives. I don’t see homeschooling as a conflict with my early childhood world; I believe one complements the other.

 The gang's all here!

In writing this blog, I'm thrilled to be able to combine my love for early childhood with my passion for homeschooling. Now, what about you? Are you considering teaching your young child at home? Or are you even thinking about a home preschool?

If so, let me encourage you with the following:

* Your house doesn’t have to look like a preschool for learning to happen!

Invest in a small table and chairs, a kitchen set, a chalkboard easel, a large plastic container for dress-up clothes, a large container for sensory play, and small containers for organizing art supplies and other items.

* Play is powerful!

I believe that play builds the perfect foundation for later learning.  Research shows that young children need to experience a new concept in a hands-on fashion to truly understand it. For example, if you want to teach a child about an apple, you need a real apple instead of a computer printout of one. With a real apple, children can explore by touching it, smelling it, tasting it, feeling it, and even hearing it (if they take a bite).

* Listening is valuable!

Young children are full of stories, and you can learn a lot about their interests, dreams, fears, and ideas if you take the time to listen. One of my favorite activities to do with young children is to keep clipboards or notebooks around the house and ask the children to tell me a story. It is fun to hear what comes out of their mouths. This is a true story from a three-year-old girl:

"Once upon a time there was a little girl named Ruby. And once upon a time there was a daddy named Matt. There was a little girl named Molly and Miller and there was three girls named Ruby and Kristen. Kristen died and she had to because the guy leaved her. There was a little mommy named Aunt Susan."

This story is interesting because the child is adopted and the name her new family gave her was Ruby. Her birth name was Kristen, and she refers to Kristen as dead. This little girl sees her old life as dead. We can really learn a lot from a child’s story!

* Life experiences offer many teachable moments!

The beauty of teaching young children in the home is that it offers so many teachable moments: Sorting laundry is not just a chore, it is a math activity, and matching socks can be exciting to a three-year-old! A few years ago we built a new home. My husband used the time as a learning opportunity to teach the children about foundations, framing, and even plumbing. One of my favorite life experiences is teaching my children to cook. At a young age, I involve the children in the kitchen. We plan the menu together, cook together, and of course sit at the table and eat together.

* Sensory, sensory, sensory!

Sensory experiences are my absolute favorite for young children. You don’t have to buy an expensive sand-and-water table (you can make one much cheaper) to offer sensory activities.  I like to buy large, round containers because it is easy for several children to sit around the bowl and experience the materials. My favorite sensory experiences include gak (equal parts of liquid starch and white glue, kneaded to form a putty substance), rice, noodles (cooked and uncooked), potatoes (cooked and uncooked), sand, beans, and fly guts (from 101 Easy Wacky Crazy Activities for Young Children).

If you have questions about teaching your child at home, please feel free to contact me at [email protected].  Follow me on Twitter @kleeplus7 and on Facebook @Kathy H. Lee, Early Childhood Resources. Go make memories with the children in your life!

This post was contributed by Kathy H. Lee. Kathy is a former early childhood administrator and teacher. She has extensive experience in nonprofit, for-profit, and corporate NAEYC-accredited programs. Kathy now facilitates training of early childhood teachers, administrators, and parents worldwide and is the executive director at Early Childhood Resources in Canton, Georgia. She is the mother of seven children (biological and adopted) and homeschools them all.