One year ago, I assumed I wouldn’t do any sort of a formal preschool with my kids. Charlotte Mason advocates starting formal lessons no earlier than age six. So why complicate things? I trusted the method, and the wisdom of many home educators who said, ‘Wait on formal academics’.
How things change in a year, including my heart towards preschool at home. In fact, as I write this, we are three weeks into our at home preschool. Here’s what’s challenged and shifted my thinking, and why I don’t think Charlotte Mason would mind.
We’ve added another baby to the family.
Baby T is now 10 weeks old. His slightly early arrival included an emergency c-section and a 10 day stay in the hospital while his lungs developed a bit and he received treatment for jaundice. This was followed by another three day stay in the hospital for a virus.
Needless to say, this was even more of an upheaval for our family than we expected. N age-nearly-4 and G age 2.5 managed with Carl’s support, as well as my amazing mother who changed flights to arrive early. Still, as grandparents have come and gone and we settle in as a family of five, I feel the need to be extra intentional about ‘filling the cups’ of my older children.
That’s where ‘preschool’ starts for us. It’s a way to connect by intentionally spending quality time together.
My older children are very close in age.
Only sixteen months separate my older two boys in age. I am pretty confident that when N starts formal lessons in two years that G will want nothing more than to be involved right alongside his brother. Heck, T will probably want to join in as well.
So by spending some time doing preschool together each day, I’m building up a mental resource of games, stories and activities that I can draw on when my younger children want to do ‘school’ like their big brother. I can’t predict the future, but I think that this may pay dividends in time and sanity saved in the future.
We’re not great at doing what Charlotte Mason suggests for the early years.
Charlotte Mason’s opinion on what under-sixes should be doing each day boil down to two main things: lots of time outdoors, and about 10 minutes of a foreign language lesson. Even with my husband’s fluency in French and our desire to get the kids outside, we are amazingly inconsistent in both of these areas.
By doing preschool every day, I have accountability to get everyone dressed in the morning. I have a plan for doing a bit of French each day. And because we are dressed before we start, we have momentum to get us out of the house nearly every day, whether to play in the garden, go for a walk, head to the playground, or run errands. My kids are thriving off of having this relaxed structure to the day, and I love that we are following through on these important things.
Transitioning to formal lessons will be less of a shock.
I was listening to a podcast when I heard something that really caught my attention. Because this particular mother had made a habit with her children of sitting at the table and doing something every morning when her children were little, the switch to formal lessons was simple and natural.
I’m sure I’m not the only mom who hopes to home educate, and yet looks at her children and thinks, ‘But what if I can’t get them to listen? What if they just run away, or protest, or I just can’t command their attention?’.
While Charlotte Mason talks about habits and ‘laying down the rails’, I think there is something to be said in starting early, starting gently, and working towards a goal. My goal is to give my children a beautiful and broad education. This means that they will need to spend some time in formal lessons once they get to a certain age. By starting preschool now, we are all building up the habit of coming together for learning each day.
Charlotte Mason-Friendly Preschool
None of this to say that I am abandoning the Charlotte Mason philosophy. Rather, I believe that I’m coming more in line with it by instituting a preschool at home with my kids. Read my next post to see how I’ve designed my at home preschool to be Charlotte Mason-friendly.
This post is part of my Charlotte Mason and the Early Years series.