Lately I’m reading blogs and many threads in the yahoo groups that deal constantly with our doubts on when, if, and how to address the teachings of academics to young children specially, and to children in general. I’m also reading much about gifted children and how they are truly different, as much as the challenged children are. And what’s an average child? Here I leave you with some of the things I’ve observed:
* There is quite an obsession on us, moms with young kids, to introduce academics early. There is always questions like this in the Charlotte Mason forums, “my child is three, or four, or just five, and he is very interested in reading, or he is reading already, or shows that he is ready for more…should I start him on AO year 1, or should I proceed with writing lessons or phonics? (And Hand Writing Without Tears, or Learn to Read in 100 Lessons are popular books mentioned for these two areas).
* I believe the flood of questions regarding formal instruction in children younger than six in the Charlotte Mason groups is due to the fact that CM believes children of six and younger should spend lots of time outdoors, observing nature and being formed in good habits by the parents, specially by the mothers, and that by six and not before you should start getting narrations from the children, teaching them phonics and some more of what we call ‘formal academics’, that are, by no means the type of teachings that happen in a traditional school setting. Not lectures from textbooks or filling of a workbook was what she had in mind. So that’s one of my interpretations of why many ask if they SHOULD do this or that in the forums of the ones who support a CM style to a more orthodox or lesser degree. And remember, CM is not for everyone, if you like that style of homeschooling with academics being taught as early as possible, go ahead with it, if you have doubts try something different. Some of us will NEVER tell you that you are doing wrong, but we wont’ advice academics for young children, period.
* For the average child, much gain comes with CM advice and the type of advice than the board and some of the members of the CM groups usually give to these questions about formal academics. Most of the mothers who started ‘early’, have noticed that the maturity of their children at six and even seven fits much better the readings suggested on the AO curriculum, and many speak about the struggles of trying this with their children earlier. The more experienced moms usually suggest you don’t forget to read and talk about the Bible, learn hymns and poems, study and walk in nature, to appreciate music and artists, that you read wholesome books to your children and to not forget to tell them stories, to use manipulatives and real life for math, to dance, cook, draw, play, observe, converse, etc.
* Many of us can’t stress how important is for the children to be children. If you are forgoing a good play in the mud or the water for formal ‘schooling’ with your young children you are not doing them any good. If you are using a program to teach reading to your three year old instead of cuddling on the sofa and reading a wholesome book that has stimulating vocabulary, and a story that will make you both grow as a person you are letting the joys of homeschooling pass by your nose without even smelling them.
* What about the gifted or the challenged? We live in a moment in time when we all believe ALL children are gifted. And in a sense it’s what CM described when she said that children are born persons. All children have for sure a long for learning, and they are bright in one or many particular areas. But there is the truly gifted child as there are children with a challenge in the physical, mental, or both areas, that develop at a different pace (slower or faster). A truly gifted child shows some things that are unusual in children their age. And as I’ve read and thought to be something observable, with an area that is more developed comes usually another that is a challenge. For example, with an unusual ability to read (earlier and better than children their age, without specific instruction), comes a challenge as simple as difficulty getting dressed, as a mom described in one of the AO groups.
* I’ve read that extremely gifted children are sometimes challenged socially, and have a hard time adjusting socially because their gift sets them apart. It’s not uncommon they falter or drop out from school either. Children with a difficulty (such as dyslexia, autism, and learning ‘disabilities’ -such an ugly word, though!), have also a hard time because their own development is different than the ‘norm’. We homeschool these children, the gifted, the challenged, the average, and still at the end of the day, the course we take is our decision. Not an easy one but I refuse to think it’s a complex one either.
Children are resilient, another of the moms commented. We won’t harm them as much as we think we will. If you homeschool, you are at a privileged position. You can observe, try, do, not do, and specially CHANGE AND ADJUST to your child. You can always ask in the groups, and agree or disagree. Read the advice, and they will give you one recommendation and the opposite, and both would make sense, because they apply to different scenarios. We can debate, argue, give and take or reject, but YOU ARE IT As CM says, the decisions are to be taken by each of us, and there is the key of the question.
Let’s face it, our fancy ‘dances’ with curriculum, simplistic teachings, crafts, and our school play is not as crucial or relevant as we believe it is (in moderation it won’t hurt). However it’s our life, what we model, our believes, our habits, our intentionality with our children, our enthusiasm or apathy we transmit to them what will help them grow into healthy and balanced individuals. We don’t need more information, we don’t need a lot of questions answered, we need confidence, FAITH, and the humility to believe that everything will fall into place if we relax, accept our children as they are, and work hard at helping them reach their potentials by living an intentional life with them, by being the parent we have to be ourselves. Refresh your priorities, remember the emotional and spiritual needs, not just the physical or academics. Put God first, study His Word, and the rest will come.
but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.'”