My daughters with finger paint

It’s natural to want to know what to do in terms of homeschooling your children below 6, specially with your oldest child. With the harassment and big business this preschool market represents, and the model of the schools which we all know to be wrong in pushing little ones into formal and too much paper pencil work at an early age, we moms of young children who homeschool are surely an obvious target. And even if it’s not anybody’s fault but our own, we still want to have a schedule, look at some books and curriculum, and, as you are doing, read some blogs and articles about it.

When my oldest girl was 4, almost 5, two years ago, I bought some curriculum for the first time. I went to a mom’s home who was selling things, and came home 52 dollars poorer and with things I thought were a great deal. What was in that plastic bag?

  • Saxon Math 1
  • Five in a Row Volume 2
  • Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle
  • Explode the Code
  • Some manipulatives
  • A few folders to make some lapbooks
  • An idea to replicate Handwriting Without Tears
  • At home I had some Early Readers too

What did we do from all that?

Crayons on a hat
We started all and finish NONE
We did a few chapters of Saxon and left it. It did not work. We checked out from the library Learn to Read in 100 Lessons, and we did not follow it either. We did some lessons of the FIAR Volume 2, and I just looked at the list of all the titles and started to read them as we pleased. That was great, titles as Follow the Drinking Gourd, Make Way for Ducklings, Wee Gillis, The Story of Ping, A New Coat for Anna., When I Was Young in the Mountains, Blueberries for Sal… You can’t go wrong with any of the titles included in its selections.

And then, after wandering for a while, I went back to the original Charlotte Mason plan and we started to go outdoors much more, and kept reading good books, and some objectionable titles that were surely twaddle.

When my daughter was 5 almost 6, or last fall, I read more Mason, books on her and some of her work scattered, and I found the Year 0.5 yahoo group and book list, and I made a grandiose schedule that we could not have completed in several years, but that I thought was very sensible. It was more loaded than the Year 1 schedule we are following now for four weeks.

My daughter learned to read, but still does not choose to read by herself. There are times when I read about children her age or younger reading wonderful living books by themselves, that I get a pang in the stomach, but the pang reminds me to have faith, to see this is not a timed race but a life time experience. I had nobody read to me, I did not read for pleasure until I was 10 or 12, I had periods of almost no reading during adolescence and adulthood. I read comics and twaddle, I read literature that now I consider dubious… At least my daughter is surrounded by living books, and has now a good model in me. She loves reading because she loves being read to, the rest will come as she continues developing relationships and getting in touch with ideas in her own time.

Somewhere around the middle of the school year, and inspired by my friend, we started to read slowly. So I picked ten books per week, two per day, not even, only one on Wednesday and one on Saturdays too, and we read wonderful living books, and we slowly read those and some more picture books in between. I also had the first half of MEP year 1 printed, we had started it in the fall, we stopped it, picked it up again, and finished it in May. By that time my oldest was disliking math.

Our Peter Rabbit cards

During last year we did much but it was all random, following our own paths with moments of me trying to over-impose a schedule on my oldest, and then retrieving to an observing and suggesting place. We painted, created, read, sang, danced, played, and were outdoors frequently. At times I thought my oldest was doing great, at times I thought I was a total failure and I was going to disappear from the internet ashamed that after being a homeschooling bastion now I had to put my girls in school. But prayer, my wonderful husband, and Charlotte Mason came to my rescue, and my friend Stephanie asked me to translate her course. I got back to Charlotte Mason with renewed strength and conviction.

After all, my oldest can read, loves to hear the Bible, has a wonderful ability at drawing, never says no to a nature walk, can reason a math problem very well, has very nice handwriting (she is a girl!), and most specially, she is an obedient, caring, and self motivated little girl. She writes notes and letters for presents, gives away many of her belongings, cooperates and always contributes to house chores… not to say all our days are perfectly smooth. I need to write about the day we were all screaming and crying at 2:00 pm, and fighting for the phone to whine to dad about our miserable life and why the others contributed to its misery.

Then in May I prepared for a poetic Charlotte Mason year 1 following Ambleside as our pattern with my oldest, and so far she is doing fine, with her moments, our rough edges, my constant adjustment to give her a bit of what she shines at, and a bit of what she doesn’t love that much, and enjoying the time!

My oldest and a friend at the Zoo’s tube. Two years ago


We’ll stay away from busy work. Some mothers ask how to keep their little ones busy. I understand that question in the context of those who have older children to whom you’d be reading or listening to, but BUSY WORK is not true learning, and play doesn’t have to be educational either, and moms don’t have to prepare the unit studies or all the oral lessons or lectures.

This fall she’d be the same age as when I started her sister in that curriculum and schedule failure. She is lucky, her mom is more relaxed. She loves being around her sister, so when I’m doing the short table work with her, she comes along. If she were my oldest, and with the knowledge I have, I wouldn’t bother to buy curriculum, but I’d continue with reading some LIVING BOOKS, and try to avoid twaddle. Not that we read a lot of it, but with my oldest I thought that reading LOTS OF BOOKS will compensate the drop of the Saxon, FIAR, handwriting, and formal reading lessons, and although we read extensively, I now know the quantity is not what matters, but the quality of the readings.

This is what I now do with her:

Explorers in one of our nature walks
  • She usually shares Bible study early in the morning. She sings with us, and listens with us
  • She is free to illustrate the Bible story or to just draw while we do our Ambleside reading time in the morning.
  • Sometimes, while her sister does copy work, I write her name on the white erase board, and she practices it.
  • At times I have done some math with her, mainly with unifix cubes or any manipulative and oral questions.
  • We have our own books that we read together while her sister plays alone in her room at quiet time. (I plan to start posting about our favorites, because many you can find on sale at the used book store, or at the library.
  • She comes to our nature walks, and likes to draw an entry for a nature journal sometimes. If she leaves before we do, I’m fine with it.

This is what I plan for her KINDERGARTEN YEAR next summer, when sister is in Ambleside year 2, Lord willing,

  • Continue allowing her to participate in our readings, but selecting 10 reads a week just for her, as we did last winter/spring. If her sister wants to hear those, it of course will be fine too.
  • Focus on a math concept and practice it orally or with manipulatives.
  • Music, art, and nature, foreign language, poetry, hymns, folk songs, Bible, the same as her sister. That’s the advantage of a Charlotte Mason education.

When you have more than one child it is easier for the next ones, you know that they get it, that you don’t need to spend lots of time to “teach” a simple thing that they can catch faster once they are older. For example, writing her name. I had my oldest practicing since earlier, while now my 4.5 can copy it and knows the sounds of the letters without formal drill. The trick is to destine some time for them in particular and to have faith that more is less at this age in the sense of too much sitting time, or too much formal curriculum.  But if you have an oldest child of 4 or 5, and you plan and try things, that has a value in itself. Many times we have to GO THROUGH THINGS to understand and believe what others tell us. I did! Definitely the oldest gets the heat! :), but it won’t kill him, after all we make mistakes because we are responsible, they know it, and they forgive us. If things get too bad, then unschool them for a while and their love for learning will come back, regroup, and try again until you find the way that suits you.


8 thoughts on “Preschool Education

  1. What an honest post, so true for many, many mothers…including me! I was so EAGER to begin homeschooling my oldest child that I went overboard. I wanted to prove myself – it was all about me and not really about my child. But I learned and improved (and relaxed) along the way! I'm happy that my kids are patient and loving with me as a learn and make mistakes. 🙂

    Great post.


  2. Welcome to my corner, they call me mommy, if there is anything true about this hs thing, is that we are always learning, at different levels, but always learning.

    Yes, CM in the city, we all have that impulse to prove ourselves, and yes, our children are very forgiving and amazing!


  3. That sounds very sensible. One thing I love about Ambleside's reading list is that it works for multiple ages. I have my four youngest children doing AO together, and then they each have their individual studies in math, Latin, and so forth, at the level they need.


  4. I see the same advantage Kelly, even with just two. But I see lots of large families with this principles at the head of their homes, and I contest that it's because that's the way children learn, and they learn from each other more than they'd learn from the oral lesson or the teacher lecture. Just from the ideas and EACH OTHER. I don't imply it's easy for you with several children, I only mean that's worth the effort in planning for such an education.
    That's what I foresee, both of them working at their level in a few things, and together for the richness of the books suggested at AO and our own little findings.


  5. Great post Silvia. Like you, I discovered to let go of the expectation that my little ones need a full curriculum in their early years. I've let them just follow natural rhythms of learning letters, numbers and just lots and lots of outside play. Now that I'm almost done with CM's Volume 1, I can really appreciate that before the age of six they need that time to just be children. The skills they are building, obersvational and explorative, are paving the way to great narrations and just a great love of learning the CM way.


  6. You're welcome, thetinkersadventures.

    And FM, thanks for stopping at my blog. The paint… ha ha ha … we get the clothes from friends, such as these two dresses, and I never care about them getting stained at all, but finger paint comes out effortlessly, not acrylic, but we always have clothes or the Lowes aprons they got for free, and that's fine if they get dirty.

    This photo was at the beginning of their finger paint morning, and as I saw those beautiful primary color dresses, I thought about handing them first the matching color, before they started using all the colors and getting nicely messy. I usually have fun with the camera, and then put it away and join the painting fun!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.