I received an email from a new homeschooler who asked, “I’m looking for curriculum for my three year old.” I’ve got just the answer to the only currriculum your little one needs!
Should curriculum be the first thing you look for?
Curriculum is the first thing that new parents head toward when they begin homeschooling. But how we each view curriculum is wide and varied.
First, let’s define curriculum. Most think of curriculum strictly in terms of what books or texts you might use to homeschool your child. You might expand that definition and include workbooks, or classes, or cooperatives, outside of the home. You might even refer to a specific program like Oak Meadow, or subject text like Saxon Math. That’s all great and good, but I think Outside the Box.
For our family, curriculum is ALL of the things you use and do in your homeschool, that engage and nurtures your child’s learning. Expanding that definition beyond textbooks, opens up a whole new world and way of thinking. Public schools require textbooks (or digital learning without physical textbooks), but homeschooling opens up oppportunities to see what learning looks like for your child. Textbooks help us teach. Opportunities help our kids learn.
Kids in their early years learn best through play. Their brains are especially wired for this, to absorb everything around them and they really do learn by osmosis. My advice is always to provide a wide variety of experiences, not textbooks or worksheets at this age.Play is the only curriculum your child will ever need at this tender age. Gifted children, children with learning differences, and kids that keep on pace all learn best through this method.
The importance of play is described in this article.
It tells us that, “Play is one of the main ways in which children learn. It helps to build self worth by giving a child a sense of his or her own abilities and to feel good about themselves. Because it’s fun, children often become very absorbed in what they are doing. In turn, this helps them develop the ability to concentrate.”
The Only Curriculum Your Little One Needs
Here are some ideas.
- Read to them every day.
- Let them “read” to you.
- Tell stories.
- Get outside and explore nature.
- Play in mud, shaving cream, play-doh, snow, rain, water, sand and all the other messy things.
- Provide blocks, sticks, rocks-anything that can be stacked, taken down, put in and taken out of containers.
- Listen to music. Dance. Sing. Play instruments using tupperware or pots and pans.
- Do free art. Not coloring books or prescribed art lessons but free drawing, painting, sculpting, making.
- Cook together. Stir, measure, taste, feel, smell. Pour cereal.
- Learn about the weather.
- Visit the beach.
- Look at the stars.
- Go to the pond.
And Still More Ideas
- Take a trip to a farm
- Play with others.
- Build tents and forts under the dining room table.
- Camp out.
- Snuggle and watch a movie with some hot chocolate and marshmallows.
- Color match socks, fold laundry, load the dishwasher together.
- Dye pasta and make necklaces.
- Watch baby animals being born.
- Listen to the sounds of the night.
- Climb trees.
- Watch baby birds hatch in the spring.
And Even More Ideas
- Go to cultural events to meet new people and try new foods.
- Let them watch you vote.
- Volunteer at an animal rescue, or soup kitchen, or collect items for those less fortunate than you.
- Visit nursing homes.
- Grow things.
- Play simon says.
- Sew a quilt.
- Model kindness, being welcoming and helping friends.
- Put on a play, help them write the script, build props and costumes.
- Celebrate the changing of the seasons.
- Play store and count money.
Young children need time to explore and figure out what is meaningful to them. It’s why children will do the same activity or sing the same song over and over again. Repetition builds confidence and it helps them figure out all the parts, not just the prescribed pieces of what we think should be taught. Play is often thought of separate from learning, as if children could ever divide the two.
Give them time to grow, explore and play and don’t worry about the text book learning until they are older, or maybe not at all. Play is the only curriculum your little one needs!