By Danielle Barfoot, mom to a boisterous pre-teen and Communication Manager at Impak Education, a curriculum provider for home, tutor and school education.
Does the concept of home education apply to preschool children? If so, at what age should you start?
Home education certainly does apply to preschoolers, perhaps just in a slightly different way than you might imagine.
Children learn – from their parents, caregivers, family and other children – from the moment they are born. Preschool children, specifically, learn through play. Play (whether supported by a parent at home or by a preschool teacher) is what allows children to develop in every area: cognitively, socially, emotionally, and physically.
This means that parents who decide to teach their preschool child at home essentially already have everything they need for their child to explore, grow, and learn – no specialised software, curriculum packages or training is needed!
That said, formal home education curricula for children in Grade R do exist. This is because Grade R lays the foundation for lifelong learning, and children preparing for Grade 1 (whether they will be home schooled or attending a mainstream school) can benefit from a more structured approach. However, the emphasis should still be on learning through play.
So what should preschool at home look like?
- Act naturally. You don’t have to invent lots of artificial learning experiences – everyday life already offers valuable lessons! For example, children love to imitate the work of adults, so include them in your daily tasks. Young children are more capable of completing real tasks, such as sweeping the floor or helping to prepare meals, than adults often realise. Not only do these tasks teach practical life skills, but they also help children develop self-confidence.
- Use your imagination. Time for imaginative free play is essential. Unstructured, child-directed play stimulates the senses, creates opportunities for exploration and creative thinking, and helps children develop key skills vital for intellectual and emotional growth as well as social success.
- Encourage movement: Regular exercise helps kids grow, it builds strong muscles and bones, it develops important motor skills, and it boosts self-esteem. So allow your child to jump, climb, swing and slide. Or play ball together, go for a swim, and roll around on the grass.
- Create art: Art and crafts allow children to practice important skills, such as coordination, fine motor skills and understanding shapes and colours. It also helps build patience and boosts creativity.
- Make music: Singing songs is a powerful way for young children to practice language. It also encourages physical movement.
- Avoid unrealistic expectations. Accept that some days will not go according to plan, and that some skills may take a little longer to master. As long as your child is happy and healthy, your “preschool curriculum” is on track.
Ultimately, all a young child needs is a safe learning environment in which to play and explore, and an adult who is dedicated to the cognitive and intellectual development of that child. As such, any parent is able to provide a nurturing and learning-rich environment for their preschool child – without having to spend a fortune on books, educational materials or additional resources.