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As homeschoolers, it’s easy to let the academics of school become all-consuming. School is supposed to be about active practice in numbers, words, and facts we would otherwise not find very interesting. At times, it’s hard to let ourselves stray very far from that mindset because surely if we’re hammering down the academics hard enough, we won’t need experiences.
In case the sarcasm isn’t shining through with enough intensity to wreak further damage on the Three Blind Mice, please hear this: school (including homeschool) is wasted if academics are given priority over experiences (or family relationships, or spiritual instruction…lots of things trump academics). This will always be true regardless of the age of the pupil, but it’s especially true of young students.
To be fair, the need for experiences has been recognized in both the public, private, and homeschool sectors. It gets worked into the curriculum on occasion, cloaked by the ambiguous phrase “field trip.” It can mean anything, from a trip to see how candy is made to a visit to a herpetarium. I’m thankful for field trips but in the end, they just don’t cut it.
Do what matters
Moms-of-preschoolers, let this time of gentle learning with your kids start with experiences. Resist the urge to print off another worksheet and print off a recipe you can make together instead. Take a long walk through the woods without telling yourself it’s taking away from flashcard time. Expose, experience, examine…excite your child with a world beyond just math manipulatives and letter recognition games. At least for now.
I’m a a huge believer of the benefits of reading aloud to children (as you might already know), so of course I can’t help but share with you why life experiences are almost as important as reading to your kids. In his book The Read-Aloud Handbook, Jim Trelease explores the idea that reading aloud becomes an even richer discipline when children have an array of experiences (or background information, as I believe he calls it) to pull from.
And you want to know something encouraging? These experiences I’m talking about…they don’t have to be a big deal. They don’t have to be expensive (though some certainly can be), complicated, lengthy or even definable. Translation: roaming aimlessly though a forest counts!
Experiences are valuable!
I love thinking that with every new and basic experience my kids have, their little minds are making dozens of connections! Elements from stories come alive and take on new meaning, or a conversation we had a few days ago that didn’t really make sense to them suddenly clicks.
Think of experiences as the way the world takes form in the eyes of your child. Think of them as a way to bolster the more “academic” aspects of their learning by providing valuable background information and giving purpose to theory.
During our time in America while on furlough, my boys (particularly the three year old) have added lots of things to their lists of life experiences. So far, one or both of them have:
- Visited a waterfall
- Seen a wolf, turkey, buck and duckling
- Caught a fish
- Flown a kite
- Helped make a resurrection roll
- Traipsed through western Michigan woods
- Taken a ride in a Jeep
- Flown across the country
- Watched birds on the feeder outside a window
These experiences have provided greater comprehension of the world and increased vocabulary (some would consider that pretty academic). Ty (3) now knows what it means to reel a fishing line and can identify a woodpecker. Preschool points? Yes!
What experiences have your preschoolers had so far? Do they come about naturally or do you feel yourself leaning towards more traditional academics?