Homeschooling the Early Years: A Homeschooling Guide to Early Childhood EducationSep 17th, 2011 | By Jessica Parnell | Category: Homeschooling in the Early Years
Top five critical areas of childhood development.
Homeschooling young children as they begin their childhood education produces unique challenges. In the United States, early childhood education (pre-school and kindergarten) is a term generally used to refer to the formal education of children under the age of eight – or five years old, in most foreign countries.
A child’s early pre-school and kindergarten years are the time in which the most growth, development and learning occurs. It is an extraordinary time that defines not only what type of person the child will become, but the emotional and educational route he or she will take through primary school and beyond. This is a critical educational period since these early experiences will set the tone for the child’s interaction and learning for the rest of his or her life.
There are five critical areas of childhood development, referred to as the SPICE of life: social, physical, intellectual, creative, and emotional (Torkildsen 1999). Parents (and homeschool teachers) have a tremendous impact on these developmental aspects of children. Here are some examples of childhood development that begin before the start of formal schooling and continue through elementary school:
Visual acuity continues to develop until the age of 7
Emotional development continues throughout a child’s lifetime, but empathy and envy – inparticular – develop up to the age of 10
The skills necessary to recognize speech continue until age 7, though vocabulary growth will continue through adulthood
Parents embracing accredited homeschooling programs may have a distinct advantage over traditional in-school education in that they can direct the learning process towards any shortcomings, while continuing to contribute to the wider growth of the five abovementioned areas of child development. For example, the parents of homeschooled children who have developed at a typical or above-average pace physically, intellectually and creatively can emphasize the emotional and social development of the child. This is one of the key advantages of pre-school homeschooling over traditional schooling – the teacher need not spread their attention amongst the needs of multiple children, nor adhere to a strict curriculum when circumstances (or a child’s curiosity) allow the teacher to promote more in-depth learning of a particular subject.
Schooling with a parent provides one additional noteworthy advantage: it has been reported that child-adult interactions that are ‘loving’ in nature strongly stimulate the brain of a developing child. Without intending to disparage our nation’s teachers, few interactions are as ‘loving’ as those found between parent and child. The one-on-one nature of home education allows for more of these interactions to occur, with fewer interruptions or distractions.
There are a number of fundamental ways in which parents can focus their interactions to improve learning across the breadth of a child’s developmental areas (SPICE; see above).
1. Respond to the Child’s Cues
Children constantly give adults clues, and how adults respond to these clues greatly affects how and what children learn. It is important to have a sense of what they are feeling, and how they are transmitting their emotions. Take into account that human contact is critical to their early development, but don’t over-stimulate the child…understand their limits. Individualize the learning process, sensitive to the child’s needs. Responding to their cues helps overall social and emotional development.
2. Accentuate the Positive
Homeschooling allows parents to take the time to respond to a wider range of positive learning developments. Supportive parenting (and teaching) reinforces good behavior, building positive connections in the child’s brain. Being positive and supportive helps a child’s emotional development (self-confidence) and intellectual development (awareness).
3. Talk, Read & Sing
There’s a reason parents talk to their children in a sing-song baby voice – it works. Children need to be surrounded with communication and language, and encouraged to communicate themselves. It’s important to ask them what they think so they can develop intellectually and learn to express their thoughts. Communicating with children in different ways helps creative development, intellectual development and social development (creating & nurturing relationships).
4. Provide Opportunities for Learning
Homeschool parents have few reasons not to expand learning beyond the traditional classroom. The slightly blurry line between home and school provides almost limitless opportunities for learning in a much wider range of environments in comparison to a traditional school student. Providing children with ongoing opportunities to learn helps virtually all of the childhood development domains.
5. Teach Children the Consequences of Actions
Parents rarely want to be the disciplinarian, but children need to learn societal norms. This helps them develop intellectually, building their understanding of how their behavior may impact others. Parents should not focus on discouraging the behavior as much as they should impart why the behavior is wrong. Teaching children that their actions have consequences help emotional development (coping & understanding feelings), social development (societal norms & acceptable behaviors) and intellectual development (understanding the larger impact of actions).
When parents understand the full scope of early childhood learning and the types of developmental needs young children have, it becomes clear that parenting plays a significant role in successful homeschooling.