Why I Didn’t “Just Let Her Play,” or The Hardcore Overbearing Mama

Noodle turned three years old in October of 2012. Less than three months later, in January of 2013, we started homeschooling.

I never intended to homeschool preschool. I want my kids to have childhoods, play outside, imagine, and not be chained to desks so early in their lives. In fact, I want their childhoods to last a long time, which is one of the main reasons we wanted to homeschool in the first place. In the preschool age, kids learn most by experiencing the things in their natural surroundings (or so I’ve read), so why start homeschooling so early, nearly three years before NM state law requires it?

First, let me confess, I kind of did “just let her play.” But there are two reasons I got a little more serious about it than you might. One, I don’t like labels (for people! I love labels on any kind of container!), but if I did, I would stick Noodle in the ADHD box. Having structured activities and goals for a day helps her and me immensely.

Two, because I have a type-A personality and I also just happened to be really insecure about my ability to actually do this homeschool thing, I wanted some practice at what that meant before the hammer came down and it was time to start in earnest. So I decided to be more intentional about what kinds of “play” Noodle had access to, and to keep track of how much time per day she spent on enrichment in specific areas.

I would show you the ridiculously overcomplicated excel spreadsheet I made, but I’m too embarrassed.

However, I will share with you some of the activities that made it onto said sheet:

  • Family Devotionals and Awana: Hubbo has been great about diligently and consistently sharing devotionals with our family – twice a day most days. In the morning, we began using Clay Clarkson’s Our 24 Family Ways, and currently we are going through Long Story Short by Marty Machowski. At night, Hubbo tells a Bible story in his own words.
  • Worship Dancing: We love to crank the volume on our iTunes library and dance and sing. This counts as Bible time and major motor time.
  • Art: Noodle L. O. V. E. S. LOVES to paint, color, and draw. When I was tracking time, she earned most of her hours in the Fine Arts category; this also went into fine motor skills time.
  • Reading: We love to snuggle under a blanket on the couch and read almost everything. We also started using Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons this year – I will post more about that later.
  • Field Trips: We have a membership to our local zoo, aquarium, and botanic gardens, so we can visit any time. On these trips, I try to be intentional about adding some educational commentary about the animals we see, but usually Noodle asks so many questions I don’t have to work very hard. I also added things like story time at the library into our sheet.
  • Puzzles and Blocks: Did you know that putting together puzzles is a pre-reading skill? You can get some great ones at the dollar store.
  • Cooking: My girl loves to “help” in the kitchen. Baking is especially good for learning, not only because there is lots to measure, but because we can talk about how heat changes liquid batter into cake. Science – check! And reward yourself with a delicious treat. *wink*
  • Other: Honestly, three-year-olds ask so many questions, almost anything can turn into a lesson. Noodle is particularly interested in “why” anything is the way it is right now. If I actually have an answer, I do my best to share it with her, and sometimes those conversations turn into the best “homeschool” lessons.

I no longer track the time Noodle spends on each category. I do intend to start keeping records again once we have to notify the state that we are homeschooling, but in a much more simplified way. My spreadsheet was really a manifestation of my worry that we weren’t doing enough of the right things, and for now, I’m feeling confident enough to let go of the intense tracking.

Now that Noodle is four, we are starting to structure a few more sit-down-and-do-school activities into our day, but only because my girl loves them and is ready and itching for them. Watch this space for another post on our exactly what those are.

Happy play-schooling your own preschoolers! What fun activities do you sneak into your little ones’ days so that they are learning through play?

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