My Story: Why I Homeschool My Toddler, and How I Approach It

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Homeschooling is the education of children at home rather than in a formal setting. Now in my fifth year of homeschooling, I appreciate more than ever the value of allowing a young child the freedom to grow and learn within the natural setting of the home, and the importance of quality time between parent and child.

I’m not saying that homeschooling is the only way to raise or educate one’s child. Neither am I saying that it’s possible or desired by every family. Each family possesses its own dynamic, a hodgepodge of philosophies and needs shaped by background, culture, spiritual beliefs, parenting style, financial stability, goals and circumstances. For various reasons, many parents send their babies or toddlers to a childcare centre or entrust them to grandparents, a nanny or domestic helper for part or most of the day.

Here are the factors we considered in choosing to homeschool our children till age six:

1. Do I want to homeschool?
The initial six years of life are crucial to a child’s overall development. There are certain things my husband and I want our children to learn and influences we want them to avoid. Homeschooling embodies our ideals; it gives structure and consistency to our purposes.

My choice to homeschool isn’t devoid of internal struggle. With more pregnancies and very young children, homeschooling and homemaking is a tough combination. Part-time work is limited to the little time and energy that remains. I’m occasionally disparaged as “just a housewife” and face the negativity of people who think quitting work is a foolish, irresponsible decision given the perceived cost of raising children, as well as a waste of my education and skills.

2. Do we want to homeschool?
My husband doesn’t do crafts with our toddler, teach phonics nor keep the inventory of our homeschooling supplies. But he takes the kids for tennis and swimming every week and is the drum instructor at home. He deals with disputes and his share of chores when he’s home from work. Best of all, he embraces his role as the sole bread-winner, listens to my rants and helps me regain perspective on days I wail “I can’t do this anymore!”

We agree that our kids don’t need the latest toys, gadgets or luxurious holidays to thrive, learn or be happy. We also think private education is unnecessary. We accept the lifestyle changes necessitated by a single income because we feel homeschooling is an investment that shapes and benefits our family life for the better.

3. Benefits of homeschooling
Homeschooling allows me to meet our toddler’s attachment needs and enables me to learn about his other needs, preferences, strengths and weaknesses. This helps me relate to him more emphatically and positively.

At home, he’s less exposed to illness and can be breastfed for longer. Visits to the doctor are extremely rare.

Toddlers learn by example. At home, I can focus on character formation by talking about and modeling our family’s beliefs and values at any time of the day. I can train my toddler consistently on food preferences, table manners, eating habits and how to be content with self-initiated, creative play without electronic devices.

Homeschooling makes it possible to limit negative external influences and restrict TV viewing to an hour or two on weekends. I can deal with misbehaviour immediately and more consistently.

At home, the most fundamental aspects of education can be learned naturally at minimal cost. A toddler can indulge in sensory and imaginative play using items gathered around the house. He can develop important living skills by helping with chores and learn early academic skills in an informal way at his own pace. Conversing intentionally and reading aloud with him a few times daily helps him build an amazing vocabulary quickly. There are many cheap and simple games to play that develop his motor skills and encourage critical thinking. Learning is fast and effective when it happens one-on-one.

Rather than spend most of his waking hours in an institution, my toddler experiences a relaxed day at home with a flexible schedule. We share the simple joys of life together, spend lots of time outdoors and attend play dates.

4. Can I homeschool? 
Am I a superhuman who never gets tired or grumpy? Or never craves adult company or a quiet moment in the toilet? Truthfully, I struggle to spend 24 hours a day with my toddler for most of the week. Whiny moments demand patience. I must deal with personal frustration when I don’t see improvement in certain areas. I have to encourage him even when I don’t feel like it. Increased hours with his older siblings present more frequent teaching moments. The house constantly needs cleaning after our activities.

For me, the question “Can I homeschool?” is eclipsed by the fact that I want to homeschool.

I’m driven by its advantages and am determined to overcome my personal shortcomings to do it well. I don’t need to have early childhood qualifications to homeschool effectively. With the Internet, information and a supportive community of homeschooling mums are readily available. There’s also extended help – my mother who teaches him Chinese, and spiritual instruction and play with other toddlers on Sundays.

As with all decisions on education and parenting, there are pros and cons to homeschooling. Homeschooling a toddler is hard work but for our family, the rewards are unparalleled.

Jin Ai traded refugee work for diapers, dishes and homeschooling. She blogs about parenting, home education and life as mom to four kids at Mama Hear Me Roar.

Image Credit: Flickr user Woodleywonderworks

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