My little boy loves to learn. He loves to be read to and to pretend to read. He enjoys helping around the house. He likes to pretend to cook and to help as much as possible when his father or I cook. He enjoys hunting for bugs, watching the squirrels, watching the birds, and anything else in nature. He loves art and music and has an imagination that never stops.
Many have said that our decision to do a bit of preschool at home is a horrible one. Why? Because he is 3 and we will burn him out. Because it’s cruel. Because it’s too hard for a young child his age.
If that’s the case, why are there preschools for 3 year olds that keep them all day long? If it’s so bad to let a 3 or 4-year-old be taught, why do preschool at all? At least at home, he can do as he chooses. Don’t want to color? Okay, we’ll draw, read, or just chase bubbles and look at bugs. And the “school” day is over in an hour or two, not the end of the day. Plenty of time for tag with the kids or to make cookies or to mimic dad’s practice.
I don’t believe he’ll get burnout. Neither does anyone else who knows our son. He sees me working from home as a writer. I have always done this. Some days he will play on his little laptop while I type, trying to mimic as much as possible. I also attend college online. I grab a book to read, he grabs the beanbag and pretends to read. I work on a book report (I tend to handwrite my outlines and first drafts) and he grabs a piece of notebook paper and his big pencil and “writes” his own report of circles and loops. (Much like how I wrote my grandmother stories when I was his age).
We bought an easel that folds and has a dry erase board, chalkboard, storage, and paper. He draws, paints, colors, and then demands that you help him practice drawing his letters with sidewalk chalk. He reminds you if you haven’t added the day to his calendar yet (a bulletin board set of furry monsters) or haven’t updated the sign that says “today is…tomorrow will be…yesterday was…”.
He plays phonics games and Poo-yoos on the computer and the Wii. We did an entire week’s worth of things on ants. Made an ant, drew ants, counted legs, watched them through a magnifying glass (the bigger as he calls it), watched videos of ants at work and read about them. He proudly informed our landlady that ants have six legs, are strong, and never lazy.
He pokes us in the backs of the legs with the book that has most recently caught his interest. He’s not big on little kids’ books. Certain ones he likes: Five Little Monkeys, If You Give a Cat a Cupcake and things like that. Others, he’d just as soon giveaway, like the Disney books. No, what he pokes you with are books like The Hobbit, The Jungle Book, Peter Pan, and Grimm’s Fairy Tales. He flips open a book to look for pictures. No pictures? He still wants to hear the story. You can set out some Disney books with a couple other “too old for him” books like The Hobbit or Robin Hood and he’ll choose one of the last two every time.
We started doing more crafts and other “educational” activities when he was a good bit younger. Why? Because of his behavior. He has always been a good boy, much more behaved than many of the others his age we’ve seen. But he was acting out. Turns out, he was bored. Legos weren’t enough, no. He has added his little train to his megabloks to make tunnels and buildings the train weaves through. Occasionally the T-Rex he’s named “Chub” marches through and knocks something over. He’ll spend well over an hour moving the pieces of track to keep the train going, talking the entire time and narrating whatever story is going on in his head.
Then he draws his train at the kitchen table while I cook. Or he sits at the coffee table in the same little rocking chair I had at his age and practices drawing lines or circles. He grabs any workbooks he sees and wants to know what he’s supposed to do. Or he simply figures it out himself and sometimes invents two or three new ways to do a page. He stacks things by color or size and then matches them all.
Doing more educational activities that challenged him solved a great deal of the discipline problems we had. Oh, he’s your typical terrifying three-year old some days. But most of the time, he’s a well-behaved, sweet little boy who can’t wait to go figure out why a fish swims or wants to know what makes the biscuits rise.
So that is why preschool starts next month. And he’s excited. He gets to go to school with mommy and informed the little girl up the road that his teacher is better than hers, because his teacher is his mommy and she makes cookies. And then awes her with the fact that he thinks his dad is a power ranger because he is a martial artist.
He’s filled his little backpack with crayons, a pencil sharpener, and a couple of pencils. As well as some scraps of paper he stuck together with a paperclip, some pictures cut from the coloring book, and my old deactivated cellphone. And his hairbrush. He loves his hair.
So why teach him? Because he asks to learn, wants to learn, and loves every minute of it.