I recently came across a copy of a homeschool magazine that contained a series of articles about homeschooling very young children (ages three to five). The articles all centered around one big question—at what age do you start homeschooling?
That is a big question, especially if you’ve never homeschooled before and your oldest child is three, four, or five, the age when most children around the country are starting preschool or kindergarten. Should you start this year? What if you wait a year or two—will your child fall behind?
There are a lot of different opinions about when a child should start school. Some educators seem to think “as early as possible,” thus the creation of programs such as Head Start® and other preschools. Other educators think it is best to wait as long as possible. There are homeschoolers at every point along that spectrum. Why? Each child is unique, and each family situation is unique.
Here are some questions to help you determine if you’re ready to begin homeschooling.
1. What does your state law require?
Your state homeschool laws may require you to register as a homeschooler and start instruction when your child reaches a certain age. Some require attendance records and/or other “proof” of homeschooling. Do some research or contact the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) to find out what your state requires. A friend of mine, Cindy, started homeschooling her children when each of them was five. Her only reason for doing so was that her state’s law required it. She said that otherwise she would have waited until they were older.
2. Do you plan to homeschool long-term?
Another friend of mine, Mary, started homeschooling her son with a preschool curriculum when he was four. She and her husband weren’t completely sure about homeschooling and were considering placing their son in a private Christian school for kindergarten. But she wanted to give homeschooling a try. She also wanted to make sure that their homeschool ran at a similar pace as the Christian school so that her son wouldn’t be behind if they decided to enroll him later.
3. How comfortable are you with homeschooling?
Sue also started homeschooling her four-year-old. She didn’t have any training or experience teaching, so although she was convinced that homeschooling was the best option for her family, she was really nervous about it. She began with a preschool curriculum when her daughter was four because she wanted to do a “trial run” before starting kindergarten material.
4. What’s going on in your life right now?
Although Rachel’s son is almost five, she has decided to wait another year to start homeschooling him. Her family is anticipating a move and a new baby within the next few months, so she and her husband have decided that homeschooling would add too much to their already stressed household.
So are you ready? Even if you are, your child might not be. Next week, I’m going to be giving some tips on how to assess whether your child is ready to start homeschooling.
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