little boy thumping headby Susan K. Stewart
Speaker at 2014 CHEA Annual Convention

In recent years I’ve been asked a new question so often that it is beginning to rival “What about socialization?” The new question is “What preschool (or kindergarten) curriculum should I buy?”

When I look back to when I began homeschooling, which now seems like the dark ages of the movement, there wasn’t much in the way of preschool curriculum or much interest in it. As I look further back to my own childhood, which is longer ago than I want to admit, there wasn’t any concern about preschool or getting children ready for school.

Parents are now bombarded with the message that children need to be ready to read by the time they enter school. Another popular mantra is that parents are a child’s first teacher. As homeschoolers we understand the latter sentiment better than most; however, it’s creating a pressure to begin some kind of formal studies while our babies are still toddling.

Studies have shown that early childhood education has not been the success hoped for. Children who have had formal preschool may start kindergarten ahead of those who haven’t. By the time those children reach third grade, though, they are on the same level with everyone else.

It’s estimated that 85% of an adult personality is formed by the age of six. If this is the case, then we need to ask what is it we want to teach. Reading or integrity? Arithmetic or godliness? No formal, store-bought curriculum will teach the character that will follow our children to adulthood.

Young children can learn social skills. These important skills are the beginning of learning to put others ahead of self. After all, humans are born with a good self-esteem; we think very highly of ourselves. Children need to be taught to think of others and certain social skills can do that.

As soon as your child learns to talk, words such as “please,” “thank you,” “hello,” and “good-bye” can be taught. Your little one can learn to speak quietly, not to interrupt, and to give a friendly greeting by the age of three.

Three- and four-year-olds are constantly on the move. They can, however, learn to move quietly indoors, not run in buildings, not to let doors slam, and to be watchful of older people. Here are beginning lessons in self-control.

Little people can also be taught to sit quietly when appropriate such as at church or in the car. This training needs to begin at home. While you are reading aloud or having family devotions, the youngest can learn to sit and listen. They can also be trained to ask questions politely without interrupting others.

There are, what I call, spiritual skills that need to be taught in the early years as well. For example, as part of learning to say thank you, a preschooler can be taught to thank God before a meal. A one-sentence prayer that begins with “Dear God” and ends with “Amen” is the beginning of a life of prayer.

Little ones enjoy music. This age is a good time to introduce them to hymns, not choruses, but the bold, beautiful hymns of our forefathers. Some hymns, such as This is My Father’s World, are as much fun as a rousing chorus of Allelui, Praise Ye The Lord. While learning to sing hymns, your child is being exposed to great spiritual truths.

We have covered just a small portion of that 85% of personality growth and training without so much as opening a child-training book or a curriculum guide. Character training takes times and you’ll probably find that you are spending more than 85% of your time with these skills. The other 15 % of early childhood training will be covered in typical childhood activities.

Provide books, colors, paper, pencils, scissors, and the outdoors and your preschooler will acquire the so-called school readiness skills. Normal play activities, which should include plenty of running and moving, will help develop the muscles needed for later detailed skills such as writing. Learning comes naturally in the early years, our attempts to teach only gets in the way

What preschool/kindergarten curriculum should you use? The one God has already provided. God’s curriculum includes His Word and His world, loving parents, and the natural learning abilities of young children. With your godly guidance, your little one will learn everything needed to know without ever having a pre-packaged, store-bought curriculum.

How are (or did) you teach your preschooler “school-readiness” skills? What skills do you think are most important?

Susan will be presenting “Wake Up and Smell the Crayons” and other workshops for parents of preschoolers at the 31st Annual Christian Home Educators Convention at the Disneyland® Hotel.

Are you a parent of a preschooler? Find out how you may be able to attend one day of the Annual Convention free.

Copyright 2005. Originally published in the California Parent Educator Magazine.
Used by permission of the author and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Susan K. Stewart is a writer, speaker, and teacher. She and her husband Bob began homeschooling their three children in 1981, graduating all three from homeschool. Susan has served the homeschool community through Christian Home Educators Association (CHEA) of California for more than twenty years. Susan speaks and writes about homeschooling, and is the author of Preschool: At What Cost? Visit Susan’s website