In the past two or three years I’ve been asked a new question so often that it is beginning to rival “What about socialization?” The new question is “What pre-school (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 pre-school curriculum nor 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 pre-school or getting children ready for school.

We are now in a society that is bombarding parents 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 teachers. As homeschoolers we understand that 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 pre-school may start kindergarten “ahead” of those who haven’t. By the time those children reach third grade, however, 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.

As soon as a child learns to talk, he can learn to say “please,” “thank you,” “hello,” and “good-bye.” By the age of three, he should be learning to speak quietly, not to interrupt, and to give a friendly greeting.

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. These 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 pre-schooler 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 children are 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 normal pre-school 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 pre-school/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 he needs to know without ever having a pre-packaged, store-bought curriculum.

Copyright 2005. Susan K. Stewart. Reprinted by CHEA of California with permission of the author.

Susan and her husband Bob began homeschooling their three children in 1981, graduating all three from high school at home. Susan speaks and writes on homeschooling for CHEA as well as for other organizations and publications. She currently serves as CHEA’s Web Content Manager and CHEA’s Prayer Chairman. You may contact Susan at [email protected]