Bedtime stories

A few years ago, I got to know a lot of moms with young children who were just starting out as homeschoolers through the wonderful Catholic homeschool co-op we were a part of.  Now, I was there once too, and I certainly don’t mean to poke fun at all, but sometimes those of us with older children would just kind of look at each other while we listened to the young moms talk about all the activities their children were involved in and all the “extras” they were learning.  I think there is a tendency in our society to want to make sure our children don’t miss out on any opportunity, but sometimes I think the greatest opportunity we have as homeschoolers is time.

My advice?  Relax.  If your oldest child is under about 8 years old, keep in mind that you are running a marathon here, not a 50-yard sprint.  I think one of the reasons that so many people stop homeschooling after a year or two is because they are trying to sprint, and they get exhausted and burned out because they think they have to keep going at a pace that is simply not sustainable year after year.  Now, like everything, virtue is the happy medium.  I’m not suggesting you do none of those things–just that, like a runner, you pace yourself.  You decide which subjects are necessary every day, which would be a nice addition once a week, which devotions, activities, lessons, and sports can fit in with your life and not leave you feeling exhausted and always in a rush.

Here are a few thoughts on what’s important for the under 8 set:

  1. Time to play.
  2. Time to learn the responsibility of chores.
  3. Time to learn to read.
  4. Time to be read to (this shouldn’t stop at age 8, though).
  5. Time to learn to write neatly (this is one I wish I had spent more time on).
  6. Time to learn numbers and then adding and then subtracting.
  7. Time to learn to share with siblings and friends.
  8. Time to learn about God’s love for them.

So, when is it a good time to start some of these outside activities and more formal subjects?  You may not agree with what I think, but here is what I have found works well:

  1. Formal sports:  Around age 7 or 8 at the earliest.
  2. Dance lessons: About age 5 at the earliest just so they stay stretchy.  Otherwise about age 8.
  3. Singing lessons:  High school at the earliest.
  4. Formal science curricula:  About age 8 or 9 (by all means have fun with experiments and trips to the zoo before this).
  5. Formal history curricula: About age 8.
  6. Instrumental music lessons: When they are good readers–unless maybe it’s Suzuki violin and they actually enjoy it.
  7. Choirs:  Anytime with good instruction that is age-appropriate.

What do you think?  Do you agree?  Disagree?  What do you wish you had done earlier?  What do you wish you hadn’t wasted your time on?