You’ve heard the question, “What about socialization?”—and you are
homeschooling a pre-schooler!
Young mothers often feel isolated and stuck at home. Perhaps children of
friends or relatives seem more sophisticated, or socially mature than
your child. However, pseudo maturity or blasé attitudes are not anything
Still, carefully chosen, well supervised play groups and homeschool
co-ops can prove valuable and enjoyable, both for children and parents.
You can find more choices than you ever dreamed within your local
community, church, and homeschool activities.
How can you choose the best? Consider why you would like more social
outlets, and what you hope your child will learn.
Write down your goals, as simply as possible. Here are a few of our
- Teach my child how to respect God, parents, self and others.
- Allow my child positive social experiences interacting with various
cultures, ages and abilities.
- Help my child to learn how to communicate effectively, listen,
follow directions and take turns.
- Teach my child to “do unto others as you would have them do unto
- Provide fun, fellowship, and encouragement for the entire family.
Seek out activities where families share your values, and toddlers can
obtain positive social training, improve communication skills and build
self control. Consider how these experiences can also strengthen—not
detract from—your ability to parent your child.
Your local and state homeschool group can help you hook up with
like-minded homeschoolers with young children. For more information,
check out the “Groups” listings at home-school.com. You’ll probably find
several established play groups or co-ops to pick from in your area. If
not, or if your local groups are focused on older kids, consider
starting your own informal group, with as few as only one other family.
Sharing Your Toys (and More!)
Few homeschool families can compete with the financial resources of a
private or public preschool budget for buying educational toys. But you
can get together with a few other families, promote sharing, and host a
Toy Exchange day. (To find toys your child is willing to exchange, you
might want to try some Don Aslett-style decluttering first: see his
column in this issue!). Friends go home with your child’s forgotten
game, toy, or puzzle, while your family gets to enjoy something new (to
Animal care can help kids connect, and of course, pets provide lively
fun—at least for awhile. Then the pet loses his novelty, and becomes a
burden instead of a thrill. What if you only had to take care of a pet
for say, a month at a time, then you could send your pet home with
another family? Consider sharing and rotating small pets, such as
lizards, hamsters, birds, and fish. Each child can be responsible to
communicate care instructions to the next child in line. Keep a
schedule, so that you know who is supposed to keep which animal, and for
Pick up educational items to share from garage sales in upscale
neighborhoods, at pennies on the dollar. Many teaching colleges offer
libraries, open to the public, where you can borrow group learning
materials. In addition, activities such as local church ministries,
library story times, 4H (csrees.usda.gov/Extension/index.html, for ages
5 and up), and various scouting organizations offer materials and ideas
for group activities and positive social training. Search for groups in
your area through kidsclubs.about.com/popular.htm.
Consider hosting groups with a different theme every month. Try these
simple ideas to get you started:
- Alphabet Zoo (make up an animal and song for each letter)
- Band Concert (with toilet paper kazoos, wax paper combs, oatmeal
box/coffee can drums, pop bottle flutes)
- Chalk Art Celebrations (decorate the sidewalk or garage floor)
- Culture, Family Heritage and Foreign Languages (dress up and simple
- Create Your Own Game Day (make checkers by painting stones to
resemble bees and ladybugs)
- Holiday Crafts (make Christmas cards to distribute to neighbors and
- Career and Helper Day (make costumes and play police officer,
doctor, pastor, service person, etc.)
- Literature/Book Club (each child brings favorites to share)
- Science and Safety (how plants grow, vitamins, safety rules and
- Sports/Preschool Olympic Festival (cooperative games such as relay
- Very Small Business Day (lemonade stand or yard sale for charity)
Large Equipment for Groups
Besides oodles of flu germs, your local preschool probably boasts great
playground equipment. How can homeschoolers compete? Kids enjoy playing
together and facing challenges together, while exercising their large
muscles. However, children get bored quickly of the same old slides and
swings. Rotate play groups at various homes and locations, so that your
child can sample a variety of play equipment. Children will also
practice sharing, waiting their turn, and proper behavior in public.
Adults and older children in the group can consciously foster a spirit
of cooperation and encouragement, instead of the “law of the strongest”
in the “playground jungle.”
If you can’t afford traditional swing sets and sand boxes in your own
yard, do what previous generations did: improvise with tire swings and
homemade obstacle courses, or plan a field trip to a variety of public
parks. (If you build your own equipment, consult an expert to ensure
your equipment is safe.)
Is social communication unusually challenging for your child? He or she
is not alone. Often goals and activities for young children far exceed
both the children’s desires and abilities.
You don’t need a degree in child development, but it helps to know a
little about ages and stages. Very young children (ages 4 and under)
seldom play together, but may enjoy side-by-side parallel play. Play
side by side and imitate your child, at the child’s level or a little
beyond. Respond in kind: if a child makes sounds but few words, do the
same with short, clear sounds and words in response. Consider resources
such as Communicating Partners, jamesdmacdonald.org, which provides free resources to families learning to
communicate with their children. You may be amazed at how interested
children become when you relate with them at their level!
What About Formal Classes?
What about preschool classes, homeschool or otherwise, that focus on
intensive academic skills?
As a family with a child who has special visual and health needs, we’ve
occasionally felt pressured to conform to developmental schedules and
expectations. Although some may disagree, I would not force strictly
regimented and tested “school-like” activities for young children. Keep
group learning for young children fun, simple and child-centered.
A young child learns mostly through the senses: mixing measurements,
building with bricks, cutting, gluing, working puzzles, lacing and
tracing. Resources such as Better Late than Early by Raymond and Dorothy
Moore can encourage families with preschoolers to focus on good behavior
and character development. Most kids are in school at least twelve
years. Academics can wait.
You may find that your preschooler is so frantically overscheduled that
you yearn for days at home with naps, snacks, books, blocks, mud pies,
and dolls. You may even notice that intensive social activities increase
negative social behavior (such as whining, temper tantrums, back
talking, disrespect, hitting, cursing, or stealing). Consider canceling
some (or even all) outside activities for awhile. Work on social skills
within the family. Model and play-act turn taking, self-control, and how
to make wise choices. Properly trained children can practice treating
others with kindness within their own family. Children of the past, such
as Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the “Little House” books, lived and
thrived in relative isolation compared to children today.
For help in character training you can find resources, such as For
Instruction in Righteousness: A Topical Reference Guide for Biblical
Child-Training by Pam Forster (doorposts.net), and Character Building
Kingdom Stories, from pearables.com. Relax and enjoy uncomplicated hours
of family time together. As your child matures, you can look forward to
many years ahead, with increasingly more independent, successful, fun
learning time with friends!
Melissa L. Morgan is the co-author of Educational Travel on a Shoestring
and Homeschooling on a Shoestring. With her husband, Hugh, she has
homeschooled their three children from birth, taking advantage of many
educational opportunities in the real world. She invites you to visit
her website at www.eaglesnesthome.com.