Homeschooling: The Lower Elementary Years
The elementary years of education are typically broken down into two categories: lower elementary (commonly referred to as the “primary” years), and upper elementary. This is done because the developmental and educational needs of children are much different at five years old than at ten years old. On this page we’ll talk about what homeschooling looks like during the lower elementary (Kindergarten-2nd grade) years.
The primary years are an important time of development in children. It is critical for us as home educators to set the stage for learning during this time rather than race for milestones. Many of us can think back to a time when Kindergarten consisted of play-based learning, snack time, and maybe even nap time-and that was all accomplished in a half-day setting! Children at this age are naturally curious about the world around them and are full of energy and excitement. We can harness this natural curiosity to our advantage by offering them a multitude of learning opportunities through their play. For example, playing games such as bean bag toss can help develop their gross motor skills while also offering opportunities to incorporate early math skills. A scavenger hunt game is a great way to help them focus their attention on a lengthy task while incorporating numbers, letters, or sight words (depending upon their abilities). Fine motor skills can be developed in similar ways through play-based opportunities that don’t feel like work. The idea here is to engage in learning through everyday activities so that they develop a solid foundation upon which to build later.
Character and Habit Training
The early years are the prime time for habit training, character development, attentiveness to tasks, and developing a sense of order. One of the most important aspects of homeschooling the early years is developing good habits. Leave the TV and electronics off and out of the picture unless specifically being used as a learning tool. These early habits will help the children to develop a strong sense of self-discipline and personal responsibility later. Character development is something we should all be helping our children with whether they are homeschooled or not, but it is especially easy for those of us that homeschool because we can incorporate it into most everything we do. Teaching children to share, take turns, practice patience, tell the truth, and so on becomes much easier when we can model these behaviors while minimizing examples of poor habits that we do not wish to promote.
A Time For Wonder
This is also the time we can help our children to develop their interests and figure out what they like and what motivates them. Read-alouds are a wonderful way to introduce them to a variety of topics and ideas, build a foundation of literacy, and develop relationships within the family. Many children will be learning to read during these early years and beginning read-alouds with them early on will encourage them to aspire to reading on their own.
The Sweetest Time
In short, the early years should focus primarily on training good habits, character development, early literacy, and number sense while fostering an environment that encourages curiosity and learning by doing and seeking. These early years will build a solid foundation upon which your children can begin to build in the later years. Remember to build your relationship with your child and have fun together during this very sweet time! The days are long, but the years are short. Enjoy this time with your child!