Many people think home education starts at school age, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Even before you’re making decisions about which education route to take, your child is busy learning!
Children go through many key development periods, one of the most important being before they even step foot in a classroom. Learning comes naturally to us, we absorb thousands of sensory inputs on a daily basis, unconsciously learning as we go. Children are no exception. Most learn to walk, talk and a whole host of different skills even before pre-school simply through interacting with their environment.
For us, home education was an easy choice and one we were lucky enough to make shortly after our eldest daughter, Aria, was born. You can read our reasons why here. Making this choice so early on means that we have the privilege of experiencing pre-schooling from home!
Preschooling from home is wonderfully diverse, not only can you take whatever approach appeals to you as a family, but you get to watch your little baby start to take their first steps in exploring the world around them. The past year has certainly been full of memories that we will treasure as a family forever that we wouldn’t have had if Aria had attended pre-school.
The beauty of home preschool is it can happen anywhere. Whether you fancy a walk in the woods, a day at the beach or perhaps a relaxed day at home, anything goes. The learning never stops. So no matter what facilities or environments you have available to you, you can make it work!
We have transformed half of our living area into a mini preschool for the girls. Taking on inspiration from the Montessori and Charlotte Mason approaches, they have an area where their creativity can run wild with open ended toys and a book shelf free to access at their leisure. Our garden is also designed as a sensory garden to help their development and allow for as much outdoors time as possible during the day even when travel isn’t possible.
We are also huge advocates of child-led learning, so whilst we do provide the girls with activities to do during the day, the day remains relatively unstructured. The importance of choice should never be underestimated, and we always follow their lead and allow them as much self-choice as possible to help them gain confidence and develop their passions.
This fantastic free approach truly means that anyone can preschool at home and every family can choose what works for them! No family is the same and every child is unique, so why not make the preschool experience unique to them as well!
Learning At Their Own Pace.
Most children start preschool between the ages of 2-3 years old and attend until they are old enough to enter school. However, home preschool starts whenever you want it to! I like to think it doesn’t have an official ‘start date’ as our babies are learning from birth. This flexibility means that you can take whatever pace you want and ensure it suits your child.
Children all learn at different rates, some will naturally be more curious than others, and by pre-schooling at home you can accommodate each child’s learning pace and style. Aria, for example has always been a fast learner, she is highly inquisitive, forward and adventurous. There was no way we were going to hold back any ‘preschool’ activities until she was the deemed ‘appropriate’ age. At less than two years old she can climb ladders, name most colours, animals and count to 5. All of which she has learned at her own pace through her own choice.
Ryver however, takes a more laid back approach. She is no less adventurous, but prefers to observe and explore the world from the close proximity of her sling. At 11 months old, she is slowly starting to make little journeys away from my side to investigate the world, but she is far more content to take a slower pace than her sister. Something we are perfectly able to accommodate at home. Ryver will never be made to feel less capable or like she isn’t at the right stage, because at home there is no ‘right stage’ that she should be at by a certain age. She is free to learn at her own pace in her own way.
Our third baby, arriving in August, will be no exception! They will be free to take on their own learning pace and simply slot into our home preschool with the girls.
This is definitely one of the things I love most about any form of home education. It truly is unique to each child and how they learn. No one is held back by others and no one is made to feel inadequate for taking a slower pace to learning. Everyone is allowed to feel confident about their learning and not pressured to keep up or out pace anyone else!
Nature Based Learning
Our regular visitors will know, we are enormous advocates of nature based learning. The benefits of nature for your family are priceless and what better way to learn about the world than actually going out and exploring it for yourself!
Pre-schooling from home gives you the ability to make nature based learning a priority. Whilst forest schools are growing in popularity in the UK, they are still somewhat sparse. Most pre-schools take place within community buildings and although the majority have access to a small garden, very few have access to more expansive natural environments.
Our ‘preschool’ has no walls. No confines. No limits. One day we will be at home playing in the garden, the next we will be out exploring the local wilderness, climbing trees, jumping in puddles and learning about wildlife.
At home children get adaptability and the sole focus of their parent/s with a preschool that can take place anywhere in the world. We are free to make nature our classroom. This is something that standard preschools simply cannot provide due to funding, staff and facility restraints.
Forest schools, however, are fantastic for nature based learning, and if due to lifestyle, preschool cannot be held at home, then I highly recommend sourcing your local group! The Wildlife Trust often holds wilderness classes with all sorts of fun nature based activities, so be sure to see if any are hosted near you.
Having this nature focus not only allows the girls to explore the world for themselves, but we have made so many truly wonderful memories together already. Not to mention it is a much healthier lifestyle for everyone! Walking a 3 mile hike has now become a regular occurrence for our family and even Aria with her little legs is more than happy to walk 2+ miles several times a week! People often marvel at her confidence navigating roots, rugged terrain and whatever nature throws at her, but it is all she has known since she was born. She is a true wild child and nature is her playground!
Aside from the many benefits for your child, pre-schooling from home is also pretty cost effective, depending on your career and lifestyle. Many parents struggle with the cost of childcare even with government support schemes and often find their entire wage packet barely covers the cost of childcare.
If this is the case for you, or if you are a SAHM like me, then pre-schooling for home can be a fantastic option for cutting costs. But what about resources and activities? Second hand sales or online sales such as Ebay, Freecycle and Facebook Marketplace are your answer! We have picked up so many things for free or rock bottom prices simply because they weren’t needed any more. Our latest example of this is our wonderful Little tykes climbing frame & double slide. The families children had simply outgrown it and they felt it was too good to throw away (We agreed!) so it needed a new home. Now it provides the girls with daily entertainment and isn’t adding to a landfill site.
Charity shops are another wonderful place to pick up bargains for your home preschool. From colouring books to wooden toys you will be amazed at what you can find. My mum gifted us a complete wooden farm set she had found for £9, after some research we were astonished to see it retailed at over £250 for the set…..
Family days out also work out cheaper since you can avoid peak times and school holidays. We absolutely love having the freedom to visit attractions during the quiet times. Not only do you save a tonne of money, but you also get the place practically to yourself… it’s a win win!
Obviously deciding to preschool from home is a big decision that takes a lot of consideration in terms of impact for the family. If you are already planning on home educating, then this is a great way to start! There truly are so many benefits and it really can work for any family.
For us it was certainly the right decision and one that will naturally follow the girls as they learn and grow. We absolutely love having a home preschool and being able to share all of the little moments that we would otherwise have missed. Not to mention the beauty of being able to aid them in their discovery of the natural world!
Just be sure to consider all of your options and be confident in your decision. If you are yet to have ‘the talk’ with family or your partner check out our top tips for discussing home education.
If pre-schooling from home sounds like something you would love to do, know that you are not alone. Our community is a thriving vibrant place full of love, support and inspiration! No matter how inexperienced and unequipped you feel, have the confidence to know that you can do this! For those already pre-schooling from home, be sure to share your top tips on our forum, we cant wait to read them!
WRITTEN BY AMY KINGSTON FOR HER BLOG, GROWING UP WITH NATURE.