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Should you send your young child to school if he asks to go?

"I'm really keen to homeschool my 3.5 year old, but lately he has been asking to go to school and preschool."

by Beverley Paine, May 2019

Home educated kids often ask if they can try school, or express an interest in it and want to go. Going to school is normal - it is what most kids do. And like most things they see around them, they're keen to find out about it. Consider this though: as toddlers they mad keen to help you with the chores but by the time they reached five and understood that it wasn't really playing, it was actually work, and that they need to be done everyday or most days even if you didn't want to do them, the shine had rubbed off doing the chores. School's a bit like that too.

This curiosity about school is something that comes and goes as kids grow through various stages of development. There are times when during our development we're full steam ahead learning everything that matters socially and we need to knock about with a range of people. Notice I said range of people. These people don't need to be same age peers!

School does satisfy this need, but the need isn't always present. Trouble is, school is. Preschool is okay because for most youngsters it's only one or two days a week, or a couple of hours each morning. There is plenty of down time to reflect, evaluate and process social, emotional, moral and intellectual experiences and learning. Most preschoolers move up to 'big school' at age five and for many this is developmentally early to be at school 6-7 hours a day, 5 days a week. It is convenient and handy, especially in our economic climate where it takes two incomes to pay the mortgage or rent and the never-ending bills.

My daughter showed a huge need for learning from other people at age 3-4 years, and between 4-6 she very much withdrew, was content to hang out with her parents and her siblings. At 6-7 she had another massive need for social learning. Over the years we noticed that other kids seemed to go through similar stages at about the same developmental age.

It's not too hard to meet this need because it is a social learning one and people learn from all people, not just same-aged peers. We simply get out and about more, among people, all sorts of people, for all sorts of reasons.

Sure, the media (books, TV, movies, games, etc) push school as THE thing kids want to do, but schools have only been around for a couple of centuries - how did kids learn social skills before school became compulsory? From a range of different people as they moved in and around their communities, doing what kids do - playing, and especially playing games that mimic the work and lives of adults.

We can protect our kids from exposure to this school-biased media but that's really difficult. A much better solution is to get out there, into the community. Hang out in different local playgrounds on the weekend - you'll meet a ton of parents and their kids. Go to cafes every so often. Visit museums. Go for walks around your neighbourhood, stop and pat dogs and chat to their owners and your neighbours. Invite other home educating families to visit you. Set up a few excursions to places you like going with your family, or want to visit as part of your home educating program. Take the kids food shopping with you.

And lastly, play 'school' at home. Set up some desks, take turns being the teacher. Create a school uniform. Pack lunches. Younger children love playing this game. We know what school is like and they don't. So share your memories and experiences with them in a fun way.

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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.

Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine

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