I like to read the boards over at the Well Trained Mind, and every so often I read a post from a mother who is panicked about whether their young child or children are doing enough work. Often the posts will list all the curriculum the child is doing, then list all the curriculum the child is not doing, and then go on to discuss how frustrated both the parent and the child are getting. Sometimes the child becomes grumpy and uncooperative, sometimes the parent feels like all they are doing is yelling at the child, and it is obvious to me that everyone is miserable.
I understand the feeling, I do. We are raising children today in a highly competitive world where the parent, especially the mother, is often judged for anything and everything. Homeschooling is something that most people have a very strong feeling about, and when someone makes the decision to homeschool, they often want to do it “right”, so that no one will accuse them of making a bad decision.
But homeschooling can be hard, especially with little ones. Some days when mine were little I just wanted to lock myself in the bathroom and cry. Or I just wanted to lock myself in the bathroom and take an hour-long shower. Or I wanted to lock myself in the bathroom and read. Basically I just needed an emotional and physical break from my kids. And there was nothing wrong with this.
Nor is there anything wrong with not spending hours upon hours a day doing work with your little ones. You do not need to re-create school at home. Of course you can if you like, but it is not necessary. Nor is it necessary to make yourself feel miserable by setting both of you up for failure. The first few years of school should be stress-free and full of joy and wonderment. Read books to your kids, introduce phonics in gentle, short lessons, work on math in short bursts, introduce the kids to the joy of audio books, take them on walks, play in the sand, let them play with Legos and dolls, get them working in the kitchen, let their imagination go wild.
Do anything or do nothing, either way it will be ok. There will be plenty of time for learning all they need to know for school, but they will never be little again, and they will never know the joy of learning if you do not teach it to them. This is what I have learned over the years. I look at my kids, the ones who seem so old now. I am happy to have teenagers. I love conversing with them, I love seeing them discover their passions, I love seeing glimpses of the adults they will become. But I miss those days that we did nothing, those days we all enjoyed so much. Days of parks and ducks, of swimming and laughing, of mud and sand, of Harry Potter dress-up and Little House audiobooks. It was so simple and yet so effective. It was wonderful.