Why I Quit Homeschool Preschool (and What I Do Instead)

Are you searching for all the info on how to homeschool preschool?

Wondering about schedules, curriculum, how long it’s going to take, and what in the world you need to teach?

First of all, good for you for wanting to teach your child at home and doing the research!

I never even considered teaching my oldest when it came time for preschool.

I signed her up for 2 day/week preschool, even though it was tight on our budget. I honestly felt like her educational foundation may be on the line, so we just figured the financial piece out.

After preschool, we enrolled her in 3 day/week pre-K. There was no option for a free pre-K, so again we paid hundreds of dollars every month for what I felt was absolutely necessary.

When she finally got to full-time kindergarten, I was relieved that we weren’t paying for school anymore.

I was also sure that the 2 years I invested in her education was going to pay off!

On the way home from school a few weeks in, I asked my daughter what she had been learning.

“We worked on the letter of the day, mommy!”

I almost crashed my car.

She was doing letter of the day in preschool! This is the third year of letter of the day?? What was I paying for these past two years??   

Fool me Once

For a number of other reasons, we decided to look into homeschooling.

I decided to experiment on my middle child (while my oldest was still in public school kindergarten) and attempted to homeschool preschool.

At first, it was really fun to teach my child at home!

After a couple of weeks though, I started to get a little weary of the prep time and trying to get my 3-year-old to stay focused and engaged for the lessons.

She had this really frustrating habit of wanting to run off and play. Or she would want to do the work her way – which was usually not what the teacher’s manual had in mind.

I also started to realize that she knew most of the curriculum – Colors, numbers, letters, shapes, etc.

I decided to just box everything up, and save it for my youngest child when the time came.

That box has not moved from my storage closet and will probably be trashed, sold, or given away when we move.

Why I Quit Homeschool Preschool

Are you considering homeschool preschool and looking for some good tips? I want to share with you what happened when I started homeschool preschool with my 3 year old, why I quit and boxed it all up, and how my kids are doing years later. You're going to be surprised!

1. The “preschool standards” can easily be taught while just living everyday life with your child!

The standards that a preschooler is expected to know before kindergarten are:

  • Know right and wrong
  • Follow directions
  • Know most letters and sounds
  • Letter tracing
  • Count up to 20 at least
  • Identity numbers 0-10
  • Shapes
  • Colors
  • Patterns
  • Hold a pencil correctly
  • Able to draw
  • Use scissors correctly
  • Write your name
  • Understand that you read from left to right

You have likely taught nearly all of these things at different times without thinking much about it. You do not need 1,000 Pinterest free printables or an expensive curriculum to achieve them! (more on that later)

2. Three and four-year-olds should not be doing formal curriculum. Period.

Kindergarten and preschool are actually relatively new concepts that only became common in the United States around the 1950s-1960s.

There is much debate and many studies about how helpful or hurtful the focus on earlier education has been for kids.

From my experience with my own children, I strongly agree with the idea that formal education can absolutely wait till 5 or 6.

If you’re skeptical, consider that the most successful school system in Europe – Finland (ranked far above the USA) – does not teach any academics to their preschool-aged children.

Here is a fascinating article from The Guardian about how math, reading, and writing are not even introduced to Finnish children until age 7.

The focus of their preschoolers is only on creative, pretend play!

Man, think about how carefree and happy those Finnish parents must be!

3. Homeschooling allows me to teach when they are ready

Mother reading to homeschool preschool child.

I do not need to stress about homeschool preschool because I am not sending my daughter off to kindergarten when she turns 5.

I do not need to rush her through all the “standards,” and worry about her not being able to keep up with her peers.

She will be at home with me and moving at her own pace and learning in her own time.

She will not be shamed for learning some things at a slower pace and she will not be held back from learning other things at a faster pace.

Well, we don’t live in Finland

Yes, that’s true. If you are looking to put your child in kindergarten when they turn 5, or if you don’t want to appear like a lazy homeschool mom…there are some simple ways I have seen my kids grasp preschool level concepts while just living life:

  • Starting with the most important thing – turn the screens off. Having very limited screen time helps children behave better, control themselves better, and have more time to learn, pretend, explore, color, flip through books, and play, play, play! Just so you know, I spent too many years letting my kids watch WAY TOO much TV. I’m not judging you! But when I turned our TV off and threw their kindle fires in the trash, they became different children. They were suddenly so much more creative, obsessed with library books, engrossed in pretend play, and better behaved.
  • Take your kids to the library every week and pick out stacks and stacks of books. It is very important to read to them! Sometimes, I will follow my finger along the words so my kids can see they go from left to right. Having so many new books every week has really developed a love of books and a desire to learn to read. They often fall asleep with books in their arms!
  • Kids love counting stuff. Start by getting a few fun books from the library on counting. Then count the steps when you’re walking, the toys in the playroom, or crackers as you hand them out for a snack. Pretty soon your child will be counting everything! Another great way that kids naturally learn to count is to play hide and seek! They hear me count to 20 over and over again before I come find them. Then they want to count too! Another tip: when you want your kids to hurry to do something (put on shoes,etc.), count backward from 10. This is a great way to regularly expose them to backwards counting!
  • When I was still concerned about my oldest learning everything at age 3, I bought some Leaf Frog DVDs hoping they would help. I continue to be blown away by how easily all three of my kids have learned their letters, shapes, and numbers from watching them occasionally. Here are my all time favorites that my kids still watch:

Leapfrog: Letter Factory
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  • I didn’t do this intentionally, but my kids learned scissors skills by just randomly cutting up pieces of paper with child scissors. They loved doing it (and you have to sweep up the mess), but I always thought it was a good fine motor skill and good for hand strength. I was shocked when I asked my middle child to cut out something (a big number 5) for school one day – without any formal lessons from me – she was able to do it perfectly!
  • Provide crafting materials and let them create! My kids have regular access to construction paper, markers, crayons, child scissors, paper plates, washable paint, and glue sticks. I tried doing regular crafts with them, but they so often wanted to do their own thing. Now, I just provide the materials and their imaginations go wild!
  • As for right and wrong, I don’t need a preschool teacher or a curriculum to teach that! Morning devotions have been great to encourage my kids to follow Godly wisdom from scripture. This is my favorite devotional book so far – short, sweet, and kid friendly (we bought a used copy – much better deal!):

  • None of my kids have struggled with holding a pencil correctly. My guess is because all of them love to color and have just seemed to naturally learn how to grip a writing utensil correctly over time. Tip: Instead of buying expensive coloring books for whatever your kids are into right now – just google their interest and add “coloring pages” at the end. Then click on the “Images” tab. For my family, it looks like “disney princess coloring pages” or “How to Train Your Dragon coloring pages.” I have downloaded and printed hundreds of free coloring pages this way and my kids love it!
  • Shapes, colors, and patterns have also come naturally to my children by just living life and experiencing things. They love to point out the crescent shaped moon, a circle shaped cookie, or a square napkin. My inlaws gifted us this amazing book for Christmas one year, and the girls LOVED it. I have memorized it from reading it so much. It was a huge factor in cementing many concepts for my younger kids. I am sure you could find something similar at your local library!

  • As for tracing letters and writing your name, I am not doing much for that. My 3 year old has asked for “worksheets” like her sisters have, so I have printed off some letter tracing sheets. I spent less than 1 minute trying to get her to do it correctly, and stopped when I saw how happy she was to color all the letters in and make pictures all over the paper – completely appropriate for a 3 year old! I got tired of printing sheets out for her, so I ordered a dry erase book with letters and numbers to trace. She uses it occasionally when she wants to do “school.” Kindergarten will be when we start lessons on writing. Anything forced before that would be inappropriate in my opinion, and could easily produce a child with a bad attitude towards writing (like my oldest, sadly).
  • I am mystified that preschool is supposed to teach kids to draw. It is so natural! Turn the screens off and give them a pencil and paper. Then make space on your wall for the art gallery they will produce!
  • I also provide tons of time for free play and independent play through a daily quiet time – so, so, so important for many reasons. For a long time I felt the need to spoon feed my kids entertainment every minute of every day. When I was exhausted, I turned the TV on so it would entertain them. I finally learned how to shut the TV off and say, “go play.” There was whining, but eventually they came up with much more fun, games and silliness than I ever did!

Homeschool Preschool: The Proof is in the Pudding

Homeschool Preschool girl writing ABCs

So, I’ve talked a lot about my youngest child who is not getting formal homeschool preschool curriculum.

But you may be wondering whatever happened to my middle child – the one I gave up on teaching homeschool preschool.

Well, here is a moment of raw honesty. I did not plan it this way at all, and I am not proud of it.

I got very engaged with homeschooling my oldest the following school year. I had a steep learning curve there and put most of my attention on my 1st grader.

My middle and youngest child, ended up playing a lot together, coloring, drawing, and listening to me read a lot of books.

Without any formal teaching from me (just the above tips and tricks), my middle daughter started writing out random letters correctly all over pieces of paper.

She taught herself to write her name after seeing it printed on her water bottle (its a very short name).

She has even taught herself to sound out words like “mom” and “pop” and correctly write them on a piece of paper for fun.

She can count to 29 correctly before she starts getting confused.

In short, her natural curiosity and screen-free play time has more than prepared her for kindergarten, DESPITE no formal homeschool preschool or pre-K.

I would actually say she is much further along than my oldest was at that age – who I spent thousands of dollars sending to preschool and pre-K.

UPDATE (April 2020)

I wanted to pop back in this post and give an update on my youngest child, who is now 4 and a half. Following all the above tips and steps, I have been amazed to watch how she has progressed.

She can easily count into the high 20s. She has started sounding out words correctly on her own.

She has shown an interest in wanting to write letters and she’s asked for her own math curriculum like her sisters.

Some days she does school with my kindergartener…and some days she plays tea party in her room with her stuffed animals. And that’s fine!

Left to go at her own pace, she has shown that she will be more than ready to handle kindergarten. In some areas, I have even considered skipping past kindergarten levels and moving her to 1st grade.

I am so proud to see how much she loves learning and WANTS to do school.

The other day I had to cancel school because of some important things that came up and my youngest was so sad!

She begged me to still let her do her handwriting book and go through a math lesson with her. So awesome!

She has never been coerced to do school or reach for a standard that is above her development level – so all her impressions of school are positive and fun.

Exactly what I want going into the kindergarten year.

What if my preschooler falls behind?

Homeschool kid who is not doing preschool

This is likely the greatest fear of any parent considering homeschooling and definitely any parent who decides to forgo a structured preschool.

The idea that we are worried about 3 and 4-year-olds falling behind is such a symptom of the larger problem of pushing our kids too hard and too early.

To give you peace of mind, let me share with you a study done on early education in Tennessee.

Researchers followed 3,000 kids who were enrolled in Tennessee’s voluntary pre-K program and then followed them through their elementary school years.

There was also a control group of students who stayed home with their families before attending kindergarten.

The pre-K kids shot ahead of the kids who stayed home…for a little bit. But then the control group pulled ahead and there was no distinguishable difference by 3rd grade.

The pre-K kids actually had higher levels of discipline problems and were placed in more special education programs than the group who stayed home.

Lawmakers who fund these programs have tried to twist and turn this research to mean something else, but it is what it is.

A good friend of mine is a kindergarten teacher and I knew her long before I was homeschooling. She told me one day how ridiculous it is to be pushing kids to learn so much before kindergarten.

She said it just produced a bored kid who had to sit and wait for the rest of the class to catch up. Eventually, everyone was on the same level and the class progressed together.

Your job as a parent is to be brave enough to not be swayed by those around you. Don’t try to keep up with the Jones’ of education at the expense of your child.

Is Homeschool Preschool Necessary? The Bottom Line

The takeaway here is that you do not need to spend money on formal curriculum for homeschool preschool. Period.

You do not need to print off loads of worksheets and time-consuming, messy crafts (that often the preschool teacher has to do most of anyways).

You do not need to stress about how to balance doing homeschool with older children and fitting in the preschool standards for your littles.

In fact, you shouldn’t.

What you do need to do is turn the screens off. And when the screens are on make sure it is high quality and educational.

Take your kids to the library and read to them as much as humanly possible.

Give them loads of time for free play and be amazed at what they come up with!

Kids are naturally curious and will shock you with how much they want to learn when they are not being forced into it. 

As you continue on this homeschool journey, you will likely have so many more questions that come up.

I would love to be there for you and share what I’ve picked up on the way of our homeschool journey!

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  1. Love, love, love this post. I just quit teaching to stay at home with my boys and immediately became concerned with what I needed to be teaching them. Your post reinforces what I already felt – let them play, be curious, and just be a “present” parent! Thanks for a good read.

    1. That’s so awesome Jessica! Thanks for letting me know 🙂

  2. This 10000X! My daughter is 2.5 & knows her colors & shapes. I did not ‘teach’ them to her. She learned from church nursery, Daniel Tiger, and other kids. Part of me wants to do some schooling with her when she’s 3, but I also know what you’ve said is true & if we don’t she’ll be totally fine!

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