Unschooling our preschoolers

Since my girls turned two, the question of preschool has come up again and again. The fact that it’s even called preschool sends a little shiver down my spine. Why do children need to be schooled before they even start school? Now I’m sure most preschools and nurseries offer many experiences that I can’t and for lots, this childcare is essential or preferable but I’m just not sure. Recently I came across the term unschooling.

What is unschooling?

Unschooling is a method and philosophy of education whereby the child takes the lead in terms of what they learn, how the learn and when they learn. It is a term coined in the 1970s and is predominately but not exclusively used by homeschoolers. Advocates believe children are naturally curious and have an innate desire to learn and so will do so through life experiences, travel and social interaction.

Now the idea of removing children from the education system and allowing them to learn pretty much whatever they choose seems a little dramatic to me but the ethos behind it does appeal. Secretly, I think a modern take on home schooling would be fantastic but realistically, it’s unlikely to be feasible for us.

Here are three reasons why I’m in no rush for my girls to enter formal education.

1) Development: My twins are a perfect example of how two children raised as similarly as possible can turn out so different. While Jess took her first steps at 11 months, Emily waited until 20 months. Jess is sassy, articulate and emotions. Emily is thoughtful, cheeky and precise. Their milestones are rarely hit together and often weeks or months apart.

Height difference

Schools require children to learn certain skills or knowledge at a certain time and in a certain way regardless of the individuals current needs. Is all the knowledge we try and pump into children even needed? Surely it is far more valuable to learn the skill of learning and the content of what you learn is less significant.

2) Family time: At the moment, I’m in the fortunate position that I able to be home with my girls full time. Although being a stay at home parent has its drawbacks, for me the benefits far outweigh these. I love the fact that I’m the key partner in their learning journeys and that they aren’t having to face unnecessary challenges that would no doubt arise from another setting.

3) Too much too young: Expecting a two year old to adjust to an unfamiliar environment, new adults and peers and a fully structured day seems a lot. Many children cope just fine and I’m sure many thrive. Maybe I want to keep them in a protected bubble for a little longer. Maybe I just don’t want to share my little ones just yet.

Playground not playgroup

Free childcare

In a few short months my girls will be eligible for the newly increased 30 hours of government funded childcare each. I could choose to put my girls with a childminder, preschool or into a nursery for six hours a day. This is something I won’t be doing. Obviously this funding is a gift for those whose childcare costs pose a burden. However, while I can, I’ll keep my toddlers close and let them learn as and when they choose.

Once they are three, perhaps I’ll look into sessions for a few hours each weeks to help them build up independence but I know now, it’ll need to be as unstructured as possible and allow for plenty of play. At home we’ll be unschooling for the time being. I’ve got two more precious years before the school bell rings and I intend to savour them.

What do you think about preschool? Am I fretting about nothing?

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30 thoughts on “Unschooling our preschoolers

  1. I agree that there can be too much too soon. We’ll be eligible for 30 hours per child when they reach age 3, They’ll only go for half of that time though, seeing as I work from home I don’t see the need to use the full 30. Thanks so much for sharing with #Blogstravaganza xx

    1. I’m planning to just use a few hours and maybe build up if and when I feel they’d benefit.

  2. I really like this idea and I think that as you can be with them and love it too, that it’s fantastic for them to learn with their mummy! I will unfortunately be going back to work part-time and so will inevitably have to put the little one into nursery for a couple of days a week, but I’ve made my peace with this. I think they do pre-school there so I guess I’ll just have to see what the future brings! But in reality, I’d love to be in your position 🙂 maybe one day! Thanks for linking with #Blogstravaganza

    1. I was working part time too but luckily I’m now in a position to be home full time. You have to do what needs doing and there are so many ways to learn.

  3. I was lucky enough to be able to do this with my youngest. She didn’t go to any kind of pre school or anything. We went to a few toddler groups together but we just spent the most glorious couple years just letting her naturally explore. She’s 9 now and still talks about “do you remember before school…..” I did worry she’d struggle with school having spent so much time with just me but I was obviously bigging myself up there as first day came and off she went without so much as a second glance!! #postsfromtheheart

    1. That reassuring to hear as I think that’s one of my biggest concerns.

  4. I agree with you. My eldest is two and while I’m constantly questioned over schooling I agree with you on all your points and am in no rush. #Blogstravaganza

  5. Keep them with you for as long as you can! L is at nursery, he had to be somewhere when I went back to work, it’s frowned upon to leave them on their own! And now with one year before he starts school I’ve increased his time a bit to help him get ready for 5 days a week. But if I could have had more time with him and not worked I would have done so in a heartbeat

  6. It’s a matter of what is right for you, and is right for your family. Sound like you are doing great. I have twins too, so obviously I am very highly trained to be giving advice!! x

  7. I can only reference my personal experience but preschool has been fantastic for my boys. Whilst there is some structure, it is a loose structure similar to how it would be at home. Even with me, they need to know that ‘now we’re going out in the car’ or ‘it’s lunchtime’. Plus it’s done wonders for my eldest who was rather shy and apprehensive as a baby but has now grown so much in confidence due to the increased social stimulation and has no problem making friends on holiday or at the park. My boys are only in one day a week (the funded hours) and I wouldn’t want them in full time at this age but I personally think the time there has benefitted them (and it gives me some me time). Hope that helps! X

    1. I think I’ll use a few hours a week and see how we get on. I’m sure there are great benefits from being away from Mummy just for a little bit.

  8. I completely agree with your thoughts. So many countries around the world start their education later than we do, and with great results long term. There are other methods that make sense too. Luckily our local nursery follow the Reggio approach which is child led and has been wonderful for our sons 🙂

    1. Sounds like you found a good one. It worries me that our government don’t seem to take notice of other ways to educate even when they are so successful

    1. That’s great and I’m sure my girls will benefit when I think it’s the right time.

  9. I home educate my twins but they did 18 months at preschool, playschool really that they loved. Bea now 3 will do 15 hours a week play school but then she too will most likely be taught at home. We love our home school life, we are not quite unschooling, but close to it. We started Easter 2016 and have not yet looked back x #blogstravaganza

    1. Out of interest why did you send them to preschool if you weren’t going to send them to school? No judgement just nice to hear other ideas

  10. Trust your gut. You know your kids best. And if you have the ability to be home with them and savor those moments, go for it! That is win-win all around!

  11. My son has gone to nursery two days a week since he was 1 because I had to go back to work part time. From September (he is now 3) he will be going to pre-school two days a week and nursery 1 day. I go on maternity leave in December with baby 2 but he will stay in pre-school/nursery because I genuinely believe it’s not only beneficial but he would prefer to be there playing with his friends on a few days! #TriumphantTales

  12. I dont really know how I feel about keeping Ben out of pre-school but then i’m living in a bubble where he’s still a baby (stairgates went up yesterday and I’m in denial.) Come March I’ll be working fulltime at home and therefore I get to experience being a SAHP and perhaps then I’ll know whether i’d want him to go earlier or not. He is very switched on though so perhaps it wont be too overwhelming?
    Thank you for sharing this with us at #TriumphantTales. I hope to see you back on Tuesday.

    1. Maybe instead of thinking about ‘keeping him out’ you could think of choosing what’s best for your family. In lots of successful countries early preschool just doesn’t happen. I’m sure you’ll know what to do when the time comes x

  13. Wow! 30 free hours of childcare? Is this for everybody? We don’t have this in the U.S. It sounds amazing!! I stay home with my children fortunately, but I know a lot of parents who would love this!

    On a side note, I love the idea of unschooling and have read quite a bit about it. My son is four and entered school a few days this week. He is hyperlexic and had some social issues, so we are hoping he is able to fully integrate into his new classroom!
    #blogcrush

    1. The 30hrs is new but everyone can use it from the term after their child turns three. There are restrictions and you can only do so many hours a day in certain settings but I’m sure it’s fantastic for lots of people. We won’t be using it all but I’m sure a few hours a week will be useful in the future.

  14. Like you, I felt that a modern take on homeschooling would be wonderful. However, the one thing that school offers that we can’t is socialisation with other kids. Whilst I find myself frequently at odds with the one size fits all approach of school and the national curriculum, being at school has been good for my daughter’s ability to navigate social situations.

    Go with your gut. You’re their mum and know best what works for your children. Good luck! #blogcrush

    1. I’m sure we will end up sending them to school but just hope it will be a nice small one without too much pressure.

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