This is a guest post by Sam Vickery, author of Trust Me I’m a Toddler.
Little Cat is now officially “pre-school” age and as such is eligible for his 15 hours free pre-school care since we live in England. However, since we plan to avoid school and continue to unschool instead, we have chosen not to send him to a pre-school, preferring to keep him at home with us.
Already at the tender age of three we face much concern from onlookers, wondering if we are able to stimulate him enough, if we can provide an environment both enriching and educational. As luck would have it, in the natural style of parenting we follow, learning opportunities are abundant and a natural consequence of our lifestyle. The three main pillars of our approach are unconditional acceptance and love, including and involving him in meaningful tasks and finally, nature. As a trio, these things provide ample opportunity to learn, develop, challenge himself and bloom.
1. Unconditional love and acceptance. This is most important and underpins everything we do. Our relationship comes above everything else. As a result, he feels confident to explore, try new things and even make mistakes. There can be no learning without experimentation, and being amongst people who he feels comfortable and can be himself with, enables him to be curious and try things in a safe space.
2. Including and Involving. I take inspiration from Montessori, Reggio and Waldorf, but when it comes down to it, the most important aspect from each of these in my mind, is to provide opportunities for him to be involved in meaningful work. Children want more than anything to imitate their elders – It is their natural impulse to do so. What do I mean by meaningful work? Anything! It can be housework, cooking, baking together, gardening. It can be working on a project, building, learning to sew, knit, play an instrument. Children love to be busy and engaged.
It can be spontaneous and playful. It can be done anywhere, with whatever comes to hand. When you are looking for them you will notice just how many learning opportunities there are in everyday living, how many skills are being honed and developed unconsciously. I wrote This Post on our day at the beach building a castle, if you want to see quite how many skills are being utilized on one single activity. Which leads onto my last point.
3. Nature. Although Little Cat has his fair share of toys, he is at his happiest and most absorbed when outside immersed in nature. Be it digging with a stick in a muddy field, searching for crabs in rock pools, running through grass or splashing in puddles, he will find something to occupy himself and spark his interest. When at home he has free rein to go in the garden whenever he pleases, and he loves to potter about in this tiny space full of interesting nooks and crannies to explore. He is free to take his time and we have the luxury of being able to follow his interests without being tied to a strict schedule.
I am happy and confident that his learning opportunities are plentiful, and we shall be continuing on this path to provide his education.
What about you, is your child attending preschool outside of the home or are you planning on home education?
Sam Vickery is a mother, author and blogger, who is passionate about Natural Parenting. She blogs at www.LoveParenting.org and can be found on facebook and twitter. Her book, Trust Me I’m a Toddler is available here.