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When Sicily turned 18 months, my teacher brain started setting off alarms…
She needs to know her shapes…
Why doesn’t she know her colors…
Time to start teaching her the things she needs to know for Kindergarten…
So naturally, I turned to Pinterest. I decided that she needed a farm theme to help her learn what she needed to learn.
Really, I mean what toddler doesn’t like farm animals.
I spent 2 weeks searching Pinterest for the perfect activities and preparing all the materials.
The day finally came when we were suppose to start our farm theme.
We went down to our learning area. Sicily took one look at all the fun activities I set up and…
She didn’t touch any of the activities all week.
What did she do?
She played with her baby dolls.
Why didn’t it work?
Why wasn’t she interested?
What did I do wrong?
I mean this is the type of week I would have planned if I still worked in a preschool, so what went wrong?
Absolutely nothing! She was being a normal toddler…
And more importantly, she was learning.
It may not have been her ABCs or 123s like most of us mamas want them to learn, but she learned about caring for others, fine motor skills, and exploring her world.
Which if you ask me, are way more important than those ABCs and 123s.
What is Toddler Homeschooling?
For us, toddler homeschooling (which we call Tot School) is all about playing and exploring the world around us.
I do follow themes and set up activities, but for the most part they are based on my toddler’s interests and are always play-based.
Tot School is basically intentional play.
But the intention is not to learn the ABCs or 123s. Our intention is to explore the world and be curious.
So why should you start Tot School?
Reason #1: Toddlers Learn Best in an Encouraging Environment
I’m a big believer in child-led learning. I know that if you have the right environment, your child will thrive and basically teach themselves…even the important academic skills.
The same goes for a toddler.
During this stage, we focus on exposing not mastering the academic skills.
You need to be doing read alouds and have books always available.
Letters, numbers, shapes, and colors need to be on your shelves, but not required to play with.
They need to see you reading, writing, and doing math in real life situations.
Let them see you read your own book for fun…
Give them a calculator to explore while you pay the bills.
Hand them paper and a pencil to “help” write the grocery list.
We start building the motivation and readiness to learn the important skills in toddlerhood.
This is where schools get it wrong.
They begin teaching these skills during the toddler years, which ultimate leads to kids who resent using them in real life.
Have an encouraging environment that supports the exploration of the skills with no pressure in learning them.
The most important thing to remember at this age, is there is no right or wrong way to play or explore resources.
Reason #2: Toddlers Need a Relaxed Routine to Explore Freely
Think about this…
You step on a plane and head to a faraway land where you don’t know the language, culture, or even how to meet your basic needs.
It’ll be stressful, right?
Now imagine someone who lives there standing over you telling you what to do without giving you time to explore and figure it out.
This is exactly how your child feels, especially toddlers, when you’re constantly telling them what to do and where to go.
These guys are still little. Everything is still new to them.
They need time to explore freely without fear of doing it wrong.
The majority of your day should be free play. I recommend 2-3 hours most days.
Reason #3: Toddlers Need Child-Led Activities
They need free time to explore their world.
But they also need someone who can introduce them to new experiences.
I like to set up toddler activities at home in themes that follow their interests. I model activities then let my toddler explore on their own and in their own way.
It’s frustrating when your kiddo doesn’t do an activity how you intended it to go, but trust me they are learning far more valuable skills by doing it on their own.
Reason #4: Toddlers Need Someone Who Trusts Them
A lot of parents that come to me struggle with that dreaded toddler attention span.
But toddlers actually have amazing attention spans.
I challenge you to sit back when they are involved in something they enjoy (I bet they can sit there for a really long time).
Also, I challenge you to look past the surface skill to really understand what your child is learning.
For example, let’s say you set up a letter puzzle for your toddler. You show her each letter and how to place it in the correct spot.
She decides to eat each piece, throw them, and try to stuff them inside a box.
Totally not what you intended for that activity right?
But that doesn’t mean she wasn’t learning.
She may not have been learning her letters or how to match which is the surface skill of letter puzzles.
Instead she explored texture, density, force/motion, gross motor, volume, and problem solving.
And I bet she learned a lot more that my adult brain isn’t even thinking of in this moment.
These 4 reasons to homeschool your toddler goes beyond toddlerhood. These are what I call my 4 essentials to child-led learning, and they apply to all ages from toddlers through high schoolers.
To learn more about my 4 essentials and how to apply them in your homeschool to raise passionate learners (oh and find some YOU time), click here to download our Learning Lifestyle Roadmap.
About the Author: Amanda Stockdale is on a mission to help families fall in love with their homeschool. She uses her 4 essentials to child-led learning framework to help homeschooling moms raise passionate learners while still finding some YOU time every single day. She is the creator of Learning Through Experiences: A Child-Led Curriculum and her signature course Raising Passionate Learners.