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Overview: Better late than early? Should we start teaching young kids or wait until they’re older? Let’s explore both sides of the issue. What’s best for them?

Is it better if we start educating our kids when they are as young as 2 or 3? Or should we wait until they are as old as 8 or 9? You’ve probably heard both sides of the argument. And there are certainly some strong opinions on each side. Is there one right way to answer this question? Or could it vary?

Better Late Than Early? When Should We Start Teaching Our Kids?

Start them early

Many childhood experts have begun encouraging us parents to send our 3-year-olds off to preschool. “I believe that all three- or four-year-olds should have the opportunity and advantages of attending preschool,” says Anna Jane Hays, a child development expert in Santa Fe and author of several books, including Ready, Set, Preschool! and Kindergarten Countdown. “It’s just too valuable of a beginning, now that we know children are capable of learning at such an early age. The consensus is ‘the sooner, the better’ in regard to a structured opportunity for learning.”

Wait to start them

On the other hand, Dr. Raymond Moore, one of the first homeschooling pioneers and author of Better Late than Early would advocate waiting until your child is between the ages of 8-12 before sending him off to school. His stance was that boys, in particular, aren’t ready to read as early as our schools would like them to be. He suggested waiting until our children are older to start a formal education with them. This gives them time for them to mature and for their logical skills to be ready to tackle their schoolwork.

(By the way, Raymond Moore does recommend working with your children at a young age if they appear to be ready. He just doesn’t recommend sending them off to school until they are older than the recommended age.)

So, with experts lining up on both sides of the issue, what should homeschooling parents do? Should we start teaching our children when they are young or should we wait until they’re older to start working with them on their lessons?

No matter which expert you agree with, you can’t stop your child from learning.

Babies are learning before they are even born! Young children are always learning. They learn how to sit up, to crawl, and to walk. They learn how to understand language and how to talk. They are learning how to control their bodies.

Learning is always going on in the lives of our children – whether they know it or not.

I started teaching my boys “school” lessons when my oldest son was almost 2 years old. This does not mean that I sat them down with a stack of worksheets and made them sit still and write for hours at a time. In fact, they probably didn’t realize that anything had changed in our house.

Preschool boys with Indian headbands

Things had changed for me, however. Instead of randomly playing with my sons and trying to find stuff to do to keep us busy, I now had a plan. I started coming up with fun lessons for us to focus on throughout the week – sort of like unit studies for toddlers or preschoolers. One week we would learn about astronauts and space. The next week we would learn about bugs and spiders. We worked on fine motor skills and gross motor skills. We covered the ABCs and 123s. They ran and jumped and tried new foods and used all of their senses to explore the world around them.

The subject of the lessons wasn’t really the point. The point was that we were having fun together. I had a plan to follow. And my sons were discovering that learning was fun.

No matter what age you are, sitting down for too long is bad for your health. We shouldn’t expect our kids to sit still for hours at a time while we try to teach them. In fact, moving and learning goes hand in hand. Our kids need to move almost as much as they need to breathe. We should be building physical activity into their day no matter what their age.

Through teaching these lessons to my boys, I came up with Learn & Grow: Hands-On Lessons for Active Preschoolers. In these lessons, kids learn by jumping around, reading books, laughing, and throwing stuff. They aren’t forced to sit still for long periods of time.

Kids learn better when they’re moving, anyway – especially boys.

Better late than early? Depends on what kind of learning you’re talking about. If you’re planning to use textbooks and stacks of worksheets then you should wait until they’re older to start educating your kids. If you’re planning to use fun, hands-on learning then, in my opinion, you can not start too soon.

Don’t make your kids sit at a desk with a pencil in their hand all day.

When kids are experiencing our world first hand you can’t stop them from learning. You can, however, direct their learning and join them in it. As you teach your children, no matter what age you start, you will get to experience the joy of watching them “get it” for the first time… day after day.

QUESTION: Did you start teaching your kids early or did you wait until they were older? Please leave a comment below.

Better Late Than Early? When Should We Start Teaching Our Kids?

And be sure to check out the other great posts about Homeschool Choices: Reasons You Should and Should Not Choose These Methods from other iHN bloggers at iHomeschool Network.