So, recently - well, rather a while ago to be entirely truthful - the lovely Mother Scuffer asked me what we do, academically, with the younger children - the preschoolers, or kindergarten-ers, or early years-ers, as it were - the 0 - 5 or 6 or so's.
Well, to be absolutely honest, my knee-jerk response was - 'not a lot!' but then I realised that isn't entirely fair. What I really mean is, we don't really do a lot - if any - IMPOSED stuff. The thing with this age is that that they are always ever so eager to do what you or (if they have them) their older siblings are doing - so if everyone else is painting or filling in diaries or reading or watching a documentary on the History of Maths, then that's what they want to do.
All children are sponges, but this is particularly true of the 0-5s - they are designed to just soak it all up at a more rapid rate than at any other time in their life - languages, for example, are particularly easy to absorb at this stage, so something as simple as putting on a french cd at lunch time can have them picking up all sorts of things!
So for us, a lot of educationally rich experiences just happen for the younger ones, because they are happening around them.
I've also found it particularly helpful to have a number of resources on hand for them to use, play with and absorb - for example, maths manipualbles such as cuisenaire rods, fractions, and wedgits and similar literacy based aids such as bottle caps, word-picture puzzles and sentence puzzles. Have a number of good, tried and tested ones and you can rotate them to maintain interest - also remember that they don't have to cost the earth - most of ours were mine as a child or have been passed on by relatives or other Home Educators - it's worth joining Home Education groups and Home Education email listings as not only can you pick up lots of free or cheap resources but you can also get rid of ones you no longer need or that don't suit.
My belief is that learning will happen no matter what - particularly in these early years, so therefore there are two important things to bear in mind -
Everything that surrounds them will be grist to their mill, so strew, encourage, observe what they're interested in and find a good book on it, have posters up - at their eye level, not yours - include them in dinner table conversations, etc.
Go for quality - this doesn't have to mean high cost. Utilise charity shops, second hand shops, the library, radio, the internet (your local library will have free access for children and may also sell off it's old stock very cheaply).
Also go for variety. Don't be afraid, for example, of them developing an interest in Disney films or something that maybe isn't your own choice. Of course there are limits, but on the whole, they will learn to discern if they have the chance to have a wide sample within which to compare and contrast. I also feel that something disposable, such as bubble gum pop, is just as valid within it's own context as something considered more worthy, like Beethoven's symphonies.
2 Preserve their love of learning.
Facts are easy to pick up at any time if only you haven't lost this! Cynicism or lethargy or belief that they can't do it is far more difficult to reverse. So don't plow on insisting they do something at a certain pace or that they complete something if they're resistant or just not in the mood that day. Remember, when Home Educating you have a huge advantage over school - time. You don't have to stop for 3 'o clock pick up time, or the weekend, or half term, or the summer holidays. If your child or children feel like looking at 52 books before breakfast - they can. If they are in a geography mood after their bath - that's fine. You will most likely end up, at the end of the year, with far more hours spent on quality learning than the average school, simply because you have more opportunity and more flexibility to capitalise on those moments of enthusiasm. So let them dictate the rhythm to a certain extent - as already observed, they're often eager to join in with what's already going on, so it's not like you're going to loose all shape to your days.
To conclude, I'm basically a big believer in holistic education and developing the whole person, ESPECIALLY at this age. So jumping in puddles and deliberating over what colour socks to wear are equally valid and as important as being exposed to classical music, or learning the alphabet. I suppose the key is that it should be enjoyable - for you as the parent as well as for the child/children. Enjoy reading books, enjoy painting, enjoy investigating local history, enjoy food from different countries, enjoy your local archaeological society, enjoy life!
Elizabeth Foss has written some great posts about this age group - here's one of my favourites.
Here's the UK Home Education blog ring (of which I am part). It's well worth a look round, there are many families with young children.
Muddle Puddle is also a great resource for early years educational inspiration.