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Preschool PEACE, Unschooling, Teaching Cursive

By Heather Idoni

Added Friday, July 14, 2006

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 7 No 28 July 14, 2006
ISSN: 1536-2035
Copyright (c) 2006 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!

If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!




Guest Article
-- Preschool Peace
Helpful Tips
-- About Unschooling
Question of the Week
-- Your Questions
-- Your Answers
Editor's Pick
-- Magic Picture Frame
-- Subscriber Information
-- Sponsorship Information

Guest Article

"Twenty years ago, studies showed that any scholastic advan-
tage gained by preschool wore off by third grade and was even
suspected of causing early school burnout... An average child
home with an attentive parent wasn’t disadvantaged and didn’t
need preschool to become prepared."

If you have very young children, and especially if you are just
beginning your homeschooling journey, you would do well to
print out, keep, and re-read this great article by Barbara Frank.


Preschool... Pressure or Peace?

I always say my kids were homeschooled from birth, because
they never went to school and they were learning from the day
they were born. Yet I didn’t “school” them during the years from
birth to age 5; we certainly did a lot -- played inside and outside,
made crafts, painted, colored, I read to them -- but I never consi-
dered that homeschooling.

That’s why I was bewildered when I first noticed the trend of
moms joining homeschool support groups even though their
children were under five years old. I wondered, what’s their hurry?

Talking with some of these moms has given me some insight
into why they consider themselves homeschoolers even though
their kids are so young. I’ve learned that today’s young parents
are under so much pressure to not only send their kids to pre-
school at age 3, but to start preparing them (“readiness”) even
earlier than 3 that they feel they must call themselves home-
schoolers so people won’t think their little ones aren’t being
educated. In this competitive society of ours, heaven forbid we
should let a young child of 2 or 3 (or even 4 or 5!) just simply
learn through play and experiences.

Learning about Preschool Pressure really makes me feel old.
When my first child was 3 (how can that be almost 20 years
ago?), children of working moms were often put in daycare, but
children of stay-at-home moms were home with Mom, and
maybe in a park district class for an hour twice a week. Most
moms didn’t think about preschool until the year before kinder-
garten, and even then, many chose not to send their children to
it. Since I had already planned to homeschool my daughter, we
never looked into preschool. Once I started homeschooling her
at age 5, we liked it so much that we never considered putting
any of our next three children in preschool or any school.

But while my children were growing up in an atmosphere of
homeschooling families where preschool wasn’t even discussed,
the outside world was changing. As more moms rejoined the
workforce, the cry went out that children needed preschool in
order to succeed in school. “Educational experts” repeatedly
cited the success of the government-run preschool program
Head Start, rarely mentioning that the kids in that program
were so disadvantaged from the get-go that any special atten-
tion would have helped them. An average child home with an
attentive parent wasn’t disadvantaged and didn’t need preschool
to become prepared. In fact, even 20 years ago, studies showed
that any scholastic advantage gained by preschool wore off by
third grade and was even suspected of causing early school
burnout. But that aspect of preschool wasn’t advertised much.

What concerns me now is that there is an entire generation of
young moms out there (you may be one of them) who has been
conditioned to believe that their under-age-5 children must have
some kind of formal preschool program, even one at home, in
order to be properly educated. Since I know from experience
that this is patently untrue, I feel bad for any mom living under
Preschool Pressure. I worry that finding and implementing a
home preschool program for each of her little ones will result in
burnout of both the child and the mom. It would be such a shame
to burn out and give up on homeschooling; the thought that an
exhausted mom will give up and put her burned-out child into
formal schooling at an early age is heart-breaking, because it
didn’t have to happen.

I wish there was an easy way to remove Preschool Pressure
from each mom’s existence, and instead replace it with
Preschool Peace, which is what I had, as did the many gener-
ations of mothers before me. The best I can do, however, is offer
the following recipe, in hopes that you’ll read it if you need it,
and share it with anyone else who needs it. Only by finding
Preschool Peace can a homeschooling mom conserve her
energy for the larger task of homeschooling her children for as
many years as she needs to do later on, maybe even through
high school. I don’t think I could have survived homeschooling
two all the way through (and homeschooling two more now) if
I’d had to homeschool them in the preschool years. Just the
thought makes me want to go take a nap!

Recipe for Preschool Peace:

Starting as early in your parenting life as possible, mix:

One large dollop of the works of John Holt, especially How
Children Learn, Learning All the Time, and Teach Your Own

Two heaping cups of Better Late Than Early by Dr. Raymond
and Dorothy Moore

A splash of “Preschool Homeschooling” by Beverly Krueger

[Found at the following link... scroll down the page for article]

Allow this mixture to rest in your brain for a while, then add (as
your child becomes old enough to do these things):

-- Lazy afternoons at the park

-- Regular visits to the public library

-- Trips to the zoo and children’s museum

-- Work in the garden (especially making mud pies)

-- Large empty appliance boxes and markers

-- Finger paints

-- Long sessions of you reading aloud to them

Relax and enjoy!

Special note: Don’t rush through this recipe -- take your time,
because soon enough your little one will be a “big kid,” and both
of you will be ready to take on a more complicated “recipe.”


Barbara Frank is the mother of four homeschooled-from-birth
children ages 13-22, a freelance writer/editor, and the author of
“Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers” and the new eBook,
“The Imperfect Homeschooler’s Guide to Homeschooling.” To
visit her Web site, “The Imperfect Homeschooler,” go to


Do you have comments about this article? Please send your
email feedback to:




Helpful Tip

[While this isn't exactly a "tip", I thought it was valuable to see
that this veteran homeschooling mom had success using an
"outside-the-box" approach with her children.]

Unschooling - One Mom's Experience

"I can tell everyone from experience that un-schooling works. I
have adult children who graduated with honors from leading

The interesting thing is they found college level work very simple!

When I started homeschooling with them, there were no websites,
and very little information available. I did not like public school
curriculum, so I decided to let them learn at their own pace. We
wore the library out. We went to every museum within 500 miles
and they developed a love of leaning. We built rockets, dug wish-
ing wells, built a playhouse, and pretty much anything they
decided they were interested in.

They learned their multiplication facts through working out plans
for things they wanted to build. They learned algebraic functions
by rocket and aircraft building. I found if they could find a need for
something, they learned with total enthusiasm.

I still have one ten year old at home and he is also an un-schooler.
He might be my brightest of all of the kids. He is totally self-moti-
vated and if something interests him, he will wear out the books
and computer until he has all the information.

He had NO interest in reading until age 8. Then he wanted to
learn to read words on the computer and in 6 months he was
reading on a 7th grade level. If I had tried to make him learn
earlier, he might have not developed his love of reading. We could
have fought from age 4 to learn words but I doubt he would have
progressed to the level he is if we had been trying all those years.
It might have made him have a dislike of reading which could
never be overcome.

I believe children are natural learners. I don't care if mine stand on
their head to watch a National Geographic video, just that they
absorb what they watch. I don't care if he sits at a desk or on his
bed to learn his chemistry elements, just so he learns them.

I guess what I am trying to say is let your children be kids. Don't
try to make them Einsteins or child prodigies. Just let them play.
If you give them the opportunities to explore, they will learn and
exceed all your expectations." -- Elizabeth


Do you have an idea, experience, or tip to share? Please write!
Send to: HN-ideas@familyclassroom.net

Last Issue's Reader Question

"I began teaching cursive writing to my three children as they
each entered second grade. Unfortunately, I never followed up
by enforcing the use of cursive in their schoolwork. Now they
all prefer to print. I am wondering how other homeschool families
approach this -- how do you get your children to use cursive?
(I know it is a valuable skill to have, especially if planning to
attend college where note taking is so much easier in cursive!)
Thanks for your help." -- Kathy G. in California

Our Readers' Responses

"I used "Handwriting Without Tears" curriculum. It is inexpensive
and doesn't take a lot of time." -- Melody in Louisiana


"Relax - I don't think writing cursive is as critical as it was in the
past, but typing is probably a more important skill. I spent a lot
of time teaching my son cursive only to have a friend point out,
'The directions on every form, college application, job application,
credit application is the same - 'Print Clearly.' '

On a related note - in college, 'notes' can be written in print or
cursive; they can be on tape and listened to again & again; they
can be typed into a laptop. More and more professors maintain
a website for their classes and it is common for colleges and
universities to use online 'blackboards' (a computer term, not the
kind with chalk!) for their students.

That being said, I have one subject or assignment a day done in
cursive. In that way, he has practice in print and cursive every
day." -- Tricia in NH


"Many adults do prefer printing to cursive; I find it is, ultimately,
a personal choice.

If I were in that situation, I would have the children take notes
during church or a meeting a few times each month or give them
dictation several times a week for 10-15 minutes at a time. Vary
which method they may use: printing only, cursive only, their
choice, a mixture, abbreviations allowed, etc. If necessary, let
them then transcribe their own notes/dictation so anyone can
read it. This will give the children an opportunity to possibly
become motivated to either give writing another chance or to
improve their printing speed.

Some folks can print legibly much faster than they can write
(cursive) legibly and see no need to change. I don't think that
is a bad thing. Many people in the work force print a lot
because it is easier to read for themselves and others. Think
of all the variations in capital cursive letters - I have had several
jobs over the years that would not allow cursive at all, except in
a signature." -- Jennifer R.


"I agree with you that we are not encouraging students enough
to switch completely from manuscript to cursive writing. One of
the best ways to convince children that cursive is better is to
show them how, when we write in cursive, all of the letters are
connected with a flowing connected movement.

When you print, you must lift your fingers to make each letter.
So much more effort is involved with printing, thus, much more
energy. Often students who print tend not to want to write long
compositions, or long enough answers to essay questions be-
cause their hand gets tired. This rarely happens when you write
in cursive because your fingers are moving while your hand is
gliding, making it easier to write longer passages.

Once cursive writing is mastered, research has proven that
students write faster than is possible with printing and, therefore,
are able to complete their work in less time. That, in itself, is a
great incentive for wanting to learn to write in cursive.

I have also noticed that in the past ten years or more teachers
have not been correcting pencil grips. Holding a pencil correctly
is essential for developing speed and fluency in writing, whether
or not you are printing or writing in cursive. The thumb and first
finger should grip the pencil and the second finger should be
used as a rest. Then the fingers can move to form the letters as
the hand is gliding across the paper.

For more information on handwriting check out:


This site has some very helpful information on teaching children
various reading, writing and learning skills. This information is
helpful for children from learning disabled to gifted!" -- Addie


"As far as teaching cursive, Handwriting Without Tears by Jan
Olsen is the by far the easiest program I have ever seen and
experienced using. A very different approach, and one that
comes very naturally for the child, with much less frustration.
It looks very different at first, but in the end they will end up
with their own style of handwriting, and a very neat handwriting
-- just as in the traditional way. This is based very much on
simply lines and circles, etc. and the child does not do more
than a couple of the same letter, and practice a total of 10-15
minutes of handwriting per day. No more redundant lines of

The link for this is:


I used this with my grandson in the eighth grade, and his
handwriting was terrible, as was his printing. So it is never to
late to start. Just explain what you are doing and why. This
made a huge difference! It made a difference in the neatness
of his papers in both printing and cursive, as well as math
numbers, which they also practice some." -- Bonnie in AR

Answer our NEW Question

Mary Beth writes...

"I am asking for suggestions which I can pass on to a friend.
Her daughter just completed 8th grade in public school. They
are planning to do overseas mission work for a year, and will
not be able to take very many books. She would like to home-
school her daughter online, and is asking for recommedations
for online high school courses. She and I would appreciate
knowing about any resources you might be familiar with."


Do you have information or a recommendation to share?

Send your answer to: HN-answers@familyclassroom.net


Do you have a question you would like our readers to answer?

Send it to HN-questions@familyclassroom.net and we'll see
if we can help you out in a future issue!


Just a quick reminder to order your FREE issue of
Homeschool Digest if you haven't already done so!

To get your free issue, go to this link:

Enter Promo Code: FCH2

Hurry! This great offer won't last long! :-)

Editor's Pick

Anthony's Magic Picture Frame


This week's pick is a really cool history picture book! It weighs
in at a whopping $35 retail price, so it qualifies readily for my
"library" rule. This is what I do when I like an expensive book
and can't afford to purchase it myself -- I take the ISBN info to
my local library, tell them what a fantastic book it is, and ask
them to order it! I've had great success with acquiring books
this way. Ordering the book puts you first in line to borrow it!

Buzz Aldrin (of Apollo astronaut fame) highly recommends this
fun, informative, and thought-provoking children's book. If you
take a look at the following page of pictures from the book, I think
you will see what the "buzz" is all about!


Interactive Email Group

In an effort to help our readers become more of an interactive
community, we have set up an email loop at YahooGroups called

Here is the link to sign-up!



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