Monday, July 29, 2013

The Homegrown Preschooler: Teaching Your Kids in the Places They Live, by Kathy H. Lee and Lesli Richards

The Homegrown Preschooler: 
Teaching Your Kids in the Places They Live
Authors: Kathy H. Lee and Lesli Richards
Publisher: Gryphon House
Publication Date: May 1, 2013 
I'm of two minds about this book. On the one hand, I'm thrilled this book exists (it's a good book) but on the other hand, I'm a little sad that it NEEDS to exist. Let me explain that second one.

The premise of The Homegrown Preschooler is that you can "homeschool" your preschooler by giving them many of the early learning experiences that they might get from daycare or preschool, but in your own home or with outings that fit into your regular life. It's aimed at parents who wish to stay home with their preschool-aged children (for any number of reasons) but would also like them to get the early childhood education that best prepares them for school (whether that means kindergarten, first grade, homeschooling, etc.).
The reason this book makes me sad is because I'm amazed that any of this even needs to be said. OF COURSE your child learns from everyday experiences, like running errands with you, helping with household chores, playing outside. OF COURSE your home is perfectly well equipped to help your child learn, and doesn't need to be turned into a "classroom environment" for your preschooler. OF COURSE you are perfectly capable of teaching your child basics like early literacy and numeracy skills. Isn't that how most of us were raised ourselves?

I don't want this to sound like I'm saying that staying home with your child is better (or worse) than putting them in daycare or preschool. There are lots of factors that go into deciding when or if to put your child into daycare/preschool/childcare and there are always benefits and drawbacks to every option. I myself worked as an Early Childhood Educator at some fantastic daycares for nearly a decade before I had my daughter, and I know that there are great programs out there (and some not-so-great ones). When my daughter was born, I decided to stay home with her and have been implementing many of the things I learned as an ECE into our daily routines at home. So I guess I am "homeschooling" my preschooler already.

The thing that still amazes me, though, is the notion that we all need to be convinced that we, as parents, are CAPABLE of doing this. A couple of decades ago, early childhood education was almost always done in the home environment, either with a parent or another caregiver. Has the pendulum swung so far that we think that children can now only learn in a "real school" environment, even when they are three or four years old?

Here's my feeling, both as an ECE and as a parent. If your child is in childcare, make sure it's a quality facility that focuses on developmentally appropriate learning and has a program that you feel comfortable with. Then relax. Your child is fine! And if your child is home with you, don't spend your time stressing that she's missing out on daycare. Relax. Your child is fine!

Of course, I say all this, but even I had guilt over keeping my daughter home with me for a few years after my maternity leave. I think that I was even more conflicted because I'm a daycare teacher myself. If I went back to work, I'd be providing enriching learning experiences for other children, while someone else did that for my child. Ugh! That didn't make sense to me. But still, the guilt! Was I doing enough for my child? Was I doing enough art activities? Was my home "print rich" enough? Was my child socializing enough?

So even though I wish none of this needed to be said, I am grateful that Lee and Richards wrote this book to remind parents that yes, your child is probably fine. And if you want some more ideas for teaching early math skills through baking, here you go. Now relax.

Disclaimer: I received a digital galley of this book free from Edelweiss (Above the Tree Line). I was asked to write an honest review, though not necessarily a favourable one. The opinions expressed are strictly my own.

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