I haven’t yet written about my younger daughter. She is three and not in school which makes me feel like there isn’t anything to say about her education. The truth is she learns just as much as her sister does only in a different environment. She spends all day with me going to PTO events, playgroups, running errands, and helping me around the house. I don’t do flashcards with her. I don’t drill her on her letters. There aren’t any worksheets. I’ve had people ask if I was worried about her ‘getting behind’ – whatever that means for a three-year-old.
She learns through play, that’s her medium. She’s too young to have much of an attention span, and frankly too chaotic. Her nickname is Mayhem as building and destroying things seems to be her main pastime. She practices writing by drawing circles and straight lines, but only when she feels like picking up a pencil. Coloring doesn’t occur inside the lines here, but neither does life. Her favorite thing to draw is a windstorm which means she scribbles all over the page. Earlier I wrote about my oldest coloring and cutting a leaf. Mayhem was there too; she just drew a scribble-circle on the paper. When the adults tried to tell her to focus on the leaf, she informed them that she was putting it in a storm.
In a few years if we send her to school, then she can have her days of worksheets and inside the lines and flashcards. She’s a full-time kid, not a student. This doesn’t mean she isn’t being taught. She doesn’t have chores in the house, she has responsibilities. We have a dog and she has the responsibility of letting the dog out and in and feeding her. She hands me the dishes from the dishwasher and she gets the ingredients from the cupboard when it’s time to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. In those activities she’s being taught how to take care of herself and be part of a family.
I can tell by watching that her mind doesn’t ever stop. Grocery shopping is an event. She wants to learn about everything, so we talk about all the fruits and vegetables – how they grow and what we can make with them. At the store with live lobsters she asks the employees to take a lobster out so she can pet it and we talk about why it has claws. She is fascinated with how various animals protect themselves, that’s a constant source of discussion. We’ve watched videos of different animals eating as she likes learning about what their diets consist of. And while I’ve never formally taught her any vocabulary, her’s is considered advanced by her doctor through me talking to and with her constantly.
This isn’t right for everyone, but it is for us. I get asked how I know she’s learning anything. I see it in her train tracks that span the upstairs and in her shows that she has her stuffed animals put on. For that matter, even if she isn’t that won’t stunt her academic growth forever. She’ll have plenty of time for formal learning. If there was a quality non-academic preschool in the area, she would likely go. She only gets so many years before academics start, why speed that up? She is going to build her education on the foundation of life lessons that will serve her well, or at least that’s the hope.