What Are You Going to Call It, Then?

So, through a bizarre set of circumstances, our article in the paper led to me getting into a tiff online about whether or not people with kids in preschool can be said to be homeschooling.

I get that linguistically the term “preschool” implies that it’s not school and therefore how could you homeschool it.  But let’s be real.  This term is an oxymoron.  It’s like “fresh frozen” or “free with purchase.”  It makes no sense if you think about it too hard.  We all know that preschool is school nowadays.  Kids who go to kindergarten without knowing how to read already are even said to be behind in some places!  So there’s nothing “pre” about preschool these days.  Have you heard the phrase “universal preschool”?  Well, it’s coming.

I don’t know a single family with a kid over the age of 3 and a half who did not send them to preschool who was not choosing to homeschool.

That’s why it was so valuable for us to find a preschool homeschool community when Mushroom and BalletBoy turned 3.  Without that community, we would have had very limited social outlets for them.  That group grew and changed and we still know many of those families today.  My kids are so lucky to have such a consistent group of friends, something they probably wouldn’t have if they had gone from a separate preschool to school.

I get that some people go overboard and I admit to feeling a sense of frustration when I see discussion threads about people who have scheduled a whole line up of subjects for their three year olds.  However, there’s a snobbish dismissiveness to when I hear other homeschoolers say that someone isn’t “allowed” to call themselves a homeschooler.  Surely homeschooling is an outlook, albeit a diverse one, but one where we see education matters as being decided by parents, not by the government.  Our educational outlook, our homeschooling, was not suddenly activated the Monday after Labor day the year the boys turned 5.  It’s an ongoing, integrated part of our lives as a family.

And if that’s not enough, the companies that sell to homeschoolers are targeting preschool parents in spades.  From Five in a Row to Calvert, there are dozens of curricular options for preschool, all sold as homeschooling curricula.  The number of preschool homeschool blogs has proliferated, as has the number of preschool homeschool groups and discussions.  It’s the generally accepted term.

I no longer have preschoolers, obviously.  However, when I made my first steps into the homeschooling world, I found that some people were dismissive about those of us who had younger children.  There was a sense that we weren’t allowed at the table.

However, if we couldn’t claim the name of homeschoolers, how could we find each other?  And what would we even call what we were doing?  Teaching our children at home instead of sending them to school.  Forget legalese, but what is that if not homeschooling?

23 thoughts on “What Are You Going to Call It, Then?

  1. I will admit, I tend to be one of those people who thinks “homeschooling” begins when formal academic work begins, or when compulsory school age is reached, whichever is sooner. I also don’t believe in requiring academic work of children who haven’t reached school age, nor do I believe in evaluating my children’s progress in “preschool skills”. I do not concern myself with their “scissor skills” or worry about whether they are doing representational drawing. I could not tell you when my children could name all of the major colors, alphabet letters, shapes, etc. I certainly spent no time teaching them these things.

    So anyway, if I don’t think it’s appropriate to require “schoolwork”, then how can it be “homeschooling”? How does “preschool homeschooling” differ from what any parent who was at home with children during the day would do with their kids — even if those kids also attended a (non-full-time) preschool program? As far as I can tell, the main difference is that kids who go to preschool have a built-in social outlet that kids who stay home don’t have.

    I think a lot of “preschool homeschoolers” take it all way too seriously. I always find it very amusing when someone who has “homeschooled since birth” suggests that their six years of homeschooling experience is somehow equivalent to the experience of someone who has homeschooled their 12-year-old for six years.

    I have a preschooler at home this year, but I’m not homeschooling him. Next year is soon enough for “schooling”.

    I’m not sure what I think about the answer to the question you pose in the title. If you plan to homeschool your kids, it’s certainly beneficial to find like-minded people for you and your kids to spend time with during the preschool years, especially for your oldest child(ren). Finding those people may require the use of the term “preschool homeschooler”, much as it rubs me the wrong way. What about “future homeschooler” as an alternative?

    1. I thought about future homeschooler – but that sidesteps the issue that I still just don’t buy that the government’s kindergarten cutoff date should determine the terms. Also, I was telling Peter I think the ship has just already sailed on this one. Enough people already just use the term homeschooler to apply to educating preschoolers at home that I think it’s a term that’s already set itself.

      1. Good point about the government. I think I’m probably mainly having a negative reaction to the idea that preschoolers require “schooling” of any sort. Both of my children have attended preschool, but I’m appalled by the level of academic work many preschools consider appropriate. I get at least as worked up about that as I get about “preschool homeschooling”. 🙂

      2. True, Sonja. I also get a little batty every time I read when someone thinks their 4 year old is behind because he’s having trouble reading multisyllabic words and remembering his multiplication tables (but he’s just being lazy, I know he can do it!) Ack.

    2. QUOTE” So anyway, if I don’t think it’s appropriate to require “schoolwork”, then how can it be “homeschooling”? How does “preschool homeschooling” differ from what any parent who was at home with children during the day would do with their kids — even if those kids also attended a (non-full-time) preschool program? As far as I can tell, the main difference is that kids who go to preschool have a built-in social outlet that kids who stay home don’t have.

      See, I think this assertion assumes facts not in evidence. I think there is a tremendous range in the type, frequency and intensity of parenting provided to pre-K children. Some parents are highly interactive, while other dismiss their children’s calls to play with them in order to watch soap operas or work at home or what have you. I think preschooling (and that’s what I call it) is a very real thing, one that doesn’t necessarily require seatwork or “scissor skills”, but that does provide a enriched environment for a child in an extensive, stimulating and consistent manner.

  2. For me my problem with the preschooler homeschoolers has been less about them calling themselves “homeschoolers” and more about certain people wanting their very young children to be included in homeschooling group activities that are entirely inappropriate for children of that age.

    I’m all for mixed age groups; I prefer them. But a three year old does not belong in my 17 year old’s Chemistry group, no matter how advanced the mother of the 3 year old thinks her child is. It causes a great deal of stress and unnecessary drama when the pushin’ mamas want their sometimes not even potty trained tots to get invitations to the “not prom” or attend the field ecology school for middle school aged kids or be invited to the teen girl’s pajama party lock in. I understand that the moms are anxious for their kids to have homeschooling friends and hungry for homeschooling adult company, but no, just no.

    It makes those of us with older kids grumpy and unnecessarily protective and exclusionary. This situation would be greatly helped if the more sane parents of preschoolers would gently step in and redirect the pushin’ mamas, instead of jumping on the crazywagon and nonsensically agreeing that it is tragically unfair that 2 year old Suzie didn’t get invited to the preteen girls’ menstruation preparation retreat. I do realize that some parents really think that’s the perfect age for lil Suzie to go to the menstruation retreat, but there’s a point where we all have to honor the group organizers and their rules and intentions, no matter how special we think our snowflakes are.

    And that respect, I think, is my bottom line. I respect that people teaching preschoolers are doing valuable and sometimes harrowing work. Refusing to acknowledge that my 17 year old and 14 year old may have needs separate from the preschool crowd makes me snarky and dismissive, heck yah. It’s disrespecting my childrens’ personal growth and journey and all the hard work we’ve done as a family in the last 17 years.

    1. Resa, I agree. Respect has to go both ways. And I don’t think all people have to be included in all things by any means. I’ve also seen things where people want their little one to be included when it’s clearly not appropriate.

  3. There is a huge amount of pressure on parents of under 5’s to send them to preschool. As far as I’m concerned, any parent who bucks the trend and keeps their little ones at home, to do the kind of developmentally appropriate play through learning activities that age needs, is welcome to call themselves a homeschooler! Truly, I don’t get the fuss. Homeschooling isn’t a club with membership rules.

  4. Hadn’t read the other comments before I posted. I guess my opinion hasn’t been shaped by experiences like the ones above. Sometimes there will be preschoolers at home school events but normally as tag along siblings. Here, there is no general expectation that 3 year olds should have the right to participate in activities geared for older kids.

    I too get frustrated by highly academic preschool ‘homeschooling’ but all the more reason to include parents of preschoolers in our events, discussions, forums; we can model a variety of approaches and methods to them and encourage them to provide age-appropriate learning opportunities, moving on to academic home education as suited.

    I think the term ‘home educator’ covers a multitude of ages and approaches. We may not school from birth but we certainly educate from birth. When I hear people say things like ‘home schooling from birth ‘ I take it to mean that the child has had their parent as their major educator, rather than being in long day childcare for the majority of the week or in formal, institutional preschool programs.

    Idk, is it really worth getting offended over ?

    1. Well, said, Melissa. I think being welcoming to people with younger kids helps people hear stories and get some perspective – either to calm down about all the curricula or to feel like they can do it.

    2. I say “homeschooling from birth”, partly because as you say, Melissa, my kids were never in long day childcare or anything like that, and partly because we had a notion that we wanted to homeschool all along. We did consider public school for our first child when he was ready to enter Kindergarten, but ultimately went with our original homeschooling plan.

      I don’t mind homeschoolers of preschoolers on homeschool boards, but I wish they wouldn’t flip out when my answer to “how do I get my 2 year old to do long division” is “do more fingerpainting”. I’m not being flippant or dismissive. That’s really and truly what I think about it, and I think it’s good advice. You can do long division your whole life, but you only get a couple of years to fingerpaint with the innocent and joyous abandon of a preschooler. 🙂

  5. Great post!
    I’m in NoVa and felt like I was a homeschooler in preschool not so much because what I was doing at home was really “school” in a formal way but because it was a very clear decision to not do preschool elsewhere. Like you, every single person I knew who planning on homeschooling sent their kids to some kind of outside preschool. So, when we decided not to do that, we knew it was the first step in our decision to ultimately homeschool. When we got asked the inevitable questions in August and Sept that year about where our oldest was going to preschool, we answered with “we’ve decided to homeschool.” Our day to day life didn’t change that much as far as what we did, but it still felt like we’d made a major decision and chosen our tribe, so to speak.

  6. Resa, I’m with you there 🙂 I think it’s part of deschooling from the cultural norms though. It takes those over enthusiastic parents of little ‘uns a while to work out that it’s OK to let a three year old be three and do their work of playing and a while to learn to manage the anxiety they might feel about ‘not keeping up’. I do admit to some internal eye rolling when people are coming up with timetables and curricula for their preschoolers; people probably rolled their eyes at me when I had an official homeschooler of 6 and was the same, insecure way.

  7. I did think it was weird and a little annoying when someone came to a playgroup at our homeschool community center with her three kids, aged 2, 3, and 4, and said she was counting the days until they were eligible for public pre-K. She used the homeschooling community center as a low-cost source of preschool enrichment while she was waiting to be able to send them to school. That’s different from someone who happens to have preschoolers but is planning to homeschool elementary school.

    1. That’s just weird. I have known a couple of families who hung out with homeschoolers who intended to send their kids to school – they were attracted to homeschooling, but had decided not to go that direction long term. However, they also knew there were no other kids around during the day. But not like free day care!

  8. You know what I think is strange ? That of all the great things you have blogged about here since I’ve been reading, this topic has generated the most discussion. Who would have thunk it ? 🙂

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