I once had a friend lament over how she hasn’t signed her 6-month-old up for any baby “classes” yet.
“Are you wanting to get out more?” I asked her.
“No. I’m fine, but she seems bored. I think she needs more stimulation.”
My friend is a product of modern parenting and the school of thought that it’s never too early to start thinking about getting your kid into Harvard.
I’m not suggesting extracurricular activities are bad for little ones, but they’re certainly not necessary. Sure, if you have the time and money, sign your tot up for kid’s gymnastics, music classes or art lessons, but don’t feel like a bad mom if you don’t. I’m no child psychologist, but I think children learn best when they’re given the chance to be kids and to play in an unstructured environment.
When people discover I’m homeschooling, they often ask me all about my “curriculum” for Madeline. Mind you, she’s not even 4 yet. Truth is, we have no real curriculum (although I do sometimes pull ideas from a Catholic preschool program called Little Saints). We don’t do any formal schooling, but we read lots of books together, do an occasional craft, sing, doodle, and go on walks.
“But do you do preschool in your home?”
Every day is “school” in our home. When we bake together, I let Madeline measure out the flour or count the number of eggs we need. When we go on a walk and notice a butterfly, we talk about our favorite insects. When we’re reading together, she asks, “Why?” roughly three times per minute and I’m always explaining and teaching.
Still, the Type-Aer in me and the mom who wants to be as good as the next mom whose toddler is enrolled in Spanish, piano, and creative movement classes is constantly wondering, “Am I really doing enough?”
Of course, my mommy gut (which I’ve found to be far more accurate than any expert’s opinion when it comes to my own children) tells me I’m doing exactly what I should be doing. I’m letting my 3-year-old be who she is – an imaginative child who’s curious about her world, who loves to play with her menagerie of animal figures, draw, and whose best classroom is life.