Topic | Just starting and already discouraged. Is this normal? How do I know if this is working?

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  • Charis

    I just started (2 wks) homeschooling my barely 5 year old daughter.  She is very bright and loved going to preschool last year (2 mornings a week).  However, now she seems to expect the structure of preschool for homeschool- she comes in wearing a backpack and carrying a lunch with pretend food.  She wants to pretend that she was dropped off and do circle time.  She doesn’t associate reading aloud with homeschool since we already read to her so much anyway.  She was a very obedient and compliant student in preschool, but at home, without peer pressure, she will interrupt me to say “i don’t want to do this” or “let’s do something else.”  I’ve tried to keep the lessons short to stay within her attention span, but end up feeling like I’m not teaching her anything.  I’m also dealing with my 2 year old who wants to be involved but tends to be distracting or interrupt us, which makes me feel guilty.  Today my 5 year old said “I don’t like homeschool.  It isn’t anything.”  I think she doesn’t think she is learning or doing anything.  When I take her on outings, for nature study or field trips, she just thinks we are hanging out or spending time- it’s not “school” to her without the structure.  

    Our first day I did try to provide the same structure and schedule as preschool, but it was pretty ridiculous with only 1 student.  It was pretty much like pretending we were in school for the whole morning.  

    When she is uninterested or bored, I don’t know what to do.  If I stop, I feel like we aren’t going to make progress.  If I push through, I feel like I’m in a power struggle, which runs counter to my parenting style and to my educational goals.I feel so lame.  I have no idea what this is supposed to look like.  I feel like I’m letting her down and the last thing I want is for her to hate homeschool or resent time with me.  

    And this is kinder, after all, so perhaps many of the typical CM activities don’t really work with this age.

    Have any of you ever felt this way?  What should I do?  I’d really like some advice, encouragement.  I have friends who homeschool, but their kids are much older and seem to buy into it.  How do I know if this is working?




    ((HUGS)) If she’s your oldest then my advice is to wait! Give her a year of just being little (you said she’s barely 5). Check out the Early Years posts from Simply Charlotte Mason here: They even have a book with more information but I’ve not read it yet.

    If you absolutely feel you must have ‘lessons’ beyond that then make it fun, simple, and easy. Does she know her letters and the sound they make? What about a letter each week to learn, with the theme of the week starting with that letter and having a few library books for the theme. So if you’re doing B is for Ballerina (or Butterfly or Baseball) you’ll do activities with the letter B all week. You’ll read books about ballerinas for fun. Keep it light and playful.

    I’m not sure what to tell you about transitioning her from ‘preschool mindset’ other than to start narrating what ‘subject’ you’re studying when you do nature study (“Let’s do science. Nature study is science. We try to see and discover the things God made and learn about them.”)


    Depending on if you live in an area where K is required, I would let the schooling go for a time. 5 is still quite young. Then, when she is a bit older (CM recommended age 6) start more formal and scheduled lessons. Maybe she would then see the difference between what she had been doing, “just hanging out at home” and actual “lesson time”. And the memory of what she had been doing in Preschool won’t be so fresh in her mind, either. : )

    If you feel she would be able to comprehend fully, you could also try to explain to her that homeschooling is very different than “school”. It is supposed to be more natural and, well, homey…HOMEschool. More home, less school. ; ). Let her know why you think that is a GOOD thing.

    You could also try this approach. When you do any activity, whether it is reading a book, going on a nature walk, watching a learning program, writing something, working on a new habit, etc. casually and happily mention something about the learning that is happening right at that moment. Because she is so little still, you could probably quite easily let her “catch” your attitude towards eduction over time. But I would definatly try to avoid trying to make your home feel like her preschool. Playing around and pretending can be fun sometimes (we did it here a bit when the kids were young) as long as they know that it is pretending and that it is not SUPPOSED to be like that all the time.

    Hope your homeschooling experience starts to get better soon!

    God Bless!



    I’d say you are pretty much in the normal range. 😉 Our society is so geared to sending our little darlings off to the institutional schools that the children are indoctrinated long before they ever enter kindergarten. EVERYONE asks “are you going to school yet?” Kids TV programs hype up the whole thing as well. Even the checker at the grocery store is in on it. 😉 Your little one spent last school year assimilating what “school” is all about- circle time, backpacks, lunches and “structure”. My suggestion would be to find a home school group near you, or another home schooling family that wouldn’t mind if you spent some time with them and let your girly see that her concept of school isn’t the only one out there.

    It won’t be the last time you have to straighten out the warped ideas she has absorbed from society, but fortunately after a little while kids usually quickly come to see the advantages of home education.


    Okay, I am clueless– what does one do in circle time in regular schools? I imagine kids talking about their days, doing show and tell-y things, maybe being introduced to a new concept like the letter of the day. I think if she expects such a format it could be a wonderful way to do an artist study or read poetry or other things like that.



    Hi Nebby!

    I think they do the calendar, weather, maybe a story or song.  We do all those things but it only takes a couple of minutes since I only have the one kid.  I think she expects school to last longer.  



    I would just declare a “vacation” for a while.

    My oldest also did a preschool.  He loved it the first year, hated it the second (and we took him out).  We didn’t do anything for quite a long time (I think almost a year… until he would be in K – then we only did reading instruction and that was it.  (Well, also Suzuki violin, but that was since he was 3…)

    Of course, he also was getting the message that people went to school when they were “big” – and his picture of what it was was a combination of preschool (he only remembered loving it) and what is on TV about school – which is usually a wonderful Kindergarten with about 6 kids….     It took a long time for him to understand what school is really like (and that mainly from his same aged nephew) – it was a couple of years before he “got” that concept.    There was a lot of “well, this is what we do in our family”.   (Now his nephew envies him… well, some days…)

    Anyway, hang in there.  Take a break…. even if she doesn’t like that idea.  

    This may sound silly, but all my 5 year olds responded to a puppet. They read to them, did math with them, and even learned piano with the puppet who ” just could not understand it!! ” 🙂

    Today, our puppet named Priscilla was having a sleepy day. She yawned and said she needed help waking up. So my six year old sang to her the alphabet song and then we did a short reading lesson. Priscilla can’t read well, so she really appreciates my six year old who shows her how to do it.

    Obviously, I am Priscilla’s voice and character. But it really makes our school fun when the puppet buddy is there and “learning” too. Oh, and BTW, my puppet is very good quality. I think it’s made by the Melissa and Doug company if you should go looking. I bought the cowgirl one with blond yarn hair and cowgirl hat. 🙂



    I would wait, just like suzukimom said I would declare like vacation time or family time…but still do gentle homeschool 🙂 that way both of you dont feel the pressure of doing school. Schooling is something different than learning and educating…she will have to learn the difference. Some deschooling will have to be done and that will take time but it should get better. Sadly, I hate how they present preschool to children on tv…it makes it inviting for them. However, it’s all a dream…yes prek sounds fun, it’s all games and then WHAM! they get hit in kinder being expected to learn to read, do math, etc…

    take it easy, dont give up hope! it will get better 🙂


    If she’s seeking structure, I’d take a break, whilst you work out a structure that is enjoyable for you both. Here are some things we do for that age:

    • Phonics or SCM Delightful Reading, or whatever reading programme you like.  We keep it VERY simple, but like yours, mine are bright and are itching to read at that age, so we do daily phonics/delightful reading, for no more than 5 minutes.
    • Kumon Cutting and Pasting and Easy Crafts books. These have been amazing. They have learned to cut out and paste independently and are very proud of the project they have created that day. We do this daily, unless they show signs of boredom, in which case we switch to something else for a few weeks.
    • Nature Study.  We do this weekly.  We go outside (in the yard) and fill in a nature page in our journal.  We record the wind direction, draw a sample of the sky, record the temperature and any rain in the rain guage, note down any sounds we hear and first impressions (eg “bees buzzing, a bird singing, leaves rustling, very hot and humid…. or whatever) She does the observing but I do the recording.  Then it’s her turn to record – just one thing. She gets to draw one thing: like a leaf (or even a leaf rubbing is fine) or an ant, or whatever interests her. I use the book “Keeping A Nature Journal” good for ideas.  My daughter  is inspired by the picutres too 
    • Science.  At that age they love experiments – just really simple ones.  We do one experiment a week, but more would be fine too.  Just get a good book of experiments – eg Usbourne 100 Science Experiments, or Mudpies and Magnets and work your way through it.  So last week we floated a needle on water to show surface tension.  This week we filled a glass up with water and added coins to make the surface bulg to show surface tension. Or get one of the SCM science books. Whatever interests you.
    • Make a schedule and post it so she can see it and can see what you’re doing each day.
    • If she needs to feel she’s “doing work” she might respond well to you notebooking her “work”.  So filing her drawings or any narrations (if she wants to narrate – it’s optional at this age) in a notebook that she can be proud of. See to see what I’m talking about – though she’s too young for formal notebooking at this age.
    • My preschooler listens in to History with her older sister and loves it – we follow Story of the World and do the projects and colouring pages in the SOW Activity book too – and even at 5 she loves to be involved.
    • Other daily reading: Bible, and whatever other books we like the look of (Winnie the Pooh, Beatrix Potter, Paddle to the Sea, Little House books, good picture books… whatever interests her)  We also do a poem a day during our mid-morning drink and snack which she LOVES, daily PE (basic ball skills, etc), daily recitation (scripture, poetry and French song).  We also do a weekly field trip and use that for further nature study, and other ideas we’ve gleaned from the SCM Early Years guide.
    • I don’t know if you’re doing math, but if she’s keen, you could start Right Start Math Level A, and spread it out over 2 years, going slowly – this way she’ll feel she’s doing school but you won’t be pushing her too fast.
    • But you could just wait for all this until she’s 6  – that would be fine too and might be better.  These are just suggestions if you feel she needs a bit of structure and some bits of work she can show off and be proud of at the end of the day.  My main advice is to take the pressure of yourself, whilst finding things that are enjoyable for you both.


    You’ve gotten some great ideas, and I second the idea of waiting until she’s 6 to begin really formal school. However if you want to do “schoolish” things with her, you could call it pre-k and make up a schedule so she’ll know what’s coming next. My young ones loved doing drawn narrations in Mead composition books that have blank top and lined bottom pages (bought at Walmart). At first I’d write their narrations and they’d draw, and later, they’d copy a sentence or two I’d written out. If your daughter is anything like mine was at that age – chomping at the bit for “real” school- she might like this.

    Some of my children also really enjoyed the Rod&Staff preschool set, which is really more like K work, but they don’t have K in their schools; really cute workbooks. Not CM style but for a little girl who wants “work” they might be fun and are truly sweet books.

    When my now 14-year-old was that age, we did a “unit” on Eric Carle, going to the library and gathering as many of his books as we could. We made a big caterpillar head out of construction paper, and after each book read, we’d make another circle, write the name of the book, and add it to our caterpillar on the wall. Again, this is not a CM idea but a fun thing that may be more resonant of her preschool experience and ease her into doing school at home.

    Lastly, a huge thing you’ll find for this year and the next (and all the years of homeschooling, but the first are so pivotal) is habit formation. CM was huge on this, for good reason. The children need to learn that we are in charge, make good chocies for them, and that school, whenever we’ve deemed they start and whatever we choose for them to study, is not optional. I realized the importance of this with one of my boys, who would throw himself on the floor whenever it was time to do a lesson, LOL, and that became our habit to work on. A bit about that here, if you’re interested:

    Be gentle with yourself, this is all new and an adjustment for each of you. You have lots of time, with her being so young, to find your way and decide how you want to do this.

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