The youngest learners
I’ve read a rash of blog posts recently about homeschooling “the littles” — toddlers and preschool-age children.
Unfortunately, most of the suggestions are to gather interesting toys and/or simple activities to “distract” them from interrupting the important work of their elder brothers and sisters.
This reminds me of a teacher who asked me to remove two young three-year-olds from her preschool classroom because she felt they weren’t on task — they weren’t listening, they weren’t paying attention, and in her opinion they were too young to make a contribution to the project work the other children were doing.
First, teaching a group of multi-age children, whether at home or school, means there will be a range of abilities, interests, and maturity levels. If you have taught school, or if you have multiples, you know that teaching a group of *same-age* children means the exact same thing.
Second, there is no better place for a two- or three-year-old than being near focused work. (Of course, I don’t mean filling out worksheets at the kitchen table; I mean a group of enthusiastic, hands-on learners who are talking, asking questions, building, drawing, planning, arguing, helping, making mistakes, solving problems, making authentic art.)
Children who are too young to participate directly can still absorb how their brothers and sisters (or classmates) learn and make and converse and express — they can take in by osmosis the excitement of learning, the mastery of tools and skills, the pride of accomplishment, the management of emotions.
There is no better model or more powerful motivator than an older sibling or friend.
To shrug off “the littles” is to do a disservice not just to them — because two- and three-year-olds are just as capable of intense interests and engaged learning — but to ourselves, because there is no cure for the fever for learning. A very young child who has experienced the joy of learning grows into an older child who simply cannot be stopped — a relentless learner.