One of the most common questions I receive, is asking how to homeschool a two year old. I don't know why age two seems to bring about so many questions, but it does because so many of you ask me about yours!
Rather than constantly rewriting the same suggestions in a briefly summarised Instagram or Facebook message, touch-typed through my mobile phone, I figured it would be useful to have a post ready-to-go answering this question.
A two year old doesn't need homeschooling. They simply need parenting.
I remember when my eldest was 2 and 3. I remember the anticipation and excitement to teach this little girl of mine everything, to make her be the best she can be inshaAllah. To put her ahead.
She was barely out of nappies, yet in my mind I was trying to set her up to be ready to begin a PhD.
So I get it. I can completely relate to your question, because I've been there myself with my own children.
I totally get your enthusiasm, and your desire to help your child towards success bi'ithnillah. Especially if this is your first child (usualy this enthusiasm for teaching a two year old is because he is your first born....usualy).
Let me assure you the time for homeschooling around the kitchen table will come. Those books and model planets aren't going to run away. They will be there waiting. So relax, there is no hurry.
I'm not a professional in any area of childrens early years development, however from my own personal experience as a mother and home-educator, when I look back to my children being that small, I'd like to share with you some things that I know now, that I didn't know then:
A two year old doesn't need school. They need parenting.
A little person who has only been on the planet for a mere two or three years, doesn't need to be "homeschooled" just as a child of the same age doesn't need to "go to school".
But what they do need, is mummy to help them play, explore and discover. They need love, security and nurture. They need parenting.
We don't school a 2/3 year old, we parent them.
Yet in our zeal for education, and our desire to meet secular early years guidelines from professionals, we put ourselves forward as academic teachers, instead of parents, with misguided thinking that our role as an educator is what will give our child success over our role as mother.
Your young pre-schooler needs a parent. He doesn't need a homeschool teacher.
Teach him good manners
Manners are so important to a child's learning and growth. Because without them, he will not benefit from your academic teaching as he develops.
If he doesn't know how to ask politely, share, have patience, eat the food given to him, listen, not interrupt, then what makes you think he will be able to take the information to learn, presented to him when he is 8 or 9?
Manners begins with us. Children mimic everything we do. So if we want a child with good manners, we need to model that ourselves first. Its not a case of instructing do as I say, but not as I do. Kids don't care what we say, they will always, always learn and imitate from that which we ourselves do first.
Educate yourself, and your child will learn
Our child's learning and cultivation begins with us.
When I first became a parent I was 23. I knew very little about Islam. I still know very little. But at 23 I knew even less (even if I didn't realise that at the time!). I knew nothing about parenting. And I had no one to help me, living in a new city away from my own family. So I did what I thought I needed to do.
As my eldest got older and out of nappies, my focus was on teaching her about her religion. I wanted her to have what I felt I had missed and always longed for growing up. And whilst I did continue to learn myself, it soon became a greater focus to educate her on what I felt she needed to know, rather than what I need to know first.
And it is this point that I want to convey to you.
About Islam. About Tawheed. About 'Aqeedah. About the Qur'an and Tajweed. About good manners. About the stories of the Prophets. About Arabic.
About parenting. About education. About teaching. About learning. About homeschooling.
Because whatever you learn, you will automatically pass onto your children.
Read aloud plenty
I can not stress enough the power of reading aloud to your children. Daily.
Whether they curl up besides you snuggled on the sofa, or sit on the floor in front of you listening as they continue to play with their cars or puzzle.
Read. Aloud. Daily.
Reading together not only helps to foster connection between us, it provides no end of learning opportunities; introducing new vocabulary, ideas, and knowledge on every topic imaginable as well as being an important life lesson to see you model regular reading habits yourself (remember, kids imitate what they see).
Choose books that you will enjoy reading aloud too, because your enjoyment and enthusiasm will be passed onto your little person.
If your child doesn't appear to be interested, rather than instructing him that its time to read, invite him by simply begining to read and wait for him to toddle on over to see what you are doing.
What child doesn't want to join in on something fun Mum is doing and is clearly enjoying herself?
Something which really helps generate excitement about books is to get new books (whether from the library or store bought), and leaving them out on the coffee table to be discovered in the morning when your children wake up.
Or try turning a few books on the book-shelf so the cover faces outwards just as you would find in a book store. You'd be surprised how doing this one simple thing helps draw attention to a book which otherwise is lost in and amongst all the other spines.
Young children love to explore and discover. You often find them imitating skills and tasks they see others perform throughout their play. Don't undervalue the significance of this in their development.
Although children don't realise that they are learning, play in and of itself a meaningful activity aiding their learning growth.
Its too easy for us as parents to see our kids engaged in play and think nothing of it, but to the child they are structuring their environment and processing ideas through it.
Provide opportunities for natural learning growth
Babies learn to sit, crawl, walk and talk without any concerted effort from parents other than encouragement.
We don't need to read books and research papers on the best way to get our babies crawling and making babbling sounds. It just happens. They are by nature curious, and spend all their time mesmerised by their surroundings.
They watch, observe and try. And importantly, don't give up.
When we see their efforts to make their first "da da" sounds, we sit face to face gleaming with excitement repeating back to them "da da", encouraging them to keep on trying.
When we see their attempts to start crawling we place something of interest to them a few feet away to help them keep on pushing.
When we see they are standing on their feet and ready to try making those first couple of steps unaided, we let go of their hand and crouch our self down arms wide open, cheering them on to walk into our championing embrace.
Our babies did all of those things and more, simply my watching us model these skills without a second thought and they did the rest.
They are born with curiosity and a desire to learn.
Think about it. We keep everything that could harm them out of sight and out of reach, why? Because we know that no matter how many times we tell them "no" they will keep on trying to get it. Their curiosity drives them with a compulsion to discover and explore anything new. We know we can not stop it.
So use this impulse for unearthing new things to yours and their advantage.
Create an environment and provide opportunities which encourage natural learning growth.
Keep a low level shelf where you can leave a couple of interesting objects, or learning toys. Change the contents of the shelf every week or even every day.
I'm not talking about buying in loads of expensive toys or manipulatives. Simple, inexpensive items which will spark their curiosity and ignite creativity.
- A small box or basket filled with a nature collection; things like pinecones, dried conkers, small twigs, interesting rocks, shells, laminated leaves and flattened flowers. Add a child's magnifying glass for extra interest.
- A small pot from the kitchen with a wooden spoon (you know kids love pots and pans because most of us have child locks all over the kitchen cupboards or a stair gate blocking them from getting in at all!)
- Place a small tray with two small jugs. One filled with either water or some dried lentils / rice that you will cook later that day. They will love pouring the contents from one jug to the other. Working on their fine motor skills and co-ordination.
- A large chunky string or shoe-lace and giant wooden beads.
- A long, thin piece of rope and a box full of empty toilet rolls to thread.
- Lacing cards (you can draw or print these yourself, laminate and punch holes into for your child to push shoe-lace through.
- A couple of small containers, pompoms and a spoon.
- Wooden block shapes.
- Fill small plastic bottles with different items, such as dried rice (you will cook later), marbles, buttons, water with glitter, whatever you can think of that looks interesting and makes different sounds. Just make sure the lids are screwed on tight!
- get a shoe box, super glue / hot glue a fabric lid on the top and cut two small holes that will fit your child's hands through.
Leave inside pairs of small objects which your child can feel around to find and bring out matched. For example, 2 crayons, 2 toy cars, 2 pine cones, 2 spoons, 2 golf size balls etc
- A small dustpan and brush....the bonus is your floors will be clean(ish) all day!
- How could I not mention books! You can get these from the library and swap them every week or two.
There are so many inexpensive DIY toy ideas online, which will save you a tonne of money and honestly, in my opinion interest a 2 year old far more than a big plastic toy that lights up from the local toy store (I hate those!).
My parting advice for homeschooling a 2 year old
Just remember, your 2 year old needs parenting right now, not schooling.
Talk with him lots, play lots, read aloud lots, walk in nature, go to the park, teach him good manners, keep providing opportunities to nurture curiosity and most importantly of all, teach him about Allah.
When we are engaged with them as a parent, talking to them, playing with them, discovering with them, we will be astounded at how much they are capable of learning and growing without us consciously trying subhanAllah.
Last week I'd asked over on Instagram and our Private Muslim Homeschoolers Facebook group to send your questions related to homeschooling a pre-schooler to answer here.
However this post has turned into a much longer one than I'd originally anticipated, and so what I'll do is answer those next week in a second post inshaAllah.
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