If you listen to the wisdom of home school moms who have gone before they will tell you, "Don't rush the academics!". And that is really very good advice. I'm just not a very good person to give it because I am always so impatient to start the academics. I probably start it way too soon!
One thing I will say emphatically is, don't think of the academics as the only avenue of learning. In fact, try and separate the two. Academics are important. Our children need sufficient academics to function easily in this world. But learning transcends academics. Academics will (and should!) be different for each child, but every child should learn to learn!
One of the first opportunities we have to help our children learn to learn is a phase almost every child goes through. Ironically this phase is looked on with dread by most parents. It is of course, the "Why? Phase". Most of the time I see parents either giving in to the "whys" or working hard to shut them down as fast as possible. I suggest neither indulging the "whys" not shutting them down. I recommend harnessing them!
In our home we work at teaching our children to only ask good questions. We also believe that the only "bad" question is one that you don't really want an answer to. So as we go through the why phase we teach them that if they ask a question, they need to listen and learn from the answer. If they are asking a question that they already know the answer to, we make them think about it and tell us the answer. If they ask a question they just got an answer to, we address that they are just asking for the sake of asking and not to learn something.
When our girls ask good questions, it is our heart's desire to give them good answers. My husband is amazing at this! When I'm around him and the girls it reveals how lazy I get in taking the time to answer questions. No question (or question asker!) is too small for him, and his explanations are easy to grasp and educational. My girls learn so much by spending time with him. I want to be the same way!
Now that our girls are getting a little older, the questions are getting harder and many times I find myself saying, "I have no idea!". I usually try and add on there, "But we can find out!". What I need to work on is taking the time to make sure we do find out about those hard questions! If I can't tell her exactly why Pluto isn't a planet any more, then I might as well find out so she can learn!
Some questions take great wisdom in answering, even from the little ones. Call me crazy but I still think honesty is the best policy though! When I was pregnant and the girls asked me how the baby was going to come out, I purposed to give an honest, age appropriate, yet accurate explanation of what would happen. I think sometimes we feel like we have to choose between lying to them or scarring them for life. It's not that hard to speak the truth with discretion.
I am a BIG proponent of speaking the truth. I used to baby sit a little girl who really thought she was a fairy that her daddy found under a flower petal. She believed in Santa Claus, the Easter bunny, the tooth fairy and Jesus. Someday she will be in for a rude awakening. Will she "have faith" in Jesus when all the other things she "had faith" in were just pretend?
Games are fun. We love to pretend and play. But it is very important to us that our girls know the difference always between what is real and what is pretend. We see no place in our parenting to purposefully lie to our children.
So we've covered how to respond to their questions and what NOT to teach them. Tomorrow we will talk about what to teach them!