View Full Version : Early VS Late - How about Child led?

07-01-2011, 04:26 PM
I was reading the Better Early than Late and the Better Late than Early threads and it got me thinking - what about those of us that don't really fit into either?

Better at HIS rate than at MY rate is the motto here! :)

For some stuff that means he is learning "early" and for others "late" - but it is at his pace and in whatever way works best for him. Have gentle, open ended learning opportunities readily available for them to explore. Support them and guide them as they learn at their own pace. Provide as much or as little structure as they did for that moment in time.

If you couldn't tell we do the Child led thing here. Which has us doing a seriously strange blend of Classical/CM meets unschooling. LOL I don't know how to describe it (we don't fit into ANY sort of prelabeled box well LOL), but I do know it works for DS - and it works amazingly well.

I get that some people have strong views on learning "early" or "late" and I do understand the developmental theories behind each. But I dislike the camp mentality regarding education (and just about anything else). Each child is SO unique with unique needs and learning styles. Theories can not be applied to all children as a blanket statement of the "correct" way to do something. It can help us form realistic age based expectations perhaps - but we still need to take into account a child's temperment, learning style, emotional age, physical development, etc.

I think learning is as individualized as parenting. I didn't actively decide "Hey I am going to unschool DS" In fact I didn't even know WHAT unschooling was! But apparently that is the label for how we approached early education in our house. Labels schmabels :p

I taught preschool once upon a time and just fell in love with incidental/embedded learning. Perhaps I was actually unschooling those poor little preschoolers LOL I love the multisensory, exploration based approach to learning. My kids explored and created and just happen to learn a lot along the way. Some learned faster than others, some learned different things from the same activity. But they learned whatever their little brains and spirits were ready to learn that day. It wasn't just academics either, it was about life. I love watching DS explore and discover things on his own, formulate his own questions and thirst for more knowledge. I love just watching him play and be a kid. I love all that he learns just by playing at this age.

While I had many many lesson plans to pull from, when it came to DS I just did whatever felt right for him. We read to him while he was in the womb and continued after he was born - not cuz I wanted to have him read early. But cuz I loved reading to him and wanted him to have a love of reading. The intellectual benefits of being read to are a nice perk though :)
We'd talk about everything - taking a walk outside, doing a messy art project, playing blocks, folding laundry, whatever. We'd talk and I'd take advantage of any learning opportunity that arose throughout the day. Let's learn matching skills while you help Mommy ball up socks! Or sit down to do an art project like painting - he'd start painting flowers and while we painted we'd talk about the parts of the flowers, how flowers grow, the types of flowers, the season flowers grow, count the flowers, what colors are the flowers. Not rehearsed or forces, he'd ask questions and I'd answer. Or I'd ask him questions and see if it sparked interest. It was never "formal" but he was still being exposed to all these learning opportunities that were open ended. I threw letter magnets on the fridge for him to play with (and in a cookie tin for travel play) and bought some letter books and he learned his ABCs without being "taught." Until recently he never saw a workbook/worksheet or even a coloring book for that matter.

I just think that whatever the learning style or methodology or age you start - The key is making learning meaningful to them. Expose kids to an opportunity to learn something (is that Strewing?) and if they are ready they will pursue the knowledge, discover, ask questions, etc on their own. If they aren't ready, you'll get the "oh, ok" response as they move on to what does interests them. Some kids like structure and some prefer independence. We all have areas that are strong and areas that require more effort.

I find that DS finds ways to learn things on his own. For example, DS can read on a VERY advanced level, is a walking A&P textbook, knows more about ancient cultures than I do, and can describe WHY wormholes exist - but struggles with basic addition and hates writing. The writing for him is a developmental thing and possibly related to the Erbs Palsy he had as an infant/toddler, he will get the fine motor coordination in time. No amount of worksheet or writing program will make him more willing to write - but writing letters works great. :) My approach to math is to back off and focus on math play. Games, cooking, grocery shopping, etc - Suddenly last week the lightbulb went off and he "got it." He was bored with his math worksheet so he invented a "new game." He set the timer and literally ran laps around the living room and kitchen calling out the answers to math problems I called out. He did 2 worksheets in under 6 minutes LOL Now he is breezing thru basic addition and asking for his on the move math drills. I wouldn't have thought to do that, but he did and it works amazing!

It was all about making it meaningful to him and him being internally motivated to learn it. I think that is the key to ANY learning approach being successful.

07-01-2011, 05:50 PM
Early > Late, or Late > Early, but totally child led??? No. LOL :p

I'm believe in meeting your child where they are, and maybe what you'd call "child-inspired" or "child responsive" learning. Some kids will do great leading, given a rich environ. Some need more of a push. Sometimes a child is resistant not because they aren't able or ready, but because of other factors (like my dd who wouldn't write because she was a perfectionist, but once I adapted to a journaling free writing approach she transformed into a prolific writer). Also, some kids will tackle tough problems for the fun of it and others do need to learn that not everything is FUN to be worthwhile.

Soooo, imho some children will flourish with early work, others are better waiting; some kids can drive their own education and others are more passive and have to learn over time to take more ownership. The challenge is meeting your child where they are, regardless of your own nature. ;) And of course accepting that no matter how hard you try, sometimes you'll misstep.

07-01-2011, 05:54 PM
We are child inspired or child "cued." However, I wouldn't say it's bad to be child led. Essentially that's what unschooling is. When you've got a child who does stuff like in Michelle's examples above, I think it's easier to let go and be totally child led. When you don't, it's harder, but it can still work for a lot of kids - maybe even most.

I feel like that's what a lot of the people in the better early than late thread were saying really - that introducing ideas, curricula, etc. early is fine - as long as you're willing to, as Jana put it, stick it back on the shelf for later when it doesn't work.

07-01-2011, 06:16 PM
Great post Michelle and I also think that really that's what Jana no doubt does in many ways.

I agree I dislike the arguments of early/late but I think here it was simply a discussion, no real debate so to speak.

I do think if you can meet the child where they are at, push (within limits) where they need it and know to back off when they need that too then in most cases you can't go wrong.

For me my greatest struggle is having 3 children in 3 very different age brackets and the dynamics in learning that that brings. It's a juggle to say the least....maybe if I had them all a year apart things might be somewhat easier in that regards lol!!

07-01-2011, 06:40 PM
That's true, Kylie. A lot of people are really pushing their young children to learn (the Teach Your Baby to Read people) and other people really are holding their kids back (the Waldorf types who take the books away from their kids), but I think in both those discussions people were mostly advocating a sort of middle ground.

Stella M
07-01-2011, 06:51 PM
I think most people aim for the middle. A dance between child-needs and parent-desires.
But we couldn't have a middle ground without having people at the extremes - unschooling, strict and early classical - to challenge us and help us shape our own views and provide resources to bring with us as we approach the task of educating our children.

Personally, I try to respond to each child rather than have an overarching philosophy. One of mine is 'early' and academic. One is longing for external structure, group learning and a frantic pace. One is an unschooler at heart. If I had a philosophy I was trying to fit them all into, it would only cause unhappiness.

Method over style and flexibility over approach. That's my motto.

07-01-2011, 07:02 PM
So how on earth do you meet ALL of their needs (including your own) when they are so different? How do you allow one to unschoool and then one to get the out of the stuff they crave, whilst not neglecting everyone else's needs, wants and desires.....that is my biggest struggle of all!!!

Stella M
07-01-2011, 07:12 PM
Umm. Well, I'm sending one to school, so that helps :)

Seriously ? Work with girls on required subject - maths - while ds plays. Girls do independent work while I do Noah's bare minimum of schooling - about an hour. Work with girls on anything that needs mother input ( Latin, music etc ). Afternoons, dd13 can keep going with her history projects or textile projects or art, dd12 can work out. do dance practice, write her songs etc, both girls work two afternoons a week, I can do 'stuff' with ds.

Idk. It works better because they are older and dd13 is an independent worker. I don't try to plan for all of them at a time. I plan for one, get that sorted, plan for the next and so on.

For example, the first half of this year was taken up with getting dd12 sorted with the whole school thing. The other two just bubbled along, doing what they do, without too many extras from me. Now that's all sorted, I've put dd12 on my mental backburner and I'm organising a co-op for ds and volunteer work for dd13. And researching pathways for dd13 to get into uni.

It also helps that I'm 'relaxed', that I use pretty similar methods with all of them, even if the content or approach is different.

Age makes a difference. Having three independent children helps a lot. Letting go of a lot of the ideas about how homeschooling 'should' look or how our lives 'should' be conducted helps.

Having a lot of patience helps. It's only this year, for example, that I've been able to do some paid work as well as homeschool, or go out and leave the kids at home, alone, for a time. It's only this year that I can hand my girls a bus timetable and they can get themselves wherever they need to go. Time makes all things easier.

07-01-2011, 07:22 PM
Thanks Melissa and I do know that time makes things easier...I just want that now, without wishing their little lives away and doing a disservice to any of them.

Stella M
07-01-2011, 07:28 PM
Oh, I know how that feels...it will happen :) Better to go slow than burn out. Trying to do to much with a poppet under 4 was a disaster for me and I had about a year of complete burn out where I lowered my expectations of what I could realistically do ( and what I could realistically expect of my children ) quite a bit. I felt that we got very behind that year. N early five years on, not only can I see we are not behind at all, I can also up my expectations to a level that feels better to me and looks much better to others...

07-01-2011, 07:40 PM
For me hearing the "arguments" from both extremes helps me clarify for *myself* what I am trying to do and why, plus I'm always open to adjusting my course. I agree that most folks will listen to both sides and then forge their own path somewhere down the middle. :) I'm frequently adapting my technique based on the ever-changing needs of my kiddos, so I don't think there's even a "right" way for a given child -- it's a moving target, which you don't realize until a few shots miss. :p

Stella M
07-01-2011, 07:55 PM
Oh yes, we've had more than a few shots miss here :)

Kylie, something else that helps me mange the crazy is to not give equal weight to each subject.

For example, with dd12, this year has been all about maths. And getting her to acknowledge that if you don't punctuate, people think you're stupid :) For dd13 it's been about starting essays and consolidating her maths skills. For ds, it's about reading, reading, reading. It's not like we don't do other subjects, it's just that I don't worry too much about getting through a huge pile of content. So skills over content makes life more manageable here.

If a classical approach is important to you, obviously my approach isn't going to work.

07-01-2011, 08:25 PM
Thanks Melissa the survival approach is important to me right now and at least looking like my kids are getting some type of education!!!

This too is why I love these discussions and especially on here. Everyone is quite open, honest and frank about where they have been, where they are and where they are heading.

It really helps, when you are in a place that you aren't so comfortable in.

I know I need to chill and I have tried, with relaxing on the number of days we do do school, or doing some work when dads home, but then on those days I push to get in as much as we can...catch 22!!

DS is loving MTH books, he's playing on the website and that thread about currclick and MTH stuff got me thinking. Rather than trying to get him to read other things, I think I just need to go with him, provide him with more MTH activities and let him run with it.....after all they do cover such a wide variety of topics.

Trying very hard to throw all my agendas out the door....I can do this, I am getting better at doing it, baby steps, baby step...oops sorry just talking to myself there ;-)

07-01-2011, 08:29 PM
I am child-led and for us that has meant late rather than early because I don't really force anything and neither of mine has shown much interest in things too early. That said, my second is definitely going to be doing actual work for Kindergarten because he wants to. My oldest didn't do anything for kindy, I didn't have any books or curriculum that we had to get through and we just did whatever she wanted. That whole year was mainly play based. My son though, because he sees his sister with her ability to read and write, he really really wants to do school, he's so excited about it it's really cute. It's what he wants so we will do it. I see this whole topic and all 3 threads going on it one of my favorite things about home schooling. The ability to see your childs needs and meet them in the way you think is best fit for them is really the whole point, isn't it? It's my #1 reason for home schooling I think!

07-01-2011, 10:14 PM
My kids are pretty young so to an extent I take my cues from them - ds would only be entering kindergarten this year if he was going to school (late August birthday) and dd is just turning 4 so I don't feel any pressure at all for them to be at a certain level.

My son had a very early fascination with letters and numbers so reading and math are both coming pretty easily to him (he's about 1st grade level in reading and math). I have some programs that we use (ETC, OPGTR, AAS, MM) but I'm fairly relaxed on how much we do and I try to include lots of fun games, messy crafts and field trips. He is leaning toward the "better early" since he has a strong desire to read everything and loves to play around with numbers.

My youngest on the other hand, is leaning toward "better late". She has little to no interest in doing any kind of structured work. She likes to play with unifix cubes, a balance scale, an abacus, the HWT word letter pieces but has little interest in being shown anything with them - she has her own ideas how to play with them and that's all she's interested in. She knows all her letters and letter sounds and recognizes numbers and can count to about 15 (mostly thanks to the Cartoon Road to Reading). At this point I just concentrate on doing lots of reading aloud (and hope she's paying some small bit of attention) and let her play with things however she wants so at least I have some time to work with ds. As she gets older, I'm sure it's going to get harder to continue with a relaxed attitude but I'm going to try real hard to not push her to do things before she's ready.

07-01-2011, 11:47 PM
I do not fit into any of these groups...not early, not late, and not child-led.

I do not see value in "academics" for 3 and 4 year olds unless the child has shown an interest in letters/numbers/reading/writing/spelling etc on their own. I do not think it is necessary for parents or preschools to begin pushing very young kids toward these. I also have two kids who were both nowhere near ready to begin reading or writing during the preschool-age years. DS1 had undiagnosed vision and visual processing problems which were severe. DS2 has fine motor delays, and was really not interested until recently in understanding written words, phonics and spelling. Pushing either of them to begin to read and write at these ages could have had really negative results.

However I also would not be comfortable waiting beyond age 6 to initiate something in this area. With both I waited until age 5.5 to start to do it at home, although they both had opportunities earlier (if they were interested) through educational videos and fun, no-pressure classes through our park district. I read about kids who are left alone to "wait until they are ready to read and write" until age 8 or beyond. I am so very thankful I did not fall into this, because DS1's problems would not have been discovered and treated if I had followed the advice to not push him at all. We would have been waiting pretty much forever for him to be ready, because he was never going to be ready without some very intensive help, and he could never have been able to complete the therapy under his own motivation. It was very hard work and he needed to be pushed and pulled through it. He did not enjoy it but is happy now that he has made so much progress. I understand that for some kids things don't really start to click and work together until age 8 or so, but I don't see any reason not to begin helping them do what they can in this area while waiting for that to happen. Some progress is better than none and whatever they did at the start will be built on later. IMO a typical 6 yo is well beyond their preschool days and can handle some adult guidance toward at least the 3Rs.

I do not think kids who are not yet reading need to be challenged in the areas of history, geography, or science. This goes against most of the "how to homeschool" books I have read, so I don't read them anymore. IMO those subjects can be for interest-generation only until the kid can do some of their own reading. There is plenty of time to accumulate knowledge in these areas and it can be done so much faster once the person can read. But getting behind in the 3Rs is hard to deal with if there are learning challenges. In order to help DS1 with his vision therapy, reading, writing and math, I chose not to take time away from working on the 3Rs to cover these other areas. Now that he is reading and making progress in writing and math, I will have him use these to explore these other areas.

07-02-2011, 12:07 AM

My DD read every single MTH book and still gets excited when a new one comes out and she still sits and rereads the ones we own. IMO, they served a purpose (my agenda <g>)-- they got her excited about reading. Now, she reads all sorts of classics and varied/quality books. So, maybe you don't have to abandon your agendas, just tweak them a bit, and yes, I think you're right to run with it when the kiddo gets excited about something. :) They do expose the kids to a lot of different cultures and things. DD didn't really take to the MTH nonfiction guides, but I tired to pick up some interesting nonfiction books on related topics to "have around" and even tied in a few NOVA programs.

Dcs are really digging designing and making solar cookers for s'mores. That's...um...science, right? :D

07-02-2011, 02:44 AM
Laundry crisis I'm with you on nonreaders and the extra subjects, but I guess that is always going to be a personal opinion!

Catinthesun, he loves the books but wants nothing more. I told him about the lap books ( I was very casual about it) and suggested I could buy a couple if he was interested....but no. I left it at that, just told him that was fine and walked away....ok I had to talk to myself whilst I was walking away, telling myself to just let it go, but I did, I didn't nag or ask why, I simply let it go! Can I give myself a pat on the back now heheheh

Crabby Lioness
08-30-2011, 02:36 PM
I guess you could say I'm child-lead. I was planning to unschool and let the children "pick up" reading on their own until my then-3yo stood up on my lap, put her hands on my shoulders, and screamed, "TEACH ME TO READ!"

You can't get a more direct child-lead directive than that. It eventually moved us from unschooling to Classical. My kids are high-energy, and they start fussing if I don't have something for them to do. I honestly fear that without direction they'd take the walls apart just to see how they were built.

08-30-2011, 03:25 PM
A good deal of the time learning to read is going to be child-led, regardless of what a parent tries to do. So why push it or slow it down? I don't see the point of homeschooling if you're not at least going by your child's "cues" as Farrar said.

08-30-2011, 06:40 PM
this is interesting to me because DS is voracious about starfall right now. I was on the computer researching stuff and happened to come across it. he caught me looking at some of the alphabet stuff and he has been hooked ever since. I'm so scared to let him be. I don't know if I should have let him see it. he loves it though, absorbing everything like a sponge so I guess it is child led (I don't sit him at the computer, he comes and pushes me away HAHA). He was diagnosed with a speech delay at 2 yrs (receptive skills were what worried me the most) and I was leery about letting him play on the computer/watch TV because I thought that was what was causing it. on the contrary, he's made HUGE strides in 4 months verbally and I realized how important this concept of child led learning must be. I have this feeling he knows its how he wants to learn. still I find myself doubting. its hard to put trust in yourself to trust your child who is only 30 months old to see if he learns.