Learn From My Preschool Mistakes; A Letter To Myself

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Dear Self,

I’m you, only I now have five years of homeschooling under my belt…plus six more kids…KIDDING! I’m here to set you straight, and save you from at least a million melt downs and a million preschool mistakes you can’t even fathom. I know what you’re doing and thinking. I know you’re not willing to listen to other moms with more experience because, “they don’t know what Addie is capable of” or “their kids are undisciplined” or “look, her seven-year old still can’t read Chaucer; who’s she to tell me anything?” But you need to listen to me.

Just because you’ve read ‘The Well Trained Mind’ and ‘Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum’ a thousand times doesn’t mean you’re Susan Wise Bauer or Laura Berquist. You already have the next 14 years of classical education mapped out in your head down to the hour, when all you really need is the ability to take it one day at a time and plan a few weeks in advance.

My advice to you as you attempt preschool.


-buy that $45 Pre-K lesson book. You’ll use it for three weeks before you realize you don’t need a book to tell you to read stories to your daughter, hand her coloring pages, crayons and counters.

-attempt to spend three to six hours a day “doing school.”It’s not defiance that’s making her get up and run around, it’s the fact that she’s a child. If she sits still for three or four 15-20 minute chunks spaced throughout the morning, you’ve done enough. By second grade, she’ll be sitting longer without so much as an eye roll. I promise.

-forget that’s she’s only four, and has the maturity of a four-year old. Just because she may cruise through the Pre-K numbers workbook doesn’t mean she’s ready to be pushed into the K Math book.

-stop in a the teacher supply store. It’s like heroin. Better not to start. Also, homeschool conferences are good. Buying all the preschool curriculum from every vendor just so you’re “prepared” is bad.

-assume she can write all her letters as well as she can identify and sound them out. Let her trace or scrawl them on blank paper to her  heart’s content. A sloppy letter A is a sloppy letter A, not her way of trying to ruin your morning, so don’t let it.

-start Latin. Seriously, it will go so much better if you just don’t even try it. Don’t worry, by fifth grade, she’s a pro.

-assume that teaching Bryon and Edie will be the same as teaching Addie. What’s working now may not work in the future and that’s okay. Be flexible and prepared to change materials to meet the needs of the kids. Forcing them into a program that doesn’t work wastes time and causes tears. Especially when you’ve spent $150 on some fancy pants preschool program at the teacher supply store/homeschool conference.

You know why you don’t see older homeschool moms with lots of kids stressing about PreK or kindergarten? Because there’s nothing there to stress about. Teaching algebra is stressful. Making sure your child can read, comprehend and write a paper about Shakespeare is stressful. I know mom’s who are losing their hair over college transcripts and you think you have the right to worry/complain about “Addie not working at grade level with her peers” if you purchase the wrong Hooked On Phonics edition?


If at any point you start getting angry, or Addie starts to cry or anyone mentions hating school, just stop for the day. If this becomes a regular occurrence, you need to reevaluate what you’re doing.

Here’s what you need to focus on.


-go to the library more and read more books. Don’t forget CDs of stories and music.

-select Pre-K level crafts and activities. Addie will honestly love it even if you think it is totally lame. I know you want to buy every product from the Illuminated Ink website but those projects are years off. Save yourself the frustration.

-plan more playdates with other moms. I know the apartment is small but choose nice days and stay outside. This is important for you as much as the kids.

-offer lots of praise on a job well done. Four year olds don’t need to be berated about school work; lazy high school students do.

-be a mom. Don’t become a different person when it’s school time. Your children don’t need a professor or 1950’s Catholic school nun; they just need you.

-warn Tony that things around the house will change. By adding the role of teacher to your jobs as mom and homemaker you will always struggle to find the right balance. He will come to see this himself in time and look for ways to help you. Never hold back your concerns from him. He wants you to succeed and he will help you set your priorities.

-be consistent in your discipline. You’re too strict with Addie and Byron, and Edie is getting away with murder. Sit down with Tony, set some clear, age appropriate rules and consequences and stick with them.Take care of it now or it will come back to bite you in the butt. I’ve got the teeth marks to prove it.

Despite lifes ups and downs, I’m still happy with our family’s decision to homeschool. We have the most wonderful children, and I’m confident homeschooling is helping them reach their full potential, despite my imperfections. Hang in there. I know you’ve got this.SaveSaveSaveSave


  1. ummm, the CIRCUIT! Yes. Do the Circuit. Read books. And you are done. This list really captures the theme of my conference talk, and the whole point of the Circuit.

  2. Thank you a millions times for this! I have 4 kids 5 yrs (almost 6), 3 yrs, 2yrs, & 2 months . I just started school in September with the oldest. After baby #4 it has ben hit or miss with accomplishing school…more miss than hit. I am having a hard time balancing homemaker, teacher, & wife. Your post made me feel so much better about the choice I’ve made to homeschool. I just need to be patient and pray more for patience!!! Haha!

    1. May I please have your address so that I can send you a dozen roses and several bottles of the liquor of your choosing for this gem????

      You have no idea how much I need this, I am just going to go ahead and bookmark it.

      Seriously: THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!

  3. Oh thank you – I’ve been trying to figure out how this whole homeschooling thing is going to work out (particularly since I’m teaching part-time so we can have health insurance…) and this really helps set realistic expectations. I’ve already been stressing far too much about how my 3-year-old stacks up to others and I forget that I just need to let him BE and develop at his own pace, we don’t need to worry about anything but social skills (and maybe not licking his sisters) for a while!

  4. I used to hyperventilate all the time that my kids weren’t at or above grade level in preschool-kindergarten-first grade. We’ve been homeschooling for 14 years now. They go at their own pace–they surge ahead or they catch up. And all of mine have been able to think, read, write, calculate and use the potty when they went out the door to college. Success!! Only 3 more to go……


  5. This post made me laugh out loud. I love your humor! I totally needed to hear this, too. I am a homeschooling mom of a 4 year old girl, with two other children aged 3 and 2. From what you said to your preschool-homeschooling self, my current homeschooling style sounds a lot like you back then! And your advice is really wonderful to hear. Thank you for making my day and giving me solid tips!

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