At What Age Should You Begin Homeschooling Your Child?

By Melissa Batai

I’m an English major, and I didn’t learn to read until the first semester of first grade. At that age, for me, learning to read was easy and something I enjoyed. I’d argue that’s because I was the prime age when children are developmentally ready to learn to read—between 6 and 7 years old. However, our current educational system thinks doing everything earlier is better. I disagree. Luckily, as homeschoolers, we get to choose which age we will begin our child’s education.

At What Age Should You Begin Homeschooling Your Child?

The easiest determination is to look at your state’s guidelines and determine at which age you’re required to begin homeschooling your child. These vary widely among states.

For instance, in the state I reside, Arizona, children are required to attend school beginning in the year they turn six. However, if parents want to homeschool, they have the option to file an affidavit and say they don’t want to start educating their child until the year the child turns eight.

However, in Pennsylvania, which is known to have the strictest homeschool laws within the United States, a child must begin their education by age six and remain in school through age 18 or until graduated.

Why Should You Delay Your Child’s Education?

There are several reasons to delay your child’s formal education:

Childhood Only Happens Once

Childhood only happens once. Your child will be engaged in formal learning for years to come. Right now, let him tromp through rain puddles, play with trucks, and run around. Let her play with siblings and try to catch lightning bugs and enjoy the swing set. As Fred Rogers (aka Mr. Rogers) said, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”

Early Learners Don’t Retain an Advantage

Statistically, early learners don’t retain the academic advantages they enjoy in the early years of life. In fact, children who start later often catch up and surpass their peers. Why? Because when they started learning at seven or eight, they were ready, and learning was easier for them because they were also more mature.

Less Pressure Means More Enjoyment of Learning

Finally, if students start school later, they often face less pressure than younger children who are forced to learn to read at four or five before they are physically and emotionally ready. Because school, then, isn’t fraught with so many emotions like anxiety, later learners tend to enjoy learning more.

What Can You Do Instead?

If you choose not to begin your child’s formal homeschool education at the typical preschool or kindergarten age, there are many things you can do instead.

Play and Explore

As mentioned above, play is essential for a young child’s development. Give your child ample time to play. Go on nature walks. Let your child help you when you’re cooking in the kitchen. Give her plenty of time to create art with paints and clay. Provide as many hands-on opportunities as you can. Go to hands-on science museums.

Read Aloud

In addition, one of the best things you can do for your young children is to read to them—frequently. Experts recommend reading aloud to your child at least 15 minutes per day. I’d recommend even more than that! Reading helps strengthen your child’s vocabulary, attention span, and connection between the written and spoken word.

My daughters have dyslexia (though we didn’t know that until they were well beyond the age when most kids learn to read). I always read aloud to them, sometimes for an hour a day in addition to listening to audio stories. When my 8-year-old began reading therapy, her tutor was amazed that even though she couldn’t read at all on her own, she had a vocabulary far beyond her years. I accredit this to all of the time we spent reading aloud. The same effect will likely happen with your young children.

When my girls were young, we enjoyed using Sonlight’s Preschool program, which is almost entirely excellent read aloud selections. If you don’t want to buy a curriculum, Sonlight’s catalog is an excellent resource to find quality read aloud books to borrow from the library.

Final Thoughts

If you’re the parents of a young child that you plan to homeschool, take your time. I see so many eager parents writing in Facebook groups that their child is two and they want to start homeschooling him. Which curriculum should they choose, they ask?

To that, I always say, slow down. Let your child be a child. Give your kids plenty of opportunity to play, and spend plenty of time snuggled together on the couch reading aloud a good book. These years are fleeting, and all too soon it will be time for formal education. For now, let them play.