Delaying Formal Education {Why I Don’t Push School Before Age 8}

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Hezekiah (4) and Tucker (3). Oh my goodness….look at those little boys! They were all dressed up for Church on a Sunday morning…how I miss those two but at the same time am madly in love with the five and six-year-old boys they’ve become!

Tucker, age two, carefully colors in the lines.

What does it mean to delay formal education?

Blog reader, Melissa asked this question about homeschooling: I’d love to know more about delayed education. How long do you wait? What are the benefits of it? What subjects do you start with when they do begin formal schooling? What results have you seen personally? I am homeschooling my 3rd grader, 2nd grader, and 1st grader, but I am thinking about delaying my 4yo. I’d love to learn more about this. Thanks! 

Much like my post on attachment parenting, “delaying formal education” looks different to different people. I first heard of the idea from Raymond and Dorothy Moore’s book Homegrown Kids. I recommend this book to every parent, whether you plan to homeschool or not. The book is not about homeschooling as much as about how important the first eight or so years are and how important good food, rest, and physical exertion is for growing bodies. Dr. Moore goes into the science and research about why four, five, six and even seven-year-olds should not spend hours a day on “formal” learning. But enough about Dr. Moore, let me tell you what this means in our house.

These kids haven't been hindered by delaying formal education.

How does delaying formal education look in our home?

To me, the idea of delaying formal learning means a child is not compelled to sit and do daily school work before the age of eight or so.

Now, this doesn’t mean I just ignore them and then sit them down on their eight birthdays to “start school”. In our home, everyone has been reading by the age eight, some as early as four. If the child shows an interest in learning to read (which they all have) then we sit down and work through Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. We may do one lesson a day, ten lessons a day, or three a week. I take the signal from my child. I keep going if they are enjoying it and stop when they aren’t.

After weeks of begging for a math book Tucker, age five, is halfway through this book. He even chants “one two three four I like math lets do some more!” Now obviously I’m not going to deny him the joy of math because he’s only 5 and I believe in “delayed formal reading”! The thing is he grabs his book if he feels like using it and is never, ever compelled to do it for “school”.

Delaying formal education is a foundation in our homeschool environment.

What our school routine looks like while delaying formal education.

Our school routine begins with reading a book aloud (right now Gregor the Overlander). Everyone participates in this. After we’re finished reading aloud we do science or History three days a week. These classes are done as a group, but completely optional for my little ones. After that, everyone begins their independent work (handwriting,  English, Spanish, etc). If Hezekiah, Avi, and Tucker feel like doing reading lessons or math we do, otherwise, they are free to play.

This year Mordecai and Jubilee are both eight, so they are required to do daily assignments. They both have handwriting and math. Mordecai is still learning to read, so we do lessons. Jubilee also has vocabulary and geography. The actual work takes her less than an hour a day.

I have blogged plenty in the past about having a prepared environment for my little ones. That way there are always age appropriate and challenging activities for them. We stick to a familiar routine of meals, rest, and work. The little ones always work alongside us and are involved in cooking, cleaning, etc, which is, of course, an education in itself.

And to head off the next question, by age ten or so all of our children have scored at or above average in standardized testing, so obviously this method hasn’t hindered them in any way!

Updating this post six years after I originally wrote it, I can say this method works! Our oldest three kids have earned AA degrees from the community college simultaneously with their high school diplomas (our next two in line are currently doing the same thing). Judah graduated university at age 17 with a degree in Law and Justice and minor in Spanish. He landed a job with the State Patrol just weeks after his 20th birthday.

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7 thoughts on “Delaying Formal Education {Why I Don’t Push School Before Age 8}”

  1. So how do you do testing? Are you able to administer them because you have a degree? Or do they go to a center to be tested? I went to the local public school as a homeschooled kid and tested, which was fine, but we are using BJU because my husband has his bachelor deg and can give the kids the IOWA test.

  2. I love your prepared environment. I have been reading the books by Lillard and Polk about the Montessori Method and have tried to follow and teach about some of her methods as used in a large family homeschool. It was inspiring to see your photos and will help me work on repairing my “prepared environment”.

  3. Hezekiah always amazed me, it feels like I’m looking at the face of someone older then I am. Like Yoda with better hair.
    And speaking of hair I adore Tucker’s baby hair. My second boy had hair like that and it was agony to cut it but I was so tired of being complimented on how beautiful my daughter was.

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