Tornados and Sponges

By Raylene M. Hunt


“We’re planning on homeschooling and I was wondering if you could make a curriculum recommendation for my 2 (or 3 or 4 or 5 or 6 year old)?”  I can’t tell you how many times I get asked this question as a veteran homeschooling mom and early childhood educator. 


My serious answer is, “I can’t.”  I can’t in good conscience suggest anything formal that is going to require your young children to go against the nature of who they were created to be.  God created them to be explorers and discoverers. This is why I feel that homeschooling is the most effective and least restrictive learning environment for all children, but especially those under eight years old.


I like to use this picture to help parents understand.  Children are a lot like tornados – at least mine were.  They were always moving.  Their path was never really predictable. They were picking things up as they went, carrying them awhile, setting them down somewhere else.  Sometimes they left chaos in their wake.  It was natural.  They gravitated toward things they were interested in.  They invested themselves in those areas.


Institutional education settings are not equipped to deal with tornados of any size.  They like sponges.  Quiet, conforming, absorbing sponges are what they can handle.  They put out the required information and expect the sponge to absorb it.  Then they test the sponge (give it a squeeze and see what comes out) to make sure they actually absorbed what they were supposed to.


The challenge comes when they attempt to turn our precious tornados into sponges.  It’s not an easy task, but they are dedicated and persistent.

When parents make the choice to homeschool, I assume that it’s because they believe the institutional approach isn’t working or isn’t best for their child.  Yet, the first thing parents do (and I did this myself) is recreate that model in their home.  Then they wonder why it isn’t working.  I answer questions like this often, “How do I get my 6 year old son to sit and do school work?”  I don’t know.  I don’t know how to harness a tornado.  I generally suggest shorter more focused lesson times that last one minute for each year of age.  I also suggest, that maybe, just maybe the child isn’t ready yet.  


My greatest encouragement for parents is this, “It’s okay to let them play.”  Really, they are learning. They are exploring and discovering every single moment they are awake.  You cannot stop a child from learning.  You can try, like the schools try to harness tornados.  


Now that the weather is getting nicer, I recommend a “curriculum” steeped in lots of outside exploration.  If you need more information or would like specific ideas, please don’t hesitate to contact me at


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