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

The amazing benefits of delaying formal education.
The benefits of delaying formal education.

I am a homeschool mom and I don’t push ANY formal schooling before age eight. Before you call the authorities, please read on and listen to my explanation.

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What Does it Mean to delay

Formal Education?

The amazing benefits of delaying formal education.

Years ago, when I casually mentioned delaying formal education, I was asked the following question: 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?

So, here it goes. To me, formal education means compelling a child to sit down and do educational activities. Those activities might include, handwriting practice, sight words, learning the letters of the alphabet, any and all worksheets.

Homegrown Kids: A Practical Handguide to Teaching Your Children at Home

The amazing benefits of delaying formal education.

I first heard of the idea of delaying formal education 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.

What Does Delaying Formal Education Actually Look Like?

Curly-haired toddler exporing the woods. Why I delay formal learning until age 8.

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 eighth birthday to “start school”. In our home, everyone has been reading by the age eight, some as early as age four. If the child shows an interest in learning to read (which mine 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 five and I believe in “delaying 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”.

What Delaying Formal Education Isn’t

Three brothers reading. 2017-2018 First day of school.

Delaying formal education doesn’t mean the kids run wild, have no routine or schedule, or call all the shots. It just means I don’t compel young children to do school work.

What About a School Routine?

Let your kids explore the world.

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 (6), Avi (5), and Tucker (5) 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 reading lessons. Jubilee also has vocabulary and geography. The actual work takes her less than an hour a day.

Having a Prepared Environment

Dissecting a lamb heart for our Halloween Science party.

I have written 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, work, and bedtime. 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. None of my kids have been “behind” as a result of this educational style.

Real-Life Results of Delaying Formal Education

Cadets lined up at Washington State Patrol graduation.

Now, half of my children are grown. How did delaying formal education affect them?

Iris graduated the month after her 18th birthday with a high school diploma and AA degree from our local community college. Her very first classroom experience was when she was 16 and took her first college classes.

Judah graduated with a high school diploma and AA degree at age seventeen. At age nineteen he graduated with honors, from Central Washington Univerity. At age 21 he became a Washington State Trooper.

Tilly graduated with her high school diploma and AA degree at age seventeen.

Enoch graduated with his high school diploma and AA degree at age eighteen. At twenty, he is in his senior year at Central Washington University, is an RA, and is paying his own way through college.

Kalina graduated with her high school diploma and AA degree at age eighteen. Just after her birthday, she became a certified Home Care Aid.

So, yes, our kids have done just fine despite delaying formal education.

My Advice on Delaying Formal Education

Percy examining doll during prenatal visit

As long as you provide a nurturing environment with a nurturing environment, provide stimulating experiences for your child, respond to their questions, and keep them by your side during your daily activities.

In a nutshell:

Skip the Toys– Your toddler doesn’t need them, I promise.

Teach Your Children Independence

Let Your Kids Fail

Read to Your Children

And if you are (like many of my friends) completely overwhelmed by the schedules your schools are sending home to your kids, feel free to skip some (or even all) of the activities. Your kids will be fine.

I promise.



  1. Jo

    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. Jennifer

    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. Rachel

    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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