Hi. My daughter is turning 3 in two weeks. Yes she is only 3 but I am thinking of myself as an unschooler so as not to allow myself to be fooled into the ideology that 3 year olds must attend preschool/ learn to write letters etc. This is common place where I live.
I intend to unschool when she is school aged.
The issue is that she is so very smart that I don't know what to do. For example: Do I teach her to read if she wants to do it? (Or am I doing that already by reading to her a lot?" She likes to "read" her Frog and Toad books but of course she has memorized them. She gets so excited and says , " Mommy, I can read! " I don't want to ruin her joy of reading by teaching her something that wouldn't be fun for her. At this point she asks me as we go through our day, " Mommy, what does car start with etc.?" She came up with this on her own after singing the Cookie Monster song in a Sesame Street book she has. She doesn't know what letters are what except for a few like O and S and M and I really don't care about that.
She is very curious about numbers and will say things like " Two halves makes one", or " Two and two makes four". Mostly she learned this from helping me cut up fruit.
She highly enjoys puzzles and games. She makes up her own rules for all of the games and teaches them to me.
How can I keep stimulating her without actually pushing her? It annoys me to know end that family think that I should teach her certain things simply because she is capable of learning them. Yes she is smart. Of course she could learn to recognize all her letters and numbers. But what would be the real value at this point? My mom for example is annoyed that I don't teach her the rules to Candyland or Domino build.
She knows other things that other little kids don't know or ask about. Because she asks me about 900 questions a day and I answer them. Some I have to answer later because I don't know the answer. Lately her questions have been about animals, " Why are owls nocturnal?" and " Can squirrels swim?" oh ...and " Why does are food turn into poop?" LOL She is especially determined to tell all the kids she meets that I have a baby in my uterus and that it is going to come out of a special opening that can stretch wide to let a baby through.
As far as play.....she mostly enjoys to play with her wooden train set, duplo blocks, and cars. Her true love is to be outside. She has gotten over her sensory fear of sand and now loves to dig. We have a water table and she also loves her trike and scooter. She especially loves going on walks in the forest to find "creatures". Daily trips to the duck pond to see the new babies are in order but I have a hard time keeping up with her active play needs as I also have a 19 month old with special needs and I'm 6 months pregnant.
IF she seems interested in learning letters and numbers, or learning to read, is there a downside to teaching her? The value is to indulge and encourage her curiosity, and to help her gain positive kinds of independence. I have found that encouraging kinds of independence that don't involve the risk of fire or physical injury makes it easier for my kids to cope with rules about where they can go without an adult, and who is allowed to push the buttons on the microwave.
Additionally, reading is an activity I enjoy, that has enriched my life and made me happy. I teach my kids in the hopes that it will do the same thing for them. If they seem interested, I am absolutely not going to hesitate - reading = happy! - but if they get bored or antsy or overwhelmed, we'll put it down and come back some other time.
The downside to teaching her the rules to Candyland is that then you'd have to play Candyland. If "family" is interested in that, there's no reason they can't teach her, and then play the interminable, boring game with her themselves.
It sounds like you've been doing fine so far. Kids are little learning machines. You don't need to "stimulate" them: the world around them fires up their curiosities, and they ask questions, they explore and learn. Just as your dd has shown you. My eldest began reading around 39 months; my other kids at various ages from 3-5. I didn't need to actively teach them by organizing a program of instruction, planning, enriching, stimulating, actively facilitating. I don't see any particular value in learning to read at 3 rather than 6, so I simply let my children lead the process by exploring and asking questions. That's unschooling. I've never understood why learning needs to drastically switch gears simply because children are getting close to learning to read. It's simply not been my experience that this is necessary or desirable.
Mountain mama to three great kids and one great grown-up
This has been my experience too. My son started reading on his own without any trouble-- I always read to him a lot (and still do) and we have a house full of books (because that's just me), but other than that I didn't do anything to teach him to read. I see the same thing happening with other areas of learning-- writing, spelling, math... He isn't necessarily learning things in the same order or on the same schedule as schooled kids but he's learning all the time. Curiosity is a great thing.
As far as active play, yeah-- it is hard to keep up with a 3 year old and I can't imagine doing it pregnant and with a toddler along! Mine is an only child and kept me plenty busy... Are there other kids around that she can play with sometimes to give you a break? When my son was 2-3ish we had a group of kids and moms that met up twice a week, taking turns to host, and the kids would play and we'd get to drink coffee and chat. It gave me some adult company and gave my son some fun play times with different toys and in different sandboxes ;).
Writing, reading, unschooling.
She tends to not like play groups. She is not shy, but she doesn't like groups. She does well with 1 or 2 playmates but the trouble is that most of my friend's kids are very high energy where as she is tired after an hour and they don't tend to get along well because of that.
If you want to avoid getting into a lot of letters and numbers stuff yet, focus more on sharing with her stories and procedures for games, crafts, and housework. But if you don't mind indulging her when she asks for lessons,you can tell her what letter this and that are, and the sounds letters make, and quiz each other what letter does this word start with, end with, maybe even vowel sounds and for example is there an "a" or an "e" in "bed". And have her tell you how many things are in this pile, and how many if you add this pile and this pile together, or play games and count the dots on the pair of dice. That's the stuff my 3 year old has been doing. He also brings me paper and pencil and says "make me some schoolwork" sometimes I'll write some letters for him to copy or things for him to count, if I don't he'll make a worksheet for me to do instead. I'm no unschooler but I normally wouldn't ask them to do lessons until age 5.5, so I only do that stuff with my 3 y.o. when he insists on it.