Homeschooling and Early Childhood: The Difficulty During the Magical Years

July, 2017

From knights to princesses, our younger children engage in numerous activities that involve imaginative-fantasy play, and sometimes they choose to do so during homeschool hours. Trying to hold your preschooler or kindergartener’s attention can be quite frustrating when they are in their fantasy world of make believe, especially when trying to start the homeschool day. Often your persistence that play time is over and that it is time to clean up- time for school- is met with heavy resistance. What a killjoy to begin the school day!

While reading articles regarding a child’s need for fantasy play, I came across an old article dating back to 1924. Although a long time ago, the author of the article understood this magical phenomenon and conveyed his thoughts so perfectly well that I decided it was a must to add to my blog. Stern (1924) asserted that created fantasy comes from within, an “inner working” and an escape from the “outer world”. He goes on to suggest that fantasy can never truly be created out of nothing, but must come from encounters or imageries a child has experienced, or at the very least has seen (Stern, 1924). Children will imitate, fantasize and create a nothing into something, which is rather quite remarkable, and will consider the imaginary object real. For instance, one child of mine uses a wooden fork as his sword, a cupcake holder as a shield, a hobby horse as his noble steed, and a magician cape as his musketeer cloak. He will gallop all throughout the house, lost within his own world. His world is now real. Now, trying to get him to come to the classroom and sit at his desk during these fantasy excursions is, at best, challenging. Even when he does listen, he carries some of his created world into the classroom. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking me to call him “cowboy” or “Darth Vader”, but other times I will have a very unfocused and impatient boy who would rather be everywhere else than in the classroom listening to his mother. The real he seeks is different than the real I am trying to teach him. Stern (1924) alluded to this concept, and highlighted that what is “Real” for children in early childhood is what is felt by the child, not necessarily real by conceptual means. Though Stern (1924) does suggest that if fantasy play becomes too real for a child, parents can change the child’s environment- bringing them into the classroom to teach vs. teaching in the play area- or offer another object of stimuli, such as a task to draw the child back to reality. Although we have frustrating moments during their imaginary play when they are supposed to be doing classwork, there is a simple, but relatively sad understanding; one day, a “natural end” to our children’s make believe will inevitably come (Stern, 1924). Now, that is a failing indeed.

-A.B. Salinas


Stern, W. (1924). Characteristics of fantasy in early childhood. 3rd ed. rev. and enlarged; psychology of early childhood: Up to the sixth year of age (3rd ed. rev. and enlarged). (3rd ed. rev. and enlarged ed., pp. 266-287, 557 Pages) Henry Holt and Co, Henry Holt and Co, New York, NY.