On all my homeschooling boards and even some of my favorite blogs that appears to be the $64,000 question.
On Doc's Sunrise Rants the topic of pre-school is brought up. This is a topic that I get very excited over. I don't believe you should 'do school' with preschoolers. I don't feel that it would be beneficial. I think that the most important thing for that age group is play. Have them help you in the yard, in the kitchen or even doing the laundry. Read to them, color with them, sing with them and just BE with them. Our society tends to make kids grow up sooner than they should. There is a lot to be said for letting kids be kids. John Holt has a great book called Learning All the Time. Here is a summary of the book. The late Dr. Raymond Moore wrote a book Better Later Than Early. It is one of my favorite books. I tend to follow that 'school of thought'. I don't really 'do school' until the age of 8. Why? Because I think kids need to be kids.
I think, no I know that kids benefit from this. How? By watching my own children. My oldest was one that I started schooling early..age 6 1/2. He was ready. HE wanted to read. So I taught him to read. He took to it like a fish in water. Now at age 9 we are really starting to do math and science formally. I didn't do it before. He was too wrapped up in reading. I didn't push, he has a love of reading that I wish every kid would have. My youngest son is now 8. He is just now starting to get ready to 'do school'. If I had pushed Tracker to do it sooner it would of been disastrous. That is not saying that he didn't learn anything before now. He has the ability to do amazing mental math..how? why? Because he was by Dad's side as he worked on woodworking projects. He can identify tracks that I can't even find in the woods? Why because that is one of his loves. He was allowed to follow his interests. He was allowed to be a kid. Now my daughter is almost 6 and begging to do school. I have not started anything yet. She has workbooks that she can do if she likes, but she isn't required to do them. She picked them out. She wanted to do them. She chooses to be with the boys while are at the table doing their school work. She will also color pictures of topics that we are discussing. She will play on the computer or watch some videos on United Streaming.
On Mom is Teaching she has a great post How Do You Know?. She wanted to know how you 'found the way'. I found it to be a very thought provoking post. I had to think about whether or not I have 'found the way'. I don't think that I have yet. One of the greatest things of homeschooling is if it doesn't work for your child you can try something else. You aren't stuck using the same approach if it doesn't work. You can try and try and try until you find that perfect fit.
In my response to the above post I compared homeschooling to a challenging puzzle. I am talking about those 1000 piece puzzles. You start putting this puzzle together piece by piece. You spend lots of time wondering if this or that piece will fit. You keep trying different pieces until you find the correct one. When you find that piece of the puzzle and the little light bulb pops there is no greater reward.