Talking About Kindergarten – Curriculum and How It All Worked Out

talking about kindergarten

We are in our third week of FIRST GRADE. This is a new beginning of our home education journey and I am super excited for this homeschool year. Before I get into our choices for Elle’s first grade year, I’ll tell you a little about how the last school year went.

Kindergarten was planned with Logic of English Foundations A and B, Kindergarten Singapore Math, and Five in a Row. My plan (which we all know that plans rarely pan out as intended) was to gently school with short lessons of phonics and math everyday. In addition, a book would be read with directed learning activities from the FIAR volumes that would cover us in Geography, History, Citizenship, Science, and Art. We would read our Bibles, use Kids of Integrity for character building, go outside for Physical Education, and go on field trips.

I love Logic of English but some days it was quite difficult to do the whole lesson. It was a short 30 minutes to complete – more on that in a bit – but somebody was usually upset by the end. We love Singapore Math but I learned early on that the lessons needed to consist of me instructing with manipulatives, and not going through the whole workbook.

FIAR lasted only half the year. The book is supposed to be read five days in a row, hence the name, but Elle hated that and we could never persevere through her resistance to reading multiple times. We typically read it two or three times but if the activity closely followed the reading then Elle wasn’t going for it. I think, unfortunately, it got in the way of her enjoyment of the story. It’s like in high school when you’re asked to over analyze a book and all it’s literary glory that the story becomes a chore and the beauty is stripped away. I know I probably would have enjoyed my assigned readings much more if we didn’t have to stop and talk about every little detail and answer a million little questions.

Consequently, Kindergarten was very gentle with phonics and math when we could get it in, and a lot of read alouds and a lot of outdoor play. There were a lot of field trips and play dates. And we just went about life. I guess it ended up being an eclectic year with a dash of unschooling sprinkled in.

Reflecting over the year I’m glad that I didn’t drive myself crazy to “get it all done.” I am more in the camp of no formal lessons are needed until age 6 or 7 or even age 8. Though I’m not completely there, I find value in the teachable moments of life, talking with and discussing things with my children. I want my children to learn through play, their imaginative play. I want them to observe and see the world around them. It’s probably social pressure that keeps me from completely crossing over into that camp.

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So, as Spring was approaching, you know, the time for Homeschool Conventions and planning out the next school year, I was knee deep in my research when I took a second look at Ambleside Online curriculum. This is a Charlotte Mason based curriculum which led me to begin (and I still am) learning so much more about exactly what entails a Charlotte Mason education.

Short lessons. Yes, sign me up. In the Charlotte Mason world for a 6 year old 10 to 15 minutes is a short lesson. Oh. No wonder the 30 minute phonics lessons weren’t working for us. Easy fix. We’ve continued the LOE Foundations program into first grade, with a few tweaks, and work for about 15 minutes. This has been much better for us.

The books in FIAR are amazing and not to be missed, but something was missing in this curriculum for us – joy. In a Charlotte Mason education children are presented with a “feast” of subjects but they are not told what to know. Children learn and make connections themselves based on their own relationship and experience with the material.

Looking back I realized that I was feeding the material to Elle, I was the middle man. Now that I’ve removed myself as the knowledge giver and I allow her to receive the information directly from the source, she doesn’t resist.

Implementing CM methods in these few short weeks of first grade have really made a difference and I am loving this approach more than I ever thought I would. The more I read, the more I delight in the education I can lay out for my children, that I certainly never received.

Are you making any changes this school year?

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Kindergarten Ready or Not?

Ah, the question that all parents ask: do I send my four going on five year old to kindergarten this year or next year? I was faced with this predicament last year with my then four year old daughter.

kindergarten

I had recently attended a homeschool convention in our area and was making preparations for the next school year. I get a little eager when it comes to planning. But the trouble for me was deciding on curriculum. There is a pretty big difference between what I deem appropriate for preschool and for kindergarten.

In my opinion, preschool is more relaxed and the most important thing is reading to my little ones, exploring, playing and talking to them about what they see and experience. In fact, I probably don’t “do” preschool the way a lot of other moms might. And I’m okay with that. My philosophy aligns with the adage that “play is the work of a child” (Maria Montessori). But, I digress, my education philosophies can be saved for another post.

Kindergarten is still a very playful and exploratory stage. However, learning to read and beginning to see math formally becomes important. I researched which curriculum I wanted to use and found a few that I really liked. I thought that they would be great for us to work through. Then it dawned on me… do I really need all this now?

My daughter is super smart. I know she wants to start to learn how to read. I think she would enjoy doing school. But there was still something in me that was asking if she was really ready. I found out that in our state (you can find your state’s cutoff date here), children who turn five after January 1st may go to kindergarten the following September. My daughter’s birthday is at the end of January so that would make her one of the oldest if she were to go to public school. Coincidentally, the state where I went to kindergarten, the rule was that children must be five on or before September 1st the year they begin kindergarten. My birthday is at the end of September, so I was one of the oldest kids in my class. By the time I was in high school I didn’t like being the oldest. I felt that I was behind the other kids, and that I should be smarter because I was older. I really let the age thing bother me; I carried that through college as I bounced from major to major. I thought that I was “running out of time” and that I was “too old” to still be in school (crazy, I know, but I let society dictate what I was supposed to be doing and that I didn’t “measure up”).

My experience influenced my thoughts about why I wanted to put my daughter in kindergarten “early.” I didn’t want her to compare herself to other kids her age and think that she wasn’t smart enough because she was a grade behind. I talked to my mom about whether she had a choice to start me “early” or not. The conversation was enlightening: she did have a choice and she was considering sending me when I was four about to be five. She had talked to a few other moms and found out that those who sent their child to kindergarten “early” regretted it. Some kids even repeated kindergarten. The moms who waited were glad. The decision came down to maturity.

child-reading

One teeny tiny year makes a big difference in maturity between a four and five year old. Attention span, self control, and emotional and social development change much in these years. A child is usually considered a “big kid” at five years old. They are showing greater independence and they begin to gain better control of their emotions.

It makes sense. Why push your child when they are not emotionally ready? I continued this conversation with my mother in law. She was saying the exact same things. I talked with friends who have kids who are only a year ahead of my daughter. They agreed with the maturity issue.

Finally, my hubby and I decided that we would wait. We are going with the state’s cutoff date. We don’t see the need to push our daughter at this stage in the game. It doesn’t mean that we won’t teach her certain things because it’s at a different grade level. It just means that childhood is such a short period of time. This is the time where we want to foster a love of learning. We want to make learning as natural as possible. And for us, a kindergarten curriculum at age four is simply too much.

Feel free to weigh in, what was your deciding factor for starting your child in kindergarten and at what age?

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