When I originally set out to write this post, I had intended to address parents who wanted to try out homeschooling, starting with not sending their kids to Kindergarten. However, that post basically transformed into more of an intro to homeschool post. So I wanted to come back and talk solely about what’s probably the most nervewracking step for first time homeschoolers, and that is Kindergarten.
For some reason, eventhough we may have memories of a funner more paint fueled K, today K is seen as the end all be all beginning of childrens’ academic careers. If they can’t fit in and excel in K, will they ever excel in life?! The horrors!
But here’s the thing, what kids do at this age actually is really important, and it has not a damn thing to do with academics! I think many of us remember the tongue in cheek poster about “Everything I Need to Learn About Life I Learned in Kindergarten.” Remember? Do you remember reading or math being on there? If your child doesn’t learn how to read by age 5, as is essentially required by Common Core, do you really think they are going to be a failure as an adult?
Here’s the thing, the homeschool community actually knows that children don’t read on average by age 5. I would say the average age is more like 8. Interestingly, that’s the age when children developmentally change and develop a love of learning new things. My oldest child happened to start reading by 5 1/2, but that was more a matter of her biology than anything to do with me. And as I think parents of new readers can attest, once they figure out how to learn, and their sense of wonder is fostered, they just take off from there! However, if you are stuck in the paradigm that society forces down our throats that children MUST ready by the end of K, you will likely be feeling very down on yourself, and likely your child, all because of a fabricated non-evidence based standard.
See, for example, the following quotations from the Peter Gray article posted above:
I teach kindergarten for 11 more days. What we are doing to the 4-6-year-old kids in this country is absolutely unethical and inappropriate. Any professional educator who truly understands how children develop—academically, cognitively, socially, emotionally—will stand up against the travesty that reformers refer to as “rigor”. Kids do NOT need to be reading by the end of kindergarten. (If they can, GREAT!) They do NOT need to be solving paper-and-pencil equations. They do NOT need to be doing “academic” workstations. They DO need to be playing, painting, building, creating, interacting with books, listening to stories, singing songs, taking field trips, playing pretend, exploring, etc. … I am leaving kindergarten, but I will be fighting for early childhood so that I can eventually go back to kindergarten. But I refuse to be part of something so dangerous to our young children.
The system as a whole is broken; it is why I left the profession. Truth is, most school districts, at least the one’s I have worked in in America, do not use scientific evidence or best practices to teach kids. They instead use the next fad that comes along, “Common Core” being the latest debacle, from government bureaucracy because it comes with money or grants from the state or federal govt. and then test these kids to death until they hate school, hate learning, and wish nothing more than to get out because the ones that already are disadvantaged never measure up and continuously keep seeing their failures rather than their strengths.
Just reading that is depressing! I wouldn’t want to be caught dead in a current day classroom where instead of reading books about enjoyment, we have to worry whether the 4 and 5 year olds know what an author and illustrator are. Lunacy!
However, because Kindergarten is so hyped up, it usually freaks parents out to think that they might some how ruin it for their kids. And I would say this impetus is usually the strongest with your oldest child, because you really don’t want to screw them up because then what will happen to the rest of your kids and AHHH OMG! I can’t do this!
You can do this!
Here’s how you homeschool Kindergarten:
- Go to the park!
- Go to the Science Museum! (Many libraries offer free passes! Or you can have family purchase memberships as a holiday gift.)
- Go to the zoo!
- Make playdough! (There’s only like 5 million recipes on Pinterest, and that’s probably close to accurate).
- Read books! It’s funny because every child is so different. For example, my almost 6 year old hated audio books for the longest time! She would literally yell, “Turn this off I HATE it!” any time I put one on. Any one, she was not selective. Then, one day, we were listening to Story of the World, and they were talking about how the Chinese accidentally discovered gun powder, and I looked in the rear view mirror to see her eyes wide open, and then she repeated “it exploded!” Both she and my 4 year old like to physically hold the stack of books they want me to read until I have read them all. We go to the library on average twice a week. Librarians at several different branches know my kids. My 7 year old can now put books on hold on the computer, and I get emailed when they are ready!
- Play games!
- Go on a hike! Collect cool stuff, talk about what you are seeing, breathe in the fresh air! Charlotte Mason has some really compelling stuff about having children “in nature” on a daily basis. It’s how we got started on that path, though of course it has taken some twists and turns since then.
- Make recycled crayons! If you’re a homeschooler, you probably have approximately 1 billion crayons in your house
- Visit relatives! One of the best aspects of homeschooling is the flexibility. Take your kids to see their great grandparents. Have them paint something together, or help dig a hole in the backyard. There are magical experiences to be had!
Look at how well our Hannukah Ginger Bread House turned out!
- Go to the ocean!
- Go on a factory tour! We have toured the jelly belly factory, and have big plans for nearby chocolate and sourdough factories! Some factories have minimum age requirements. There’s also a sticker factory we haven’t yet had a chance to tour!
- Go to a farm! When my oldest was K age, we went to see a backyard honey bee/chicken farm.
- Volunteer! Our local homeschool 4H had a creek cleanup, 5 year olds can help clean up garbage! Or help paint a fence. Or help you collect outgrown clothes and toys to donate.
- Get a penpal! This was one of the coolest things we did this year. My 5 year old is not a prolific writer, so I helped her. She will get there, but for now she was elated to think of her penpals in Massachusetts, Idaho, Florida, New York, Michigan, and all the other places I can’t remember! In fact, this fall we are doing an exchange of nature items across country! I can’t wait!
- Snap circuits, or Lego, or whatever– build something. It’s fun
- Tour a college! Any college. Yours, or not. They have cool bookstores, and a cafeteria! Plus lots of space to run around. It’s cool.
- Visit a historical landmark— like your state capitol if it’s close, or if it’s not, plan a trip! I’m hoping to tour all the Missions in California when my kids are older!
- Go to the forest! It’s simply magical. Especially to be amongst the Redwoods.
- Go to the teacher’s store! Let your child pick out whatever they want, within your budget. On such trips in the past, my kids picked out a pocket microscope, a rock excavating kit, scratch & sniff stickers, a model solar system, a $100 bill eraser, etc. When learning is fun for them, they will always want to learn and do more.
- Grow something!
Check this out, we got some milkweed plants to try and help save the Monarch butterflies, and what we got instead were hundreds of lady bug eggs, larvae, then ladybugs! All for just planting them into the raised planter beds!
- Build a structure out of sticks! Or whatever! My kids LOVE doing this. In fact, every time we go to a certain fort, they sprint to the pile of branches to get to work.
- Strew, Strew, Strew! This is one of my absolute favorite things ever. Basically, trying new experiences or leaving out cool things to show your kids what’s out there. It’s just so fun! It’s even more interesting to see what catches your child’s interest. I love seeing how my childrens’ likes and dislikes differ, eventhough they all come from the same mom and dad 🙂
- Do living math! One of the most intuitive arguments for certain schools of thought in the homeschool community, is that it is harder for children to conceptualize things in the abstract, especially when it comes to math. Have you child weigh the apples before you buy them. Help them figure out how much they will cost based on that weight. Give them a bunch of snacks and help them figure out how much everyone will get. This is how they will not only “get it” but what is actually relevant in their everyday lives right now. More advanced concepts will come with time, and if you follow their lead, with increased interest in mastering new skills.
The point is, Kindergarten should be fun! I strongly ascribe to the educational philosophy that the most important thing you can teach your child is to love learning. It’s not about whether they memorize certain facts for a limited period of time. Rather, it’s about finding those things that make their heart sing and light their fires of passion to blaze their own trails.
I fervently believe that every child has their own inner genius, and it’s up to parents to help cultivate it, or not. So let your child build their 70th fairy house, or take apart their 20th car! Let them check out 10 books about horses, or only about super heros! They are new to everything, and you are their tour guide! How fun! You can do this, you know you can!
I was going back through and looking at pictures for things to add, and it just brings a huge smile to my face to think about everything we’ve been able to do thanks to homeschooling, and I know you can get there too, if you want!
Typo disclaimer: sorry if I have any!