Typical kindergarten goals involve a list of math and reading standards. Those are worthwhile goals, but we had different ideas when we thought about what would be best for Noah as a 5 year old. These goals are what led us to homeschool.
Keep Noah learning
Fill his mind with information and experiences. Noah is happiest – and most at peace – when his mind is full. Whether it’s thinking about scientists’ experiments with hummingbirds or calculating the division of Chima characters in the Lego encyclopedia, Noah needs a mind constantly exploring ideas, not rote ABCs. We wanted to maintain an environment of continuous learning and stimulation for him.
Take a child-led, developmental approach.
Noah adds three digit numbers. That’s definitely good with us! Noah also knows his letter sounds, but he does not know letter names. We are just as good with that as with the math.
We cater to Noah’s strengths and gently address his weaknesses. This doesn’t mean that we don’t work on letters. It simply means that we work on them at a pace determined by Noah – and with the confidence that he will learn it when he is ready.
Create a relaxed learning environment
“We’re not trying to do school at home. We’re trying to do homeschool. These are two entirely different propositions. We’re not trying to replicate the time, style, or content of the classroom. Rather we’re trying to cultivate a lifestyle of learning in which learning takes place from morning until bedtime 7 days each week. The ‘formal’ portion of each teaching day is just the tip of the iceberg.” (Steve & Jan Lambert, Five in a Row)
It’s okay to take a break from reading and go build elaborate Lincoln Log forts for an hour. If Noah has math on his mind, we may do math four times in one day. We spontaneously discuss pandas and China throughout the week. Noah has no deadlines for learning anything. No pressure to keep up with any expectations.
Keep nature a regular part of his life
Nature soothes the soul. We can spend mornings at Humboldt Park observing the arrival of spring or at Grant Park listening to the waves roll in. We have the time to let it all soak in – and then the time to spend drawing pictures of all the birds in his nature notebook. Time in nature is, quite simply, vital to Noah’s well being.
Continue to address Noah’s healing gut
At the start of this school year, Noah’s gut condition was pretty stable. Then on the very first day of school, he had a flare up. It was a stark reminder that it would be asking an awful lot of a 5 year old boy to go manage this on his own. While 25 days of the month are great, the remaining 5 days are a different world. Since Noah’s gut health and mental health are so closely intertwined, it is important that he be able to do things to balance his mind when his gut is off. This may mean spontaneous afternoon hikes, learning new math skills for him to twist around in his head, or spending 2 hours of uninterrupted work on a Lego creation. As much as Noah’s life is becoming typical, some days are still a dance. He’s not old enough to have the self awareness to know what to do when his body is off. That’s when I’m able to nudge him toward the activities that help restore balance for him.
So those are our goals. I won’t pretend that we eloquently wrote them out before we started. We simply talked about what would help him thrive. Then we talked – and prayed – about the best environment for that. The answer was pretty clear: homeschool.