Nuts and Bolts of Kindergarten

On a typical day, Noah knows we do 3 “school times”: Calendar and Bible, Story time, and Box time (math and phonics). We spend about 90 minutes per day on formal school subjects.

Other things like read alouds and science get woven into the regular fabric of our day, so to Noah they wouldn’t get classified as “school time”, but there is plenty of learning happening.

Next year we will be doing things quite differently, but this is an overview of what materials have worked for kindergarten.

Calendar Time: We use selected items like weather graphing, letter of the week, and calendar work from Confessions of a Homeschooler, 1+1+1=1, and Mama Jenn. My favorite part has been using Songs for Saplings Bible verses and the accompanying printables. I’m amazed at how well both boys learned the Bible passages!

Bible: The Story Bible includes gorgeous illustrations along with each Bible story. The Story Bible includes a few questions, a simple activity, and a prayer at the end of each story. I dream of buying the mini poster size reproductions at Northwestern Publishing House!

Literature: We started with Five in a Row – story books with accompanying activities. Then we changed to reading from a Charlotte Mason booklist, but still doing many of the activities like Five in a Row. We also do audio books and read alouds, most currently Trumpet of the Swan and Magic Tree House.

Phonics: We started the year with Montessori phonics work. After Noah made progress with those, we switched to Explode the Code workbooks.

IMG_20150427_141214478
Yes, he draws obnoxious lines and x’s over pages when he’s done. Homeschool is cool that way.

Early Readers: Dick and Jane, Bob Books, and currently loving the Biscuit books

Handwriting: Handwriting Without Tears

Math: Currently using Math Mammoth and Life of Fred. We dabbled in Khan Academy, Harcourt, Aleks, and MEP this year, but now we’ve come back to Math Mammoth. I intend to stick with these two picks until Noah’s ready for Beast Academy.

IMG_20150427_143325226

Science: Mostly nature study with interest-led learning. We head out hiking at least once a week and are currently obsessed with birds.

IMG_20150417_141129670_HDR

We also do many things that do not go directly with the listed curricula. We throw in sight word work, living math, narration, flashcards, beginning coding apps on the iPad. Also, there’s Wild Kratts and Magic School Bus – and an occasional youtube video of baby pandas counts, right?

Are these the same curricula used in schools? Or are they specifically homeschool curricula?

Some of each. Handwriting Without Tears started as a program geared toward homeschoolers. Now it’s used in regular classrooms. The MEP math program started in schools and now is popular with homeschoolers.

A school chooses curricula to fit the average learner. One of the beauties of homeschooling is the ability to choose curricula to fit one child’s learning needs. Consequently, many of the programs we’ve chosen to use with Noah are not regular school programs.

As an example, Explode the Code is a phonics program known to have success with students with speech and language issues and that consists of simple black and white workbook pages.  It’s connected amazingly well with Noah!

Yet I would never choose Explode the Code for a classroom of 20 learners. While it might connect with a few of the kids, there are other programs out there that would connect with a greater majority of students.

Legos, Trees, and Homeschool Goals

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.

IMG_3493

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
IMG_4002
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.