Kindergarten Our Way
This year we “officially” start our homeschool journey as Ian begins Kindergarten. We’re joining a local co-op, and it’s odd feeling like a rookie when in some ways we’ve been at this for a couple years. Yet there’s definitely a difference now that he’s old enough to be in school. For the past few years we did school how we wanted, when we wanted, and if we wanted to skip it altogether, who cared? Whereas now there are expectations. Still, I’m excited about this new season. I love the pride I hear in his voice when he tells people he’s in Kindergarten. For the last few years when people would ask him if he goes to preschool he would quietly answer, “We homeschool,” and I could tell he felt like it just didn’t count, even though most of our friends homeschool. This “Kindergarten” label makes him feel like he has joined the ranks of all the big kids in his life.
If anyone were to glance at our lesson plans, however, they would probably be a bit surprised, as they look rather different from what most people think of as Kindergarten. I’m not a big fan of traditional curriculum. Philosophically I tend to lean more toward a Charlotte Mason approach of using living books and narration (though I’m not a diehard CM follower who quotes her books chapter and verse). Also, I can’t follow a curriculum to save my life. I’m constantly tweaking and adapting things to suit our needs, and so I just couldn’t justify spending a lot of money on a well thought out curriculum that’s only going to really be used as a reference. I’m about 80% sure that I’m going to use Ambleside Online as our core starting in 1st grade. (My only hesitancy is that I’m considering putting together our own 4-year history cycle rather than AO’s 6-year cycle and doing that subject all together as a family.) So I wanted to model our Kindergarten plans after what we’ll be doing once we start AO’s Year 1 next year.
The wonderful advisory board at AO has provided a list of quality books to use before children start Year 1 (they call it Year 0), but that wasn’t going to suit our needs for Kindergarten for a few reasons. First and foremost, we’ve already read most of them many times over the last few years. Not that it’s bad to repeat quality literature, but it really wouldn’t help Ian feel like he had had moved on to the next stage of life if we just kept reading the same stories. Also, he’ll be turning 6 mid-year, and I feel like he’s ready to handle a little more structure. So we’ll be doing what many refer to as a “Year 0.5,” which I’ve tried to design to be similar to Year 1 as far as subject matter, lesson length, and frequency. (There’s no official list for Year 0.5, but many families have put together similar plans and posted them.
We started school this past week. (Many schools in our area are year-round and begin in July. Plus I plan to take at least a month off after our baby arrives in September and I wanted to establish some habits before then.) I was surprised at how smoothly our transition went. We haven’t done any math since before we moved (months ago!), and even then we usually only did one or two lessons a week. We’ve also been working on learning to form letters, but only doing it about once a week. So it was a bit of a shift for Ian being asked to do these things every day (except Wednesday, when we go to the park with other families from our co-op). By the third day, however, he didn’t question it at all, just sat down and did it. He even seemed to enjoy the feeling of accomplishment he got when he’d completed his work. Most of what we do, however, is reading aloud. I’m starting to introduce him to Charlotte Mason’s method of narration, but not pressuring him on it. After he turns six I’ll probably start to ask a little more of him. For right now I’m just asking him to tell the story back to me when we’ve done a reading that seems fairly straightforward (and prompting him more than Charlotte Mason purists would approve).
To help me keep straight what I want to accomplish through the week, I wrote up a chart listing the subjects and what I want to do for each day. I check them off as we go, and often we’re not done until dinnertime because we don’t ever sit down to get it all done in one chunk. I try to let him play through as much of the day as possible, but if he asks to watch a show or seems to need something to do, then I offer to read to him or have him sit down to do his copywork or engage in a math activity. The chart will be a work in progress (I already tweaked it a few times as we went through the week), but I think it’s going to be a good way for me to keep organized. Here’s a picture of my marked up copy from this week, and here’s the actual document (HTS Kindergarten Chart updated) if you want to create something similar to use for your own family without starting from scratch.
My plan is to keep these marked up charts for my records. Across the top I’ll be keeping an ongoing count of how many days we’ve “done” school. I’m not legally required to keep any records this year since Kindergarten isn’t mandatory in our state, but I want to have an idea of how we match up with the legal requirements so I’ll know if I need to make any changes for next year.
If you’re interested in what resources we’re using this year, I’ve listed them by subject below. Many of the books I chose are part of the Yesterday’s Classics e-book package (225 books for $99.95, but often on sale for $49.95), but many others are available free for Kindle. Here’s our (slightly daunting) list of books and other resources (edited over Christmas break):
- Story: Long Story Short by Marty Machowski
- Memory Work: My ABC Bible Verses by Susan Hunt (and then maybe we’ll work on some longer passages)
Copywork: finish learning letters. Start Bible verses.
Writing: (Start 2nd term) Journal pages (color a picture, write a sentence about it). Relate to other parts of curriculum, field trips if he can’t think of what to write about.
- Starfall.com (“Learn to Read”: 15 lessons; “It’s Fun to Read”: 7 topics; “I’m Reading” 6 topics)
- ReadingEggs.com: 120 lessons, “driving tests,” Skills bank – 96 gold bars, Storylands: Clinker Castle (10 lessons) and Pirate’s Cove (coming “soon”)
- early readers (including Reading-Literature series by Harriette Taylor Treadwell)
- Exploring Creation With Astronomy from Apologia’s Young Explorers series (I debated on starting these yet, but Ian’s been really interested in space for a while so I decided to give it a shot. It’s the only real “textbook” we’re using, and I’m advancing cautiously. It may get set aside for later on.)
- “Technology” The Sandman: His Farm Stories and The Sandman: More Farm Stories by William J. Hopkin
- Nature Study: field observation; finish reading Thornton W. Burgess’ Mother West Wind series, then begin Arthur Scott Bailey’s animal tales as interested
- Classics: Fairy Tales (from Andrew Lang’s color books–not Red and Blue since they’re in AO-Year 1, recommended Uncle Remus stories)
- Poetry: The Rooster Crows; Mother Goose; A Child’s Own Book of Verse, Book Two (After starting Book One, I realized most of it consists of nursery rhymes and traditional verses that were included in the other books we were using, whereas Book Two has longer, less familiar poems.)
- “Free Reads”:
- Picture Books from AO-Year O list, Five in a Row books (we’ll probably take a week a month to do a traditional “row” instead of our other books)
- Chapter Books
- The Railway Children by E. Nesbit
- The Book of Dragons by E. Nesbit
- The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame
- My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett (and sequels)
- Among the _ _ People books by Clara Dillingham Pierson
- story collections from Yesterday’s Classics, including For the Children’s Hour by Carolyn S. Bailey (has nature/seasonal/holiday and others)
- Church History (In God’s Garden: Stories of the Saints for Little Children and Our Island Saints by Amy Steedman)
- American History
- “Twins” books by Lucy Fitch Perkins (Ian enjoys these more than I anticipated. So far we’ve read The Dutch Twins, The Eskimo Twins, and now we’re on The Japanese Twins. He often requests these even when I haven’t scheduled them and he could chose anything he wants.)
- The Seven Little Sisters Who Live on a Round Ball That Floats in the Air by Jane Andrews (and possibly Each and All: The Seven Little Sisters Prove Their Sisterhood)
- Music Appreciation (Ambleside Online: 1 folk song, hymn each term)
- Piano Instruction: finish Yamaha Junior Music Course, then either the next Yamaha course or private lessons at home with mom
- Composer Study (AO schedule: 1 each term)
- Art Instruction: Five in a Row lessons, finish My First Book of Drawing from Kumon, start
ARTistic Pursuits K-3 Book OneThe Way They See It – ARTistic Pursuits Preschool. (I have been eyeing the books from ARTistic Pursuits for a couple years, but Ian is so artistically challenged I hesitated to even buy the preschool book up until now. I thought we’d be okay jumping in with the K-3 series, but after looking through it I decided to save it for later and go ahead with the preschool book so we can hopefully include Elijah as well,.)
- Artist Study (AO schedule: 1 each term)
Foreign Language (start 2nd term): Salsa Spanish (3 weeks per episode) Unit 1 (Episodes 101-106)
Physical Education: Family Time Fitness
It sounds like a TON of work for a Kindergartener, I know, but it’s actually not that bad. Most of it just means being intentional about what I choose to read aloud (and there’s still plenty of time to read his choices as well–right now he’s really into The Littles series by John Peterson, currently on Book 3). There are a lot of books listed here, but most of them we’re only reading a couple pages from each week. (He often wanted to keep going, but with the exception of The Japanese Twins I didn’t give in. I’d like to keep him wanting more!) Also, many are available as free audiobooks (booksshouldbefree.com), and Ian often requests them in the car or at bedtime (especially fairy tales).
And just as a final note, this is NOT a plan I will be attempting to follow with my younger children when they’re in Kindergarten. They can listen in on things like science, history and literature and won’t need their own books assigned for those. It’s just that as the oldest Ian doesn’t get a chance to benefit from hearing older siblings’ lessons, so this is my way of exposing him to things he wouldn’t have a chance to catch otherwise. I’m not chained to this “curriculum” I’ve put together. We’ll be flexible. Some we’ll get to; some we won’t. I’m not overly concerned with what Ian achieves academically at this point in his life. But if I didn’t have some sort of plan we wouldn’t be accomplishing much of anything, so at least this gives me something to look at, something to shoot for.