Kindergarten Our Way (Take 2)
Looking back on the first half Ian’s Kindergarten year I’d say I’m surprised by how many surprises there were. Things I thought would come easily ended up being struggles. Other things I thought I’d have to push through ended up being Ian’s favorites that he begged for more of. I learned a lot about how much time different activities/readings take, how to break things up, which subjects we need to do in a particular order… There was a lot of fine tuning that went on throughout this season as we found what worked for us. And now I’m considering changing everything we’re doing.
Well, maybe not everything, but a lot.
Perhaps I should have said “Take 5” in the title, for this post has been rewritten several times as I’ve attempted to find our new groove. As I mentioned in a previous post, I was starting to feel overwhelmed by the number things I want to include in our school plans and have been trying to sift through the myriad options to find the real gems that I just couldn’t bear to miss. (The picture above shows most of what made that short list.) So as we started up school again after a lovely, long holiday break I’ve been reconsidering my initial plan for this year (see “Kindergarten Our Way“) as well as the general structure of our day.
My plan was to go through a “Year 0.5” in the style of Ambleside Online‘s curriculum to provide us with a some structure and help us get accustomed to that type of schedule. In many ways, it’s been a good experience so far. We read lots of different types of stories on lots of different subjects. I created a weekly schedule (HTS Kindergarten Chart) that made it easy to keep track of which readings I wanted to get through. Ian enjoyed the variety of our readings, and I enjoyed discovering books I’d never been exposed to and might never have read if I weren’t putting together a curriculum like this.
However, I also tried to throw in Five in a Row books at least once a month until our days were so full with other things I lost that desire. And that’s a shame, because I love FIAR (and so does Ian). Add to all this that as part of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew for the coming year I’ll be incorporating various products for review into our school days, and I had to face the fact that I needed to make some changes or we were going to be overwhelmed and on our way to burning out (which seems just slightly ridiculous seeing as how we’re only in KINDERGARTEN).
So for now I’m going back to using Five in a Row as our core for every subject except Bible and Spanish (as well as helping Ian explore whatever topics he’s interested in at the moment and things I’ll be reviewing for the Crew). That means I’m dropping most of our “0.5” readings from the schedule of what I expect to do and putting them a category of “extra reading” that I can go to when I’m looking for a good read-aloud. I’m also dropping our Exploring Creation With Astronomy for now because, while the subject still interests Ian, he just wasn’t enjoying the book nearly as much as I expected given the reviews I’d read, even by people using it in Kindergarten. (We’ll probably give it another shot in a few years.) And I’ve decided to put off wonderful Charlotte Mason subjects like artist study, hymn study, etc. until the majority of my children are old enough to participate, because the little ones don’t need one more thing taking me away from them during our school hours. (We’ll probably keep up with some sort of composer study since I can include all but the baby to some extent.)
The biggest change I’m making as far as content is taking a break from MEP as our main math curriculum. I still love it and do plan on coming back to it, but it’s started becoming frustrating for Ian and therefore frustrating for me because I can’t figure out why he doesn’t get the same thrill out of it that I do. (I’m still reminding myself that he’s Not Mini-Me.) We finished Lesson 98 of Year 1 and while he seemed to be understanding most of the concepts, it was pulling teeth to get answers out of him. By contrast, Elijah has been asking to do math and I was letting him start at the beginning of Year 1. Ian consistently wanted to do what Elijah was working on so I started printing out a second copy of the practice book pages for him. What a difference in his attitude as he zipped through Lessons 3 and 4! I’m hoping a few months of maturing will help him have a similar outlook when we come back and take up where we’ve left off.
I started looking around for alternatives to use in the meantime. What I really wanted was a math equivalent to Reading Eggs. (Actually, they do have Mathseeds, but it’s geared more toward preschoolers and looks too easy for both boys so I’m just not willing to buy a subscription.) Ian and I had a similar level of frustration when he was learning to read, where our different learning styles were causing a lot of tension. Reading Eggs was a perfect fit for him and took the pressure of our relationship, so I would love to find a thorough, systematic math program Ian could work through independently on the computer. I remembered the Easy Peasy All-In-One Homeschool site and checked out the Kindergarten level math, but it was also all things Ian already knew. That was when it dawned on me that maybe we could just take a break from a math curriculum altogether. I want to make sure he can find joy in math, and I’d gotten dangerously close to killing that by continuing to plow through MEP when it started becoming a challenge.
So my solution (for now) is that I am leaving math as an open spot on our schedule. Ian often does math games on various websites (ABCya, Clever Dragons, and More Starfall are probably his favorites), and I’ll just write those into my lesson plan so I can have a record of what he’s done. We’ll probably also read from Life of Fred: Apples occasionally since I borrowed it from a friend and Ian enjoys it.
The other major change I’ve made is just the structure of our day. We’ve spent way too much time sitting at the table. I knew it wasn’t the best way to go, but I was afraid that if I let him go before we’d gotten everything done I’d have to keep dragging him back. Over the break, however, I’ve been really intentional about giving everyone lots of time for creative play. Ian has really enjoyed listening to me read while they all play in the living room, I’ve realized that much of our school time could look much the same way. Also, I’d like to include Elijah more, and I think that will be easier if we’re sitting on the couch rather than sitting at the school table, which we only really need to do for work that involves writing. So rather than thinking in terms of which subjects we’re going to get through, I want to think more in terms of “couch time,” “listening play time,” “table time,” etc.
So for the second half of the year, these are my goals:
- Consider Bible and Five in a Row a full school day. (Ian’s already a good reader so I’m not at all worried about any sort of reading instruction.) Anything else is just extra. It’s great when we get to it, but not necessary.
- Spend as little time at the table as possible
- Schedule breaks and make sure everyone gets outside for some time each morning.
And for illustration purposes, here’s an updated version of the picture above. It makes me sigh with relief just looking at it. If Ian were an only child, we probably would have stayed with most of my original plan, but with lots of needy little people sharing our life, simplicity needs to win out.