April 24, 2018

5 Lesson I Have Learned to Make Homeschooling Less Stressful~Lesson 2: Kindergarten Is About Exploration {5 Days of...Homeschool Blog Hop}

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Today's topic ties into yesterday's topic of "Keep the Public School Out" of your homeschool. I spoke about how we must not get caught in the trap of trying to replicate public school in our own classroom. And one of the HARDEST times to remember this--is during the Preschool/Kindergarten years! Today I want to share some lessons I have learned, and a few mistakes I made relating to homeschooling preschool and Kindergarten. I will also be sharing some mistakes that other homeschool moms said THEY made during these years as well...and some success stories too! So what is my second lesson to help make homeschooling less stressful? It's simple...

Kindergarten Is About Exploration.
NOT about learning how to read.
NOT about learning beginning algebra.
NOT about learning how to write complete sentences and paragraphs.

You know what I'm driving at, don't you.
Because all those nots? That is what Kindergarten looks like in the public school sector. And frankly, it's WRONG. Those are NOT supposed to be IN Kindergarten. And they haven't ALWAYS been in Kindergarten.

Don't believe me?

I have a package my mom saved with my "awards" and badges from Kindergarten.s. MINE. From 30+ years ago. I know what I was learning in Kindergarten and it wasn't the things they are learning now.


Let's talk basics. I don't mean the fundamentals of writing. I don't mean the square of 12.
Do you know what they used to teach in Kindergarten?

Your phone number.
Your Address
How to tie shoes.
How to write your first name.
How to write your numbers 1-10 and maybe to 20
How to count to 100
How to write your ABC's (BY THE END OF THE YEAR!)
How to say your ABC's.
How to practice being mannerly.
What a period or capital letter is in a sentence.
What are the five senses.
How to draw and identify your basic shapes.
Your ROY G BIV colors.
The days of the week.
The months of the year.
How to not eat glue or crayons.
How to be friends.
How to share.
Expressions on a face (happy, sad, angry, etc)
Phonics (not sight words!)
At the end of the year you may know how to read two letter and three letter words.
Look at THIS list of things that are going to be taught in Kindergarten from an entrance pamphlet for 1968!
These are the basics. The fundamentals. And some taught even less than this! Sadly, this is NO LONGER considered Kindergarten work. No, these are skills your kindergartner MUST HAVE ALREADY before they can even ENTER Kindergarten. Just look at the latest Kindergarten ready lists. Seriously. It's ridiculous what they are expected to know before they even get IN Kindergarten!

I know this to be true, simply because I subbed for three years in the local school district. Kindergarten bears NO resemblance to the one I attended. And that's NOT a good thing.

These are still babies. They are barely 5 or 6 years old. They need a world filled with exploration and play. Not sitting in a desk and memorization. They need a world of paint and markers and making messes---learning also how to clean them up. They need blocks and dolls and cars. Not math centers. They need EXTENDED RECESS several times a day. Not 5 hours of seat work, with two 15 minute sessions of "centers". They need to learn how to interact with each other in the "real world"--aka. RECESS. How to share. How to take turns. How to get up when you fall down. How to comfort when someone else is hurt. How to deal with things not being fair.

Do you want to know how I know the public school mindset for Kindergarten has bled over into the homeschool world? Do you know what one of the #1 questions I see on homeschooling groups is?

"I am getting ready to start preschool/Kindergarten. What CURRICULUM should I use to make sure they know what they need to know?"

The main curriculum for your pre-school and kindergarten should be LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS of good quality books for YOU to read aloud to them, LOTS of play time and nature exploration, and lots of DAILY LIFE. They will soak it in. They will grow exponentially if they are allowed to EXPLORE the world with books and experiences!

But say you just *need* to have guidance. Something to provide structure for your day. If that is the case, then there are a FEW curriculum I would recommend.

*I would say for a boxed curriculum, pick My Father's World. They use their curriculum to EXPLORE the world around you. Their unit study style is FANTASTIC. Literature is all over the place. Science experiments. Videos. Art projects. Music. Math taught in real life scenarios. I have experience with this curriculum and it is fantastic for those who *need* guidance to get started.

*Before Five In a Row and Five In A Row is another literature based option. Everything for the week centers around a children's book. The math, science, art, music, geography. It all is related to the books that are read. It's so gentle. It's so marvelous. I am a HUGE fan of the Unit Study style for elementary age children.

*Ambleside Online or Charlotte Mason are two more gentle beginning curriculum that are literature and exploration based.

Any of these is highly recommended for people who want a "Schedule" to follow. Do you need them to successfully "teach" this grade level? Absolutely not.


My confession.
We did My Father's World for Kindergarten with my oldest. Because I thought I needed something to tell me what to do. And after doing about three weeks, I decided it wasn't *enough*. We were done in less than 4 hours! How on earth was that *enough* school? So you know what I did? I started adding more. I had this magic number of hours in my head that meant he had learned *enough*. Were we reading books every day? Yes! About 3-4 a day! Were we doing basic lessons for reading preparation? Yep. Were we learning basic math? Yep. Were we learning geography and science? Yep. So why didn't I think it was enough????

Public School.

My friend's kids in Kindergarten were bringing home spelling tests. They were learning 150 sight words. They were doing 2nd-3rd grade level math problems. They were writing full sentences. Book reports. Science projects.

Clearly I wasn't doing enough. Wasn't I?
He loved every minute of our hands on curriculum--why did I think we needed more bookwork?
I can say now looking back, that the only thing I should have added was MORE PLAY. MORE BOOKS. MORE RECESS. MORE EXPLORATION.

Are you trying to fit Kindergarten or Preschool into a mold determined by the current public school system? Please don't.

There will be plenty of time for them to learn how to read. Learn how to write. Learn how to do pre-calculus.

Oh, and speaking of length of time. When I was Kindergarten? I went to school on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Every other Fridays. For just HALF A DAY. We were done by lunch. And you know what? It was enough. It didn't stunt my learning. It allowed me and my fellow classmates to be CHILDREN. To be precocious 5 and 6 year olds. Learning how the world works.

Children are learning.
All. Day. Long.
Play is learning.
Watching you make dinner is learning.
*Helping you* fold clothes is learning.
Singing songs with you is learning.

So don't think that seat work is the only learning your child does, or needs to do!

What Do Homeschooling Parents Wished They Had Done Differently for Kindergarten Age?

Now, let's see what some of my fellow homeschoolers have to say about this idea of things they did well or wish they had done differently at the Kindergarten/Preschool level.

Jamie B. "I wish I'd done more fun projects and worried less about getting the workbooks finished. I also wish I'd cared less about what public schools cover and expect kids to know at that age/grade."

Amber K. "Went with the program I wanted to from the get go. I talked myself out of it for ages, and in the end disliked what I ended up teaching."

Megan W. "Better late than early. Don't push learning at a young age. Playing is learning. They will learn what they need when they need. Even if they show signs of being ready, don't push. I had a 2yo who knew all his letters. At 3 and 4 he was reading simple words and wrote "hos" on a picture he drew of a house. And then he refused to do anything with letter for over a year and still does not enjoy reading. I often wonder if things would be different if I hadn't pushed a full K4 curriculum at 4 and regular K at 5 since he was "ready"."

Charlotte "Our homeschool story would have been so very different if I'd kept the mentality of public school and it's scheduling and criteria and expectations, because they are so different in their learning styles and their needs!"

Coleen "Rather than just teaching letter sounds and doing fun projects/activities, I wish I’d been more proactive about pursuing a reading curriculum. We did an online letter of the week program that was fun and got them ready to read, but didn’t produce strong readers. I started pre-K with my two oldest when they were 2 and 3 1/2 years old. I didn’t use any reading curriculum with my oldest. I just taught him the basics and had him practice. The two middle girls used 100 easy lessons and I’m using All About Reading with my youngest (5yo) and I’m seeing a big difference. Though we are thriving, I’m not confidant that I went about teaching reading the right way."

Tiffany W "Started later age wise! More crafts!"
Arts and Crafts encourages exploration in imagination and colors and textures
Diana B. "I wish I hadn't worried about trying to keep a paper trail and just let learning happen more naturally through books and exploration. We did a lot of that, but I still stressed about the lack of 'real work'. Would have been so much better if I hadn't worried about it. And had I discovered the simplicity of FIAR and literature based stuff earlier and trusted that it was enough."

Bek L "I wish I had understood that homeschooling isn’t public school at home. While we didn’t crash and burn at this, I think all homeschoolers struggle with what homeschool is supposed to look and be like. It’s a learning that takes place in the doing. Wished we were able to have it more together earlier than later."

Stephanie " I wish we read aloud every day, even if that is all we did. They do not need a full "language arts" curriculum in kinder. They should be in love with learning. They will learn grammar as they get older. At that age, if they don't love it, don't do it. Make "doing school" a priority. Have them disciplined to sit and work on things for very short periods and work up to long periods slowly over time instead of forcing them to start a full, boring curriculum from day one. If there are tears that young, they may learn to hate school. You can learn everywhere. Take the field trip. Read the signs at the zoo. Keep a nature notebook. Read aloud while they eat their picnic at the park..."
Never stop reading to your children.

Andrea " Just remember it's a lifestyle, not just a project spurring a set time."

Kristine "I don’t have lots of regrets with the early years. I do wish I’d found lapbooks/unit studies earlier though!"

Gina "I wish it hadn’t taken me a couple years to lighten up and relax."

Kimberly "I wish I had focused more on relationships and using chores instead of early book work to teach my girls a work ethic. I wish I'd put more effort into enabling them to be physically active."

Tiffany S "I wish I hadn't started so early and let him just play a lot more."

Heidi "I think the most important thing that I learned to do was start each day out with prayer and reading the Bible to the kids. It set the tone for the whole day. Things went so much better after that."

Elaine "Retrospectively I should have skipped buying a Kindergarten curriculum. We were already doing enough without it. But it did teach me that I didn't need boxed curriculums."

Lyndee "No regrets. I didn't push. We do lots of interest led learning. Skipped the busy work and irrelevant (to a 1st, 2nd, 3rd grader) stuff in early grades that they'll see 5 more times later., i. e. History in 2nd grade... Maybe more reading allowed than we did. The discussions are priceless."


I really hope that this has given you some ideas on how to start homeschooling at this level---I hope you can learn from others who have already been there/done that. That we can give you encouragement if you are already in this journey. Don't forget that it's never to late to change too---you could stop what you are doing right now and start over again fresh! Make Kindergarten full of experiences and adventures. They will have time to learn how to read. They will have time to learn their times tables. They will have time to write the next great American novel. There is a saying that says "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should." And this applies 100% to Kindergarten. Just because you COULD start all that seat work and book work earlier, doesn't mean you should. Let them be little, okay? And learn how children learn best. Through exploration and being read to. Everything else is gravy.

This week I am joining in with 21 other homeschool bloggers to talk about various topics relating to the theme of homeschool! I hope you will use the linky below to visit some of the other ladies to see what THEY are going to covering this week! And check back in with me tomorrow as I share with you ANOTHER lesson that I have learned to help make homeschool less stressful--and its related to the previous two lessons!

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