Sunday, September 4, 2016

Kindergarten Report!

Since it is just about time for first grade to start (!), it is now or never to get this posted, more for myself than anything.
Overall I would say our year of kindergarten was a pretty smashing success.  He was excited for school just about every day, and didn't want to stop when summer came.  Some of my main goals were to introduce many different things and to give him an excitement for learning, and I feel like both of those things happened well.
Of course I think I learned just as much as him throughout the year, both about the different things we studied together, and about myself and my style as a homeschool mom.  These are some of the biggest ones:

*I was so excited to have a dedicated "school room" when we bought this house and was sure it was going to revolutionize our school and life... Uh, I think we used that room about 4 times.  And it should be called the "what localized disaster occurred in this space" room.  "School" just naturally ends up happening snuggled on the couch or gathered around the dining room table for us.  While part of me mourns the failure of the school room, this actually reflects the why and how of homeschooling for us pretty well so we are just going to embrace it and roll with it.  And  "clean the school room" will stay on the to-do list for I don't know how long, as we attempt to turn it into more of a home office space for mom and dad.  Don't hold your breath for an update on that one.

*I have also come to accept the fact that it is physically impossible for me to leave a curriculum alone and actually teach in totally as-is. I have also come to like this about myself.  I love teaching. I love thinking about how kids learn and the challenge of the best way to convey something to them. And I love learning myself right along with them.  I have realized that somewhere along the way I had written myself off as "not creative."  I will probably never be all the skilled in "art", but I have realized how much of a lie that is and how much it was actually hurting me to give myself that label and limitation.  Homeschool and lesson planning is where my creativity soars, and I love it.  (Hope to write more about that later...)

We actually did enjoy and recommend all the curriculum that we used as a base, so here it is:

*Five In A Row.  This is a book based curriculum that covers just about every subject that you want to other than the actual "decoding" of learning to read.  You read the same book each day and then pull out different activities based on that book.  There is SO much you can do with it!  The guide itself is very well done, and Pinterest is full of ideas from other Row-ers.  We focused a lot on learning about the different places and cultures where the stories took place because that is what Noah is the most interested in.  I asked him to pick his favorite and he couldn't narrow it down, and neither could I. :)  I think our top few were learning about Venice/Italy with Papa Piccollo, Russia with Another Celebrated Dancing Bear, and Japan with A Pair of Red Clogs.  But honestly we did enjoy every book and unit that we did.  We didn't even get through the whole first volume because we "rowed" every book for 2 weeks and threw a few of our own units too.

*Ancient Egypt study.  This is the big one that wasn't in the FIAR curriculum that we spent a lot of time on.  If you have ever met Noah, that you probably know that he is very interested in Ancient Egypt.   I decided to run with it and have "school" be all about it for a while.  And I am so glad that we did.  It turned out to be one of the most beautiful and significant few weeks.  I was kind of apprehensive because of the religious aspects of it, but it led to some awesome discussions on salvation.  Just the week before we were learning what "discretion" is and this gave the perfect opportunity to apply that.  It also ended up coinciding perfectly timing wise to talk about Egypt in the Bible with the biblical festival of Succoth, which we celebrated and absolutely loved.

*All About Reading. Okay, so this was the one thing I didn't change at all and taught at is.  Because it worked great for him and I didn't feel like there was anything I could change much.  It is laid out very well, uses magnetic letter tiles for a "hands on" aspect, and includes real stories that they start reading right away.  I think this was key for Noah; the fact that he could read a "real book" after a few weeks was huge for him and kept him motivated to keep learning.  We worked through Level 1 all year and he is now reading.  Wow, it is so cool to watch someone learn how to read, especially when you realize how complicated it really is!  There is a lot more left to learn, and my little first born definitely doesn't like that letters make different sounds in different situations and all the words that "don't follow the rules", but he has the basics down.  It has been so neat to see him build confidence over the summer.  We haven't done any official "lessons" but he is getting much quicker and willing to try, even if words are hard. 

*Math.  Ah, math. I kind of love it because it this year totally proved my thoughts about teaching it: if kids are exposed to enough real life where math is used, they are going to pick it up just fine on their own without it being drilled in and boring.  We never did a single math worksheet.  And even very, very few actual "lessons."  Five In A Row goes right along with this thinking too and incorporates "living math", which is what we did.  We counted and talked about math concepts that came up in books; we cooked together and shopped together.  And eventually he started asking what "this plus that" equals and if "2, 4, 6, 8" is how you count by 2's and so on.  He probably can't sit and do math problems as well as a public schooled kindergartener, but that doesn't bother me at all.  He understands and can do the basics (as well as sees the value of knowing) adding, subtracting, skip counting, and even a little bit of multiplying and dividing.  So we are calling math a success too.  All without any tears, complaining, or worksheets.

We most definitely do not homeschool just for academic reasons.  Most public school teachers rock at what they do and give a great education to their students.  We homeschool for the relationships.  Even though they will probably never admit it, it is so wonderful to see Noah and Lydia become better and better friends and have all these shared memories.  Then Noah got to be there for every step of the way as we welcomed his brother to the family.  And honestly I just really like being with my kids and want to have all those memories with them too. 

There is soooo much more I could say, but I will leave it at that for now.  We love homeschooling! On to first grade! :)