Sunday, May 25, 2014

Gentle Kindergarten - The first few weeks

video video
Well, Kindergarten definitely didn't start off the way I'd planned. Between finding out we had to move at the end of the month and our family crisis, I'm amazed we did any school at all. But we did, and even though we missed a few weeks, and we're splitting up one week into two, things have been going really well.

I guess I should begin be explaining a few things. Yes, we are starting Kindergarten now and going through the summer. We're doing this for a few reasons.

1. While there is a bit more formal structure to our "school days," we try to live in a relaxed, unschooling fashion all the time. This means that we read every day, we have a map on our walls where we're always finding different countries and states that we talk about. We go outside, identify things in nature, do lots of art, and follow our children's questions wherever they lead us. This alone covers a lot of information if Rob and I are tuned in and willing to make the most of our time with the kids instead of just plopping in front of a screen. So really, we're always homeschooling, summer or no.

2. Summers here in Central CA are boiling hot! Unless you're in a pool you can't go outside between 10 and 5. It gets well into the high 90's and low 100's. The rest of the year is beautiful and we WANT to be outside. But not really during the summer. So might as well do school now when we're hanging out in the AC.

3. Rob's schedule gives him a four day weekend every month. If we do school through the summer, we can take fun vacation time in September and February when everything is less crowded. The more I do now, the more we can slow down and enjoy Christmas, last-minute vacations, or those weeks when life gets unexpectedly crazy.

So anyways, there's my thought process with starting school in the summer.

We're doing a really gentle Kindergarten. I'm not pushing reading at all. When Jane is a full six we'll focus on it more, but I'm a firm believer in more delayed academics instead of banging my head against the wall before a child is ready.

Instead of formal reading instruction, Jane does 20 minutes a day of a computer program called "Earobics." It was created for children with auditory processing disorders (which Jane has very mildly) but is now also used for kids who need help with reading. I think it's a great introduction to training a child's brain to listen to the breakdown of words in such a way that lays a great foundation for reading.

I'm basing the rest of our Kindergarten loosely off of the plans found here. I say loosely, because the fairy story isn't really my style, and I've added in my own things. Like this lesson plan, each week we focus on a letter. We use her book suggestions and go over the scripture story and piece of art she includes for each. Jane also handsews that weeks letter into a square of fabric to make into a quilt later.

We do circle time every day. During circle time we take a look at the work of art and talk about it. We listen to/read/retell the scripture story. We also recite our poem for the month. The poem I chose for the first four weeks is Longfellow's "Arrow and the Song," which the kids are really close to having memorized. We'll also sing any songs that seem fun. For B week we learned "America the Beautiful."

I print off and hang up the Vocab words for each letter from here. We're learning the signs for the words, and Jane is really picking up on that. She loves to "speak" sign language.

Other things we try to do every week.

Decorate a pot and plant a flower that begins with the week's letter.

Practice writing the letter with a couple worksheets.

Read lots of picture books, some with that week's letter in the title, others around the science theme for the week. We also read in our chapter book. Right now it's "The House at Pooh Corner," although we just finished the second "Magic Treehouse" book.

Read a story or poem from "The Children's Book of America" and either talk about it all week or sing/say it all week.

Measure the bean plants in our garden and write down how tall they are.

Draw/paint a picture similar to the one we're studying.

Tuesday "tea time." We eat a snack that begins with our letter, practice our manners, and play chess.

Do other little crafts of activities either suggested or that I come up with myself. Jane is in the process of tying a babydoll quilt (so hard but so good for her finger dexterity). We've tried to birdwatch by putting out seed, but I think word of our cat has got around because none have come by, so that was a bust.

Learn a new, easy recipe and have Jane add it to her cook book. She writes out the ingredient and decorates the page, then dictates to me the instructions.

Some ABCmouse time if desired.

We've really been shooting for 2 hours of outside playtime, which we were doing well with before we hit crisis-mode. Now it's patchy, but after the move we'll get back on track with that. It'll just have to be in early morning or late afternoon.

That's really it. It usually takes up maybe 1- 2 hours of our day. The rest of the day Jane can play, do all the art projects she wants, etc. Even without pushing reading, she's started sounding out and spelling easy CVC words. It's so fun to see her learn and enjoy learning. Can't wait to share more of our progress in a few weeks. I've included the video "evidence" of the signs she's learned so I can show this to my ES for the charter school we're working through.

**If you're wondering about math, I'm waiting until September to start with it. Real life and calendar time offers all we need right now. But in September I plan on purchasing "Right Start Math," through the charter school, and beginning more formal math instruction then. I'll also be adding in more formal Social Studies then, too, through a sort of co-op I have planned.**

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