First Week of Kindergarten

I have not done a post devoted to just our sweet first daughter in, well… years.  She made us parents and she is so very often a ray of light and joy in our home.  I couldn’t imagine my life without her in it.  Last fall I had planned to start doing a bit of formal schooling with her here and there, but that never actually took root.  There has been so much chaos that it hasn’t happened, and I had initially expected Jacob to tag along in her studies on a more serious level.  But he’s just not ready for that yet, and so our first few tries failed considerably.

photo (57)After I got off of bed rest I thought we would just wait to get a routine like this going until after the baby came, but one week passed… then two weeks… and I realized that I simply didn’t have that kind of patience!  So I decided to jump in and go for it.  Tuesday was Evangeline’s very first day of kindergarten.  See?  I even took a picture!  She picked the pigtails.  :)

Our school week goes from Tuesday through Friday, although we do some things on our weekend days too.  I have a lot that I would love to cover with her before we officially start “1st grade”, but I decided going slow and adding things as we can would be the best way to do it.  This week we have been dabbling in: arithmetic, poetry, hymnody, Bible, Catechism, reading and ASL.  If I’m really confident we’ll get our nature study time in tomorrow too.  Next week we will start with our memory work  and hopefully nature studies and handwriting.  Music, art and handicrafts will follow after we are doing well with the rest.  History and foreign language will probably be the last subjects we add down the road.

It all sounds very ambitious, but we follow a primarily Charlotte Mason approach.  She advocates for very short lessons, a ton of free play and outdoor time, and would defnitely balk at the idea of “formal lessons” for my almost five year old.  :)  But all of you who know me know that my brain just doesn’t work that way and it has to be formally written down or else I will lose my mind!  And with two children with special needs and a new baby on the way… without some sort of structure I just wouldn’t get these quality moments in at all.  With all that said, this week has gone very well, and I’m pleased with where we’re headed for the rest of the year.

Our days are pretty simple, we have to schedule in time for therapies and meals, and I have two school times each day.  We have a school basket and each child gets to pick which lesson they want.  It takes about fifteen minutes in the morning and fifteen minutes in the afternoon.  All four kids are present, but not all of them are listening or participating at the same level 😉  The only child I have any expectations for at this point is Evangeline, but they all enjoy sitting in on the fun.

For arithmetic I found a great resource for the early years.  It is quite aged, but their reasoning is spot on and I really don’t see a reason to reinvent the wheel if this works perfectly well!  The book is called The Eclectic Manual of Methods for the Assistance of Teachers”, and the arithmetic section we are working through begins on page 105.  Google reader has the text available for free here.  Every morning I put six random household objects in our school basket and we first practice recognizing a group without counting (How many oranges are on the floor?).  Stephen can recognize what one orange looks like and Jacob can recognize up to two objects.  I always let them do the easy questions before getting more in depth with Evie.  After that I ask her how many objects I need to add or take away from the group to make a different number (How many quarters do I need to put on the floor so we have four quarters?)  

She is now at a point where she can add and subtract objects up to five with almost 100% accuracy and she can recognize a group of six objects without counting them.  Once she masters that we’ll keep moving up through the number 10 and then she’ll “graduate” to the next phase of the arithmetic program.  I’ll have to write a more in depth post about this approach because I just love it so much.

We also do poetry, which is one of my favorite subjects to teach right now, partially because Evie loves it so incredibly much and it’s a pleasure to do it with her.  We are working on learning one classic children’s poem by heart each month.  Since this month only had a week left I picked a really short one to start with, it’s “Clouds” by Christina Rosetti and she learned it by heart after only two days of hearing it once or twice each.  She enjoys reciting it now, and her expressiveness is awesome.  Recitation is definitely a strong suit for her!  After we recite our poem I let each of the kids pick one other poem they want to read before we move on.

Bible is nice and short.  Each day we read one of the readings for Church on Sunday (an Old Testament, an Epistle and a Gospel reading).  We read each one twice during the week so that they can recognize them during the service on Sunday and understand a little better what’s going on.  We briefly discuss what the readings were about and I let the kids ask any questions they have before we move on.

For Hymnody we do two hymns at a time.  We have a weekly hymn we sing every day, which is also from the next Sunday’s service.  Our goal isn’t to know it by heart, but just to be familiar with it so that we can sing it well at Church.  I love to incorporate the children in the liturgy as much as possible, and this is part of that conscious effort.  We also have a monthly hymn we sing every day, and that varies according to the Church year.  Our goal for this is to memorize it by heart and add it to our family’s repertoire of hymns that we can enjoy on a regular basis.  I will usually have us sing one of the hymns at school time and we’ll sing the other during our family hymnsing before bed.

Catechism is done by Daddy so I really don’t know what he does for that… I do know he uses the My First Catechism book by CPH and our family also loves the “Follow and Do” series as well as the Sing the Faith CD, which is Luther’s Small Catechism put to music.  The Catechism is certainly part of our education, but we schedule it after Daddy gets home rather than during our normal school routine.  I would love to add in some instruction on the liturgy as well at some point, but we might wait until next year for that.

Reading is another subject that I am thoroughly enjoying (although really, it’s all been fun!)  We try to keep only quality children’s books around, (I use the suggested reading list from Ambleside Online) and reading takes place all throughout the day.  I do pick a couple of books out specifically to read once or twice during school time just to be sure that everyone is getting some reading time in at least once a day!  Our reading lessons, though, take place individually and spontaneously.  When Evie asks me to read a book I’ll ask if she wants to read too.  If she does, we pick a new word from that story for her to learn and I let her read all the words in the book that she knows while I fill in the rest.

I’m also writing each new word she learns down on a 3×5 card for her to “practice” if she feels like it.  That way, if she wants to read with Daddy or Grandma, they also have a list of all the words she knows.  She gets very frustrated if you read “her” word!  Lol!  I am teaching her phonics rather than just relying on sight words.  Every time she learns a word she has to tell me what sound each letter makes, and as new rules come up (ex: when t and h are together they make a different sound) we talk about them.  If she struggles to remember a word I encourage her to sound it out and she’s getting pretty good at it!

Last but not least, we are also continuing sign language (ASL) with all the kids.  My goal for Evie is for her to be conversational by the end of the year.  We have been signing with her on and off since she was a baby and she’s always loved it.  So far we’ve mostly just used Signing Time, but I am working through the Life Print Course  and modifying it for her as we move toward mastering grammar, comprehension and creating dialogue.  This week we are learning to finger spell our names (she figured it out without any help, because she loves to spell) and learning a majority of the content in Life Print’s 1st lesson, all the content that’s relevant for a five year old anyway.  😉

All in all this has been a much better week and I’m thoroughly enjoying getting back to a productive learning environment.  I know she’s not even five yet, but these early years have so much potential for setting ground work for a future love of learning.  Home school has always been one aspect of parenthood that I couldn’t wait to start and I’m so glad we’re finally here!

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