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    Debrief and Reflection on Kindergarten {Part I}

    April 14, 2008 by Brandy Vencel

    I know, I know. It’s only April and school shouldn’t get out until June. However, I am mentally making the transition because we are starting first grade {which I actually call Year One} in July. We’re not exactly letting out early, but we are definitely beginning to wind down and prepare for next year’s stepped-up academics.

    The Necessity of Kindergarten?

    I don’t think that kindergarten is necessary for all, or even most, children. In fact, there is a lot of evidence that delaying formal academics until the age of seven {and delaying formal math until even later} is of great benefit. You can read articles and discussion on this here, and here, and here, and here, and here, etcetera.

    The case for beginning formal schooling at the age of five is not exactly closed.

    Kindergarten for the Advanced Child

    All of the above was to say that the general idea of and philosophy behind delaying education appeals to me.

    However, comma…

    I think the parent has to decide, child by child, how to meet the needs of those individual children. This is the luxury of homeschooling, and it should be taken advantage of to its fullest.

    Our oldest son is what some would call academically gifted. I say this not to brag, but as a simple statement of fact. While public school kindergartners are learning their shapes and colors and letter-identification, he began kindergarten already reading at a first grade level and has now progressed to third grade level.

    I cannot imagine delaying a child like this. In fact, I think it would be a disservice.

    Actually, we did delay formal math because of some evidence of early math exposure’s connection to tic disorders. However, he still managed to teach himself to count to a hundred and do basic addition.

    We will start formal math in Year One to be in compliance with state law.

    But back to my point, which was that we have to work with the child’s gifts and abilities, not against them. I am hesitant to push a child too much {though some children truly need to be pushed, and this would call for parental wisdom}, and I am also hesitant of holding a ready child back.

    Some birds are ready to fly. If we clip their wings, flying would be impossible not just for the time being, but permanently. This is my fear in holding back children that are ready. What if I miss that opportunity with that child and it doesn’t present itself again?

    Carving Out Time

    I am a big believer in protected time. My house will not run smoothly if all of my time is always up for grabs. This doesn’t mean that all my time is always protected, no matter the circumstances. However, it does mean that I take my position here in the home seriously. I treat it like a job in that regard.

    One of my jobs is that of Headmistress {not to be confused with being THE Headmistress, a position which is already filled}. And I make sure I have protected time to perform the necessary tasks for the job. I make sure my son also has protected time to perform the necessary tasks of his job as First Student.

    So, where do we get the time? Baby Q.’s morning nap is the first protected time. We occasionally give this up and have a playdate or go visit friends or family members, but the average day finds us with our phone ringers turned off, reading together as a family.

    Yes, Second Student {also known as A.} is always welcome at school time. We do not discriminate.

    This reading involves several types. I read aloud. E. reads aloud. I read aloud and E. narrates back to me. I usually end by reading a chapter of one of A.’s books to her for “preschool”. This time lasts for 1-2 hours depending on the day and the reading we have planned.

    The second regularly-carved-out time is during the afternoon nap. During this time, E. has free art time, re-reads his favorite biographies, and also does copy work that is planned for him by yours truly. We used to do this every day until he told me he was tired. So now we do it every-other-day, and on off-days he takes a nap.

    Little boys need their rest, and that is an important part of education, too.

    The third somewhat-regularly-carved-out time is evening reading. Sometimes, if we are headed to the grocery store {we go as a family}, I read in the car while Si drives. Some evenings, we do not read at all {and often, on these nights, Si and E. pull weeds in the backyard}. This is regular without being daily, and is the most flexible of the three times.

    Reading aloud in the evenings as a family is a great alternative to watching television as a family, by the way.

    Coming Tomorrow

    Tomorrow, I plan to think a bit more about kindergarten as we have experienced it, including what we changed, what we dropped, and how we “handled” the two worst months of morning sickness. I use the term handled loosely as there were many tears on my part, and perhaps on the children’s part as well.

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  • Reply Brandy April 15, 2008 at 8:45 pm


    I saw that video one other time. Si and I got a kick out of it. I loved the children circling the mom while she’s rubbing that pregnant belly (and holding an infant!). 🙂

  • Reply Anonymous April 15, 2008 at 8:26 pm

    A little funny……thought you might enjoy

  • Reply Brandy April 15, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    Ah, math. My first two children are so opposite. Our three-year-old daughter, who has shown little aptitude for early “academics” actually seems to love math, especially counting. She understood numbers naturally, right from the start.

    I don’t know where your son is, but I know that one of the biggest issues with young children is teaching them orderly counting. At the advice of a friend of ours, we started with highly-monitored counting. So, for instance, when emptying a bag of oranges into the fruit basket, we would hand each orange individually to the child and have the child count (or repeat the numbers if they weren’t ready for counting). The biggest mistake kids make in counting is either skipping some objects or counting some objects twice, or a combination of the two.

    And yet all of math rests on the real world and the understanding of the concepts of quantity. One of the reasons we didn’t do formal math this year was so that all the mathematical concepts he learned were real. A kindergartener can be taught to rattle off their addition tables, but they don’t always understand the meaning behind what they are saying. I would rather my son actually know what subtraction means: namely, that there was a certain amount of something that was there, and then some of it was taken away.

    All of that to say that, for us, we focus on reality. Other math-type concepts that are great at this age are learning the passage of time and dates. Our son has a calendar where he adjusts the date daily, the seasons quarterly, and so on. (Our daughter is now ready for something similar.) Matching like objects (we start with socks) is another. Giving children measuring tapes or having them help measure ingredients in cooking is a great way to introduce the concepts of weight, length, volume, etc. Playing games, like Yahtze, and having the child learn to count their score (they will eventually begin to grasp quantities at a glance rather than needing to count) is really basic addition.

    Math is something I always thought was better the earlier it was taught. It has been very hard for me to let go of that idea, but the more research I have done, the more I see evidence that early math actually is a negative thing, even to the extent of possibly causing learning and processing difficulties later in schooling. This is why we have taken the Reality Road, with everything being concrete. It isn’t that they aren’t learning math, but it is that everything they are learning is somehow connected to the reality they experience in their own little worlds.

    Wow. That was a mouthful. Sorry!

  • Reply Kansas Mom April 15, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    Thanks for the reading advice! I agree that it’s most important for him to just enjoying the experiences of books and the reading will follow — but it’s hard to wait when my husband and I love reading so much!

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on math, too. My son loves puzzles, so I’ve been looking around at toys or “teaching tools” he can play with to get a grounding in basic math concepts. I’d love to find something that would give me ideas for activities (playing!) that would guide his attention to all the different concepts (without names, etc).

  • Reply Brandy April 15, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    I totally understand about wanting to find that balance: challenging, but not overloading. I will probably have much more to say about kindergarten when my three-year-old is five because she is completely opposite of her brother. She shies away from much that is formal, and yet we are amazed at what she picks up just by being around “school.”

    One thing I can think of just off the top of my head is that our son did seem to come to a halt at one point in his learning to read. He had learned letters very early (right after his second birthday), and so I knew he would read early, and I was surprised when he seemed incapable of making the leap from naming letters to understanding that they made a sound. I wrote about this a bit here, and maybe that will help?

    Overall, I think that getting them to understand that books are interesting and a source of knowledge for them is the most important thing that can be caught at this age.

  • Reply Kansas Mom April 15, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    I’m very interested to hear your thoughts. I have a four year old son who wouldn’t start kindergarten until fall 2009. I want to be challenging him in the next year, but I’m afraid my instincts are to jump in too far. One of the reasons I want to homeschool is to avoid overloading on “academics” and “skills” in preschool and kindergarten so I definitely want to avoid the same problem at home! (My son is not reading and has very little interest in putting letters together into words – though he loves it when we read to him!)

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