Thursday, May 21, 2015

Reflecting back on my firstborn's kindergarten year

We are wrapping up my firstborn's kindergarten year, and I thought I'd process some thoughts on how our year went.

Last July, I wrote about my thoughts and goals for kindergarten, with a follow-up on how I planned to meet those goals with various curriculum and such.

This was a fun year. Johnny agrees, but he would also find some things to gripe about. I encountered some attitude and resistance for math for awhile, and there were definitely periods of just crabby attitude in general whenever I asked him to do something school-related. We are still working on this, and I also think it is just a maturity thing.

To recap, my overall goals for his kindergarten year:

  • Keeping learning fun. Not stressful. Kindergarten! Went well for the most part
  • Reading instruction/build confidence with reading YES! READING IS GOING SO WELL!
  • Build a mathematical-thinking foundation Yep, coming along
  • Learn how to properly form lowercase letters In progress
  • Be exposed to a variety of good literature through read-alouds, audio books, and reading to himself. Yes! And we are using some audio books though he doesn't like them as much as me reading to him, or him reading to himself. Still, I like this for when we are driving.

Bible study: We kept it simple with reading from Bible storybooks, reading through Matthew straight from the Bible, some verse and hymn memorization.

Phonics: We completed level 1 of All About Reading awhile ago and are nearly done with level 2. We decided to scrap the worksheets with level 2. He didn't want to do them; he just wanted to read. Fine by me. I like the stories in the reader and how they progressively get more complex. 

We don't use the letter titles or flashcards. I plan to finish up level 2 and keep doing what we're doing with level 3. Johnny reads very well, but there are still plenty of phonics combos he hasn't mastered yet, and I think AAR does an excellent job of bringing us through in a fun and doable way. 

Also, I appreciate how the stories in the readers get progressively longer and more complex. All in all, I'm a huge fan of AAR and I realize the price tag is a bit steep, but if you can use it for more than one child (or sell later or both) it really is an excellent value. You can't really put a price tag on the value of learning to read in a painless way.

Math: RightStart math level A, 2nd edition. Started out strong, ended with kind of a fizzle. We are still using it, and are adding in more of the games from their game book. I am going through the level A objectives and ticking off what he has down solid, looking to see what still needs attention, and will keep plugging ahead. Level B will revisit these topics and more, and go deeper so we can just move on, I think.

Handwriting: His writing is improving, as he continues making cards, comics and other projects. Possibly a result of comics, but he favors writing in all caps. We are working on lowercase formation now. 

Science/crafts/poetry/music/nature/etc.: We used My Father's World K for parts of this and ended quietly. 

Didn't end up using Five in a Row, except we have read and enjoyed many of the books. 

Poetry -- I am reading poetry from various books. It has gone from total resistance ("I don't like poetry!") to enjoyment. Recently, we started adding poetry memorization. He has memorized 3 poems ("The Purple Cow"; "What Can I Give Him?" by Christina Rosetti"; and "Who Has Seen the Wind?" by Rosetti).

Science -- MFWK ideas as they came up, plus J is super into astronomy so we have been running with that. Observing, reading books, checking out NASA videos, visiting the NASA web site and more. We were able to make a stop at the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland and check out their NASA exhibit. Very cool.

For read-alouds, I used the MFWK booklist, FIAR titles, titles from the Read-Aloud Handbook, Honey for a Child's Heart, Sonlight lists...anywhere I could find a list, I pulled from it for our library holds and some purchases.

I know some parents are eager to dive right in to chapter books. I had that same temptation, but I realized a few things. This is a wonderful time to keep reading great picture books and I don't want to miss those. Also, listening to longer books with fewer illustrations is a skill and we have to work our way there.

Johnny enjoys listening to chapter books and Viv sometimes does, but she still prefers picture books by far and I will continue to invite all 3 to enjoy picture books with me.

Some favorite recent read-alouds:

  • My Father's Dragon (a great first chapter book to read aloud!)
  • Mr. Popper's Penguins (we started this last week on vacation and J can't get enough)
  • Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective
Picture books:
  • Roxaboxen; Miss Rumphius (Barbara Cooney -- love her work)
  • Mr. Pine's Purple House; Mr. Pine's Mixed-Up Signs and more
  • Big Susan
  • (anything carried by Purple House Press that we've borrowed or bought has been worthwhile!)
  • ...I'm drawing a blank, maybe I can revisit my notes and come up with a read-aloud list more properly later.

Music -- various classical music CDs and YouTube videos.

Crafts -- just ad hoc stuff. I try to keep supplies well-stocked and let them have at it.

Developing the Early Learner: Haven't done much more with this. Would like to. J says he doesn't like workbooks. D'oh.

Field trips: Nailed it! We field tripped all over the place, and at least 2x a month like I had hoped. Our field trip group has been a lot of fun, plus some things just as a family. Various science/nature programs, an apple orchard, a dairy farm,  the art museum, the zoo, fire station, history museum, fine arts performances (Sleeping Beauty at Beef & Boards; Disney on Ice (ok not fine arts, but hey hey; an orchestra performance for kids), a Valentine's Day party....and more. A lot of variety, too.

Travel: We did two family get-aways during the kindergarten year: a long weekend to Holiday World and Spring Mill State Park in southern Indiana in September, and then in mid-May we went on a week-long trip to the Detroit area, Toronto, a cottage near Algonquin Park in Ontario, Niagara Falls and Great Wolf Lodge, and finally the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland. Woosh! Good time, plus some educational aspects and good ol' family time.

Other activities: J and V did a gym & swim class with other homeschoolers and it was a great experience. We will do it again.

We joined up with a new Charlotte Mason-style co-op starting in April and we attended for 3 weeks. It was fun and we learned some things, but I decided against continuing for the upcoming school year. I think it might work better for us when they are all a little older.

I'm going to call J a kindergartener until Memorial Day, then I will promote him to 1st. Haven't decided when we will start his 1st grade officially -- still hashing it out. Aww...this year has gone quickly! So fun.

Overall, we love homeschooling. Johnny told me on several occasions how he was so glad we were together, and how he didn't have to be away all day at a school. We enjoy the freedom and flexibility to pursue specific interests.

We appreciate being able to take our time with something. Why stop to put away an art project because "time is up" and we need to move on to the next thing? Oh wait. WE DON'T. If we need to move forward faster or slower in a subject, we have and we will continue. If we want to bunny trail and read a ton of books about a topic of interest, we will. If I find an interesting documentary, we can watch it. If it's a beautiful day and we want to play outside, we can. If grandma wants to have us over for lunch, we can do it.

We can do whatever we want. It is awesome! Plus, we can do things together as a family in a way that we couldn't if he was in a public, private or day-long co-op type of thing. Week-long road trip in mid-May when prices are lower? Don't mind if I do!

In my state, kindergarten isn't required. This year was a freebie. When I consider his reading and math, I believe he is well above grade-level. Handwriting is perhaps at or maybe a little below -- but he is making steady gains and I'm not worried.

I'm still finalizing our plans for 1st grade and a rough calendar. That's another post.