Before we left the US, I spent a lot of time researching the concept and process of homeschooling. Because Kindergarten isn’t compulsory in Colorado and because I’m of the school of thought that kids should learn through play, I was confident that I could figure it out.
Don’t get me wrong; I have HUGE respect for good early education teachers. Not everybody can do their job. But, as a parent and librarian, I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve. And really, if a parent is interested in homeschooling, the following things will guide you true: curiosity, a willingness to learn alongside your child, an ability to be flexible and change tactics as necessary, and patience.
So, with that philosophy in mind, and with a knowledge of the sorts of things that interest and excite my daughter, I began to research and plan.
The first thing I did was some basic internet searches on homeschooling kindergartners and kindergarten homeschool curricula. I discovered right away that the typical all-in-one program would not work for us for two reasons:
- I didn’t want to focus on too many subjects and I only wanted to homeschool for half-day. My daughter is energetic and intelligent and creative but a full-day of completely scripted activities would make her go bonkers (in the wrong way). I wanted to plan for a 50/50 focus of structured play and free play.
- The programs available to me through the US or European market relied on a calendar-based curriculum which tied units to seasons and holidays. Because I would be in the Southern Hemisphere, an October unit on cold weather and the apple life-cycle wouldn’t reflect the season we would be experiencing at the time. Further, the holidays celebrated in Chile were bound to be different than those in the US or the UK.
At that point, I realized (and was secretly pleased) that I would have to create a custom program for Oli. Getting started meant selecting which subjects we would focus on throughout the year and then delving into research on available materials and books.
Here’s what I chose and why:
Language Arts – My daughter LOVES books and developed a pretty strong attention span for reading early on. Read alouds would be easy to continue. Also, because she liked books so much, she had also expressed an interest in learning to read. Language Arts 1
(Early Childhood Educator Caveat: Not all children begin reading at age five and it is highly possible that Oli won’t either. Don’t be shamed into forcing reading on your child before they are ready. This isn’t a subject where peer pressure works. Children are best able to read when their brain is physically ready to do so. During the first five to seven years, every day a child’s brain is making thousands of new connections and soaking up more data than an adult does in a single week. They need time to process all that and like it or not, each child develops at a different rate. While planning to teach reading to Oli, I know that this isn’t something I’m going to push on her until I can see she’s ready.)
Mathematics – For the past two and a half years, Oli has attended a Montessori school which places emphasis on hands-on learning and mathematical concepts. Because she’s already starting with a firm mathematical foundation, I wanted to capitalize and build on that. Also, she’s always been very good with math sense, and well, for personal reasons, I want this to be a strong subject for her. Mathematics 1 and Mathematics 2
Science – Oli is fascinated by science and geography so this was also a natural choice. One night months ago, we watched a discovery channel documentary on sinkholes. Olivia was fascinated and we talked about sinkholes and related phenomenon for weeks and weeks. And, one of her favorite things to do is “make appetites,” which is basically her playing with mixing and adding stuff in the kitchen.
Art – In my opinion, art is an extremely important part of learning. It can be used to develop expression, to test hypotheses about certain materials and actions, to expend energy, to grow creativity and problem-solving, and of course there’s art for arts’ sake. I have been doing art activities with Oli since she was four months old and she really enjoys doing her “activities” with her mama. Art
Life – This catch-all subject is a kinda of placeholder for a variety of things. I want us to learn Chilean culture and improve our Spanish language skills. I want Olivia to begin the basics of maps and geography. Also, at her age, real life skills become crucially important and many kindergartners find immense satisfaction with helping around the house and learning to do more things on their own. So this subject covers those sorts of things.
Two other things influenced by homeschool design process: (1) I wanted a secular program, not religious-based; and (2) the more hands-on or physical activity, the better.
Keep coming back this week to learn more about what curriculum I chose for each subject, or how I developed a custom program where necessary.