Kindergarten. Homeschooling. Boys. I guess those words should be cause for panic and some days they are. Especially when my most verbal and emotional son is having an extra needy day. But at the height of overwhelm, I remind myself of what we know about children’s brains at this age, how they actually learn, and tell myself to just….enjoy my boys! To experiment, to try different activities in various subjects and at different times of the day, and see what works best for the three of us. Instead of caving in to the feeling of being a disgruntled manager keeping her rowdy employees in line, I try to envision us as a team. I’m still the team captain of course, but when I remember that parenting is more like coaching, that my boys will be adults like me for the majority of our lives together, it really helps my stress level and my compassion toward them.
Science & Nature
Science tells us that kids need structure and predictability. Makes sense. Adults do too. Nature itself is very orderly. But nature is also full of variety. And my boys crave variety. Not chaos, of course, because they do appreciate an orderly environment and familiar routine. But within that safe environment and familiar routine, they need variety. I distinctly remember craving the same thing as a child. Maybe not as young as five; I was probably closer to middle school. As silly as this sounds, I distinctly remember craving drama - whether good or bad - out of sheer boredom. But I also remember the magical trifecta of books, friends, and time for imaginative play being my portals out of the quiet mundane.
Eat, Learn, Go, Repeat
The biggest benefit of homeschooling is the flexibility. Barring a class or activity that begins at a specific time, you are free to follow a rhythm rather than a clock for at least part of your day. This nicely balances the equal needs for order and variety. Just like developing a new habit, consistency is what's crucial, not length of time.
A rhythm I'm trying to establish is Eat, Learn, Go, Repeat. So after breakfast, my boys know we have “morning time.” (Pam Barnhill’s Morning Basket). It doesn’t happen every single morning, but for nearly a month, it looked the same. We covered Bible, Reading, Writing, and Math in 20-40 minutes. I read a chapter from The Jesus Storybook Bible, then we either check the Kindergarten Site Words list for ones they recognize or I write out words in pencil from the story (like “God” and “fish”). I give the boys markers and they trace the words. Sometimes I turn on background music. For math last month, we used a fall activity we received at preschool last year: little plastic pumpkins, wooden blocks, and large popsicle sticks. I make a pumpkin patch, and we add and subtract pumpkins. The time varied, but we consistently covered all the subjects.
My kids enjoyed this routine for a while. Until they dreaded it. So how to keep five year old boys engaged and in routine without them dreading any sort of organized learning?
At age 5? Make it a game! Better yet, use Hot Wheels!
In between bites of egg and toast, I took turns asking each boy to drive their car to one of those words. After this, we did the Candy Challenge. Normally, I wouldn't bribe them to do a five minute school activity with candy, but I figured I'd put some of that obnoxiously excessive Halloween candy to good use. I told them if they could write some of those words without tracing them, and I could actually read them, they could have a piece of candy. So what's with the scale at the top of the picture? I found this in Target's $ section for $3. I told them to see which hot wheel was the heaviest. I'm pretty sure using a scale counts for kindergarten math...? :)
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