Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Where Do I Start?--Homeschooling a Kindergartener



By the time I had been married for three months, I knew I would homeschool my children--and we weren't even pregnant yet! (It took my hubby a bit longer to come to the same conclusion, but that's another story.)

I remember attending my first meeting of our church's homeschool moms group when our oldest was just a few months old. I felt a bit out of place, but I nonetheless felt compelled to be there. I mean, I only had 4-5 years before I'd have to know what I was doing! I wanted to know more about the different "styles" of homeschooling, what everyone's favorite curriculum was, etc...

I didn't want to be caught unprepared.

Now, most moms probably won't be attending homeschool groups, or researching curriculum options, when their children are babies, but most of us do want to be prepared.

The problem comes, of course, when homeschooling was not the original plan. I have talked to several moms who are going to homeschool their Kindergartener this year, after having assumed they would always send their child to school.

Their big question is,

"Help! What do I do? Where do I start?"


They want to know the same things I did when my son was a baby, but they feel a far greater sense of urgency.

They need a crash course.


And so, with much humility, and the disclaimer that my only claim to "expertise" is having successfully homeschooled one Kindergartener, I offer my version of that crash course.

First of all, the basics. (I promise, for those who have asked, to talk about specific curriculum recommendations in a forthcoming post):

1. Don't Panic. Seriously...don't do it! Kindergarten is not that complicated, and you're highly unlikely to mess it up. You're the one who taught your child to walk, talk, and use the potty, aren't you? Indeed, you've taught him a lot more than that already. Nobody sprinkled pixie dust over your child's head when he turned five, magically changing him into someone who can only be taught by a "professional" with a teaching certificate. You are the world's foremost expert in your own child, and you are qualified to teach him.

2. Learn the Laws. This is the least fun part of preparing for homeschooling, but it is important. You need to find out what the homeschooling laws are in your state. The Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) website has information on the homeschooling laws for each state (and yes, homeschooling is legal in all 50 states). I would also recommend finding out what your state's homeschool advocacy group is, as they may have more detailed information. (For my "local" readers, Wisconsin Parents Association (WPA) is an outstanding resource. I highly recommend their handbook.)

The good news is, many states do not have mandatory attendance laws before the age of 6, 7, or even 8, so you may not actually have to "do" anything in terms of reporting or approving your homeschool with the state--at least, not this year. Be wary of mailings or visits from your local school district, suggesting that you need to submit your child to developmental screening, give personal information about your child for a school "census", or allow a school official to review your curriculum. Only do these things if they are actually required by law.

3. Talk to Someone Who's "Been There". Find the most experienced mom you know, who has homeschooled the most kids, whose children you like, and start there. Most likely, you are not the only homeschooling parent in your area, and local support and encouragement is best if it is available.

If you don't know of any other local homeschooling families, try asking your state's advocacy group about any area support groups or co-ops. You can also check the state-by-state listings at homeschoolclassifieds.com .

There are many, many, online homeschooling communities, of course, and these can be immensely helpful. They can also be a time drain, though, and time spent sitting at the computer is time usually not spent with your kids (just ask any blogger)...so be judicious, and set your timer.


4. Don't "Do School"...Do Life. We live in an ultra-compartmentalized world, that separates home from work from academia. Judging by the way the typical school is structured, you'd think that people of different ages couldn't even have a conversation with each other! This is such an artificial way of thinking, but it's a mindset that most of us have been raised with, and we have to work very hard to shake it if we're going to raise our children differently.

Work is life...life is family...family is school. They are all interconnected.

So take your kids with your to the grocery store. Talk about the different kinds of fruits and vegetables you see. Talk about making wise food choices. Talk about menus, shopping lists, budgets, and sales.

Teach your children how to wash dishes, fold and put away clothes, and scrub the toilet. Every Kindergartener can be taught to help with cooking and meal preparations. Their future spouses will thank you some day.

And talk to your kids...when you sit down, when you walk along the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. (Deuteronomy 11:19). Young children learn so much from ordinary conversation! They do not need to sit down at a desk (or in a circle for that matter) and listen to a teacher talk for learning to occur.

5. Be Wise About "Socialization". If you've recently decided that you are going to homeschool your Kindergartener--even if it's just for one year--you will most likely hear concerns from friends and family about so-called "socialization". While the definition of this hot-button word changes from person to person (see this post), when it comes to your five or six year old, most people are probably worried that your child will be lonely, awkward, or have no friends.

For some parents, these conversations can become quiet frustrating, because the very reason they have chosen not to send their children to Kindergarten is because they are timid, shy, and have a hard time making friends--or, on the other end of things, they may be easily overstimulated, have a hard time sitting still, and have difficulty interacting with peers in a way that is at all "friendly" or constructive. Many folks see the only solution to shyness or obnoxious behavior in large group settings is to expose the young child to more large group settings.

Homeschooling families think differently. We believe that a gentler approach is in order. So we take our children on play dates at friends' houses or at parks. We play in groups of 4, 8, or 10 children, all accompanied by involved parents, rather than groups of 20 or 30, with one teacher and maybe a teacher's aide to play "referee". Our children can cultivate friendships with children and adults of all ages, in various settings, rather than spending the vast majority of their time in the same classroom with the same set of peers. They can observe their parents interacting and conversing with other adults, and they can have their own conversations guided by loving parents, who want to see their children treat other people with kindness, politeness and respect.

6. Remember the 80/20 Principle. Last but not least, whenever you feel overwhelmed, remember that about 20% of what you do makes an 80% difference, and about 80% of what you do makes only a 20% difference. Concentrate on the 20% that is the most important.

I am still firmly convinced that most children would be better of if they did nothing but read the Bible and play outside all day than they would in an institutional school setting...especially when they are young. Of course, we do so much more than this every day, but hear my point:

Our primary job as Christian parents is to bring our little ones up in the nurture and admonition of the LORD. (Ephesians 6:4) Contrary to popular opinion, this job cannot be handed off to a Sunday School teacher or Youth Pastor, nor is it over once a child makes a profession of faith. It is a constant, relentless job, where we will face opposition at every turn.

Think about how hard it is for you, as a mature adult, to grow spiritually. How much harder it is for our little ones! But, that's why God gave them to us--why He places them in families! He does it in order that we might pass on the living truth of our Christian faith from generation to generation. This kind of spiritual instruction is virtually impossible to accomplish when our children are away from us for most of each day, most of each week. When we remember this, questions about curriculum, socialization, and logistics can be seen in a whole new light...and it gives us a renewed confidence in what we are doing, why we are doing it, and Who we are doing it for.

So, there you have it, my top six tips for getting started with Kindergarten homeschooling. (We'll talk about "what to teach" and choosing curriculum shortly.)

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts! Is this helpful? What suggestions would you add?

8 comments:

Christine D. said...

This is perfect and just what I needed! Thank you SO much for posting this! <3 As you saw by my Facebook thread recently, the "socialization" issue seems to be one of the most popular arguments against it. I agree with what you wrote and know he'll adjust perfectly to it. I mean, it's what he wants so I think HS will go great because he desires it. :) BTW, I know you said this is for another post, but how exactly did you get your hubby on board with homeschooling? I could use some tips with this as well. LOL

Tiana said...

You're welcome, Chris! I think you'll do great!

As far as husbands are concerned, the short answer is talk to them respectfully, and pray like crazy when they're not looking. ;) I'll work on a long answer, though.

chanel said...

thanks for the info and encouragement. I am starting real homeschool this year and have felt both excited and stressed about the expectations of myself, my kids and those watching in the wings! i will keep a watch for any more info you have to share. thanks, chanel.

mamaforhim said...

I like this but I also want to put a plug in for "doing school" at home.
The beauty of homeschooling is choosing what is best for your family...if that means structuring it like school, that is okay too.

I think a balance is best.

If child is nagging you to teach him to read, then start doing it.... the window is open,so knot some sheets together and slowly make your way through!

Notice I did not say to necessarily JUMP through, but try some formal sitting down sessions and see how child takes to it.

If you treat it like another fun daily activity, it won't harm anything.

My kindergartener for this year is getting impatient for his canned curriculum books to come in the mail! He's excited!

Jennifer Lavender said...

Like you, I knew before my children were even a sparkle in their daddy's eye that we would homeschool. Luckily my husband fully agreed.

Unlike you, I didn't do a whole lot of research before hand. I just figured I would wait and see what came up when we got there.

I wound up choosing a curriculum for preschool based on the fact that everyone said my daughter was preschool age and it was the first thing I found. It looked pretty, but wasn't very practical. That's when I started to really research different options.

My thoughts on homeschool and what we hope to accomplish have changed a lot since those first days. So, the only thing I would add to your list is, "Don't be afraid to make changes if needed." If the curriculum you choose isn't working, or if you don't feel like your child is really ready for "school" then don't be afraid to take a step back, reevaluate, and make changes where needed.

Marbel said...

I agree with both you and Mamaforhim. :-) Another great thing about homeschooling is know what our kids will respond to.

Once I read this piece of homeschooling advice: "don't ever buy your child a workbook!" I think there may have been more exclamation points. But one of my kids loves workbooks! I remember loving workbooks as a kid myself (though I was not homeschooled).

My husband was the one who started talking about homeschooling, and I was the one who had to be coaxed on board! :-)

Kim said...

Thank you...it's exactly what I am going through...I am about to start homeschooling my kindergartener this coming Monday and I can't tell you how nervous I am. Your story fits my story exactly...so thank you for the encouragement...I really need it...

Tiana said...

You're welcome, Kim! May God bless you and your family on your journey!

:)Tiana

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I'm a Stay-at-Home, Christian, "crunchy" mama. I have been blessed with the calling to be a godly wife and mother. I am passionate about bringing up my children in the discipline and instruction of the LORD, through home education and discipleship. Helpmeet to my best friend and soulmate, Christopher since 1/29/2000, and mama to four little blessings, including a tiny, precious, newborn baby girl.

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Fixing Your Heart on Titus 2

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Our Curriculum 2010-2011

Bible--Child's Story Bible by Catherine Vos, Apologia Biblical World View Book 1, "Who is God and Can I Really Know Him?"
Catechism-- "Training Hearts, Teaching Minds" by Starr Meade
Phonics--Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
(Kindergarten), Year 1 Booklist (1st Grade)
Handwriting--Bible Copywork, made using Educational Fontware
Spelling-- All About Spelling Level 1 (1st grade)
Math--Math-U-See Primer (Kindergarten) , Math-U-See Alpha (1st grade)
World History--Simply Charlotte Mason's Genesis Through Deuteronomy and Ancient Egypt
American History--The Light and The Glory For Children Series
Art--Interest-led projects and handicrafts
Geography and Missions-- "Hero Tales" by Dave and Neta Jackson, as well as various other missionary biographies, incorporating globe and map study
*We will be studying music and phy-ed., participating in a writing club and nature club, as well as attending various field trips, with our church's homeschool group.*

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