Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Depths Of Kindergarten, Alphabet Cards, And Number Blocks

It's mid-afternoon on a Summer day, yet the spread of notes, book lists, and curriculum options on the table in front of me hints more of Autumn. Our experimental year of kindergarten is behind us now, and I'm hopeful that our first official school year is nothing but good in the way that this last year has been. It's popular in the homeschooling community to skip preschool and/or kindergarten, hold out until age seven, then call first grade the scholastic starting line. I'm all for that. Dropping children into full time studies that they won't remember and (frankly) can't handle holds not a drop of good sense to me. But there are just so many ways to go about this whole learning thing and so many potential land mines to obliterate everything good in it that dipping our toes in slowly seemed a good thing.

And you know? I'm so glad we did. It helped us create rhythm, crush some bad habits with new ones, hash out ways to balance learning styles and teaching methods, and completely evaporate Lanna's idea that school equaled some kind of horror show. But I think what I most appreciate from the experience is the chance it gave me to roll up sleeves and get my hands dirty in understanding why having a goal in education (as a generality) is vital, so vital.

Questioning the point of things comes a little more quickly to me these days (either a tool born out of a never-ending to do list or a side effect of being married to an attorney), so it didn't take long for the why's to surface among the alphabet cards and numbered blocks. Why do we do this? It wasn't a questioning of what I think we all see as a necessary privilege, more of a questioning what it's necessary for. Singing the alphabet song a hundred times over and counting to ten fifty times a day, I could grasp that these are tools, but for what? What is the most basic goal of all of this? It's a necessary question, I realized, because there are some very different answers, and trying to direct learning without having direction is asking for frustration that nobody wants.

What do I most want in life for our girls? I asked myself this question fifty million times over as we read, played, and learned. And always, only one thing stood out sharp and clear until I accepted it as the answer: for them to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, and mind, and love their neighbors as themselves. It sums up everything, flows into every category, molds their path in the most vital ways. And if the proverbs speak truth in saying that the fear of God is the beginning of knowledge, I'm beginning to see that it might be because every subject we study beckons us in the words of the Narnian cry to go "further up and further in." That maybe all this learning can be our act of straining eyes beyond these shadows we live in to glimpse what all of these things are really, truly reflecting of the forever-lands. Literature, nature, mathematics, practical hard work, all of it.

Who knew kindergarten could be so deep, right?

On the more practical side, I picked up a few personal do's and do not's too, like:

 - Not bothering much with formal curriculum at this point. I had some Singapore math books passed on to me from my mom so we dabbled in the first book. Alanna loves working with numbers so the concepts were interesting to her, but working them out on paper was not. I don't regret anything with that experience - I dropped it as soon as I realized it truly was a no go for us - but I do wish I had stuck to things like touch and feel counting cards or counting beads until it was time for the more abstract stuff.

 - Being more organized when it comes to learning the alphabet. We started with a "Get Ready For the Code" book because the letter work was simple and it looked fun, but dropped it halfway through and used it for playing school instead. It's a great program and I'm sure they have a reason for the organization, but for us it was more natural to tackle the alphabet in A-Z order. In the future, I'll stick to more tactile things for this early stage like these letter units or The Peaceful Preschool type of format, with the Turbo Reader for the weird rules and word lists.

Now on to whatever first grade holds for us, I suppose.

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