Wednesday, August 26, 2009

First Day of Homeschool Kindergarten

Yesterday was the first day of school in our district, so it was our first official day of homeschool kindergarten. I had wanted to do something to mark the occasion, like take a hike together or go out to lunch, but I recently had emergency laparoscopic surgery so I couldn’t hike and Tim and N. both seemed to prefer to have a normal quiet day at home. So they had a very typical day, which was nice for them since the last couple weeks have been full of upheaval with guests, N.’s 5th birthday, and my surgery. In the morning N. worked for a long time on his drawings and Tim read to him from a volume of African folk tales. They went to the organic farmers’ market held on Tuesdays at our favorite coffee shop, came home and had a long lunch with lots of talking, reading, and listening to music, then took our neighbor’s dog for a long walk. They spent a long time poring over a new book on famous buildings that N.’s sister Julia gave him for his birthday. Then lots of playing time with blocks, trains, and trucks. Then playing outside briefly with our next-door neighbor who is N.’s age before supper, then two long chapters of Homer Price and to bed.

N. and I always look at our local newspaper together over breakfast and this morning we saw first-day-of-school pictures of kids and parents, including one of a boy crying while his dad comforted him. I said I felt sad looking at that picture, and N. said he did too and asked why he was crying. I said, maybe he doesn’t want to go to school, or maybe he’s just nervous and doesn’t know what it will be like. N. said, “Well, he doesn’t have to go to school! He can do homeschool! That’s so much more fun!” I tried to explain without going into it too much that there are lots of reasons why parents send their kids to school. Maybe the parents have to work and can’t stay home with their kids, or maybe they believe it is important for their kids to go to school.

Yesterday especially I felt so grateful that we are able to homeschool, that my husband is willing to do this with N. Here’s why I feel good about our decision not to send N. to kindergarten, in descending order of importance to me:
  • He has lots of unstructured play time, which is increasingly disappearing from kindergartens, and which is the primary vehicle for young children's learning.
  • He can pursue his interests, whether art, old buildings, trains, or whatever, for as long as he wants, and those interests can lead organically to other unforeseeable interests.
  • He gets lots of unstructured time outside, which again is not common in many kindergartens and which is simply crucial for children (and adults!).
  • He doesn’t have to be tested; we know what he is learning because we are with him and talking with him all the time. What he learns is not predetermined by tests.
  • He can eat a healthy leisurely lunch at his own pace. This may seem minor, but like me, N. is a slow eater and lunch is his biggest meal of the day, but it takes a long time. When I went to an all-day kindergarten, I lost a significant amount of weight because I couldn’t adjust to the short lunch time. My mom had to ask for permission for me to stay in the cafeteria to finish eating rather than go out for after-lunch recess so that I could get some food in me! For N., lunch is a big learning time because he and Tim talk, read, and listen to music over the 1 ½-2 hours that lunch sometimes takes!
  • Our mornings are low-stress because I am the only one who has to get somewhere by a specific time, and that’s usually not till 9:30. I have seen so many pieces in the media recently about getting your kids adjusted to the early morning deadlines of the school year, and I am so glad not to have to worry about that yet.
  • Finally, N. gets lots of interaction with a broad range of people. Yesterday, N. had lengthy conversations with several adult neighbors, acquaintances at the farmer’s market, a chicken farmer, and a coffee roaster, and he played with his friend next door (though not as long as he would have liked to). I believe strongly in the value of multi-age social interactions, but I have not yet made strong enough connections with other homeschoolers N.’s age, and that is one of my goals for the fall.
I am excited to be part of N.'s learning and growth in the coming year!


lauriedcb said...

My daugher (age 3) also takes a very long time to eat - 1 hour 45 minutes is not uncommon. Thank you for reminding me that this time has more value than at first meets the eye and to try to find ways not to rush that experience. I have felt anxious at times because our meal times take so long that I feel rushed in other ways (e.g., to be somewhere on time or to get to bed on time) but your post reminded me to try to find other ways to maintain a routine that works for us but that still respects and allows for the extended meal time. Although in our house, I do wonder how much of the extended dinner has to do with the fact that bedtime closely follows... :)

Fanny Harville said...

It's definitely hard to be patient. Another weird side effect of Norris's long big lunches is that he doesn't eat much at breakfast or supper, which can be frustrating. Anyway, thanks for your comment!

lori said...

We started homeschooling after my son finished all-day public school kindergarten. He is a slow eater, and generally just moves at his own pace and cannot be hurried. The kids were given 25 minutes for lunch, and that was if the teacher got them there on time. Immediately after lunch was outdoor recess, where, most days, my son had to choose between finishing his lunch and playing with his friends. Now he eats when he's hungry, which is pretty much all day long. :-)

I also remember rushing him through dinner most nights because he was taking so long and we had to get him to bed so that he'd get halfway decent sleep so that we could wake him up, rush him through breakfast, and get him on the bus. I don't miss those days at all, and neither does my son.

Bona Fide Mama said...

Congratulations! It has felt really good to me to not send my little boy to kindergarten as well. And I have chosen to keep him home for all of the same reasons you listed. Isn't it a great feeling?

sgaissert said...

Your routine sounds great. All my best wishes for a happy "school" year.