|The Unschooling Handbook|
How to Use the Whole World As Your Child's Classroom
by Mary Griffith
|Unschooling, a homeschooling method based on the belief that kids learn best when allowed to pursue their natural curiosities and interests, is practiced by 10 to 15 percent of the estimated 1.5 million homeschoolers in the United States.
Education rears disciples, imitators, and routinists, not pioneers of new ideas and creative geniuses. The schools are not nurseries of progress and improvement, but conservatories of tradition and unvarying modes of thought.
~ Ludwig von Mises
Do You Need to Teach Kindergarten?
Karen M. Gibson
“What curriculum do you suggest for Kindergarten?”
This is a question I am frequently asked by parents. It is also a question I find particularly difficult to provide a quick, easy response to. The truth is I do not believe that a curriculum is necessary for Kindergarten, but that usually is not the answer parents are looking for or expect. They are certain that Kindergarten is that magical time when suddenly what was “life” must become “education” and therefore needs to include workbooks, textbooks, and organized lessons. So they are hoping I will have ideas and suggestions for an organized course of study all laid out in black and white.
Many parents have this rosy, magical, idealized vision of public school Kindergarten and believe they need to recreate that at home. My children attended public school kindergarten and believe me, there was nothing magical about it. Kindergarten is geared towards the lowest common denominator (surprised?). Any child that already knows their letter sounds, how to write the alphabet and numbers 0-9, and do simple addition like 2+2 = 4 is going to be a very bored child in Kindergarten.
A primary goal of kindergarten is to make good little soldiers/workers out of children. Their most important lessons include learning that they must ask permission before doing anything (including bathroom privileges). They are trained to follow the schedule at all costs. They learn to eat, play, learn, and even nap according to schedule with no consideration given to the individual child’s needs or requirements. They learn to follow directions, stand in line quietly, and get along with other children and the teacher without resorting to violence. And probably the most important lesson is to break the emotional bonds with home and family. This is one result of the institution of public school that I believe few parents realize until they remove their child from that system. Only then does one fully appreciate the extent to which authority and control of one’s children were given away.
You are probably thinking, “But what about reading and mathematics? I need a textbook to teach those subjects!”
A formal textbook curriculum follows a scope and sequence, a list of objectives that the child should attain by the end of that particular school year through the lessons and activities provided. Here is a bit from a scope and sequence for Kindergarten:1
- Hold books right side up and turn pages in the right direction.
- Locate parts of a book such as beginning, middle, and end.
- Recognize and interpret familiar signs and symbols from the environment, such as stop signs.
- Recognize and say the sounds of most letters of the alphabet.
- Recognize their own first name.
- Use letters, drawings, scribbles, and gestures to tell a story.
- Retell and act out stories as an activity before writing.
- Begin to write left to right and top to bottom.
- Begin to use one or two letters, especially initial consonant sounds, to represent whole words.
- Show understanding of stories read to them.
- Learn and practice using new vocabulary.
- Use ordinal number names from first to tenth.
- Compare two groups to determine which is more, less or the same.
- Develop the concept of first, middle and last within a set of three objects.
- Respond to directions about location (e.g., above, below, between).
- Compare objects based on size and capacity.
- Begin to observe, describe, and record daily and seasonal changes in weather.
- Become aware of and develop appropriate habits, which will lead to good personal health, such as washing hands before eating.
- Begin to ask questions and construct explanations based on observations of objects and events.
- Speak about themselves, including gender, ethnicity, talents, and abilities.
- Distinguish between land and water masses on maps and globes.
- Hear and retell stories that show how people make economic choices.
- Recognize the flag of the United States.
What part of this “kindergarten learning” can not be done at home? And how much of it requires a textbook? How are the above “requirements” any different from the things a parent has already very capably assisted their child in learning, such as sharing with siblings, knowing when to wear a rain coat, brushing teeth to prevent cavities, making good food choices, counting plates when setting the table, sorting laundry by colors or types of material, selecting the most economical brand of soap, signing their name to Grandma’s birthday card?
Does a parent really need a textbook to help their child “begin to ask questions and construct explanations based on observations of objects and events?” Does that not just mean they can look out the window, see the ground is wet and know that the rain causes it? If they do not understand what causes the rain, will they not ask anyway, without having to wait for a textbook to ask and answer that question?
Really, a parent needs only to continue what has obviously worked successfully the first five years of their child’s life – be patient, be observant, answer their questions, read to them, play games with them, and just include them in your daily activities. Kindergarten, after all, is only a label given to a group of children who happen to be the same age, and is as meaningless as all other labels. There is no age at which Life is not an essential part, if not THE essential part, of education, and Kindergarten is no exception.
Here are some ways in which Life can be your Kindergarten curriculum, things you can do with your child:
- Plant a garden
- Raise a pet
- Create a family newsletter
- Keep a scrapbook of pictures and other memorabilia
- Attend the local community theatres
- Purchase a membership at the local YMCA
- Go hiking at a nearby National/State Park
- Read poetry and fairy tales and fables and history and whatever else your child might be interested in
- Do hands-on arts and crafts
- Find a simple science experiment book at the library and try some of the experiments
- Play an instrument
- Take dance lessons or karate lessons or learn yoga
- Buy some binoculars, put out some birdseed, and learn to identify birds
- Visit museums - hands-on science, history, art, marine, planetariums, aviation, racing, naval, automobile, etc.
- Plan a trip, using maps and other resources
- Make a grocery list and then go shopping
- Start giving an allowance
- Open a bank account
- Visit a farm
- Build a deck/porch
- Collect rocks
- Identify all the trees in your neighborhood
- Read a newspaper
- Make a quilt
- Buy a few shares of stock
- Visit the ocean
- Visit a dam
- Hold a scavenger hunt
- A Standards-Based Scope & Sequence for Learning, New York City Board of Education. (URL no longer valid)
- World Book, Typical Course of Study. As a source of information, World Book offers the results of ongoing research into curriculum requirements and standards. The learning levels include preschool through grade 12.
- What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know, one of The Core Knowledge Series. The series purports to provide "a sound basis in the fundamentals of math, art, history, language arts, science, and technology." I have used them in the past, mostly as a reference tool and not as a strict guideline on what to teach next. Remember to use them as you need, not to allow them to rule what your child learns.
- Comprehensive Curriculum of Basic Skills, a series of workbooks that many homeschoolers use as a fun way to make sure they cover the basics.
Copyright May 2002
Originally published in the May/June 2002 issue of HELM (Home Education Learning Magazine)
| Homeschooling The Early Years
Your Complete Guide to Successfully Homeschooling the 3- to 8- Year-Old Child
by Linda Dobson
| Here's a guide that comes direct from the experts: a mother of two homeschooled, now-grown children and 83 homeschooling families she surveyed..
An Alternate Approach to Preschool
by Anne Engelhardt
|Highly recommended for parents of preschool age children (3-5) who aren't totally comfortable with the idea of trusting these early learning years to a stranger. This book is packed with encouragement for parents and tons of fun activities to do with kids.
|For The Children’s Sake|
Foundations of Education for Home and School
by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay
| A book about what education can be--for your child, in your home, and in your school. It is based first on a Christian understanding of what it means to be human--to be a child, a parent, a teacher--and on the Christian meaning of life. At the same time it is deeply practical.
|The Complete Daily Curriculum for Early Childhood|
Over 1200 Easy Activities to Support Multiple Intelligences and Learning Styles
by Pam Schiller, Pat Phipps
| This innovative book for three-to six-year-olds offers a complete plan for every learning style. With more than 1,200 activities and ideas to engage multiple in-telligences, assessment tools, and a comprehensive appendix of songs, stories, games and dances, props, recipes, patterns, chants, rhymes, and arts and crafts, you'll find everything you need to captivate and challenge every child in your classroom.