Late yesterday afternoon, Darren sat down with me at the table in our school room to review our plans for Kindergarten. It was so nice to finally be able to sit down and sort through it together and see how the plans I've been formulating in my mind for the past several weeks are actually taking the shape of an exciting curriculum. And I so value his input and opinion. It can be quite a daunting task to sift through page after page of amazing resources without feeling overwhelmed by the variety of beautiful materials each has to offer! After spending nearly every waking minute of the past week thinking about (more like agonizing about) everything I hoped to use, I finally just had to take a break from it all to refocus on the big picture. It's Kindergarten. I want it to be fun. We'll have plenty of time down the road for more complex learning, but for now, I just want it to be a cozy, pleasant home learning experience for all of us. I had to really stop and think about the things we already love (crafts, reading, games...) and figure out how to best incorporate them into the lessons I hope to cover with Dylan. One thing that helped was the decision to focus, for now, on only the months leading up to Christmas. At that time, we'll see how far we've come, what's working, what's not, and decide from there how to best proceed. That has relieved a huge amount of pressure for me, because trying to plan all at once for the entire year was just way too much. Maybe it will be easier once we're a little more experienced, but I have to say, I'm really pleased with what we've worked out for the first half of Dylan's Kindergarten year. I like that we'll be building on a lot of what we've already been learning and things he already shows such interest in, using many of the materials and books we already have. I don't want our home environment to change just because we are "officially" homeschooling. I want to continue with the comfortable, easy learning we've been enjoying all along. So here is what we'll be working with, and, by all means, if any of you more experienced homeschooling mothers have any thoughts or suggestions, I'd love to hear them!
Math: I looked at a lot of really great programs, and was for a while fairly decided on Math-U-See, but ultimately chose the Saxon Kindergarten Math program with the supplemental manipulative set. I think it will work well for us. We'll also be using things such as flashcards, computer games, and tangram sets...all things we already have and use. One book I am going to order is Grandfather Tang's Story: A Tale Told With Tangrams, because I love incorporating story books into as many lessons as possible!
Science: Here is one area where it was particularly helpful to remember the big picture, as I mentioned before. Although I don't think we're ready yet for rigid science textbooks, I wasn't entirely convinced that I'd be able to independently come up with appropriate science lessons. So I thought for a while about the things we're enjoying right now, and how we might be able to continue with them. Butterflies, for instance. And gardening. We can easily continue studying these topics that are so interesting to us right now. I'm ordering Science with Plants, because we love to experiment. And because we love reading, we'll be using the books How a Seed Grows, From Seed to Pumpkin, and How Do Apples Grow? ( I really love the Let's-Read-And-Find-Out books!) We also have Apples and The Pumpkin Book (both by Gail Gibbons, who is rapidly becoming one of my favorite children's book authors.) I think all of these will tie in nicely with the annual trips we make to our local pumpkin patch and the nearby apple festival held every fall. And, speaking of fall (my favorite time of year!) we'll be studying seasons and weather, too. Some of the books we'll be using: Sunshine Makes the Seasons, Why Do Leaves Change Color, Seasons and Living Things, What Will the Weather Be, Down Comes the Rain, and Weather and Climate. Also included in our science plans are more in depth lessons on the human body. Dylan loves this topic. He sometimes sleeps with my old college human anatomy textbook! He is already very knowledgeable about the workings of the human body...but I'd like to teach him more. We'll be using Seton's Science 1 for Young Catholics, along with Usborne Beginners: Your Body (which also includes internet links), Human Body Explorer, and The Human Body. (There are also several relevant Magic School Bus books and movies that we have and like.) I expect that it will take the entire school year to get through these subjects, but I think we'll enjoy them immensely!
History: Here again, I didn't really know at first how I wanted to approach the subject. I mean, history is so broad...spanning our entire existence! Where to begin? With Adam and Eve? Ancient civilizations? It made my head hurt to think about it too much. Nothing felt quite right for Kindergarten. So, I made a decision that I am so excited about: I purchased an entire Little House on the Prairie boxed collection to read aloud with my kids throughout the course of the school year! And to add a little more depth to the period, we'll be referring to If You Lived 100 Years Ago and If You Traveled West in a Covered Wagon. I'm hoping to incorporate lots of crafts, fun activities, and even probably some baking to bring the pioneering theme to life in our own home. I cannot wait! We'll also be using holidays to provide important lessons. At Thanksgiving, for example, we'll be reading The First Thanksgiving and The Thanksgiving Story.
Language Arts: I am incredibly proud of how well Dylan reads on his own, so we'll just keep on practicing with him reading aloud to me, Darren, and the girls. We'll also be using My Very First Catholic Speller and/or My Catholic Speller Level A. I think it will just depend on how much is review of what he already knows. We may use Level A after the Christmas break, but we'll have to just wait and see. For handwriting practice, I've ordered a D'Nealian Handwriting Manuscript ABC Book (courtesy of a thoughtful Amazon gift card I recently received via e-mail. Thanks again, Jennifer!) Dylan really loves the Picture Story tablets we bought a couple of weeks ago, which are blank on the top half of the page and lined on the bottom half. Since he loves drawing, I plan to utilize these books in just about every subject. He can practice his handwriting by copying simple sentences or passages beneath his artwork. (I'm thinking this will be particularly nice for lives of the saints or for simple poetry selections.)
Fine Arts: One thing I really liked in the Catholic Heritage Curricula catalog was Art Masterpieces: A Liturgical Collection. We'll display these for the appropriate month in an 8x10 frame in our school room, rotating them according to the liturgical year. I think these will make a beautiful addition to our learning environment, and we'll use the included guide to study each work of art. We're also going to try the Child-sized Masterpieces program, levels easy and intermediate. I'm also ordering A Catholic How-to-Draw, which I have no doubt Dylan will absolutely love! Also, because no home should ever be without lots and lots of music: Let the Children Come to Me and Wee Sing America. We'll be reading lots of poetry, hopefully in the context of a nice "tea time" once or twice a week.
Religion: We've decided to enroll Dylan in our parish's religious education Kindergarten class, to be held for an hour every Sunday morning beginning in September. In this way, he will have a group of peers that he will be able to see regularly, and learn more about his faith. Class time is such that we will still be able to attend Mass together as a family, which has always been important to us. But we will also be learning from home, using Our Heavenly Father from the Faith and Life Series, and celebrating Feast days together as we have so often done in the past.
Soooo...I think that just about sums it up. Have I missed anything? I know that it sounds like an awful lot of work and material, but I really don't think it will be. I haven't exactly figured out what our daily schedule will be, but I am fairly certain that it will not include all of these subjects on every single day. And much of this is not really going to include much "work". A lot of it will be reading together, experimenting together, drawing...all things we love doing! I'm really excited and can't wait to get started in late August or early September. There is still quite a bit of planning to be done on my part before then, but I feel really good about the materials we've selected! And finally, I can honestly say I am at complete peace about the entire experience. I know that this is what we have been called to do. I pray that I can do my part well.