Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Kindergarten is the New First Grade

I have been dealing with a lot of guilt lately.  Guilt over facebooking.  Guilt over laundry.  But mostly guilt over homeschooling.  I'm pretty sure this is part of the process, so I have sought out the appropriate people seeking counsel and reassured myself as best I can.  But I got perhaps the best reassurance tonight from a sister with no knowledge of my need!  

Sue is a recently retired life-long teacher, many of those years in Kindergarten.  She exudes teaching (and encouragement, for that matter) and has always been inspiring to talk with, when I was teaching in public school, and now as a homeschooling mom.  Also, her husband is a college professor, who tells it just like it is, with the driest sense of humor ever!

Sue sent out an email about a preschool that she had observed recently and her assessment of it.  It is a school that uses the child-centered Reggio Approach, which sounds very free flowing and process-oriented.  There is also an emphasis on art.  I was interested in what she saw there, but I was really encouraged by her thoughts about it.  The ideas brought forth really helped me hone my own philosophy of education.  So here it is! 
  • Never underestimate the importance of play!!!!  I am always shocked to hear how little play is used in education anymore.  Even Kindergarten classrooms are getting rid of their kitchen sets and trading them in for more books and pencils.  Yes, they can read by the end of the year, but is this what we want????  (See next point!)  My children love the dirt pile in the yard right now and what they are learning cannot be measured on a worksheet, but perhaps only by the volume of what is brought in in their pockets and shoes!!  [Sidenote:  Yesterday in her long pink Easter dress, Ashton comes to Reed with great excitement about the product of the rain here: "REED, there is LOTS of MUD out there!" *eyebrows raised, head nodding*]
  • Earlier does not mean smarter!!!   I began teaching in public school ten years ago this spring.  I taught only 4 years and left before my first sweetie was born.  I feel that Kindergarten has changed since then to what I was teaching in first grade.  As more and more pressure is put upon teachers (and America) to produce, we are upping the standards for the children (not to mention the useless work load on teachers) because some politician believes it's a good idea.  This is one of the main reasons I have chosen to homeschool: I do not want my children forced into learning things too early!!  The foundations of education are undermined when we impose academics too young!  The children observed by Sue were being taught the process of thinking, self-directing, and problem solving.  Sue's husband pointed out that these were not skills he sees in his college students! 
  • Information has to be meaningful to be educational!!  If there's anything the show "Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?" shows, it's that we bombard our students with countless pieces of useless information in their formative years.  Without meaning, information will be not be retained long-term.  We are not training our children to someday be on Jeopardy, or to top the trivia board a B Dubs!  We should be training them to meet the challenges of an ever-changing society and the problems that arise therein.  Information should be used as a means to an end.
  • Process is more important than product!!!  Okay, I have to remind myself of this often!  The learning is happening throughout the project, which is not always evident in the finished product!  The kids got a 3"x 3" canvas black-line picture with paints and a brush for Christmas.  When Ashton finished hers, it was all black, no picture remotely visible, and she was as happy as she could be with it!!  But her little brain had processed and categorized the mixing of colors and the feel of the paint (yes, she ditched the brush early on!) for use at a later time.  That was the education.  
  • True education is a slow process (sometimes painfully so)!!  I chose a phonics program based on recommendation, research, and instinct.  It emphasizes making sure the child enjoys the learning of phonics and says don't be afraid of the two-minute lesson (yikes!).  So in three months, I was so bored!  And I had in the back of my head the mom who said her public-schooled Kindergartner was reading by the end of the year.  So I rushed it juuuuust a bit, and he was totally frustrated.  So I had to back it off for a while and when we came back to it, it seemed to click. He's not reading books, but he is reading a few words, which is boosting his confidence and heightening his awareness.  Yay!  My boredom (and, frankly, my ego) is worth his success! 
  • Art is way more important that we give it credit!  Sue said that art was a step in many of the processes she saw happening.  I have known this, but too often allow the clean-up or the process itself to scare me out of it, or at least put it off till another day (and another, and another...)!  And perhaps this reminder will help me better deal with the endless number of papers (some products, but many in process) I pick up daily in the name of free expression!  I have mentally threatened to get rid of that paper box many times!
So I'm giving up the guilt and relaxing about the academics!  I will continue to "have school" daily, but without the pressure of what we should know by the end of the year.  And I'm bringing out the paints!  There!  I said it!  And the more dirt on the kitchen floor, the bet---the bett-.... Okay, I can't take it that far!  :)  I'm still the janitor, too!


Your Sista, T said...

Hmmm, I agree, but I would be ok if you added more than a facebook type thought.

Shelly said...

Tell me more please........

Sara said...

Sorry girls! I hit enter after typing the title! I didn't realize it actually published just that... Hope this helps!

Terrie said...

Fabulous! I want to be a teacher just like you. Thank you for taking such great care of my niece & nephews. I think they are brilliant!

Shelly said...

Love it! Can I send Tanner to you for the remainder of her school years please?

Your kiddos are so lucky to have you not only as a Mother but as a Teacher as well.

Good job!