A Question of Learning

Or, less pretentiously:

What should a kid learn in kindergarten?

I’m taking a swing at home schooling the Princess*– she’s just a bit too young to go into kindergarten, and I’ve got enough qualifications legally allowed to be a home educator by the state.

I know that I want her to be reading and diving in to self-guided research that I can supplement with what she isn’t interested in, but I really am looking for a realistic expectation in general.

I’m thinking:

  • reading basic words– “Hop on Pop” as a test.
  • being able to draw a connection between math problems and real examples– 2+2 is the same as two apples plus two apples
  • writing print legibly in military style all-caps, and basic progress in upper-lower case block-print
  • trace a standard coloring book– depending on small motor control, color inside of the lines and fill it out
  • recognize and match colors and basic shapes, both two and three dimensional; possibly recognizing a pattern and copying it
  • recognize basic classes of animal– land mammal, reptile, bird, fish, sea mammal
  • recognize basic plant categories
  • growth stages of plants and animals
  • master the ASDFJKL; of the keyboard, demonstrate ability to both double-click and click-and-drag, plus understand which you should do in a specific instance
  • safety related science– germ theory, electronic theory, very basic physics; why you wash your hands, why you don’t touch that wire, and why you don’t jump out in front of a car to yell “boo.”
  • basic scientific theory
  • basic skepticism– “what’s another way to look at this?”  “is this person trying to make me think something that isn’t quite right?”
  • memorize basic prayers– Our Father, Hail Mary, possibly how to pray the Rosary
  • basic theology; Trinity, angels, life after death, salvation, caritas, the Saints, some of the ideas of expressing love as wishing-another’s-best-interest

So, those expectations: too high?  Too low?  What am I missing?  No idea what kind of metric to put on history– trying to build a basic understanding of our family history, and of world history, but it’s rather tough with someone who doesn’t consistently grasp the difference between “today” and “last week.”

We have a phonics book that both girls love (yes, the two year old knows her letters and is connecting them to “making words.”  Yay, older sister leading by example.) and I subscribe to an OK online school called Starfall, plus a lot of concepts are being introduced by Dinosaur Train, My Little Pony, Guess with Jess and Boo!, as well as Good Eats.  I don’t have any good specifically Catholic “edutainment,” although the Scriptural Rosary from Rosary Army is rather good for car trips and I try to catch some ETWN radio shows when I can.

After hearing some horror stories of the utter lack of basic control in classrooms, my husband is pretty supportive of home schooling if I can get this year to work… so please, feel free to suggest!

*Please, don’t bother to “correct” me that it’s not homeschooling– yes, parents are responsible for teaching their children.  I noticed, my folks did a great job– I learned more science from my mom than from school, and the only thing they didn’t do well on was what they were told they weren’t qualified to teach. (Religious education.)  That doesn’t change that there is a difference between getting one’s formal schooling at a gov’t facility and getting it at a private school, or at home.  It’s a matter of specifying what formal schooling a kid gets.  I get the world-view statement being made, but I value communicating clearly over Making A Statement when it’s a social nicety like “where do your kids go to school.”

More to explorer


  1. Hello Foxfier,

    Matt Archbold is jumping into the Homeschool Pool, and there are a lot of good suggestions in the comments.

    I think your list is pretty long… the most important thing is reading.

    I highly recommend an explicit, systematic, sequential, synthetic phonics program using decodable texts, rather than incidental instruction, let alone so-called “whole language”. From http://www.readingtockets.org,

    in synthetic phonics approaches, students are taught to link an individual letter or letter combination with its appropriate sound and then blend the sounds to form words…. many synthetic phonics approaches use direct instruction in teaching phonics components and provide opportunities for applying these skills in decodable text formats characterized by controlled vocabulary.

    By decodable, they mean that you don’t ask the child to read words with letter-sound combinations she hasn’t learned yet. The program I used with my own boys had a series of 72 booklets. The first booklets are extremely simple. In fact, barely there. But the point is for the child to experience more success than frustration, page by page, booklet by booklet.

    The wisdom of this approach is that if your daughter learns fast, you two finish the program fast, and she moves on to better content. If she learns slow, there is no other way she’s going to learn to read.

  2. Matt’s post is what got me started thinking about it; I don’t remember much of Kindergarten other than it being massively boring and printing my name, along with the frustration of trying to get the concept of “phonetically” across to my mom, when I didn’t know the word. Didn’t help that I was trying to grasp the phonetic spelling for the names of the letters of the alphabet. (“but how do you spell that sound?!” Why yes, mom’s hair DID get quite silver….)

    The book is one from the Beka whatever program, and more importantly I try to find words that she can sound out and have her do them everywhere we go. (Example: “exit.”) The important part for now is that she thinks it’s great and is actually learning useful phonics.

    The theory of setting things up so they have more success dang near ruined my ability to read, though– they wouldn’t let me read anything interesting, so I refused. Very, very effectively refused, but quietly.
    I was sent to special ed, and as soon as I was given the teacher’s main therapy– being allowed to choose any book I thought looked interesting– I was reading fine. (As in, from “may never learn to read” to “several levels above grade level.)
    If we run into a combination she doesn’t know, I tell her what it does, and have her do the rest; so far the main problem is that she wants to memorize things. (I can see how folks think the whole word program is a great idea…but I LIKE that English isn’t as limited as Chinese. How could we have lovely works like Jabberwock with those pictures-for-words?)

    I’m still not sure what I should set as a “goal” for graduating to first grade in each category, although that reminds me I should work music and poetry into it– probably in the same one, maybe some old Irish songs and that Pirate CD they like so much.

  3. Foxfier and anyone else thinking of homeschooling:
    After 22 years of homeschooling and 4 graduates, 3 of whom have also graduated from college (the youngest is beginning his 2nd year), I would like to put my 2 cents in! Reading is king but not just your child learning to read–read aloud to your children. A LOT. I cannot emphasize enough the part that reading aloud has played in my children’s lives (mine, too, for that matter). Vocabulary, conceptual understanding, opportunities for discussion, grammar, style, wisdom from the world’s best thinkers, and so very much more come from the simple act of reading aloud good and great literature. Get hold of John Senior’s “The Restoration of Christian Culture” and then read to your kids (and husband, too) the thousand good books and help them be ready for the great books when it is time. If you do nothing else for them, READ ALOUD!

  4. Second JRuskin’s advice to read aloud, listen to audiobooks together. Your child can build a vast vocabulary long before she is reading it. Relating this to the mechanics of reading, it’s no use learning to sound-it-out if what you just sounded out has no near correspondence with a word you have already heard and know the meaning of.

  5. I like the reading aloud, and reading together taking turns, and I like incorporating science and math and philosophy/ theology into what we are doing in our day anyway. Watering trimming plants. Planting measuring ingredients sewing writing letter to friends etc.

  6. You might check out Catholic Heritage Curricula (chcweb.com) just to see what they have for kindergarten, not necessarily to buy anything, but just to see what they have for sale since that would dictate what they think is important. I started out with ambitious plans myself back in 2004, and things did not go well in the beginning. I have three boys, two of whom are dyslexic (one severely). That changes the map quite a bit.
    I definitely like the idea of letting the children read what they like as oppose to reading “readers”. If they like “readers” fine, but if they don’t, find something else. My little guy, the one who has the most trouble, would rather struggle through a real book than the controlled readers that come with his reading program.
    About handwriting–girls are not quite as bad as boys in this area, but what you teach first, is what they will most likely stick with. If you want them to develop a nice cursive, begin that first. And it must be worked on daily. Good penmanship does not happen with just teaching one letter a day, for 26 days. It must be worked at daily (well, M-F anyway) over a period of years.

  7. Music cannot start too early.

    Begin with the recorder and piano lessons should start no later than four

  8. Yeah, music isn’t going to happen. Exposure to music, yes, but classes simply aren’t an option.

    Remembered I have a set of McGuffey’s and she did pretty well with the first reading lesson.

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