Friday, July 2, 2010

Evaluating Kindergarten - Part 1

Last summer, as Matthew and I were about to launch into our first year of homeschooling, I remember thinking that it might also be our last year of homeschooling.  I had no idea how the year would go...I only knew that we would give it a try for one year, hoping that I would be unable to mess him up too badly in his kindergarten year.  I also remember thinking that we would evaluate the year around now, at the end of the school year, with a view towards making a decision now about grade one.

Over the past few weeks, I have found myself thinking more and more about how the school year has gone.  My gut feeling is that the year has been a good one, overall.    I think that the objectives I set for the year have been met.  My goals last September were pretty basic: to have Matthew involved in a variety of fun activities; to find ways for him to play with other children; and to focus a lot of our targeted learning efforts on his learning how to read.  I think we met these objectives:
  • From an 'activity' perspective, Matthew (and I) attended between 30-35 field trips, covering a wide variety of topics - you've read about many of these over the past several months!  With one or two exceptions, the field trips have been awesome - both fun and educational.  He also participated in several regular, weekly events:  gym classes; kindermusik classes; and either skating lessons or three-on-three hockey.  In addition, he was periodically involved in a few other programs, such as a little chefs' program, and spring baseball.
  • We have also found lots of ways for Matthew to play with other kids on a pretty regular basis: through field trips; regular playtime and occasional sleepovers with his cousin; arranged play dates with friends; and at our weekly winter play group.  I love that he has a few good friends...and so does he!
  • Academically, our primary focus has been reading: Matthew learning how to read; me reading to him (I don't know how many chapter books I read to him this year!); and, more recently, him reading to me.  Last summer, I felt that Matthew was ready to learn to start reading.  He was interested in letters and sounds and wanting to know what various words spelled.  So we started to work through How to Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons.  A couple of months ago, he began to resist these lessons and so we stopped them at around Lesson #75.  But in the last month or so, though he still doesn't want to see the actual book we've been using, I've found creative ways to continue the lessons...we just finished lesson #88, though he doesn't know it!  I actually think that his skills are good enough that he could read the story attached to lesson #100, but we'll plow through the other lessons anyway.  In conjunction with the reading lessons, he has learned to write all of his letters, both uppercase and lowercase (with one exception - he doesn't know how to write a lowercase 'q' yet!).  He also understands basic punctuation: periods; exclamation marks; question marks; quotation marks.  The best part is that he has continued to want to read his early readers.  I'm thrilled with this progress, and his interest in it.  We've also tackled some early math over the course of the winter, and have done various science experiments and social studies lessons.  These last things have been real hits with Matthew.
  • We've also been very fortunate, in the past ten months, to make a few trips together that have enriched our year significantly.  Matthew and I drove out to Drumheller (including the big dinosaur museum) and Calgary for twelve days last fall, and to Minneapolis in early spring; and all three of us traveled to Los Angeles and San Diego for two weeks over Christmas. 
After some discussion, but mostly by assumption, Geoff and I have decided that I'll continue to homeschool Matthew again next year.  I've started working on some objectives and plans for grade 1 already, but have quite a lot of work to do this summer to work out some of the specifics.  It's important to me to know approximately where I want to end up at the end of next year, so that as the year transpires, I can be flexible about how and when we do things, and take advantage of natural opportunities as they come up; also, because I'm hoping (maybe too optimistically) that we'll be adding a new child to our family at some point next winter, I want to plan up front...who knows, maybe I'll be homeschooling Matthew in Ethiopia for a couple of months if we decide to spend a bit of time there after court!

But lest I digress...

I recently spent a couple of evenings looking at the Manitoba curriculum for grade one and, to be honest, Matthew and I have already done a lot of what the curriculum covers.  It was an odd feeling looking through it and realizing how little we would actually have to do to meet all of the requirements.  It also made me think that the year I'm planing for Matthew should be much more interesting for him than what he would experience in public school - not because I'm a great teacher or anything like that (quite the contrary - more on that tomorrow), but because we'll be able to do quite a few different and varied things.  Looking at that curriculum made me feel quite a bit better about the possibilities for next year.

At any rate, at an objective level, I feel good about Matthew's Kindergarten year and am glad we did it; I have no regrets about that decision.  Though at times it's been quite hard, and though I sometimes wish I had a bit more time on my own during the day, I've also really loved having this time with Matthew.  These are precious days and I don't want to miss even one of them.

Tomorrow I plan to talk about some of the more vulnerable stuff that I've been processing about insecurities and stuff like that.  Stay tuned...I might need you to pick me up off the floor, not sure!

1 comment:

  1. I really love reading about homeschooling from people who are making it happen. Looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts! What a lovely way to learn...