So often, we lose ourselves in parenthood. Our own desires are often set aside as the demands of parenthood are so constant. I hope that you can just take a deep breath as you make it through another day - and so did your children.
“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”
— Robert Louis Stevenson
A Brief Kindergarten History Lesson:
Friedrich Froebel was a German educator who opened the first kindergarten in 1837. (Kinder = children, garten = garden.) During the 1830s and 1840s, Friedrich Froebel developed his vision for kindergarten based on the ideas of the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the Swiss educator Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi. These philosophers believed that children were naturally good and active learners. This thinking was quite left-wing at the time; prior to this, the generally-held belief was that children were little creatures who needed sternness in order to become productive members of society. Play was viewed as more productive as opposed to creative.
Fast forward to this current century. While many things have changed, many things have also stayed the same. Children are still children. And not only do children still love to play but much research has discovered that children learn through play. In fact, that is their primary job. Researchers have confirmed that a child’s mind is like a sponge, and the more they absorb within their early childhood years, the more successful they will be throughout life. 90% of a child’s brain develops by the age of 6. So for those of you that still have children under the age of 6, know that every time you explain, model or interact with your child you are making a difference in your child’s intelligence. I think it is important to recognize how far we have come with educating our children, and recognize that a child’s environment can shape their potential.
So how do we take this information and apply it to our homeschooling lives?
How can a Kindergartner learn alongside other siblings when they are in completely different stages in life? Children learn through osmosis. They learn by hearing, seeing and doing. One approach that has worked in both my educational and home experiences is to have different themed bins. Help your child explore and adore learning. Try themes like Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall, animals, transportation, weather and space. Each bin should include books, toys and perhaps worksheets with that same theme. Decide how often to change themes - weekly or monthly. Different age groups interacting with one another, if only for a brief while, can be a win-win for everyone.
Even though we are going into our 9th year of homeschooling, I have never been too concerned about exactly labelling our home education approach. It’s not a competition and we will all make it to the finish line. I teach our sons the way they learn best. I have had to adapt some days and even some years to make it work. From infancy, I would make different areas in our child’s bedroom, playroom or kitchen table that would facilitate learning. I would look ahead at my plans for the week on Sunday night and choose which skills or themes we could learn together for the week.
I have had the opportunity to teach preschool and kindergarten, which are similar in nature with a focus on learning through play and repetition. The six main areas of development are: Social and Self-Help Skills, Fine-Motor and Gross-Motor skills, Cognitive and Communication.
When you think about a garden, what does it require to grow? It requires soil, seeds, water, the sun and some t.l.c. If you don’t tend to a garden, it will wither and die. Or perhaps lack growth at all. What does a child need to have their garden grow?
A child needs love to flourish, to feel valued. A child needs to learn in order to develop their intellect. A child needs to be encouraged in order to build self-esteem. Imagine that your child’s garden (Kindergaten) was built with a solid foundation of faith. And out of the garden grew not only the academic basics but what if it also grew love, joy, peace and patience? What if we recognized that our actions, dedication and love could change our child’s life view?
One trick of the trade that I learnt many years ago was to engage and then walk away. One of my long-term goals as a parent is to facilitate independence. Children learn many things through cause and effect If a child is building a tower, it is best to start with one block and then two blocks and then three blocks and so on. A child needs to be shown what is expected of them in order for them to successfully understand. Once an idea is mastered, the child can build a higher tower. Once a child is engaged and playing independently, it is okay to walk away. If the child is successfully playing and being creative, that is a perfect time to facilitate autonomy.
Another way to encourage learning is to feed your child’s interests. If your child loves dogs, look up songs about dogs (like the song Bingo) and look for books about dogs (like the Clifford books). One of the loveliest parts about home education is that you can foster your child’s desires and create an appreciation for learning.
I wanted to encourage you as parents and home educators…. You can and you will succeed! You are enough! Your life is with great purpose! The children will only be young once. Laundry and dishes are very loyal... they will never let you down. I can promise you that. It’s ok to not have a perfectly clean house; your children will remember the spontaneous ice-cream runs and trips to the park more then they will remember a spic and span house. I have a plaque in my house that says, “There is no way to be a perfect parent, but a million ways to be a good one.”
Robert Fulghum wrote the book called; All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten in 1986. Although this was written 35 years ago, it’s still completely relevant today:
- Share everything.
- Play fair.
- Don’t hit people.
- Put things back where you found them.
- Clean up your own mess.
- Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
- Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
- Wash your hands before you eat.
- Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
- Live a balanced life — learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
- Take a nap every afternoon.
- When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
- Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
- Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup — they all die. So do we.
- And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned — the biggest word of all — LOOK.
Danielle Spurgeon was born and raised in BC. She is in going into her 9th year of being a home educator. Her 2 sons are in Grades 4 and 5. She holds Diplomas in both Early Childhood and Special Needs Education. Danielle has had the privilege of working in both public and private schools supporting children for 20 years. She also co-owned a preschool. Until recently, her family called the Okanagan home. In the summer of 2017, her family moved to a farm in northern Alberta.