Oscar's first year schooling, in review

I hesitate to call this our first year schooling, since it has been very informal; but since Oscar is kindergarten age, and I actually did throw a few textbooks in this fall, we'll go with that!

My dearest wish was to put Oscar in a Montessori school, because he has really thrived with that style of learning; however, the nearest Montessori school is forty minutes away, so it's not an option right now. So this year we have been homeschooling. It's highly recommended for first-time homeschoolers to use a pre-planned boxed curriculum the first year to dip their toes in the pool, but having been homeschooled myself, I was born in the water, so to speak. So I was pretty comfortable taking a more eclectic approach. There are three somewhat disparate schooling philosophies I borrow heavily from:

Unschooling. I'm a huge believer in following the interests of the child, because I think people learn best when they are actually interested in the subject at hand, and it's complete drudgery for all parties involved when the child is not interested. I try to teach Oscar on his terms, not on my terms or a curriculum publisher's terms. So I introduce him to lots of ideas and concepts, run full steam with the ones that spark his interest, and back off the ones that don't stick until he's ready for them again.

Montessori. The Montessori method emphasizes learning with all five senses, developing independence and concentration, and learning lots of practical life skills. I also love how works are presented on trays, as well as the excellent math manipulatives like the Bead Stair and the Pink Tower.

Common Core. I haven't yet met a homeschooler that doesn't think Common Core wasn't an invention of Satan himself, so maybe I'm an anomaly here. I do have some serious concerns about how it is implemented and tested in the public schools, but I have no issue with the Common Core as a set of guidelines and a base for a shared body of knowledge among a country's schoolchildren. So I have been trying to touch on all the Common Core kindergarten subject material with Oscar as the year goes on.

Here are some of the materials we have been using this year:

Home Learning, Year by Year by Rebecca Rupp. An excellent guide on ideas and subjects to cover for each year from preschool to twelfth grade. Organized by year, then subject, with lots of book/website recommendations for supplemental material.

What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know, by Ed Hirsch, Jr. Covers all the Common Core subject material, much of it typed out in a story format if you'd rather just read straight from the book to your child. A huge portion of the book is dedicated to nursery rhymes and classic children's literature. I've been marking the different concepts with Post-It tabs and then removing them once we've introduced it.

Modern Curriculum Press Phonics, Level A. This is actually the phonics curriculum I used when I was growing up, and I looooooved it! Favorite subject ever. Unfortunately, Oscar doesn't seem to enjoy it quite as much as I did, so I've only been pulling it out when he hits a sensitive period for language, like he has this past month, and wants to learn how to read/write more effectively.

Primary Math Textbook 1A U.S. EDITION
Singapore Math, Book 1A. This one is actually more of a first-grade level because Oscar's always had a natural aptitude for numbers. Like phonics, this is a stop-and-start kind of book for us. When we were going through subtraction, Oscar was having a hard time grasping the concept, so we just put the book away for several weeks and tried to demonstrate subtraction through hands-on examples until he was comfortable enough to continue in the book.

(The subtraction breakthough, by the way, came the week of Halloween when we sat down with paper and a large pile of candy corn. I'd write something like "10-5", put down ten candy corn pieces, and subtract [eat] five. A bag of candy corn later, and Oscar was a subtracting genius :-D)

In spite of having a textbook, however, the bulk of his math education has actually come in the form of dinner conversation, because Oscar really loves to talk about math at mealtimes for some reason.

Handwriting Without Tears Letters and Numbers Kindergarten
Handwriting Without Tears, Kindergarten level. If I could do it over again, I would not have even touched this book until about now in the school year. We struggled and struggled with Oscar's handwriting grip, even though he was interested in learning the material, and we were almost all the way through the uppercase alphabet before I realized that Oscar's fine motor muscles simply weren't strong enough for the task yet. Prior to starting handwriting, he never doodled or sketched or just plain handled any writing implements at all; he was much more interested in building stuff and handling manipulatives. At that point I dropped handwriting like a hot potato and beefed up the fine motor activities, such as working with playdough, tearing paper, and using tweezers and pipettes. Now these past six weeks or so, drawing/writing is all he's been wanting to do from sunup to sundown, so he's catching up now in his own  time. :-)

Adam and I also do a lot of reading aloud to the kids, which needs its own blog post, so I'll talk about that another time.

So in an nutshell, that's what we've been doing so far, and I've been pleasantly surprised with how it's been working out this year. We still have a few months till the typical school year-end, although since we've kept everything quite informal so far, I can't see us actually having an ending to the school year. I'm predicting that we'll just keep up the learning continuum through the summer, but we'll see!

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