Posts Tagged "Kindergarten Considerations"

Finally, A Decision

Posted on Aug 24, 2010 in Featured, Learning | 10 comments

Finally, A Decision

This is Part X of the series Kindergarten Considerations in which I have been discussing (and wrestling with) the considerations behind the seemingly innocuous decision of where to send my four year old son to school. I will tentatively call this the last post in the series but can’t promise that I won’t ramble on about this in the future. Apparently I can’t stop myself. Last week I formally committed to a decision about what to do for Kindergarten. Not bad, two weeks before Back-To-School. The decision had been gradually unfolding over the course of the summer and in some ways was precipitated by the news of our pregnancy but it was only last week that I finally signed up for a homelearning program. Maybe part of me always wanted to make this decision, but I was scared. I’ve been looking forward to a bit of a break. I do feel sheepish saying this but it is true. Aside from a 6 month contract doing part-time work for Environment Canada, I’ve been home with my kids for 4.5 years. In that time, I went back to University to complete my degree, wrote two business plans, participated in a year long self-employment program through Service Canada and BCIT, ran my own business, moved to a new community (and changed houses twice), and helped my husband start his own business for which I now run the office. On top of that, I’ve had about 1 year of decent sleep since Rain was born and 9 months of that was pregnant sleep. I’m tired. I was looking for some time to think about what I want to do, to think about self-care. I’m tired of trying to fit work in during nap times. Kindergarten looked like a realistic time when I could accomplish some of these things. Not to mention, we all get along better when we occasionally hang out with other people. Sometimes we need to miss each other. It’s good for Rain to do some things without me and for me to be away long enough to remember that he’s just a wild four year old, not someone intent on driving me crazy. Thankfully, there are enough positive things about homelearning to make me commit to it and to commit to us finding mutual breaks as a means of making homelearning successful too! So, putting the fears aside, here’s why I’m excited to embark on homelearning: For a variety of reasons, I don’t think that Rain would really enjoy certain aspects of school as we know it. He would probably surprise me and do better than I imagine, but I think that homeschool is the better choice for him right now. The implementation of Full-Day Kindergarten was the catalyst that made me think long and hard about Rain’s learning style and about how Rain does for long periods of time in large groups. I am confident he will be happier and more excited to learn by facilitating small group social activities and by following his lead and interests when it comes to formal learning. I am excited that the process means I get to learn with him. I am really looking forward to the things I will learn both along side Rain and in my role as facilitator.  This is an adventure we are embarking on as a family and we will all grow and learn through it. Through this process I have the opportunity to learn more about parenting, marine life, learning philosophies, wet felting, math, our family relationship, discipline and more. Basically, I get to learn everything Rain is learning PLUS I get to learn through the experience itself. How awesome is that?! I am looking forward to exploring the varied ways there are to learn including mentor relationships, classes, hands on, or more formal learning like reading or doing worksheets. I hope to encourage a love of learning by focusing on child-led learning, exploration and play. I want Rain to know learning doesn’t just happen within the hours of 9:00 am and 3:00 pm and within the...

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The New Home School

Posted on Jun 15, 2010 in Featured, Learning | 10 comments

The New Home School

This is Part IX of the series Kindergarten Considerations in which I have been discussing (and wrestling with) the considerations behind the seemingly innocuous decision of where to send my four year old son to school in the fall. Some of our top options have included Montessori education and Waldorf Education. Today we are talking about homeschooling. Homeschooling certainly isn’t what it used to be. As I child of 11 or so, I knew one girl who was homeschooled. It was for religious reasons and it seemed strange to me. I think we often envision homeschoolers as shunning society in general, studying by light of an oil lamp in a cabin far from any possibility of the negative aspect of socialization. When people mention homeschooling, one of the first responses is often related to the child’s need to play with peers. That and “I couldn’t do it – my kids drive me crazy!” Let’s begin by saying that homeschool has evolved far beyond that stereotype. For one thing, mainstream culture seems much more accepting of homeschooling, perhaps not as an option for themselves but at least as an option for those who choose it. The Canadian magazine Today’s Parent actually had a feature article on homeschooling in their May 2010 issue. Secondly, it’s much more widespread than it used to be. The article above puts the number of Canadian homeschoolers at 80,000 and at 2 million in the US. Perhaps this is why the average person no longer regards homeschooling families as freaks – many people know at least one family who is homeschooling and realises that they have legitimate reasons for doing so and also, that their kids are thriving. Beyond that, what does homeschooling look like these days? In BC, provided you follow some kind of educational plan, you can school your child at home in any way you choose. That might mean registering at the local school but teaching at home and having access to resources at the school (if your local school is open to working this way). As the Today’s Parent article points out, there is financial incentive for schools to work together with homeschooling families because the government provides funds to the school to cover homeschool students registered there. Alternatively, you could register your child in a distance education program where the child will follow a specific curriculum but complete it at home. In the past this was done via correspondence with workbooks and texts received through the mail. Technology has revitalized this system but it remains essentially the same. However, there are increased opportunities for interacting with virtual classmates and teachers with the advent of chat rooms, message boards and Skype. There are multiple programs that fall into this category of learning including those that follow very closely the public school curriculum and those that use unit based learning for instance which might involve learning science, math, English and history all through the lens of a particular theme. These programs may also be religion based if that is important to you. In these programs you are responsible to follow the curriculum as set out by the program you have registered with which includes meeting deadlines, completing tests and reports (if there are any) on time etc. You can also register your child as an independent learner and then you can choose how you want to teach. On this side of things, you then have the option of registering in a program that supports independent learning or going it completely on your own. From what I understand, if you choose the latter option, you are then responsible to report to the ministry about your educational goals and progress. The sheer number of possibilities can actually be very overwhelming. Luckily, homeschooling was demystified for me 7 years ago when we began living with my sister the first year she started homeschooling her 4 children. I’ve had a chance to see up close how it works and I have an excellent person to ask for help and advice. Nevertheless, I should also say that one...

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Wondering About Waldorf

Posted on Mar 21, 2010 in Featured, Learning | 4 comments

Wondering About Waldorf

This is Part VIII of the series Kindergarten Considerations in which I have been discussing (and wrestling with) the considerations behind the seemingly innocuous decision of where to send my four year old son to school. The next two posts are dedicated to a discussion of our top options. We already looked at Montessori education. Today we’re talking about Waldorf schools. I have only known about Waldorf schools for a few years. The concept gradually seeped into my consciousness and I can’t remember what I first heard about it or from whom. We were living in Vancouver. Aaron came home from work one day and told me that a client had been explaining Waldorf to him and that it sounded really interesting. I had heard of the school before then but that was the most I knew of it for a long time. From there, I learned little bits here and everywhere. I’ve learned the most about Waldorf education in the last four months. Before then it was just this nebulous alternative school. There is a new initiative in our area to start a Waldorf school. There have been previous attempts over the years that have petered out. This particular initiative looks poised to happen. The intent is to open the doors in Sept 2010 with Kindergarten and grade 1, and to add a grade each year. There may be as few as 10 kids enrolled in the first year. I have mixed feelings about this but I will come back to that. First, some background on Waldorf schools for those of you who know little about it. Sometimes called Steiner Schools, the concept for the school is based on the thoughts of Rudolf Steiner. Steiner was a philosopher who was asked to develop the curriculum for children of the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory workers in Stuttgart and this is where Waldorf schools come from. In a nutshell, the Waldorf philosophy believes that the child should be approached on their own level which in the early years is primarily through play and imagination. Especially in the early years, the belief is that children learn best through imitation so the teacher plays the role of guide and model. There is a lot of emphasis on the natural world, on yearly celebrations, on community. Children write and draw to create their own textbooks. Many of the learning concepts are taught through the use of stories and over the years, children cover folk & fairy tales, fables, Greek myths, and more. In addition to regular academic studies, Waldorf schools also teach art, hand crafts (like knitting), gardening, music (every child learns to play an instrument), foreign language, a kind of dance/creative movement called Eurythmy. They have outdoor play time and also circle time with stories and songs. Contrary to the Montessori method which is very individually driven, Waldorf schools structure the day around often coming together as a group. You can learn more about the philosophy here or here. Waldorf schools, like Montessori schools, vary greatly in their implementation because they are run independently. It’s not like a franchise restaurant where your burger will be the same in Medicine Hat as in Chicago. As such, I’m sure there are good schools and not so good. One of the criticisms I have heard of various Waldorf schools is that they can seem rather cultish. I am not sure if that is a reference to the emphasis on natural rhythms which might feel too close to paganism for some families’ comfort or if it is due to a perception of over-adherence to the teachings of a single individual. The focus on the fairy stories, arts and natural world rhythms strikes some families as being too out there, hippie, airy-fairy or pagan. I’m not overly worried about any of those but I certainly see how some mainstream, conservative families may feel that they wouldn’t fit in the larger community of the school even if they are interested in the education for their children. At the risk of totally putting my foot in my mouth, my impression...

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Maybe Montessori

Posted on Mar 4, 2010 in Featured, Learning | 6 comments

Maybe Montessori

This is Part VII of the series Kindergarten Considerations in which I have been discussing (and wrestling with) the considerations behind the seemingly innocuous decision of where to send my four year old son to school. The next three posts are dedicated to a discussion of our top three options. This post looks at Montessori. Amber from Strocel.com recently pointed out that it’s going to be impossible to find a perfect school and I know she is right. I am aware in some deep recess of my brain that I can’t be too picky. I have to be realistic. I think we all choose the best option for us, for our circumstances. The director of Rain’s preschool has also reminded me (rightly) that no matter what school we choose, it’s going to come down to the teacher whether or not it’s a good fit for him. With that said, let me warn you that in the next few posts I will be picking apart all of our options. Which isn’t to say that I won’t choose one of them in the end. I should add my little disclaimer here that my comments about particular schooling philosophies represent my impression based on preliminary research and reflect our own family educational goals. My comments are not intended to suggest that a particular philosophy may not be the right choice for your family. Montessori A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that we were attending an info session for the local publicly run Montessori program. I went to the evening with an open mind and felt excited about checking it out. I only knew the bare minimum about Montessori. I knew that it had been around for about 100 years, that it was started in Italy by Maria Montessori and that it’s generally regarded as a very good alternative schooling program.  I also knew that the children are allowed to roam freely around the room and choose materials to work with as they like. So far so good. The first thing they did at the info session was show us this video to introduce us to the basics of Montessori education. The learning materials and environment are intriguing and beautiful. I was encouraged by some aspects of the philosophy: the emphasis on self-directed learning and the addition of non-academic units like practical life. The staff, teachers and our local society seem sincere, dedicated and earnest. But the reality of the program here didn’t mesh with the fairy tale in the above video. The school, a former middle school, was large and imposing. The room on the second floor, though filled with Montessori materials was utilitarian with only two windows at one end of the room, located above a 3 foot counter. I tried to imagine my son trying to see out the windows or walking to his classroom, through wide corridors and up long flights of stairs. It didn’t feel very accessible to a five year old. In and of themselves those issues could be dealt with. It would only take a few weeks for Rain to get used to the immensity of the place. I feel more bothered by the lack of accessible windows really. But I also think back to when I would pick up my niece from Kindergarten. Everything in that whole wing of her school was kid size: tiny toilets, tiny water fountains, coat hooks at knee level, bright windows. Taylour’s kindergarten reminded me of my own and I wonder how is it that school has changed so much in the last 10 years that we no longer try to approach the child on their level? Moving on though. My impression of the space quickly bled into my impression of the philosophy. Keep in mind that I was there in the evening so I wasn’t able to observe children in the classroom, but to me, the program felt cold. Though the video talks about how much fun the children have while they are learning, we also heard repeatedly that the children would not be playing with the materials;...

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Let Them Play

Posted on Feb 19, 2010 in Featured, Learning | 10 comments

Let Them Play

This is Part VI of the series Kindergarten Considerations in which I have been discussing (and wrestling with) the considerations behind the seemingly innocuous decision of where to send my four year old son to school. I had promised to share my thoughts on our options in this post but I got totally distracted by the idea that maybe school isn’t necessary at all. Rain can’t recite the whole alphabet; it still gets a bit jumbled and he doesn’t yet recognize all of the letters. He can recite to 10 when he feels like it and when he tries he can reliably count objects in groups up to 4 or 5. He doesn’t write his name. He wrote the letter R on the back of his Valentines but often elaborated by adding wheels, arms or flowers. I am totally fine with that. Here’s the deal. I have complete confidence in my kids’ abilities. They both demonstrate to me every day that they are very bright. I don’t care what age they learn to write their name or say the alphabet or count or read. I know with 100% certainty that they will do it and at their own pace. There will be plenty of time in the coming years for them to focus on academics and I don’t believe that they will be at a disadvantage from learning to read at 7 instead of 4 for instance. In fact, a recent study from New Zealand has proven that very thing. By age 11, there was no difference between kids who learned to read at 7 and those who learned at 4. “One theory for the finding that an earlier beginning does not lead to a later advantage is that the most important early factors for later reading achievement, for most children, are language and learning experiences that are gained without formal reading instruction,” says Dr Suggate. “Because later starters at reading are still learning through play, language, and interactions with adults, their long-term learning is not disadvantaged. Instead, these activities prepare the soil well for later development of reading.” “This research then raises the question; if there aren’t advantages to learning to read from the age of five, could there be disadvantages to starting teaching children to read earlier (at age 5). In other words, we could be putting them off,” he says. The above passage makes several striking observations in only a few short sentences. First, that the most important factors for later literacy are “early language and learning, while de-emphasising the importance of early reading.” Second, that play is vital for early learning. Third, it raises the question of what harm we could be doing by teaching reading too early. I have heard elsewhere that teaching reading before 11 for instance, shapes our brains in a linear order and can hamper our abilities to think laterally. These three observations alone are reason enough for me to feel relaxed about Rain’s academic career. We’ve got time for Rain to be a kid. We can focus on formal reading instruction in a couple of years. There are so few years in life when we are truly free of pressures, truly free to play. I want him to play, partly because it’s fun and partly because he is learning even while he plays. He is learning about respect,  gravity, problem solving, shapes, empathy, conservancy, conflict resolution, following instructions, developing hand-eye coordination and fine-motor skills, and more all day, just by playing and experimenting. Interestingly, educators are starting to chime in about the importance of play. Last year,  the Alliance for Childhood published a report, Crisis in the Kindergarten, about the lack of play in Kindergarten in the US. This report explained that there was too much instruction, too much testing, too much homework and not enough child-directed play. A New York Times article on the Crisis in the Kindergarten report discussed the lack of play in classrooms and also touched on some thoughts on creativity that are similar to those of Sir Ken Robinson. Thinkers like Daniel Pink have proposed...

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