Monday, August 18, 2014

Cate's Kindergarten

As I reorganized the bookshelves and school supplies before school began this year, I decided to collect little "surprises" into a special basket for my new kindergartener's school time.  Normally, I wouldn't plan any formal school period at all, but this girl begs to "do school" like her siblings and has been looking forward to some one-on-one Mommy time and to some new skills and books that are all hers.

Here's a peek at what I have in there:

Books - I gathered a variety to go through little by little over the first term: Leading Little Ones to MaryKindergarten Gems, Fr. Lord's The RosaryKindergarten Stories and Morning Talks, Neumann Press' Catechism for Young ChildrenWinnie-the-PoohA Very Little Child's Book of Stories.  We're just picking up whichever book appeals to us that day--no set schedule.  When we finish a book, I'll add another one to the basket.  There are so many wonderful ones for this age.

Right Start Level B - This is what I started with when my big kids were in they're almost done with Level E and ready to move on to another program!  Time flies.  I'm happy to be starting to work through this program once again with my newest student.  She loves her abacus and tally sticks. :)

And a bunch of other fun little items:
folding and cutting workbooks
a notebook in which she keeps track of words she knows by sight (ala Bestvater's The Living Page)
colored chalk and a slate
some word cards for us to play matching games with
a little notebook and pen
bananagrams for reading lessons
her current set of Bob books
a few field guides
scissors and tape, for her Important Projects ;)

My goal for myself is to spend some one-on-one time with her each school day, maybe twenty minutes.  That twenty minutes definitely doesn't happen all at once--usually it's five minutes here, five minutes there.  During this time, we do a combination of activities: reading lesson; read-aloud; math lesson; copywork; or a special project, like folding, cutting, or a game.  I try to hit each of those categories three times a week.

The rest of her "schoolwork" consists of joining in on the big kids' lessons when she is interested--which is pretty much all the time. ;)  I don't encourage her to listen in on their readings or narrate, but I do encourage her to sit in on just about everything else:
picture study
memory work (though she doesn't have her own selections, she learns the big kids' with ease)
nature study and journaling
music study
morning basket - religious reading, calendar in English and Italian, poetry 
free readings done as read alouds

And during the rest of Naptime School session, while the littles are sleeping and I'm working with the big kids, she has a variety of activities available to her: lacing beads, pattern blocks, puzzles, paper dolls, and the usual craft supplies.

To give you an idea of how this all looks in action, here's how one day in our Charlotte Mason-style home kindergarten looks:

This morning after waking up, she went straight to her morning chores: got herself dressed, brushed her hair, and had her teeth brushed.  Then she spent a half hour playing with her little brothers and sisters and her dolly.  (There may or may not have been some squabbles during this time. ;))  

I called her to empty the dishwasher and then she helped set the breakfast table.  After morning prayers, she ate breakfast and took part in morning basket: our calendar in English and Italian, a Blake poem, a short chapter on bamboo from The World at Home, the page on St. Dominic from Benson's An Alphabet of Saints, and a couple pages from Thomas Tapper's Music Talks for Children.

She helped clear the breakfast table and then got herself and her younger sister dressed for outside play.  She played out there for a couple hours, making "soups" out of clover and crepe myrtle bark, taking care of her rock dolly, playing catch with her brothers, collecting leaves, hanging from the maple tree, and toting around baby sister.

She helped clean up the backyard and then washed up and changed herself and her little sister.  Then we read picture books: Pelle's New Suit and Madeline's Rescue.  When I left to handle the baby, she took over reading to the toddlers and did a couple she has memorized: Baby Loves and Jamberry.

While I got the little ones settled for nap, she got out her math materials, her slate and chalk, and her word book.  I needed to get a couple readings done with the big kids while the baby was still napping, so she curled up on the sofa with her dolly while I spent a half hour reading aloud and listening to narrations.  Halfway through, she took out a puzzle to do on the floor next to us.

Once we finished our readings, she joined us at the table for Italian: a few games of bingo with outdoor vocabulary, two songs, Simon Says to practice our body parts, and a Gouin series about going on a "nature adventure."  Then we looked at Monet's "Impression: Sunrise" together and the children made little sketches of the composition.  The big kids went in the other room to finish their math work, and she and I did a five-minute math lesson together (on partitioning ten using the abacus) and read a page about St. Dominic and the Rosary.  Then I wrote some words of her choice on her little chalkboard for her to copy below, and she added a word to her little notebook of words she knows by sight: into.  She spent the next half hour drawing with big sister while we listened to two chapters from On the Banks of Plum Creek.  Once the babies got up from nap, she danced and did jumping jacks with the rest of the kids while we went through our memory work, including folk song and hymn.

In the afternoon, she looked through the sand dollars we collected at the beach yesterday, helped fold laundry, ate dinner and helped with dinner chores, played games with Daddy, got out the towels and clothes for the evening bath, and read half a Bob book with Mommy.  Then bath, rosary, bedtime prayers, and lights out.

So as you can see, she is quite a busy girl!  I feel like we have a nice balance going of academics, time outdoors, chores, and play.  Her kindergarten year looks different from how her older siblings' looked, and I imagine our plans will change again for my son starting next year, and all the littles starting after that.  That's one of the great things about having a bunch of children--I have so many kindergartens ahead of me!


  1. That looks wonderful, Celeste! What a great balance of, well, everything! :-)

  2. This is so timely as I am ready to *start* planning our kindergarten year, I hope my books come soon! haha. Thanks for sharing all that you do with your sweet kindergartener. :)

    1. Wishing you a happy kindergarten year as well, Sarah! Thanks for stopping by. :)

    2. So just one question, what would you expect her to accomplish as far as copywork goes this year? I know you have recommended startwrite in the past, what do you have her copy? Only capitals? Does she write out letters on her own? I plan on purchasing startwrite maybe next year, but for now I found this, what do you think?

      Would you try to do more than that? Thanks :)

    3. Oh goodness, that was a little more than one question, haha. :)

    4. Hahaha! :) I have very modest expectations for her writing this year since she's all of her schooling right now is optional, depending on her interest. I will say that she loves writing and drawing and other fine motor skills activities, so a lot of her progress will be thanks to her particular temperament (and the fact that she is a girl too, I think). What we're working on now is letter formation, capitals and lowercase. Right now, she wants to write words, not just letters, so our penmanship goes like this: she brings me her chalk and slate, I ask her what she wants to write today, she tells me a few words, I write them for her, she copies them below while I watch to make sure she's using proper strokes. And that's it! I will admit that she does a ton of other writing on her own, usually copying stuff that big sister writes for her. I try not to be too worried about her letter strokes during that time, since I think it falls more in the category of drawing than formal writing, and I think it's worth a little remedial work (if needed later on) to let her be free with that during these early years. But my usual advice would be to do a small amount of copywork, depending on interest, but to watch that copywork very carefully for bad habits in letter writing. I don't think that Startwrite is needed in these early years. We're using the chalkboard right now and will for a while still. I do like that I can make customized pages with it, and I do plan on printing out sheets for her later and having her work in pencil, probably focusing on letter by letter...but she really does like writing whole words too, and that's okay with me. ;) I think the Jan Brett alphabet pages look good and definitely enough for kindergarten. Hope that helps!

    5. Yes, definitely. Thank you Celeste!

  3. Celeste, I am always impressed with how complete your homeschooling days seem to be. I find your posts inspiring - you show us what a CM education can look like when the mother is well organized! My younger son is 6 now and about to start Year 1, so last year was his Kindergarten year. He did almost nothing "schooly" during that year, save for nature study and picture study. And he sometimes participated in composer study too. He is a very active boy though, and hates sitting still. I'm a bit nervous about doing Year 1 with him because I know he's not going to want to do any kind of seat work.

    Anyhow, thank you for sharing this.

    1. Thanks for your kind comments, Laura Jeanne. I have always joked with my husband that I may not be the fun mom, or the creative mom, or the cool mom, but I *am* the organized mom. ;) And I think a kindergarten of nature study, picture study, and a whole lot of playtime sounds really lovely. It's what I'm guessing my next child's kindergarten (4yo boy) will probably look like next year, given his temperament. :)