Plan a “Funschooling” Kindergarten Year
Your oldest is yearning to start learning, but there are pros and cons to introducing academics at age 4 or age 5. What’s a mama to do?
Many experts that I respect suggest that kindergarten is too early to introduce rigorous academics to a child. A young student should not be pushed to write letters and numbers yet. The early years should be reserved for learning that is less structured and fun. I was thinking of a word mash on “fun unschooling” or “funschooling”!
So, what to do with this energetic child who is like a dry sponge, thirsting to learn, but not in a structured way? As I watch my (adult) daughter enthusiastically trying to come up with a plan for my granddaughter’s first year of school, my mind is exploding with possibilities.
I am a planner. For some people, creating a plan sounds like a way to confine themselves with a ball and chain. For me, a written plan means I can brainstorm and think of all sorts of possibilities. I write them down, not as something I must do but as a way to keep me from forgetting later. My experience has been that in the thick of things (diapers, laundry, meals, and dishes), it is very hard to remember that in October I might want to visit a pumpkin farm. So, I start my school year with an outline. I write each day of the month and then ideas for a month’s focus or possible outings during that month. We might do one, or we might do all. But if I don’t write them down, the possible outings won’t happen because I’ll be overcome by everyday life.
Here is an example of a possible plan.
Have an apple unit study. Read about Johnny Appleseed. Visit an apple orchard and pick apples. Do apple prints. (Cut the apple in half so the “star” shows; dip the apple in tempera paint and then press onto paper.) Make applesauce. Go to the library and check out books about apples. Try to find out about as many types of apples as you can. Plant apple seeds and see if you can get them to grow. Cut apple slices and hang them to dry for dried apple snacks. Learn places in your country where apples grow and point them out on a map.
Have a pumpkin unit study. Find books about pumpkins at the library. Visit a pumpkin patch and let each child pick a pumpkin. Get one pumpkin for cooking, maybe another one for carving. Have an art sitting where each child draws or paints a picture of their pumpkin. Let them draw on their pumpkin with a Sharpie pen (supervised) or use acrylic paint to paint on their pumpkin. Cut up the cooking pumpkin – save the seeds to clean up and roast with butter and salt to eat later as a snack. Cook the pumpkin until tender, drain, and puree. Find recipes to use your pumpkin puree to make pumpkin muffins, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, etc. Watch “The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!” while eating pumpkin seeds.
Have a leaf unit study. Go on a nature walk and collect colorful leaves but pay attention to collect leaves that are clearly from different types of trees. If you know the tree by its leaf, help your student learn the leaves as well. “Oh, look! That sycamore leaf is huge!” or “The colors on that sugar maple leaf are amazing!”, etc. Collect big leaves and small leaves. At home, at the table, put a leaf on the table, cover it with a sheet of drawing paper, and rub with the side of a crayon. Change the leaf, change crayon color, and do another leaf on the same paper (or new paper, if student prefers). Wash remaining leaves and dry between layers of newspaper with books piled on top; leave for 5-7 days. Dried leaves can be glued to a paper. You can make a notebook of the different leaves and label them (silver maple, white oak, etc.), or leaf shapes can be glued to paper to create pictures of animals. Leaves can also be pressed between two pieces of waxed paper. (Use a towel under and over waxed paper and press with iron.) These mounted leaves can be hung on the windows to decorate.
Cricket unit study
Check out picture books about crickets and read together. Learn about crickets. (Make male crickets look different from female crickets!) Have the student create a cricket habitat in a shoe box with dirt, grass, and leaves. Go on a cricket hunt! Try to capture a cricket to put in the habitat and cover with plastic wrap. Poke some air holes in the plastic. Keep in the student’s bedroom one night so he or she can hear the cricket chirping! Watch the animated video “A Cricket in Times Square.”
These ideas should get you started. Please do your own interests and ideas! Some more themes I think of would be as follows.
November: Pilgrims and Native Americans, make pony bead necklaces, Veteran’s Day, Bear study
December: Snow flake origami, go ice skating, penguin study, Christmas (make gifts and cookies)
January: Polar bear study, learn about ice and glaciers, read about George Washington
February: Read about Abraham Lincoln, heart origami, read a book about Australia or where it’s warm.
March: Read a book about spring, plant seeds in a small pot – grass seeds or bean seeds, read about seeds, learn about kites
April: Take a trip to a zoo, read about zoo animals, go to a nature center and learn about local birds, make bird feeders and put out and watch for the birds
May: Read about a year’s four seasons, study about weather and clouds, learn about otters and beavers, start a vegetable garden and plant beans, peas, and lettuce
June: Take a picnic lunch and go to a local park, take a hike, read about mosquitos and lightning bugs, read about snakes
Put together your own plan! It feels like it’s going to be a great year!
Bio: Diana Malament homeschooled for 27 years from 1991-2018. Her three children all went on to college. Two are graduated; the 3rd is almost there. Now Diana’s heart is to help encourage homeschooling mamas, including her daughter, the mother of her three grandchildren.