Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sylvie Starts Kindergarten

 I am definitely in the better-late-than-early camp of education. The time, however brief, I spent as a Montessori teacher telling parents their six-year-old OUGHT to be able to read left an extra wrinkle between my eyebrows. It wasn’t hard to find the writings of dear John Holt and Rebecca Rupp and Charlotte Mason and Rudolph Steiner and David Elkind who all, to one degree or another, thought it best that children have a bit longer to play and grow and pretend  before being set to learn the alphabet.

When Ezra was kindergarten age, there was a new baby in the house, and it was easy to recite nursery rhymes and sing songs and tend house very purposefully to support his further unfolding. When Phaedra got to be kindergarten age, she wanted nothing to do with our “school” time and went off to play with her toddler sister in the simple land of early childhood. So, I deliberately did “kindergarten” things with Sylvie, like singing seasonal songs and doing simple crafts and taking walks, which Phaedra and Ezra also enjoyed.

Now, Sylvie is five, and she just wants to do whatever we’re doing. She has more friends than her brother and sister did at this age and she’s more socially aware than they were. She wants to do what she knows some of her friends and almost all of her cousins (there were 5 born in 5 months that year) are doing. And the cousins and friends are starting kindergarten and her siblings are back in their school routine. Sylvie wants to do that, too.

The problem is that Sylvie is a bit of a butterfly. It feels wrong to encourage her to sit quietly when I would even prefer she go off to play. Fortunately, I could see all this coming and I’ve devised a plan. We’re only one-and-a-half weeks into this plan, but it’s working so far.

I keep a lesson plan book, because it makes me feel good about myself, and in that book I’ve devoted a line on each page to Sylvie’s school work. If the book says we’re supposed to sing a song and recite a couple of poems and read a chapter out of Peter and Polly, then that’s what we do. Then I say, “You’ve finished your schoolwork! Would you like to dry dishes for me?” And she happily gets on with her day. Some days, like today, she ends up doing a page or two out of a workbook I got last year when I was at sixes and sevens with occupying her during school time. And that’s okay, too.

So, she can count past 100 and identify all her capital letters and copy words to send a brief letter, but she is satisfied with that. She has a day every now and then when she wants to learn to read or add or use the big chef’s knife. I make room in our school time to give her a lesson on these things, but if she wanders away, I let her. Five is really little, and this five-year-old is really airy. I think she and I will both enjoy more focused academics when her feet are a little closer to the ground. I like watching her fly for now.

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