B turned 5 this past August and my mama heart wept a few tears at the fact that my little boy is now only 13 YEARS away from going off to college!
Anyway, melodramatic motherhood aside, we had a decision to make about his schooling as 5 is the magical age when kindergarten generally begins and most of the babies we knew who were born around his age have entered the system.
We decided to take a different path.
Our choice to not start him this year was due to a number of reasons, including the fact that his birthday toes the line so he really could go either way. Every time we asked him if he wanted to start school, he vehemently shook his little head “no” (not that this is really a deciding factor, but it does encourage us a little one way or the other) and artfully changed the subject (which he is a master of doing).
There is also the fact that my birthday, in the calendar year, is one month after his and I didn’t start kindergarten until just before I turned six. I don’t think it did me any harm and, in fact, I love to learn and read, so we’ll take this personal anecdote as another indication that waiting isn’t a bad thing.
And finally, in recent years, I’ve read quite a bit on the subject of when to start “teaching” kids how to read or math or anything that’s more structured, and most of what I have read is that later is better. So, given all of these things, we decided to wait.
On the other hand, I do like to add a little structure to his days and weeks, though, so we embraced the free Wee Folk Art (WFA) preschool curriculum again this year (you can read what I wrote about it last year here) with just a few changes, mainly incorporating a little Charlotte Mason in there. We started with the fall unit back in September and are now working our way through the winter unit, which we started a few weeks ago.
I actually have this entire unit planned out ahead of time, which has given the procrastinator in me a heart attack. I managed to get everything scheduled in Google calendar, including alarms every week for which books I’d need to put on hold that week in order to get them in time (I try to request them 3 weeks before their specific week). I also added any recipes in advance to Plan to Eat, so I’d remember to get ingredients that week, and ordered any art/project supplies we needed before the start of the month.
I really hope my future self can tap into some of this crazy ambition I have currently, because I don’t know if I’ll keep this up.
The Charlotte Mason additions were more due to personal choice rather than anything wrong with the WFA default curriculum. Much to my dismay, B wasn’t really into the art books that are suggested in the WFA curriculum last year, which consisted of one image per week that was detailed in the “Come Look With Me” books (which I thought were pretty great little books). In his defense, I do think the description of the images was a little more in-depth than necessary for a (at the time) 4-year-old. When I was his age, I loved to just look at pictures in books, which I sometimes think may have been the impetus behind my art history degree. He wasn’t really interested in doing that, either, though, so it may just not be his thing. Ironically, C likes to pull both of our “Come Look With Me” books out and sit and look at the pictures for quite a while.
I decided that this year, rather than having him look at the same images and books, I’ve (very loosely) incorporated the artist study from the Ambleside Online (AO) curriculum. I’ve printed out each of the six pieces they have singled out for the term (this time around is Jacques-Louise David, a favorite from my 18th-century art class) and laminated them. The AO people truly are amazing creatures and have made all of these groups on Yahoo for various resources. The AO Art Prints group, which you can join for free and have access to immediately, hosts high-quality, printable versions of each term’s artworks, which makes it all so easy to put together.
Every 2 weeks, I pull out a new print (storing the old ones in a 3-ring binder that he can look at at any time – see top image) and we sit and take a look at it together on the couch. Of course, the art historian in me is screaming about technique and perspective and neoclassicism and isn’t this all AMAZING?! but I keep my mouth shut and just let him look at it on his own. I actually like to see what things he points out or notices in the paintings (the few things that he does this with) rather than trying to guide him through the piece myself. It’s especially interesting to see pieces that I studied in depth for my degree through his eyes. He’s not particularly into this aspect of learning yet, but I’m hoping it grows on him.
After our art exploration, I washi-tape the piece to the wall in our dining room at his eye level where it lives for two weeks (and is usually pulled down at least once per day by C so she can commandeer the tape for something else). Beside it, I tape up the poem that we have for each month from the Wee Folk Art curriculum. This month’s is “First Snow” by Marie Louise Allen and I’ve included a print of Claude Monet’s “The Magpie” on the top. We try to read this at least once per day and B has it memorized now.
Another addition is music. Wee Folk Art doesn’t include any music, so I’ve also added the composer study from Ambleside Online with a similar format. Thanks to a helpful tip in the Ambleside Online forums, I was able to find a dirt cheap MP3 download of this term’s composer (Schubert) (with the BEST.COVER.ART.EVER). I added the pieces mentioned on AO to my ancient iPod Nano in a special playlist and every morning while I’m cleaning up the breakfast dishes, I start the playlist at the place where that week’s piece starts. I’ll usually mention to B that this is Schubert and the name of the piece (he enjoyed “The Trout”) and leave it at that. At this age, I feel like it’s more about the exposure than the actual learning.
So our weeks loosely look like this:
Monday morning: we read the week’s books (WFA), look at the week’s art (AO), and listen to the week’s composer (AO)
Tuesday morning: we do whatever the project or recipe is for the week (WFA)
Wednesday morning: we go on our weekly nature study walk (at a local open space area that we all absolutely love)
Thursday morning: another day for a project or recipe (WFA)
Friday morning: walk around the neighborhood as I think it’s important for B to see what the outdoors are like immediately around our home, or we head to a local outdoor history museum
I do read the books more than once during the week, but this is pretty random and sometimes E reads them at night before B goes to bed. I also print out the weekly journal pages (WFA) as well as a lined sheet with his name, the date, and that week’s main book title (WFA) in a handwriting font for B to copy. There’s also a space on the journal page for him to draw a picture, which he usually uses to either make pipes or copy one of the pictures from that week’s books.` I store all of these along with the art binder in a wall pocket in his room.
For the most part, we follow the Wee Folk Art suggestions, but I’ve made some minor adjustments for grain-free/sugar-free recipes and moved things around when the weeks don’t line up with holidays properly, or the particular project she has planned doesn’t fit our weather situation (eg. making an ice wreath with bird food in it when the temperature outside is 50 degrees).
I love the flexibility of this curriculum as well as the fact that it’s not at all intensive. Just a few fun things for us to plan and look forward to each week. It’s a great way to ease ourselves into homeschooling and I think it’s been some good training for me to plan everything ahead. 🙂