My grandson, who has been studying at home with his mother and me since mid-March, finishes kindergarten next week. His classroom teacher has been diligent about sending daily homework: writing journal entries and illustrating them, writing new sight words in sentences, completing pages in a math workbook, listening to someone read picture books and then filling in worksheets about how a character is like another character or identifying and drawing the setting. Then there is online work at a phonics site and a math site three times a week. Phew!
The question now is what kind of work to do during the summer months so my grandson enters first grade well prepared.
I went online to find out exactly what skills are required for a rising first grader. I made a list and of the ones my grandson has not accomplished. He needs practice holding a pencil properly, and he needs to consistently write his letters and numerals frontwards. In math he has more to perfect: counting to 100, counting backward from 10, displaying data in graphs and tables (really? in kindergarten?), and extending patterns.
That, plus reviewing and extending his reading skills, is our summer curriculum.
If you are wondering if your child is ready to start the next grade, go online to your state’s department of education and find the standards for the basic subjects of the grade he or she is completing. Make a list of the standards your child hasn’t met and let that list become his or her summer school work. Sometimes you can accomplish these goals by finishing up workbooks. Or you can order workbooks on particular skills for your child to master. Or you can create your own materials, but of course this takes time.
And if you don’t have time to do everything? If your child is in the primary grades, focus on two things: basic reading skills (phonics) and simple addition and subtraction. Keep reading to your child for enrichment but focus on the essential skills of reading and math.
My grandson, a kindergartener, has completed almost three weeks of home education, using teacher instructions or working at online sites. The results have been mixed.
- He was asked, in a video from his teacher, to write about what he did over the weekend and to give three details. His mother read him the directions multiple times before she went to work in the morning, and I helped him to remember three things he did, to sound out or spell words like “forest,” “fort,” and “hike,” and to model how to print certain letters.
- He used an online learning site to find sight words embedded in a group of letters. With enough time, he could do it, but the site often moved on before he was ready.
- At another site, he listened to the story of Sylvester and the Magic Pebble read aloud. His mother questioned him about who the main character was and about how he was like that main character. He couldn’t remember the character’s name, and he said he was “totally not like” that main character.
- Though he is still at the stage of sounding out two- and three-letter CVC words, he was asked to complete lessons on much more advanced reading skills, recognizing end-of-word digraphs like -sh, -ch, and -tch. He could do some of the -sh words, but mostly he guessed. This work comes from an online site which doesn’t allow the student to backtrack to reinforce weak skills.
- He needed to practice handwriting letters and numerals. To do this correctly, he required an adult’s help.
Without an adult at his side, he could not do most of the work. His mother works with him when she returns from her job, usually supervising the school-assigned work and supplementing it with workbooks, coins for learning about money, a wooden puzzle clock for learning to tell time and story books which she reads to him. I work with him during the day, usually reading CVC words and beginning blends of CVC words. My efforts are low tech and hands-on: manipulating letter tiles and reading from two workbook series whose sequencing of reading skills reinforces one another.
We are two well educated adults working with a kindergartener on his schoolwork. It is exhausting. If you are an employed parent trying to keep up with the school curriculum, God bless you. To lighten your load, may I suggest:
- Find out exactly what the curriculum is. Every state publishes online the curriculum for every subject and every grade level. Know exactly what is required of you child by the end of the school year.
- Make a checklist to see what aspects of that curriculum your child already knows and what he still needs to learn. Your school district might already have such a checklist for teachers to use. Ask for it. If the child’s report card is broken down by skills, that is a good source.
- Focus only on the essential skills. For a kindergartener, language arts skills might be printing the letters of the alphabet, being able to match spoken sounds to letters, being able to read and spell some CVC words, and recognizing some sight words.
- If some of the work coming home does not fit into the basic curriculum of your child’s grade level, ignore it. And don’t feel guilty. I guarantee that designing a playground or dancing an Irish jig will not be the skills assessed to see if your child is ready for the next grade.
- If some nights you are too tired or too emotionally drained by the news of the day to teach your child, be kind to yourself. For most of us, the 2019-2020 school year will extend into August–plenty of time to make up those snowed-under days. Embrace Scarlett O’Hara’s philosophy: Tomorrow is another day.