We women have a lot to learn about simplifying our lives. We have to decide what is important and then move along at a pace that is comfortable for us. We have to develop the maturity to stop trying to prove something. We have to learn to be content with what we are." ~Marjorie Pay Hinckley~

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Friday, June 5, 2015

Beginning vs. End of Kindergarten

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This is Lukas on his first and last days of Kindergarten. Today was the last day!! We did it. And I mean WE!!!! I'm celebrating myself too, because it was a lot of work for both of us!

It felt like an enormous decision to homeschool Lukas this year in a hybrid program through a local charter school. Once I went to orientation at the neighborhood school and it was revealed that their traditional half-day kindergarten would be full day for all kindergartners, I felt panicky inside. It wasn't what I'd expected, and had finally just gotten settled with the idea that he would attend there. Until that day. So again, the deciding. And when I got a call from the charter school asking if I'd tutor for the homeschool support classes, which would be the exact same time that Lukas would be in school, it felt like a more than just comfortable match. Still, to be sure, we went to yet another orientation for interested parents. This time with Jared in tow as well.

It's interesting to ponder his side of things as well. In Germany, children do not enter "school" until they turn 6 years old. They even ask parents to please not write with their kids, so that it is something very special learned at school. What they are entering at 6 years old is 1st grade. In Germany, there are Kindergartens, but it's a place where children play, sing, dance, paint, play instruments, listen to stories being read, cook together, play outside and even (gasp) get dirty at times.

That kindergarten as we knew it in the past is now hardly recognizable, pressed to the side by phonics, writing, reading and math facts. Everything that used to be 1st and even 2nd grade.

At the neighborhood school there was no music teacher. The PTA had a $90,000 budget, but alas, no music teacher could be 'hired' because hiring comes from within the district, and if there's not enough for every elem.school, then there just isn't one, and pink-slipped teachers would get first dibs, blah blah blah. No music teacher. 

Lukas gets music twice a week at his school!

At the neighborhood school there used to be 18 kids in a classroom, but they overlapped morning and afternoon kindergarten for about 1.5 hours (36 kids) for the 'less academic subjects' like art, etc. I get it. 

Lukas' class had 8 kids to begin with. By the end of the year there were 14.

The neighborhood school begins every.single.morning. at 7:40am. BEGINS people.  That means I'm waking up Grumpy-man, rushing him to eat, dress, and get to school...where we get to sit in the carpool line while waiting for teachers to corral him in 'the cage' so he can safely cross the school's pick up line, Then that afternoon I get to collect him from said cage, get him home, and at some point, get to do HOMEWORK with a tired, done-with-school-little-boy. And that's hopefully after a good day at school. 

Lukas' school doesn't do homework. DOESN'T DO HOMEWORK! And since they start at 9:00am, he wakes up when his body is ready-- usually around 7:30, eats a non-stressed breakfast, and we head to school. 

Granted, in order to enjoy all these perks of the school, I'm doing assignments with him at home the other three days. I get to read him stories, take him hiking, play math games, figure out letter sounds, and sometimes we make it to an amusement park where we have a pass, or meet up with friends. 

To play.

We can go to a music class once a week, or visit gymnastics, or go visiting someone who needs help. We grocery shop and practice reading prices, weights, and paying cashiers. Lukas talks to other people, He runs his own recycling business to earn money. He has to talk to neighbors to ask them to become customers. He has to collect bottles. He helps me put them in the machines and count the wrecked ones that the scanners won't read. He's signing his name to receive the receipt for the cash, all the while dealing with recycle man. Talking to him. (Some people call this socialization.)
He walks with me over to the store where we use the cart-wipes to wash the beer residue from our hands before getting in line where he says, "Excuse me Ma'am. I'd like to redeem my receipts please." He hears them praise him for helping the Earth, working hard, et cetera, before taking his hard earned cash, and the receipt, so he can add it up in his ledger at home. ADDING. I'm telling you. It's easier when it has a purpose. And it gives him lots of practice. Isn't that what school is? Practice? Not a CLEP exam. Not an SAT exam. It's learning. 

We aren't limited to only math, language arts, history and science either. We learn how to use tools. How to make foods. How to use a pocket knife. How many nauts a mile (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea says it's 3 miles for 1 nautical mile). We google everything under the sun about animals, spiders, insects, and birds. Heck, I'M learning a lot!! Haha! 

What's also cool is that I know exactly what he's good at and what he struggles with. So if it's super easy, we don't spend a ton of time on it. And we can learn it in whatever way is easiest. Do you know how many random boring history worksheets we can avoid by going on a field trip instead? Then the project we create has more worth and more meaning. And since grades is the LAST thing I'm worried about (I used to remind parents of my 6th graders, "You know grades don't matter til 9th grade, right?, when they'd worry about them too much.) I knew, for example, that he'd not yet mastered writing with his uncoordinated fine motor skills of a 5 year old boy. So we traced. We traced for awhile. Others were already copying. We traced and dictated some more. Then all of a sudden he was copy writing. Wow! And with practice, those letter cleaned right up, and by the end of Kindergarten (KINDERGARTEN!!!!) He's writing his own thoughts with made-ip spelling, and copying beautifully. Can you imagine how he'd have reacted if I'd pushed him before he was ready? Why are we so concerned with the outcome, while sometimes brushing over the process? What good is it if a kid can do something, but resents it. I believe in a Plan of God that was about choice and not force. And I know that doesn't mean allowing a kid to eat candy for every meal, or doing not a darned thing. But I believe that the process has as much if not more value than the product. Consider the child who finally goes on a mission, gets married to an 'acceptable' partner in an 'acceptable' place, or who excels in the sport his dad loves, making him greatly proud,but felt a bit forced, perhaps coerced into it. Did you ever see Dead Poet's Society? An education gained by choice becomes a child's gift to himself, an achievement to be won, and be proud of. 

I've learned a lot about my child, myself, and the world of schooling this year. I've learned that the work is never more important than the kid. He's a 5 year old (now 6 year old) boy. It's okay.
And he's a clever little man! His class completed the first half of first grade math. He reads basic words and books. He gets excited to read signs for us while in the car. He LOOOOOVES to see different birds outside, look for turtles, and find them in our field guide and give those "ducks" or "birds" actual names. It is wonderful to see him unlock the magic of the world around him, with the help of course from parents who procure books about birds, insects, spiders, etc to continue fostering that curiosity. 

I had the liberty to include art, music, dancing on other days if I chose to! We could sit and listed to records, watch a BBC film before diving into more books about dinosaurs or whatever we were studying at the time.

All the while, he still had two days a week at school in a classroom, and had to learn the ways of life with a few aggressive boys, and work independently of mom. But we've also had lots of chances to talk about it. Regroup on the home days. Strategize ways to deal with tricky situations. Imagine having no time in the week for those things to ever come up. And then who has time to walk at the duckpond and talk about how to deal with the situation of being different because of adoption, or whatever, and finding ways to put honey in his heart? He's made friends recently with a kid whose dad died in a car crash when the boy was just 1. The boy shared this while they were in the jacuzzi at our apartment place. PLAYING. For a significant amount of time. Because it is in the significant amounts of time, I've found, that the really deep thoughts come out. Not in the casual hellos/goodbyes of the day. I think most parents can relate to this. While driving in a car, working on a project, etc people have time to just talk and connect. So much time for connection is robbed by assigned topics to discuss, programs to attend, assignments to write, and the rushing, rushing, rushing around everywhere. And yes, there is a time and a place for those assignments and activities. But for us, it's not 7 hours a day, 5 days a week for 180 days of the year in a whack.

Have there been snags? Of course. Frustrating days where I too couldn't wait to get outside and wanted someone to just "focus and get done"? Yes. But we're learning. And making it work for both of us. And it is amazing how much we are all improving. And if I want my family in eternity, I'm glad I'm finding ways to help me work on our relationships now.

I'm ending this school year glad that the final conference with his teacher is completed, and necessary work has been turned in. I'm at a groove-spot though, where I'm not exhausted of learning. 

We're flying to Germany in just a couple of days. We're taking things with us to read and he's so excited about them! We're taking fun things to review through the summer, games-if you will-. And now that he can do something, he's all about doing it over and over again. Like when he learned to snap this year. Or almost do the splits all the way. Over and over. I love the way his face lights up when reading his little primer book to the young neighbor boy. Or showing a visiting friend how our math meeting wall goes. Mostly I'm glad to see a content, clever, and happy boy.

I'll post some of his end of year projects tomorrow. Right now I'm just feeling grateful. Happy about WHO he is, and who he is becoming. 

Yes, I'm excited for next year. Same school. Same time. Same sleep. Hallelujah. 

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