I always feel a little silly putting grades on these planning posts (well, until we get to high school, I guess), because we’re really just doing the next thing, the most appropriate thing, for each child where they are.
The grades are a shorthand that help us communicate with one another, but there is no official standard, requirement, or syllabus that comes with a grade level.
Nonetheless, my youngest child will be a Kindergarten student (which really shouldn’t even be a thing) and a first grade student this year. We’ll go over phonics and my experienced guess is that she’ll be reading beyond the “I Can Read” books before the year is out. It’s almost palpable: she’s trying, starting to succeed, and is on the verge of the big “click” for reading. One of my children had a long phonics runway and more of a gradual dawning than a big click, but the signs are pointing to this particular student being a “click” moment reader.
So, wherever she’s at, we’ll still practice those phonemes (I believe they help with spelling as well as reading, so we’ll work through them until she knows them) and I’ll listen to Henry and Mudge and Little Bear and all the rest, moving along as she’s ready.
We call our phonics practice time “couch lessons,” and during that time (about 20 minutes, 3 times a week), we’ll practice phonics using TATRAS, practice either Psalm 1 or Psalm 100 together, work on 10-12 questions and answers from the Catechism for Young Children, and read a page of poems and a chapter from Leading Little Ones to God. At some point in the mix, she’ll also read a few words or a few pages or a BOB book to me.
(P.S. – If you need a phonics program, mine is out of print. No one answers the number or email on the website above. I recommend Brandy Vencel’s Teaching Reading with BOB Books if you want a thorough phonics program with short lessons that is uncomplicated.)
(P.S.S. – This is our Couch Lessons Procedure List, a technique Pam teaches in Plan Your Year and also in her new course Put Your Homeschool Year on Autopilot. It works. I use Keynote (Powerpoint for Mac) to make and keep mine and reference it on the iPad. It loads faster with fewer taps than Evernote on the iPad or my phone.).
She’s about halfway through Math-U-See Primer, so she’ll also pick up where she left off there. She is not required to do math daily, although it is on her checklist (which she insists on having like all the others) and she will likely want to about 70%-80% of the time because the others are. It’s always the student who doesn’t need to do the work that wants to do the work. She also started doing xtramath in February because she wanted to, just like her older siblings, and I said, “Sure. Whatever.” So she’ll continue to do that.
Knox or Ilse (they’ll alternate, because Knox AND Ilse didn’t work last year) will read a book aloud to her both for her benefit and for their fluency (or articulation) practice. Ilse will read from a Bible story book and Knox from My Book House or a fairy tale book.
She’ll participate in Morning Time, which is in itself a rich education even if it is entirely prayer, Scripture, hymns, poetry, and catechism.
She desperately wants piano lessons with our piano teacher and does have a remarkable ear. We still haven’t worked out if she’ll have lessons, but she’ll at least get some official practice time and assignments – but only because she wants it and piano/music literacy is on our family’s priority list.
What I really need to do and what I am personally most likely to drop is handwriting with her.
I know, it seems silly. At least, it does to me and that’s why I’m likely to drop it. But here I have one last child to educate – one with a natural pencil grip – and I really should do my best by her and put her in the habit of starting at the top.
Because she wants meaningful work to do while the others are occupied and is not satisfied with a “go play” instruction, I also have drawing books nearby and am telling her she will do “drawing lessons” for school. I also have some audio books ready and will instruct her to listen and draw a picture of the story while she listens if we need other activities (which will look and sound like the other’s school, so I think it will work).
What will and will not “work” for occupying and engaging (or distracting) different younger siblings while others are occupied depends entirely on the child. What does the child want? How can you frame the activity in a way that appeals? Does the child want to do school too? Set up the activity to be his schoolwork. Does the child not want to do school? Make phonics lessons cuddle couch time, not school.
Yes, my 5-year-old will have a school checklist. No, I don’t think a 5-year-old should have a school checklist. Her play time and her privileges are not contingent upon her finishing. She can get caught up in a vivid game of dolls or kitchen and I won’t disturb her to do school (except Morning Time which is for the whole family). Accountability for your work begins at about 7.
For now, we make hay while the sun shines and run with enjoying the learning process, never forcing it. The school itself is not forced, but a cheerful attitude, polite tone, and prompt obedience are – those are lessons that, if learned and made habits now, will bear more fruit and be more effective in all subsequent lessons than getting ahead in the math book or learning to read a month or a year earlier.