Teaching Kindergarten – Lessons Learned

With the end of the school year upon us, I want to take some time to reflect on how our Kindergarten year went. I certainly learned new things, and gained new appreciation for all the work that teachers put into their job – and a special appreciation for the teachers of the deaf (ToD).

I started the year with little more than the book I’ve used with my other daughter – The Well Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home. I didn’t do any prep work, didn’t prepare any lesson plans, and have taken each day pretty much at a time. And let me tell you, the stress level was certainly higher than it needed to be, and I don’t think we got as much done in as organized a fashion as we could.
Lesson 1. Plan, prepare, and organize. Having lesson plans for the year (at least as a guide) makes life/school feel much less chaotic.

On homeschooling: “take a deep breath – you can do this!” -Terrie Lynn Bittner

Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer (the authors of The Well Trained Mind) write that “we have mixed feelings about formal kindergarten programs for four and five year olds. A kindergarten program that combines beginning reading and writing with lots of artwork and active play can be productive.”  They go on to say that they believe that the “first four or five years of a child’s life should be spent in informal teaching – preparing the child for first grade work.”
While I fundamentally agree with them, and believe that children are expected to become little adults at too young of an age, the reality is that we as home-schoolers have to maintain a certain standard in order to keep the schools out of our homes. Particularly in my case as a mother to a deaf child – and to my knowledge the first home-schooler of a deaf child – in our state at least. That is partly why I followed a more structured program. Also, because she is 6, and she is so routine oriented and structured that it actually works better for her. But she still needs to play. School does not have to negate play and games.
Lesson 2. Incorporate games into the lessons to make it more fun. Children learn through play, so let them play as much as they can. 

This year also largely taught me how my daughter learns and what she needs from me. This is one of the benefits to home-schooling: I can teach her how she learns and adjust as needed. Teachers in a class room of 20+ kids don’t have that ability, let alone time to learn each child’s learning style and needs. I learned this year to recognize when she needs a break, when we need to step back from something, and when I need to figure out a new way to teach a concept.

Lesson 3. Be flexible in your time. School does not have to be done all in the morning and during the week. 

My children are constantly learning. We can play a game of Uno or Go Fish – and that teaches her about numbers, about matching, etc. We go to the store or the library or the park and I teach her about manners – the same social skills that people seem to think home-schoolers are lacking in.
Lesson 4. There is a lot in day to day activities that can be counted as schoolwork.

Probably the most important lesson for me was to recognize when I am getting burned out, and to take a step back, take a week (or two) off and recharge. That’s partly why we are following a whole year model of schooling, so that I (and they) can have more regular breaks throughout the year.
Lesson 5. Don’t give up so much that you lose yourself.


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