I was recently asked what my “educational expectations” would be with a five year old. Now, this fall marks our thirtieth year of homeschooling. Through the years, we have ebbed and flowed with the trends of homeschooling just like all other long-term homeschoolers. However, there are some things that have always stayed the same for us:
(1) Teach obedience before starting school
(2) Put relationships above academics
(3) Put God first, then marriage, then children, then others
And many more!
My expectations for five year olds still haven’t changed! If I had a sweet, wonderful, amazing five year old, this is what I would do! (Btw, four to six year olds are the greatest kids ever!)
1. Obedience. We can’t expect children to do school work if they will not make their beds, brush their teeth, come when called, etc. Obedience is a pre-requisite to bookwork–always has been in our homeschool. Take it from an old mama—school is so much better with a six year old in kindergarten who obeys than it is with a five year old in kindergarten who doesn’t obey.
2. Morning routine. If our kids couldn’t do a simple morning routine chart of making their beds, grooming, putting away their own toys and books, “reading” a picture Bible (or doing a Bible book and audio set), and getting completely ready for the day without a big fuss, I didn’t do bookwork with them. (See number one!) I talk about morning routine charts here and here and here.
3. Chores. Once a five year old is known for first time obedience and following through on his morning routine, I add chores to his schedule. You can read more about developing chores for this age group here and here and here and here and here.
4. Room time. I used room time from ten to fourteen months (playpen time) up through age six or seven, depending on how much the child could join us for older kids’ school. The reason I list it here as an expectation for a five year old is that I believe room time has so many educational benefits, namely those of increasing a child’s concentration, creativity, independence, and risk taking (all found to be important factors in studies about children who were “natural readers”–that is, they learned to read without instruction–this is important because if it helps a child become a natural reader, it can also help a child become a good reader in general). You can find out more about room time here and here and here and here.
5. Bible time. I would have the kindergarten join us for Bible time as well as having a “little kids” Bible time during the morning. I liked to put this after morning routine and chores, so we had an order that put character and faith before academics. It might work better for some to do it during story time. (I used what I called “interval Bible training,” meaning that we did various Bible teachings from sun up until sun down, so that they were always being trained in Bible stories, character, doctrine, hymns, songs, etc. all the time. For instance, we would use Bible on audio during morning chores, hymns and praise music during breakfast, Bible story read alouds in the morning, more in depth Bible studies with the olders during “unit studies,” Bible audios and/or videos during room time (almost always audios; I wasn’t big on videos as I wanted them to “make the pictures in their minds”); Bible stories and character stories during story time, audios as they were falling asleep; Bible reading and singing at dinner; Bible stories at bedtime, etc. Find out more about what we used during this age here and here and here.
6. Informal learning time. We had an adage that “we would never teach a young child anything formally that could be taught informally.” Therefore, when it came to pre-reading and pre-math skills, we were extremely diligent to “teach while we are in the way with them.” In other words, rhyming words, initial consonant sounds, ending consonant sounds, letter recognition, beginning math concepts (counting, recognizing numbers, less than/greater than, and much more) can all be taught informally, and we did. We also used picture books, puzzles, games, manipulatives, audios, videos, computer games, felt activities, toys, blocks….anything! I recommend building this time into a kindergarteners day–either through room time or through a learning center or table time where activities are set up for him, etc.
7. Formal learning. We only used workbooks with our five, six, and seven year old (non-readers) when they were set on numbers one through six above–and only if the child wanted them and enjoyed them. There are colorful, wonderful kindergarten workbooks available through Timberdoodle. Here are some other formal learning tips for this age:
a. If your kindergarten student is ready to learn to read, I don’t recommend using a complete kindergarten/first grade curriculum to do this. Learning to read doesn’t need to take three to five years. If you get a good program, a child can learn to read in three to six months if readiness is in place. (Call to order my audio on Teaching Reading in the Homeschool for more information on reading readiness, choosing readers, and choosing a phonics program.) I recommend a couple that I have used or had friends use, but there are many good ones out there that teach reading only (i.e. not complete language arts at this level) and use a word family phonics approach combined with readers. Some of my reading program reviews are found at Raising Kids With Character for Phonics Tutor and Saxon Reading.
b. If you do want to get an entire kindergarten program, do not get a textbook-driven approach. Again, Timberdoodle has wonderful preschool and kindergarten programs with many hands on and fun activities included.
c. Make kindergarten fun. If I had kindergarten to do over again, I would do all of the tips above and get Timberdoodle’s kindergarten fun things, a colorful math program that has manipulatives (Math-U-See and/or Saxon kindergarten math are very hands on!), and Five in a Row (and choose the activities that you want to do and leave the rest). But again, I would only do that after the first six things above are met!
As for general expectations, here are some other tips:
(1) Morning routines, morning chores, sitting during reading, room time, etc., first (have I mentioned this yet?)
(2) An hour or so of time with you either in fun learning (see c. above) and/or in learning to read, preferably in the morning.
(3) Story time, room time, quiet time, book and audio sets, etc. for independent learning all built into the schedule.
(4) Interweave free time with all of the above. It is my experience that four to six year olds who are not doing “formal” more all day type of school end up being bored and restless when their days are not predictable.
Hope this helps you with your five year old! Most of all, enjoy them! These should be some of the sweetest days of parenting! I know they were for me, and I want that for every mama out there! 🙂
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