Previously I told the story of my oldest child’s public-school kindergarten, and my middle child’s homeschool kindergarten. Now I’ll tell the story of my youngest child’s homeschool kindergarten. You’d think it would be a similar story to my middle child’s, but it’s not.
My two little daughters are less than two years apart in age, but they are very different personalities.
The homeschool co-op we did when my middle daughter was 4? The one where my 4-year-old did classwork together with kindergarten through second-grade students? And my 4-year-old did fantastic?
My youngest daughter was 2 at that time. I took her into the preschool room and worked in there to help with her. The other preschoolers sat around a table and quietly colored or played with Play Dough. My two-year-old expressed her displeasure with these activities. Sitting down quietly has never been her thing. I forbade her from touching the door handle because week after week she kept trying to open the door and escape to a large room where she could run around.
Finally, one day, she grabbed a Play Dough tool that resembled a screwdriver. She fixed me with a resolute gaze, put the tool to the hinges of the door, and firmly told me, “We getting outta here, Mom.”
My youngest daughter is not tame.
She’s easily had the most amount of formal pre-school and exposure to reading instruction compared to my other children.
She’s easily the one who hates formal schooling the most.
She learned to ride a bike without training wheels very early and easily. She’s a monkey on the playground.
When presented with a worksheet (she loves to do worksheets), she comes up with creative answers.
I gave her some Snap Circuits. She makes fantastic circuits and needs no instruction to do so. They work, too – she figured it out. Her creations run off the circuit board. She’s not going to be bound by four lines.
She went to an event and got a promo drawstring bag. Inside the bag was a promo plastic cup, stickers, and two pencils. What would you do with these items? I’d use the cup to drink, the stickers to decorate or stick on things, and the pencil to write. What did she do with these items? She immediately peeled off the stickers, folded them backwards and stuck them inside the cup. She stuck one pencil inside the cup, turned it over, held the whole thing by the pencil, then used the other pencil to beat on the outside of the cup and make a lot of noise music.
She learned her letters and sounds the earliest, but learned to read the latest. She’s currently in kindergarten and is able to do a lot of what’s technically considered first grade now, but she’s not reading anywhere near the level of either of my two older children. I learned with my middle daughter – there was no need to push reading at an early age, because it would develop naturally with the things we were doing. The ability to blend sounds together isn’t something that needs to be forced – it’s an ability the child develops are she matures, just like swinging on monkey bars or riding a bike without training wheels. So I waited. Mostly patiently. And it did develop naturally. She reads basic easy-reader books. She can easily memorize picture books with many words, but she could do that long before she learned to actually read. Her math skills are well ahead of grade level.
She’s smart. In a divergent, incredibly creative way. Because I taught public school and also researched this topic, I know that children like her are not appreciated in public school. A creative, challenging tornado?
She loves worksheets, right? But her worksheets are often blank because she spent so long talking to me about them, or covered in lines and drawings to explain how she interpreted them. She’s not a fan of simple things like circling a correct answer. She wants to draw a picture or write a corresponding word. And why not? Why should she be tied down to the “rigor” of those boring circles?
Remember the two-year-old who tried to take the door off its hinges to break out of preschool? She’s still not a fan of sitting at a desk. She has a special chair that allows her to wiggle while she works. We do a lot of work sitting on the couch together.
She makes it through two hours of Chinese school once a week. She’s not a fan of sitting at a desk, but she puts up with it there because she wants to learn Chinese. She’s not the teacher’s pet.
I’m certain that she’s my child who is least-suited to public school. Even though she is academically ahead in most areas, if I’d planned to put her into public school I would have held her back a year.
Kindergarten is harmful to creativity – that’s been shown in several good studies. My incredibly creative and out of the box little girl? Kindergarten would have ruined her.
Many criticize public school classrooms as being particularly ill-suited to boys. But what about a little girl who happens to be a smart, creative tornado-child? What about that child who isn’t going to put up with arbitrary nonsense? She would immediately recognize that the class wasn’t being run “right” and she’d try to run the place herself. How do I know? She tries to run everything. She’s a natural leader. Maybe a natural ringleader. I’d have been getting phone calls to drug her into compliance from the first week. If she were a boy everyone would say, “Well, she’s all boy.” But she’s a girl, so it’s even less acceptable for her to be highly intelligent and assertive. She’d quickly get the message that she’s “wrong.” She’d fight that message, because that’s who she is, but it would hurt her deeply.
If you read the story of my oldest child’s public-school year, you’ll see where he told me that he didn’t have a good life. He doesn’t even remember telling me that he didn’t have a good life – he didn’t know how to express to me that he was suffering at school, so it was months and months while we floundered about trying to figure out why our kindergarten child was unhappy. In the end, even though he did well in public school, the only thing that wasn’t good about his life was public school. As soon as we pulled him out of public school, he was happy and stayed that way.
So, this is one of the reasons why I’m so glad that I was already homeschooling when it was time for my youngest child to start kindergarten. The tornado child. The child who wouldn’t have fit in anywhere. Wouldn’t have had good grades or good citizenship marks. My child who is least suited to an institutional environment.
Want to know what my youngest child tells me about her kindergarten year? She tells me, “Mama, I have the perfect life. I have the best life.”
There are questions raised by these three different kindergarten experiences. Who is in the best position to decide what type of education is best for my children? Who do you think knows each of them best? Do you think every child should be compelled to follow the exact same course of study? Why or why not?