Why We Do Old School Kindergarten

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Two out of three of my kids have been home for kindergarten. We rarely use worksheets.  I don’t push them to read. Or to practice handwriting. Or  skip count. And you know what? This isn’t a brand new concept. I am not a radical unschooler with my children’s kindergarten education. This is old school kindergarten.

We play. And read. And explore outside. And we follow all the rabbit trails of learning—finding a toad leads to a library trip to check out books about the toad lifecycle, leads us back home to set up a habitat, leads to digging up worms to feed our new friend while we learn about it and then release him.

homeschool kindergarten


We make pretend mail and birthday cards for family and Valentines for our friends and that can be the extent of our formal handwriting program–unless it isn’t. I have one child who wrote constantly on her own in kindergarten and another who writes now and then.

We count things and notice patterns and measure ingredients and subtract goldfish crackers while we pop them into our mouths and that is mostly math. We do own workbooks, if they are interested. My daughter refused her kindergarten math workbook. Now, once a week, I put my son’s math workbook on the table and he completes however many pages he desires, and it’s usually more than I would’ve assigned, if I were to assign such things.

We do messy science experiments and we go on field trips in our history rich region and we play with friends as much as possible. And we read, and we read, and we read. That is, I read to them. I read every day, many times per day, books of all levels and topics and lengths.

We sound out letters on road signs and in stores and on our cereal box and if my child is interested when I string some letters together into a word, then we do that. We make pretty cards with the words they know and hang them on the wall but when they don’t want to make cards, we don’t.

We color and draw and trace and glue and cut but more often, we run and jump and climb and ride bikes and walk through the woods in every season and every kind of weather.

And they engage in hours of pretend play nearly every day. They’ve created pretend worlds which they jump in and out of throughout the day. There are characters and themes and costumes and magic.


10 Reasons Why We Do Old School Kindergarten

  1. Because play is learning. We all know that. Research supports it. Plus Mr. Rogers said it, so we know it is true.
  2. Because movement, like learning to balance and cross the midline are critical to brain development of the same areas of the brain that are used for academic learning.
  3. Because learning need not be passive–adults telling children what they need to know. By nature, kids receive information via all their senses.
  4. Because not everybody learns best by filling out worksheets and sitting still for long periods of time. This may be an efficient way to educate a large group of children but it’s not necessary at home.
  5. Because studies show, again and again, that there is no academic advantage to learning to read early and especially no advantage to pushing kids to read before they are ready. Can you imagine pushing your child to walk before she was ready, drilling her every day on the elements of putting one foot in front of the other and balancing, fretting over the fact that she isn’t walking at 7 months old, comparing her to your neighbor’s child who is, labeling her a “reluctant walker”?  Why would we do that?
  6. Because it’s so much easier to get kids to learn when their brains are ready. It takes less time. It’s not efficient for adults or children to provides loads of instruction when a few simple lessons do the trick at a later date.
  7. Because a child’s first exposure to “school” whether at home or not, should inspire them to love learning, rather than to dread learning time or hate homework.
  8. Because little kids are not built to sit for long periods of time. They are built to climb trees and run and move and shout.
  9. Because young children need to find their voice, use their words, build their vocabulary and not be shushed and told to listen all the time. They need to talk.
  10. Because I went to public school kindergarten when it was about play, snacks, reading, show-and-tell, naps and pretending and look at me now: I can read and write quite well.  In fact, I have a masters degree. I suppose I turned out okay, despite my old school kindergarten education. Or perhaps because of it.

But sometimes I forget for a moment.  I become Worrisome Homeschool Mom Who Fears Her Kids Aren’t Learning Enough and I go to that dark place (Amazon) and buy more curriculum.

Or the even darker place (the Teacher Supply Store) and buy more workbooks.

I panic for a week or two and my kids let me know, this is not what they are ready for, this is not what they need.

We delve more into math and reading after kindergarten, as they follow their own individual natural learning paths. There’s time. Homeschooling has given us that. And that, my friends, is why we are sticking with Old School Kindergarten.

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Homeschool Kindergarten

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