What Happened to Kindergarten?
The word kindergarten literally means, "a garden for the children." When I think of a garden I think of a bright space, where things grow and flourish under the warm sun, where there is joy and freedom, where there is a natural leaning into the way nature intends things to be. In a garden, you don't force things to grow. You cultivate the space, you give the right environment, and you give the proper attention. Then, you simply let nature do its thing and before long, you have a beautiful garden, A garden without struggle, a garden of beauty, not because you imposed crazy things upon it, but because it happened the way nature intended.
If you've entered a kindergarten classroom in the last several decades in the United States, you likely will not find much to match the above description. The kindergarten classroom that once resembled a "garden of children," playing, singing, learning, reciting nursery rhymes, playing with other children, and learning a gradual transition away from the home, has now pushed itself further and further into young children's lives. Today, the kindergarten classroom has grown so heavy on academics and so intense on structure and "preparing" students for school, that your average five year old now spends 35-40 of his waking hours in a contrived learning environment.
Is this necessary? No.
But will they get behind? Absolutely not.
Are there alternatives? YES!
Yes, there are alternatives!!! After over a decade in education and having read countless studies and reports on what's happening to today's children in our educational system, and worse, what it's doing to our families and communities, we launched into the pursuit of a better way.
Children should spend their childhood playing, exploring, being curious, learning, and hanging out with their families and in their communities. Yes, they should learn letters and beginning to learn how to read, as well as learning about number sense, and other things. They should meet friends and have fun walking life with other people. They should jump rope to the familiar rhythms of nursery rhymes, and should be read aloud the best children's literature. They deserve to look forward to school days and not be exhausted by them. They deserve to come home and play, be with their parents and siblings, enjoy evenings with family dinners, and outings without worrying about waking up early every single day to rush out the door for an 8 hour school day.
So, what are the alternatives?
Homeschooling is definitely a viable alternative to traditional full-time school. It obviously gives freedom and you can create your own schedule every single day. But many moms feel extremely intimidated by full-time homeschooling. They don't want to pick curriculum, plan lessons, and don't want to do it all themselves. They worry about teaching reading and they feel pressure to be the homeschool Pinterest mom. They also kind of want a couple days to breathe, be kid-free (or at least one less kid), free to run errands, have a coffee or lunch date with a friend, or simply enjoy some time alone.
While we definitely love home educating, we also love the university-schedule! Here at The Classical Academy, we believe students and families need the gift of time more than ever! We believe that kindergarten should be a garden of children! A place that is only PART of their waking hours, not the majority. We believe there's a place for specific learning (i.e. letters, numbers, handwriting, etc), but we also know from years of educational research that this does not take 35-40 hours a week.
We also believe, like a garden, that a garden of children, should be taught within the manner nature intended. We believe this is how they grow and flourish the best! Children are curious, they do crave some structure, and yet they crave the ability to run free. They love being part of something bigger than themselves, like a school community. They also love Mom and Dad, building Legos with their siblings, and waking up slow and unrushed some of the days of the week. They love books, being read to, songs and repetition. They need time- both structured and unstructured.
So how does kindergarten at The Classical Academy provide this "garden of children" education? Twice a week your kindergartener will attend kindergarten among peers and a classroom teacher. He will be part of a community, making new friends, learning how and where other adults fit into life. He will learn phonics and lots of hands-on math, and how to write his letters. He will be read aloud the best children's literature and enjoy the predictable cadence of nursery rhymes. He will create art and make music. He will learn the way nature intended him to learn. He will learn in a context that gives his childhood back the gift of the time.
The other 3 days of the week your kindergartener will enjoy learning at home and being wild and free, the way children should be. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, your child's teacher will tell you exactly what schoolwork to work through with him that will prepare him to come back to class the next day. It's simple. It's straightforward. It's not hours upon hours upon hours a day. On Fridays, he will run and play, and visit Grandma, go to the park, or take music lessons. The choice is up to you!
At The Classical Academy we provide a top notch, high quality, private, classical education. Your student is getting all they need to be successful in kindergarten and beyond, without the exhausting work week schedule of an adult.
Are you interested in learning more about how to give your kindergartener the best start to their schooling years? Contact us for more info!
"There are so many homeschool options for the little kids. What about middle school and high school?
"I'm nervous about covering everything once we get up into these upper years."
"My middle schooler is turning increasingly moody and difficult about completing his homework."
"My middle schooler wants friends and is begging to 'go to school.'"
Do any of these sound familiar? Many moms find a wealth of groups, co-ops, and learning activities out in the community with their younger children. However, once students enter the middle school years, the options begin to decrease. Those who did find a good homeschool community to join, found that as the years went on the number of older students kept dwindling.
Around middle school, many parents begin to feel the weight of the middle and high school years and give up, utilizing full-time school options instead. But, guess what! You are not alone and you don't have to give up! The Classical Academy provides support for this less supported home educating age group.
So what can you expect in the middle school program at The Classical Academy? How can we help you keep your kids home more than they are away, but yet provide you and your students the support they crave? Just keep on reading...
Have you ever heard a parent say, "My middle schooler turns everything into an argument. They rebut everything!" Some good news exists - it's completely normal, and even better, we can teach them how to channel it!
Developmentally, your typical middle school student (5th-8th grade) is still excitable in their learning despite what they may imply, but they need challenges. They like to judge, critique, have debates, and show off their knowledge. They usually want to know the "behind the scenes" stuff and ask the curious "why" questions about most things. They even think they are more knowledgable than adults! Take all these unique characteristics of a middle schooler and add them to full-time home educating, and if you're like most parents, you will find yourself questioning why on earth you are doing what you are doing. Some begin to research alternatives and some quit altogether.
The descriptors of middle schoolers above are not wrong, nor are they character deficiencies, they just need to be properly channeled. Instead of forcing these characteristics out of our students, we use them to our advantage. Instead of squelching students' argumentative, sometimes "know it all" attitudes, we teach them to turn it into something extremely positive, something life-giving, that produces truth, goodness, and beauty.
With technology advancing before our eyes, we live in a world where the art of person to person dialogue is quickly dying. Much of our logic school program revolves around the lost art of dialogue. Students in our 5th-8th grade classes will learn proper arguing, respect, critiquing, analyzing, applying, and debating - across all subjects areas. If we graduate students from our homes and schools without the proper skill of dialogue, it becomes detrimental to their own souls, their families, their communities, their faith groups, and their workplaces.
At The Classical Academy, we build and nurture the art of dialogue by creating safe spaces for everyone to add their own meanings to a shared pool of understanding, and no matter how much we believe differently than one of our peers or teachers, we teach our students that their perspective only occupies some of the pool, not all of it. Why is this important? Because it teaches students to listen sincerely, to respect others, to practice cooperation, to seek out personal growth, and to learn about someone else, rather than just fighting to always be "right." We teach students not just to reload while someone else is talking, and to be vigilant against fear, dismissal, manipulation, and apathy - which will put an immediate stop to safe dialogue. As humans, we are naturally tempted to correct, disagree, or put ourselves at the center of someone else's perspective or experience. It takes a high level of skill, humility, empathy, and courage to dialogue in a way that is respectful, safe, and inviting. And, it takes practice and hard work. Logic school is where the beauty of classical education begins to really show itself. It's a markedly different approach to middle school years than traditional education practices.
Do you feel these types of conversations and teaching moments are nearly impossible to teach and re-create in a home education only setting, but you can't afford full-time, private classical education, and nor do you want your child spending all their hours away from home in a school setting?
Do you find yourself thinking, "There's no way my middle schooler would dialogue in a class of peers, led by a trained educator. They're too stubborn, too grumpy, too resistant, or too shy."
Come join us at The Classical Academy! We will teach your middle schooler that yes, it is still possible to hold a civil dialogue, with ideas out in the open, while staying reasonable, measured, and respectful in the midst of sometimes even charged conversations. Once you lay a feast of ideas consisting of truth, goodness, and beauty before a student, and begin showing him how to process them, think about them, dialogue about them, and persuade with them, you will be surprised what he can do. It may feel threatening at first, especially if the dialogue is controversial or shared between people of different beliefs. But isn't this the skill we want our students to have? To be able to intelligently, respectfully, and lovingly interact with others in their quest to share their perspective or persuade?
At The Classical Academy Logic School (5th-8th) we are beginning with just 5th-6th grade students and will add a grade every year through 12th grade. We are a fully collaborative model between home and school. We plan your curriculum for your at-home days so you don't have to! Come partner with us on your homeschooling journey! One thing you can be sure of, is that we will provide a top notch program designed to help your student discover the lost art of dialogue.
But Won't My Kid Be Weird?!
"Your kid is going to be so weird."
"What about FRIENDS?!?!"
"What about socialization?"
Socialization and "weirdness." It's the age old criticism about non-traditional school models (including hybrid schools, home educating, dual enrollment, etc). As many families of non-traditional students find, people suddenly become very concerned about your child's socio-emotional well-being as soon as you go against the grain of traditional education. How many times have you heard well-meaning family and friends try to convince you to enroll in full-time school over the sole issue of friends?!
Guest writer: Thoughts from a university-schedule parent:
"School is one part of life. Historically, school has been one part of life. But today, education in its formal setting has reached further and further into young students' lives with every passing decade. We aren't denying the fact that children want to have friends and camaraderie with peers. We as adults long to have friends and people we walk life with. We aren't denying the fact that sometimes there's a place for a formal school setting.
We are, however, denying the idea that if kids don't attend 35-40 hours of traditional, formal schooling they will be unsocialized, weird, and have no friends.
As proponents of non-traditional schooling, and homeschooling, we want our kids to be life-long learners who don't limit learning to 8 hours of the traditional school day. We want our kids to see that there's a time and place for sitting down and accomplishing academics, but we also want them to see that this is only one form of learning, one part of life. All of life is an opportunity to learn and grow.
What About Socialization?
When people hear that our children attend a non-traditional school, many respond as if they are being denied the most wonderful, rewarding, and enriching relationships by not making them privy to daily interactions with their peers...and by peers, I mean, twenty-five other kids their exact same ages.
No, this does not mean we don't value "same age friends." We absolutely do! The majority of our children's friends are their ages. But we don't feel like 5 days a week, for 7- 8 hour days with 25 other kids in their same age category is necessary. We don't believe this is where "socialization" occurs (or at least the kind of socialization we are looking for).
The dictionary defines socialization as "a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social skills. appropriate to his or her social position." No offense, but I prefer my kids not learn the norms, values, behaviors, and social skills appropriate for his age from 25 other seven year olds as equally immature as my seven year old. He has more than enough immaturity all on his own! Sure there is a teacher. But realistically, the influence is more heavily the other kids than the teacher.
Cramming twenty-five 7 year olds in a room together for 8 hours a day, does not magically impart a specific desired level of social etiquette to one another. Not very many real life social boundaries are established due to the examples set by children who have not yet mastered social boundaries themselves. This does not mean we chose a non-traditional schooling model in order to shield our children from the influence of others. It's simply trying to point out why the socialization/what about friends argument people use isn't very valid.
Instead of satisfying our son's love of people with 25 other kids his same exact age, for 35-40 hours a week, we have found an incredible balance in the university-schedule setting. Our son spends two days a week with same age peers in a classroom environment and we have the other days of the week to live a social life that more closely mirrors "real life." We prefer to give our kids several good friends their age as well as continued contact and relationships with people of all ages, as well as growing deep friendships with their siblings, and our non-traditional schooling approach allows us time to do this very thing. Our children see this lifestyle modeled from my husband and I as we have and highly value friendships across varying age groups. Isn't that what socialization is all about? Being able to interact and function in numerous social settings?
What About Being Weird?
Another common critique of non-traditional school choices are comments about kids dressing weird, being socially awkward, not being able to hold a normal conversation, and not being "street smart." While I have met non-traditional school students and homeschoolers who fall into those stereotypes, I've also found many public and private schooled students who fall into these stereotypes. However, over the last decade I have grown to understand that these issues have less and less to do with a method of schooling and more to do with the parents.
Being Socially Awkward
I have known many awkward public, private and homeschooled children. One of these forms of education is not the remedy to the issue. Whenever I have met a socially awkward child, I have noticed the parents are too. The parents have an awkward way about them that has influenced that child’s personality and way of interacting. If the child is homeschooled then yes, they will have been more influenced by their parent’s ways simply because of being around them so much…the good and the awkward (notice I did not say bad). But a child who is in public or private school does not escape this influence...that is not the cure.
I do know many non-traditional students, homeschooled students, and full-time private and public school students, of all different ages, and once again, the dressing of the child is a direct influence of the parent’s style and preferences. I would say in general that many of the homeschooled parents I know have convictions of modesty. They do not care as much that their child is wearing name brands and the trendiest style out there…so in that way, are they weird? Maybe. If so, who cares? I love that weirdness. If the child is wearing a dress to their toes and bonnet with purposely outdated attire…this might be because of the mindset of the parent having an unhealthy view that this is more spiritual. Or, it could simply be their style and their influence in this manner, not homeschooling or non-traditional schooling.
My two kids are often in thrift shop finds with a slight hippy or vintage look. My daughter specifically almost always has an old scarf in her hair, with some kind of a raga muffin eclectic look. That is because that is a style we like as their parents. That is why they are dressed like that, not because they don't attend school 35-40 hours a week. If someone thinks they are dressed “weird”, so be it, but it’s not because they are educated outside the traditional full-time school week and would be dressed differently if they were not.
Not Street Smart
It all depends on what someone means by this as to what my thoughts are. If someone means that a child is awkward because they are not aware of current music and shows, they don't know the lyrics to the hottest teenage pop artist, they are clueless on name brand clothing, and have never heard of certain sex or bathroom humor…then PRAISE GOD they are awkward!! That is a naivety I wish more children knew and did not embrace as “cool” or a necessity to not being awkward. As they grow and mature into their high school years and on into adult life, they can watch what they enjoy and have liberty to do so through their matured, fully grown adult mind and conscience. For now, we gradually give them more and more choices and responsibilities as they grow and mature.
This is something that we as parents long to protect. If our children are awkward because of that then that is because of our personal convictions on these topics that we enforce in our home, not because they are educated at a university-schedule school or at home. I hope we are raising the types of children who will not get older and feel neglected because they were not exposed to these topics and content at an age determined by their peers. Even if they are, that is a risk we are willing to take, wishing good for our children based on Biblical principles.
If someone means a child is nervous around adults, children of different ages or races because they have purposely been unexposed to them then I think there is room for criticism. If the child knows nothing of evil, death, crime or a need to protect those they love, then I also think there is room for criticism. Of course this is all exposed to the degree of age and maturity, but these topics of life and the reality of the world need to be taught to our children. Appropriately protecting our children is one thing, trying to shelter them from any form of displeasure or ugliness is not wise. They need to know how to live in this world and know how to handle it well and in good character. We have to prepare them for these things and the scriptures give us great wisdom on how to think about these things.
In general I think people need to look to the parents as liable for their children’s worldview, dress and way of interacting instead of the manner in which they are schooled. What influence has the parent been, or what influence has the parent allowed their child to be exposed to, in order to form their current state of awkwardness or lack thereof.
I pray we as parents grow more aware of our responsibility in the thinking and growth of our children. Whether it’s our direct influence or the influences we subject them to. Our influence is huge…even down to their style of dress and what they know and don’t know that is going on in the world. I am not saying that a parent who sends their child to full-time public or private school does not understand this. I am simply saying that whether your child is educated at home or public or private school, or at a non-traditional school, we as the parents are responsible for our children and helping them form a solid and Biblical worldview. For us, this means protecting them where we think necessary and providing a methodology to have them achieve this until they are old enough and mature enough to measure these for themselves. However, these issues of being weird, unsocial, or awkward is not from one specific mode of education and it's also not remedied by a specific mode of education.
By God’s grace and wisdom, He gave us His word to help us know what to think about this world and our place in it. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
2 Timothy 3:16
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