School Kindergarten – the Model
Because the underlying idea on which kindergarten was developed was as a means for transitioning a child into formal schooling, it has traditionally had two elements. On the one hand, it has an academic bent to help prepare children for the curriculum they will face in first grade (or whatever their first year of compulsory schooling is called). On the other hand, it has a socializing role, helping children learn how to exist in and interact with a larger group than they are with in their home.
Today, kindergarten may or may not fall into the years in which a child is required to be in school, depending on your state. In states in which compulsory educationbegins at age 5, kindergarten is more likely to be considered an element of compulsory schooling – and therefore usually under the state’s jurisdiction – than in states in which compulsory schooling begins at age 7 or 8. You should check with your state department of education to see if there are state mandates for kindergarten and, if so, what they entail.
Kindergarten – the Socialization Aspect
Although being in a large group of one’s age peers does not happen often outside of school, except in competition in amateur athletics, there are some things that are learned in this school setting that are arguably useful for other situations that most people encounter in later life. Working in the same room in which other people are doing the same and other tasks is a common experience in the workplace. A person who has never had to do a task outside a private setting in which he or she could control most if not all the context could pose a challenge for someone seeking employment.
Taking turns is another key learning that takes place in kindergarten. So are cleaning up after oneself, keeping one’s belongings tidy, and seeing that different people approach tasks in different ways, accomplish them with different success, take different lengths of time to do things, and have varying strengths and weaknesses. In other words, one of the elements of kindergarten, for students who have not experience it before, is learning a number of things about other people that one is not as likely to find out in one’s own home, or even at the library, park, etc.
Finding ways to help your child have any of these experiences that you think will lead him or her to be a more understanding neighbor, a better colleague or coworker, and less stressed in a typical job setting, are probably good things, though not, as far as I know, a mandated part of any curriculum.
Kindergarten – the Academic Aspect
Whether you are intending to go on homeschooling your child or whether you are going to help him or her make the transition to first grade in a public or private school, you can use the following details of typical kindergarten curriculum as a guideline. Keep in mind that if kindergarten age is included in compulsory education in your state, that your state may have other, more, or different guidelines, with which you should familiarize yourself.
Often, student learnings are discussed in terms of what children know and what they are able to do. Neither list is exhaustive, but intends to give you an idea of some of the core content in many kindergarten settings.
• What Children Typically Know at or by the End of Kindergarten
- common nursery rhymes and stories
- days of the week
- letters of the alphabet
- names of basic body parts
- names of basic colors
- names of major holidays
- names of some common animals
- names of some jobs
- numbers 1 – 10 or more
- the location of home and school
- their name, address, and phone number
• What Children Are Typically Able to Do at or by the End of Kindergarten
- doing simple addition and (possibly) subtraction
- raising their hands and taking turns
- identifying letters with sounds
- listening attentively to stories
- making observations about the world around them
- putting events in order
- recognizing/reading some simple words
- recognizing or supplying rhyme words
- using art materials such as non-toxic paste or glue, scissors, crayons, and paint
- writing their names
In a homeschool kindergarten setting, you can either make a schooltime schedule and use these types of tasks or you can simply incorporate them into home activities without calling them out as school tasks. For example, a child can sit at a desk at 9:00 a.m. every morning and, say, practice writing his or her name. Or you could allow the hope of gaining a library card by filling out the application him or herself to motivate the child to learn to write his or her name. It’s up to you.