Challenging Your Kindergartner



We homeschooling mamas thrive on our super powers of accomplishing above and beyond the norm, being the queens of harnessing and organizing chaos, and we LOVE filling our little sponges to the brim as they (we) partake in the joy of flipping on those sweet light bulb moments.  This can have us ‘challenging’ our kindergartners to do more and more…and more……..and more with the thought that as long as they can do more they must not have met their proper point of challenge.

What it really means is that YOU are a fantastic playmate!  Your child may read early or walk early or do maths early or potty train early, but in the end most everyone balances out.  Gasp!  Did I dare say that out loud?!  I certainly would not have believed this if you had told me this when we had 5 under the age of six and all of them brilliant, advanced, marvelous little beings!   This sweet learning level it is far too early to label your child ‘advanced’, and chances are that if you do, they will hit their wall at some point, lose their identity, and shut down to some degree.

Every K student should be all over the board in their abilities, so make your academic, character, and faith goals simple and clear.  Continue their joy of learning by exploring, mastering, moving forward, repeat.  Circling and cycling around and up with curiosity, modeling, and enjoyment of being together.

We parents have many daily jobs, more side jobs, as well as all of the unexpected jobs that come with living family 24/7.   If you fall into the alluring trap of creating intense and advanced lesson plans it often leads to frustration as desired (lesson) goals butt up against daily required jobs.  It truly takes a mindful spirit and an ever watchful eye not to fall prey to these job vs lesson battles as ‘doing it all’ is so heady and appealing.

Don’t lose heart because if you manage this level properly those days will come.  By ‘this level’, I mean up to 3rd grade for girls and 4th grade for boys.  This is the time to focus on diligence, character, confidence, obedience, curiosity, interest, entering into imagination through boredom, chores, daily rhythm of life, etc.  Yes, lessons must be done, but lightly weave them in as the sparkles and highlights otherwise they overpower the picture and all else is lost.

Your ultimate goal is to model living a full, yet joy filled, steadily paced life that allows for interruptions, unexpected-s, lovelies to be welcomed in.  A life that allows you to expectantly and excitedly go each and every time you hear, “Mom, come see this!”   Simply put, practice living a life that will allow your to lay down your stress of being the perfect teacher, parent, spouse, friend and instead allows you to guide your child toward the same lifestyle utilize academics as a tool toward finding their interests and passions in their future adult life.  Lessons are NOT the ultimate goal.  Rather they are the tools we utilize in order to grow into a complete, interesting, and interested adult.

That being said, some children enjoy ‘eating books’ for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  The natural daily rhythm of this child would be for you to learn how to satisfy their hunger.  However, most children simply need a steady ‘diet’ of life woven with learning otherwise they become pretty annoying to be around and the school bus seems like a gift from God.  If you sit and ponder for a moment, you will realize that all of life is learning unless you are being a product/consumer in front of a screen, but all of life is not focused (what I term ‘sit down’) learning.  Rather it is as we live learning which is the proper pace of challenging that our children need.

If your child is a natural speller who thrives on competition, working toward a Spelling Bee competition would be a good thing.  On the flip side, working toward a Spelling Bee competition because you think that is what every good homeschooler does would be a negative thing.  Find the balance for each of your children and your life.

DOWNTIME IS NECESSARY!  As a culture we have come to see down time (I’m bored) as a negative problem that mama must fix.  Instead, try to congratulate them and invite them to sit right where they are until they think of something to do.  It is NOT your job to fill each moment.  There are huge psychological issues coming out on the ‘over scheduled’ children of the current age.  Even worse issues are coming out of the screen-fed babies whose brain hemispheres are unable to work together toward critical thinking and discernment of right and wrong.

Fun Fact:  The elite education of silicone valley and Ivy League colleges are based on books, pen, paper.

Back to our topic:  Even as an unschooler, it takes dedication to discern and decide what will fill each day.  From modeling our (adult) moods, actions, reactions to planning learning, engaging in silliness, attending to chores, and teaching character there can be little room for sit down lessons in any home school.

At the Kindergarten level this is great because more than 15 to 45 minutes is wasted time.  *Recall that most of birth to age 7 learning is best done in action rather than at a seat.  Seat work should be limited to 15-45 minutes!

Catch your breath.  I am not advocating anything less than the ideal home education that fits your family.  What I am suggesting is that lessons not reign supreme at the cost of all else.    Remember the Bible story of Mary and Martha?  Who made the better choice?  It was counter-intuitive, counter-cultural, and yet, it was the proper One Thing for that moment.

Accomplishments, worksheet worship, textbook consumption can inflate our pride while robbing our joys because we must constantly ‘better’.  It gently nudges our hearts as being out of order, somehow wrong.  Can you trust that in choosing a non-traditional day of learning has value?  Can you trust that kindergarten can be woven fully into fun and games, stories, and life?  Can we agree that in an ideal world all of life would be learning and all learning has value.  Challenging our Littles means keeping them constantly on edge.  Imagine if your spouse were always challenging you to be your best, and better, and better.  Oi vay!

Trust in your wisdom to discern between a wasted day and a different day.  Our world teaches us that having a satisfying paper trail equates to learning while simply learning through life -what is at hand or what comes next/naturally- is not real, has no value, and certainly won’t last.   Search deeply and examine the possibility that there is great joy of releasing your plan of what must be each day to expand making room for what might be each day may challenge our child and hold greater value than hours in a chair and piles of completed workbooks.