Sunday, January 16, 2011

Kindergarten Charlotte Mason style...

Kindgergarten at our house was very simple.  The Charlotte Mason method doesn't require much formal "seat work" for children under about 6 or 7.  Instead it mostly requires reading aloud for short periods of time, listening to beautiful music, observing nature, and free play outdoors.  Discovery through the five senses is the very best way to allow a young child to learn at this age.

I kept "seat work" very low key in these early learning years, although I did like the Rod and Staff workbooks for young children.  They are called the Preschool Series is Bible Pictures to Color, another one is Adventures with Books, Counting with Numbers, and several others.  These are very user friendly workbooks that little ones will enjoy the lessons of coloring, writing numbers, counting, cutting, pasting and such.  All of our children liked these very much and they are very inexpensive...about $2.35 each.  I also loved their wide-lined penmanship paper (with the center line).  
Keep lessons very short, about 10 minutes at a time.

In my humble opinion, I say just enjoy your little ones!  They are natural learners and their curiosity will teach them many lessons that a book can not.  Allow them to discovery naturally,  but give them time to "sit and do" tiny bits of "school work."    Children can count with dry beans or crayons,  sea shells or rocks, measure water in the sink (cup, pint, quart) or measure using the dry beans on a large cookie sheet (How many full cups go into the quart jar?).  

Let toys be of a minimum.  Instead, give them wooden blocks, sticks, small tools like shovels and rakes and brooms.  Allow them to discover that pine cones and rocks and shells are fascinating things to play with.  Bits of colored yarn or snippets of mother's scrap fabrics make playtime fun too.  Click Un-toys for an interesting downloadable PDF article.

Have plenty of paper and crayons on hand for creative drawing. Scissors, paper punches, rubber stamps and stickers are also fun for little children. It's fun to cut pictures from magazines and practice gluing them on paper to make interesting "posters."  Sometimes we made ABC books by cutting and gluing pictures that begin with each letter:  A - apple, ape, apron.   B - boy, banana, bucket.  C - camera, cow, cook. Save each page and staple them together with a homemade cover.  It will be fun for the child to review his letters with a book he made by himself.

Allow your child to "copy" words out of a book (just for fun) or draw his favorite pictures.  Give him many beautiful picture books to look at and let him "tell" the stories in his own words (he may say he's reading the book). And always be ready to read aloud to him on your lap. I like picture books with good stories.  Some favorites are:

Peter Rabbit and others by Beatrix Potter
Home for a Bunny and others by Margaret Wise Brown
The Lord is My Shepherd and others by Tasha Tudor
The Real Mother Goose
The Children's Book of Virtues by William Bennett
Wonders of Nature and others by Eloise Wilkin
Brambly Hedge books by Jill Barklem 
Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne
Together with your child, collect bugs or flowers,  leaves or rocks. Find out their names.  Help the child to hear the wind in the trees or the owl in the night. Point to the changing color of the leaves. Tickle his nose with the chicken's feather or let the woolly bear caterpillar crawl on his arm.  Watch the ants on an ant hill work.  Set up bird feeders in your backyard and learn the names of each visitor.  EXPERIENCE nature together.

 I used to take "dictation" from my little ones and make books for them about different things that they were interested in.  One year my 6 year-old son wanted me to read about knights, castles, horses, and tournaments and so we did.  Then we made a little book with his re-tellings of these stories.  He drew and colored pictures of horses and shields to go with his words, and we just stapled them together into a very simple book with a cover made of a coloring page he did.  He thought these books were real treasures and even gave some of them away to favorite people as gifts!!  

Make things out of clay or playdough. Here is a very easy recipe that your young child can make. 

Homemade Playdough
2 cups flour, 1/2 cup salt and about 1 cup water. Mix flour and salt. Add water gradually to make a smooth stiff dough. You may add food coloring and/or mint flavoring for smell along with the water.  Store in air tight containers or in food storage bags.

Allow your children to bake with you too. They can measure up the cup of flour or sugar. My children always enjoyed tapping the eggs on the counter and then handing them to me to break open and dump into the bowl. On holidays, we always made sugar cookies and used our cookie cutters, so there was much rolling out of dough, cutting, and decorating to be done with frosting and colored sugars. Children love doing this and they can say proudly, "I helped!"

Give children the opportunity to work with you. A small child can be taught to tidy up his room by putting all the Legos in the box or by picking up the dirty socks and dumping them into the laundry basket. He can learn to dust or spray and wipe door handles with a cloth. Teach him to fold washcloths in half and in half again (fractions) or match socks for you. Your child can learn to set the table at a very young age.  A small child can take care of a pet. He can learn to  feed the dog daily, brush its coat, or play fetch with him. Children enjoy working in the garden also -- digging, dropping in seeds, and pulling up weeds to put in their own buckets.

Sing with your child! Even if you're a little off-key, he'll never notice and will be glad that together you are making joyful sounds! Give him happy songs like Whistle While You Work, Yankee Doodle, Skip To My Lou, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and others.  Also play those beautiful classics like Vivaldi:  The Four Seasons or Brahams at Bedtime.
There are many music CDs of classical collections put together especially for young children

One of the most important things I feel we need to give our young children, is plenty of room to imagine,  and that doesn't come from always giving an assignment or lesson,  but rather by giving free time to think on their own -- time to romp in the yard, play "fort" under the kitchen table, make airplanes with Legos, play tea party with Dolly. Even when they are much older, time for solitude is vital.  Enjoy your little blessings!  Letting them know that they are loved by you and by God builds great confidence in your children and gives them reason to be and do their best.

For additional information on Kindergarten Charlotte Mason style, click Ambleside.

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