How to Homeschool Kindergarten (with information on the law in Georgia)

Note: Below is a summation of the law regarding Kindergarten.  To read about the full homeschooling law in Georgia, download this free PDF I created about the laws in Georgia: Georgia’s Kindergarten and Homeschooling Laws

I explained in this post why I would delay sending my four-year-old to Kindergarten this fall, if I were going to send him to public school.  However, in our “home school” I’ve decided to officially consider him a Kindergartener, starting in June 2011.  (UPDATE June 2012: I’ve decided to consider him a Kindergartener this year too since that is what he’d be if he were in school.  I explain why more in this post.)  This is because I feel he’s ready for a higher level of learning.

First, some legal information pertaining to the law in my home state of Georgia, U.S.A.:

According to the law in Georgia, I don’t have to officially declare that we’re homeschooling until my child is six years old.  Sending in a Declaration of Intent for Kindergarten is not necessary UNLESS my child has already been enrolled in school for 20 or more days.

Here is an excerpt of the law: “20-2-690.1 Compulsory Attendance: a) Every parent, guardian, or other person residing within this state having control or charge of any child or children between their sixth and sixteenth birthdays shall enroll and send such child or children to a public school, a private school, or a home study program that meets the requirements for a public school, a private school, or a home study program …”

The kindergarten (5 yr old) “exception”: Georgia Code 20-2-150: “Eligibility for enrollment” states … “(c) All children enrolled for 20 school days or more in the public schools of this state prior to their seventh birthday shall become subject to all of the provisions of this article, the provisions of Code Sections 20-2-690 through 20-2-701, and the rules and regulations of the State Board of Education relating to compulsory school attendance even though they have not attained seven years of age.”

According to the Georgia Department of Education, many homeschooling parents send in a Declaration of Intent to their local school district because they think that kindergarten is compulsory.  Therefore, do not send in a declaration of intent for kindergarten unless your child has already been attending a public school.

To read this full law, click here.

So I’m very excited to have a Kindergartener in my house!

Yes, I know it’s the beginning of summer, but what I love about homeschooling is that I can teach my child something specific when I feel he’s ready to learn it.  More importantly, however, I believe learning happens all the time, and even when he’s playing and exploring his world, he’s learning.  When he’s interested in something, we can learn more about it.  So even though it’s June, we’re doing homeschool.

There’s no right way to homeschool a child in Kindergarten.  I don’t believe it’s necessary to purchase curriculums.  Mostly what children need at this time is to play and interact with the world around them.  For example, I wrote a column about how important it is for children to play make-believe.  You can read that here.

I don’t think Kindergarten has to look too much different from preschool.  I have written several posts about our preschool, which you can access here.  All of that still applies to Kindergarten.  (And the best update for you to read regarding homeschooling at this young age is “Setting Our Homeschool Priorities for Two Boys, ages 5 and 2.”)

For our “Kindergarten” I am adding a few things:

  • We’ve started Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, which takes only 20 minutes a day.  (UPDATE: You can read about our experience and my review of the book by clicking here.) I wish I could say that I did extensive research on reading programs and decided that this would be the best program according to my child’s learning style, but the reason I picked it is much more mundane than that.  Another homeschooler who I admire very much said it worked well for one of her children, and then I found the book used on Amazon for about $10.  For that price, I thought I would try it, and if it didn’t work, I would either wait awhile or look into other programs.  I’m happy to say that we’ve completed 1/4 of the lessons, and my son is doing very well, and he’s enjoying it!  I’ll write more about why I like it and our schedule for it in a future post. I’ll also be able to tell you if we continue to like it.  (Click here for my follow-up post, “How I’ve Taught Kindergarten Reading.”)
  • I have looked over the class curriculum for our local school’s Kindergarten class (which isn’t easy to read, so I won’t share it here), and I have also consulted my favorite reference when it comes to a typical course of study: World Book Typical Course of Study.  (UPDATE: World Book has removed this page from their site, but someone found it here also.  I’m grateful that someone copied the pages before Worldbook took them down even though you have to click a hundred links to see it all! )  I mentioned this reference in my preschool posts too.  This is a not a list that I’m going to stress over or feel like I have to check everything off on.  I’m just using it as a guide.  For example, I see that Kindergarteners might begin to learn about the earth, moon, stars and planets.  I know that my son was interested in learning about space in the past and enjoyed looking at some library books about it.  So I’m going to keep a look out for other books and activities related to this subject.  There’s a lot on the list that my son has already learned about, but some of it gives me ideas and opens my eyes to what he might be interested in and what he might be ready for, so that’s how I’ll use it.  (See my Table of Contents for a list of my kindergarten posts.)
  • The World Book list gave me one of my ideas that I’m going to implement starting in July.  It says that Kindergarteners learn the meanings of holidays, traditions and customs.  We have read books about most of the holidays over the past couple of years, but I haven’t gone in depth about the origins or meanings of most holidays.  He’s ready for this, and I think he’ll enjoy it, so I’m going to make a point to build a lesson around each holiday.  I have already found some books about Independence Day.  This will double as a history lesson and his introduction into the history of his country, the United States of America. (See my Table of Contents for posts about holidays, traditions and rituals.)
  • I’m going to be on the look out for simple ways to introduce more math to him.  (Click here for my follow-up post, “Homeschooling Kindergarten Math.)  Lately he’s been interested in counting to 100, and he’s starting to “get it,” but I thought it would help him to see the numbers on a board.  So I went by a teacher’s store in Athens and found a poster with the numbers from 1-100. He loves it and has already counted the numbers twice.  He noticed the pattern in the numbers too, which is what I was counting on (pun intended). (I thought about making my own poster, but the one I found ($2.50) didn’t cost much more than a poster board and pen, and it saves me time.)
  • We also picked up an inexpensive map of the U.S. and a poster about plants (my son is really into planting right now).  (See my follow-up post, “A Kindergarten Child-led Project: Seeds, Planting, Gardening.”) I’ll talk about these in future posts, and I’ll be sure to write about our other Kindergarten activities over this next year.  (So I hope you’ll subscribe to my blog!)
  • In addition to this, we’ll continue to go on field trips, explore the world and make up projects according to my son’s interests!  We also use project-based homeschooling, and you can find a list of our projects on my Table of Contents.

I also wrote a newspaper column on this topic for The Barrow Journal, and you can read that by clicking here.

Please share your plans for Kindergarten!  

How to Build a Wildlife Habitat in Your Yard

First off, you need to care about wildlife.

My latest column for The Barrow Journal was about how the kiddo and I built a wildlife habitat in our yard.  It’s very easy to do, and you can do it too.  Be sure to click here to read my column and learn how you can do it.  Then scroll down and take a look at our wildlife habitat for yourself.

Besides the fact that I love wildlife, I wanted to do it because I thought it would be a good project for the four-year-old.  In order to teach him and help him remember the elements needed in a natural habitat, we created the poster you can see below.  I fully admit this was not completely child-led.  I made him do it!  But he loves animals and wants to learn about them, so I thought this would be important for him to learn.

He used his camera to go around the yard and take photos of our habitat.  Then I used my camera to go around get photos of our habitat that would be in focus.  (ahem.)  We made the poster.  He traced the title at the top (I have blotted out our address for the web).  I wrote the elements needed for a wildlife habitat on the side.  Then I printed out the photos, and he cut them out.  Then I helped him glue the photos in their appropriate places.

There’s white space beside “water” because we still have not purchased a bird bath, and I wanted to save room in case we do.  However, we have put an additional dish of water on the back deck beside the bird feeders, and the birds are using it!

So the elements you need for a wildlife habitat are:

1. FOOD ~ Natural food like berries, nectar, acorns and other nuts.  You can also provide food like bird seed.

2. WATER ~ This was the one thing we didn’t have.  We don’t have any water source on our property, so we have to provide water in dishes, a bird bath or fountain.

3. SHELTER ~ Dense shrubs, vine tangles, dead trees, underbrush, wood piles, bird houses, gourds, shelves….you get the picture.

Our butterfly bush attracts a lot of butterflies and bees. We also have many other flowers on the property.

We have wild blackberries and other berries growing on our property.  I’m sure there’s plenty left over after my four-year-old picks his lot.

  

We have also begun to feed the birds using bird feeders and pine cones.  For the pine cones, we mix peanut butter and corn flour and then press it into the pinecone.  You can then roll it in birdseed if you want.  Wrap thin wire around it and create a hook to hang.  (I thank my sister-in-law for giving us our first pinecone bird feeder!)

This little terra cotta dish quenches the thirst of a little frog that lives under our porch and hopefully some lizards and birds too!

We have woods that we keep wild.  In doing this project, I learned that it’s good to not be so neat!  Don’t clean up the underbrush because it’s home to many wild critters.   This old wood pile is also a great home for critters.

 We’ve had this birdhouse for a few years, and it’s been home to several families of bluebirds. 

                        This is a our new birdhouse…..

Not a pretty picture, but I’m including our water barrel here to illustrate that conservation, mulching and eliminating nasty chemicals in your yard is important to the environment too.  If you create a healthy habitat, you’ll attract beneficial critters too!  We still have more work to do on our habitat, but it’ll be a fun project to work on during the next several years…

As I mentioned above, be sure to read my column for more information.  You can also go to

www.gwf.org or

http://www.oconeeriversaudubon.org/.

Just for Fun: Our Trip to Anna Ruby Falls

a dusky salamander (probably)

Yesterday, for Father’s Day, we drove up near Helen, Georgia and went to see Anna Ruby Falls.  This is a great trip for kids, though, fair warning, it can be a bit touristy. (Yesterday there were a lot of people, but we’ve been there mid-week and it was very quiet.)  The trail to the falls is about .5 mile long, but it’s all uphill, so it seems a little longer.  It’s all paved too, which makes it stroller (and wheelchair) accessible.  I think that Smith Creek, which runs along the path, is even more beautiful than the falls.

Yesterday I had my 50mm with me, which is my smallest and lightest lens, and that is why I like to take it on day trips.  It’s perfect for getting up close to the flora and fauna, which is what I wanted to focus on this time. (Last year I had my wide angle and got some beautiful images with it.)

My son loves to look for the salamanders that can be found along the trail.  We only saw one yesterday.  (Maybe all the people scared the others away?)  One of my dearest friends is a herpetologist, and she told me this salamander is probably a “dusky salamander,” but she’d have to hold it in her hand to identify it properly.

Ahem.  I don’t have any good photos of my husband or kids, but that isn’t exactly my fault.  They just weren’t in the mood to get their pictures taken.  But I’m thankful that I have a wonderful husband and father who was willing to watch the boys and help them throw rocks and sticks into the water while I rambled along with my camera.  (After all, it was father’s day.  That means he gets to watch the kids, right? lol)

We love getting out into nature and taking hikes, and we’re looking forward to when the boys get older and can go on other day hikes.  There are so many in the North Georgia Mountains!  As much as my four-year-old loves it, however, his favorite part was going to the gift shop at the visitor center and getting a keepsake.  In this case, he picked out some toys that represented the life-cycle of frogs.  So that was educational!

Yes, it was a good day and “field trip.”

Lucky us, the rhododendron was blooming!

Our Visit to UGA

One night my husband told me that our four-year-old surprised him with this conversation:

A: “Daddy, where will you be living when I go to college?”
Daddy: “What?”
A: “When I’m 20, and I go to college.”
Daddy: “Well, hopefully not too far away. It depends on where you go. If you go to the University of Georgia, you can even live at home if you want to.”
A: “I want to study animals. ALL the animals.”
Daddy: “Well, UGA is a good place to study animals.”

♦♦♦

I don’t want to come across as one of these mothers I read about who stress out over the preschool their child will get into because it might ruin their child’s chances of getting into Harvard.  The thought of that makes me laugh.  As I have said before, I strongly feel that kids should be kids and that “play” should be their primary work.  I think the reason my son brought this up is because earlier in the day, he was asking me why he could only spend part of the money his grandmother gave to him when she visited.  I explained to him that we’d put some of it into a savings account for when he got big, and it would help to pay for college.  I think he asked me how old he’d be when he’d go to college too.

I promise I have not drilled my four-year-old son about going to college!  However, my husband and I are going to prep our children for college.  I know that many people have different opinions about this, but my husband and I both valued our time spent in college, and college degrees have become as necessary as high school diplomas once were.  Having said that, I don’t think I would push my kids into college, if they were dead set against it or didn’t seem suited for it.  Different careers have different paths, so we’ll have to cross those bridges when we get to them.

At age four, we have not deliberately talked about college to our son,  but we have occasionally talked to him about the things he likes to learn about (right now it’s animals), and we point out people on T.V. who work with animals.  We tell him that someday he might want to work with animals, and if he studies hard, he could have a similar job.  We do this for a couple of reasons.  First, as I read in Michael Gurian’s The Wonder of Boys, it’s good to point out the big picture to boys (girls too, I’m sure).  Why would any child want to do anything, if they didn’t see a clear purpose in it?  So, I feel as homeschoolers, it’s especially important to foster my son’s interests so that he motivates himself to learn.  If he sees the end goal, he’ll understand why it’s important to learn how to read and calculate.  And at age four (almost five), he is learning how to read and doing simple math.

He might change his mind about animals.  He may change his mind a hundred times before he turns twenty.  That’s okay.  My goal is to show him what’s possible for the future.  To ignite his interest.  To make him happy.  To allow him to see for himself that learning is fun.  And if I don’t start now when he’s four — when he’s excited about the world because everything is new to him — I may lose the chance to light that flame later.

After this conversation, my husband and I decided it would be fun to take him on a tour of the University of Georgia.  We started with just a small part of it.  The boys loved the fountains and beautiful gardens on north campus.  We bought them T-shirts at the bookstore.  I told my son that this was a place he could study animals, if he wanted to, when he gets big.  Next time we’ll take him to south campus, near biology, the other sciences and the UGA vet school.  We haven’t been to the UGA vet school’s open house yet, so that should be fun to do next year.

So what are your feelings about prepping children for college?  How do you motivate your children to learn?

I do too much. I don’t do enough.

Photos:

Top left – My latest photography job.

Top right – Taken on an excursion to the beautiful University of Georgia campus.

Bottom left – My budding gardener (pun intended).

Bottom right – A typewriter similar to what Margaret Mitchell would have used while writing a weekly column at the Atlanta Journal.  Since I’m reading Gone with the Wind, and this year is the book’s 75th anniversary, I visited the Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta for their celebration event.  And it was a topic of one of my weekly columns, but unfortunately, they did not post it online, so I can’t share it with you.

♦♦♦

Sometimes I get overwhelmed when I think about all the personal goals that I have for myself:

~ Create a loving home. A house full of laughter and love, though not often clean or organized. Love is abundant, and at least there’s more laughter than otherwise.  Healthy meals? Well, my standards have sunk on that one, but we try. A garden that gives us pleasure. Yes, we get pleasure from gardening, even if it’s got weeds too.  Our yard is a work in progress.  Just like the house.  Just like our lives.  

~ Homeschool my children.  Teach them their letters and numbers.  Teach them to read.  Teach them how to be happy, healthy citizens in this crazy world.  Find more people to hang out with.  Take them places.  Play at home.  Yes, just go play.

~ Continue to work on my newspaper column.  Contribute to my family’s livelihood. Write ahead of myself.  Think of more topics.  Slow down and chose my words carefully.

~ Promote a part-time photography business.  Contribute to my family’s livelihood.  Market. Focus. Market. Photograph more.  Oh, the endless projects I have in mind. Photograph for pleasure.  Photograph for money.  Photograph because I love the tiny details and the light.  Oh, the light.  I am in love with my husband, my children and Light.

Those are just the main goals.  There’s always other, little goals popping up too.  Finish reading Gone with the Wind. Wipe the yogurt off his fingers and then take the milk cup back to the refrigerator.  Bathroom, shoes, then go outside.  Check e-mail to see if play date is happening tomorrow.  Read that book about the history of photography.  Work on a blog post.  Learn more about flash sync.  Do the laundry.  Fold the laundry.  Mop the kitchen floor.  Write those interview questions.  Look for new pants at Target.  Work on the Wildlife Habitat Project with four-year-old.  WHAT are we getting Daddy for Father’s Day?!

If I think about it all at once, I start to lose my cool.  Sometimes I do lose my cool.  Sometimes I get cranky with the kids.  Other times I ignore all the goals and live in the moment, and that’s what I try to do.  I think I’m pretty good at it.  Well, maybe not.  It depends on the day.

All I can do is work on one step at a time.  I may not have an organized house, but I have an organized “to do” list.  I use the desktop application “To Do Queue.” It allows me to keep a separate list for all my crazy goals.  And I just do what I can, when I can. Obviously, some things have more priority, like daily life and my newspaper column.  Those things just gotta get done.  Then I work on other stuff.  I have finally let the outcome go.  I don’t know if I can achieve all my goals, but if there’s one thing my children have taught me it’s that none of that is important.

What’s important is just learning A and then B and then C.  Keep learning.  Keep doing.  Keep going.  In that, I am happy.

Interview with the Bells, a homeschooling family in Georgia

{Interview with a homeschooling family.}

This is just a note to let you know that my column of the interview with the Bell family has been posted online!  Click here to read the column.  And if you haven’t already, you might want to check out my special edition to this column ~ I posted the script of the interview because Jamica had so many valuable things to say, and I couldn’t fit it all into the column.  Click here to read that.

For other interviews with homeschoolers, be sure to click on the “Interviews with Homeschoolers” tab in the menu.

For even more interviews with homeschool families, be sure to check out home/school/life magazine. I do an interview with a homeschool family in each issue!

Snake Day

We had an awesome time at Snake Day today!  (This takes place every year in early June at the Sandy Creek Nature Center.)  My son met his friend, and they had a great time looking at all the snakes….

….and some other creatures….My son said this monitor alligator was his favorite.  It’s a cousin to the komodo dragon.

And, oh yeah, getting to touch an alligator was a high point too.  My son can be shy, but when it comes to animals, he isn’t afraid of anything.

Can’t wait for next year!