About 20 years ago I substitute taught in a kindergarten class for a day. It was one of the hardest teaching days of my life. I vowed I would never teach kindergarten again.
Famous last words. Today I became a kindergarten teacher again. You see, I'm a homeschool mom. But I have thus far avoided teaching preschool and kindergarten, availing myself instead of solid Lutheran day school programs for that purpose. I am not good at crafts or pretend play or that highly animated manner that is the M.O. of most kindergarten teachers, and I have a low tolerance for the goopy, gooey, messy, and loud. Better to let the trained professionals deal with such things.
Unfortunately, though, the day school at which my five-year-old attended preschool the last two years recently folded the half day kindergarten class into the full day one. There used to be half day options in the morning and afternoon. But due to lowered enrollment, half day students must now attend in the morning in the same class as full day students. Once they are picked up the full day students continue with their day.
My husband and I found this unacceptable primarily because it meant the morning group would be quite large--25 students as opposed to the 6 or 7 my son was accustomed to in preschool. He sometimes had a meltdown when he went a couple of days without getting to be the helper; can you imagine if he had to go a month or more? In addition, the morning attendance was a non-starter for our family. Not only could we not logistically get my son to and from class in the morning, but I had no desire to fight the daily battle of getting him up and out the door, seeing as how he typically sleeps every day until 9:00 a.m. (and only wakes up then because someone makes him).
Which brings us to today--the first day of kindergarten at Philipp Nicolai Lutheran Academy. Here's how Evan's day went:
9:00 Awakened by big sister (Mom and Dad were at work and big brother was in math class at the junior college today); dressed, made bed, and had breakfast
10:00-11:00 Free time
11:15-11:45 Calendar, Bible and Catechism time with Mom
12:30-1:30 Free time
1:30-2:00 Quiet time; must be in room but may look at books/listen to music
2:00-3:00 Free time
3:00-4:00 "School" with Mom (Today's "school" consisted of some Mother Goose rhymes, several selections from the Berenstain Bears' Big Book of Science and Nature, several folk tales from The Lion Storyteller Bedtime Book, and writing in ABC Journal)
4:00-6:00 Free time
6:00-7:00 P.E./Recess: Outside with brother and sister to pick up apples that have fallen off the tree
8:00-9:00 Field Trip: Help Dad take groceries to Grandma
9:00 Get ready for bed
10:00 Good night!
I hope to keep most of Evan's days looking very much like this one. We will have to be flexible, of course. But I think he needs the routine, and so do I. Our life is complicated right now and the schedule will help me as much as it does him. On different days of the week he will have a piano lesson with me, an art/craft activity with big sis Caitlin, a chess/math lesson with big brother Trevor, and a gym class for homeschool students in our town. Not a bad curriculum, if I do say so myself.
I asked Evan how he liked homeschool kindergarten so far, and he said he liked it but he misses his preschool friends. He is an extrovert and the lack of children to play with on a daily basis will take some getting used to (he does not have playmates in our neighborhood). But when I remind myself that kindergarten has a much higher "school" quotient than preschool, which was almost all play, and that first grade will increase the structure and institutional trappings even more, I know that this is for the best. In my experience, institutional schooling can actually be a terribly lonely place. There may be more people around, but the multiplicity of bodies does not necessarily lead to edifying human interaction.
I also doubt that it would go over too well to take sole possession of the book from which the teacher is reading and proceed to spend an additional half hour looking at pages that are not part of today's lesson. Must keep things moving, you know: "Science time is over; time for handwriting." But when you're the only student and the teacher's your mom and the "classroom" is Mom's bed . . . well, anything is possible.