Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Reflections on Preschool

This fall has marked the beginning of Kindergarten for Nell, and I've been reflecting on our past year of "homeschool preschool" (which really, for us, meant a lot of play and reading good books and spending time outdoors).

I have a tendency to feel that our life is busy and not quite proactive enough - you know those types of people who keep track of their budget after the fact but don't plan it ahead of time and stick within preset constraints?  {cough, cough.  not that I know any families like that.}  Sometimes my whole life feels like that, and preschool was no exception.  So, as I was feeling worried that I might not be able to lay out and then keep up with the right sort of plan for Kindergarten, I found myself reflecting on the past year, and realized that I was actually more than happy with all that Nell accomplished in the past year.  She did things on her own terms, followed her own ideas and interests, and has an amazing amount of growth to show for it!

I'm also very pleased that we did preschool while avoiding overly kitchy types of stereotypical preschool projects, which I do not love.  Most of Nell's craftiest projects were self-directed, like the wintry day when she asked, "Could I draw a picture of a tree in the snow and then cover it with glitter so it would look like the sun sparkling on the snowy trees?"  So we did that!  But I rarely pulled out pom-poms and glitter and came up with particular crafts for her to do unless it was her idea. I do, however, give them unrestricted access to paper, crayons, and colored pencils, and supervised access to glue sticks and scissors and watercolors, so they have constant opportunities for creating their works of art.


Along with the picture books we love and read on a regular basis, a few of our bigger read alouds included:

Charlotte's Web
Ellen Tebbits
Beezus and Ramona
The Hundred Dresses
All-Of-A-Kind Family
Did You Carry the Flag Today, Charlie?
Happy Little Family

Nell also started working through a reading book we had on hand (I don't even know where we acquired it, to tell the truth!) with me, and is now reading consonant-vowel-consonant words fairly easily, and simple sentences like "pip was a pig," "sam is a cat," etc.  Recently she was looking at a word backwards and sounded out and pronounced clearly, "what does TNORF mean?"

Nell writes her numbers from 1-10, counts to 100 (with occasional help if she gets off track), and enjoys counting things like stairs, steps as she's walking or skipping, and foods she's eating.  She's recently started asking a lot of addition questions, and enjoys figuring out small groupings of pretzels, raisins, etc. where she can see them, work with them, and answer her own math questions.

Physical Education:
Nell learned to ride a two-wheeler (she successfully went straight from a balance bike to a regular bike, no training wheels needed!), and learned to pump on a swing.  She ran around a lot, climbed a little on playgrounds, rocks, etc. (not her bravest element, but she keeps challenging herself more), she does somersaults and wheelbarrows and keeps trying to figure out how to play leapfrog with Ree.    I would have liked to be doing swimming lessons this past summer, but with a new baby it just wasn't the right time.

Nature Study:
While I hope to be more consistent about doing this at the least on a weekly basis for Kindergarten, we did enjoy our nature walks and doing watercolors of things we observed and treasures we found.

Nell's interest in writing continued to grow, and with very little formal or structured instruction, she can write all her capital and lowercase letters.  Often when I'm cooking or cleaning in the kitchen, she'll sit at the kitchen table and ask me to spell words for her so that she can write sentences.  She has a little book she's filling with sentences that crack me up, like "I want to be fancy when I grow up."  In the coming year I'll be making sure to be attentive that she's forming her letters correctly, as there are still a few she does in her own way (like a lowercase d being formed like a J with a closed loop, rather than with the correct pencil stroke), but she's well on her way to decent printing.

Nell loves to draw and does so throughout the day on most days.  I keep plenty of paper and a pail of colored pencils and a bucket of crayons on the kitchen table on a regular basis, so the girls can sit and write or draw any time they want to -- and they do it quite often!

Both girls are pretty obsessed with cutting and gluing, and will come up with all sorts of things to do with scissors and glue sticks.  On the recommendation of some friends, I also got the Kumon book of cutting and have given them both several pages from this over the past few months.  They love using scissors, so it's right up both their alleys.

Nell learned to stitch a few small, simple things, learned to braid hair / yarn / etc., learned to do her own hair in ponytails, and enjoys beading necklaces and bracelets a great deal.

Nell empties the silverware from the dishwasher almost every morning, and also helps put away the plastic "kid dishes" that are on shelves she can reach.  The girls help me water the outdoor and indoor plants, and have also recently helped me pull out all the brown dead bits from amongst the lilies to keep the gardens cleared out and pleasant through the autumn months.  She carries dirty diapers to the pail and fetches clean ones when I need her to, puts away her own toys, straightens books on bookshelves, and helps me fold laundry.

She is quite the helper in the kitchen, as well.  She can slice and chop kale, snow peas, and other similar not-too-hard veggies, and can peel a potato (albeit slowly).  She cracks eggs, stirs batter, saut├ęs in a hot pan on the stovetop carefully, and butters toast.  She sets the table with silverware and fills water glasses with ice and water for the family.  She's polite at the table, usually saying very gracious things completely unprompted like, "Mama, thank you for making this delicious dinner for us!"

She's also very truthful, and will sometimes come to me after a situation with Ree or something else of which I was unaware, and tell me everything quite honestly, even if she believes she was at fault, and when she is, she is quite remorseful and eager to make things right again.

And perhaps best of all, she's very kind to her sisters.  I couldn't be more proud to hear her encourage Ree in her small drawings or attempts to form letters recently: "Mawie, that's BEAUTIFUL!  Good job!  I love it!"  She's kind and empathetic to baby Molly, and loves to offer to hold her and help me in any way she can with the baby.  And while Nell and Ree do have their spats (and Ree is currently challenging Nell with some occasional downright mean behavior, because she's three and all), they mostly get along beautifully and are very cooperative, and can work out many of their own little problems between themselves.

I declare the preschool years to have been a success, and hope for good things to come of our {exceedingly informal} kindergarten experience, as well!

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