Friday, July 2, 2010

What should my 4-year-old know?

Most of the people that I've had contact with lately will tell you that I sound like a broken record about my concerns for Sunda's education and myself as her teacher. It's a lot of responsibility! My latest thought is that I wouldn't put my children into any school (private/public/Christian or otherwise) that didn't have goals, a mission statement, and a philosophy of education. So shouldn't I be developing those things for myself? I mean, I AM the principal, administrator, and head teacher of the Schwertfeger Children Academy.

Fortunately, I have a lot of really cool friends who know A LOT about kids and education. So, I'm not alone in forming my goals. In fact, those friends are probably the very reason that I want so desperately to be informed and intentional about my kids' educations.

This year, I started the SONlight 3/4 year old curriculum with Sunda. The curriculum itself is basically a very informal mix of Bible lessons, fairy tales, poems, classic kids' books, and activities designed to encourage imagination and a love of reading in your child. It's great. Sunda and I have spent countless hours reading since January. She has gone from not being able to sit through a picture book being read to sitting through 5 or 6 long, involved stories and begging for more!

But me, being the overachiever that I am, thought that maybe I should add a little more to her Kindergarten prep. A little number recognition, perhaps? Some simple phonics? Maybe some pre-writing skills? Before I knew it, I had amassed a pile of "School Preparation Skills" books and we were going at it with a vengeance.

This led to a couple big problems. First of all, Sunda was NOT interested. She became a different child when I brought out the "workbooks." Fidgety, disobedient, and pouty. She had to be heavily encouraged to just follow my directions. And she didn't portray any of the skill sets that I thought a child of her age should be able to display. (The book says 3-5 after all! And she's older than 3! So she should be able to do it! RIGHT?!) She would rather doodle in the margins that follow the lines. Would rather beat on the book like a drum than count the colorful items inside.

I started to think that there was a problem. That I was a bad teacher. That maybe Sunda was a little behind. That I wasn't giving her the best opportunities by teaching her myself.

All the while, I BELIEVED in the concept of experimental learning. We do it all the time. It's just that I thought I ALSO needed some concrete proof. Something that I could hold up and show the world: I homeschool my child and she is really clever!

(The first pump of a borehole well in a village that's never had a reliable water source!)

Just as I was kind of realizing that I probably needed to just give her some time, some experiences, and some TLC, I came across an article that asked this question: What should a 4-year-old know? "Yes!" I thought. "That's what I need! Someone to tell me exactly what my 4-year-old should know!" You can imagine that reality smacked me when I realized that I have been way too worried about all the wrong stuff. I may have shed a few tears as I got through this article and felt the weight of the world lift.

So, here it is:

1. She should know that she is loved wholly and unconditionally, all of the time.

2. He should know that he is safe and he should know how to keep himself safe in public, with others, and in varied situations. He should know that he can trust his instincts about people and that he never has to do something that doesn't feel right, no matter who is asking. He should know his personal rights and that his family will back them up.

3. She should know how to laugh, act silly, be goofy and use her imagination. She should know that it is always okay to paint the sky orange and give cats 6 legs.

4. He should know his own interests and be encouraged to follow them. If he could care less about learning his numbers, his parents should realize he'll learn them accidentally soon enough and let him immerse himself instead in rocket ships, drawing, dinosaurs or playing in the mud.

5. She should know that the world is magical and that so is she. She should know that she's wonderful, brilliant, creative, compassionate and marvelous. She should know that it's just as worthy to spend the day outside making daisy chains, mud pies and fairy houses as it is to practice phonics. Scratch that-- way more worthy.


My child is 4 1/2 and can just barely count to twenty. She knows her alphabet, but can't write her name. She's not even close to knowing how to read. She doesn't know anything about the names of planets, presidents, or dates in history. And she doesn't sit for much except for the stories that I read her and an occasional "Wonder Pets" episode.

Aside from the times that we spend together reading and exploring (about two hours in the morning), she spends from 8am-6pm playing outside (independently) with her friends and by herself. And here are some of the things she DOES know:
How to make a fire and cook on it.
How to plant a seed and harvest it. And what plants produce what veggies.
How to wash clothes by hand and change her sister's diaper.
How to wash a truck and help her Daddy fix his motorbike.
How to do a front flip on the trampoline.
How to apologize when she has the wrong "attimood" with her friends.
How to bathe and put lotion on herself.
How to make scrambled eggs and every ingredient that goes into a cake.

She understands family dynamics and why she looks difference than Jacob and I. She makes up elaborate, detailed stories and shares them in front of groups of people. She greets about 20 people by name every morning.

She can PREACH up a storm and makes up her own worship songs regularly. She prays for people when they're sick and regularly informs me about what God expects of us.

Needless to say, our schooling has taken a little bit of a different slant these days. We're going to be spending a lot less time with workbooks and some more time doing the stuff that Sunda loves to do, with a bunch of learning naturally thrown in.

And if she can't read by the end of this year...that's okay. That's why it's great being the principal of your own school. :)


Brent and Abigail said...

i loved this. we are homeschooling colin this year instead of doing preschool and seeing how it goes. still praying about school when he gets to kindergarten. although right now i think we'll send him to school so the pressure just to get him ready for kindergarten is great since most kids are in a formal school setting at 3. this was a huge encouragement to me

Nene and Pappy Norm said...

I don't know where you found the article you read, but it is right on! Americans are WAY TOO worried about their kids growing up, reading at age 2 (well maybe that's a little exaggerated), etc
Sunda is a wonderful, INTELLIGENT little girl with more knowledge about practical living than most 10year olds! She WILL learn to write her name,count to 100 and beyond and know her nouns, pronouns, adjectives. ..well, you get the picture! ENJOY EVERY MOMENT OF HER...AND KYA! Enjoy the hugs, kisses, pouts, wiggling..that's all the cool stuff! Trust me..Sunda will be able to write her name (and may already KNOW how..remember her daddy and the color story!!!)
You are the most wonderful mother to our grand children and we are so proud of you!
Nene and Pappy Norm

Jaime B said...

Can I just tell you that I seriously had tears in my eyes by the time I got to the end of this post. Your daughter is such an amazing person. It is truly a testament to the way that you love her. You two are wonderful people and wonderful parents. Love you!

Anonymous said...

Your daughter sounds like a delight. Please don't worry that you aren't doing enough for her. She is learning things that few preschoolers learn, and her play time will develop her creative thinking, intelligence, vocabulary and social skills.
I agree with the article you linked much so, in fact, that I also linked to it on my blog.
I blog about homepreschool and homeschooling, and hope that you--and any of your readers who are interested in homepreschool/homeschool--will stop by and visit.
Keep telling yourself, "she's only four..."
Susan Lemons
~Homeschooling mom of 4
~Bachelor's degree in Child
~Author, Homepreschool and