We’ll be starting the new year soon, which will officially be DJ’s kindergarten year. It’s getting real, people!! We have been and will continue to follow Montessori as our core method for learning. Montessori divides into 3-year age groups, so Montessori primary is for ages 3-6. Although the third year of primary is meant to be the kindergarten year, DJ has already completed all 3 years and he will be 6 in November. So we’re transitioning to Montessori Lower Elementary for ages 6-9. As this is the first year DJ would have officially gone to public school, I’m also looking at the Washington Home-Based Instruction laws on what is expected even though I’m not required to do that until he is 8 years. In our state, homeschooled children must be taught 11 subjects, although not all are required every year and there are no guidelines on what each subject should include.
Montessori reading is taught mostly in primary, which was our experience. In Lower El, reading is then reinforced through other subjects rather than as a stand alone subject.
- Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading (OPGTR) – We started this last spring and DJ is on track to complete it sometime around December. This is a phonics based program and by the time he’s finished, he should be able to decode just about any English word, although his comprehension and stamina will still be limited.
- Early Readers – DJ will have several leveled readers to use in his other subjects such as Waseca’s Continent Biome Readers and Scholastic’s Guided Science Readers Level E-F. (Note that I did not buy Waseca’s readers but they provide the text in a free PDF and I found images online to go with it.)
Montessori writing is also taught mostly in primary, at least the mechanics of it. DJ is a bit behind in that regard, so we’re starting focused writing practice next month before getting into full scale lessons. In Lower El, the 4th Great Lesson focuses on the History of Writing. Students also keep a Work Journal where they write down their daily tasks along with the start and end times. In addition, there will be writing exercises in each subject through dictation, copy work and free writing.
- New American Cursive Penmanship – DJ is about halfway through Workbook 1 and will continue on to Workbook 2 when he finishes it.
- Work Journals & Subject Journals – I’ve printed blank writing journals for each subject as well as a work journal for DJ to use in lieu of purchased composition books. I teach DJ in cursive and just as I was about to buy kindergarten composition books, I noticed that the covers all had handwriting samples in print. So I decided to make my own, which has the added benefit that we can add and remove pages as needed.
Spelling is one area that I do not have a specific plan for beyond the Montessori exercises. To some extent, the OPGTR phonics lessons are the basic introduction to spelling. Word study and grammar lessons in the language will also aid with proper spelling. So for now, I’m going to wait to see how DJ does with spelling through his other lessons and if it seems his spelling is poor, I’ll assess whether a more formal spelling plan.
I love that one of the Washington required subjects is “language” with no explanation as what that means. English language? Foreign language? Literature? Computer coding? I’m going to assume all of them, although I’m not planning to do anything with a foreign language until later years. For Montessori, study of the English language is a robust program that we will use extensively.
- Keys of the Universe Montessori Word Study and Grammar – these include a series of lessons in Montessori that will focus in detail on each part of speech, suffixes, prefixes, compound words, synonyms and word families. We’ll get into some basic etymology here too.
- Keys of the Universe Montessori Sentence Analysis – a study of the logical sequence of words in the English language.
- Bookshark History K – for literature, we’re using the Bookshark Reading through History level K, which in addition to history also includes high quality literary books for me to read aloud to DJ.
For math, I will forever be in love with Montessori math. The method of introducing math concepts with a series of manipulatives is just ingenious and by using concrete materials, there is no fear a young child cannot comprehend complex math principles. Mathematics is also represented in the 4th Great Lesson as the History of Numbers.
- Keys of the Universe Mathematics – DJ will continue to work on memorizing his math facts while also using the Montessori beads and manipulatives to work from concrete to abstract understanding. In addition, he’ll also work extensively with fractions and squares & cubes of numbers.
- Keys of the Universe Geometry – the study of geometry began in primary in a sensory way, but continues in greater detail in Lower El with equivalency, congruency and similarity, more study of triangles, polygons, circles, angles, and lines.
Science is ever present in the Montessori work and is an area where students are encouraged to follow their passions. Although a wide variety of concepts are presented, it is up to the student to decide which areas to delve into more detail. Through the Five Great Lessons, science is integrated with history and geography.
- Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding Vol I K-2 (BFSU) – we started this book last year and will continue with it this year as it is a great resource. The book provides lessons in a weave of four learning progressions: A-Nature of Matter, B-Life Science, C-Physical Science, Engineering & Technology and D-Earth and Space Science.
- Keys of the Universe Biology – although we’ll likely follow BFSU more directly, the KotU Biology album will be a reference for specific zoology and botany lessons.
- Keys of the Universe Geography – the Montessori geography album has additional resources for physical science and earth/space science that will be used as additional references along with BFSU.
Social studies can cover a wide range of topics including world cultures, governments and economics. Montessori is particularly invested in cultural studies as Maria Montessori believed the only way to lasting world peace was to teach children about diverse peoples, cultures and beliefs. Having lived through two world wars, this was particularly important to her and thus the education method she devised.
- Bookshark History K – Level K History for Bookshark is titled Intro to the World: Cultures and through timelines, geography and history of various cultures introduces the world to the student. It is based on daily read aloud sessions with the Usborne Internet-Linked Children’s Encyclopedia as its core.
- Keys of the Universe Geography – In addition to a study of physical geography, the Montessori geography album also includes Human Geography with a focus on Fundamental Needs of Humans and the interdependence of humans in society.
History becomes a major focus in Montessori Lower Elementary. As an abstract concept, history is not addressed in Montessori primary at all, but comes to the forefront from the first day of elementary. The Five Great Lessons teach the origins of our universe, solar system and world. Evolution of life on earth is introduced culminating with the evolution of humans.
- Montessori Five Great Lessons – DJ will experience these lessons over six weeks in October & November. We’ll mostly use the NAMC Five Great Lessons as our guide. I’ve been working to gather all the materials for the presentations in each lesson and my excitement level is high! The five lessons are: the Origin of the Universe, the Coming of Life, the Beginning of Humankind, the History of Writing and the History of Numbers.
- Bookshark History K – While the Montessori based lessons will focus mainly on pre-history, this resource will cover the history of human societies from the earliest humans to modern times in a very top-level manner.
- Keys of the Universe History – In addition to the Great Lessons, the history album goes into more historical detail and also includes the concept of time, clocks, calendars and seasons.
This is another area I don’t have a formal plan of study. The most formal lesson we’ll likely do would be a study of the Fundamental Needs of Humans. Of course, our daily life includes discussions of healthy eating, cleanliness and physical activity. More formal health topics will come into play in later years such as first aid, nutrition and puberty studies.
It amuses me that this is a “required subject” when literature and foreign language are not. At the same time, I see a lot of value in this subject and hope it causes some introspection in homeschools around the state. Too many of our children are tossed into the adult world without a clue how to fend for themselves and “occupational education” is definitely a topic to address that need. For our purposes, again there won’t be any formal lessons on this subject beyond and understanding of DJ’s role in the household and his school duties. I wouldn’t be surprised if we also indirectly study roles of various workers in our society along the way.
Art and Music Appreciation
It also amuses me that as the public schools are removing art and music from their schedules, homeschoolers are required to include them.
- Piano Lessons – DJ began private piano lessons last year and will continue this year. His teacher uses My First Piano Adventure for the youngest students and DJ almost finished Book A last year, so he’ll likely move into Book B fairly quickly.
- Ceramics/Pottery – DJ started a ceramics class through our local co-op last week and he really enjoyed it. It’s a 7 week class that repeats several times a year.
Physical Education (not required)
Although not on the list of required subjects, physical education is an important criteria for me. Last year, DJ participated in the YMCA Homeschool Swim & Gym program and he’ll continue that again this year. The program includes an hour of directed activity in the gymnasium, half an hour of swim lessons and half an hour of free swim play.