We’re in the line at the grocery store when an older lady pulls her buggy up behind us. As her eyes run over Pearl in her car seat on the buggy and the three older girls fingering the nearby chocolate bars, I know just what comments are coming next. I glance at the teller, hoping he’ll hurry up with the person in front of us. The lady asks the girls why they aren’t in school.
“We’re homeschooled,” Sunshine pipes up. She’s just as proud of the fact as I was at her age.
“And I skipped Kindergarten,” Lily adds.
I draw in a breath, hoping the lady isn’t going to ask more questions about that—not because I don’t have an answer, but because I don’t want to justify educational decisions in a grocery line. I thought I wasn’t making a big issue out of the fact that Lily, who won’t turn 6 until May, is doing Grade 1 this year. Yet she heard me mention it once or twice and now she doesn’t mind sharing that fact.
A lot of thought went into that decision. When Sunshine was in Kindergarten, Lily did full-time daycare (I was finishing the last year of my degree). The following year, when we moved to Sooke and Sunshine started Grade 1 at home, Lily attended a local Catholic preschool. When we moved to Vancouver, I decided not to find another preschool for Lily. Instead, she did workbooks and activities at home while Sunshine was doing school.
I didn’t have any plans for Lily’s schoolwork, but rather let her follow her interests. More often than not, if Sunshine was sitting at the table doing math or handwriting, Lily came to join us with her own book. I gave her directions as she needed, but most pages were simple enough she could work through them on her own. Some days she did two pages; some days she did ten. She went through several workbooks before the summer began.
Assessing Lily’s Math Skills
One day, I pulled an extra page out of Sunshine’s Grade 2 math workbook, intending to throw it out because Sunshine didn’t need it. Lily saw it and said, “Can I do that?” I said sure and handed it to her. It was a page of math problems to practice the “plus twos”—2+2, 3+2, 5+2, etc. Lily sat down and began working on them. When she got to 2+8, she asked for help. Seeing a stack of cards in front of her, I suggested she use those to count the problem and add it up. She then finished all 25 problems on the page.
That gave me a solid reason to order the Grade 1 math workbooks for her, to go with the Teacher’s Manual I already had, rather than ordering the Kindergarten curriculum. I’d already worked through Grade 1 Saxon Math with Sunshine and knew that Saxon introduced concepts slowly and carefully. I was fairly certain that Lily would be able to do it, and I was right. She started Grade 1 Saxon Math in September and has been flying through it. She loves math and rarely complains about it.
Assessing Lily’s Reading Skills
As I thought about what to do with reading for Lily, I remembered that the Catholic Heritage phonics program had had a few introductory activities that I’d skipped with Sunshine. She jumped straight into reading the little booklets because I knew she’d done lots of letter and sound recognition in Kindergarten. So I decided I would do the same phonics program with Lily and just start it more slowly, by doing those introductory activities.
In September, we began with those plans. On day 1, we did some letter activities. On day 2, we continued. On day 3, I realized that Lily was bored. She knew this stuff as well as Sunshine had. After all, I’d been doing letter and sound recognition activities with them both several years ago. And so I pulled out the first Catholic Heritage Little Stories for Little Folks book for Lily to read. It’s an easy little story about two kids going to Mass with their Dad. When my husband came home that night, Lily was super excited to tell him she’d read a book for school.
And so we continued the year, with Lily doing the same math and phonics programs that Sunshine did last year.
Lily’s Other School Subjects and Extracurricular Activities
The girls are doing science and history together, as those programs are based heavily on hands-on activities and me reading to them. They also do dictation together; Sunshine’s handwriting is a bit better than Lily’s, and she can write a bit faster and knows a few more words, but otherwise they have copied out the same passages this year.
In her extracurricular activities, Lily is doing things with her age group, rather than her grade level. So she is doing the Kindergarten Catechism class at our school and a sports program for 4 to 5-year-olds. She and Sunshine have done a couple art classes together, as those classes are intended for a wider age range. She did one theatre class before Christmas, but won’t be doing the spring break class with Sunshine because she’s not old enough for it (she’s supposed to be six). And I don’t feel the need to convince the instructors she can do it.
This ability to customize the girls’ schoolwork to their interests and abilities is one of the things that excites me about homeschooling. Lily could certainly have done Kindergarten, as Sunshine did, and would have had fun playing with her friends and doing the same sort of little number and alphabet activities. However, she’s doing equally well with Grade 1; she still enjoys school and I think in many ways she’ll do better with a slight challenge, rather than being bored or deciding that school is too easy.
Is your child in a grade ahead or behind his or her peers? How did you make the decision about what grade level they should be doing?