Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A is for "Assessment"

My son is not quite 5, and therefore he missed the kindergarten cutoff for this year. So I’m dipping my toe (and his, as well) into the homeschooling pool and teaching him some kindergarten skills myself. As a starting point, I found a wonderful online assessment tool based on the kindergarten common core standards, and this morning I went through it with him to see what he already knows and what he still has to learn. And here’s what I discovered: My kid is a genius.

Well, okay, he’s not really a genius. But he is about 90% done with learning kindergarten language skills, anyway. He’s reading on a second grade level (he breezes through words like “nebula,” “hydration,” and “illustrator” without blinking, including figuring out what they mean from context clues); he can spell and write simple words like “cat” and “pig” and “no” without prompting; and he can describe the settings, characters, and plot of a simple story. I introduced the concept of syllables to him and literally within minutes he could tell me how many syllables are in the word “refrigerator” or “despicable” or “antidisestablishmentarianism” (okay, not that last one, although I’m sure he could have figured it out if I’d actually given him that one). This is one smart kid.

Really, the one skill he’s weak on is writing. Not the spelling or expressing himself part, but simply the physical act of writing, of holding a pen or pencil and actually forming the letters on the page. And the hardest part of teaching the physical act of writing is that it only comes through repetition and practice. Which is the bane of a smart, active little boy’s existence. He doesn’t want to sit and write stuff, he wants to get out there and do it! And this is where the creative part of teaching comes in. This is where I have to come up with ideas of how to help him understand the freedom that will come with being able to express himself in writing. This is one of his first big lessons in delayed gratification, and learning why it pays to do the boring stuff now so you can do the fun stuff later.

So we’ll start with making the fun stuff as immediately “later” as possible. I think I’ll start by having him write words like “jump” and “hop” and “run” and rewarding him for writing them by letting him DO them. Then I’ll have him write words like “pig” and “robot” and “soccer” and reward him by letting him draw pictures of them. We can try writing a single letter a few times and then running around the house to find as many things as we can that start with that letter. (We’ll count them, too, just to sneak in an extra math lesson!) And then maybe we can move on to writing words like “space” and “superhero” and “toilet” and then we can go to the library and find a book about each of those things.

It’s going to be an exciting journey for both of us – probably a little frustrating sometimes, certainly somewhat boring sometimes, definitely often confusing and occasionally scary. But I have no doubt that we’ll both learn a lot – about ourselves and how we think, and about each other and how the other person thinks. But the best part of the journey is that we’ll be taking it together. 

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