panicing thinking about how to go about leading a nontypical exceptional child like Noah through homeschool kindergarten, I’ve been doing a little searching for age- and developmentally-appropriate skill lists and assessments. As we travel along this journey with Noah, I’m finding I lose sight of the progress we’ve made because I’m always looking ahead to the progress we need to make.
I’m also finding myself on a daily basis thinking, “Now what? What am I supposed to do next?” Most people assume homeschoolers deal with this with all their children, but I haven’t run into this before for a few reasons:
I’ve never done formal kindergarten before.
All of my children have started reading at age 3-4 and have learned all their kindergarten skills long before age 5. And, no, I’m no Super-Mom with a method to sell you about how you too can have remarkably precocious and brilliant children. In my house, they just happen. It could be the hundreds of books that we have in nearly every room of the house that our children are free to look at (and do) any time they want. Or it could be they see their older siblings doing school and they eagerly join in whenever they can. Or it might be there’s so little DVD or video game time around here and we rarely seem to go out and do entertainment type things, there’s nothing left to do but learn. Or it may be that the Lord knows I can only take so much of one-0n-one teaching every day, so he breathes knowledge into my little one’s brains as they sleep every night to make up for my failings. I think it’s probably a combination of all these things, but mostly the last one. The problem is, Noah is my exception to the rule. He doesn’t absorb knowledge and skills simply by osmosis (at least not yet). Down syndrome seems to short circuit the natural learning process, at least around here. So what to do? I need more structure for my little Boy Wonder, just to keep us on track and make sure we’re not missing anything.
By the way, I’m not one to brag on my kids — okay, maybe just a little – agh, a lot, but yesterday Seth (2) let us in on a little secret. Trinity asked him one by one what the letters on the fridge were, and he identified every stinkin one. Then, last night at the pool, he looked up at the flags strung above the pool and said “triangle.” Then, looking at the round life preserver on the wall and the round clock, I said, “Can you find a circle?” He declined but then pointed to the diamond fencing covering one of the wall panels and said, “diamond.” What kid at age 2-1/2 knows what a diamond is? (Actually, I’m sure with some sit-down one-on-one time most 2-year-olds could learn to identify a diamond, but we’re not even working on diamonds with Noah or Bella yet.) I’m wracking my brains trying to think of when in the world he would have been exposed to the word and shape diamond. The only thing I can think is that maybe in one of the books he’s been read he’s seen and heard diamond. But that would have been a one-time exposure because I know none of our favorite books have diamonds in them.
Alright, back on topic. This blog has served as a journal of some of Noah’s progress, but I’m ready to have something compact as well, and I think I’ve found it. Have you heard about Common Core Standards? Oh, everybody is talking about them, and the public school system is obsessed with them.
Just what are the Common Core Standards? Here’s the answer from http://www.k12.wa.us/corestandards/ (the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction). Although this is a Washington State website, this explanation is the best I’ve seen; and although the timing of implementation may be different depending on your home state, the basic information is the same. This site also has downloadable documents containing the actual standards by grade. If you haven’t caught on yet, this is the system that will be replacing the standardized testing in the public schools.
|The Common Core State Standards describe the knowledge and skills in English Language Arts and Mathematics that students will need when they graduate, whatever their choice of college or career. These sets of standards define the knowledge and skills students should have to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing, academic college courses and in workforce training programs. The standards are based on the best national and international standards, giving our students a competitive advantage in the global economy. This state-led effort is coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).|
Officially, this is not an attempt led by the Federal Government. Instead it is an initiative led by the individual United States to come into agreement and create a consistent educational outline throughout the country. I know, it sounds suspiciously like nationalized education, especially when you take into account all the Federal Government incentives that are going to be given to states participating in this along with the fact that all but four (Texas, Nebraska, Virginia and Alaska) of the 50 states have miraculously come into agreement to participate. Those four states will suffer substantial losses of federal funds for refusing to allow the Federal Government or other states to dictate educational goals for their state’s children. One thing I love about Texas is that we rarely go with the flow!
I won’t go into the great debate of whether the Common Core Standards are the best choice for our nation’s school children or not, but this is a great resource if you are interested in both sides of the story via educators like Diane Ravitch, E.D. Hirsch, Jr., and Dan Willingham:
The truth is, at least for kindergarten, these standards offer a pretty good listing of skills every kindergartener should be working on and the order in which the skills should be taught. The downside to these is that they are very skill focused rather than knowledge focused. While you’ll find a listing of skills like writing letters, using scissors, using parts of speech, reading and identifying parts of a book; common kindergarten themes like transportation, farm animals, weather and families are noticeably absent. Especially for our children with cognitive and speech and language delays, as parents, whether our children are homeschooled or public or private schooled, we MUST make sure our children are also being taught the vocabulary and theme-based knowledge that these standards ignore. A proficient and skilled kindergarten teacher will teach the core standards through a more traditional curriculum, but this will take time and effort on her part and a refusal to take the easy way out by teaching to the standards. Most children can be taught to pass a test; brilliant children are taught how to apply the skills they have to the knowledge they possess, always adding to their fund of knowledge and skill subset through educational pursuits and life experience. That starts with a knowledge base that begins in the early days of infancy and is nurtured through preschool, kindergarten, and into a lifetime of learning. Skills without knowledge is of little value, and knowledge without the skills and opportunities to to apply it is, quite frankly, a waste of time.
Preschool file folder games, printables, activity books and websites are a great resource for identifying the language concepts important for language development, but I’ve yet to find a comprehensive list of just what those concepts are. If you happen to have one, please feel free to post a link in my comments section, and if I love it, which I probably will, I’ll even post about it (or invite you to). Otherwise, I just might have to make one on my own – gasp.
Here’s some great kindergarten Common Core Standard assessments. Many of them are in a checklist format with boxes to show progression from the first day and then in nine-week segments. These are made for teachers but are so easy to follow, even a first-year homeschooler can use them.
Here is a printable kindergarten Common Core Standard pacing guide. This breaks each standard down into bite-sized pieces to be mastered within 9-week periods in an easy-to-read PDF printable format.
Here’s a link to a free very well-made and comprehensive math and reading assessment. These printables are adorable and easy to follow, and did I mention they are ADORABLE?
Here is a kindergarten math assessment from www.teacherspayteachers.com, complete with not only the common core standards but also specific activities to use to test competency. I rarely am willing to pay for printables because there is just so much available for free, but this printout was exactly what I needed, and nothing free was comparable. $3.00 for an assessment so perfectly suited to my needs is definitely money well spent.
This is from the same creator as the above math assessment, but this is the language arts common core assessment. Again, not only are the standards listed, there are also specific activities and questions listed to aid you in your assessment of your child’s mastery of the standard. These are very easy to read, understand and use – no expertise is needed. This download costs $4.00. Again I’d say it is well worth it.
The system Texas currently uses for educational standards is called the TEKS. You can find downloadable standards by subject or grade here: http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index2.aspx?id=6148
The TEKS offers much more in the way of a broad-based educational outline, and no matter what state you live in, they can be extremely helpful in providing some structure and accountability for your child’s educational pursuits.
How about you — whether you’re a speech therapist, teacher or mom (or all three), what assessments and skills lists help you in progressing through the early education years?