My grandson Nicholas, having an autumn birthday, seemed a little young to go off to kindergarten when he was still four years old. His mother and I decided that he would stay home with me and be homeschooled for his kindergarten year. I was very enthusiastic about this. I had homeschooled three of my own children for a few years and had mostly enjoyed it. We made a list of the things that we would be studying and of the materials we would need. What an adventure that year turned out to be.
August 23rd, 2004 was our first official day of kindergarten. We were learning about the letter B, so we ate bagels for breakfast, picked beans in the garden, and searched the house for things that started with the letter B. We played ball and rode our bikes. Nicholas put one of the hens in the hammock and gave her a wild ride. I had to let him know that this was not part of my lesson plan. I don’t think she laid an egg for a week after that.
The next day, still concentrating on the letter B, we sprayed a big pile of shaving cream onto the kitchen counter. We wrote lower case and upper case Bs, B words, and made shapes of things that started with B in the shaving cream. When we were done, Nick was understandably covered in the lovely white stuff. I took his clothes off him, and sent him upstairs to get clean clothes. Evidently he thought his clothes were on the porch roof, because when I went to see what was taking him so long, he was on the roof in his underwear. I invited him back inside, gave him a stern lecture regarding the dangers of falling off the porch roof, and proceeded to secure every window on the second floor with a strategically placed screw. Nick was disappointed. He said, “Now I can’t squeeze out the window anymore”. I put him into the bathtub and went to get the clothes he had not found on the roof. While I was in his room he snuck out into the kitchen, got six eggs and cracked them into the bathtub. He said he was experimenting to see if they would float.
On our third morning, just as I thought maybe this homeschooling thing was not going to be the wonderful experience that I imagined Nick asked, “Mamaw, what are we going to learn about today?” We played a game, took a walk, went to the library and the cider mill. It was a lovely day and I felt new hope for our endeavor.
Each morning after breakfast we would get dressed, make our beds and brush our teeth. Then we would go outside to feed the animals. One morning as we let the chickens and ducks out of the coop Nick said, “Come on girls, come on. Now no pushing, no shoveling.” I imagined little poultry sized shovels waiting to be put to use by our “girls.”
Most every day we did some kind of art project. During one artistic session Nick suddenly wadded up a piece of paper and threw it across the room. I told him to pick it up. He went and got it and said “I don’t know what came over me; I just don’t know what got into me.” I don’t know either.
One day Nick told me he would like to have a rooster to wake him up so that he would not miss the school bus. I reminded him that he doesn’t take a bus. He said “What about when I go to college? I don’t want to be late for the bus.” I agreed that he should have a rooster when he goes to college.
Over the course of the year we took many field trips. On an excursion to Hudson Mills Park we learned about butterflies. Nick asked me why I always planned the field trips. He wanted to do some of the planning. I asked him where we would go, and he said Burger King every day for lunch. This is why I did most of the planning.
Nick became very interested in the computer, particularly playing games. I encouraged him to send e-mail to family members in order to foster his reading and writing skills. One morning he sent an e-mail to his grandpa and one to our friend Betty. He also wanted to send one to our dog, Jules. I asked him if he thought Jules would send him an e-mail in return. He said “No, she can’t. She doesn’t have opposable thumbs”. I agreed.
Nick and I both learned a great deal that year. I will always treasure the memories we made together exploring the world of a five year old. Homeschooling is not for the faint of heart or the old and tired. Nick had more energy than this grandmother, so the next September he went off to 1st grade at Charyl Stockwell Academy. He is now a 7th grader and taller than I am. I wonder if he remembers that he is going to need a rooster when he goes to college.