This morning the kids' preschool teacher posted an article on Facebook that went along perfectly with what I meant to write about today. (You can find the entire Washington Post article at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/02/06/a-really-scary-headline-about-kindergarteners/ ) Almost all the points brought up in the article were issues that led me to pulling Hannah out of school. I especially want to talk about the section on assessments today. The article listed developmentally appropriate assessment guidelines. They are:
2. Promote the use of assessments that are based on observations of children, their development and learning.
3. Work to ensure that classroom assessments are used for the purpose of improving instruction.
4. Support efforts to eliminate testing of young children that is not intended to improve classroom practice.
5. Eliminate labeling and ranking of children based on standardized tests."
In the 3 months Hannah was in school, I was shown 3 official assessments of her knowledge. The teacher tested her on things like how many numbers, lower case and capital letters she knew, and shape recognition. The results of these tests varied wildly and every time the assessments showed that she knew less than I knew she did. I wasn't at all concerned though, because I know that kids get nervous in testing situations. Especially my Hannah. Before winter break, the teacher took a day off to get everyone's report cards ready. I was furious. I have zero interest in seeing a report card for my kindergartener.
Yesterday I wasn't feeling well, so I was in bed and Ben and I were talking about writing. I asked him if he wanted to learn to write his name and he got really excited, so we got out a pencil and paper. We sat on my bed and I showed him how to make the letters in his name. Another thing I love about homeschooling is that we have "school" anywhere and everywhere. Look at those flannel sheets. Isn't that a cozy way to learn to write?
If you click to zoom in, you can see his backwards capital B, capital E and he was just about to erase the lines he did for N.
Then he asked me to help him write STEELE
Clearly, his letters need work. We spent a lot of the time just working on holding the pencil properly. When Hannah was this age, she could write her name, but it was because she was always interested in writing and drawing. Also, the bones and muscles in boys hands tend to develop slower, so it's normal for them to learn to write later.
After watching Ben try to write, I decided that he needed to do more work to strengthen his fine motor skills. This was before I'd read the above article, but I was just doing what any good parent or good teacher would do. I assessed using observation and then used that assessment to improve the way I taught. (Principles 2 and 3 above.)
This afternoon while I was making lunch, I sat Hannah and Ben down with what I told them was a "sewing game." It is designed to help strengthen the small hand muscles that kids need to write and to improve their precision.
I took a piece of ribbon, tied a knot in one end and put tape on the other end and gave them colanders to practice weaving the ribbon in and out. Look at all the pinching and grabbing!
After they got bored, Ben went to the art cabinet and got out some glitter. I was happy to let him play with glitter because squeezing the glue bottle is really good for his little hands and shaking out the glitter right where he wants it to go also improves precision.
I love that I have the time to individually evaluate my children's needs and prepare appropriate experiences for them. People have asked Hannah what she does for homeschool and she can't tell them. She kind of thinks that she isn't doing any school. Little does she know...