By Raylene M. Hunt
Maine's compulsory school attendance age has changed. Compulsory school attendance will now begin at age 6 as of September 19th, 2019. That change means that homeschool families will need to submit a notice of intent to homeschool for younger children. Notices must now be filed by a child’s 6th birthday instead of the 7th birthday.
Just because the law has changed, though, doesn’t mean that how you homeschool your younger children needs to change.
In an alternative educational setting, Maine law requires that elementary-aged students receive 175 days of instruction in the areas of English/language arts, math, science, social studies, health, physical education, library skills and fine arts. The law also requires that you show that the student made progress during the academic year.
You can cover those required subjects for your kindergartener in developmentally appropriate ways!
Dr. David Elkind, Professor Emeritus at Tufts University, has written many books and articles that speak to developmentally appropriate practices in the education of young children. Dr. Elkind warns against pushing children past their cognitive abilities with forced academics. He believes that it is crucial that parents and teachers promote spontaneous play, and reduce the stress produced by expecting too much, too early. You can read more about his research and ideas in the following books: The Hurried Child, Mis-education: Preschoolers at Risk, and The Power of Play. These are all excellent resources for consideration. An article with excerpts from Mis-education: Preschoolers at Risk, can be found here: https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/1988/02/03/07430016.h07.html
So how do you comply with the law, while still keeping things developmentally appropriate for younger students? There are a lot of fun, engaging, creative and inexpensive ways to meet the requirements of the law without sitting your young students at a desk with expensive textbooks. Here are just a few ideas to get you started.
Math – Early math skills include understanding the hours in a day, the days in a week, the weeks in a month and the months in a year. They include understanding how equal parts make a whole. They include counting, skip counting – a precursor to multiplication, and the basic skills of addition and subtraction. Manipulatives, whether stones on the ground, shells on the beach, buttons from grandma’s button box or dried beans, all can provide an opportunity for hands-on, experiential learning through exploration. Legos teach math, too. Blocks are fractions of each other, so don’t discount play time with Legos when it comes to documenting that time spent learning.
Language Arts – Reading with children, listening to audio books, exposure to the alphabet, learning letter sounds and practicing letter formation are enough at this stage. Children who are interested in reading may certainly begin to explore and develop those skills. However, it does not need to be forced or presented in contrived lessons. Baking is an activity that involves learning to read and math, and is also a developmentally appropriate approach to science (how do ingredients work together, change form, etc.) for younger students.
Social Studies – This does not have to be formal history or geography lessons from textbooks. Exploring the community to learn about community servants (doctors, police, fire fighters, postal carriers) and mapping the community are all great early lessons in social studies.
Science – Whether it’s through their innate curiosity, nature study or simple kitchen experiments, children are constantly exploring and naturally learning science.
Health – This can easily be covered by incorporating menu planning, discussions about healthy food choices, encouraging good hygiene, explaining doctor’s visits, teaching manners, etc.
Physical Education – This is not a subject that needs to be taught in young children, only documented. It occurs naturally as they balance on the sidewalk edge, run through the yard, dance in fields and play at a local park or playground.
Library Skills – Weekly visits to the library and learning to find books to enjoy and learn about favorite subjects is sufficient at this age.
Fine Arts – Trips to museums and concerts, learning to appreciate the arts, lessons in instruments and performance arts such as dance, as well as exploration with different art mediums, all cover this subject area.
Some Free OnlineCurriculum
- The Charlotte Mason Curriculum at Under the Home has complete curriculum for grades K through 4.
- The Core Knowledge curriculum (for those who want a highly academic approach) offers free materials for a number of grade levels in various subjects, but all the kindergarten materials are included and free.
- The free curriculum from The Good and the Beautiful is only for language arts, and includes a very thorough phonics program for those who have a child that is ready to read.
Be sure to document your child’s learning in a portfolio throughout the year. Capture those experiences with photos, and be sure to include descriptive captions. You can turn a lesson planner into a journal where you write down activities that fill certain subject requirement areas. And remember, you don’t have to teach every subject every day, or even every week. You just have to cover all of the various subject areas at some point during the academic year.
For help documenting your child’s learning activities for the required year-end assessment, please visit HOME’s website page on Portfolio Reviews. Consider purchasing a HOME pre-assembled portfolio to further simplify and assist you in the process, as well.
Most of all, keep it simple, and have fun. They are only little once!
Please let us know if you have questions, or if we can be of assistance at any time throughout your homeschooling journey. HOME is always here for you!
Raylene M. Hunt, B.S., E.C.Ed., is a veteran homeschooling mother of two grown children. She is also an Early Childhood Educator. She has been helping families in their homeschooling adventures for many years.