First grade at 5?

Josiah started Kindergarten around February after we finished up his preschool stuff and around the time his little brother made his entrance. It made sense to just keep going instead of taking a break because he enjoys doing the school stuff (ask him and he’ll tell a different story).

We’ve been primarily working the 3 R’s — Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic, but we’ve also been doing Science on and off along with a bit of social studies and Spanish. For the past few months I’ve been developing his curriculum a few weeks at a time, but today I decided that I was going to finish (or at least get a head start) developing the 3 R’s curriculum for the remainder of his Kindergarten year.

What I discovered was interesting and somewhat surprising. We are taking this week off because he turns 5 this week so I figured I’d give him the break. If we go back to school stuff at the (somewhat slow) pace I’ve been trying to go he will still be completely done with Kindergarten by the middle of August. Yes. When all the other moms are trying to hold back the tears as they send their precious 5-year-olds to Kindergarten mine will be done.

I’ve known for a while that he’d probably be done with Kindergarten early because we started early. My guess was around November. My thought was with the holidays we could just review for a few weeks and start First Grade in January. With him being done by mid-August or end of August if I take into account reviewing and assessing whether he’s mastered Kindergarten, I’m still looking at him starting First Grade by September.

I’ve mentally explored the few options I have:

  • I could give him the rest of the summer off and start at the end of August like everyone else. That would put him at being done with Kindergarten around November or December like I originally planned.
  • I could keep going until he finishes Kindergarten, whether it’s August or September or whenever, and then let him break until January.
  • I could keep going and once he finishes Kindergarten give him a few weeks off and go right into First Grade.

I’ve mulled over these options every since I decided to stay at home and homeschool — not really so specifically, but I knew if I started him early especially at the pace he was going that he was going to end up finishing early. I’ve prayed a lot and put a lot of thought into what I wanted to do.

So here’s the conclusion I’ve come to about the different options.

Taking the summer/winter months off: I honestly don’t know how I’m going to make it this week without doing school stuff. We spend our morning between breakfast and lunch doing school work. If we don’t do school it messes up the flow of the day. I couldn’t imagine taking that much time off. Also, I am one of those that firmly believes if you don’t use it you’ll lose it. The idea of spending several months creating a easy flowing schedule and putting knowledge into their heads only to give them a few months of mind-numbing nothing with no schedule is just crazy to me. Yes I know that there are some people that enjoy the summer vacation stuff. I like the idea of taking off a day or two here or a week or so there, but I don’t like the idea of taking months at a time off.

I honestly think I’ve decided that the best thing to do is to start First Grade sometime in September or after he’s had a few weeks of break from finishing Kindergarten (if that isn’t in August). Some people disagree with allowing a child to get ahead like this. They say it’s not healthy for a child to be so far ahead, especially a boy for developmental reasons. Some disagree with it because of standardized testing issues.

Well here’s my response to all of that:

  • One of the reasons I chose to homeschool was because I recognized that my son was excelling academically. If I wasn’t willing to keep up with him, I should have left him in public school to get in trouble daily. I’ve learned that when it comes to my son, when he’s bored he’s in trouble or thinking of something completely innocent looking that will get him into trouble.
  • It’s not healthy because of development? Especially a boy? OK. Children in general do not do well with having to sit quietly for long periods of time. Those that can are either gifted or have been molded into being that way. While there’s nothing wrong with teaching a child to sit still and quiet, why should they? Yes, at church or other appropriate times they need to be able to be quiet, but why does it have to be every day during school? Children can learn while playing games and moving around. They don’t have to be sticks in the mud to be learning addition and phonics. The reason so many people hold their sons back for “developmental reasons” is because most little boys are not built to sit still in the public school learning environment. Don’t you know little boys are typically the most trouble in elementary classrooms? (Sidenote: I’m not saying that every child appears to have developmental issues just needs a more lax learning environment. There are some children who really aren’t developmentally ready for school.) I do not agree with the idea that just because I have a son and not a daughter that I should expect that he do everything slower. He’s starting to prove quite the opposite. It may be typical that a boy accomplish things later than a girl, but there’s nothing wrong with me encouraging him along the way (encourage him not shove or shame him).
  • Also, right now Josiah may be an entire grade ahead, but what happens when he starts struggling with fractions? That will probably put us a few weeks behind. Having trouble with multiplication? A few more weeks behind. Can’t quite catch the concept of verbs and adjectives? Long division? Geometry? Fourth grade Science? Eventually he will start to struggle with various concepts and he will slow down some. I don’t know how slow or when it will slow, but it will. I promise if it looks like he’s going to graduate high school at 13 I’ll give him a summer break.
  • As far as standardized tests go, it doesn’t matter that we’re starting first grade curriculum. The State recognizes that Josiah is a Kindergartener because he is 5 years old. When he turns 6, he will be labeled a First Grader, even if he’s getting ready to start Second Grade. The State is not going to recognize what grade I say he’s in, they’re going to measure his grade by what grade he’d be in if he were in public school (this will obviously change once he hits Ninth Grade). So there’s no risk of my 7-year-old taking standardized tests with 9-year-olds.

Children are wired to learn. If they have good influences in their life they will love to learn and excel at it. Children who struggle in school because of lack of help or attention or interest in what is being taught will resort to hating learning. Those children won’t do well in school. The children who were taught that learning can be fun will continue to strive in their education. Regardless of what type of experiences with learning they have (love or hate) there will always be a few areas where the child will struggle.

If my son is at the stage where learning is fun and he is catching on quickly and loving it, why would I stop to take a few months off because that’s what the social norm is? Even though I personally know a few people who homeschool and know of several people who homeschool, homeschooling is still not a social norm, so why worry about what society says is a normal grade progression for students? How do they know when it’s best to start teaching my child First Grade concepts? After all, Kindergarten was a natural progression from Pre-K because it built on the principles he already knew. The progression from Kindergarten to First Grade is going to be the same way.

So, whether or not people agree, it looks like after having a 4-year-old Kindergartener this fall I’m going to transition into having a 5-year-old First Grader.

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