Birthdays bring stress no matter how old you are. But count yourself lucky if your child’s birthday falls in winter or spring. That’s because children who celebrate birthdays from January through May will automatically attend Kindergarten when they turn five. On the other hand, if your daughter has a summer birthday you will probably ask yourself the question: “Should I redshirt my Kindergartener?” Or, if your son has a fall birthday, he will miss the enrollment cut-off altogether and be hanging out with you all year.
I don’t mean to scare parents of five-year-olds with sticky birthdays, but— yikes! Your six-year-old Kindergartners will either have 1) a very big advantage, or 2) no room for error.
Books like The Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell have presented the hypothesis that older children do better in general. But recent research coming out of Princeton shows that this isn’t necessarily the case; at least not when it comes to school. The reason (which I could have told you based on my experience in the classroom), is that older children cannot be retained. That’s “teacher-speak” for flunked.
Well, technically you could hold an older child back because there is not supposed to be any “social promotion” going on in schools these days, but in actuality this probably wouldn’t happen. Nobody with a heart would make a seven-year-old- repeat first grade when he was eight.
The simple solution to all my anxiety inducing scare tactics is to teach your child to read before he or she enters Kindergarten. Use that extra year you have with your five-year-old at home, to give him or her an academic advantage that makes other parents drool. Incorporate fun, hands-on-activities into your daily lives and watch the magic happen. Just to be clear; I’m not talking about making your child do worksheets, which is contrary to my personal philosophy of education.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- I sound like a broken record on this one, but writing a daily Morning Message on a little white board while your kids eat breakfast is a great way to teach phonics, reading, writing and punctuation. Use your own intuition to level this activity according to your child’s individual needs.
- They are boring, but they are brilliant. When my son was reading through them we bribed him with a new Star Wars book for every three Bob Books he read.
- Go to the store and buy a whole bunch of paper and special art supplies. Put them in a big box or bag, but don’t let your child use any of it. When he is asleep, staple together a whole bunch of homemade blank books. The next day, tell him that he can each make one or two books each week using the special art supplies. Use reverse psychology to have your child begging to make books.
- The trick will be that you need to heavily facilitate the writing of the books. The child is the author and illustrator, but you are the secretary. (This is like the grown up version of the homemade books I’m making with Jenna.)
- Make sure you are writing sentences that your child will be able to read 95% himself. At the end of the year you should have a big box of 50 or 60 books that your child has authored.
Structured Math Lessons
- Try teaching two or three structured, hands-on math lessons to your child each week. If you can afford it, I think that Right Start, is a great way to go. (Oh, how I wish they were paying me money to say that!) Right Start is a bit of an investment, because you’ll need all of the math manipulatives, but you can use those tools later on to help your child understand their public school homework all the way up to fourth grade.
- A cheaper alternative would be to use Singapore Math, which is another popular homeschool program that I like.
- For math ideas that are completely free, please check out my page Cheap Math.
- I can’t say it enough, but those darn Reader Rabbit programs really helped Bruce learn math. I like them a lot better than the Jump Start series. For smart five-year-olds, I’d recommend “Reader Rabbit 2nd grade math”, which has a good range on it, even though it has 2nd grade in the title.
- It would also be worth checking out, at least for the first 2 week free trial, Dreambox math. This will take your child through a complete K-4 program without you having to do anything except take out your credit card.
- A free alternative to Dreambox (but not quite as good), is Houghton Mifflin’s Eduplace math games.
- Television? Yes, because you’ve got to be able to make dinner sometime! If you haven’t already seen it, set your DVR to tape PBS’s The Electric Company. It’s a big step up from “Super Why” in terms of plot line, but still teaches a ton of phonics. It really helped solidify my son’s reading skills when he was four and five.
- If you still sense a weakness in your child’s phonics skills, check out “Leap Frog Talking Words Factory #2” from the library. It goes over lots of serious phonics rules in a fun way.
DEAR Time (Drop Everything And Read)
- Studies have shown that the more words on a page your child is exposed to and tries to read himself, the better his reading level abilities will be. High word count and practice is a better predictor of reading success than even teaching phonics or reading aloud to a child. So if you have an emergent or reluctant reader, it’s imperative that your make sure your child does Independent Reading every day, even if you have to resort to bribery!
- Set up a cozy reading corner somewhere in your house, and stock it with a box of books you know are at an easy reading level for your child. You could even let your child munch on crackers or something, while she reads. Set the timer at 10 minutes, and slowly build up to 30 minutes by the end of the year.
- I’m going to sound crazy, but just skip handwriting altogether unless you are going to choose a program that is hard to mess up, like Handwriting Without Tears. My reason is that when your child gets to school they might use an entirely different penmanship program like D’Nelian, and you don’t want your kid to have to relearn everything.
- Instead, focus on building up your child’s fine-motor skills with: play dough, cutting, sewing, gardening, blocks, cooking, cleaning, art, chalk, etc.
Those are all of my main ideas, but I’m sure there are lots of other good ones out there. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below, and to forward along this linke to anyone you think might be interested. Have a fun with your five-year-olds!