Deconstructing the Six Year Old Kindergarten Year

Have you ever heard of a deconstructed salad? It is a salad that has all the components separately instead of mixed all together.  For those “When Harry Met Sally” fans, it is kind of all “on the side.”

I think the six-year-old kindergarten year is a bit like that; sometimes we have to really analyze the separate components and tailor those components.

This last year of kindergarten need not be intense, but I  think six- year -olds do need something “more”.  And we are fortunate that in the home environment we able to meet our child where they are.

Here are a few of my thoughts as to the “must- have’s” of the six year old kindergarten year:

  • Increased participation in the religious life of the family; preparing for attending your place of worship, preparing for festivals
  • Participating in a strong daily rhythm of practical work and outside time of organized movement – six-year-olds need to go outside and do something more than just stand there, so especially  if they are an only or oldest, you may have to set up specific tasks (digging in the garden, hauling this, carrying that, crossing over this stream on a log, riding this bike, roller skating, ice skating, skiing, etc.) 
  • If you were one of the families where doing a circle time worked for you, this may be the year that your six year old balks at it. If there are younger siblings in the house, you may be able to “get away” with circle time for a bit longer on the guise that the six year old is leading it for the younger siblings (or that at least gives you the ability to carry on.  Otherwise, I suggest you replace your morning circle time with movement and then  prayers, verses of meaning with movement, a seasonal poem with movement, singing of hymns and other music.
  • Games are important:  checkers;  chinese checkers;  Mancala; Roads, Rivers and Rails.  Plan game sessions at least several times a week.
  • Having a “collection” is important, whatever that may be – postcards, stamps, coins, cards, buttons, etc.  This is important pre-mathematical thinking when a child categorizes and sorts, and estimates how many of their collection might fit in one box or one slot of a storage container.
  • Up the painting, modeling, drawing experiences your child is receiving.
  • Handwork and craft projects should be more complex and may take longer than one session to complete.  Sometimes one can model discs out of salt dough, for example, decorate them, dry them, paint them and then string them into a windchime , for example.  Finger knitting and knitting on a spool can also be good work for a six year old.  Don’t forget fingerplays to warm those fingers up!
  • Social experiences are of increasing importance.  I think a six year old, especially a six year old who is the oldest or the only, needs experiences playing with children their own age and also in  being the outside observer in watching a group of children slightly older play.  Feel free to disagree here, and take what works for you!
  • Give them some stories with some “meat”.  Those sweet and simple repetitive stories are really for those under five.  For six year olds, I like stories such as  The Frog King, The Wolf and The Seven Little Kids (I know many parents, who for some reason, had “issues” with this tale,  but with the right child this tale is wonderful –  they just laugh and  laugh at the end and are so happy to rejoice with the little family of goats!  Maybe save this one for spring), The Fisherman and His Wife, Mother Holle, Little Red Cap, The Bremen Town Musicians, The Golden Goose, Hans in Luck, The Three Brothers, The Star Money, Snow White and Rose Red, Briar Rose.
  • Some families will start doing stories on a weekly or two-week basis instead of one story per month.  I think that is up to you as a family and what you observe in your child.
  • Gardening and cooking can also be “upped’” with more responsibilities and participation.  Think about de-mechanizing things as much as possible so your child has to really work and use those muscles!  Here is a place local to me that has many options for de-mechanizing things, I have not been there yet, but the catalogue looks great!  http://www9.mailordercentral.com/cumberlandgeneral/
  • Do you have pets your child can help care for?  Aquariums, terrariums, dogs, cats, livestock?
  • Save some things for SPRING.  If your child is going to be six and  half or six and a quarter in the spring, you may need to have some things to pull out of your hat if they are “bored.”  Foreign languages done orally can be a good place to start, as can increasing handwork, or physical activities.  I am not a huge fan of lessons for children in their last year of Kindergarten, but perhaps you can find a place that is more laid back and gives a child a sense of “class” as many six-year-olds really want to do “class” and “real school”.  Sometimes there are homeschooling groups that have a class that might fit the bill.  I find this wanting to do something like a “class’” is often more of a little girl phenomenon  – maybe just participation in the life of your place of worship would do the trick. 
  • If you cannot hold off this child anymore, then by all means, start with some math.  However, what I have found through many families in the past, is that after about a week the six-year-old doesn’t want to do it anymore;they would rather go play.  This may not be your child, but I would urge you to not get too attached to starting something academic this last year even if they seem “ready.”  If they are “ready” in April or May it is almost the end of the school year for many families, so I advise you to stay the course if you can.
  • Quiet time after lunch and going to bed early is still important.  A six-year-old does not have a good sense of when to stop or slow down or rest.  They will “go” until they melt into a puddle.
  • Six-year-olds can be rather brash to say the least; some can be downright angry for most of the six-year-old year.  So,in regards to parenting in this year:  the six –year- old still needs to have limited choices and a strong sense of parental authority; an authority that is calm but willing to set DIRECT  boundaries – very, very, important for the six year old.  The six –year -old needs more more direct statements of fact, “This is the way we do things.”  “I am the person to help you.”  “I know how to do this and can help you.”  “That is the rule in our family.” 
  • And they still need you to help move them with gentle hands when they are upset.  I had an incident at the pool yesterday with my six and a half year old, and I made her get out of the water. I had to go in and get her, take her by the arm, and lead her to a chair.  She was protesting and such, but I just said, “You may sit down.”  Protest, protest, protest.  “You may sit down.”  She sat down and I sat with her and we talked a minute about what she was doing.  She ended up being teary with her head in my lap, but  she eventually had a snack and went back to play.  However,  I don’t think that would have happened if I gotten completely angry or if I had just used a bunch of words.

Hope these ideas are helpful; take what works for you and your family.

Many blessings,
Carrie

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20 thoughts on “Deconstructing the Six Year Old Kindergarten Year

  1. Thank you so much for the detail! Also, I find the windows into how to handle specific child behavior really helpful (i.e. “You may sit down”).

  2. Wow, Carrie, this is fantastic! About the games, I’ve been holding off on competitive games. Do you play checkers in a non-competitive way?

    • Hi emily! There are so many wonderful noncompetitive games, and I think it is perfectly fine to play those until closer to the nine year change…You can play checkers in a low-key, not really make a big deal about it kind of way, but I don’t think there is a non-competitive way to really play checkers…I personally don’t mind working in some win-lose games starting at six and seven, but I think you have to look at your particular child. :)
      Many blessings,
      Carrie

    • Just to chip in and say my son has a bunch of co-operative board games and they are wonderful! They are made in Canada but available in the US too.

  3. Great timing (as usual!) as I am really starting to think about my third born son’s last year in “kindy”. He will be 6 in December and hasn’t really been asking to do lessons. I think part of it may be due to the fact that he has two older brothers and has always just followed suit. I really want to make this a great year for him (as much as I can with a 4th grader, a 1st grader and a 2 year old, ha ha). The last two years have been challenging…juggling the needs of everyone, but especially with an infant/toddler in the mix, so I am hoping to have more of a focused time with him. I plan on using both fairy tales and nature stories (and maybe combining stories for him and my first grader, if appropriate). Should be a great year!

    • Tanya, I am so happy to hear from you…I was beginning to wonder if any of my “old-timers” were still around. LOL
      Many blessings for a wonderful year!
      Carrie

  4. Carrie, will you start first grade with your daughter in the fall?

    My daughter will be 6 soon and has been writing letters for the last six months now. She is just copying her 8 year old sister. She is writing them all in cursive, perfectly. She can read the letters also, but hasn’t figured out how to read per se. She knows all first grade math, just by oberservation. I haven’t her taught a thing so far! I have decided to use the Wee Folk Art (http://weefolkart.com/content/homeschool-companion-guides) ideas next school year with her, but not doing the phonics. They include letter practice, but she’s doing this every day anyway. So far I haven’t had a child like this, I’m waiting for her first tooth to fall out any day. She plays outside a lot, rides her bike, loves to dance and move, draws, paints, but seems to be ready for more. Because of her age I had to register her officially with the school district. I chose kindergarten and this will give us enough time to do a mix of kindergarten/first grade materials for two years. I’m just writing this in case there is somebody else here that has a child that seems to be similar to my daughter.

    • Hi Eva! Thank you so much for chiming in with your experience! I do think many of the younger siblings come up faster, if that is any consolation. Sounds like you have hit upon a good compromise! I have had mothers tell me they stretched a slow, long start to first grade through two years. I like to go the math route if the child really wants more…but it sounds like your little one is just plugging along. Organic learning at its best!
      Yes, I am getting ready for first grade the second time around this fall….
      :)
      Blessings, love to hear from you,
      Carrie

    • Hi Carrie,

      I meant to say “I haven’t taught her a thing….” I typed my last message in a pretty dark room :). If I wanted to do more math with her, I would have to go to the second grade level — I want to avoid that. I’m just curious if she figures out how to read by herself or not. This will be interesting.

    • Eva,
      She probably will figure reading out! But then, that’s okay! My oldest was probably reading at at least a third grade level when we started first, and she loved all the fairy tales and such – we just did more writing. You are such a veteran homeschooler, I can’t wait to see what you do with her schooling!

      Hugs!!
      Carrie

    • eva- your little one sounds SO MUCH like my twin daughters! they will be six in october and i too have to register them officially with the school district due to compulsory age- how did that go with you re: waldorf schooling? i’ve yet to submit our letter of intent and educational plan; are those required of you where you are? we’re in MA. i would love to correspond via email if you’d like!

    • Your daughter sounds a lot like mine. Thank you for the link to weefolkart.com. That’s going to be a lifesaver for getting us started. May I ask what first grade materials you are using? I’m looking for something (free) that will give some math and letters but in a Waldorf way.

  5. Hi Carrie,

    I really enjoy your kindergarten posts, especially all the specificity! Posts like this one are bookmarked for later re-reading. I have a 2 and a half year old and a seven month old, both boys, and have been devouring your blog and past posts trying to decide if homeschooling is a way I can go. Thanks again!

    -Louise

  6. Hi Carrie,
    Thanks so much for this! My first-born son will be 6 this month and starting a waldorf-inspired kindergarten 3 mornings a week this year, for his last year of kindergarten. I am doing this because I feel like I really need the help of some other adults and in community of families both for him and for me this year before I have to really think about main lessons and the grades next year. We haven’t always done Waldorf in every way, esp with regards to media, did a bit of a yo-yo thing between unschooling and waldorf and I’m afraid the inconsistency wasn’t good. Anyway, I am always interested in your posts on the 7 year change, on 1st grade readiness, etc. I used to allow extra academics for our son because he was asking for it so much and was so adept at it, but I recently began to understand the whole body connection thing, so we’re trying to have some of that go dormant awhile (with virtually no media, more outdoor time, and directing him away from his love of workbooks and structure) – tough job! I wandered if you could explain a bit more about role the teeth play in the last year of kindergarten (he already has THREE adult teeth in! He is still 5!) because I wonder what the correlation might be between this development for him and his early astral awakening? I guess I’m still struggling with “depriving” him of 1st grade when intellectually he wants it (but I do know he is not fully in his body yet – and still craves to be a “baby” etc) and need some reassurance that this is the right thing (another year of kindy). Thanks so much as always for your wonderful insight!

    • Hi Vivian, Did you see the guest post by Donna Simmons that I posted yesterday? I think that might really help explain some of the things about teeth; teeth are not as reliable an outward sign as they used to be but still of importance. Please see that article, and do let me know what you think!
      Many blessings,
      Carrie

    • Cecily,
      I don’t honestly, Target has a “nicer” version one that I am aware of. I guess I would just run a search on the Internet or Amazon and see what turned up! :)
      Many blessings,
      Carrie

  7. Hi Carrie,

    I’ve been in a dilemma ever since reading a post about the six-year-olds having time to play with other 6-year-olds. My soon to be 6 daughter only has one friend who is 6 and almost a full year older that her. Her other friends that are 5 are just turning 5. We have a wonderful group of homeschooling families that have created a co-op and are often together. We’ve really worked hard to establish a rhythm at our house and are sitting a lot of the play dates and “gym/activity” classes out this fall-maybe I should mention I also have a 2 year old committed to her naps and structure. My 5 year old has already begun the 6/7 year change, and I’m wondering if she needs more time with other children her own age than she’s getting. She doesn’t ever seem to want for more playtime, and I think would be fine without joining back in to the classes with the co-op, but now that classes have started back for the fall, should we be joining in, or continuing the routine here at home? On Tues/Thurs, my girls attend a small home-based Montessori while I’m at work where my 5 year old is the oldest. And on M/W/F, we have a lovely gentle circle time with a bit of meditation, rhymes and songs in the morning. After that we play games or work on puzzles, and she usually likes to begin handwork or some type of art project after that. We also try to spend as much time outdoors as possible before lunch. Again, she never seems to need or want for more time with kids her own age, and I don’t seem to notice any social issues for her when she’s interacting with others.

    What thoughts can you offer? Sorry if I seem redundant and confusing. I’m a bit confused myself here. :)

    Cecily

    • Hi Cecily,
      Hard question to answer as every child is so different! I was curious as to what signs of the six/seven change you feel she is exhibiting? I think part of that leap is a bigger interest in friends, peers. I would say it sounds like for an early almost six year old, she is separating several mornings a week and is interested enough in peers. What do you feel in your heart?
      Many blessings,
      Carrie

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