The Kindergarten Year
Kindergarten is a wonderful year in school filled with playful times with friends, opportunities to develop physical skills, an introduction to academic learning and experiences that foster the growth of personal skills and inner qualities that will bring lasting happiness to one’s life. It is a transitional time as the children move from the Physical Years (birth – age 6) to the Feeling Years (age 6 – 12). In the Physical Years the focus of growth is on the physical body and learning about the realities of the physical world the child lives in. In the Feeling Years the focus of growth is somewhat more inward, with a growing awareness of one’s own feelings, how to consciously work with and take charge of one’s feelings, and gaining insights into the feelings of others. This is often a time of great receptivity to high and noble thinking. An overview of some of the ways that we work with these areas of growth are listed below.
Physical Skills –
The growth of physical skills serves a dual purpose. The first is the development of skills that will be used again and again in life such as cutting and writing, tying shoes, balancing in order to do such things as ride a bike or jump from rock to rock in order to cross a stream, and gaining strength, endurance and coordination. The second purpose of working with the growth of physical skills is that such growth develops essential neurological pathways in the brain that future academic growth is built upon. With that in mind, we do a myriad of activities to promote physical growth. Some of those activities are:
- • running and agility games
- • dancing
- • tossing and catching activities
- • hiking
- • going through obstacle courses
- • parachute activities
- • art and craft activities that use and develop fine motor skills
- • learning to tie shoes
- • yoga postures
For Kindergarten age children, academic readiness is strongly tied to individual developmental growth. Just as each child begins to walk or to talk according to his/her own developmental time clock, so it is with each one’s readiness to begin academic learning. There are clear signs that guide us in knowing when to begin this journey. Proper timing helps to ensure that joy, enthusiasm and self-confidence are a part of the children’s feelings about learning, and that those positive feelings are the foundational attitudes that they will carry forth in their educational future. Knowing how important such timing is, the children will begin academic work at times and in ways that reflect their own readiness. Also, because the natural activities of children are such things as stories, songs and playing games, much of our work will be imbedded in those types of activities. When we offer academic work in ways that naturally reflect the children’s own inclinations, learning happens with ease, joy and greater depth. Beginning reading skills, writing, math, and natural science all make up part of the academic component of our curriculum. There is a continuum of skills that each child will move through according to his/her readiness, rather than a set list of skills that each child is expected to reach by the end of Kindergarten. We are committed to making our curriculum reflect each child rather than having each child fit the curriculum.
The creative arts give expression to each child’s inner world. They give young children a chance to experiment with various forms of expression and communication. Many lessons in the realities of life blossom into inner knowing simply by experiencing the creative arts. Colors and the feelings they evoke, are experienced when painting. Music has the power to uplift, excite, calm and soothe us. Through dance children experience the pull of gravity, the lightness of jumping, the soaring feelings of uplifted arms or the power of marching feet. It is obvious when observing the smiles on their faces during creative activities, their concentration, and their enthusiasm for sharing their creations, what a delightful, fulfilling part of life such opportunities are for children.
Most days include times for singing. We also have weekly music classes taught by our music teacher. Weekly art classes often extend into opportunities to continue the activities during the rest of the week. Of course, additional art activities make up part of many of our lessons, our celebrations for holidays and special times of year. And finally, most mornings will find us dancing to various kinds of music or to songs that we sing.
Nature Activities and Quiet Times-
For many, many children, times in nature call forth their inner realities in ways that few other activities do. Listening to the wind in the trees, the birds singing, the frogs croaking, walking in a light mist, feeling the sun on their faces, watching tiny creatures move along the ground or birds soar in the sky, all can bring forth feelings of reverence, awe, wonder, and connectedness with the world around them. Gardening, watching chicks hatch from eggs, and taking care of creatures that we find, before releasing them, are ways that we help children build their awareness of their role in caring for the earth and the creatures that we share this life with. All of these types of activities are an integral part of our days in school. Daily quiet times during which inspiring stories are read, and opportunities to experience one’s own quiet side, such as during yoga postures, while doing breathing exercises, listening to a gong being rung, sitting in silence, or quietly drawing while beautiful music is being played, are just a few of the practices that the children participate in. In the busy, active lives of young children, these quieter activities can give them a glimpse into a side of themselves that is both peaceful and uplifting.
Our days in Kindergarten are varied and full. Learning through experiences, learning with joy, and learning in an atmosphere of friendship and caring, make our time at school expansive, fulfilling and exciting.