Delight Directed Kindergarten: It’s Okay to Play!

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SYCYAH Delight Directed K-OK to Play

Sometimes I am tempted to compare my teaching methods with other homeschool moms. There’s nothing wrong with being inspired by what is working for others; but the temptation, at least for me at times, is to see what others are doing and feel inadequate.

The minute I tell someone that we’re homeschooling, I feel that sensation creep over me; the one that feels the need to justify my decision or prove something. I am certain that most of this is in my head, but I still feel as though I need to list every lesson and activity because that will keep this other person from judging me.

Yet how many times have we heard how essential play is to learning for young children?

Formal learning seems to be being pushed earlier and earlier. Kids are eager to learn, it’s true, and I think we should absolutely support and encourage that desire; but we must be very careful to not push too hard or go too far – not at 5 years old.

I look at Billy and I see a boy who could pass for older than 5. He’s smart, too, and I think that sometimes I am afraid that I’m not challenging him enough. Sometimes I forget that he wants to learn, but he NEEDS to play.

I feel guilty that we don’t do enough structured activity.

I forget that the reason I chose to take the delight directed schooling path was because I had watched him learn the things he wanted to learn and reject the things that did not interest him.

I’ve also seen him walk away from things he was pushed to do – things that frustrated him.

The best example I can give you of this is writing. I see so many cute copywork pages and ones of great Bible verses pass through my Pinterest feed and I start to get those feelings of inadequacy.

The problem is that I know that Billy knows how to write, but a light went on for me the day I asked him to copy the date on a whiteboard (I thought it would be more fun that way). He did it, and he did it beautifully, but I have never been able to get him to do it again. We showered him with praise, but since it required patience and slow work, he had a very hard time with it and became frustrated.

I don’t want him to go through the rest of his life – especially his school life, where he will NEED to write often – hating writing because it was forced on him when he was 5.

I want him to want to write. So when he writes, I praise him. When he wants to write, I give him paper and a pen. When he needs help, I write a word for him to copy. Today he made an Easter egg for me. With the wax crayon he wrote me a secret message; it said “Mom.”

He wanted to write, so he wrote.

He doesn’t need me to encourage him to want to learn – he has that desire naturally. And one of the best ways for him to learn at his age is to play.

When he plays, he makes up fantastic stories. He learns to be gentle and care about others. He learns how to cooperate and take turns. He sings songs and dances. He draws and makes crafts.

All of those wonderful activities that I feel guilty for not “structuring,” he does out of enjoyment.

So, kindergarten homeschooling mom, don’t be tempted to compare your situation with someone else’s. That little one won’t be little forever. It’s okay to let them play!

Author Bio

Heather is married and blessed to be called “mom” by 3 awesome boys (and 2 German Shepherds). She blogs about homeschooling, her faith and their family (coffee mug in hand!) at Homeschooling…On Faith and Coffee.

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  1. Thanks so much for sharing about your son! My daughter is turning 5 in 3 weeks and we’ve been super loose on schooling right now. She’s very smart for her age and totally has a desire to learn ( excellent on math and at a first grade reading level …pretty much figured all that out on her own) and I don’t want to push work sheets, etc on those subjects and frustrate her either. I’ve been all over looking at curriculum and styles and have become super overwhelmed. I just started reading your blog and totally feel that I’ll be schooling both my kids with an eclectic approach too. 🙂 And yes, LET them PLAY. Times goes by so quick and kids grow up so fast.

  2. This makes so much sense to me! I just started reading about Charlotte Mason and am liking what I am hearing… she didn’t believe that children needed to be sitting inside at a desk doing formal schoolwork before age 6. It’s true! They’ll be sitting inside studying enough for 12 years already, after all. I don’t know why we (in America) have to add on Preschool and 5-year-old Kindergarten. My daughter is 5 and we have plans for a light Kindergarten year with lots of fun reading (Winnie the Pooh and some other classic books) and hand’s-on learning (nature walks) but I plan to kind of let her lead the way with everything and see what she is most interested in. A non-pressure year since she’s still so young. I want it to be fun!

    Now my daughter has practically begged me to teach her to read since she turned 4 so I did start giving her “lessons” and reading with her, and she reads pretty well now and loves it. If a child leads you, that’s totally different. 🙂 But there was a time when she became frustrated trying to sound out words and I put away the lessons for a couple months. When we went back to it’s like something clicked in her head and she was sounding the words out perfectly!

    When you said that about handwriting I realized I have done the same thing… Emma really loved writing and would sit at the table with a sheet of paper asking me how to spell every word she was thinking of so she could write them down on the paper. The letters were all different sizes (mostly huge) and curving up and down the paper, it was so cute! But I thought I would start teaching her how to write the letters between the lines on lined paper. It didn’t go well – she got very frustrated because it wasn’t “perfect” and just didn’t have the patience to sit there and make perfectly formed letters. Now she doesn’t sit and write the words like she did before I made her fun into school. I feel so bad! I’ve put the worksheets away and am hoping she’ll start writing again… just a reminder to myself that although I’m her mom and teacher, I need to make sure I’m not *always* the teacher. 🙂 I may try some copywork sheets (all tracing) at some point in the midst of or at the end of Kindergarten, but I’ll wait until she is enjoying writing again. 🙂 Thank you for sharing this!

  3. I love this. Many Ontario Canada Jk and K are play based – watching what the child likes and following that lead.. I taught grade one and hated all the paper ditties other teachers gave me. I turned the paper over and had the children use the blank side.

    I tried to use hand on and art for expression as much as possible with 28 to 30 students.

    Be ready but never push.

    Glad to have found you.
    Janis http://www.janiscox com

  4. You are absolutely dead-on with this post, Heather. My 5 year old wants to try schooly stuff but after that attempt he’s had enough and is ready to play. We joke that he learns by osmosis – I’m convinced that he learns far more from play than I could teach him.

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