Afterschooling My First Grader

When my daughter started kindergarten two years ago, she was initially excited. It was her first year in a “big girl” school. However, it didn’t take long before she got bored with the lessons at school. She was able to read and write before she entered kindergarten, so most of the lessons were just a review to her. By the time half of her kindergarten year had gone by, she didn’t like school at all. She wanted to be homeschooled because she said that she wasn’t learning in school. She told us that they were doing baby stuff in kindergarten. So, I looked into homeschooling and decided that I really didn’t want to do it. I loved going to school when I was a kid. It was fun to hang out with the other kids. I don’t want her to miss that experience. But at the same time, I do not want her to hate school either so my husband and I found a school for her that offered a gifted program.

The school that Katie is in for first grade is a lot better than her kindergarten school. Her teacher provides her more challenging material than the regular class. However, when we had our first conference with the teacher, she suggested that we move Katie to a gifted magnet program. She needs more challenging lessons and she thinks it’ll be good if Katie can be with other kids who are closer to her level. There’s probably two or three other kids who are about the same level as Katie in her current class, and while the rest are advanced compare with the students in the regular class, the variation in skill level is still wide. Fortunately, her teacher is awesome so Katie is not bored in class. When Katie finishes her work, she does not give Katie more of the same work just to keep busy. She let Katie play with educational toys that she has in her classroom, or read books.

What Is Afterschooling and How We Do It

For the past year, I have been afterschooling Katie. If you haven’t heard of the word afterschooling, basically, it means homeschooling after kids go to their regular school. Katie has been reading chapter books since kindergarten. She likes reading a lot. I subscribe to Raz-plus.com so I just let her choose any books that she likes. She also has great comprehension. Raz-plus.com has comprehension questions, which she gets right most of the time. The good thing about Raz-plus is that the books are for K-5th grade so Katie can choose any reading level she wants. She tends to pick books from 2nd grade and higher. The books are longer so they have more interesting story lines. I also take her to the library and let her choose any books that she wants to read. If a child is reading books that are interesting to them, you won’t need to force them to read. Since her reading and comprehension skills are several grades ahead of her math skills, we mostly focus on her math skills. She uses a program called ST Math, which is a visual game-based program. We play math games such as monopoly, abacus, card games, ten-frame blocks, legos, and etc. It is a lot easier for her to remember her math lessons when she is having fun so I try my best to find materials that would make math learning fun. Below are some of the items that we use for our math lessons. In addition to her afterschooling, she also goes to swimming lessons and piano lessons. She loves to play in the water with the other kids. She gets a lot of exercise while having fun as well. I love her swimming lessons because it helps regulate her sleeping schedule. The school that she’s going to does not provide music lessons in first grade, so I just signed her up for piano lessons for half an hour a week. It’s quite interesting to hear her play. She also has Bible lessons from me. I want her to learn about God. We have been listening to the NIRV version of the Bible. We listen to Bible stories, and recently, we started memorizing Bible scriptures. Go to the bottom of this page for a list of products that I am using and have used in the past.

Benefits of Afterschooling

I believe that parents are their children’s primary educators. In my case, I afterschool my child in order to provide her with lessons that are interesting to her and for her to continue her growth. She goes to a class where the reading levels of the kids span multiple grades. Even if the kids in her class are advanced, most of them are not as advanced as my daughter. Her teacher is amazing. But it is quite difficult to provide instruction that would make sure each child is challenged to his/her level. The core curriculum that the school provides is for their grade level. Schools do not have the budget to provide multiple grade levels that would be just right for all of the kids. Imagine: if your kid starts reading at first grade level at the beginning of the year and decides to keep reading at home for pleasure, chances are your kid will be reading at a level that is higher than the other kids who were not reading at home in just a few months. At home, I can easily look for programs that match my daughter’s level since I do not have to consider whether twenty four or so other kids would benefit from it. I can also tailor the content to whatever subject my daughter is currently interested in. There’s a lot more individualization that I can easily provide at home compared to she gets from school. No matter how great the teacher is, it is quite difficult to know each kid at the same level that a parent can.

If you are reading my blog, chances are you and your spouse are working full-time because I usually put the links to my blog in Facebook and most of my friends are working. So, if you are interested in afterschooling, my best advice to you is do it every day even if it’s just 5 minutes a day. Find something that is interesting to both you and your child because it’s quite difficult to keep on doing something in the long term if one of you is not interested in it. You will be surprised at how much of a difference five minutes each day can make.

Finally, if your first grader is still not reading chapter books, please check out my posts How to Convert Your Reluctant Reader to an Enthusiastic Reader and How My Non-Reader Child Came to Read Charlotte’s Web in 8 months.

List of Products

Headsprout.com has two components: early reading and reading comprehension. For kindergarten, Katie used the early reading section. For first grade, she is currently using the reading comprehension. The reading comprehension section of Headsprout is for 2nd-5th grade level readers. I like that they introduce different genres. It includes fiction, non-fiction, poems. It also teaches map skills, analyzing charts in addition to reading strategies.

ST Math is an online game-based program that teaches math. Katie is a visual learner. This program has definitely helped her understand math concepts easily.

Raz-plus.com is an online reading program. It literally has thousands of books. It has both fiction and non-fiction stories. I like it a lot because the stories are very interesting.

This NIRV audio Bible is great for little kids. It’s an easier version. It’s a great introduction to kids to the Word of God.

STEM Toys

I love these toys. I bought them because I figured if my kids are not interested in them, at least someone else would be. It turns out that they like them as much as I do!