structuring an academic education: a six year old


You can’t teach the same way to each child. They’re different. And because I’m not enrolled in a provincial government program, I tailor my kids’ educational goals independently.

So I’d like to introduce a case study, my six year old.

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He’s logically precocious. He has whipped me at chess since he was two and plays adults on Saturday mornings in hopes he’ll gain the skill to whip his dad.

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He plays mental math games with ease. And likes it. He plays Legos with abandon, Minecraft-addicted if I’d let him, speaks frankly, not tactfully if I let him, but a winning, melt-me smile, and has been generous with polite mannerisms since he was three.

His present favourite bedtime story is from a Chess Strategy book…can’t believe that’s what I read to him…I don’t understand it, apparently he does.

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He enjoys his gymnastics class. Gladly cross-country skis and canoes with us in season. And he’s got a good arm for baseball which we saw at six months. But he’s more interested in the reward at the end than he is in actually playing. He’s learning football strategy alongside daddy, but he’d rather learn strategy to myriads of board or card games.

He’s got three older sisters, so he also likes his toenails painted. He can whip up a mean, albeit not necessarily our favourite smoothies–without me in the kitchen. He told me about his first crush when he was five, really? A Nickelodeon television star that kissed him in his dreams. And he’s playing a hobgoblin in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”…this might also be influenced by his sisters (he looks less enthused than them).

Things I’m learning about teaching my six year old…

1. He likely sits longer than most of his peers, especially boy peers, but that’s because he’s been doing studies with us since he was crawling.

2. He can memorize poems just like his sisters. These kiddos have keen minds. The more they memorize, the better they get. Presently, he memorizes three stanza poems.

When I was One, I had just begun.

When I was two, I was nearly new.

When I was three, I was hardly me.

When I was four, I was not much more.

When I was five, I was just alive.

But now I am six, I’m as clever as clever.

So I think I’ll be six now, forever and ever

(A.A. Milne)

3. He journals every study morning. Which means he draws a picture of what he did yesterday…and he dictates to me what his picture is about. He usually draws pics of what he wishes he did yesterday, like volcanos exploding and boats rescuing us from tsunamis.

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Today he wrote: “It’s a football game that you guys are going to–Superbowl. Who you guys are cheering for is the people who are losing, but they will win in the end. Seattle Seahawks will win! ” Sounds like their recent game. (Can they repeat that really repeat that again, and even want to?)

The ideas are getting on page, albeit through me. This is a beginner’s approach to story writing.

4. He’s got his own math-u-see book. And is zooming through it. He performs math equations like I rattle off my written opinions. Freeflowing. Sometimes I’ll lay flash cards on the floor and have him use dried beans, legos or manipulatives to answer the questions.

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As Steve Deme has taught me in his math program, introduce the concept with manipulatives, then repeat, repeat, repeat till they understand it, and until they ask to do it themselves. Mastery is the goal.  And if they get it, move on. Don’t let them be bored. So far so easy for this kid.

5. He began reading when he was five. Like phonics sounding out stuff. His Dick and Jane book. Then Dr. Seuss’s Hop on Pop. And now he’s reading Toad on the Road and Fat Cat on the Mat. He’s learning his blends, double vowel words and why an e at the end of the word is silent.

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Bananagrams, Scrabble Slam and simply building words from scrabble tiles are useful kinesthetic approaches to reading that he loves.

Funny that my cookie could explain reasons for World War 1 beginning, but I discovered one day that he couldn’t put his alphabet in order. So he’s been joining us by tidying up our All About Spelling board after we do lessons with two older sisters.

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Is he too young for a second language? What does he do for science? So does he write? I’ll answer those questions next week. What’s your approach to your six year old?

5 thoughts on “structuring an academic education: a six year old

  1. This was great…it’s nice to have concrete details of what someone else is doing. My six year old loves math and reading, too, and is interested in everything science. She likes the DK sticker books on rocks and minerals, and the Usborne lift a flap information books. The other day a friend brought us a stack of kids’ magazines called Chickadee and High Five, and she hardly stopped reading them for two days.

    She often learns better standing up and jumps around when she’s really excited. Sometimes we do jumping jack math where she jumps the answer to the question. I like the idea of the math-u-see program. We also enjoy doing plays of illustrated kids books. They are often about the right length, and make for an easy drama class.

    Other passions are baking with her kids cook books and teaching her little siblings how to draw and do crafts. She likes to play teacher.

    My favourite thing with her and my 8 year old daughter is reading Narnia stories aloud before bed. Makes for great discussions, even of an ethical nature, and such fun for the imagination.


  2. My almost 6 year old: Started riding a pedal bike, mostly on her own, after mastering a run bike. She loves to wash windows, dust plant tables, and is pretty good at washing dishes. She’s figured out that wearing the clothes left on her floor means there are less to pick up and put away, and her pile of clean laundry was easily 1/6 that of her next eldest sister. She will try to negotiate to get what she wants. She’s mastered everything in Kindergarten so far, tries reading I Can Fly (Little Golden Book), diligently does her homework (usually) on her own. Remembers her memory verses easily. At VBS a couple years ago, she had most of a psalm memorized (I lift my eyes up to the mountains….). I love that she plays with her younger brother and keeps him out of mischief when I need to do other things (such as shower). He loves her. Often, not always, quick to forgive. Sometimes has a fierce reaction to being wronged. She sings, making up silly new verses for songs she knows.

I want to know what you think. Let me know.

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