A couple days ago Leah was chatting with a friend of ours who's interested in what we're doing with homeschooling. She has kids the same ages as Harvey and Zion and was wondering if we're using a particular curriculum. "No, not really," Leah told her. "We just do whatever seems interesting at the time." Pressed on the subject, Leah allowed that our goals for Harvey are based loosely on the Massachusetts state standards for kindergarteners.
The friend sounded relieved. "Oh, so you know what to teach."
Well, sort of. While there are occasions when I do think I know what to teach, I'll tell you that the state standards don't have much to do with my sense of confidence. In fact, I don't really look to them for direction at all; they're only part of our homeschool planning to make the operation look a little more legit (and, I suppose, to make sure Harvey will be able to join in with his age peers if he decides he wants to try public school). But really, kindergarten learning shouldn't be that complicated. We need some number sense, some literacy, some scientific observation, and lots of opportunities to explore where natural curiosity leads. We can do that!
In lots of areas, the temptation to look elsewhere for authority is strong. Our world-spanning communication system seems to give us access to the best of the best in everything, at least as a model—bread, for example. While it's sometimes nice to have awesome models to aspire to, though, it can also be paralyzing to beginners to gaze across the gulf separating them from the masters (f haven't written about that problem before I really should sometime). But that's not even really the issue here, because even the hot new Common Core standards necessarily represent anything like best practices for kindergarten teaching. Consider this article from the Washington Post back in 2013:
We reviewed the makeup of the committees that wrote and reviewed the Common Core Standards. In all, there were 135 people on those panels. Not a single one of them was a K-3 classroom teacher or early childhood professional. ...
When the standards were first revealed in March 2010, many early childhood educators and researchers were shocked. "The people who wrote these standards do not appear to have any background in child development or early childhood education," wrote Stephanie Feeney of the University of Hawaii, chair of the Advocacy Committee of the National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators.
What that means is, if you care about educating young children there's a pretty good chance you can come up with goals at least as good as those you'll find in the Common Core or state standards! And even better, the goals you design for homeschooling will will be based on your own children's interests and learning styles. I understand that folks might want confirmation that they're moving in the right direction, but if you ask me the best place to look for that is your kids themselves. Are you doing things with them? Do they like learning? Then you're probably fine! If you ask me, teaching isn't really all that hard; certainly a whole lot easier than making bread!