It’s hard to believe that James Michael has been in Kindergarten 12+ weeks at this point. I just had his parent-teacher conference last week, so I thought it’d be the perfect time to share about his adventures at Elachee Nature Academy.
First off, I will say that he absolutely loves school. Of course, he’s never been much of a homebody. He loved going to preschool a couple mornings a week and Kindergarten is no different. He generally thrives in social situations and isn’t afraid to meet new people or ask anybody questions about anything.
Here are a few more details about Kindergarten life at Elachee:
When I first learned that Elachee offered a K-1 class, I knew that it would be an environment in which James Michael would thrive. After all, most kids love the outdoors. I also knew that it would be a great transition into a more traditional classroom setting later on. As much as James Michael loves learning and can be a little sponge, I was excited that he could do it in a less restrictive setting that included so many options for “outdoor classrooms.”
James Michael comes home from school telling me all about certain plants and trees, illustrates the honey bee dance or describes the life cycle of a caterpillar. He also brings home lettuce harvested from the K-1 garden, “treasures” from his daily nature hikes and most recently, some kind of dried refuse that I saw tiny insect legs poking out of. He’s already worn holes through his new pair of school shoes and, most days, we resort to bath time before dinner to help stop the spread of dirt through the house.
But I wouldn’t want it any other way. Coming home filthy and stinky means he had a great day. Nature is a magnet that draws him from one great dirty discovery to the next.
There are 10 students in the K-1 class and one main teacher, but oftentimes, other employees at Elachee are with the class going on hikes, helping with science experiments or gardening, and being an extra set of hands both inside the classroom and outside. One benefit of such a small class size is that the class is very mobile, so it’s easy to move instruction anywhere on the Elachee campus.
James Michael’s teacher is a woman after a mama’s heart, because she takes roughly 150 pictures every week and uploads them to a Shutterfly Share site so any parent can view them. All the pictures in the gallery below came from her–and my boy is smiling like a million bucks in half of them. I just love being able to see him loving school and learning without peering directly over his shoulder. It also helps me stay up to date on what he is learning so I can ask him more pertinent questions about his day when he gets home.
His teacher also is very responsive and available. On days when James Michael has just come down with a cold and isn’t feeling well, she updates me throughout the day to let me know how he’s doing. She’s also been super helpful as we have been working on tackling sight words, giving me alternative ideas as to how to approach them (scavenger hunt, writing in shaving cream, etc.).
Scholastically speaking, James Michael is right where he should be. And believe it or not, he learns about more than just nature. Elachee is a SACS/AdvancED-accredited school that is licensed through the state of Georgia. James Michael’s math, literacy, science and social studies skills are all on par. The only area he needs to hunker down with is sight words–and a lot of that is based on parent involvement (no pressure here!). So that’s what we’ve focused on more lately and it’s finally starting to click. He’s now identifying sight words on billboards and books and flyers. Even little sister Scarlett has been proclaiming to spot sight words.
According to his teacher, the area James Michael really excels in is life science. He can tell you the life cycle of most living things, from a seed or bulb to a caterpillar or tadpole. He also has a vast knowledge of trees, plants, insects and reptiles–for a 5 year old at least. He’s constantly wanting my confirmation that a particular tree is a red fern or a certain snake is a milk snake. And of course I’m pretty clueless.
I love that he is learning the basics of Kindergarten while using nature. His teacher does a great job of disguising learning with fun experiments and outdoor activities.
James Michael’s school starts at 8:30 a.m.–later than our local public schools. That later time has really helped with transitioning to Kindergarten. The first month of school, he was so tired some days that I could let him sleep in until 7:30 a.m. if needed. Now that he’s adapted to Kindergarten life, he wakes up between 6 and 6:30 a.m. most mornings, which works for us because he does his homework in the morning before school. He’s three months into the school year, and he still falls asleep in the car on ride home about 75 percent of the time. After that 30-minute catnap, he’s ready to tackle the rest of the afternoon.
Currently, he isn’t playing any team sports. It was just too much to try to fit in this fall. We are very active as a family and he is super active at school, so at this point we didn’t want to be stretched too thin. But we are considering signing him up for swim team next spring.
Overall, he’s thriving and has grown up so much the last three months. The school year seems to be flying by so fast, and in just a few short weeks I’ll have a 6 year old!