Pregnancy, Starting kindergarten

Online Young Fives: Our Experience So Far

My sweet, unicorn-loving middle child turned five years old last month…

and is now two and a half weeks into her young fives program! It is five days a week, 5+ hours a day of weather charts, letter recognition, fine motor journals, storytime, group share, music, art, phys ed and more–all taught through a school issued iPad.

Wow. It’s a herculean effort by all involved…my daughter’s teacher, who does a superhuman job of capturing 4 and 5 year olds’ attention through a screen; these youngsters, including my daughter, who are working so diligently; and, yes, the parents. Because this is tough, no doubt about it.

Especially while I care for an adventurous just-turned-three year old,

and serve as Hotel Mama for a precious little one who takes all my nutrients and gives me back ferocious heartburn that would send a non-pregnant person to the emergency room fearing a heart attack. (All is going smoothly, though. Thank you for your congratulations and well wishes–I do hope to keep everyone updated more regularly!) And I pick up my six year old from her out-of-town Lutheran school every afternoon.

This particular young fives program, offered through our public school, is quite ambitious. After an informal survey (of three other moms) I concluded that my daughter’s program requires considerably more online time, and more assignments. Her first two weeks of school, she had three online learning times a day, plus a “special” each day–either music, art, phys ed., library, or science. Oh, and a pre-recorded book read by her teacher. And her paper assignments. I totaled it up, and she had three hours a day of staring at her iPad, and an additional couple hours daily of coloring, stickering, tracing, finding 10 objects in the house that are the color red, etc.

Okay. You might be wondering at this point, “Um, why exactly are you doing this?”

I do have a couple reasons. First, the Lutheran school my oldest attends (and which we love) does not offer anything equivalent, and my husband and I felt our middle daughter really needed something structured to prepare her for kindergarten next year.

And she is getting a lot out of it. She is so very proud of herself. She now has her own school, schoolwork, and flashy unicorn backpack. Not to mention the iPad, which even bears her name. Here she is showing her younger sister an assignment on her iPad.

The past year, she has listened to her older sister talk endlessly about the daily “line leader” for her class. Now, when my middle daughter and her younger sister and I head outside for playtime or to walk over to Grandma’s, she chants, “I’m the online leader! I’m the online leader!”

I can see that she will be able to catch up in areas where she’s a little behind, like fine motor skills, listening and following directions, and expressing herself. In fact, we’ve been wanting to have a speech and language evaluation done for her. Now, finally, she will be getting one this fall. That alone was reason enough to enroll her, and reason enough to keep her enrolled at least through the fall.

I’m really not sure we can manage a whole year of this schedule. Especially when her new baby brother or sister checks out of Hotel Mama for more spacious accommodations. I’m trying not to think too far ahead.

And, in the meantime, I’ve figured out ways to fudge. I just don’t believe that three hours of screen time a day is good for my daughter, or probably any five year old. I’ve cut down on that by skipping pre-recorded online “activities,” during which she is not active at all but just stares at the music teacher playing the tambor, or the art teacher drawing emojis, or the science teacher cutting apart a paper plate. I do feel a little bad because all these educators are working so hard.

Some learning opportunities are just as important, however, if not more. Like picking fresh, juicy cherry tomatoes from the garden, and encountering a giant grasshopper…

collecting sumac, milkweed, and fuzzy tails on a morning scavenger hunt…

and counting the pumpkins in the pumpkin patch.

As always, I’m hoping that she can have the best of both worlds.

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