Early Childhood Classroom - Students Ages 5 to 6
Students in this classroom are at a pivotal stage. Studies in early childhood development have long shown that negative experiences during these foundational years will have lasting effects on the child throughout their school years. One study showed that it took three consecutive years of high-quality teachers to overcome the harm done to a child by one poor-quality teacher. A recent study by Vanderbilt University shows an increase both in behavior problems and referrals to special education all the way into 6th grade for students who attended high-pressured, predominantly academic-focused preschool programs as a 4 year old.
In the last few decades the mantra, “the earlier the better” has overtaken early childhood education. While this is certainly true when it comes to medical intervention, e.g. children born with developmental disabilities, it is not true of academic instruction. The human brain is ready for intellectual concepts when it is ready for them–we cannot rush that growth process any more than we can force a child’s body to reach a certain height by a certain date.
Children who are pressured in the early years develop poor learning habits and unhealthy coping skills. These children often feel learning is a series of tricks they have to figure out. (A notion unfortunately reinforced in fast-paced classrooms where teachers are pressured to teach the children “strategies” rather than allowing them to learn through natural discovery.) Instead of experiencing the pleasure of deep understanding, these children often feel like they are faking their way through school. Then, when these students reach middle school and high school where sustained focus and deep mastery is required to understand and retain difficult material, the children who have felt like fakers their whole lives hit a wall. America is experiencing an epidemic of anxiety and depression in teenagers. Families who thought their children were doing well in school feel blind-sided when it all falls apart one day.
Sundial’s founders understand that earlier isn’t better if it isn’t real. We understand that every child is unique and that allowing each child to learn at their own pace isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. Therefore, the following skills and concepts are presented as a spectrum of growth over time. Our students are intentionally grouped into multi-age classes to naturally create a wide range of ability levels in each room so that every child can find a comfortable pace of learning with a group of learners who are similar to them.
Finally, as a supplemental program we partner with homeschooling families so instruction on topics not presented below is provided at home.
Categories and Topics of Learning
Sundial Classical Farmstead, in the classical tradition, is committed to the formation of the whole child: body, mind, and soul. It organizes its curriculum and programming into three broad categories that answer these key questions. What should we know? What should we do? How should we live?
- Liberal Arts & Sciences - areas of study, a) for developing the ability to identify the basic elements (or, grammar) of a discipline and then, b) how to manipulate those elements into a cohesive, true understanding of the world
- Arts & Trades - activities that teach the appreciation and practice of the good and the beautiful
- Virtues & Habits - practices that promote healthy social, spiritual, scholarly, and physical habits
For children ages 5 to 6 our Early Childhood classroom covers the following topics and skills over a two-year span.
The Liberal Arts & Sciences - identification and application of elements to build a true understanding of how the world works
- Language - alphabet, phonics beginning with letter sounds and continuing through blending CVC words, components of books, penmanship when forming letters and numbers, speech articulation, vocabulary development
- Literature - fables, myths, nursery rhymes, poetry, and plays
- Latin - vocabulary development through song
- Mathematics: numerals 0-9, number value to 110, place value to hundreds, addition and subtraction with manipulatives
- History - introduction to ancient civilizations in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas through literature and picture books
- Geography - maps, globes, continents, oceans, landforms and water systems
- Science - nature study, play-based experimentation, sensorial exploration (scent, taste, etc.)
The Arts & Trades - appreciation and practice of the good and the beautiful
- Music - communal singing in the classroom, introduction to instruments, introduction to two composers each year through listening and biographies
- Drawing and Painting - play-based experimentation with various media, introduction to two artists each year through picture study and biographies
Performing Arts (a key component of practicing these arts is the opportunity to perform before an audience in order to develop confidence, articulation, and an awareness of one’s presence):
- Dance - exploring movement through play, introduction to ballet positions
- Choral Singing - introduction to solfege and the 8-note scale, aural memory
- Theater - introduction to scripts, movement, and scenery
- Domestic Arts - cleaning the classroom, food preparation, play-based projects with textiles
- Gardening - from soil preparation to harvest
- Carpentry - introduction to woodworking through basic construction
Virtues & Habits - social, spiritual, scholarly, and physical practices
- Social - manners, sharing of space and resources, resolving conflict, developing empathy
- Spiritual - introduction to the seven virtues through instruction and practice, liturgical readings, sacred art and music
- Scholarly - attentiveness, memorization, narration, task completion, mindfulness
- Physical - daily exercise, nutrition, hygiene