This year I taught four kindergarteners to read.
Really, truly read.
As a mom of six kids, I’ve been a part of this process before and marveled with gratitude at my child’s school teacher, wondering, “How do they do it?”
This year, I got to be that teacher and that parent. It was a miracle to watch, and also so entirely prosaic at the same time once I saw the process up close each day.
I’m a Prenda microschool guide. I spend 20 hours each week guiding eight kindergarteners and third graders while learning alongside them. Two of the students are my own children. After I finish brushing my teeth each morning, I walk out of my bedroom and enter my classroom—aka my kitchen and family room.
Today, after a morning recess in my backyard, we gather on my rug and connect over a discussion about the idea, “some things might take me longer than other people, and that’s okay.”
Then we head into Conquer time, where each child is working at their own pace, at their own learning frontier—that gritty spot where what you know and what you don’t know meet.
It is a beehive of activity, in which I:
- hear a kindergartener read a self-illustrated story aloud
- coach a student struggling with handwriting
- check over a third grader’s new-found understanding of fractions
- learn about Greek and Latin roots with another third grader
- watch a child curl up on my couch with a chapter book
- grab some math manipulatives and model place value with another child
- provide a targeted lesson about b/d reversals to a dyslexic student
- laugh over the ridiculous story another learner has written about waking up 2-inches tall one morning.
While Conquer, and the next two parts of our day, Create and Collaborate, are messy, my Prenda microschool is one of the most beautiful things I have ever done with my home.
In Create, we’ve been working on artwork inspired by Henri Mattisse and Eric Carle. Today, we’re making animals cut from the paper we painted yesterday in different textures.
While we work, I play music by Claude Debussy, and one little girl asks, “Can we hear ‘Siren Song’, the one we made up our class play about?”
Everyone tries to help with cleanup, and I read “Charlotte’s Web” aloud over lunch. This leads to a spontaneous discussion about ordinary miracles, and soon, we have gathered around my piano learning the song, “Ordinary Miracles”.
They all run out for a recess as I prep for our Collaborate project, a science experiment about force and magnets. My 9 year-old-son is so intrigued, he begs me to let him keep working on his self-designed experiment after school. Okay, twist my arm.
We end the day on the rug again and each child shares a struggle and a success about their day. Then out the door they go—until tomorrow.
Later that night, I hear my son singing in the shower, “It’s not that unusual when everything is beautiful, it’s just another ordinary miracle today.”
I’ve always loved being a mother. On career day when I was in first grade, I remember wearing an apron to school because I wanted to be a mom. Other years, I dressed up as a teacher.
Now I am both.
Images by: Adriane Thompson
What is Prenda?
Prenda is a learning model focused on empowering learners. In fact, that’s the mission! We support microschools where 5-10 students meet together in an informal setting (often a classroom, library, or other suitable location), learn at their own pace, build projects, and engage with each other in collaborative activities. Each microschool is supported by a certified learning guide and utilizes a proven mastery and project-based learning model to give students more agency and autonomy in their learning. The result is a child that loves to learn resulting in strong academic progress.
How to Get Involved
Interested in becoming a guide? Microschools begin with a dedicated adult in the community who plays the role of learning guide. The best guides are great with children, embody a learner mindset, and have a desire to make a lasting impact on the lives of young people in their community. If that’s you, you can find more information about becoming a guide here!