Kindergarten at Home: Getting Started
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Making the decision to homeschool is big. The next step is choosing curriculum and planning what and how you want your child to learn.
I’m a big proponent of old school kindergarten –a very relaxed approach that focuses on learning through play, outdoor time in the natural environment, reading lots of books together, and exploring whatever my child is interested in. But I do like to have a some curricula choices on hand to use as a guide. There’s no one answer of how to homeschool kindergarten but here’s an easy way to get started and help you and your child enjoy the kindergarten year at home.
Homeschool Kindergarten Goals
These will vary by child, but I like to set some very flexible goals. Goals can be re-evaluated mid-year, bumped to next year or accelerated as the child progresses. For example, my 5-year-old wanted nothing to do with learning to write letters and numbers in preschool last year so this year, I introduced it again and he is totally on board. Another example: He enjoys math and sailed through his kindergarten workbook in half the year, so we started a 1st grade math workbook. Here are our goals. Your family’s goals may be quite different. I based these on my child’s experiences, interests, temperament, etc.
- Have a positive attitude about learning.
- Make new friends.
- Play for hours every day.
- Go outside every day to explore and play unless the weather is completely uncooperative.
- Progress with self-care skills and helpfulness around the home: Zip own coat, help mom put clothes in the dryer, feed pets, etc.
- Be comfortable exploring the library and choosing books.
- Progress with learning to read.*
- Write all capital and lowercase letters fluently, as well as numbers.
- Listen to mom read out loud daily.
- Use a calendar and grasp understanding of months, days of the week and seasons.
- Count to 100, including recognizing numbers out of order between zero and 100.
- Begin basic addition, subtraction, fractions and money math.
- Identify the 7 continents and begin learning some basic world and US geography.
*Progress in reading. My experience tells me that waiting until my kids are ready to read is the most effective way to teach reading. Introduce it and take their lead, moving forward or backing off as they indicate.
Kindergarten Curriculum Ideas
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I use workbooks mostly as a guide for me. So when the handwriting workbook says we are working on the letters M and N, we write those on the windows with window crayons, draw them in the salt tray and make birthday cards and Valentines.
For math, when we are adding 5 + 3, my child can write that in the workbook if he wants too but if he’s full of energy that day, I might suggest he run upstairs to get 5 stuffed animals and then run to the downstairs toy basket to get 3 more and we add them together, writing the equation here.
Handwriting (about twice per week) Handwriting Without Tears Kindergarten. I have both the child’s workbook (about $12) and the teacher’s guide (about $16) but I think one or the other is sufficient. Get the workbook if you plan to have your child write in it or get the teacher’s handbook if you plan to use it as a guide and have your child practice handwriting in various ways mentioned above.
Reading (once or twice per week formally, and throughout the day as we see words). I use The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading ($24) as a guide for word lists and phonetic sounds and we use uppercase and lowercase letter magnets, we sound out letters on road signs and in the grocery store and when I’m reading to my child.
Science (once or twice per week) Favorite resources for this include Janice VanCleave’s 200 Gooey, Slippery, Slimy, Weird and Fun Experiments and using our lists of holiday and season themed experiments. I also advise going with your child’s interests. If he’s interested in reptiles, read about them at the library and go see them at a nature center, pet store or zoo. If she is interested in weather, record your observations and watch some pre-screened videos on YouTube.
Geography I love our Little Passports subscription. Beyond teaching the basic continents, I didn’t really have a plan for geography. We are using the World Edition of Little Passports for project based learning. A new country package comes each month with activities, a souvenir, stickers for their LP suitcase, a passport stamp and more. You can choose between a USA Edition or a World Edition (a 1 year subscription is $11.95/month). Additionally, we print out a flag and color it, look at the country on Google Earth and check out supplemental picture books from the library.
Sample Daily Schedule
This is what works for us.
Wake up naturally, eat breakfast, get ready for the day, play or outside time.
10:00 a.m. Meet at the table or the couch with a snack for read aloud time. This flows into whatever structured learning I have planned for the day: math, reading, handwriting or science, with a play break between each. But if my kindergartener wants to look up information about birds on Google or to see if small rocks can float on water, I ditch my own plans and go with what sparks his curiosity.
11:30 Done! Kids move onto playing while I make lunch.
Afternoons are for outdoor play, social time with friends, library trips or structured activities (this year my son chose to take a basketball class, ice skating lessons, volunteer at our local nature center and I organized a nature explorers group for other same-aged kids). We didn’t do all of these things at once but we have something we go to most days.
There’s more reading in the evenings and lots more play. And we always follow the rabbit trails of learning whenever they occur. For example, if my kindergartener asks a question about dinosaur eggs, we Google it, pull out books, watch a video or whatever fits until he is satisfied with the answers.
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