Homeschooling Kindergarten: How we do it

Dear Reader,

One common question from those considering homeschooling is how and what do you teach the littlest children? There is a temptation for new homeschoolers to buy a boxed curriculum that spells everything out for them. This assuages the parents fears about how to teach the material and also about not missing anything. But the end result is sometimes a five-year-old who is overwhelmed by too much work. What starts out as fun can quickly become a burden and school is no longer something to look forward to.

A four- or five- or six-year-old does not need to learn everything at once. There will be plenty of time for science and history and geography and grammar in years to come. What they need is a good foundation in the basics–reading and math. When my oldest was 5 I diligently taught him about different cultures. It was our introduction to social studies/geography/history. So we would pick one culture, say China, and we would read stories and do crafts and discuss their customs. And my son enjoyed it. But I found that after a few weeks, he had no memory of what we had studied. He couldn’t remember that this was China and that was Chile. This has been true with most of my kids, they are happy to do the crafts and things, but until age 7 or so, they just don’t seem to retain a lot. I am not arguing for giving up all these extra studies necessarily. They can be fun. But I don’t think one necessarily needs to expect retention at this age. Perhaps this is why Charlotte Mason did not have children narrate till age 6 or 7, they are just not able to keep everything in mind until then.

We have always used a reading curriculum. I really loved The Reading Lesson (this is an online, printable curriculum; I believe the first chapters can be downloaded for free so it is worth trying) which I used with my third child. But for the other three I used 100 Easy lessons. Three out of my 4 kids had speech delays and they seemed to need the structure of this format. Others teach their kids to read with no curriculum whatsoever, just going through books, learning the words they need. That probably would have worked for my second child but not for any of the others.

I don’t like to start a reading curriculum until my child has some background. many curricula are designed to be used with children who don’t even know their ABCs but I like them to have some foundation before we begin. I start with letter recognition–this is A, B, C and so on (though you don’t have to do them in order; often it is better to start with the letters in their names). Then we move on to what sound each letter makes. It helps to focus on words that begin with that letter: “Z-z-zoo begins with Z. What letter do you hear at the beginning of z-z-z-zebra?” I don’t wait for 100% proficiency on this but when they know the sounds of many letters, we will also begin to introduce rhyming words or recognizing the end sounds of words. Basically, I just ask myself, “What is the next logical skill for them to learn?” and then we do that. You can get cheap workbooks at someplace like Walmart for all these things or you can just do things on your own. Once these skills are in place, then we are ready to begin more formal reading lessons.

I do not link writing to reading. My second child pretty much taught herself to write after she knew her letters by sight. But my others have all had poor fine motor skills. They are able to read or recognize a lot more than they write. We like the Handwriting without Tears curriculum but there are also many cheap workbooks one can by for learning to write letters or again you can get a cheap dry erase board or chalkboard or piece of paper and do it on your own. In writing, it does help I think to group letters by how they are formed. Some are much easier than others. I like the order in which HWT introduces them.

When it comes to math, I also ask myself, “What is the next logical skill?” We begin with number recognition and simple counting. When they can count to five, then you move on to ten, and then twenty. We use Math-U-See as a math curriculum, but for the earliest years I think it is just as effective to come up with things yourself or to get those cheap workbooks again. It is important to learn to count groups of things as well as just to say the numbers in order. A one to one correspondence of objects or numbers to objects sometimes takes a little while for children to get. Once counting skills to at least 20 are in place, we can begin to ask questions like “If I have 2 apples and get one more, how many do I have?” I find that if you talk about cookies (or use actual cookies), kids are very quick to realize how many they have. Many of these early math skills may not even require a special time on your day. Just ge into the habit of noticing and pointing out things to your child as you go through your day: “We need apples for you, Daddy, and me. Can you count out three apples for me?”

Many of those who ask “How do I begin?”  have three- or four-year-olds. Ad if your child is ready at that age, I see no problem with beginning on these simple things. But if your child is resistant or not getting it, there is no harm in waiting till they are 5 or 6 or 7. With reading especially, I have found that things just seem to click at some point, and it is not always the same point for every child. It is a great feeling to get your first child reading, it makes you feel like you can do this homeschooling thing. But if your first child struggles, it does not mean you are doing a bad job. You may need to try different approaches,, you may just need to give them time. It can also be frustrating to have one child who learned easily and then a subsequent one who struggles. But just remember they are different people. You need to let them each go at their own pace.

Nebby

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Thanks for your contribution to this week’s Carnival of Homeschooling. It will post Wednesday morning, July 13th on my blog, A Life Supreme (www.asupremelife.blogspot.com ). I’d appreciate it if you could advertise the carnival here on your blog. And please consider using one of the COH images found here: http://whyhomeschool.blogspot.com/2008/05/we-have-winners-of-carnival-of.html.

    Blessings,
    Laura

    Reply

  2. I agree a lot with what you are saying here! Learning to relax and wait until your child shows a readiness is hard for some I think, but it actually makes teaching them so much easier!

    Reply

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