How to Homeschool Your Kindergartener

Many new homeschooling moms stress out about teaching their kindergartener. What curriculum should I use? How many hours a day should we do school? How in the world do I teach my child to read?

Some how-to-homeschool books will try to offer you definitive answers to those questions. But then, to your chagrin, other books will say something completely different.

So which book do you believe?

Well, there's no one right way to homeschool. Every child is different, so there's not a one-size-fits-all curriculum or method that works for everyone.

But there are some guidelines that are worth considering as you plan to teach your kindergartener.

1. Wait until your child is ready before beginning formal schooling.

While I don't fully subscribe to the philosophy of Raymond and Dorothy Moore who recommend delaying formal schooling until 8 to 12 years of age, I do agree that beginning a full kindergarten curriculum promptly at the age of five years of age isn't always the wisest choice. Not all children are ready to learn phonics rules, math fact families, or the history of the United States from a dry textbook when they reach five years of age.

So consider your child's specific needs. Are they really ready for formal lessons? Even if your child seems to be eager to "do school," remember that learning does not necessarily mean teaching from a textbook and completing dozens of worksheets every day.

Don't be overly eager to order a full-year kindergarten curriculum the moment your child turns five. Make sure your child is ready. You're not neglecting your children's education if you don't purchase a curriculum; you're just opting to teach them without textbooks and workbooks.

2. Don't diversify too soon.

Instead of spending 15 minutes on each of seven different school subjects each day, focus on just the basics of numbers and reading at first. Concentrate on teaching your child those fundamental skills before you diversify your curriculum and branch out to all the other subjects.

That's not to say you can't talk about things like magnets, music, or maps. Just don't teach those other subjects formally with a boxed curriculum.

Instead read books — and lots of them. Not only will reading about science and history from living books introduce your child to these subjects, but it will help your child learn to read themselves.

Your child is not going to miss anything if you spend their kindergarten year studying mainly numbers and letters. In fact, they'll likely be better for it. Plus, you'll find science, social studies, geography, history, art, and music are all much easier to teach once your child has a good handle on the written word.

3. Choose hands-on activities over worksheets.

Put the workbooks away and grab a set of number tiles, counting blocks, and some early readers. Focus on teaching numbers and basic counting skills through manipulatives and play. Write numbers in frosting or in the sand. Count all the windows in your house. Have your child help you read recipes and count the eggs and cups of flour you add.

Teach your child the letters and their sounds through songs and games. (I actually love LeapFrog's Letter Factory for this one.) Help them learn the shapes of each letter by drawing pictures of them and playing with letter tiles. Read stories aloud together and point out the words as you go. The possibilities are endless!

Once your child knows his alphabet and the basic sounds and you want to move on to a more formal phonics program, my favorite is Explode the Code. (You can look inside Explode the Code books here.) Ruth Beechick's book, The Three R's, is also an excellent resource for teaching your kindergartner math and reading without a formal curriculum.

4. Teach at your child's pace, and (mostly) ignore what the scope and sequence says.

Education is not a race.

Let me repeat that — Education is not a race.

So when your neighbor informs you her three year old is reading Shakespeare, and her six year old is solving quadratic equations, don't fret. Your child will learn to read and solve math problems when he's ready. If that means you don't finish the kindergarten phonics curriculum until the end of first grade, then so be it. If he can't quite grasp the concept of addition and subtraction yet, don't worry. He will.

Barring a serious learning disability, your child will learn these things when he's ready — and you'll be much happier if you don't try to force him before then.

The ability to teach our children at their own pace is a major reason why I favor ungraded curriculum — curriculum that is not marketed as kindergarten, 2nd grade, etc. Our goal is to help our children master concepts, not to spoon feed them a particular section of a curriculum at a pre-determined grade level.

Too often with graded curriculum we find ourselves hurrying thorugh the last few lessons at the end of the school year because we "don't want them to get behind." We tend to race through concepts because we want to make sure we keep our kids on grade level. Obviously this isn't fair to our children.

But with ungraded curriculum, we are given the freedom to speed up or slow down the pace according to our child's ability to learn. When the curriculum is finished, we know we've covered the concept thoroughly because we've moved on only when the concept is mastered. Plus we don't run into unnecessary repetition of concepts as is present in graded curriculum that uses the spiral method (i.e. reviewing all the basic concepts at the beginning of each grade level).

So have fun homeschooling your kindergartener. You'll be surprised how much they can learn in such a short amount of time.

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Comments

  1. says

    I agree wholeheartedly. This is a great post for those researching HS. I think that most of us who have some years of experience look back and say, "I wish I'd taken it easier, done more hands-on, more nature walks, more games, more field trips when they were little enough to enjoy it."
    .-= Jimmie´s last blog ..World War 2 Lapbook =-.

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  2. Angie says

    Thanks for this post! We are finishing up our first year of homeschooling. It has been hard for me to find that p"erfect" balance this year and I haven't always succeeded. Hopefully my daughter won't be too scarred and hopefully my younger kids will benefit from what I've learned this year about taking it easy. Now, I'm off to a more relaxed homeschool day today. Thanks for this encouragement!

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    Joy Reply:

    @Angie, I'm not sure finding the 'perfect balance' is even possible. Or even if it is, you can only maintain it for a short while. :)

    If I can borrow a medical term, I think finding balance in homeschooling is like a body trying to achieve homeostasis, that perfect balance of body chemistry. There's always a give-and-take going on — adjustments that needs to happen to keep it balanced.

    I think I've finally discovered for me that homeschooling will always mean constant adjustments. Realizing that has relieved a lot of pressure for me in attempting to find 'perfect'. Every tweak to our schedule is like a little adjustment getting us back toward homeostasis, and that in itself is a positive thing.

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  3. says

    My first year of official homeschooling with each child is always just learning to read. Then we add in math, science and history. What they need to know in preschool and kindergarten is learned through just living and talking together throughout the day.
    .-= Lee´s last blog ..Civil War =-.

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  4. says

    I would love to be able to homeschool. Our preschooler has proven to have some minor sensory issues that can make life difficult for him if things get too loud or too chaotic. He's actually in a Christian preschool right now getting help from the school system's occupational therapist. Do you have any resource suggestions for homeschooling parents that might have to deal with a situation like this?
    .-= Sarah´s last blog ..Breastfeeding =-.

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    Joy Reply:

    @Sarah, Sorry, but I've not had any experience with homeschooling a child with sensory issues, and honestly, I don't know anyone personally who has.

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    Becky Reply:

    Sarah, I just read this. If you're still struggling with this, read Elaine Aron's book "the Highly Sensitive Child". It has helped me tremendously. And I am going to homeschool my highly sensitive child, so contact me if you're interested in swapping notes. b.3.66@xoxy.net is my email address.

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  5. says

    Great post! This is one of the reasons why we are life learners. My daughter is reading pretty well with easy readers, but my son wants to have nothing to do with it. He knows the words but would just rather me read to him. This makes my MIL very anxious she says what if he gets behind? I said who is he in a race with? When he is 15 and reading great works of fiction is it going to matter that he wasn't reading easy readers at 7? Not really. He'll do it when he's ready and until then we will continue to read to him.
    .-= Rana´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday =-.

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    Joy Reply:

    @Rana, Yes, just imagine if he were in public school. I'm sure his resistance to reading wouldn't be improved there either, and in fact, he might be stigmatized because he's not reading as well as his classmates.

    Homeschooling allows him to wait until he's ready…and not feel badly about it either. I'm sure it'll come…maybe when he finds that special book that he's just dying to read on his own. :)

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  6. Ruth says

    Great post. Totally agree but a great reminder as I have one soon to be kindergarten age. Even though we are finishing our 15th year with the other kids it is still easy to get caught up in traditional "school" methods and in turn squelch their love of learning. I don't, however, think any age child is ready for dry history textbooks :-) when there are real, living books to choose.

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  7. Russell Person says

    Alex, our Son is in Kindergarten. We have learned a lot about homeschooling this year. We started language arts when he was three and we started slow and easy. We have found ultimate phonics and now reading key to be great curriculum. He is reading at grade 4.5 and we just went from step readers to juvenile non-fiction at the library. I believe it is vital to stay flexible. I also believe that children are not being challenged to move ahead and master every learning level. We have also found connect the thoughts to be a great adjunct to the 3 R's. We are learning living your life in connect the thoughts.
    Wish everyone great success!

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  8. Ruthie says

    I so wish I could've read this a year ago. I have a child in kindergarten now who hates school because of my efforts to do "traditional school". I did that with my oldest and she takes to it well. I'm about at my wit's end with my current kindergartener. I guess I can put the schoolbooks away and start over again. I won't make the same mistake when child #3 turns 5. I'm pinning this for future reference. Thanks for posting this!

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  9. says

    Thank you! I just used a crayola bath tub crayon to circle every "Kindergarten" item in the homeschool catalog that arrived last week… I needed a gentle tap on my forehead to bring me back to sanity.

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