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.