Children’s brains are amazing things. You may not always see it, but they are absorbing everything around them. An environment rich in educational activities will take a preschooler or kindergartener far.
Everyone dotes on their firstborn. When you have one, you have so much time! For two and a half years it was just Aidan, Mom, and Dad. Then for a year we had a mostly non-mobile baby who just wanted to be held. We worked with Aidan on his letters, numbers, colors, and shapes daily. He loved it! He wanted to do worksheets, so I bought workbooks from Target. He wanted to read, so we took Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and played around with it. He started to read and was old enough for kindergarten, so I picked up What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know and we went through the science, history, geography, and literature, adding to it with books from the library. We did math with a book from Walmart. When the time came for first grade, he tested into second grade math and grammar and sixth grade for reading. We only worked 30 minutes a day, three or four days a week.
Lilly started asking to do school at age three. She wanted to do what “bubby” was doing. I printed out Brightly Beaming’s Letter of the Week curriculum and we played around with it. When she turned four, I bought Rod and Staff’s ABC books. We worked in the books when she was interested. Finally, this year we started more structured work. We struggled with reading for a while, but as of our last official day of kindergarten she can do the following:
1. Read on a K/1st grade level — based on where we are in the Bob Books and McGuffey’s Eclectic Primer, and her ability to read Hop on Pop. She can write all of her letters and spell her name. She writes legible 1-2 word captions for her artwork.
2. She can do everything on the kindergarten list from Math Mammoth. She knows her math facts within five and can find the answers up to ten with manipulatives.
3. She has a fantastic imagination. She becomes different creatures and tells me stories. She creates amazing artwork.
4. She knows a lot about animals and plants through books we have read and from helping in our garden.
She is on “level” with very little structured work.
When I say level, I am not comparing her to what the public schools require of kindergartners; I am looking at research from curriculum developers and what is suggested for 5-6 year olds by the Core Knowledge Group, Charlotte Mason, and Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise in The Well-Trained Mind.
I am not looking for college and career readiness in kindergarten; I am looking for steady growth. I require little writing from my preschool and kindergartners. I have only started requiring writing outside of penmanship practice for my oldest this year in third grade.
I did minimal structured work with either child. They learned at their own pace, and we found their strengths and weaknesses. I was also able to find how they learn. I had time to adjust my teaching methods and curriculum choices to each child’s needs instead of feeling stuck by the expensive curriculum I purchased and felt the need to complete.
Some of my favorite preschool and kindergarten resources include:
Brightly Beaming – We enjoyed the Letter of the Week Curriculum plans. This free resource has coloring pages, activities, and lesson plans for preschool and kindergarten.
Rod and Staff ABC series – The books help develop fine motor skills as well as color, shape, number, and letter recognition. The Bible Story Book gives a good introduction to the Bible if you want that for your family. The books can be purchased individually if you do not want the Bible lessons.
What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know – This series is a great way to be sure your child is “on level.” I love the literature selections for kindergarten. It also provides a good framework for history, science, and geography studies. I used our library to broaden our study on each topic.
Explode the Code – This series of books helps students develop strong phonics skills.
The Bob Books – The books are leveled readers, the repetition helps emerging and early readers cement phonics in their minds and memorize sight words.
McGuffey’s Eclectic Readers – The series builds in difficulty in a scientific manner. The lessons include spelling and reading instruction.
School Zone’s Big Math 1-2 – If you can find it with the DVD, the games help kids learn basic math up through 3 and 4 digit addition/subtraction with regrouping. The book has plenty of pages of practice problems for early addition and subtraction practice. If you make it through the whole book, it introduces multiplication.
Target’s $1 Aisle – I check this regularly in the months of July-September. You can find clock manipulatives, flash cards, workbooks of all levels, and other great educational items. All for $1 each!
Other things to keep in the house: Play dough, crayons, coloring books, blank paper, construction paper, paints, building blocks and Legos, math manipulatives (Cuisinaire rods, Math-U-See blocks, Mortensen Math blocks, beans, marbles, anything countable), lots of books, and your imagination.
Our littlest students will learn. Provide the environment and they will thrive! Don’t push, work at your child’s pace and not only will they learn what they need to learn, they will grow to love learning!
Cheryl–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.