8 Tips for a Great Kindergarten

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Homeschooling Kindergarten is so much fun. And while both my Kindergarteners seem to have run off to higher grades in a blink, many of my friends are making plans to teach 5 and 6 year olds at home next fall. So here’s my two cents on Kindergarten.

1. A little structure with curriculum was helpful for me the first year of homeschooling, mostly because I didn’t have a teaching degree and didn’t feel super-confident. But don’t feel compelled to buy/use lots of curriculum for this age group. You can do wonders with a library card and a little creativity.

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2. Read-aloud, read-aloud, read-aloud. Reading lots and lots of picture books (and a storybook Bible and maybe a few chapter books) out loud is most essential. Listening to written word read is a vital part of literacy. This is where the library card comes in handy. Check out audio books in the children’s section, too. These are great for car rides, younger sibling’s nap times, or times when Mom is busy elsewhere. This post about reading includes various lists of children’s books you might want to put on reserve at the library.

3. Emphasize reading not handwriting, and don’t complicate letter names and sounds with pictures of apples, bananas and cats. Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons is an excellent curriculum that avoids the unnecessary “B is for Banana” work. Instead, you point to the letter and say only the sound. A very dear friend/elementary school teacher used it with her children, and that’s how I first heard about this book. It worked really, really well with both my girls. We waited to start it when they were nearly 5. There’s a tad bit of handwriting included in those lessons as well; I consider that part very optional, especially at first and especially with boys. I’d suggest just doing the 10-15 minute reading lesson part and then take a break.

4. If you want to teach handwriting, too, do it at a separate time for 5-10 minutes and don’t rely on pencil and paper only. Hands-on learners seem to like to do letter handwriting lessons on Mom’s back or in a tray of salt or with finger paint or play-dough. Have fun with that; there’s plenty of time for pencil and paper later. Also, lacing cards and writing with chalk are other fun ways to work on strengthening fine motor skills for pencil-holding.

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5. Do teach math. For my youngest’s Kindergarten year, we used “RightStart Math Level A.” (We’ve also used RightStart curriculum with my oldest since 1st grade and love it. Check out http://www.alabacus.com for samples and more details.) What I like best is that it is Montessori-style teaching, so it comes with lots of manipulatives and fun math games and visual reinforcements like the AL Abacus. It is really light on worksheets, which I think is wise, and it de-emphasizes counting. It stresses the importance of mental math and thinking through math problems, rather than just memorizing math facts. I personally have totally re-learned how I do math with this curriculum!

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6. Go outside! Aside from reading together, almost nothing is more wonderfully memorable than time spent enjoying God’s creation with your children. Soak up the sunshine, smell the flowers and learn their names, discover what little creatures are living nearby — what they eat and where they make their homes. This is science!

7. If you do purchase a boxed curriculum like My Father’s World or Sonlight, don’t let it consume you. You are the parent and the curriculum writers are simply giving ideas. You have excellent, creative ideas, too, and you are the world’s leading expert in what your Kindergartener knows and likes and needs to learn. Don’t become a slave to any curriculum.

8. Stay flexible. Don’t feel like what you do the first year sets things in stone. As you go along, you can always change it up or combine styles or switch out what isn’t a good fit for your child’s learning style or your teaching style. Flexibility is one of the huge benefits of homeschooling.

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