This year my youngest son and I have embarked on an adventure together–homeschooling kindergarten. I brought my older two boys home from public school after second grade, so this year is my first year to homeschool kindergarten.
I was really worried at first. Worried my son would miss out on “going to school”, worried that I wouldn’t be able to teach him.
So far neither of those fears have come to pass. Our year has gone really well so far and I wanted to share some things that have worked for us.
Deciding to Homeschool
People decide to homeschool for a variety of reasons. Some kids have learning disabilities or other physical disabilities that make it hard for them to attend public school.
Some parents are unhappy about Common Core or are unhappy with the current social atmosphere of public schools.
Others homeschool for religious reasons.
For myself, and as for many others, my reasons are not straightforward and are a combination of all of the above. I also desired for my children to spend more time together bonding as a family.
Whatever your reasons, there are resources out there just waiting for you to discover. You don’t have to go at this alone!
ALE vs. Independent Homeschooling
I will go into depth into this in another article, but when you decide to homeschool you can either do it through an ALE (alternative learning experience) or do it independently. ALE’s are through your public school system. Many school districts give parents the opportunity to do “public school” at home, and your books are paid for by the school district.
This ALE option is becoming increasingly popular and works well for many families, including my own. It depends on how flexible they are with you about curriculum choices and requiring you to spend a small amount of time on-site with a consultant who monitors your children’s progress, either weekly or monthly. They will also not pay for Christian curriculum, although I have found that they have many acceptable curriculum choices (many not Common Core), and you can add any other curriculum you like for religious purposes, you just have to pay for that yourself.
If you homeschool independently, you buy all your own curriculum. In most states you just have to file a “declaration of intent to homeschool” form and submit it to your local school district. In most states this must be done every year starting when your child turns 8 years old. Some states also require yearly testing to make sure your child is at their grade level, although this widely varies from state to state. You also need to make sure you are “qualified” to homeschool your child in your state. In WA state, you need some college credits or you must take a parent qualifying course in order to homeschool your children.
What Age to Start?
You will find many different opinions about when to start homeschooling your child. Some people think that a child in kindergarten should still spend most of the day playing and not be doing book work yet.
After homeschooling three boys, I have found that it really depends on your child when deciding what age to start book work.
My older two boys really struggled with reading and writing in kindergarten. They made progress, but it was very slow. I think if they had started all of that a year later they would have progressed much faster and enjoyed it more. Book work just isn’t “their thing”.
Then my youngest son came along. I was prepared to be patient and follow his cues, and then he decided he wanted to start learning to read when he was four. We started with reading first, and by the time it was time to “start kindergarten”, he sped through his kindergarten work and was ready for first grade work in reading, writing, and math within three months. That is the wonderful thing about homeschooling, you can slow down, speed up, whatever your child needs.
If your child is showing no interest in reading yet, just relax and wait. Read, read, read with your child. I have read with my children practically every day since they were born.
My youngest was very anxious to learn how to read so we started out with Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. We went through a couple of pages a day, and within a couple of months my son was on his way to reading.
If you are looking for an all inclusive package, you might want to check out Primary Arts of Writing and Primary Arts of Reading from Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW). What I like about these programs is that they cover material from K to 2nd grade in each package so that if your child is going through it quickly, it will still take at least a year to go through it all. It has a really good phonics program. This is the curriculum I am currently using with my son, and after several months into the program, he is not only sounding out words but spelling them too.
Saxon also offers Saxon Phonics K: Complete Homeschool Kit First Edition. This is also a good phonics program. You wouldn’t need to do this and the program from IEW, but it is a good alternative. Just keep in mind that the Saxon one is just for reading, it does not cover writing too.
Again, wait until your child shows an interest in reading. You don’t want to discourage him before he’s ready. You’ll be surprised at how fast they can learn when they are ready!
There are many different math programs you can use. We are using Saxon for math and my son is doing well with it. Here is their Saxon Math K Homeschool: Complete Kit 1st Edition. If your child is already counting to 20, understands basic addition and subtraction, and can recognize basic shape patterns, you might want to check out Saxon Math 1 Homeschool: Complete Kit 1st Edition, which is the first grade package.
If I had to do it over again, I would have bought that one first. The kindergarten version focuses a lot on shape pattern recognition and I didn’t realize that my son already knew a lot of what was presented in that book.
The first grade book has counting to 100, counting by 2’s, 5’s, 10’s, counting money, telling time, etc. This was just what my son needed. He’s excited he’s doing first grade math.
You may find that reading, writing, and math is plenty for beginning kindergarten, but there are fun ways to add in other subjects.
We recently found a fun Kindle app (I think they have it for tablets too) called Stack the States. It’s a really great way to learn the state names, capitals, state shapes, flags, etc. I actually purchased it for my fourth grade boys but my five-year-old loves it too. He’s learned a lot about the states just in the couple of days since I got it.
There is another app for learning countries call Stack the Countries. We downloaded that one too.
People homeschool science in a variety of ways. I don’t use a curriculum for science with my kindergartener. There are tons of fun science experiment ideas on Pinterest. Here is the board where I pin the fun ideas I find.
One fun way to explore science is by observing nature. We have ordered many kits from Insect Lore over the years. They have a great Live Butterfly Garden we’ve done many times. We’ve also tried Ladybug Land. They also have a fun Roly-Poly Playground.
Art projects are a great way to add variety to your day. A quick search on Pinterest will bring up hundreds of ideas for easy art projects to do with your child. We love to do seasonal projects centered around the time of year or holidays.
If you are looking for a more structured art program, I have been using Atelier’s DVD based art instruction program for my older boys. They have a Level 1 program that can be used for Kindergarten. These are very structured, basic art lessons and a great way to introduce to your child to more formal art lessons.
Planning Your Day
You will find that your kindergarten aged child will not want to sit down and do lots of book work at one time, if at all.
My five-year-old will sit for about an hour of book work if we do different sorts of activities to keep his interest.
It seems to work well to mix in things he doesn’t like with things he likes. He loves to get stickers for good work so he always picks out a sticker after he completes a page. Another incentive I use is to tell him I’ll play a board game with him after he is done with his school work.
Saxon math has a lot of manipulatives that make learning math fun, so I spend as much time with those as possible to keep his interest. They are more fun than just writing answers on a page.
My son loves me to read books to him so I start his homeschool day by reading with him. I recently got him a subscription to Zoobooks magazine, and he loves it. We often start our day by sitting and reading out of his magazine, and sometimes he will even read it to me. Your local library will carry subscriptions for a variety of children’s magazines, so you might want to check there too.
I generally spend about 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours a day maximum with my five-year-old doing “school” each day. That is plenty of time for him to absorb a new math concept or practice a new consonant or vowel blend. He spends a lot of the day playing with his brothers or with friends or extended family.
Kindergarten on a Budget
If you have a limited budget and do not have access to an ALE that will help pay for your books, then you might consider checking out resources like Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool. That web site gives you links to free resources that covers many aspects of homeschooling, including free books that you can read online. It lists daily lessons you can do with your child. Many people use that web site to homeschool their children, and it is an option that is out there if money is an issue.
If you have more than one child, you don’t need to worry about socialization much at this age, but if you have only one child you might be worried that your child will not get enough socialization if you teach him at home.
There are many ways to provide socialization for your child. Play dates, sports, church…these are just a few possibilities.
If you are part of an ALE or homeschooling co-op, there may be workshops your child can attend or field trips that you can join in on. Just do a search on Facebook for local groups in your area, and you will be surprised at how organized most local homeschooling families are about getting together and spending time with one another.
I’m sure there are many things I forgot to cover here, but my intent was to show you what homeschooling my son looks like. It is working well for us, and he is doing great so far. There are many different ways to homeschool, and you have to choose what works for you and your children. If you start one thing and decide to try something else down the road, that’s okay! Homeschooling is a journey, and it is a journey and I feel blessed to share with my children every day.