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Kindergarten: Laying the foundations of learning.
Before starting homeschooling kindergarten for the very first time, I had extensively researched the internet. I spent endless hours researching: “How to Homeschool Kindergarten” or “How to make Homeschooling Kindergarten Easy”.
Like most first timers, I felt very inadequate and overwhelmed by the thought of being responsible for my child’s entire future education. I had so many questions and fears.
Although I was born in the US, I grew up in Italy and I was very unfamiliar with the school’s system here. Homeschooling is already not an easy task for someone who was born and raised here, add-on I had no idea what school is all about in this country and I was terrified.
- What subjects need to be taught in Kindergarten?
- What math facts do kids need to learn at this age?
- How will I teach my child to read when I just learned to be a fluent English reader less than a decade ago?
- And Writing? Oh Good Lord writing! How will I ever be able to teach my child writing when I felt I was still in the process of learning myself! 😨 These were just some of the questions and fears that were weighing heavy on my mind.
While I found some helpful information online, I wish I had found a clear breakdown of how to successfully homeschool kindergarten.
I understand that homeschool laws and requirements change from State to State. I also understand that a curriculum that works for one child might not work for another. However, I truly believe we could help others embark on this terrifying new journey without being so vague, just because of the fear we might steer them in the wrong direction.
Against what most people think, homeschooling kindergarten is a very important year. We are laying the foundations for our kids reading, writing and math skills. For people like me who are not familiar with the US school system, we need to be held by hand, we need to be fed information like a young kid who is learning a brand new subject.
Finding a Homeschooling Mentor…
Right before I started homeschooling kindergarten, I found many wonderful amazing veteran moms who all had been doing it for a decade or longer and each one of them turned out to be my God-given angels.😇
While I was (and still am) very grateful to have them in my life, I always felt that I was missing something. I always wished I could have found someone who had freshly gone thru the same grades I was about to embark.
We all know when we raise kids, things we have done just a few years before tend to become kind of a blur. I needed more detail-rich information that was still freshly imprinted on someone’s mind to help me better navigate the chaos I was about to encounter.
I believe the void I felt, is now my drive for this blog. That fresh on my mind detailed information, will all be poured onto this blog. My mission is to be able to help families easily navigate thru the grades we have just have gone thru.
So please join me, let me be your Homeschooling mentor and let’s make this Homeschooling Kindergarten not as frightening as it sounds.
Focus on 3 Kindergarten Core Subjects.
First of all, Kindergarten doesn’t have to be loaded with subjects. To all the moms out there who are stressing about this, I want you to declutter your minds right now, take a deep breath and know that there are only 3 things you have to focus on teaching during the K year:
Phonics, Handwriting, Math.
Those will be your core subjects, and really all you need to put your energy into. If your State requires any extra subject (ex.: Health), I would keep it as light as you can because there is only so much that kids at this age can retain.
- You Do Not have to use the same curriculum (Editor) to teach these 3 subjects.
- You Can teach these subjects using different curriculums without creating any learning gaps.
- Learn from my mistakes.
I bought a boxed curriculum thinking it was the only way to avoid a no gaps education, even knowing it wasn’t a good fit for our family. I now learned, gaps happen when you jump around different curriculums within the same subject, not when you use a different curriculum for different subjects.
Let’s start now dissecting each one of those core subjects, shall we? 🔎🔬
My biggest advice to teach reading is to buy a solid phonics curriculum and not try to do without one. There are tons of phonics curriculums out there to pick from and different people have had success with different curriculums.
I think at the end of the day after you do your research and have picked “the one”, the most important thing is to follow their sequence, trust the process, and at the end of the course, you will have a little beginning reader perfect in his own ways.😍
Before starting teaching my 1st year of kindergarten, I had narrowed my research down to 2 reading curriculums:
All About Reading and Abeka Phonics.
My 1st choice was “All About Reading”. I had researched the philosophy behind it, looked at lesson samples, watched all their video blogs, read all reviews from parents who had already used it, and knowing my son, knew it was going to be a wonderful pairing between them for his learning to read journey.
Well, I ended up buying a complete “Abeka K5 curriculum” which included the Abeka Phonics program.🤷♀️ Wait a minute, What??? Well, the reality is, I panicked. 🤦♀️ I panicked because I had nobody telling me exactly what I needed to teach my child for the K year. I panicked thinking that If I go with “All About Reading”, being that it’s a stand-alone reading program, as a brand new homeschool mom I would have no idea what else I needed to pair it with.
What books should a child read in K? Did I need a Spelling curriculum or not? Ok, I could make it on my own I needed Handwriting, but how about a formal writing curriculum, do I need to start one this year? So yes, I panicked and decided to go with a complete K Abeka curriculum. I felt it would give me the guidance and structure I needed since I was a lost lamb in the immensely wide open options of the homeschooling curriculum field.
The “Abeka Phonics” part worked (everything else was not a good fit for us). It taught my 1st born to read and I used it with my 2nd child (only the phonics part), and he’s in his 1st-grade year and reading phenomenally.
In hindsight, if I could do it all over again, I would without a doubt in my mind go with “All About Reading”. So why didn’t I switch after my 1st year since it wasn’t great for us? Here comes my next big advice:
Once you pick a reading curriculum try to stick with it until the end.
Yes please do so, unless it’s a complete mismatch and it makes both your lives a complete misery.
When you start jumping in between curriculums for certain subjects you run into the risk of creating gaps. Usually reading is one of those subjects where each lesson builds upon each other and not all curriculums follow the same sequence. That’s why it’s very easy to miss some important parts while switching between reading curriculums.
Sometimes having to change a reading curriculum is inevitable…
and if that’s the case, do your self a favor and start from the beginning level of your new curriculum. This might not make much sense to you but it’s better to go back and start fresh sometimes than jumping in the middle of a brand new method of doing things.
Your child most likely will breeze thru the familiar parts and what a great self-esteem booster that is! Also by doing this, you are helping him familiarize with the new curriculum making sure he’s not skipping any concepts he might have not learned yet. There will be no chance of creating any learning gaps in his reading and happiness will be waiting for both of you at the finish line. 🏁📚😊
And finally, learn from my mistakes and don’t panic. If you like stand-alone curriculums go for them! You might not realize, but using stand-alone curriculums is a huge Blessing. You can customize each subject you are teaching to your child’s learning style.
Example: Maybe Abeka Phonics is a wonderful fit for you but not their Handwriting approach. Then just go with the phonics portion and buy a different handwriting curriculum and you will be just fine. Actually better than fine, you’ll be “Super” because you are matching your child’s learning style to a curriculum that makes sense for him!
2. Handwriting (Cursive or Manuscript)?
Kindergarten handwriting will be working on letter formation for the entire alphabet, lots of practice, and then copy work. The copy work is an important part not only to practice and refine the child’s handwriting but also begin to understand how letters, when are put together, make words.
There are many handwriting curriculums out there, 2 of the most popular are Handwriting Without Tears and A Reason for Handwriting.
I heard that “Handwriting Without Tears” is great for boys and “A Reason for Handwriting” uses a lot of Bible verses for copy work. For some people, the Bible content might be a great way to feed their children the word of God while practicing handwriting, while for those looking for a secular (non-religious) content this one might not be a good fit.
We used Abeka Writing with Phonics K5 both times I taught kindergarten and it was fine. It’s a no frills, straight to the point type of approach that doesn’t even require a teacher’s manual to teach.
My kids learned decent handwriting so I have no complaints. 🖋 😊 “Abeka Handwriting with Phonics K5” has a few Bible verses and inspirational sentences throughout the whole book which I found it to be a nice touch but not overdone.
One of the dilemmas for parents who start homeschooling Kindergarten is making the decision between teaching cursive or manuscript.
Most schools these days have done away with teaching cursive so if teaching cursive stresses you out I would go ahead and just start with Manuscript and then introduce cursive in 3rd grade.
Why introduce cursive at all if most public schools don’t even bother teaching it?
Because our children are bound to encounter cursive at some point in their lives. Sadly some kids these days can’t even read a cursive text. By teaching it, our kids will be at least able to read it even if cursive will not be their to go handwriting style. It will also come in handy when one day they’ll need a true signature and not just an easily forgeable scribble.✒😉
We chose to do Manuscript for K-2nd grade and then in 3rd grade we started A Reason for Handwriting – Transition level.
The first half of the book has Manuscript practice, where the second half teaches each letter cursive formation and it then goes into cursive sentence writing practice.
I have to say I was pleasantly surprised to see my 8-year-old son truly enjoying to learn cursive. I think the novelty factor plays a role and also that he’s old enough to realize he can’t understand cursive script. I believe together these reasons became his motivation to learn and finally be able to decode that secret code he always wondered about! 😁
If I were you I wouldn’t lose sleep over this. There are different advantages to starting cursive from the get-go or later on. At the end of your research, you just have to make the best choice for your situation and pick which handwriting style makes sense for you.
Lastly, the one you feel more comfortable teaching will make it for an easier and smoother experience for you both. After a few years, once your child has mastered it and your teaching confidence has soared, then introducing and teaching the other handwriting style should be a breeze. Happy writing! 📝
3. Math (Mastery or Spiral)?
Math concepts covered during the kindergarten year can widely vary depending on which curriculum you decide on using. One major difference between math curriculums that I wish I knew before I started, is the Spiral vs. Mastery method.
Math curriculum spiral method.
This method introduces a new concept while a child is working on mastering a previous one. They practice concepts learned while introducing new ones.
The spiral method is the closest to the public school’s way and works for kids who don’t do well with the repetition that comes with using a mastery program. By the end of the K year, kids will have been introduced and learned most of their addition and some subtraction facts.
Math curriculum Mastery Method.
Curriculums based upon the mastery method will only introduce one math concept at the time and will stay on it until your child has mastered the concept. For example, while your child learns additions he will not be introduced to any subtractions until he has learned all of his addition facts.
The mastery method is very different from the one used by the public school system and it works well for kids who are better at focusing on one thing at a time, instead of being taught different concepts at once.
By the end of the K year, kids will have learned basic math facts including but not limited to: counting to 100, some skip counting, place value, and some easy addition facts. Both methods teach how to write numbers.
Best math approach: Spiral or Mastery?
When choosing which method is best for your family, you should keep in mind how long you intend on homeschooling.
Since the mastery method only introduces one concept at a time, during the early elementary years it can be seen not on par with what other kids their same age are learning. In the early High school years, I believe it catches up and levels out with what’s being taught using the spiral system.
This will not be an issue if you intend on homeschooling for the long run but if you are only homeschooling for a year or maybe a few before enrolling them back in public school (ex: you are moving and need to homeschool only while relocating), you might find your child has fallen behind compared to his public school peers.
With that said, we are huge fans of the mastery method! I say “we” because it has given my eldest child a complete understanding and love for math. We went from tears to Joy, from dredging math time to looking forward to doing math and actually telling me: I can do this, I don’t need you mom!💕🙌
Math You See is our math savior and interesting enough it was “the one” I had chosen before I panicked and went the boxed curriculum route.
I truly believe, us mothers who have been teaching everything to our kids since birth, already have a pretty good understanding of our kids’ learning style. Nobody knows a child as a mother does, so follow your gut and don’t let fear overtake you as I did!
Contrary to what I told you about possibly trying to stick with the reading curriculum of your choice until the end, I would not advise doing the same with math.
While a reading curriculum only lasts for about 3 years, math will be with you and your student until the very end of your homeschooling journey. If the math curriculum you picked isn’t working and you stay with it for the fear of creating learning gaps, well, you’ll both be stuck in misery for a very long time..13 years to be correct. 😟
For how frustrating it is don’t despair. Sometimes we get it right the first time, sometimes it takes a couple of tries before you find the one that clicks with your child. Whatever the case might be just make sure you backtrack a little when starting the new math curriculum to make sure no concepts have been skipped.
How to Introduce Critical & Thinking Skills in Kindergarten.
Although I didn’t mention this one in my core curriculum subjects, I truly believe the sooner you start incorporating Thinking Skills workbooks and activities the better. Kids find the little mind benders to be fun and it gets those wheels spinning without them even knowing. 🤔🧠
For both my kids in kindergarten I used the Abeka “Think & Learn” book but you need to follow the L.A. teacher’s manual in order to complete some assignments. As a stand-alone Thinking Skills book, I would look into Evan-Moore Skills Sharpener Critical Thinking, a K level book from the Critical Thinking Co. or really any Critical Thinking book of your liking.
–Spelling and Writing?
Not needed. You will start these subjects in 1st grade.
How about History, Geography, Health in Kindergarten?
If your State doesn’t require any of these subjects as a K requirement but you have it in you to do it, knock your self out!😉 Some say not to bother with History and Geography until 3rd grade. I personally started introducing these 2 subjects in 1st grade, in a really gentle and light matter.
No quizzing, not workbook, just a light reader we would read to them once a week on the couch in the evening. At these age kids have the attention span of a squirrel so I personally found it absolutely useless to introduce these subjects during kindergarten. 🐿😲
-Art and Stem.
For Art, I didn’t buy a book to help me with art projects ideas until 1st grade came around; and for Stem, I didn’t feel the need since my kids have always been an avid puzzle and building blocks, and lego builders.
And now: Ready, Set, GO!
Now that you have a better understanding of what subjects need to be covered during Kindergarten, all you have left is researching and picking curriculums that are “the ones”.
Remember what happened to me when I let doubt and fear take over…I picked my second best choice and then a couple of years later, I eventually ended up going back to what I knew since the beginning was the right fit for us.
Sometimes when research is overdone it can cloud your mind. When you have that moment where your gut is telling you to look no further because you have found “the one”, chances are it’s the right call.