Years ago, when I first started homeschooling, I spent hours planning how to go about kindergarten in our homeschool. Detailed plans included folders of craft projects, stacks of books, and various recommended curricula.
As I look back the post I wrote about our homeschool plans, I cringe and laugh. Then I cringe and laugh again. It is a sort of rinse and repeat process. “If I had only known,” I tell myself.
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I am reminded again of the multiple statements about man’s plans and God’s ways from Scripture. This one top of mind.
All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight,
But the LORD weights the motives.
Commit your works to the LORD,
And your plans will be established…
The mind of man plans his way
But the LORD directs his steps.Proverbs 16: 2-3, 9
However humbly I offered my “plans” for our kindergarten year, only God knew what was in store for that year. Only God could have known the upheaval in store for us.
In the midst of that upheaval, we still “homeschooled” through kindergarten, but we threw out almost every curricula I had carefully selected. And we found simple. We had no other choice most days.
And you know what? As I look back over our first kindergarten experience, I wouldn’t change a bit of it. But I would do things differently from the start. I did, when I got the opportunity the very next year with my second daughter. And we are maintaining simple kindergarten for the next two as well.
Today, I am going to share our laid-back kindergarten approach – better called an approach than a plan. And I am going to share my thoughts on “kindergarten” in general. Let’s start with the basics.
What is Kindergarten?
This. That question is what throws this whole game up in the air, pieces flying, tumbling back down to the floor. What is kindergarten? Even the age at which someone is ready for kindergarten is up for debate. How long should it last? How do you know when your kid is ready for kindergarten? And then how do you know when they have reached 1st grade? What does a kindergartener do?
All this is, in my opinion, complicated even more in the homeschool setting. Homeschooling is wonderful for its flexibility. But that same flexibility can cause parents to question themselves right from the beginning, leaving them less than sure-footed for most of the early years of homeschooling. Self-doubt and the lingering question – “Am I doing enough? – remain.
My Definition of Kindergarten
I am by no means an expert on homeschooling nor any of these questions about kindergarten. But I have walked the road and I have made some observations. Those are:
Kindergarten in our homeschool is to be these things:
I reserve the right to add to this list as I go. In the meantime, let’s tackle them one by one.
Homeschool Kindergarten is Short
When I say kindergarten is short, I do not mean the time it takes to do kindergarten each day is short. I mean the season of kindergarten is short. At least in our home it is short. Our initial kindergartener was excelling beyond early elementary standards in almost every area, so we moved her up rather quickly. Our second kindergartener was the same. We had done pre-k and TK with her in previous years, so her kindergarten year was short (from September to November). Our current kindergartener (I still don’t know where to fit him) is in the process of a short kindergarten term.
Why do I think Kindergarten is to be short? I think it is short because there are literally two things I want my kids to be able to do before moving into first grade. Those two things: 1. count to one hundred, able to identify the numbers; and 2. read simple readers.
Homeschool Kindergarten Goals and Requirements
The later of these two “requirements” (such as they are) is the ticket to first grade in our home. My second kindergarten student was a reluctant reader. She knew her letters at the beginning of her kindergarten term, but she had previously struggled with the sounds. Frankly, she was not interested in reading – her sister could do that and she was fine to just sit and listen.
Thus, my goal for her was to get her started down the road of reading during her kindergarten year. Mind you, I understand there are difficulties in teaching a child to read which do not adhere to a specific schedule. I am not trying to say I wanted her reading Robinson Crusoe and Moby Dick by the end of kindergarten. I just wanted her to be able to simply read something.
Her success in kindergarten honestly overwhelmed me. She surpassed the simple reading goal and the simple math goal so quickly, it made my head spin.
The reading program we used and will use with all our kids is Primary Arts of Langauge from IEW. I have written about how we use it here.
By November of her kindergarten experience she was not just what I term a reader, but she is somehow a speed reader. She could read independently and confidently. She got her ticket to first grade and we started in January.
Homeschool Kindergarten is Simple
The foregoing discusion of kindergarten’s short duration may or may not have given you the indication of its simplicity. Our homeschool kindergarten is about as simple as one can make it. There are two subjects on tap for each day – reading and language.
We said good-bye to Kindergarten math three days in with our first kindergartener. You can read more about that here. So we really don’t do math in kindergarten. We only do math as it comes up naturally in the course of our days. There is no intentional math program in our homeschool kindergarten.
Note: if you are interested in doing math in your homeschool kindergarten, I highly recommend taking the Saxon Math approach. However, I believe the Saxon K program to be a thouroughly pre-k program. Have your student take the placement test before you reach your conclusions about the program. You can read more about my thoughts on Saxon Math in the Early years here.
Since there are only two subjects on tap for the day, simplicity is a natural result. We take maybe a half an hour to work on reading and another half hour to work on language. And “school” is done for the day.
That’s not to say learning is done for the day. But I feel we have “accomplished kindergarten” if we can check those two boxes.
Homeschool Kindergarten is Relaxed
It may seem that since there are so few requirements a relaxed atmosphere is the result. But I don’t think that is the case. A relaxed atmosphere comes from enjoyment of work, not strict adherence to box-checking. There were many days in our kindergarten experience where absolutely NOTHING was accomplished according to the two boxes. And yet learning happened.
On those days, we may have taken a walk, discussing things we saw or lolled on the couch, reading books aloud. Other days, we joined our Classical Conversations community, which included so many learning opportunities I was not offering at home. Sometimes, learning was “kitchen” learning – baking or washing dishes. Often learning was memorizing poetry or memory work and performing it for family members.
Our homeschool kindergarten is so relaxed it may not appear any development is actually going on. Yet somehow at the end of the Kindergarten term – voila – we have a first grader!
Homeschool Kindergarten is Engaging!
Alright, I know you have been waiting for me to discuss the nitty-gritty of our homeschool kindergarten – the resources! Yes, that’s nice that you are so relaxed and simple, but tell me what you DO! Well, here’s what we do:
- PAL program – as I mentioned before, we absolutely love this program and would not do any other reading program for any reason.
- All About Spelling – I only mention this because my son (who is in some quasi pre-k/kindergarten/first grade season) insists on doing this – I keep the requirements super-low for him. We did not do All About Spelling for our previous kindergarteners.
- First Language Lessons – another program we absolutely LOVE for kindergarten (here’s my review). The kids memorize simple poems and it gently incorporates a Classical and CM approach. We are currently using this for my son – Level 1.
- Classical Conversations Foundations curriculum – we are huge fans of our local CC community and the global CC curricula. Although we started out somewhat skeptical, we have been blessed immeasurably by this program for our elementary age kids.
That’s it. Our typical homeschool kindergarten day will include a few minutes spent in each of these areas. The PAL program takes no longer than 30 minutes of hands-on teacher instruction each day. Add in 10 minutes of All About Spelling, and 10-15 minutes of First Language Lessons. We do our CC review as a family (one room schoolhouse) for another 30 minutes each day.
The reason I chose each of these curricula is their engagement potential is high. Each of these programs hit my kids in all the right places for learning. They are perfectly positioned as Grammar stage curricula, emphasizing the naming, attending, memorizing, expressing, and storytelling aspects kids of this stage glom onto.
Homeschool Kindergarten is Preparatory
While the goals for our homeschool kindergarten are simple, there are many things going on in our homeschool day which prepare my students for the future. I view homeschool kindergarten as a stepping stone in the process.
The kids, especially the younger ones in our family, can clearly see the path before them. They are encouraged to do many of the one-room schoolhouse things we do together. I do not require they pass tests or meet standards. This is a season of laying foundations for future school enjoyment. But as they see their older siblings working on “bigger” things, they can look forward in excitement to the days when they will be in their shoes.
Our homeschool kindergarten is hopefully where a love of learning is cutivated. If I can accomplish that, I feel I am preparing my students for future homeschooling pursuits.
Alright, those are my thoughts on Homeschool Kindergarten having gone through it two and a half times. You may have noticed that each kid had a different kindergarten experience. That is the beauty of homeschooling, custom educational plans and goals.
I would love to hear your questions about homeschooling in kindergarten. Is there something I didn’t talk about which you would like to hear me address? Leave a comment or drop me a line and let me know what you you are wondering.
Homeschool Kindergarten Favorites
In the article above all the links are to articles for further reading. But if you are looking for direct links to our absolute favorite kindergarten resources, heres a quick list.
- Primary Arts of Learning Program
- All About Spelling
- First Language Lessons
- American Language Readers
- Classical Conversations Foundations Guide