Homeschooling is a surprisingly personal journey. No two home schools will ever look exactly alike, even if aligned by the same philosophy and containing the same-aged children. Instead, besides perhaps some state guidelines, you alone or you with your spouse, are the sole determining factors of WHAT is taught, WHEN it is taught, and for HOW LONG it is taught.
Lesson #1: don’t buy curriculum! At least, not right away. There are SO many boxed curriculums out there and it’s easy to get caught up in the promises or become overwhelmed with the choices. Take a deep breath and decide your NEEDS for the first month or two. One awesome thing about homeschooling: you can change it up whenever you want! What are your goals? Mine were 1) arithmetic, 2) writing, 3) reading, and 4) living books.
Before I focused my attention I was all over the place: classical education, Charlotte Mason, Catholic curriculum, text books, living books . . . Oh wait! Don’t forget about Morning Time. I needed art and music and poetry in our lives!
All this for a newly minted 6-year-old and her wayward 2-year-old brother. Ugh.
After many many podcasts, webinars, research on my own, and books, we now have settled into a very simple and doable routine. It is kindergarten after all! Here’s what I use:
For arithmetic we chose Math-U-See. This is the one boxed curriculum we use and I LOVE it! Does she do every worksheet? No. Do I demand perfection before moving on to the next lesson? No. Honestly, I don’t even use the tests. I make sure she’s about 80-90% proficient and we move on. We settled on Alpha, the “1st grade” curriculum after I discussed my daughter’s current abilities with the sales rep over the phone. (She was SO helpful.) I appreciate the deep level of understanding that the program instills. If you do choose Math-U-See, don’t be surprised if it seems to take your child back a step. You can cruise though the lessons but it’ll create a foundation that is invaluable.
For a new lesson I typically do as follows:
Day 1: watch the DVD lesson to introduce the concept. Depending on how the lesson is, I’ll either have her start a worksheet or wait until the next day
Day 2-3: work on a worksheet that solely focuses to on the new lesson
Day 4: systematic review (I love these because they incorporate the new material with past material as well)
Day 5: an enrichment worksheet (these are also great)
For math, I’ll either set a 10 minute timer and demand full attention for those 10 minutes, or I’ll have her do one side of a worksheet, depending on the difficultly of the problems.
For writing, we started out by working through the alphabet, one letter a day, based on the D’Nealian handwriting style. I chose this style over classic print because I plan on teaching her cursive in the next year or two.
Currently I’ll write out sentences based on poetry, scripture, or a simple rhyming sentence I come up with and ask her to read it first before copying it. In the near future I plan on having her work on spelling out simple words as well, such as “cat”.
Originally we did the book Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. We started this before officially homeschooling, last November, a couple months after she turned 5, and it took us about 8 months to get through it. I’ll be honest: there were tears at times. But we pressed on. About 2/3 of the way through the book, we started setting the timer for 10 minutes because the lessons became a little long. This helped a lot, limiting it based on our own time rather than trying to rock a lesson a day. That’s one thing I have learned through this process of starting homeschooling: the curriculum is a tool, you’re the teacher.
With that said, I do plan on using the book with my son once he turns five. I thought it was very well done and right now my daughter is reading The Giving Tree to herself while I type this so I’d say it worked!
After finishing 100 Lessons we raced through the first few recommended “first books” that are mentioned in the back (she LOVED Inside Outside Upside Down) and then I was at a loss. I personally didn’t want to use very simpl early reader books. My homeschooling philosophy has us reading living books with ideally beautiful language. So, at this point, we read a lot of Dr. Suess (we started with ABCs and moved on to Green Eggs and Ham and One Fish, Two Fish). Currently, four months into our homeschooling journey, she can sound out most words and knows a good handful.
I have consciously chosen to do a mainly phonetic approach to reading. Sight words come naturally through repeated exposure so I don’t do flash cards or worry about the “100 words kids need to know by end of kindergarten.”
Btw, I keep mentioning “living books.” I was confused all last summer about what that term means so here ya go: a living book is any book that tells a story. They’re the opposite of textbooks or any dry non-fiction that is just filled with facts. Living books can be fiction or non-fiction, but a living non-fiction book about Abraham Lincoln will paint a picture of his life and take you through a story. You’ll be able to picture the sequence of events and they will stay with you after you close the book. Living books are beautiful books and most subjects can be taught through these types of stories.
Our actual formal schooling is done in about an hour most days, sometimes less. The rest of her time is spent playing with her brother, asking me tons of questions, and discovering the world around her. She goes on errands with me and is starting to discover prices at the grocery store.
My goal in homeschooling, especially these early years, is to create a foundation for learning while also allowing my daughter to continue her LOVE of learning, her curiosity and wonder.
I love that homeschooling lets her do more of her schooling naturally, on her timeline, when she is ready. We as teachers cannot teach everything. There can be such a sense of being “behind” the brick-and-mortar schools but as long as we teach HOW to learn, our children will be capable of learning anything they need to.
I hope this has given you some guidance. I found the internet lacking in very simple, basic guidance for starting a homeschool, especially for a kindergartener.
Here are some websites I utilize frequently. Podcasts have been invaluable in developing my confidence and introducing me to resources:
I’m curious: What does your homeschool look like? Have you found your own personal rhythm that best suits you family? Do you have a favorite go-to podcast or resource?
Until next time,