Category: Homeschooling

My Homeschool Kindergarten Curriculum

This year is Cody’s first official year of legally required schooling, and we will be doing homeschool Kindergarten. Last year we did Kindergarten as well, but it was more of his “T-K” or Transitional Kindergarten year. And because I got pregnant (and therefore sick) in January, we didn’t get very far and weren’t able to be consistent. So this year is the real Kindergarten year for Cody. 😊

For our curriculum, I have continued to adjust and hone based on our experiences last year. I have kept in mind the fact that we will be juggling a newborn baby along with homeschooling this year, so I need to keep it as streamlined and hands-off as possible. Of course, Kindergarten is a pretty hands-on grade to teach! But with so much technology available now, I’m optimistic that Cody will be able to learn a lot of what he needs to without me directly teaching him.

It’s also good to know that while a minimum of several hours of instruction time per day is mandated for Kindergarten students in public schools (including virtual/online schools), that doesn’t apply to independent homeschools. Because one-on-one homeschooling is much more efficient, only about an hour and a half of school time is recommended per day for Kindergarten homeschoolers. That’s much more manageable goal for my family.

Our daily subjects this year are Language Arts/Reading/Vocabulary, Handwriting/Spelling, Read-Aloud, Math, Science, and Social Studies. Then we have weekly subjects of Art, Science Lab (experiments), Foreign Languages (ASL & Spanish), and Motor Skills/Logic/Critical Thinking. That may seem like a lot, but I’ve organized our schedule to be simple and easy.

Our materials for all of these subjects include several apps that Cody can use on his tablet, plus a few books and lesson kits. We also have an extensive home library of kids’ educational books and workbooks at our disposal.

Our base curriculum is through a program called Acellus. This is an affordable subscription-based service that includes Language Arts/Reading, Math, Science, and Social Studies. Each day, students are given assignments in each area, which spreads out the year’s curriculum evenly for the school year.

We also have several learning games on the computer/tablet from Endless Learning, including Endless Reader, Endless Alphabet, Endless Wordplay, Endless Numbers, and Endless Spanish. These are very well-made and fun-to-use apps that Cody enjoys, and he can play with them independently.

The last app we have for homeschooling is Khan Academy Kids, which is a wonderful program. It has fun songs, games and activities that teach logic and critical thinking, as well as a large read-aloud library. It is very well-made and fun for the kids, both Cody and Abigail.

We are using three lesson kits that I bought but never used for Cody’s schooling last year. These include All About Reading (Level 1), Spelling You See (Level A), and Math-U-See (Primer). These kits include instruction guides, workbooks, and other materials to teach these subjects.

Then we have a few books we are using for specific subjects, including The Reading Lesson, Teach Me Handwriting, The Art Book for Children, What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know, The Everything Kids’ Science Experiments Book, and We Can Sign. Lastly, we have flash cards for teaching ASL (American Sign Language) and Spanish. For science experiments and art projects, we are utilizing the many ideas available for free on the internet.

Here is what our detailed weekly schedule looks like:

Each day includes hands-on instruction in only one or two subjects, which are bolded.

Monday

  • Acellus – supervised independent work for 30 minutes
  • Reading & Vocabulary – lesson from The Reading Lesson for 10 minutes
  • Handwriting & Spelling – Endless Wordplay for 10 minutes
  • Read-Aloud – Khan Academy Kids library for 10 minutes
  • Math – Endless Numbers for 10 minutes
  • Art – one lesson from The Art Book for Children; supervised art project (approx. 20 mins)
  • Total hands-on time: about 30 minutes
  • Total school time: about 1 hour 30 minutes

Tuesday

  • Acellus – supervised independent work for 30 minutes
  • Reading & Vocabulary – Endless Reader for 10 minutes
  • Handwriting & Spelling – lesson from Teach Me Handwriting for 10 minutes
  • Read-Aloud – Khan Academy Kids library for 10 minutes
  • Math – Endless Numbers for 10 minutes
  • Social Studies – one lesson from What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know for 10 minutes
  • Total hands-on time: about 20 minutes
  • Total school time: about 1 hour 20 minutes

Wednesday

  • Acellus – supervised independent work for 30 minutes
  • Reading & Vocabulary – Endless Alphabet for 10 minutes
  • Handwriting & Spelling – Endless Wordplay for 10 minutes
  • Read-Aloud – books from our homeschool library for 10 minutes
  • Math – Endless Numbers for 10 minutes
  • Science Experiments – The Everything Kids’ Science Experiments Book or use an idea from the internet (approx. 10 minutes)
  • Total hands-on time: about 20 minutes
  • Total school time: about 1 hour 20 minutes

Thursday

  • Acellus – supervised independent work for 30 minutes
  • Reading & Vocabulary – Endless Reader for 10 minutes
  • Handwriting & Spelling – Endless Wordplay for 10 minutes
  • Read-Aloud – Khan Academy Kids library for 10 minutes
  • Math – lesson from Math-U-See for 10 minutes
  • Foreign Languages – lesson from We Can Sign, and/or ASL or Spanish flash cards for 10 minutes; Endless Spanish for 10 minutes
  • Total hands-on time: about 20 minutes
  • Total school time: about 1 hour 30 minutes

Friday

  • Acellus – supervised independent work for 30 minutes
  • Reading & Vocabulary – Endless Alphabet for 10 minutes
  • Handwriting & Spelling – Endless Wordplay for 10 minutes
  • Read-Aloud – Khan Academy Kids library for 10 minutes
  • Math – Endless Numbers for 10 minutes
  • Motor Skills, Logic, & Critical Thinking – Khan Academy Kids for 10 minutes, supervised work on free choice of workbook for 10 minutes
  • Total hands-on time: about 10 minutes
  • Total school time: about 1 hour 30 minutes

The best thing about our schedule is that I only have to spend 10-30 minutes doing hands-on instruction each day. The rest of the school time is Cody doing independent activities with my guidance and assistance as needed. It should be manageable even while juggling other childcare duties. At the same time, it’s a full curriculum and I don’t feel like it’s lacking in any areas at all.

It’s also flexible! If Cody is particularly interested in a specific subject or activity, we can always spend more time on it. But for the most part, his attention span is still pretty limited so it’s nice to have a reasonable goal of only about 10 minutes per subject per day.

Overall, I believe it is important for kids to spend a lot of time playing and independently exploring their world rather than doing formal schoolwork. I want Cody to enjoy learning, and learn not just through memorization or repetition, but through experience. I think that our curriculum is going to encourage that, without neglecting the subjects that he does truly need to learn in a more formal way.

I’m excited to get started this year, and see how we do with our new curriculum! We will be doing year-round school, which means we have more frequent vacation periods spread out throughout the year rather than one long break during the summer. It also means we’ll be finishing our school year in August, followed by a short break before beginning again with the next school year. I’m eager to see how this works for us as well. I’m hoping it will discourage burnout and give us more flexibility as a family.

Kindergarten, here we come!

Semi-interesting notes:

It’s common, at least in California, to do Preschool for kids between 2-3, Pre-K for 3’s, T-K for 4’s, and then finally Kindergarten for 5’s, which is exactly what we have done so far. Those grades are based on the child’s age at the start of the school year in September, so since Cody’s birthday is in October, he’s on the older side for his grade level—he starts the grade at the “normal” age, but has his birthday a month later. We actually prefer for him to be slightly older than his peers rather than younger, so it works for us. Abigail will be even more so, since her birthday is in early September, right at the beginning of our school year.

For Abi, we’re not doing any formal homeschool Preschool, for a few reasons. One is that she already absorbs a lot from watching and listening in on Cody’s schooling, and another is that it doesn’t seem manageable with Amelia arriving in October. So we won’t be starting her homeschooling until Pre-K, just after she turns 4 in in September 2021—followed by T-K when she turns 5, and Kindergarten when she turns 6.

This choice means that both Cody and Abigail will be 18 years old during their senior year of high school, rather than turning 18 several months after graduating. We plan on doing the same thing for Amelia’s schooling, since she is expected to have an October birthday.

Schoolin’

Here is a peek inside my Pre-K Homeschool curriculum for Cody this year!

Book List

Bible:
Children’s Bible – 101 Favorite Stories from the Bible by Ura Miller
Memory Verses – My ABC Bible Verses: Hiding God’s Word in Little Hearts* by Susan Hunt & Yvette Banek
Devotional – A Little God Time for Kids: 365 Daily Devotions
Language Arts:
The Random House Book of Fairy Tales by Amy Ehrlich & Diane Goode
The Big Purple Book of Beginner Books by various authors including P.D. Eastman (There are also Blue & Red editions with stories by P.D. Eastman)
The Big Green Book of Beginner Books by Dr. Seuss (There are also Orange & Aqua editions with stories by Dr. Seuss)
Any treasury story book that you and your child enjoy will work well

Reading:
First Thousand Words (in English) by Heather Amery & Stephen Cartwright
LeapFrog LeapReader (electronic pen) with Learn to Read 10 Book Bundle

Art:
The Art Book for Children by Phaidon Press
Art Lab for Little Kids by Susan Schwake

Poetry:
Eric Carle’s Animals Animals
A Treasury of Mother Goose Illustrated by Hilda Offen
The Random House Book of Poetry for Children by Jack Prelutsky
National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry

Science:
The Berenstain Bears’ Big Book of Science and Nature
Is the Blue Whale the Biggest Thing There Is? By Robert E. Wells
How Do You Lift a Lion? By Robert E. Wells
What’s Smaller than a Pygmy Shrew? By Robert E. Wells
What’s Under the Sea? By Sophy Tahta
Why Do Tigers Have Stripes? By Mike Unwin
How to Dig a Hole to the Other Side of the World by Faith McNulty
Science Learn and Explore Pre-K by DK Workbooks

Social Studies:
People by Peter Spier
Then and Now by Heather Amery
Things People Do by Anne Civardi
Stories from Around the World (Retold by Heather Amery)
Workbook: (pre-writing, thinking, numbers)
School Zone Big Preschool Workbook

 

How I Chose My Curriculum

Originally, I planned to use a pre-organized curriculum by a company called Sonlight. They create Christian, literature-based curriculum packages for preschool through high school. After ordering my package, I received the items and started out following the very well-organized Instructor’s Guide. Each week has a memory verse and a song of the week, and each day has a Bible story, along with selections from the various books included in the curriculum. There are also optional activities that can be done.

As I started out, I quickly realized that the books included are for the most part, quite old. I understand the value of classics, but when the majority of the books in a curriculum are published in the 1980s, I think it might be time for an update! Additionally, many of the books are by the same authors or publishing groups. It makes me feel like I’m only exposing my child to one person’s way of thinking, instead of teaching from a variety of sources.

So, after only a couple of days of that, I decided to keep what I liked and choose different books for the rest. I quickly ended up with my own curriculum, and have only kept a few things from Sonlight, mainly because I don’t want to go through the hassle of returning them for a partial refund, and I didn’t want to further delay our start of school by waiting for all new books.

I started out by deciding what subjects I wanted to study with my child. The core subjects I came up with were Bible, language arts, reading, science, social studies, and math. Since Cody is still too young for true math, we are learning the basics of numbers this year, and we do that mainly through his workbook. Bible is the subject we study every day, and we also do something in the reading category daily. That left me with three subjects to rotate through. I decided to make it five, so we can study one subject each day and go through all of them in a week.

Because I actually enjoyed the poetry selections from Sonlight, I chose that subject and picked a few new books. To round out the curriculum, I chose art as our final subject. (Next year, for Kindergarten, we will study Spanish and Math as a full subject, so I will have to rearrange accordingly).

After choosing our subjects, I simply went shopping for books I liked. I chose a few for each subject, based on what I felt was needed. Some books are large collections we will work through over the course of the year, and others are ones we will read for a few months, or perhaps only once.

 

What Homeschooling Looks Like for Us

Every day we review our memory verse for the week, then we read the Bible story for the day. We are currently using the Sonlight Instructor’s Guide for our Bible verse and story selections, but next year we will use My ABC Bible Verses, which can be reused for several years, and read chronologically through the Read and Learn Bible, which we already have.

He repeats the Bible verse (in short pieces), and I remind him briefly what it means. While reading the story, I ask him questions to help with comprehension and keep him engaged. The stories are short, and the pictures are lovely, so that helps.

Next, we choose a subject to focus on for the day. We have a jar with popsicle sticks, and each subject written on one stick. He chooses one and moves it to the “done” jar, and that’s the subject we study that day. The options are: Stories (Language Arts), Science, Art, Social studies, and Poetry.

For each subject, we typically read a few pages from one of the appropriate books, and possibly do an activity. We have the freedom to choose which book we want to read that day, and how much we want to read. I keep an eye on his attentiveness, and stop when I’m satisfied we’ve done enough and he’s beginning to lose focus.

Then we do some reading practice. We either look at a few pages of First Thousand Words, and practice reading the words and finding the objects in the pictures, or we read through one of his LeapReader books using his electronic pen.

We end by doing a few pages in his workbook, one of his favorite parts of school. I flip through and try to pick a variety of activities, and he likes to pick which ones to do as well. I usually have to tell him when we’re going to be done, because even though he loses focus, he says he wants to do more.

That’s it for our “formal” schooling during the day time. It usually takes us 20 minutes or so to do all of that, not including any activities we might do. We also have a devotional we read together as a family at bedtime.

As homeschoolers, we also see life skills as an important part of our children’s education. While he’s a bit young right now, we plan to teach cooking, cleaning, money management, nutrition, fitness, self-defense (through karate) and any other subjects they show an interest in.

The formal part of homeschooling sometimes seems intimidating to people, but I’ve found that at least at this early stage in our journey, it’s actually quite fun to choose books and subjects you want to explore together. Then you just start! One day at a time, they learn. I’m having a lot of fun with it, and Cody enjoys it too.