Homeschooling can be gentle while providing quick, informative instruction to a child. We began homeschooling our kids as soon as they of the proper age to begin formal education. Having a simplified, streamlined kindergarten method was imperative for me to have if I was going to educate my children successfully at home.
When I first began instruction at home in 2004, everything was definitely a learning experience for me. I made a lot of mistakes during a time that I was trying to find my what worked best when teaching my daughter. I suffered from burnout after the first few months because I was trying to do so much. I was printing every worksheet online, buying every expensive workbook and getting fancy book catalogs in the mail. Nothing worked. One day, I got online and looked at a scope and sequence for a 5 year old. After I read over the list of things that she needed to learn, I knew there was no reason why I couldn't do this. I learned what not to do with the rest of my children after this first experience.
I was trying to prove to myself and others that I could successfully teach my own child. I still kept pushing myself to stay motivated because I truly had a passion and conviction for what I was doing. It had been years since I'd been in kindergarten and had truly forgotten what specific skill areas that I needed to focus on.
Over the past few years, after stepping back and asking the Lord for His guidance, I knew I had to focus on just the basics. I only needed to focus on what was important for them to learn. I got myself a spiral notebook and wrote down some things that I wanted my kids to learn. Over the years I utilized these same methods off and on with my children.
The main areas of instruction for kindergarten that I wanted to focus on were Bible, math, writing and phonics. With teaching the Bible, the best method that worked for me was just to sit down and read the Word to them. How simple that was. Lessons never go beyond 30 minutes at this young age. They retained much more than I ever knew they would. We have simple little age appropriate discussions after reading a few verses. I would also include coloring sheets or let them draw out certain things that they learned from the Bible. This helped to somewhat cement in their minds the things that we had talked about.
Small children tend to do better with visuals, so using lots of art within our lessons was extremely helpful. I loved using the composition books specifically for their sketches. It helped keep everything in one place. Having the composition book for art also helped them to associate beauty and colors with the Word of God.
I would also write words in the notebooks for them to copy once they had learned their letters. Bible copywork was amazingly useful when it came to teaching them how to write properly. We also use lined primary tablets to practice writing instruction daily. The very first writing lesson that I ever teach is writing of their name. We do this even before they've officially learned the proper names and sounds of letters. It's imperative to me that they learn to recognize their name before anything else if they haven't learned already.
Sometimes our lessons will overlap into other subject areas. Once my children learn to write their names, we then focus on the letter of the day. The letter of the day is written in both lower and uppercase form on the board. The children then attempt to copy it as best as they can. I do this so that I can assess where they are in pencil grip, hand eye coordination, and fine motor skills.
After I make my observation, I then write the letter in their tablet and they copy it 5 times. This repetition with writing letters has been extremely helpful in them writing their alphabet neatly and finding their own mistakes within their writing.
After practicing our writing, we move right along to phonics. We practice the sound of the letter of the day and talk about the various words that begin with that sound.
I write words on the board that begin with the sound that we're studying. If the child is able to write well enough, they will attempt to copy the words from the board onto their lined tablet. We also play “Around the Room” every morning. This game is played by trying to observe things around the room and within the house that begin with that particular letter. It's one of my favorite things to do with my children.
My absolute favorite program to use is an online, free, printable program called Blend Phonics. It's amazing and has worked for all of my children. This is what I use to fill in the gap for the formal instruction that I feel I need when it comes to teaching reading. It's always been one of those subjects that I fear I'm going to leave something out of.
I never wanted to leave any gaps in their reading instruction. In our spare time, we've used Hooked on Phonics. I love the simple straightforward approach to reading instruction that it provides. The books are amazing and we used the tapes years ago. Now we use the app and it has been a favorite for my youngest child. I also create some of my own printables and flashcards for my kids to use.
Dollar Tree workbooks have been extremely helpful when it comes to keeping the children busy while I work with another child or during our car schooling days. They have the absolute best writing workbooks for kindergarten. I also love to create simple worksheets using a Sharpie and printer paper. Many people have questioned me about this before and laugh at my attempt to save money in this manner. Printing for seven children can be extremely expensive, so this is one way to cut down on that expense. I make simple fill in the blank, circle the alphabet, coloring, money, and counting worksheets.
I teach math using lots of worksheets, work books and manipulatives. I love adding color to math instruction as much as possible. Primary workbooks are usually full of bright colors so those are always an absolute part of our learning time. I use the neon colored Sharpies on my worksheets that I create by hand for them. They're perfect for simplified math instruction. Kinder learners seem to recall numbers better when they're in color.
My children love using buttons, coins, and beans to learn to count, add and subtract. I also use these things to teach sorting and sizing as well. Formal math training for each child begins with counting from 1-25 and then increases by 25 within a couple of months. We also cover days, months, calendar, address and all of the typical things that sometimes fall under the arithmetic and math subjects. Counting money and basic addition and subtraction are my main goals for math by the end of the kindergarten year.
Some other things that I teach them are their full names, parents names, date of birth, address, city, state, country, continent, etc. I usually make fold out cardboard “centers” that feature charts that include all of the things that I'd like them to visually see and learn. Charts of the days and months, color words, tens charts and things like that are included.
Whenever I feel the need to cover social studies/history or science, I do so with simple readers and coloring sheets. These subjects are handled very informally. We also watch some youtube videos or dvds to cover these things on a basic level. Story starters have been a good way for my kids to learn those subjects. I will read them something from a book and then they use a notebooking page to draw or sketch a picture of what they think will happen next.
I'm starting the story for them and they finish it with their artwork. From there, we will cover what actually happened next in the book vs what they assumed would happen. For science, we use do notebooking pages and nature notebooks. Everything is informal and mostly art. They enjoy copying images from books and usually are just learning science based on what the older children are studying.
I keep a manila folder of my child's work samples from throughout the school year. Inside the cover of that folder is a check list of all the basic skills that I would like to cover for the year. Once my child has shown proficiency in that skill, I check it off and move to the next. I do continue to review those skills throughout the year so that they don't forget the things they've learned. I don't grade at this level, but don't let them move on until they demonstrate mastery. I love teaching basic things to my little ones and I've tried to keep my instruction as simple as possible. Homeschooling is a joy and a blessing when everyone is happy while learning. Happy homeschooling!