Saturday, November 19, 2016

How I Homeschool - Kindergarten Edition

Today, we will be talking Kindergarten and homeschool.  I am a firm believer in keeping Kindergarten short.  After teaching that grade for a few years in a Christian school setting, I realized that the real learning of a kindergartner happens in a very short period of time.  So, when I had my first at that age, I decided for formal learning, we would stick with the 3 R's, Reading, Writing, and 'Rithmatic.  :)  And, that is what I have done.  Yes, other subjects were touched on, but at a very informal level.  As you keep reading, you will see what I mean.

The first R - Reading:

Reading for our homeschool has happened very differently than I ever dreamed.  I was taught how to teach phonetically in college, and I was a firm believer that this was the right way to do things.  And, for my oldest 2, it worked out this way just fine.  But, as I have mentioned in a previous post, my oldest 2 boys do not learn the same way.  Both are auditory learners.  When I sat down to teach them phonetically, it didn't click at all.  So, I had to find a whole new way to teach them.  My youngest boy, I have seen, can learn phonetically as well.  However, my littlest lady, has been my challenge.  It was until recently, we found out why she didn't learn to read well and is still reading at a lower level than her age, dyslexia.  Dyslexia is a challenge in and of itself and one day I will address that, but for today, we will stick to kindergarten.

I ended up, with all my kids learning differently, testing many different reading curriculum to find out which works best for my kids.  And, I have come to the conclusion, you need to find the best curriculum that works for your child's way of learning.  I am still devoted to phonetically teaching as much as I can.  I find that they can decode better if they have these skills.  But, I also see that whole language and auditory learning have their place as well.  Here is what we tested out and what seemed to work best for our children and their learning styles.

Phonetically - 

Reading Made Easy by Valerie Bendt - totally phonetic - both my big girls learned with this and it is well done.  
Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons - another great phonetic one we tried but I found I like Reading Made Easy better.
ABeka has great flashcards and other things for reviewing the phonics skills you need.  You can also find these things online for printing yourself at home by other mamas.  List will be provided at the end of the post.  

For my auditory learners-

Hooked on Phonics - my oldest boy, this was the only way it finally clicked.  I love this program. 
Starfall - a tremendous learning website that you can introduce reading skills in a fun online setting.  The reading part of the website it totally free.  They also have a yearly membership fee you can pay for access to other stuff.  It is one of the least expensive ones around for homeschooling families. We use it, pay the fees, and love it.  It also has an apps which are very helpful for on the go learning.  Highly recommended.
ABCya is another great website for skills of all levels and the games are totally free (you can pay for an adfree version)
Teach your Monster to Read - a relatively new one that I have discovered with my last 2.  Developed by Usborne books.  I use it from time to time for fun review.  However, the downfall to it, it is voiced by a British person so sometimes it is hard to make out the sounds.  That being said, my youngest 2 still enjoy it tremendously!

For my dyslexic child

All about Reading - Hands down, this program is worth every penny.  She has soared with this program.  I really wish I have known sooner of her learning disability and started this.  Giving myself grace in this area and pushing forward. She will catch up.

I also found that a bit of Dolch learning for her boosted her spirits as far as reading was concerned.  We did that with her before she got the diagnosis and what we learned in those first couple of years, she still remembers and uses today.   Good website for learning more is They also address the dyselxia issue there as well.  I will also provide links for great places to find free emergent readers and other reading help that she adored.  To be exact, both of my youngest 2 read through them and loved them.  

The second R - Writing:

We kept writing very simple.  Sometimes we were given books and I would use them.  Other times, I picked up little ones at the Dollar Tree or Sams Club.  And, yet, other times, I would use freebies off the internet.  We basically started with learning to write our ABC's usually tied in with what they were learning phonetically in reading.  Then I would add simple words that we would read and write.  After that, I would tie in their reading lesson with their writing lesson having them write sentences from what they were reading that day.  This has worked quite well for all but my youngest daughter due to her dyselxia.   So, when she was in kindergarten, we just used simple copywork of simple sentences that I read to her first.  She loves to write no matter what.  :)

The internet is full of free writing places, copywork pages, etc.  I could write a huge post of all the freebies and probably never get them all in.  So, I will list a couple of my favorite sources at the bottom.  Starfall, again, also provides writing pages that tie in with their website which you can print for free.  I liked to use them with my boys since they used that website all the time.  Great way to tie it all together.

The third R - 'Rithmatic (or Math)

This is another area where you need to choose what works best for you and your child.  Math is my weakness.  I never did well in school with it, so I look for materials that are easy for me to teach and them to learn.  Thankfully, math is not a hard subject to teach in kindergarten.  I started off using ABeka and found it too cumbersome.  Then, I switched to Spectrum.  And, I provided loads of hands on.  Hands on, for us, is a great thing in kindergarten and provides a visual to see the concepts better.  Spectrum in not a difficult math and I found it just enough, in addition with the hands on, to prepare them for the first grade learning. 

For hands on, here are a few resources that I have found handy to have around in the house:

Dry pasta
Bingo chips
Flannel graph shapes (I had the Abeka ones from my teaching days, but you can easily cut shapes out of flannel, make more than one for patterning practice)
Kinetic Sand
An Abacus
Wooden blocks, specifically different shape ones
A clock with moving hands (I recently saw the Dollar Tree had one or you can make your own)
Play money that looks like ours, not pretend monopoly money
Hands on fraction game, like this
Make your own thermometer - I made one out of  felt and card stock that we used
If your kid loves flashcards, then flashcards of addition and subtraction (easily obtained at a dollar tree)
Lego, these can be used for so much stuff
Plastic bears (not needed but definitely a fun addition)
For your auditory learner, math facts on CD put to music

And, that's about all we did for formal learning in kindergarten.  But, what about history, science, and all that other stuff?  Well, I never did buy one piece of formal curriculum for kindergarten for those subjects.  I usually did interest led learning or nature for science.  If they were interested in butterflies, we would read all we could on them, raise them, find and study the different types around our yard.  We've done similar with other interests like cars, fire trucks, dinosaurs, ladybugs, the planets, the body, all based on what and when they were interested.  History usually revolved around the calendar holidays and what each one meant and stood for.  There are all sorts of books that tie in with those.  I, also, adore the Five in a Row books.  They are great guide books for reading some of the most beloved classics ever written.  We would "row" books and learn so much through those studies.  I never felt the need for anything more.  Music was played constantly and I was always talking to the kids about genre (we listen to a lot of different genres) and what instruments were being played.  And, as far as Bible, reading Bible stories, memorizing verses, and playing with flannel graph was enough.  We did some fun projects from time to time with all of the above, but for the most part it was just plain fun.  Kindergarten should be informal for the most part with lots of time for them to still be kids.  And, don't forget field trips!  Wow, those can be loads of fun.

I hope this helps you see what we did in our kindergarten year.  And, gives you a springboard for ideas to use with your children.

Goodness from around the 'net:

Other reading curriculum out there:

Reading the Easy Way - she uses the Dolch method in her reading program
R.E.A.D - this is brand new this year but it looks wonderful, phonetic based

For good resources for reading games and Dolch emergent readers, these ladies have tons of stuff:

Other good resources for reading, writing, or hands on learning:

Homeschool Creations (she also has fun pages that tie in with the Five in a Row books)

Other good reading/learning websites (does have fees)

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