When it comes to homeschooling for kindergarten, most parents are far more excited or anxious about the transition than the children are. As far as a kindergarten age child is concerned, they may be aware that some of their friends now go to school and they don’t, but they are most likely not going to wake up on the first day of school expecting a math curriculum workbook on the table. Full disclosure: I bought a math curriculum for my eldest when she was five and tried to make her work through it. So I’m speaking from experience here. My youngest daughter is now just starting kindergarten, but with far less fanfare and anxiety than the first time around.
What kind of resources do you need to homeschool a child through kindergarten?
- What is useful and good to have around?
- What is a waste of money, or more trouble than it’s worth?
- What’s age appropriate, what’s too advanced or too babyish?
The answers to these questions depend entirely on your individual child, of course. But there are some common traits and developmental stages that most five year old children share. Here is a list of the resources I found most helpful when I homeschooled for kindergarten the first time around:
These blocks are great for the entire kindergarten math curriculum objectives – you can count them, arrange them in patterns, make observations about how you can arrange them and make the same shapes with different combinations of blocks, stack them, make chickens or foxes or rockets or anything else you can think of by arranging them in different ways. They are fun, simple, and open-ended. Open ended Legos are also a great resource, with similar mathematical potential.
We have brought out the Bob books for each girl as she reaches the stage of being curious about letters and their sounds – once Claire could identify all the letters and knew that they represented sounds, I brought out the first box of Bob books and showed her how sounds go together to make words. We’re very relaxed about this – now that I have seen Bea go through her own process of learning to read, I am better able to trust that it will happen in its own good time. Bob books are just a good tool to use to make those early steps because they are small and completely phonics based. They don’t contain many sight words, unlike many early readers I see on the library shelves.
Dress up clothes
Young children learn a tremendous amount through play, especially representational, imaginary play. Dress up clothes are a wonderful addition to make this kind of play really come alive. They don’t have to be fancy, but a few simple scarves and leftover halloween costumes (pirate hats! tiger suit! fancy lady dresses!) go a long way.
Art and craft supplies
Paper, scissors, crayons, glue. Old magazines to cut up and collage. Bits of yarn and elastic, plastic straws and paper plates. Cardboard boxes. Tempera paints, watercolour paints, maybe even acrylic paints if you’re willing to keep a very close eye on the paints and how they are being used. Sticks, leaves, acorns, sand, rocks, seashells, wool. The clean contents of your recycling bin. Pretty much anything can be incorporated into a creative project!
Weather-appropriate outdoor clothes
Little kids (Ok, all of us) need to get moving every day, and when you’re homeschooling the best and easiest place to move is outside. For us, we have full body waterproof layers for every member of our family – we can go out for a walk in the forest in a torrential downpour if we want to (and we often do!). The specific gear you will need will depend on your local climate, but it’s worth the investment to have decent quality outdoor gear for your most inclement weather.
Cooperative board games and jigsaw puzzles
We have been moving more towards conventional (ie: competitive) board games as my eldest grows older, but for the first several years we almost exclusively played cooperative board games like Round Up and Harvest Time. Taking competition out of the equation resulted in a better experience for everyone, especially with a kindergarten age child. We also like playing Go Fish, Uno and Dominoes.
A writing station
Inspired by Reggio Emilia and other emergent curriculum pedagogies, I set up a writing station for my eldest when she was kindergarten age. It was simple – just a kid size table with a few jars of pencils, erasers and mailing labels in a set of little wooden drawers, and some paper and envelopes nearby. My daughter loved the idea that she could write letters to people whenever she wanted, and our friends and family got more mail than usual for a while. Now our entire dining room is basically our writing station. Supplies are all within easy reach, are straightforward to put away, and are free for everyone to use. A very select group of tools require adult assistance and are not stored within reach, but everything else is. This means that when inspiration strikes, the tools for making it happen are ready and waiting, whether you are 5 or 105.
A library card
Ok, this may be the most obvious homeschool resource for any age, but it has to go on the list because I love my library that much. Show your kids how to request books, how to look them up in the catalogue, how to find specific books on the shelf, and how to look for books on a particular topic. This is called information studies, and in the information age it’s a valuable skill.
Media and Computer Games
For a 5 year old, we try to limit screen based media and electronic games, but we make exceptions for nature documentaries (we love the Planet Earth, The Private Life of Plants and Walking With Dinosaurs series) and a few online games like Starfall.com. Audiobooks are also a huge hit with the kindergarten crowd – they allow kids to listen to books that are at their interest level, not their reading level. A very popular activity around here is colouring while listening to audiobooks (Lego and audiobooks work equally well). You may also want to invest in a kid-friendly pair of headphones, or be zen about listening to a favourite book 100 times!
Social Time and Family Time
5 year olds don’t need a ton of time to socialize with their peers, but they do benefit from some. We like to have one or two regular playdates or scheduled activities for each child in our week – this leaves plenty of time for diving deep into play and learning at home while making time to build connections with our friends or take a class in the community. Family time is really the foundation of learning at the kindergarten age. In Leadership Education (aka Thomas Jefferson Education), age 5 is at the Core stage – when kids are learning how to contribute and be in a group, what the boundaries of good behaviour are and forming the bedrock of strong attachment to their parents that will allow them to stretch and reach in their learning as they get older. When my eldest was 5 I thought that 8 was far too long to wait, but now that my eldest has turned 8 I can see just how much she has changed in those three years, and she is far more interested in formal academics than she was before. If I could turn back the clock I’d reassure myself that Core stage work (how to get along with others, how to help out around the house, how to get empathy, how to listen and communicate) is critically important and more than enough to focus on for age 5.
What are your favourite kindergarten homeschool resources? Anything you’d add to the list?