Getting Started Homeschooling Kindergarten A Quick Start Guide
Updated: Sep 6
It is that time of year again when I get asked all about Kindergarten! This coming school year I will have a Kindergartner for the second time! Many people are surprised to find out that Kindergarten is not required in most of the United States. In our state there is no homeschool paperwork required either. Kindergarten is a great time to consider homeschooling or a forest school/play based preschool part time combined with homeschooling.
There are many reasons we have chosen to homeschool, however for kindergarten in particular I have some particular issues with typical kindergartens in today’s schools and how they have eliminated almost all play and replaced it with academics. Here are two links to great articles about how kindergarten has changed dramatically in recent years- New York Times and Imagination Playground.
Also, I like my kids outside- A LOT! Typical recess in our school is less than a half hour plus a little more after lunch- for FULL day kindergarten. Not enough! Most research says kids should be involved in active play preferably outside for 3-4 hours a day at this age.
I suggest reading Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children by Angela Hanscrom. Here is an interview with her.
It never fails though, everyone always is worried about the academics. The reality is that there is so much wasted time in schools! I have observed our local Pre-k take 10-15 minutes to go the bathroom. It involved the whole class standing in line outside the bathrooms while a few children go in at a time. Working 1:1 with your child or children they easily can complete the work their peers would in school in a fraction of the time!
So what exactly do I do?
I focus on the absolute basics! The rest just happens it really, really does! Through play, reading, field trips, activities, classes, art projects, outside time, and real life experiences! I try to make sure they are outside everyday. My youngest who will be 5 in less than a month has to move! My 8 year old likes to listen and read to learn. He also loves the outdoors, but doesn't have the need to move and move to learn my youngest has. So I try and balance both:) Sometimes it works, sometimes not so much!
Academic Focus- 3 areas
1. Reading- letter sounds, sight words etc
2. Math- counting, adding, patterns
3. Handwriting- capitals first, then lowercase
I only spend 20-30 mins on these each day- TOTAL
Even my 2nd grader only does 30-45 minutes a day and all I require is writing and math (it would look like kinder subject-wise if he could not read well and it does not count reading- he does that on his own for pleasure). We do some literature based history read alouds all together as well.
What exactly should I need to teach? Here is a condensed version of the Kindergarten common core standards. Some of these I think are pretty advanced/1st grade like writing all the sight words and numbers to 100. Not everything is here- Just some of the bigger end of year goals. You can easily find your states standards by googling.
General Goals for end of Kindergarten
I can write my first and last name.
I can write capital letters and starting lowercase.
I know my colors.
I know all my letter names.
I know all my letter sounds and names.
I know all the vowels and their sounds.
I can read cvc words like cat and pig.
I can read all my sight words.
I can write all my sight words. (this is advanced imo)
I can rhyme.
I can segment words f-a-n.
I can identify all my shapes.
I can identify and write numbers 1-20.
I can count to 100 by 1s and 10s
I can add and subtract.
I can write a story with a combination of words and a picture. Words can be invented/phonetic spellings.
I can retell a story.
I know my address, parents names, and phone number.
How does that work? 20 minutes does not seem like enough time!
20-30 minutes is only the focused learning on academics. The rest of your days should be spent playing, doing art, outside and reading books. (see- what to do the rest of the time)
We don’t stop in the summer. We have even done work on “vacations” (hello plane trips!) This means less time per day.
A little work each day is better than lots all at once
Average attention span for a 5-6 year old is 10-15 minutes!
I like to work with the kids on the weekend or even evening when the other parent can work with a sibling/s
Working 1:1 is much more efficient than in a large group of 18-20 kids. Lessons in school are usually a 10-15 minute “lesson” on the rug, then activity, then wrap up. That lesson includes waiting for everyone to sit on the rug, calling on different kids and lengthy explanations and examples to get the majority to understand the concept. It also includes how to do the activity. Working 1:1 you can explain and do an activity all at the same time and at your child's pace. Like practicing letters/formation while making them out of playdoh.
Exploring the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC
What do we do the rest of the time? (I am sure you already are doing most of these things! See, you can do this!)
Play, play play, Go outside! Playdates, park dates, Processed based Art especially paint and clay, Outdoor and nature exploration, Read alouds, try a chapter book! Go to the library! Board games! Hike, Nature walks, children's museums or children’s programs at adult museums, and real life!
-Consider hiring a babysitter or mother's helper 1-2x a week
-Try trading a few hours regularly with another mom
-Send your child part time to a forest kindergarten/ preschool or play based preschool or send to a drop off homeschool program, coop or make your own with some other moms. Currently, My 2nd grader and I work together mornings Taro is at Forest Preschool. My oldest goes to a outdoor homeschool program one day and takes other classes and is a coop the other days. Some classes and activities they both do like circus class!
-Join a gym or the Y for 2 hours daily of childcare
Recommended Reading curriculum- these are my favorite, you can also make your own
This is a great article by This Reading Mama -What comes after the ABC’s?
Open and go, multisensory program
The Make your own Approach
Fry list of high Frequency words this is a K-1st goal (I like better than dolch list) List of first 100
Short vowel word families -at, -it etc
Leveled books start at level A (A-C is considered kinder - so by end of year in a mainstream public school they would be reading a level c book. Again this is very different than in past so do not feel like you have to have a child reading this much at this age. Most of us learned to read in 1st grade) List of some books by reading level
Games for Reading by Peggy Kaye
Must have at least one kind of moveable letters of some kind- bananagrams, scrabble tiles (look in thrift stores!), We like these magnetic letters with this magnetic tabletop easel and I organized them in this container labeled with stickers so they are easier to find! We also really like bananagrams.
Explode the code workbooks are also good
Games like Zingo Word Builder and scrabble jr
Handwriting- The best I used when I was a teacher hands down!
Handwriting without Tears https://lwtears.com/
Must haves- Workbook, slate and wood pieces or DIY some laminated ones from pinterest
I have never found one I loved. Work on counting, adding subtracting etc, patterns
I wrote my own math curriculum called Wild Math Kindergarten Curriculum Guide. It is everything you need to teach all of kindergarten math outdoors- through games, play, activities and nature.
Kahnacademy.org has a great outline of every skill in each grade,videos are great when they are older or showing you how to explain something.
A workbook is sometimes nice to pull out- must have pictures! Target has them at the beginning of summer, they also have some at the dollar store.
Math Play! By Diane McGowan
Games for math by Peggy kaye, and Counting & Number Bonds: Math Games for Early Learners (Math You Can Play) combo with addition and subtraction as well By Denise Gaskins
Printable games and worksheets https://www.math-salamanders.com/printable-kindergarten-math-worksheets.html
Full curriculum- not recommended
I found it really hard to stick with and make it worth the money of a full year curriculum. We always ended up doing our own thing. Most people don’t stay with it long. These include math, reading, social studies and science.
I do like oak meadow- gentle, waldorf inspired, lots of nature, often can find this used
https://oakmeadow.com/what-we-do/grades-k8/ Some just copy their curriculum outline and make own units. Waldorf does not start reading instruction until first grade. Look at both the kindergarten and first grade curriculum and decide what works best for your child.
Other curriculum I like that are great supplements or good for a more relaxed K year
Playful Learning playfullearning.com
Your Natural Learner - has a pre-k/k curriculum as well as just a forest school curriculum
Five in a Row-A lot of people love this. You can get a list of the books and just read them.. They do have good book choices! Here is a post with a list of the books just request from the library! https://www.thehomeschoolmom.com/homeschool-lesson-plans/five-in-a-row/
Exploring nature with children - Charlotte Mason approach to nature study can be used for multiple ages
Messy Maths - book listed in resources
Wild Math Curriculum - This is my curriculum coming soon!
Great printables free and subscription units- playfullearning.com
My pinterest boards https://www.pinterest.com/fiestyfish/ http://pinterest.com/tiddrachel
Brainquest workbooks- colorful, not too hard, my boys love their star wars ones
Book lists! Like 100 books every Kindergartener should read
Messy Maths A Playful, Outdoor Approach to the early years by Juliet Robinson
Dirty Teaching a Beginners Guide to Learning Outdoors By Juliet Robertson and her blog http://creativestarlearning.co.uk/c/maths-outdoors/
Preschool Art By Mary Khol (processed based not just for preschoolers)
Project based homeschooling-Lori pickert and her blog
Play the Forest School Way Jane Worroll
Wildschooling group on fb also look for a local fb group near you
Blogs-Read aloud revival. Fairy dust teaching, An everydaystory, My little poppies, simple homeschool,https://rightbrainedmom.com/
https://www.tanglewoodhollow.com/ great nature materials
Podcasts- great for the car! carschooling!
My kids like- wow in the world, brains on, sparkle stories (they also have a subscriptions), finn caspian, for moms-the homeschool sisters
Blocks! so great for math and visual spatial skills! Taro and his big brother Finn made this.
There you have it!
This is my main method of homeschooling Kindergarten (and other grades too). Start slow and focus solely on the basics at first then add in other things.
For more ideas follow me on IG @wildmathcurriculum and on FB @wildmath
The Wild Math Curriculm Guides for Kindergarten-Fifth grade are available in the shop!
*Links to many products are affiliate links for amazon. Any other links are just regular links!