kindergarten

Best of HSL: Our Favorite Advice for Homeschooling the Early Grades

Best of HSL: Our Favorite Advice for Homeschooling the Early Grades

From kindergarten through 5th grade, your goal is to instill basic skills and cultivate a love of learning.

A schedule is great, but don’t tie yourself down. Some of the best homeschool adventures happen spontaneously.

Play outside. A lot.

Read books. Kids can learn math, history, science, philosophy, grammar, and everything else from stories — and some of those lessons go down a lot easier than they would with workbooks and bubble tests.

Keep a homeschool joy journal. The time flies by, and your memories of hatching butterflies and visiting Cherokee pow-wows will start to fade.

Let your child take some tests. Don’t make them a big deal. Don’t even grade them if you don’t want to. But give him the experience of sitting down to communicate his knowledge

It’s okay to stop doing it if it’s not fun. You can always come back to it later.

Find a library system that works for you fast, or you’re going to be paying a lot of fines down the road.

Don’t spend a lot of money on curriculum items for the future. You will change your mind at least a dozen times about what you want to do before then.

Take every field trip you can. Making time for field trips gets harder as kids get older.

Forget grade level. It’s okay if your 2nd-grader isn’t ready to read or if your kindergartner is reading 4th-grade books. Don’t pin yourself down with a preconceived list of things your child needs to learn at a certain time.

Make me-time. It’s essential to your wellbeing. 

You will screw up sometimes. It’s okay. Be nice to yourself about it.

Play audiobooks in the car. 

Pay attention to what your child enjoys. There’s a good chance that the activities she engages in with the most enthusiasm are indicators of her natural learning style.

You will sometimes waver between feeling like you are doing way too much and like you are not doing enough. You are probably doing just the right amount.

Buy more pencils than you think you need.

Don’t be afraid of screen time. Documentaries, interactive games, and even Phineas and Ferb can be learning opportunities.

Once in a while, take a day off for no reason.

Buy more bookcases.

Accept that you will sometimes succumb to the midwinter blues, when everything about homeschooling makes you feel tired, depressed, and unsuccessful. Promise yourself to take time off and not make any big decisions till the daffodils bloom.

Incorporate housework into your daily routine. Your kids can help. Your kids should help.

Resist the urge to move on to the next thing if your child is in love with a particular subject or activity. You don’t need to rush.

Some day, you may have to push through difficult subjects until both you and your child are reduced to tears. That day is not today. There is no need to force a piece of learning at this stage.

Write down your child’s stories and poems. You will forget them, even though it seems impossible that you could ever forget a poem about a renegade cat with a band of angry inkblots.

Some days, your children will be annoying. Some days, you might not like them much. That’s okay. Tomorrow will probably be better.

Remind yourself that homeschooling is a lifestyle, not just an educational plan.

Your child will amaze you. Pack tissues. 􏰅    

 

This list is adapted from a feature in the summer 2015 issue of HSL.


At Home with the Editors: Shelli's Kindergarten

Welcome to Shelli's kindergarten: a hands-on, project-based environment where learning is all about fun. #homeschool

Every year, Shelli and Amy open the door and invite you to step inside their homeschool lives. (Please ignore the mess!) We talk about the resources we're using in our own homeschools and how we structure our days. There are lots of ways to homeschool, and we don't think our way is the best—just the one that happens to be working best for our particular families at this particular time.  If nothing else, you will get a behind-the-scenes look in the homes of the editors of home / school / life, but if something here helps you, all the better! Today, Shelli's talking about how she homeschooled kindergarten this year.

This is my second time homeschooling kindergarten, and I can assure you, it’s so much easier the second time around! I know without a doubt that as long as I’m spending quality time with my son, reading to him, letting him explore, and most importantly, giving him free, unstructured time to play, I can’t go wrong with kindergarten. 

The nice thing about being a younger sibling is that you pick up so much information just by watching your older sibling. My six-year-old watches and sometimes participates in his brother’s lessons. He hears books read aloud that are well above his level. He can help out when we do a science experiment, and he loves art day, too. With my first son, I didn’t know any other homeschoolers until he was four or five, but my younger son has been going to play dates since he was a baby. 

My older son was in the third grade this year, so his work was harder and more structured than any year thus far. As a result, my six-year-old had much more structure to his days than his older brother did at six years old, but the upside to this is that he still had lots of time to play by himself while I was working with his brother. I think letting children learn how to play by themselves is so important. Not only does it give them important skills that they will need in the future, it is also very helpful to their parents in the present moment!

 

CURRICULUM

Language Arts

This year I’m slowly helping my son with his reading skills. I have tried a variety of resources (just like I did with my older son), and thankfully, I am much more patient than I used to be. We spend about 30 minutes on language arts three days a week. I don’t worry about whether he’s keeping up with his peers because I know from experience that it’s better to let children learn how to read at their own pace.

Here’s what I’ve used and will keep using for the foreseeable future:

In addition to this, my six-year-old has enjoyed listening to My Father’s Dragon, Charlotte’s Web, Calvin and Hobbes and a variety of storybooks this year.

Math

I use Life of Fred with my older boy, but that curriculum just didn’t seem right for my younger son. Instead, I’m using Singapore’s Primary Math Textbook 1A with Home Instructor’s Guide (U.S. Edition) with great success. Actually, I’ve been using it much longer than this school year. We do lessons three days a week, and I am carefully going through every worksheet, game and activity with him.  When we finish this set, I’ll move on to the next level.

I don’t worry about completing any curriculum in one school year. For me, I am more concerned about making steady progress at my son’s pace.

My six-year-old seems to love math. If you ask him, he would say he didn’t like math, but actions speak louder than words. This kid is always asking me math questions, he loves to count things, and he’s always noting the time. He even wanted to join his older brother in learning the multiplication tables! 

All other subjects

At this age, I don’t do any formal lessons in science or social studies. I am confident that through our daily life and major interests, he is getting all the instruction he needs for these areas. We watch nature, science, or history documentaries every day, visit museums frequently, and he attends classes and camps at the local nature center and botanical garden. 

I try to make every Friday “art day,” and we have read about artists, the history of art, and visited the local art museum. For history, we read books and watch documentaries. (My husband is a history professor, so I’m not worried about history.)

My six-year-old loves birds, so we have spent a lot of time observing birds, reading about them, drawing them, and listening to the sounds they make on our bird guide app. 

The wonderful thing about homeschooling is that if you are curious, engaged in life, and open-minded, your children will learn so much through their daily life. Very little instruction is needed. (Of course, for unschoolers, they feel no instruction is needed at all, and that works for many families too.) 

I do teach my children certain subjects, but mostly, I try to fill our house with books and tools, and I give them plenty of time to play and ask questions. Especially for kindergarten, this is all we need.  

Please offer your kindergarten tips in the comments section below.


Curriculum Review: Life of Fred Introduces a Language Arts Curriculum For Your Youngest Learners

Nice, thorough review of the Life of Fred Eden series: Good for early readers who like fun, silly material

Whether or not you are familiar with the wonderful, wacky world of young Fred Gauss, made famous in the unique Life of Fred series, I’m beyond excited to share with you details of Schmidt’s newest work, Life of Fred Eden Series for Beginning Readers. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading other Life of Fred books, please be sure to check out my review of Stanley Schmidt’s curriculum in the summer issue of home/school/life magazine.

The Eden series is an eighteen-book collection of reading primers, which takes you through one continuous story. This review looks at the first six books in the series (with a guarantee I’ll be purchasing the rest of the books this afternoon!).

When your littlest learners get their hands on these primers, you’ll likely be delighted by their enthusiasm as well as their immediate desire to connect with these offbeat stories. At last, just like their older brothers and sisters, beginning readers can finally enjoy Fred’s offbeat world first hand.

The 32-page books do not teach phonics or specific concepts. Instead, this fun-filled romp takes readers on an absurd trip with Fred and his doll Kingie to Fall River Lake, where the two intend to enjoy some R-and-R. If you are familiar with Mo Willems’ Gerald and Piggie books, you’ll be struck by the similarity of tone and style of the two series. Simple text scattered on uncluttered pages is mixed with illustrations that provide meaningful context clues to help readers puzzle out new words. Both sight and phonemic words are repeated throughout the texts. The stories are engaging and full of quirky fun.

I tested this series out with my 4-year-old. When his 6- and 9-year-old brothers (both die-hard Fred fans) joined us on the couch to read along, my youngest guy beamed with pride to find the “big boys” sitting in on his learning time with Fred. The text is easy enough to keep early readers challenged, but will generally not be frustrating. The stories are colorful and will entertain older children (and their parents) as well. This versatile series is appropriate both for early readers and older struggling readers. Another nice feature of the Eden series is that in between the laughs, Schmidt succeeds in unobtrusively including lessons about time, counting, nature, and basic shapes, among other things. An emerging trend of intelligent, effective readers is a genre I’m eager to see expanded.

These volumes manage the same high quality and affordability as the rest of the Life of Fred series and retail at about $6 per book.


What You Should Read in Elementary School

What You Should Read in Elementary School

Whatever else you read, make time for these classics before middle school.