I remember when I first considered homeschooling our oldest son, I thought, “I can teach Kindergarten!” So, I decided to just try it one year at a time. We’d already been learning a lot together. I taught him to read (or really just helped him teach himself!), and we were enjoying lots of books from the library, puzzles, math games, preschool music from Raffi and Laurie Berkner, etc.
Our Kindergarten year was fine, but I made a mistake, because in hindsight, I feel like I switched and made things too formal. The enjoyable learning we were already doing together began to feel like a chore, and I found myself putting on my teacher hat and teacher voice, and along with it, the teacher habits of sometimes adding negative consequences for lack of academic focus.
Instead, I should have just let it be an extension of those things we were already doing.
After my first son’s kinder year, I learned about Charlotte Mason and have been trying to live out her philosophy of education with our three kids ever since. There is still much to learn, but the thing I love most about her philosophy is the way it lines up with what I feel is the more natural way children live and learn. She says, “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life.” I resonated.
I am now teaching a 6th, 4th, and 2nd grader, and still enjoying the homeschool journey. But when looking back on the Kinder year after three different kids, here’s what I would suggest to others:
What To Do for Kindergarten
1. Explore ways of learning that you and your family like best - There are so many educational philosophies out there from unschooling to textbook learning, Waldorf, or online classes. Use this year to figure out where you resonate or fit. Even if you decide on committing to a Charlotte Mason philosophy, there are many resources to peruse. (see lists below) You can fill your weeks with a million wonderful things, and the hard part is filtering out the good from the great. So, use this year to start choosing what you and your family naturally prioritize – math, science, language arts, fine arts, music, etc. Lean in strongly to the things you’re best at and inherently enjoy or are especially curious about.
2. Establish Important Habits – Charlotte Mason is a big proponent of using these younger years to train important habits in our children. Habits like attention, respect, and responsibility are fun and easier to teach and do when they are little. They will add hours to your school life and productivity when they are older. If you decide that fine arts or learning a foreign language are priorities, use this year to set up routines and train habits that are easy to implement and can quickly become natural. Pick a couple chores that your child can do and make sure to be consistent in expecting them done each day/week.
3. Spend Time Outside – Charlotte Mason suggested that children at this age should spend from 4-6 hours outside each day. That was never feasible for us, although we did try to get outside for a couple hours each day, and for a longer chunk at least once or twice a week. We love finding and hiking new trails on the weekend with Dad, too. As our kids are older now, we take our journals or sketchbooks with us sometimes and spread out to choose something to draw. Sometimes we’ll even take our books and find a nice spot to read alone for a while. But when they were younger, it was fun to just go and play at a park or creek, simply enjoying nature and others. Kids naturally find things like rocks, insects, plants, fish, sticks and birds, which offer countless opportunities to teach them about nature or to build with. All of that is so great for their observation, curiosity, and creativity at these developmental ages.
4. Read – Definitely prioritize reading aloud to your kids. And not just picture books, but great books of literature, poetry, biography, and science. Some of our favorites in Kinder were by AA Milne, Beatrix Potter and E.B. White. I also included a list of our favorite longer picture books below. As a parent, you can read educational books like For the Children’s Sake or a couple of the volumes on Education by Charlotte Mason.
5. Connect with Others – Spread your net wide and visit park days or play dates. Visit homeschool moms nights out or meetings. Join activities like chess club, soccer games, roller skate days or art classes. I love having a supportive homeschool network around from which to learn from. And it’s neat to see our children develop friendships of their own. Schedule field trips that peak their interest. Volunteer when you can. You’ll likely meet families somewhere that become special friends through the years. And just remember that building friendships takes time (for both you and your kids).
6. Cover the Basics – And so if you choose, especially if you have state requirements to meet or want to feel like your kids are keeping up with their peers in school, make sure to cover the basics regularly. I wanted to make sure each child could read proficiently by Kinder. I used many resources including
- Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons (not my favorite layout, but somehow very effective with many kids)
- Phonics Pathways
- Bob Books
- Sight words cards
- Learn to Read with Peggy Kaye
We moved into early readers like
- Dr. Seuss (Green Eggs & Ham)
- Billy and Blaze
- Frog and Toad
- Little Bear
- Gus and Grandpa
- Iris and Walter
- Henry and Mudge
- Amelia Bedelia
- Oliver and Amanda
- Snipp, Snapp, Snur or Flicka, Ricka and Dicka
For math I made sure to do a lesson from Right Start Math most days each week. We’ve also really enjoyed reading Life of Fred books together. But you could even take a more relaxed approach to math and just cover basic concepts like numbers, calendars and simple addition. I would also have them practice writing a letter each day and introduced some basic drawing instruction for those fine motor skills.
Again, my encouragement is to enjoy this year, take a more relaxed approach, and use the time to explore all the amazing opportunities around you for learning – books, curriculum, activities, social groups, online resources. There are plenty! There are many years ahead to add more academic study to their plate, but these young years are best for exploration, imagination, creativity, and observation. Take lots of pictures and enjoy the ride!
A few of my favorite resources for Kindergarten year:
Charlotte Mason Curriculum Options:
Read Alouds or Early Chapter Books for Proficient Readers
- My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
- Milly, Molly, Mandy by Joyce Lancaster Brisley
- Viking Adventure and the Sword in the Tree (and others) by Clyde Bulla
- Little Pear by Eleanor Frances Lattimore
- The Happy Little Family, etc. by Rebecca Caudill
- Seven Kisses in a Row by Patricia Maclachlan
- Dolphin Adventure, etc. by Wayne Grover
- Paddington Bear Story Book by Michael Bond
- Little Bo by Julie Andrews Edwards (audio)
- Suki and the Invisible Peacock by Joyce Blackburn
- Boxcar Children Books by Gertrude Chandler Warner
- B is for Betsy by Carolyn Haywood and the other Eddie books she’s written
- The Apple and the Arrow by Conrad Buff
- The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame
Favorite Picture Books
- The Rag Coat by Lauren A. Mills
- A New Coat for Anna by Harriet Ziefer
- The Happy Prince by Elissa Grodin
- Least of All by Carol Purdy
- The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden
- The Rainbabies by Laura Krauss Melmed
- The King with Six Friends by Jay Williams
- A House is a House for Me by Mary Ann Hoberman
- Andrew Henry’s Meadow by Doris Burn
- Mr. Pines Purple House by Leonard Kessler
- My Name is Not Isabella by Jennifer Fosberry
- Curious George by H.A. Rey
- Brer Tiger and the Big Wind by William J. Faulkner
- Come Look with Me books by Gladys S. Blizzard
- Leah’s Pony by Elizabeth Friedrich
- The Fool of the World and His Flying Ship (Isaac’s Favorite!)
- Roxaboxen by Barbara Cooney
- You are Special by Max Lucado
- Find the Constellations by HA Rey
- Two Bad Ants by Chris Van Allsburg
- It Could Always be Worse by Margot Zemach
- Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett
- Climb into My Lap (poems selected by Lee Bennet Hopkins)
- Animal Crackers by Jane Dyer (poetry)
- Puss in Boots by Paul Galdone
- The Empty Pot by Demi
- One Potato, Two Potato by Cynthia De Felice
- What do you Say, Dear, by Sesyle Joslin
- One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey
- The King at the Door by Brock Cole
- Katie and the Impressionists (and others)
- The Squire and the Scroll by Jennie Bishop
- Let me Hold You Longer by Karen Kingsbury
- Magic School Bus Books
- The Making of a Knight by Patrick O’Brien
- Dick Whittington and His Cat by Marcia Brown
- Because I Love You by Max Lucado
- Make Way For Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
- Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
- Stone Soup by Marcia Brown
- Doctor Desoto by William Steig
- Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
I’d love to hear about others’ experiences and suggestions for Kindergarten or any other specific questions you might have. Feel free to post a comment to start a conversation below!