Homeschooling Kindergarten: 10 Tips for a Successful Year

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Homeschooling kindergarten can be such an exciting time. It’s usually the first time parents attempt any formal education with their child.

Children who are just entering kindergarten are generally filled with wonder and are excited to explore, discover, and learn.

But, it can also be a time of anxiety for we homeschool moms. Is this your first time teaching kindergarten? Are you worried about what to teach your kindergartner? Or how to make sure they get enough socialization?

And let’s not even talk about how much you’re worried about teaching our baby to read!

Do you wonder what a typical homeschool kindergarten schedule looks like? Or, maybe you just need some encouragement that you aren’t going to mess it all up and leave your child hating homeschool.

Today, I’d like to share ten tips for a successful homeschool year. I’ve already gotten one of my girls through homeschool and my second is just starting. I’m here to share what you should be concerned about and what is just unnecessary worry.

Kindergartner playing with playdough

In case you’re in a hurry, I’ll give you the ten tips for homeschooling kindergarten here, then go into more detail further down.

Ten Tips for a Successful Kindergarten Homeschool Year

  1. Allow time for lots of unstructured play
  2. Jump on your child’s curiosity.
  3. Read aloud.
  4. Focus on counting and beginning language.
  5. Use games and activities for structured learning times.
  6. Take it easy on handwriting.
  7. Answer their questions.
  8. Keep a flexible homeschool schedule.
  9. Get outside a lot.
  10. Homeschool does not mean school at home.

One other thing I want to mention is that it important to make sure you are checking all the legal boxes for homeschooling in your state. While homeschooling is legal in every state, the requirements for homeschool documentation vary largely from state to state.

HSLDA is an invaluable resource when it comes to figuring out what to do and what paperwork to file. They are a homeschooling Legal Defense group that provides tons of info on homeschooling and provides legal help to homeschoolers who find themselves in legal trouble for any reason related to homeschooling.

Their website has links to each state and the requirements to properly register for homeschooling in that state. You can also become an HSLDA member. There are numerous benefits such as a magazine, access to exclusive homeschooling resources on their site, and free legal help if needed.

1) Allow time for lots of unstructured play

Studies show that the right brain develops first in children. We’ve all heard people saying “oh, I’m more of a left-brain person.” Or, “I tend to use my right brain more.” When people say things like this, they are usually talking about whether they are more of an emotional, creative person or more of a logical, data type person.

Well, studies have shown that the right side of the brain develops sooner in children. In fact, the right side of the brain, which governs empathy, creativity, and imagination, to name a few things develops by the time a child is three to four years old!

Now it makes total sense why young children are so imaginative in their play and creative in their storytelling! That part of their brain has developed the most.

However, that left side. The left side doesn’t develop until about seven years old. The left side takes care of things like literacy, language, analysis, numeracy, and more. All those things that are covered in worksheets and sitting still and paying attention – left brain.

This is why unstructured play is so important when homeschooling kindergarten.

The right brain is more interested in being and going through the process as opposed to what the outcome is. This is why some young children are not at all interested in learning their numbers and letters. They just want to play. to be.

The fact that the left side of the brain doesn’t generally start to kick into until seven should give you reassurance if your child doesn’t want to learn her numbers or letters at age five.

There is still plenty of time in the next few years to learn them. And, I would suggest, it will be much easier if you wait until they are ready to learn them instead of pushing them before they are ready.

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”

~ Albert Einstein

Play allows children to use the right side of their brains, but don’t be fooled. They are also learning a lot. Here are just a few of the skills that children are working on when they are playing:

  • gross and fine motor skills
  • problem-solving
  • creativity
  • language
  • empathy
  • cooperation
  • negotiation
  • confidence
  • expressing emotions
  • self-control
  • physical health
  • mental health
  • spatial skills
  • curiosity

Play is such an important part of childhood. It should be an important part of homeschooling kindergarten, too.

Another reason for allowing plenty of time for play when you homeschool kindergarten is that kindergarten is often the first time a child is introduced to actual sit-at-the-table school time.

If your child is not ready to learn her numbers and letters, or how to write and you force the issue, it will be frustrating for both of you. Maybe worse though, is that you just made his first school experience a negative one because you wanted him to do things his brain wasn’t ready for.

Now, I’m not saying just play all day. You can easily teach about letters, numbers, and just about anything through play and reading to your child.

You can count out groups of legos while you build a tower. You can build a red tower or a blue tower or a red/blue tower and talk about patterns.

Just gently incorporate learning into their play a little bit each day. If your child wants to do more, then do more. If not, then don’t sweat it.

2) Jump on your child’s curiosity.

What exactly do I mean, jump on your child’s curiosity?

I mean, every time your child asks a question or expresses interest in a topic, take advantage of that moment to foster their curiosity and love of learning.

Your son just loooves dragons. So, learn about dragons. Get some dragons to play to add to his toybox. Check out books about dragons. Watch How to Train Your Dragon.

When you incorporate topics that your children tell you are important to them, you are showing that they are important to you. This can build their self-esteem and confidence. It also keeps the awe and love of learning alive.

I would venture that instilling a love of learning in your child is one of your biggest goals in homeschooling. Well, when they are just starting out in school, getting excited about what they are excited about it a great (and easy) way to do that.

It might mean that you don’t cover the letter of the alphabet you had planned for that day. But, you could cover D for dragon. Or W for wings. Or T for tail. Or C for claws.

If your child is obsessed with a topic, then use that topic in your structured school time. This will not only satisfy his curiosity about that particular subject, but it will also encourage more curiosity.

Hmm, Mom was excited when I asked about dragons. I bet she’ll be excited when I ask about lions, too!

When you pounce on your child’s curiosity and let it flourish, they are more likely to come to you again with new things they want to learn about. And that is how you foster a love of learning in your child.

3) Read aloud.

There are so many benefits to reading with your children.

You are spending quality time with your children.

Often times you are snuggled up close on the couch, so they are getting physical closeness with you, as well.

They are hearing lots and lots of words, so that, when they do begin to read, their vocabulary bank will be amazing.

You are working on pre-reading skills like reading from left to right, letters are grouped into words, and reading goes page by page.

And you can use books to teach just about any subject.

I highly suggest avoiding dry, textbook type books in kindergarten and instead going for good ol’ fashioned picture books.

There are picture books on just about anything you can think of. The storylines will be simple enough for your child to understand and the pictures will keep their interest.

Looking for book suggestions? These are all wonderful books that contain booklists for reading aloud to your children:

The Read-Aloud Family

Honey for a Child’s Heart

Give Your Child the World

The Read-Aloud Handbook

4) Focus on counting and beginning language.

One of the biggest concerns I hear from moms who are starting to homeschool their kindergartner is around teaching them to read.

But, while most public schools do teach children to read in kindergarten – the standards don’t actually require it!

Now, I’m not saying that most homeschoolers follow the Common Core, and I don’t really, either. But, I do glance at it to see if we are loosely where we should be.

The Common Core mentions knowing a few sight words, sounding out CVC words, and using “grade-level phonics” to decode words. CVC words are three-letter words that follow the pattern consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC). So, words like mat, cat, sit, etc.

Those standards, to me, do not say “your child must be reading by the end of kindergarten.”

If your child is ready to start reading, great! But, if your child is not ready, don’t worry about it! My oldest didn’t read until the middle of first grade (despite a few grandparents that were suuuure she was ready in kindergarten) and she took off right away. Because she was ready.

So, what do I teach in kindergarten language arts?

You can certainly talk a lot about language and words. Read a lot of books and talk about the plot. Talk about the characters. What is an author? What does an illustrator do? Have your child tell the story back in her own words. Ask them questions about the book.

Most of the skills for reading in kindergarten are really pre-reading skills. There should be lots of talking about letters, both uppercase and lowercase. You can talk about basic grammar rules – ending punctuation and beginning each sentence with a capital letter. You read from left to right and top to bottom. That sort of thing.

Working on syllables is another fun pre-reading skill to work on in your kindergarten homeschool. Children love to clap along as you count out the syllables.

Recognizing and providing rhyming words is another fun reading skill to work into your homeschool kindergarten schedule. You can read lots of rhyming books.

A game we like to play around our house is when someone chooses a word and then everyone else has to say a word that rhymes. My kids love to make up words that rhyme.

What rhymes with dog?

flog, magog, log, patog.

Yep, those are all answers my kids give. I don’t care if it’s an actual word. In fact, making up a word is even better.

As long as they are understanding what makes two words rhyme, then they can be as silly as they want. They think its more fun (and funny) when they make up silly words like that. And kindergarten should be fun!

What about math activities for kindergarten?

Math in kindergarten should be fun and hands-on.

Everything your child needs to learn for kindergarten math can be learned through play.

The focus of kindergarten math is counting and organizing.

Count to 100

Count by ones

Count by tens

Count from a number that is not 1

Write numbers 0-20

Count objects in a group

Compare two groups (more, less, etc.)

Classify objects in a group by a measurable attribute (height, weight)

Know some 2-D and 3-D shapes

Use fingers and objects to represent addition and subtraction

Work on adding to ten and adding to five

Describe positions (above, under, below, beside)

Make real-world shapes (hello Mad Mattr and Clay)

Talk about and know place value up to the tens place

Ok, the place value one might be a bit tougher to incorporate directly into play. But, you can certainly use Legos to talk about it.

Or dinosaurs.

Or sparkly gems.

Whatever your child is in to. It doesn’t have to be counting bears or unifix cubes!

There are 14 skills on that list for kindergarten math. Fourteen! That’s it!

That definitely leaves plenty of time for unstructured play.

5) Use games and activities for structured learning times.

Games are a great way to learn through play. You can use board games, apps, or just little activities you engage in with your child that happen to be teaching him to count to 100.

In our house, we like to play Uno, Rummikub, Mastermind, and do puzzles.

Uno and Rummikub teach number recognition, grouping, counting, etc.

Mastermind teaching logic, deductive reasoning, and problem-solving.

Working puzzles is a great way to practice spatial reasoning and persistence in your kindergarten homeschool.

One nice thing about games that are geared for kindergarten set is that they are generally pretty short.

One of the reasons kids can struggle in kindergarten is the requirement for them to sit still and pay attention for longer periods of time. But, a game that lasts 10-15 minutes is perfect. Then, they can go play something else and their mind will work on sorting out what they just learned.

Providing toys that allow students to work on certain skills is also a great way to incorporate learning through play.

6) Take it easy on handwriting.

I frequently hear homeschool parents expressing concern that their kindergarteners can’t write well. Did you know that the standards say “print many upper- and lowercase letters”?

many.

Not all.

Kindergarten skills generally focus on a lot of recognition and talking about topics. There is actually very little writing required in kindergarten.

I found this a big relief because a lot of kindergartens still have trouble holding a pencil. Not because there is any sort of problem, it’s just that their little hand muscles haven’t quite developed yet.

If you want to practice writing with your kindergartener, there are lots of alternative ways to go about it.

If you are just starting out with letters or writing words, a great first word for kindergartners is their name.

Kids love their names. One of my favorite activities for helping children write their nems is rainbow name writing. Simply write your child’s name in black marker or crayon. Then have your child trace over top in several different colors. You can let your child choose five or so colors and write their name and create a unique art piece all in one!

I mentioned before how there is not a lot of actual writing in the kindergarten standards, but there is a lot of communicating.

A lot of the “writing” standards call for using a combination of “drawing, dictating, and writing”. You can vary the amounts of each of those depending on the current skill level of your kiddo.

Maybe at the beginning of kindergarten your child likes to just draw a picture to express a thought or tell a story. She might dictate a sentence or two to you about what is happening in the picture. That’s all totally fine for kindergarten!

Maybe by the end of kindergarten she is drawing a picture and copying a sentence that you wrote out for her. Or, maybe she is still just dictating the sentences to you. Or, maybe she writes a few words and you write the rest. You get the idea. Be flexible.

7) Answer their questions.

This tip kind of goes along with jumping on their curiosity, but in a different way. Earlier, we talked about letting your child’s curiosity guide the topics you cover when homeschooling kindergarten. Now, we are going to focus on just simply answer his questions when he asks them.

Which is probably all the time.

Children are curious and when they ask a question, there are really only two options:

You answer their question, or

you don’t.

When you get frustrated with all the questions coming out of your five-year-old’s mouth, you are sending the signal that the question is not important, the information is not important, and ultimately, that she is not important.

But, when you look them in the eye and answer their question you are sending so many wonderful signals!

Paying attention and answering your child’s questions show them that

1) they are important

2) you value curiosity and wonder

3) learning new things is important and valued in your home

Now, don’t get me wrong, certain times for questions are better than others.

When you are running late for the doctor appointment because Suzy can’t find her shoes and Billy asks “where do babies come from?”…maybe not perfect timing.

But, a good answer might be “that’s a great question and it has a long answer, so let’s talk about it when we’re in the car.”

Answering your kindergartner’s questions is a great way to encourage her curiosity and foster that love of learning that so many homeschool mom’s want for their children.

So much of the kindergarten requirements are focused around language and discussion that answering questions is a great way to cover lots of ground – for free!

Here are just a few of the kindergarten Common Core standards that are covered when you discuss the answer to your child’s question:

>state opinions or preferences about a topic (what do they think about the topic?)

>participate in shared research (help them look up the answer)
demonstrate command of English grammar when speaking

>Use frequently occurring nouns and verbs

>form regular plural verbs

>understand and use question words

>Use the most frequent prepositions (to, from, in, out, on, off, for, of, by, with)

>Produce complete sentences

>Identify new meanings for familiar words

>demonstrate an understanding of frequently occurring verbs and adjectives

>participate in collaborative conversations with adults

>follow rules for conversations (listen to others, take turns speaking)

>continue a conversation with multiple exchanges

>Confirm an understanding of information by asking and answering questions

>ask and answer questions in order to seek help, get information, or clarify something

>speak audibly and express thoughts, feelings, and ideas clearly

8) Keep a flexible homeschool schedule.

Raise your hand if you are one of the many well-intentioned homeschool parents who thinks they might need a complete curriculum in order to properly homeschool kindergarten.

Yeah, I did, too.

And then, I realized that there was no way that we would cover all the material and it would just be a waste of money. And there would be lots of arguing.

Me telling her it was time for school.

Her wanting to play.

You get the idea.

Kindergarten aged kiddos are wired to play. It’s how they learn.

I mean, my girls looove worksheets and even they are hot and cold on them from day to day and week to week.

Kids pay more attention to academic tasks when they are given frequent, brief opportunities for free play.

Gwen Dewar, Ph.D.

Having a flexible kindergarten homeschool daily schedule is key to a successful year.

A simple alternative to a daily homeschooling schedule is a weekly homeschooling schedule.

Instead of picking out five things you want to cover on Monday, pick out five things you want to cover that week.

Maybe you want to work on vowels, writing her name, counting to 20, the letter H, and counting by tens.

Great!

Do one or two of those each day, read a bunch of books together, talk about the books, and play. You will cover so much during your school year and it will be so much less stressful.

A simple kindergarten homeschool schedule also allows you to feel like you are accomplishing what needs to get done and still provides time for jumping on their curiosity and answering their questions.

What counts as school in kindergarten?

Depending on what state you live in, your documentation requirements will vary. However, most states have an hourly requirement to fulfill.

So what can you count as school time?

a lot.

Here are just a few ideas of acceptable school activities. But, really, the list is endless.

~reading books
~playing with Legos
~building with blocks
~playing outside
~dress-up/pretend play
~coloring
~drawing/painting
~crafts
~playing with clay/Mad Mattr

9) Get outside a lot.

There are so many health benefits to having your kindergartner play outside.

We’ve all heard that playing outside helps build a stronger immune system. But, did you also know that it helps make them physically stronger, improves their cognitive abilities, helps develop their social/emotional skills, and increases their attention span?

I mean, we should be outside all day, right?

Yep, basically.

Being outside can be just “go play outside” or it can also be “let’s go outside and…”.

Some ideas for structured play outside might be scavenger hunts, doing counting or geometry with chalk, building towers with rocks. Lots of ideas for outside learning through play.

10) Homeschool does not mean school at home.

One nice thing about homeschooling kindergarten is your small class size. I mean, most of the time it’s one!

You don’t have to spend time on classroom management, so you need less time to do more stuff. And you don’t need all those routines to keep order in the classroom.

Kindergarten teacher are amazing. They keep all those young kids focused, paying attention, and semi-organized for an entire day. Every day.

Just because you are doing homeschooling doesn’t mean it has to look like school at home.

You are working with a fidgety, curious, excited little learner. Play to her strengths and tailor your days to fit her needs.

I hope you now understand just how much can be covered in your homeschool kindergarten without having to resort to worksheets and structure galore.

Finally…

Have fun.

Kindergarten should be a fun time for both you and your child. It’s a time of wonder and excitement. Don’t waste that.

Have a great year!

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