Recently, my friend Serena e-mailed me with a question about getting started with Kindergarten.
The following post represents (in detail) the few things we normally cover in Kindergarten. This is not a schedule. I am still planning to talk about schedules soon.
I have expanded on my return e-mail to include photos and links. I don't want the length to be intimidating, but I added detail in hopes of dispelling some of the homeschool mystery and to give you a place to begin.
So, no getting overwhelmed, okay?
I want you to remember two things. And if this is all you remember from this post, I will be happy.
I want you to remember A LIE and THE TRUTH:
#1 A LIE. Remember not to fall for the lie. You know the one. We've all heard it whispered into our ear. "So and so" is doing it "perfectly." They have the perfect house, kids, spouse, church, homeschool schedule... something. You might even start to think sending your babes to a "perfect" government or private school would be better (I know it sounds funny now...) But there is no perfect this side of heaven. We know that if we think about it. God has called us to a wonderfully noble task. A chance to pour ourselves and our love for Christ into our dear children. Do not get derailed by the lie of an enemy and do not hand the task over to someone else.
#2 THE TRUTH. You will never go it alone:
"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21
He will be at work in us. It is for His glory. Amen?
With that, here is the question:
I am working on getting my plans made to start homeschooling this year, and was wondering if you had any tips or advice for a first time homeschooler. My son will be starting kindergarten and with all of the options out there, it's a little overwhelming!
...the more I research, the more lost I feel!” = )
I wish you could just come over to my house and visit. Then we could talk about all the ins and outs of things, pray together and hopefully find you feeling relaxed and ready to embrace this exciting adventure of training our little ones hearts. Oh, we are so very blessed to be called to this task! You are going to love it!
I know what you mean about trying to find the "perfect" methodology or curriculum. It can be confusing and daunting. I remember the first homeschool conference I went to felt so overwhelming- and it was a small one! I am like you, I've always wanted a package that would be all inclusive, but for whatever reason it has never happened. So with that in mind, I'll share some of what we have used.
HOMESCHOOL IS WHAT WE SAY IT IS
First off, I would like to encourage you that homeschooling does not need to be complicated or expensive. Remember that "school" is what you and your husband say it is. Your children have never been to government school and they have no pre-conceived notions of what school is. If you are confident, they will be confident in you.
Government schools focus primarily on Language and Math for the first several years. In this, you can follow their lead and take it slow. I would focus on Bible, Phonics and Math (which is simple and includes a calendar, learning shapes and colors, making patterns like blue, yellow, green, repeat and other simple concepts. Even the skill of coloring within the lines will be working the math part of the brain.).
This is what Kindergarten has looked like for us:
AN EXAMPLE OF OUR KINDERGARTEN ROUTINE
When our children were really young, we added daily chores to their school schedule. We started with "5 Things.”
I made up a chart with drawn images so even my non readers could do their chores. This is really to get them into habits of doing chores routinely and cheerfully. So we break for character. We are looking for cheerfulness and diligence. You are going to want to build on that foundation later. These are what I used at that time:
1. Get dressed
2. Make bed (not perfectly, but their best)
3. Clean floor (thoroughly)
4. Brush teeth
5. Pray for your day
The "5 Things" list has been replaced with the "7 Things" lists. I had them handy, so I am including them here. They have many additional duties that are not listed here (dishes, bathroom, trash, animals etc.) but these cover when you wake up and when it's time for bed.
We like to do Bible time with Daddy- When he works nights we do it during the day, when his schedule changes so does ours.
1. Tom would read a few verses from the Bible (James and Proverbs work well in this format. I think he has gone through the book of James with us like 20 times... at least that's what I tease him.)
2. Mama would draw a picture to describe what he read.
3. The girls would try to draw the picture in their notebooks.
If that seems like too difficult a creative stretch, my sister found this great resource: Draw to Learn the Book of Proverbs. The busier you are, the less I would try to think on the spot. My sister and I do our best to plan our days so that very little thinking on the spot is required. : )
This came from Faith's Bible notebook. She was 5 1/2. The passage is James 1:12- "Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him." Not every entry will be an award winning entry. This happened to be one of my favorites. See him standing on top of his trials and temptations? Love it.
This is also a wonderful age for Bible memory work. We started with small, seemingly random verses, then last year we used the same process (of repeating and repeating verses) to build one verse upon the other and the girls were able to memorize a whole chunk of the book of Romans.
Some people do what they call "Circle Time" at the beginning of the day when they do their memory work, Bible, singing etc. with Mama. Again, our school day always melds around Tom's schedule. Some years we have done that and others we haven't. You will soon find what seems to click for you.
I would recommend that you find an intensive phonics program you like. Phonics are the building blocks for reading, spelling and writing. We have used both the Spell to Write and Read program and All About Spelling.
We didn't start out with an intensive phonics program, but found the need to add it later when our oldest had trouble spelling. She jumped right up to grade level within a couple of months.
The nice thing about SWR, is they offer a two day training course for homeschool moms. Receiving training in the teaching of phonics has made me more confident in my ability to teach phonics and reading. If you cannot attend the SWR training class, I would recommend All About Spelling due to its ease of use.
If you cannot do that right now, that's okay. You could also plan to buy the 70 basic phonogram cards and CD or another program such as Hooked on Phonics so that you can learn the sounds. Before using SWR, I was able to teach a friend's daughter by using the Hooked on Phonics videos.
"Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons" is another helpful resource. It's made up of silly stories, but it works. I would recommend skipping a couple of the stories, but most of the ones I would skip are in the back and the kids never seem to get through the book. About halfway through they are ready to move on to simple Christian readers.
I could also recommend the sweet Rod and Staff workbooks if you want to do more "book work." They show cheerful, hardworking families in all their workbooks and little jewel books. The children cut and paste, do tracing and so on.
Sweet little Michaela girl on her first day of Kindergarten with all of her school books and her calendar. : )
For Kindergarten we use Saxon K.
It is very repetitive, but teaches the basics and has you use a calendar and hands on manipulatives. Any Kindergarten math product would be fine. What I like about Saxon K is that it teaches repetitive submission to your teaching routine. They make a pattern using little counting bears, you talk about it and you put them away for next time. As they submit and put things away before exhausted of them you have opportunity after opportunity to teach them cheerful obedience to your commands. That in itself is foundational to a happy homeschool environment in later years.
Character comes first. Tom and I feel strongly that developing godly character is more important than anything else we can focus on. What does it profit a man if he gain the whole (academic or literary) world and loses his soul? I know you feel the same on this point. Our sweet children are blank slates we must be very thoughtful about what we allow to be etched onto them.
Read only excellent books. I would encourage you to keep your standards very high even if your book shelf seems less full than someone else's. Weed out anything with that would be opposed to your family goals and the word of God (such as witchcraft, sibling contention, discontented attitudes, glorified pirates or other thieves, the idea of children being "bored" or having little to no parental supervision etc.)
Would you like a list of some of the books on our shelves? Your read aloud time can fill in everything else you want to cover- character, science, poetry and so on.
You can even make your own books to read with pictures of your babes. Marketing your family to your family.
ART and LIFE
Enjoy tactile fun. I know you do. Making cookie dough, enjoying Play-Doh (outside is ok), painting masterpieces to give as Christmas gifts, collecting leaves and taping them to paper trees on your window- whatever fun things that appeal to you.
Buy a calendar at the dollar store and make a balanced plan including school time, holiday time, family time, art project time etc. You will feel more relaxed knowing it's all sketched in. Pray about it. Maybe one month you will want to teach about Christopher Columbus and make his ships. Just sketch it in. If it doesn't happen, that's ok too. Don't feel like you need to cover Christopher Columbus in detail every year.
MAKE YOUR CHILDREN YOUR BIGGEST HELPERS
Make your children your biggest helpers. Let them know you couldn't and wouldn't want to do it without them. Let them help you pack groceries, sort laundry, wash windows, clean the car. Then brag on them big time to their daddy. They will thrive under your approval.
Remember that Kindergarten is optional. This is your chance to see what you like and don't like.
But most importantly, the great and gracious Lord who has called you to this task will also be your helper. Relax, have fun and enjoy your children. Remember that you and your husband are schooling for an audience of One. Seek only His approval.
Blessings to you!
Photo: Lydia all ready to be a helper to Mama at the grocery store. Lydia is "pre-schooling" now so she is learning her ABC's, Shapes, Bible and first time, cheerful obedience.