Your preschooler is ready for formal schooling. Now what?
Many homeschooling families loosely follow traditional school guidelines for grade levels. If your child attended a traditional school, he began Kindergarten the year he turned five, providing the fifth birthday occurred before August. Those children with September through December birthdays are encouraged to begin Kindergarten the next year. When homeschooling, however, this is simply a rule of thumb. Some children are ready for formal schooling earlier, and some are ready later. Research has shown that young boys, in particular, often benefit from an additional year of more loosely organized group interaction and hands-on learning before beginning more formal lessons.
For a basic idea of what a Kindergartener should master by the end of the school year, log on to your state government’s website and check out the state standards. You will find entries such as these (from the state of Arizona):
- When a teacher reads a book to the students, the students can make predictions about the book based on the book’s cover, title, text, and illustrations.
- When told a story, students can re-tell or re-enact it, putting the elements of the story together in the correct order.
- Students are able to follow two- or three-step directions in the correct sequence.
- Students can identify various symbols, labels, and signs found in their environment.
- Students are able to identify the letters of the alphabet.
But remember, as a homeschooler, you’re not tied down to the state’s curriculum; instead, you can use the standards as a guideline as you work with your child. Perhaps you want to purchase a complete kindergarten curriculum, such as one offered by A Beka Publications. Or you could use a book or two as your basic resources, such as A Home Start in Reading, A Strong Start in Language, and An Easy Start in Arithmetic by Dr. Ruth Beechick. Another place you could begin is with the book What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know, part of the Core Knowledge Series by E.D. Hirsch. The Five In A Row series created by Jane Claire Lambert is yet another resource you might choose, featuring lessons centered around picture books along with social studies, math, language, science, and art activities. Or, you might create your own curriculum and use library books as your primary resource.
How do you know which to choose? They all work well – you just have to find what suits you and your child best. No matter what curriculum you choose, however, remember to keep learning fun. One of the great benefits of homeschooling is the way we can accomplish the task of imparting knowledge. Five and six year olds still love learning kinesthetically, and teaching in this way can be enjoyable and rewarding for both the child and the parent. Use the ideas you find in the books, but don’t forget to look online as well. Also, use your imagination – with a little thought, you can come up with some fun learning activities as well.
Below are some examples to get you started:
- Get your new Kindergartener a 7 x 11 baking pan. Pour in some yummy pudding. You can practice making his letters together in pudding!
- Several companies make toddler snacks that are shaped like letters. Spell out those beginning blend sounds with these handy edibles.
- Choose a letter from the alphabet and practice the sound it makes. Go around the room with your child and find things that begin with that letter.
- Make a simple recipe with your kindergartener. Have him help you count and measure the ingredients. No-bake recipes are especially good for this age.
- Purchase some play dough or make some of your own. Show your child how to form it into different shapes.
- Plant a garden together. You can plant flowers or vegetables in an area in your yard, or you can plant them in containers as small as a paper cup. Talk about the roots, stem, and leaves. Show your child that the plant needs the sun, water, and soil to grow, just as he needs good food to grow.
- Kindergarteners need to know their left from their right. Hide a special treasure in the backyard, and draw a map with distinct right and left turns. Go find treasure together!
- Teach him about the mail. Have him draw a picture for someone in the family and place it in an envelope. Show him how to seal it shut and where to place the stamp. Place it in the mailbox together and raise the flag. Have him help you collect the mail after it’s been delivered.
- Introduce your child to the community helpers. Take him on field trips to the fire station, police station, and post office.
The most important thing to remember as you school your kindergartener is to relax and enjoy the lessons. You’ll find you’re doing more than teaching your little one – you’re making memories.
Guest Blogger: Samantha Bell
Photo by sean dreilinger