Thinking about curriculum has required me to cool my jets a whole bunch, because there’s just about nothing I love more than school and curriculum is my JAM. When I taught college, making the syllabus made me legit giddy, and my favorite part of the homeschool research process has been looking into what other people are using for curriculum. There are so many good resources out there and I kinda want to try them all.
But it’s kindergarten. And I want it to be a gentle year, with short lessons focused on strengthening Graham’s reading and basic math skills, and getting him comfortable with handwriting. I feel like all we really need is some phonics practice, a variety of games to practice math skills, and a bit of copywork and some crafts to strengthen little man’s grip and fine motor skills.
But Graham is also REALLY stoked about starting school, so we’re going to be doing a bit more than that. We’ll be keeping it light and fun, without loads of worksheets or drills, but this kid is curious and I want to set him up well for next year by exposing him to some more history, geography, science and language arts.
So I’m trying to balance both of our desires to go big with this homeschool stuff, and our desires to just let Graham be a kid and spend most of his time playing and exploring.
Here are the resources we’ll be planning our learning around this year:
The Well-Trained Mind, by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise
When I first began looking into different methods and styles of home education, I immediately wrote off classical homeschooling as too rigid and rigorous for us, especially as we’re just starting out. Then I listened to an episode of Julie Bogart’s Brave Writer podcast that featured Susan Wise Bauer as a guest. I really connected with what she was saying and decided to check out this book. As it turns out, classical education sounds much gentler than I expected and right up my alley, and I’m really interested in pursuing it as a pattern for our kid’s schooling.
For one thing, the method is much less about intensity and expectations of raising a genius (my former impression), and much more about developing excellence in thinking. In a classical education, the first four years (or so) of schooling are about filling a child’s mind with as much information as you can—this turned me off initially, until I read more about why and how. Kids at this age are super curious, love facts, love to memorize, and want to learn things. Having a broad base of knowledge will allow them to organize their thinking in later years, to examine what’s logical and true, and then later to form opinions and learn how to talk and write about different subjects. I got really excited reading Wise and Bauer’s words, because they’re not about putting kids under enormous amounts of pressure; they’re about giving kids the tools to think and a broad base of things to think about.
I used to teach writing and rhetoric to college freshman. Very, very few of them had experience with or skill at forming cogent arguments and writing coherently. I want my kids to finish high school feeling comfortable with writing, research/teaching themselves, and making sound judgements. Classical education might just be the path we choose to follow.
All this said, Bauer and Wise don’t suggest doing a whole lot of “official” school during the kindergarten year. Instead, the book gives terrific suggestions for working phonics, math and writing skills gently into your regular life. I love their ideas for teaching reading, and they’ve got a great list of easy readers and other resources for a 4- to 5-year-old just starting out in school, including recommended audiobooks, math and science texts, and manipulatives.
What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know
This book is based on the premise that children need to have a general basis of knowledge in order to make sense of the world, discover their interests, and organize their thinking. It’s a great resource for keeping kids on-track with their public schooling peers (while still having the flexibility that homeschooling offers to customize how you teach.) We’ve already used this book to talk about geography basics and for a Fourth of July primer, and both my kids love the fairy tales, fables, and classic songs inside. We’ll be using the book as both a general guide to topics we should be covering, and for ideas about how to cover them. Bonus: the book has lots of great ideas for teaching beginning math concepts through games and projects; we’ll be utilizing these for sure.
This is the main area we want to work in this year. Our major plan for homeschooling is to read aloud together as much as humanly possible, but Graham is also interested in reading more independently. We’ve worked through about half of this book over the past year, and at a certain point nobody was looking forward to our lessons. We’ll jump back into it if Graham wants to, but the last thing I want to do is push him away from reading. I’m just fine with him coming to it on his own. In the meantime, our primary goal is to establish a language-rich household and surround the kids with books.
Crafty Classroom’s R.E.A.D Curriculum Notebook
This 36-week curriculum has tons of craft and activity pages to reinforce phonics learning, and I think it’ll be right up Graham’s alley.
Language Arts, Geography, Science and Art
This is a secular, Charlotte Mason-inspired, living books-based curriculum that does a unit on each continent. Emily, the program’s author, has included arts and craft projects, regional cooking, and animal studies (for science), but the core of the program is in reading living books aloud together. I love the book list for the year, and I love organizing Graham’s learning for this year around different parts of the world, since he’s been lucky enough to do some traveling and has tons of interest in other cultures and people. We’re planning to follow the schedule pretty loosely, mostly just utilizing the book list and cherry-picking ideas for projects when we want to dive a bit deeper. So, essentially, I’m thinking this curriculum will serve as a guide for our read-alouds and we’ll just spend lots of time reading together and talking about what we’ve read. If we want to supplement more books about different places, I’m excited about the booklists in this book.
Right Start Mathematics, Level A
I’ve gone back and forth on whether we want to use an actual curriculum for math this year, but I really like the look of Right Start and the way it focuses on learning with manipulatives. We’ll be using it as a guide for talking about and playing around with different math concepts. I think it’ll be helpful for teaching me, mostly, ways to talk about numbers.
Let’s Play Math by Denise Gaskins
This isn’t curriculum, but a terrific resource in learning more about how to approach math the mathematician’s way—as being a creative exercise in problem- and puzzle-solving. I’ll be looking into Gaskins’ Math You Can Play books for more ideas as well.
Crafty Classroom’s Interactive Math: Kindergarten
Should we find ourselves wanting some crafty math projects, coloring pages or fun worksheets, this workbook will be our go-to.
Our family loves games and I love the idea of gameschooling. Some of the ones we’ll be playing this year to improve our math and logic thinking:
Yahtzee (we have this one and we love it so much)
Nature walks, drawing things, following the kids’ interests: not gonna overthink this one.
I believe very, very firmly that the best thing Graham can do this year is play, outside if possible, and in an unstructured way the majority of the time.
So that’s our plan! We’ll read aloud, exploring in our reading different parts of the world and pointing places out on a globe as we go; we’ll do 10-20 minutes of phonics work per day; we’ll play games and follow the concepts in Right Start to work on mathematical thinking; and we’ll spend as much time playing and being outside as we can!