If you plan on homeschooling kindergarten, then we are glad you are reading this article, because our aim is to help you feel confident about homeschooling, and give you some good solid tips on how to make your first year a success.
Congratulations on your decision to homeschool! If you are new to homeschooling and have a kindergarten-aged child, it can be a little nerve wracking, not knowing exactly what to do and wanting to make sure your child learns all that they need to learn. The amount of curriculum available can be overwhelming, as can be the desire not to mess up our children’s education.
Homeschooling Kindergarten: What is it?
Kindergarten is an exciting age, full of fun and learning opportunities. It is a time of physical changes, with teeth falling out, and coming in. It is also a time where a child’s curiosity and personality is forged.
According to Wikipedia, Kindergarten “means literally “garden for the children”, the term was coined in the metaphorical sense of [a] “place where children can grow in a natural way. [Kindergarten] is a preschool educational approach traditionally based on playing, singing, practical activities such as drawing, and social interaction as part of the transition from home to a school setting.”
As homeschoolers, kindergarten is better seen as a transition from everyday life to a life of learning, in both structured and non-structured ways. It is where we introduce the alphabet, beginning reading, beginning writing, numbers, counting, and basic math. It’s also where we introduce learning about the world around us, asking questions to learn things, to think on our feet, and to develop a habit of learning new things.
The best way to do this is in a fun, low-pressure way that keeps the child curious and gets them used to using their minds to think and learn things. As their knowledge and skills increase, then the structure of lessons and subjects that they learn increases as well.
The Goal of Kindgergarten
If you take away anything from this article, we want it to be this: the most important thing in homeschooling kindergarten is to instill a love of learning in your child.
Frankly, if you have accomplished this, you have given your child something that public schools have stolen from our nation’s children. A love of learning will take them far in life, and will give them the fire to do anything they need to learn anything they want to.
My husband Curtis is a former classroom teacher. His degree is in elementary education, because he loved teaching young children, and he enjoyed giving them a hands-on approach to math, science, and writing. He taught second and third grade for several years, until one year he came home from work, discouraged. “I need to teach first grade,” he said. “These children are getting to my class and they are already jaded. They are already done with school.” Eventually, Curtis started teaching kindergarten. He figured that if he could get them early enough in their school career, that he could at least give them a good experience to carry with them as the years went on.
That is why the most important thing to give your child is a love of learning. That is a fire that will never be quenched. It is a gift that will set them up for a lifetime of learning, and it will make your homeschooling much, much easier.
The Role of Play in Learning
One key component of Kindergarten is the emphasis on developing a love of learning through play. Children naturally know how to play, so we can use that natural ability and tendency to play and use it in educational ways. That is part of the natural growth of children into curious, lifelong learners. Educational activities that are fun and seem like games, or involve imaginative play-time, create the bridge between playtime and academics.
According to a recent article in The Guardian, children should learn mainly through play until age eight. The article, which quotes researchers at the Lego Foundation, goes on to say that “the evidence for play-based learning has built enormously over the last decade, but parents don’t know about it.”
Lego identifies five types of play – physical, symbolic, with rules, with objects, and pretence – and points to the variety of skills developed through each. Even tech-driven play – that source of guilt and respite for so many parents – can fit in: not mindless screen-gawping but activities in which children can “engage with the technology”, or what Lego calls “hands-on, minds-on”. Its second definition of play is a playful state of mind in which, Rasmussen says, “you are open and try different things and are in a positive flow”.
Early Structured Learning Can Have a Negative Effect
According to early childhood expert Erika Christakis, “Preschool teaching is still focused on a content-based curriculum rather than on transferable skills that kids can apply to a variety of dynamic settings. This is a problem because many preschoolers spend three or more years in institutional care before they even hit kindergarten. There’s some evidence that children exposed to the same preschool tedium for multiple years — for example, the dreaded daily tracking of the calendar or unvarying class rules at Circle Time — may actually lose interest in school and fare worse on academic learning outcomes in the later years.”
This quote is from an interview published in Yale News in early 2016. In the interview, Christakis talks about how early childhood education requires play and less scripted lessons. She goes on to say, “Teachers need to know children well on two levels. They need to know the kinds of things to expect from a typical 3-year-old and also to know those 3-year-olds as individuals, each with unique strengths, challenges, and idiosyncrasies. In order to understand young children in this comprehensive way, teachers need to be versed in sound developmental principles and to have the time and opportunity to get to know children in their natural habitat, which is to say in a play-based, language-rich setting involving relationships with adults who cherish them.”
As homeschooling parents we are poised to be the best people to know our children on these two levels. You don’t have to be a trained educator to be able to know what to expect from your own child. You also don’t need to be a trained educator to know your child as an individual, with unique strengths, challenges, and idiosycrasies. As homeschoolers, we have the time and the opportunity to get to know our children very well, and cherish them as they grow and develop their natural curiosity and love of learning.
The Homeschool Advantage
As homeschoolers, our children have an advantage over children that have to go to a building called a school everyday. We can create our own schedules, we can make our own school rules. We don’t have to fit our children into little boxes with neat labels, and we can go as slow or fast as our children need to. So, our suggestion is, don’t rush kindergarten. Make it a joy for you and your child. You are on the same team, so learn and play together.
Do as much as you can to show them how interesting the world is around them. Get them interested in letters and numbers by involving them in everyday things like paying a cashier, mailing a letter, measuring out ingredients for a recipe. The more things you let them do, the more they will want to learn, and that is what kindergarten is all about.
If you have questions about this topic, please ask in the comments. We will be happy to share our insights and info on this topic with you.
Next article: What is the Best Kindergarten Curriculum?