WHEN DO FORMAL LESSONS BEGIN?
The school age for many states is six years old. If you child is under the age of six on September 1st, 15th, or whatever date the state has chosen, you are not legally required to do any formal education yet. Children in those states who are under the age of 6 are of compulsory school age if they have already been enrolled in public school.
You can wait until your child is six years old to start formal instruction, which is in line with some popular educational philosophies, including Classical and the Charlotte Mason method.
Formal lessons are not required by law, but you may decide to start them earlier. Your kids might be interested in academics or you might want their grade level to match the public educational system. The Montessori method helps children learn through a hands-on, child-led approach. It introduces academics at early ages.
DO I NEED A CURRICULUM?
No, a curriculum is not necessary during these early educational years. Children learn a lot through play, good conversations, and real-life experiences.
If you would rather use a curriculum to guide your instruction, that is perfectly fine, especially during the preschool and kindergarten years. Having a set curriculum can help provide structure and guidance if you feel unsure of what to teach and how to teach it.
Some young children are interested in academics and enjoy learning how to write, read, and do their workbooks. These children may enjoy a structured academic curriculum.
If you have a child who is eager to learn and don’t have time to plan activities or lessons, a curriculum may be a good option for your family.
Even though it may be difficult, try to keep homeschooling during the preschool and kindergarten years casual and natural.
WHAT SHOULD BE OUR FOCUS?
The main goal during the early years should be developing a love for learning.
Encourage your children to explore and be curious about the world around them. Help them to be excited about learning new things. Inspire them to dive deeper into their interests.
Expose your child to beautiful literature, music, and art. The most important thing is to make sure that your child is getting a solid foundation in the core subjects of reading, writing, and arithmetic. However, try to keep things simple and fun, with lots of hands-on activities.
The years during which your child is getting an education laying a foundation for the rest of their life are very important.
A good understanding of core subjects such as reading, math, and science will help your child do well in other areas like social studies, history, and science.
It is important to spend the early years at home bonding with your child and building a strong relationship. If you raise your child to be responsible and respectful, they will be less likely to struggle as they begin formal education.
SEVEN TIPS FOR HOMESCHOOLING THE EARLY YEARS
Follow the Child’s Lead
It’s important for you to be aware of your child’s learning preferences and abilities during the early years to ensure they develop a love for learning.
Follow your child’s development and try not to compare them to “Bill” or “Sally.” As babies talk and toddlers walk at different ages, so too young students develop individually in recognizing colors, learning letter sounds, and writing or reading.
If you introduce new concepts to your children before they are ready, they may lose interest in learning and damage your relationship with them. If children are having difficulty with reading, writing, or math, they may just need some time off to try again later. This could be a few weeks or months. Remember, childhood is not a race.
Cheer your children on and encourage their unique development.
While you should definitely monitor your child’s development, you can also use their interests to inform how you teach them. This will make them pay attention and be curious, and has been shown to result in better retention rates.
Read Quality Literature
One of the best things you can do during these early homeschooling years is to read aloud to your children. This will help them develop a love for learning and a desire to continue their education even after they leave your homeschool.
When you read aloud to your child, it will help them learn new words and give them a reference point to start from when they begin reading on their own.
This is the perfect time to introduce your children to great literature by choosing high-quality living books that you won’t mind reading multiple times. Stories like folktales, fairy tales, and nursery rhymes are great for kids in preschool and kindergarten.
If you are looking for books on a particular topic, you can find them using the Simply Charlotte Mason Bookfinder. The Iowa Homeschool Mom website has some great lists of books, as well as the Read Aloud Revival website.
One way to help your child learn new words is to provide them with a variety of real-life experiences. This will help them understand more when they start to read.
There are many places you can take your children to help them learn more about the world around them. The zoo, state parks, historical museums, and conservatories are all great places to take them to help them learn more about the world around them. If you’re looking for ideas for homeschool field trips in Iowa, this long list of ideas should be helpful, or you can check out this website.
Let your children cook, clean, and help in the garden. Give them the opportunity to learn how to do things on their own like picking out their clothes, cleaning up after themselves, pouring their own drinks, and setting the table. You should encourage your children to try and brush their own hair, wash themselves in the tub, and organize their clothes. This will help them to be more independent and responsible.
Giving children responsibilities and independence at an early age will help them succeed later on in their formal education. This will help them develop the discipline they need for more independent learning in the future.
Most people believe that young children learn best through play. This is because play is the child’s way of working.
Children’s toys that focus on education, such as puzzles, felt playsets, board games, and STEM toys, can help teach kids different ideas, improve their vocabulary, and test their logical thinking abilities.
Your child can learn basic math concepts, like counting, patterns, and addition and subtraction, through educational toys. They can learn letters, letter sounds, and even blending. Even doodle boards encourage writing.
In addition to educational toys, it’s important to give your child plenty of opportunities to play with open-ended toys.
Toys that inspire imagination and creativity help children develop useful critical-thinking skills. They allow discovery and promote independent play.
Some examples of toys that promote open-ended play include stacking toys, play silks, blocks, balance boards, and animal figurines.
Spend Time Outdoors
Although the importance of outdoor play is often overlooked in our busy technological world, it is still important.
While it is important to spend time inside, it is just as important to spend time outside playing in nature. This is vital to your child’s physical and mental well-being, as well as your own health.
Many children’s first introduction to science is through nature. Try to spend time outdoors with your child, pointing out the different plants and animals. Try to share any knowledge about the environment that you have.
Encourage your children to start collecting natural objects and to have fun observing and appreciating God’s creation.
Establish Morals & Habits
This is also a good time to teach your children morals and values. It’s the time to teach kids good habits and connect as a family.
Read your children books that teach virtues, such as kindness, respect, good manners, and faith. It’s important to teach kids good habits like obedience, attention, and truthfulness from a young age.
Completing this work now will make your life much easier when your children are older. They will be more likely to listen to and follow directions during formal lessons if they are comfortable. The people in the neighborhood will be more willing to help out with chores and yardwork. They will more likely be good-hearted people with strong morals.
Offer Hands-On Activities
If your child expresses an interest in more formal lessons, you can follow their lead while still keeping the learning process playful and enjoyable. Plan structured activities based on your child’s current interests.
Encourage your children to engage in arts and crafts, and explore different sensory items such as play-dough, kinesthetic sand, water tables, rainbow rice, and even plain ole’ dirt.
Activities to help improve fine motor skills and strength in the hands can help prepare children for writing. There are many activities that could be considered fine motor skills development, such as lacing, beading, playing with play-dough, transferring pompoms with tweezers, cutting, or collecting water with pipettes.
If your child is gaining more interest in reading, writing, and math, then here are some fun hands-on ideas on how to prepare them for more formal lessons in those subject areas:
- Reading: Play with foam letters in the bathtub, place letter magnets on the fridge, use sandpaper letters and various small objects to introduce letter sounds, use wooden reading blocks with those eager early readers.
- Writing: Write in shaving cream, use play-dough to mold letters, offer a sand/salt tray to write in, trace with dry erase markers, and just have fun with chalk.
- Math: Play board games, use various manipulatives for counting, adding, and subtracting, and make patterns with small erasers, unifix cubes, and objects found in nature. Introduce basic measurement concepts, like big/little, height, and length, using toy figurines.
Resources for Homeschooling Kindergarten and the Early Years
Phonics instruction for young children should be informal and natural instead of formal. You can improve your child’s literacy skills by reading aloud to them and playing word and letter games.
Handwriting Without Tears is a great handwriting program, especially if you have a child who is left handed. You can also try out Cursive First, which is a great alternative approach. The 100 Gentle Lessons in Handwriting from A Gentle Feast is another option.
There’s not really a wrong handwriting program. You should teach them how to write letters slowly, either teaching them print letters first or cursive letters first. It’s not necessary to start teaching a child fine motor coordination skills until they are 6 years old, because they tend to develop these skills later than their ability to read. If you wait until they are 6, they can pick up these skills more quickly, and be more successful. If you are set on teaching handwriting in Kindergarten, try having them trace letters, color letters, and write letters in sand and in the air.
For music and art, listen and look and sing. Check out our reprints of the Child’s Own classical composers series. If you want to introduce your child to classical music, a good way to do it is by playing it around the house. This way, they can listen to composers like Bach and Mozart without you having to do anything special. There are many benefits to taking music lessons, including developing skills and appreciation for beauty. The Suzuki philosophy of homeschooling is an excellent way to get into music, which can begin as early as ages 2 and 3. The lessons were only 15 minutes long so that they could give their full attention.
If you are required to homeschool math for kindergarten in your state, there are many good math programs available to choose from, like Singapore Essential Math Kindergarten A and B, Saxon Math K or 1, BJU Press Math K5, Math-U-See Primer level, and Life of Fred Apples. Also check out the Charlotte Mason Elementary Arithmetic series. These programs are designed to be used by children aged six and up.
Science and Social Studies (History) and Literature:
If your state requires non-fiction texts to be read in kindergarten, the absolutely best way to handle it is to read aloud. Make sure to include both well-written non-fiction and fiction picture books in your daily routine, including folk tales.
Here is a great list of books that are perfect for kindergartners.
If you’re looking for a one book to read aloud for kindergarten history, Fifty Famous Stories Retold, a collection of historical hero tales, would be a good choice.
Thornton Burgess is a great author to read to your young children because of the wonderful nature story books he has written. The Good and the Beautiful has published several engaging nature readers. There are two distinctively different categories – Birds and Insects & Arachnids. You can conduct your own scientific observations by taking walks or hikes and observing nature, or simply sitting in your yard and paying attention to the world around you. Keep track of what you see to document your findings. Which birds, trees, flowers and insects are native to your area? How do they change throughout the year? Learn their names. Trace a leaf. Draw a flower. Copy bird calls. God’s world is full of beauty. Get to know it and enjoy it. If you want help and guidance, then Exploring Nature with Children is a good, gentle and thorough guide to observing the natural world through eyes of wonder. It contains book lists and more to pair with your explorations.
Instead of sitting in a stuffy classroom for your state-required Physical Education credit, take a walk or go on a hike! You’ll get some fresh air and exercise, and you might even learn something new. Learn to ride a bike. Get outside!
Other (foreign language, skills, obedience and attention):
Sing or listen to songs in another language. You can learn the names of everyday objects in another language by incorporating them into your daily life. This will help you become familiar with the sounds of the words and make it easier to remember them. Google Translate is a great resource for learning how to say things in another language. Here are some other resources for learning how to say things in another language: -Duolingo -Babbel -Rosetta Stone It will be difficult to do this if you don’t know a foreign language, so get a phrasebook to help you learn some useful phrases.