Ok, I’m kind of cheating today. I wanted to be sure to participate in the first MONTHLY Read-Aloud Thursday over at Hope is the Word. But between the end of swim season and jury duty and one kid away at Scout camp and all the other summer activities I didn’t have anything particular to share. Don’t get me wrong. We are still reading. But we aren’t reading anything that jumped out at me as something I wanted to write about.
So instead, I thought I’d share how I do homeschool preschool and kindergarten. I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately in real life about this from Moms who are considering homeschooling and who have kids in the 2-4 year old range. And I’m currently thinking about what Ruth and I will do this fall so I thought it would make for a good post.
Preschool and kindergarten for me as a teacher are really all about reading, and mostly reading-aloud. We do work on letters and sounds and begin more structured phonics sometime around kindergarten. But I really see preschool and kindergarten as a time to immerse kids in a love of story. I want my kids to be exposed early on to the poetry of rhyme and to see great art and to make new friends in books. Some people will argue that you don’t need any kind of curriculum for homeschool preschool or kindergarten. I would completely agree but with the caveat that those are the same kind of people who will probably be great unschoolers. People who can whip up an art project on the spur or the moment or think of a thousand great ideas of ways to explore their son’s obscure interest in South American toads. People who aren’t me, in other words.
I like structure and routines and lists. I like curriculum. However, I also like flexibility and I like to do things myself. This sometimes makes for a schizophrenic approach to schooling, but I think a lot of people have the same issues. For me, what has worked for preschool and kindergarten is to have some kind of skeleton structure that centers around reading a lot of good books and that pushes me to plan out a few other activities to do with my preschooler.
First, I do a letter of the week approach when my kids are around 3ish. Each week I search for books related to that week’s letter. A week is alligators, ants, apples. B week is bubbles, books, bikes. C week is cats, caterpillars, cake. You get the idea. I start teaching the letter sounds at this age so I try and make sure the words we focus on are the main phonetic sound for that letter. No airplanes in A week. Or eyes in E week. On weeks that we have more time (or when I only had one student) we do some activities to go along with the letter/books. We watched ants in A week, rode bikes and blew bubbles in B week, made cupcakes in C week. And that’s pretty much preschool.
After the Letter of the Week I have used Five in a Row with both boys through kindergarten. I love Five in a Row. It is an incredibly flexible curriculum.The concept is simple: you read the same book for five days in a row and talk about a different aspect of the book. The manuals are relatively inexpensive and give suggestions for activities to go along with each book that you are “rowing”. So one day might be language arts and you talk about homophones. Another might be geography and you talk about the setting of the book. Another might be science and you talk about the water cycle. Because it is flexible it’s easy to adapt according to your own family and kids. We typically didn’t read the book all five days but used it as a springboard to read lots of other books about a particular topic. Because I was using it for younger kids I ignored most of the grammar/math kinds of activities and did a lot of fun science or art and some geography.
As much as I love Five in a Row, I am thinking of doing something different with Ruth. Mostly because I think her schooling experience suffers from my own lack of excitement with materials that I have used with her brothers. Some people love doing the same things over and over. I really like the planning aspect of homeschooling and I’m thinking that if I use something new and have to be a bit more thoughtful about it, I may also be more excited about teaching it. A more engaged, excited teacher makes for a more engaged, excited student. I had been considering using the book Teaching Caldecotts Across the Curriculum which I think has a very similar approach to FIAR. However, after seeing Semicolon’s posts about the Picture Books Around the World project she is working on, I am seriously considering stealing her idea. (Not in writing my own curriculum like she is, but just in using the reading around the world idea with Ruth.)
So that’s my preschool/kindergarten advice. Read a lot and then read some more. Throw in a little phonics, maybe a bit more in kindergarten. Do some math if they like it and you want. If you are good at thinking of preschool crafts and activities don’t worry about a plan. There are no such things as educational gaps in a homeschool preschool. If you are like me and need a plan use some kind of skeleton to organize your library list and go from there.
Read Aloud Curriculum
Five in Row (and Before Five in a Row for the very young)
Using Caldecotts Across the Curriculum
Storybook Art (could be a great skeleton for ideas for an arty child)
Picture Book Preschool (Sherry at Semicolon’s first preschool curriculum)
Previous Posts Showing “How We Do It”
One week with a Five in a Row book
And my favorite bookish link-up is now monthly…take the time to head over to Hope is the Word and read what others are reading aloud. Maybe even consider participating yourself this month!