Inside: Everything you need to know to homeschool kindergarten successfully: the essentials and answers to commonly asked questions.
If you are wondering how to homeschool kindergarten, you are probably new to the homeschool world. Your homeschool journey will be full of questions and challenges, but the rewards are far greater, in my opinion. Welcome!
If this isn’t your first time homeschooling kindergarten, but your first experience wasn’t awesome, I hope reading these ideas and tips for homeschooling kindergarten will help you have a more satisfying year. Kindergarten is one of my favorites grades to homeschool.
How to Homeschool Kindergarten
As you glance through this list, you might be surprised to find that I haven’t mentioned Science, History, Art, or Music. So many of these subjects can be covered through reading aloud, field trips, educational shows, and just by answering the bagillion questions kids ask every day.
Kindergarten is for covering the basics, living in a literature-rich environment, and cultivating curiosity. My highest homeschool goal for my children is that they love learning and are life-long learners.
Because most parents start to homeschool in kindergarten, how you approach learning this year will dramatically shape your child’s perspective on learning. Is learning fun, or is it work? Much of how I homeschool kindergarten reflects my desire for my kids to see learning as fun, enjoyable, and worthwhile.
Keep in mind that these are just ideas for homeschooling kindergarten: you need to decide what your homeschool style is and build your homeschool around that. However, until you figure out your homeschool style, which can be challenging in the beginning, it’s helpful to have some basics to help you get started.
1) Extensive Time for Unstructured Play
I mention play first because this is the primary way children learn. Albert Einstein once said,“Play is the highest form of research.”
Play is the highest form of research” -Albert Einstein
In his book Free to Learn, Peter Gray explains the importance of play in learning, and what happens when we take away time for play.
Gray notes, “We have forgotten that children are designed by nature to learn through self-directed play and exploration, and so, more and more, we deprive them of freedom to learn, subjecting them instead to the tedious and painfully slow learning methods devised by those who run the schools.”
What exactly do children learn through play? To start:
- How to regulate emotions
- How to negotiate with others
- How to handle conflict
- How to do adult tasks
- How to deal with disappointment
All of these lessons are just as critical to a successful adult life as learning to add and subtract, perhaps even more so. Children need extended time for unstructured play that is not supervised by adults in any way (because that takes away from the benefits of play).
Have you ever had your kids whine for half an hour that there is “nothing to do”, only to come up with a game five minutes later that keeps them busy for hours? Just as adults need time to warm up in their work, kids need time to warm up to play.
2) Fun, Hands-On Math
When I started homeschooling math, I spent a LOT of money on homeschool math manipulatives, the majority of which you don’t really need. The only thing I kept was a small clock, which was helpful for teaching my kids to tell time when they were ready to learn.
Do you have Duplo Blocks, pennies, gummy bears? So much of kindergarten math can be taught using simple, everyday things you have around the house, in addition to math games.
Practice basic counting, skip counting if they are ready for it, and basic addition and subtraction. Work math into your everyday life and do math out loud when you are doing math yourself. That’s all you need to homeschool math at this age.
We currently use Life of Fred Math as our core math curriculum. My kids all love it (grades 2, kindergarten, and preschool). They actually beg to do math when I don’t think we will get to it that day!
I love that Life of Fred is story-based and introduces concepts that typical math curriculums do not introduce until much later, such as equations and how to solve for an unknown.
Kahn Academy is a fantastic, free resource if you do not want to purchase math curriculum (you can homeschool math without curriculum), and you want more support in the math department. Don’t worry if you do! Math is a common source of anxiety for many homeschool parents, unless you love math yourself.
3) Reading Aloud
Reading aloud can teach every subject under the sun, but you don’t necessarily need to check out books directly related to the subject you are trying to teach. Picture books can be used to teach math, vocabulary, cultural literacy, and science.
If you need convincing about the power of reading aloud to your kids every day, Sarah Mackenzie of the Read Aloud Revival recently released a new book about how to build your family culture around books. Jim Trelease’s The Read-Aloud Handbook offers further evidence on the benefits of reading aloud, along with an extensive reading treasury containing the best books to read aloud, categorized by age and grade.
Reliable Sources for Quality Book Lists:
- Book Lists for Kids Pinterest Board
- Honey For a Child’s Heart
- The Read Aloud Family
- Give Your Child the World
- The Read-Aloud Handbook
4) Child-Appropriate Reading Instruction
Not every child is ready to read when public schools expect them to read. That someone decided all children should start reading at the age of 5 is laughable to me, and unfortunately supported by the moderate percentage of students who learn to read before the age of 5.
If your child is chomping at the bit, asking to learn to read for months before kindergarten, you should definitely start reading instruction. There are several options available.
Homeschool Reading Curriculum:
- All About Reading
- The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading
- How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
- I Can Read It! Books (this is what we use)
If your child is not expressing ANY desire to learn how to read right now, don’t panic! If you are consistently reading aloud and demonstrating the value of reading to you as an adult, your child will want to learn how to read.
Every child learns how to read differently. Some children memorize whole worlds. Others learn sounds and piece new words together gradually.
If you are anxious, you can gently introduce reading. If your child still struggles with letter recognition, you need to start here. You can easily cover this with simple letter practice every day, from plain Jane letter teaching to more elaborate letter instruction with accompanying activities.
If they already know their letters and basic letter sounds, you can move on to reading instruction. Start slowly, casually, and simply. Go at their pace, not yours.
If teaching reading is like pulling teeth, take a break. Try again in a month or two. In the meantime, read aloud, read aloud, and read aloud some more.
If you build a literature-rich home environment, your child will want to learn how to read. You just need to be patient.
5) Handwriting Introduction and Practice
At age 5 or 6, your child may have developed the fine motor control necessary to grip a pencil properly. Even if they are able to grip a classic pencil, these thicker pencils might be easier to use at this age.
We received several Wipe Clean Handwriting Books as a gift several years ago (uppercase letters, lowercase letters, and numbers). My 6-year-old and 4-year-old use them regularly.
They benefit from the thicker overhead markers and the ability to “wipe clean” and start fresh. Especially if you have a perfectionist, these books may help take the pressure off of getting everything “perfect”.
If your child seems to be advanced in handwriting and/or you prefer pencil and paper, Handwriting without Tears is another trusted source for handwriting instruction and practice.
You can also purchase handwriting paper and find free resources online that show how to draw letters in the correct order. You also could try using hands-on activities such as drawing letters in sand or shaving cream or using letter magnets on your fridge.
6) Time to Answer Questions
The most valuable thing you can do in the early years of homeschooling is to train yourself to stop and answer your child’s questions right away if possible. A child’s attention span is short, and if you put off answering their questions for even a few minutes, they will lose interest and move on to the next thing.
Cultivating your child’s natural curiosity is of the utmost importance. The most detrimental part about school, in my opinion, is the stifling of natural curiosity. Even the best teachers need to get through their curriculum. They simply do not have time to stop for even a few questions every hour. When they ask children to hold their question until the end of the lesson, they already missed the curiosity window.
Every time a question is shelved and deemed less important than the material taught by the teacher, children learn to suppress, and eventually ignore their natural curiosity. They stop asking questions because they don’t get answers when they need them. If natural curiosity dies, love of learning is quick to follow. Children learn to learn when they are required to learn, never in their free time or for fun.
Your highest goal as a homeschooling parent is to protect natural curiosity and to help it grow. Some of the richest and most memorable learning in our homeschool comes from finding the answers to genuine and spontaneous questions.
Even though it doesn’t feel like it, the laundry really can wait. Answer their questions first.
Common Questions about Homeschooling Kindergarten
I covered the essentials for a successful kindergarten year, but there is more to homeschooling than what you actually do all day. This section covers additional common questions to make sure you have all your bases covered, especially the legal stuff.
What Do You Need to Do Legally to Homeschool Kindergarten?
Legal requirements vary widely from state to state, so I recommend consulting the Homeschool Legal Defense Association’s website to determine the requirements for your state. So much depends on what age the state requires you to register and report your intent to homeschool, if at all. Some states do not even require kindergarten at all, so your choice to homeschool kindergarten is just that – a choice.
Keep in mind that when you look at the requirements, how you fulfill those requirements is flexible. For example. In Massachusetts, you are required to cover several different subjects from the start, including age-appropriate health, physical education, music, and art.
Does that mean you need to be doing 30 minutes of physical education class every day? No! If you are allowing your child several hours of play every day, they are easily meeting the physical education requirement.
Do you need to teach formal art lessons every day? Nope. Provide art supplies and time for art a few times a week (my kids do “art” almost every day), and you will fulfill the requirements.
The state sets the requirements; you are required to fulfill them. How you fulfill them is largely up to you.
Just keep in mind that whatever you choose to do, you could be required to justify your methods and choices. Keeping good records is essential. You can read more below about how to keep good homeschool records.
How Much Time Does It Take to Homeschool Kindergarten?
You will need far less time to homeschool kindergarten than a traditional school takes, so much less that you will probably question whether you are doing enough. Really, formal schoolwork during kindergarten should take a maximum of one hour a day, but probably much less. The rest of their day will be spent learning through play and everyday life activities.
The reason a traditional school day takes so much time is largely due to class size and the amount of time classroom management takes. Things like recess, lunch, bathroom breaks, transitioning from subject to subject, just getting everyone settled at the beginning of the day takes up a HUGE chunk of time.
With this same reasoning, if you are required by your state to count actual hours, you can absolutely include outside play time as “recess”, lunch, and bathroom breaks. The public school does, so why shouldn’t you?
In addition, you have the flexibility as a homeschool parent to extend your school year or homeschool year-round with intermittent breaks.
How Do You Keep Kindergarten Homeschool Records?
Most states require that you keep homeschool records. Attendance records are a common requirement, but I find this requirement tricky to manage as a relaxed homeschooler.
Because I believe that my kids are always learning, they are almost always “in school”. That being said, I generally count weekdays only. I only count time off school is my child or I is sick, during vacation, or when family is in town for a visit.
You can keep records on a simple checklist, in a planner, or on a calendar. Whatever method you choose, the HSLDA recommends you keep records of any kind on file for two years during elementary and middle school years.
In addition to attendance records, you will want to keep basic records of what you covered from day to day or week to week, depending on your preferences. Reverse homeschool planner pages (a free gift for my e-mail subscribers) can give you a separate space to keep records.
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I also recommend keeping samples of their work. This could include artwork, writing samples, or math worksheets. You will find work samples extremely helpful if you should ever need to prove you are doing your job as a homeschool parent.
Again, the HSLDA recommends keeping records for two years before high school, and all four years of high school.
What About Socialization?
If you homeschool for even a month, you will get the dreaded socialization question from someone in your life. “If your child doesn’t go to school, how will they ever be socialized properly?”
The homeschool community is constantly bewildered by the common belief that children can only be fully socialized in a school setting. Only being around their peers eight hours a day, five days a week can a child learn social norms.
So basically children are expected to be socialized by one teacher and several other children their same age. The notion is pretty bizarre when you think about it.
Because of how ridiculous the question is in general, many homeschool parents laugh off this concern. I, however, believe this question does require more thought in certain circumstances.
If you are a homebody (nothing wrong with that!), for instance, or an extreme introvert, you may need to be more intentional about providing enough social interaction for your child. If you only have one child, being intentional about setting up playdates or finding a local homeschool co-op is essential.
Unfortunately, as children get older, the divide between traditional school families and homeschool families often grows wider. I personally find that traditional school families always have fuller schedules than homeschool families. Maintaining friendships or starting new ones can be challenging.
Even inside the homeschool community, homeschool parents gravitate towards very different homeschool styles. Finding your homeschool tribe takes time and perseverance.
As long as you are aware of your child’s relationships and plan outings where she will be able to play with other children for sustained periods of time, socialization shouldn’t be a cause for concern.
What If My Child Asks for More Formal Academics Than Listed Here?
While I believe that this list of essentials for homeschooling kindergarten is all you really need, I know that some children are gifted and advanced.
Occasionally, a homeschool parent asks in a Facebook homeschool group how to homeschool their 3-year-old. If you have an average child, you really don’t need to be doing much more than reading aloud and basic letters and numbers at that age. Therefore, the most common answer given such a parent is to “chill out” and enjoy childhood.
However, when your child is legitimately begging for workbooks and to learn how to read at the age of 3, that answer is beyond frustrating, I’m sure. If your child shows gifted tendencies, I encourage you to find homeschool blogs that focus specifically on homeschooling gifted children. Those bloggers will understand your struggles and will be able to direct you to the best resources for you and your child.
- Our Relaxed Homeschool: Second Grade and Kindergarten Curriculum Plans
- Relaxed Homeschooling versus Unschooling
- 10 Signs Relaxed Homeschooling Might Be Your Homeschool Style
Final Thoughts on Homeschooling Kindergarten
Use this year to cultivate a love of learning. Learn along with your kids and beyond the basics, focus on the things you are personally passionate about.
I love history and find it fascinating. I introduce history at a young age through this book, and later through reading aloud the Story of the World. I read it with excitement and enthusiasm because I genuinely enjoy history. My kids catch that passion, and for the most part, they enjoy listening to it (I’m still working on one child who still finds it “boring”).
Figure out what you love, if you don’t already know, and teach them that. They need to see adults still learning and genuinely passionate about something, anything.
Take them to museums. Take them to the local park. Provide them with a rich play environment at home.
Above all, enjoy this year.
When you homeschool kindergarten, you get to reclaim what kindergarten used to be, what it should still be today: a whole lot of learning through play, and a gentle introduction to academic basics.
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