Homeschooling Kindergarten

March 5, 2008 | 54 comments
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I’m frequently asked how to homeschool kindergarten, so I thought it might be useful to post it for future reference.

First things first: the only wrong way to homeschool kindergarten is to try to do too much with your kid and stress him or her out. (And an unfortunately large number of over-eager mothers end up doing just that.) There are lots and lots of good ways to structure a kindergarten experience, so feel free to do it your way. But what I’ve found from talking with dozens of mothers who are considering homeschooling is that they don’t want to do it their way because they are intimidated by all of the options. They want a little hand-holding. So here it is.

Be sure to check the legal requirements for your state before you get started.

How to make a lesson plan
(You don’t technically need this but if you have a toddler or two distracting you to the point where you have forgotten whether you’ve done math today, this will be very helpful.)

In a Word document, set the paper to landscape and make five columns. In the first column, write:

PHONICS
READING
BOOKS
MATH
SCIENCE
SOCIAL STUDIES
ART
MEMORY WORK

In each of the other columns, put a blank across the top. You’ll write in the dates by hand in these blanks as the year progresses. The reason that you aren’t writing the dates in now is that life (illness, fieldtrips, etc.) is going to intervene and you’ll just end up “behind.” But you’re only aiming for 144 days this year, so don’t worry about it.

Next, put a check box (go under ‘insert symbol’ to find these) for each subject for each day. (However, only do science twice, social studies once, and art once per week.)

Then make 36 copies of this. That gives you 36 school weeks, each with four days. Three-hole punch and put in a binder. Now you have lesson plans.

What to do for each lesson

Phonics–Buy the book Phonics Pathways. Each day, set a timer for ten minutes, snuggle on the couch, and work through it (entirely orally–no writing) with your child.

Reading–After about 20 Phonics Pathways lessons, get a set or two of BOB books (or something similar such as these) and do one per day. After that, use the easy readers from your library (These are the kind from series such as Step Into Reading, I Can Read, Ready-to-Read, etc.) and have your child read one per day to you.

Books–Each day, read your child one fiction picture book and one nonfiction picture book from the library. The picture books will be very easy to find. For nonfiction, I suggest anything by Aliki or Demi or Gail Gibbons. Once you find those, you’ll find lots more.

Math–Order Horizons K (Note: there are two workbooks for the year; I only linked to the first). You do not need the teachers’ manual. Just do one lesson per day. If it helps your child, use physical objects (beans, buttons, pieces of cereal) to work the problems.

Science–Buy the book Mudpies to Magnets and do the wonderful experiments in it.

Social Studies–Buy Children Just Like Me and each week, read about one child.

Art–Buy the book Storybook Art and do one project per week. You will need to find the corresponding book at the library.

Memory Work–Pick one short and easy scripture and work on it until you know it. Don’t spend more than two minutes per day on this. At that age, it helps to jump on the couch when you practice.

That’s it for academics. It will take about an hour per day. I think it is nice to read aloud a novel to your kids, but frankly our family goes through phases when we do and don’t do that. I have found it easier to do that as part of the bedtime routine than as part of school. Good ones for that age include Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlotte’s Web, Little House on the Prairie, etc.

What about socialization?

Almost every town of any size has an email list (or two or ten) which functions as a clearinghouse for information about playgroups, field trips, park days, co-ops, classes, etc., etc.

What about housework?

Hey, at least now you have an excuse for your messy house.

What about my toddler(s)/infant(s)?

Well, that’s the hardest part of homeschooling for me. You do what you have to do. I sometimes stagger meals and snacks so toddlerman is quiet with his mouth full while I’m reading to the older ones. We also let him watch United Streaming (get your membership from the Homeschool Buyer’s Coop for a discount). I also have boxes and boxes of things that he is only allowed to play with during school time to keep him entertained. You can also do one-on-one things during naptime. I’ve also been reduced to putting toddlerman in the bathtub and doing school on the bathroom floor during really difficult days. Whatever works.

Note: my links keep, uh, changing. (No, really.) I gave up on most of them. After the demons are exorcised, I’ll try putting them back in.

54 Responses to Homeschooling Kindergarten

  1. Janssen on March 5, 2008 at 10:58 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! And I’ll probably thank you some more in some six or seven or eight years when I actually have a kindergarten-aged child.

  2. dangermom on March 6, 2008 at 1:00 am

    Wow, you just described most of what we did for K with our oldest! Only we usually did it 3x/week for 1.5 hours, and I had folktales to go along with Children Just Like Me (because I’m a librarian, and we librarians like folktales a lot). And I used different math and science books. Anyway, good plan! That will result in a more-than-adequate K curriculum.

  3. Geoff J on March 6, 2008 at 2:22 am

    Doesn’t homeschooling defeat the purpose of pre-school and kindergarten for most mothers? (ie give mom a break…)

  4. ESO on March 6, 2008 at 10:46 am

    Julie–at what age do you start this? I can picture many families decidng their 2-3 year olds were kindergarten-ready and then getting discouraged. I am of the opinion that standard kindergarten age is developmentally appropriate, but what has your experience been?

  5. sam on March 6, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    #3.

    Frankly, I think that stay-at-home moms who are willing to give their children over to others at such a young age are trying to have their cake and eat it, too. Stay-at-home moms stay at home to be with their children and provide them with the kind of environment that will never be provided by others.
    If you are able to be a stay-at-home mom, take full advantage of it and let your kids be stay-at-home kids.

    My wife homeschools. I am grateful we have the situation wherein we can do this. I know everyone can\’t. But when stay-at-home moms send their kids to preschool and say, \”It is so great to see my kid learning.\” I just want to say,\”No, you are seeing the results of someone else teaching your kid. Homeschoolers actually get to SEE their kids learning.\”

    The obsessive focus on early childhood education is nothing more than a ploy by the State to get into the minds of the young as soon as possible. Do you really think your children will be better off by learning in a classroom environment before the age of 5? Emotionally, it is devastating to that child. Learning happens naturally. The bureaucrats would like to believe that learning is something that can be micromanaged by them. Afterall, micromanaging education is a profitable business.

  6. Josh Smith on March 6, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    Our oldest starts kindergarten next year. My wife and I have discussed different options. We both went to public schools and had mixed experiences. I’ll have to come back during my lunch to read this post. Thanks for taking the time to post it.

  7. Josh Smith on March 6, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    Alright, so this is much more interesting than work. Just one comment and then I’ll come back at lunch.

    Sam, I think you dismiss the “give mom a break” argument too quickly. Three or four hours a day is not shifting the obligations of parenthood from the home to the state. I’m Mr. Mom on Wednesday and sometimes Thur. afternoon. By the time my wife comes home, I’m definitely ready for a break. My wife cares for our children the rest of the weekdays. She is definitely ready for a break when I get home. I’ve also noticed that my children enjoy some time away from their parents (church, playing at friends’ houses, etc.). Three or four hours a day does not seem “emotionally devastating.” Maybe I’m wrong.

    Also, I don’t have such mistrust of public kindergarten and early childhood education. I can be persuaded otherwise, but my experience is that most public school teachers really care about children and education–they’re not in it for the money. I’m not concerned about uncaring or inadequate teachers.

    My concern is class size. I don’t think anyone is capable of teaching the size classes typical of public schools.

    My concern is with cookie-cutter curriculum. In public school, my daughter will probably spend a good deal of time bored. She loves to learn and learns quickly.

    However, at the end of the day, I don’t think my wife or I could do a better job than the public schools.

  8. Ray on March 6, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    #5 – My wife has stayed home for most of our married life, given birth to 6 kids and been a wonderful mother. She also is a former Headstart teacher. If she tried to homeschool our children, we would not have 6 children anymore and she would be incarcerated – or locked away in a mental institute. Very few people can be an academic teacher of varying ages – and being so is not a prerequisite of exceptional parenthood.

    I want to be gentle in my response, but it’s very hard on this particular subject. The “repent you sinners and homeschool your poor neglected children” mantra is wearing very thin – *especially* when it is directed at a SAHM. Homeschooling is NOT a demand of Mormonism; I wish some of its proponents would realize that.

    *end of rant*

    Sorry, Julie. Your post was very good, and I hope I have not contributed to turning it into just another battle over whether people should homeschool or not.

  9. Josh Smith on March 6, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    Ray,
    Incarcerated. Very, very funny. Yep. The other day my oldest was using a stick pony as a weapon against her younger sister. I’m still not sure what happened in my brain, but I snatched the pony and threw it out the back door half way across the yard. Yikes. Maybe I have no business even discussing homeschool. Anybody know of an anger management blog?

    Seriously, I don’t know if I’ll be doing homeschool, but some of the above references will help put some structure into the times I’m with the children. United streaming looks cool. If you go through the Homeschool Buyer’s Coop how much does it cost?

    I looked up some of the non-fiction authors and they look like books my children would enjoy. I’ve tried putting non-fiction books in the stack when we go to the library, but my children don’t like them. I’ll try a couple of these authors.

    Mudpies to Magnets didn’t give any examples. Does anybody have some examples of activities in that series? I mean, other than mudpie and magnet activities.

    Children Just Like Me. Very cool. They even have a sticker book.

  10. Julie M. Smith on March 6, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    dangermom, we love folktales, too! They composed a good portion of our library books.

    Geoff J, I’m not sure if that was supposed to be a joke, but just in case it wasn’t: no, that is the purpose of daycare, not PK or K. However, homeschooling moms do need breaks from their kids and I always have 1-2 moms that I trade kids with on a weekly basis.

    ESO, a mature 4yo might be OK, but I’ve never seen a 3yo who should be doing this.

    sam, that comment is everything that makes me embarrassed to be associated with homeschoolers. There are many excellent preschool programs out there. (And anyone who thinks that the profit motive drives PK needs to rethink. Oy.)

    I agree with Ray–homeschooling is not the gold standard of LDS parenthood. “Whatever is best for your children” is the gold standard and that frequently involves public, private, charter, or university model schools. (And as far as teaching different ages: maybe not ready for incarceration, but often feeling that I am playing Whack-a-mole.)

  11. jessawhy on March 6, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    Julie,
    Thanks so much for doing this. Despite my intentions to homeschool for PreK and K, I find my and my crazy impulsive 5 yo struggling through half day Kindergarten at a charter Montessori school. I love the Montessori materials (but could never afford them all) and the outdoor environment, and the freedom of choosing work. Those aspects are closer to my ideal of homeschooling than traditional public school, but he has huge behavior problems (he’s been diagnosed with ADHD and is on week for of Metadate. I’ve gone back and forth about medicating him, and would rather bring him home, but that’s another issue)
    Anyway, we missed the reregistration deadline and by the first week of February the school is booked for next year.
    I told myself I would homeschool him this summer and if successful continue through the year. Otherwise, we’re on the waiting list there and will probably get in.
    I also have a 2 yo and 4 mo, so there’s the additional craziness.
    This was just a long-winded way of saying Thank you! I’ve read a bunch of books and am on all the homeschooling email groups, but this was the most straightforward summary I’ve every seen.
    Bless you.

  12. mellifera on March 6, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    Thanks Julie!

  13. dangermom on March 6, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    Quoting Julie: “homeschooling is not the gold standard of LDS parenthood. “Whatever is best for your children” is the gold standard and that frequently involves public, private, charter, or university model schools.”

    Yes indeedy. I’m a homeschooler, but not everyone can or should be one. I need time to myself sometimes; I’m something of an introvert and one of the hardest things for me is that I can’t be a hermit as much as I’d like. We have Quiet Time after lunch, but it’s not quite enough. I can’t blame any mom who enjoys having some time to herself for a few hours a week.

  14. makakona on March 6, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    i’m one of those over-anxious moms whose hand julie has held. and, honestly? best. thing. ever. we’ve slightly modified the plan outlined above and it works great for us. our daughter is only four, but she’s an “overachiever” type already and we get paranoid thinking about what the public schools will do to her (been there, done that!). our three-year-old is too young for it, but she loves to sit in when we read or when we do art and science projects and i think she likes the time to play alone without big sister always hovering.

    we visited the local kindergarten preview last night. i still worry about what the best decision is and i thought we should attend the meeting. i expected to have to eat crow, but we walked away feeling SO sure of homeschooling, at least for now. most of the sales pitch was on the 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. programming, “ALL of which is educational!” it’s full-day kindergarten, 60 k’ers enrolled in the after school “spanish club,” “the kids have great test scores,” and so on. you’re not selling me, people.

    the curriculum? some highlights were that they’ll spend the first month learning how to hold a pencil, use glue, and use scissors. for math, by the end of the year, all children should be able to (but don’t worry if they can’t!) recognize numbers one through 30, write those numbers, put those numbers in order, et cetera. letters were similar with some basic phonemic awareness thrown in. if that’s what she’s supposed to have mastered a year and a half from now, i have NO idea what she’ll do all day.

    we expressed our concerns to the head of the kindergarten team and she said, “perfect! she’ll be an independant learner and can focus on her studies at her desk by herself while i’m trying to wrangle the four-year-old troublemakers in the corner!” okay, seriously? we were done. we at least thought the fun classrooms would entice me, but they were just awful.

    bottom line, i walked away secure in the fact that i can do my kids justice at home, at least for the time being. my sanity might hang from a thread at times, but that’s our only worry about homeschooling, anymore.

    as for the non-fiction, my kids eat it up! i think lots of them are awful and the kids don’t like digging for them through the adult stacks, but they sure love to sit down and look at them or be read to from them!

    thanks for this and for the help you gave us, julie. it’s really been a neat experience, only months into it. i just blogged about you and this plan the other day! our girls are loving it, especially our soon-to-be k’er, and it’s made it easy and fun for mom and dad, too!

  15. Catherine on March 6, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    A recent Wall Street Journal article had some interesting points about the benefits to starting school at seven.

  16. jessawhy on March 6, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    That was a really cool article.
    If moving from AZ to Finland wouldn’t be too much of a shock to my system, I would totally go there.

  17. Greg Call on March 6, 2008 at 8:15 pm

    As of today, if you’re in California, homeschooling apparently requires civil disobedience: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/03/06/BAJDVF0F1.DTL&tsp=1

  18. Julie M. Smith on March 6, 2008 at 8:26 pm

    makakona, glad to hear things are working well for you.

    Catherine, I read that article a few days ago and thought it was very interesting. Most people reading this did 3.5 hours of kindergarten (which, in my case, included a nap and play time) and we all turned out fine. What initially started us homeschooling was a full day (with homework) K in our area. And now they want Makakona’s kid for 12 hours. Crazy!

    Greg, I am very curious to see how things turn out in CA. (To be fair, if you have a teaching credential, homeschooling is still OK in CA according to what I have read.)

  19. dangermom on March 6, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    Here in CA, people are mostly not panicking. There’s not much reason to–yet, anyway. There are good lawyers all over this, and they have a Plan (or so I was told today by a friend who works in one of the organizations). California’s strategy has always been to try to stay out of the courts as much as possible; we have a good thing going and don’t want to screw it up. We’ll hope it doesn’t turn into a big fight. I don’t see how it could be rendered completely illegal; a) there would be quite a fight and b) the public schools would collapse under the strain of accepting so many children.

    At any rate, I don’t consider myself to be doing anything illegal, even though I haven’t got a teaching credential. It hasn’t got anywhere near that point yet, and I don’t think it will.

  20. JKS on March 6, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    First of all, a Mormon mom rarely gets a “break” by sending her child to preschool since chances are she has other kids.

    I absolutely LOVE to teach my kids things and supplement their education because they enjoy it (I’m their piano teacher and we supplement Math because the curriculum in our state is “fuzzy/reform/”new” math” that has ruined math education for the last 15 + years, and since I love math and my kids are math inclined this is important to me so they can pursue math in college.

    Re: Being bored at school
    Anyway, I have had very POSITIVE experiences with PUBLIC school. I know many people who think that their children will be bored in school, but I have very bright children and it is not the case. My oldest was just tested and qualified to go to a district wide gifted school next year for 5th grade, so I’m serious about my kids being smart (even if one does have a language learning disability). But I would not have considered sending her earlier to this program. She has thrived in our nice, above-average-but-not-top local school. Sure, the math was easy but she loved math and so she wasn’t bored. She has learned plenty of things at school and I don’t consider her time there badly spent. The same applies to my son.
    What do your children do at home? Are they bored building lego because they’ve done that before? Do they not want to read a book because they already know how to read? Do they refuse to color and cut because its easy? Do they not want to sit in a circle and listen to a story because it might on a slightly lower reading level than they are capable? Do they never want to answer a question about the weather or about what day of the week it is or what the date is because they already know the answer?
    If a grade only requires knowing numbers up to 30, I guarentee children still have the option to go past that. When kindergarten has a sight word list for the year, that doesn’t mean the kids don’t have the opportunity to learn words other than what is on the “have to know” list.
    I am a supporter of homeschooling. I sometimes wish I was a homeschooler. But I am very glad that my children have had such positive public school experiences, and I feel that many parents are making a decision very blind. At least visit your potential school and get some sort of a feeling about it.
    Of course I believe that homeschooling is right for some families. Someday it might be the right choice for me or for one or more of my kids.

  21. JKS on March 6, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    In case you are interested, we are allowing our daughter to go to the gifted school next year for 5th & 6th because 1. She wants to, 2. She doesn’t have an close buddies she’d miss, and it might be a great opportunity socially to meet other kids who she might connect with more 3. I visited the school (I take my own advice) and watched the classrooms in action and tried to gauge the curriculum and atmosphere 4. I talked to people about the positives and the possible negatives and based on my child’s own strengths and personality and how she approaches things I think she will have a positive experience there.

  22. JKS on March 6, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    Our kindergarten here is 2 hours and 40 minutes. For a fee of $400/month you can sign up for all day (50% of parent do because they’d have to pay for daycare either way). We are a Seattle suburb.

  23. Kevin Barney on March 6, 2008 at 10:51 pm

    Julie, I have no practical use for this information, but I enjoyed reading the nuts and bolts of it. Thanks for posting it.

  24. aloysiusmiller on March 6, 2008 at 11:26 pm

    We put our children through public schools. But I can see the day when public schooling won’t be an option for many. I know that the church can’t start a school system in the US but I wish that parents could hire teachers to teach in church buildings. Physical plant is one of the huge costs of private schooling.

    The Church thrived in Polynesia and Mexico because of its school systems. If we really expect to make headway in the central city we ought to consider education (instead of church welfare) as the prime way of reaching into the lives of the poor and offering them the first hand that leads to the message of the Restoration.

  25. Julie M. Smith on March 6, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    aloysiusmiller, that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms

  26. Melinda on March 7, 2008 at 12:32 am

    I sent this post to my sister. Her kids are in public school, but they need extra teaching at home. With her oldest, we both took the attitude that she would learn everything she needed to at school. After several years, it became obvious she wasn’t learning what she needed to know. I started digging into homeschooling in an effort to find out how to teach kids on your own, and it’s been very valuable in working out the “after schooling” her kids need to keep up in school. Her kindergartener gets extra “mom time” after school now, and loves his reading lessons. The older sister is doing better as well, thanks to after school lessons gleaned from homeschooling ideas.

    Homeschooling them full-time isn’t an option because my sister has to work from home. Plus, she doesn’t want to homeschool. But applying homeschooling ideas after school (without overloading them) has really improved their public school experience.

    Thanks for this post.

  27. Seth R. on March 7, 2008 at 12:55 am

    Geoff,

    It ain’t for everyone. Easy enough.

  28. Naismith on March 7, 2008 at 9:44 am

    “I absolutely LOVE to teach my kids things and supplement their education because they enjoy it.”

    I kinda see things the opposite way. My children’s education is an overall plan, of which public schooling is only one component.

    So I don’t supplement their education, I am in charge of it. Some pieces are outsourced to the public schools.

  29. ESO on March 7, 2008 at 11:02 am

    I agree with you on ages, Julie–I asked because I get the idea that a fair number of homeschool aspirants do so because they believe their super-smart kids will be bored at school and might therefore be tempted to start early. I think 5 is a great age to start, but cultures that start later also have a lot to boast about. Kids who start early (like reading at 3) not only risk being turned off of learning at an early age, but show no significant gains on their later peers in the long term.

    It is worth repeating that there is a very wide range of normal for kids; too bad that recognizing all numbers to 30 by the end of K is being criticized–for some kids, that is a major accomplishment; rest assured there is plenty of criticism to go around to all educational models.

    I can understand people not being excited about all-day kindergarten, although I have seen some great programs. Peronally, I think homework is pedagogically questionable through elementary school.

    I like the resources used, although we differ on the emphasis of phonics. It is nice to see this kind of structure–it seems many people I have talked to do a very fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants, if they are with me, of course they are learning, style in the beginning, especially for kindergarten. It is nice to see how much work this actually is and gives me more confidence in homeschoolers.

  30. Adam Greenwood on March 7, 2008 at 11:43 am

    The Church thrived in Polynesia and Mexico because of its school systems. If we really expect to make headway in the central city we ought to consider education (instead of church welfare) as the prime way of reaching into the lives of the poor and offering them the first hand that leads to the message of the Restoration.

    Great idea.

  31. dangermom on March 7, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    ESO, I don’t know a lot of homeschoolers who would try this kind of K program on a young preschooler. I certainly wouldn’t try it on my 4yo (she goes to a friend’s home preschool group)–we do a little K math when she wants to but that’s about it so far. A lot of homeschoolers do it because they don’t like the pressure of early achievement that you get in public schools. I’m sure there are also ‘early bird’ types but by and large the emphasis is on following the kid’s lead and not pressuring them. For myself, I’m against academics in preschool and don’t like the way K has turned into 1st grade in public school. Unless the child begs for math and phonics, I don’t do it until K. (Then in 1st I turn into classical woman and we dive into the joys of the ancient Romans.)

    I don’t know if my kid would be bored at school. She’s reasonably bright but not hugely gifted or anything. I think she’d probably have fun, *but* I’m pretty sure she’d be one of the kids that gets virtually ignored because they’re not actually in crisis and get along fine without much help. Teachers naturally have to spend a lot of time with kids who struggle–which they should–but reality being what it is, that doesn’t leave much time left over for kids who aren’t struggling or crying out for attention.

    One of the neat things about homeschooling is that we can do a strong academic program in the morning and still have all afternoon for playtime and running around with sticks.

  32. Josh Smith on March 7, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    I haven’t done much research on my childrens’ educations. In the fall my 5 year-old starts kindergarten and now my wife and I have to think about what we’re going to do. I read a couple books by Howard Gardner, but he mostly addresses education generally. I skimmed a book by Montessori (sp?). Looked like her main idea was that children learn naturally and the best thing an educator can do is provide an environment where that learning can happen. Then I looked up the prices for a Montessori school in my area and figured that Montessori didn’t inspire me that much.

    Does anybody have recommendations on books about early childhood education?

    Just as a note, I did order a couple non-fiction books by Aliki and Demi. And I picked up some early reader phonics books. Thanks again for the post.

  33. Josh Smith on March 7, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    I also read a book by Daniel Goleman about emotional intelligence. I found many of his ideas persuassive. I’m not sure how many educational systems have worked toward adopting them.

  34. Julie M. Smith on March 7, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    ESO, I think that there is a real problem with new homeschoolers who are so *excited* by all of the cool stuff out there that they do way too much with their PK’ers.

    If anyone feels themselves slipping down that hill, may I suggest that you make a lesson plan like mine but with entries such as “nature time,” “flannel board,” circle time,” “art exploration,” “storybooks,” “singing time,” “imaginative play,” “dramatic play,” etc. for your 2-4 year old? Then you’ll get to check off your boxes and your child will have a rich but developmentally appropriate experience. If you want to sing counting songs in French with your 3yo, then be my guest, but don’t even think about sitting a 3yo down with a workbook.

    And I agree with Naismith: ALL parents are (or: should be) in charge of their children’s education–they just differ on how much to delegate to others.

  35. jessawhy on March 7, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    Josh,
    A lot of homeschooling families I know use the Thomas Jefferson Education method. I haven’t read the entire thing, but it’s one popular model emphasizing classics and mentoring.
    I’m sorry that Montessori isn’t free where you live. Ours is a charter school, and thus state funded. I looked into enrolling my Pre-k, and found that it was really expensive.
    ESO,
    I’m curious about how you differ from Julie in your approach to phonics?

  36. Jami on March 7, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    We really like Thomas Jefferson Education. It looks a lot like unschooling in the ‘love of learning’ phase (the youngest) with the addition of a focus on parents modeling excitement for learning. Mom ( or the teacher) is encouraged to share something from her current studies with the children.

    It has been very successful with my kids. They soak up knowledge everywhere as young children and then each of them hits a point where they just find an area that is all afire for them. With my seventh grader it’s electricity and math. With my ninth grader it’s dentistry. But the wee folk are still meandering around learning a little here a little there. The odd thing to me is that with very little direct instruction the little ones are still on par or ahead of other children who spend many, many hours receiving ‘quality instruction.’

  37. ESO on March 7, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    jessawhy–
    The pendulum in reading pedagogy swings between phonics and whole language. We (American educators in general) are currently much closer to phonics (but swinging away) and perhaps you are familiar with the most recent whole language heyday of the late 70s/early 80s.

    To me, phonics are tools, building blocks. They are not particularly fun or inspiring and I think that does a disservice to young readers, who are hard-wired as learning machines. They LOVE learning, why bog them down with phonemes? Phonics= reading words. But I love reading stories, so I go whole language.

    n/b–kids are different! So phonics are appropriate for some learners, although I would use them as little as possible. Some kids need a lot, some need a little.

    ps–there is no more controversial topic for reading people, so I am sure there is a lot to read out there on this topic, and a lot of passionate opinions.

  38. sam on March 7, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    Josh, you mentioned that you have a problem with class size and cookie cutter curiculum, but don’t think you could do better than the public schools. This doesn’t add up, you realize that, right? So the individual, custom-made, one-on-one education your children would get at home would be so bungled by you and your wife that the generic education your children receive in classes of 25 or more would be better?

    I am a college teacher and trust me, the students I get are woefully unprepared. They can’t think critically, write persuasively, (they can’t even write coherently), or even follow simple directions. Public schooling as failed generations of children and our nation is already suffering for it.

    Secondly, I have no problem with teachers in public schools, but if you think teachers are running the show, HA!! There is a massive bureaucracy running public schools. And the dollar is the goal.

    Anyway, by what authority does any governmental body decide it can direct the education of our children? Have we fallen this far from a true conception of liberty?

  39. Ray on March 7, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    #38 – The education my children have gotten in their public schools is better than what my wife and can give them. No question; not a doubt.

    Sweeping generalities rarely, if ever, address a complex issue well enough to be constructive. Some public education is lousy; some is mediocre; some is good; some is excellent; some is exceptional. I can say the exact same thing about homeschooling and private education and be just as correct.

  40. Jones on March 7, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    I also love the Montessori approach but you have to remember that the term “Montessori” is “as ubiquitous as kleenix”. You may purchase kleenix but you’re buying the house brand actually called “facial tissues”. You don’t always know what you’re getting when a program calls themself Montessori. You need to actually visit a program and observe in a classroom to know how “Montessori” they are.
    The experts themselves don’t agree on what is appropriate curriculum for young children.
    I agree with ESO that you don’t have to teach phonics to teach reading. Reading to children on a daily basis, encouraging their hands-on involvement with books, and enjoying Nursery Rhymes and silly songs together, provides the best foundation for reading skills. But the way Julie describes doing phonics is very child friendly and not inappropriate.
    If you really want to read about and know what the definitive statement is on what should happen in the early years of education the book to read is Developmentally Appropriate Practices, published by The National Association for the Education of Young Children. It covers what the research says about learning and development in children birth through age eight years. But it is a philosophical statement and doesn’t outline specific curriculum. However, it does give very specific examples of what is and isn’t appropriate to “do” in educating kindergarteners. But not every expert would say that it is the best approach. And it is not necessarily an easy read — not esoteric, just specific to the field of study.
    A popular curriculum guide used by many Head Start programs (this isn’t kindergarten but does include 5 year olds) is The Creative Curriculum by Diane Dodge.
    David Elkind isn’t so popular right now but he has had some good and insightful books out on how children learn and what is needed to support their learning, curiosity and love of life.

  41. Josh Smith on March 7, 2008 at 7:53 pm

    Jones, thanks. I’m copying down a couple of these authors and titles and I’ll look them up.

    Sam, if you’d read the rest of my post you’d realize that I’m the type of guy that throws stick ponies off the back deck. I’m a stick pony thrower! To be fair, I also have many positive experiences with my children, but let’s not go around encouraging stick pony throwers to homeschool.

    Actually, the jury is still out on how my wife and I will do kindergarten. My wife is wise. Last year our daughter missed the cutoff date for kindergarten and I thought we should look for a supplement or try and get her in. My wife was the voice of reason. She said that year at home would do more for our daughter than kindergarten. She was right. This last year at home has done more for our daughter than public kindergarten. I’m not sure about next year though. I’ll do some reading.

  42. Sarah on March 7, 2008 at 8:09 pm

    I was one of those kids bored in public school — I did go to a gifted program from 2nd through 6th grades, which was nice (it was the kind of program where they didn’t care if you were at a 3rd grade level in math, had already passed the district’s 12th grade standards in English grammar and spelling, and were using textbooks on loan from the junior high school for history.) But in kindergarten and first grade I was constantly having to visit other classrooms for “academic” work, and spent nearly every afternoon in the nurse’s office with a headache or stomachache or other stress-related issue. My parents modified the custody agreement to get me out of that situation, actually. When it looked like I’d be back in normal schools after the end of sixth grade, we switched to homeschooling.

    Personally, I’d probably try for a low/no-structure kindergarten if I were homeschooling a five or six-year-old: I don’t see any need for lesson plans, though admittedly I’ve never seen homeschooling in action with as many young kids as you have, Julie — there are six years between me and my next-youngest sister, and then three more before the one after her, and we didn’t start until the youngest was already three years old. I think you don’t really need to keep track of vowels learned or numbers memorized the way you need to record if a teenager has mastered the use of the Student’s T-Distribution. But also, all of us were fascinated by worksheets and books of puzzles and Sesame Street, and my mom did the Suzuki and Doman stuff when I was a baby, and the hardest part of moving was figuring out how to distribute our thousands of books in the moving trucks… frankly, our totally unstructured (nigh chaotic) family life was far more interesting and “educational” than school ever was. We were, however, also the kind of kids who begged to watch 1776 or The Civil War ten (?) VHS video series, again — we actually wore out those tapes, leaving Disney almost untouched.

  43. Julie M. Smith on March 7, 2008 at 9:34 pm

    sam, you have a lot more faith than I do in the power of homeschooling. I’m not sure the extent of your contacts in your local (or the national) hs community, but I’ve seen enough people royally mess up to believe that there are many kids who would in fact do better in the cookie factory than at home with mom and dad.

    Jones, thanks for the recommendations.

  44. Sean on March 8, 2008 at 2:55 am

    I suspect that the outcomes of homeschooled kids have much to do with the reasons their parents want to homeschool.

    I’m keen on the idea of homeschooling, but my wife really isn’t. She would be the main teacher, since she’s a SAHM, so I’m not pushing the issue. I would guess that if I did, the results might be worse, not better, than results from a public school.

  45. Naismith on March 8, 2008 at 10:57 am

    I also wanted to point out that this particular post had to do with homeschooling KINDERGARTEN, and in the realm of possibilities for that age is the “school can wait” school of thought (bad pun).

    One of my daughters was born Aug. 25, and in a district where the cutoff was Sep. 1, we chose to keep her at home another year so that she would not be the youngest in her class, last to get a driver’s license, last to date, etc.

    But even without her particular age considerations, there is research to suggest that even waiting until age 7 to begin formal schooling has some benefits.

    I did teach her to read during that year, but never followed such a structured curriculum as Julie suggests.

  46. Naismith on March 8, 2008 at 11:03 am

    Maybe I got that backward and it was an August 1 cutoff–anyway, she would have been the youngest in her class had she started school “on time.”

  47. Julie M. Smith on March 8, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    Yes, Naismith, there is no necessity in doing school with a 5-year-old: in most states, school attendance is not even legally required. I have found that teaching them to read at 4-5 opens up a fun world for them (and peace for me, since they’ll read during sacrament meeting!) and it is just fun to do science experiments and read books with your kiddos. I also think it is good to train them on the routine of doing school at 5 if you plan to homeschool, so that (if you are blessed with a strong-willed child, as I am), when you are ready to do more serious stuff, you won’t be fighting behavior wars at that point. And some kids do better with some structure in their lives. But it is certainly not a necessity.

  48. Mindy R on March 8, 2008 at 9:15 pm

    Julie, thanks for the hand-holding! I really appreciate it.

  49. April on March 13, 2008 at 3:40 am

    Hi, just wanted to say that this really is a great post. Love all the thoughts and comments. What each person thinks and outwardly says is so helpful for parents who may be going through the same situation, or may even encounter the situation and know how to handle it.

    I started homeschooling my daughter in the middle of Kindergarten due to the fact they couldn\’t handle her \”outward\” behaviour. Which for her was wanting to get up, explore and learn. The way we always allowed her to do before she entered the school system. You would think in Kindergarten they would expect that. But in this school which in Los Angeles was considered the \”top blue ribbon school\” they weren\’t having it. Sit on the rug, follow the rules, no horseplay, no speaking unless you held your hand up. Follow the schedule! Now I know this may not be the instance in every kindergarten setting. Now jump forward, we are in 2nd grade, she has matured very well. Is at 3rd grade level with most subjects. But now I am highly considering putting her back in school, this time it would be a private school. I have a toddler at home who needs my attention, a 17 year old who is in an independent study program (he is pretty much self sufficient). It isn\’t about having \”me time\’, but I actually feel guilty because she has hit a \”wall\” with me and fusses constantly about doing her work. How in the world can I provide her a quality education? I guess this is more of a story to tell so parents know even if your heart is in it 100%, one can still doubt themselves. I hope I am making the right decision. The good news is that we can always come back to homeschool, but I feel so guilty for putting her in school. She is excited most of the time to start, but every now and then isn\’t certain. I am just hoping that she gains something wonderful that I haven\’t given her. Middle school seems to be a more appropriate time to start homeschool, because they will have all the basics under their belt????

  50. dangermom on March 13, 2008 at 11:12 am

    I don’t know April; I know some people who plan to homeschool *only* in middle school because it’s such a horrible time of life! (I wonder whether it will really happen…) A friend of mine homeschools her youngest daughter, originally because of slight dyslexia, and now partly because she doesn’t want to put her back into school in the shark-infested waters of junior high.

    If your daughter can read and has enough of her basic math facts down for her age, then she does have the basics under her belt. She’ll probably enjoy school unless she runs into a problem. If homeschooling isn’t working for you now, then make a change and see what happens. You can always change your mind again.

  51. Mark M on March 13, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    An anecdote:

    This is not a comment on the benefits/drawbacks of home vs. public schools, just an experience to share. I was a very bright young mathematician. In elementary school and junior high, I was not bored during math lessons, because while the teacher explained how to solve math problems, I was busy trying to figure out why it worked that way, or discovering alternate methods to come up with the answer. It kept me entertained and sharpened my skills and understanding.

    Fast forward to more advanced topics, like calculus. Because of years of working problems on my own, instead of listening intently to the teacher, my listening skills and attention were poor. I would hope to figure things out by the day or two before a test, since I hadn’t paid close attention to the teacher’s demonstrations. The problems were too complex for me to figure out on my own. My acquired learning habit had become a two-edged sword!

  52. Elizabeth on April 24, 2008 at 8:54 am

    Hello-I’m very new to homeschooling as well as general kindergarten requirements. I, too appreciate the outline and recommended books, tips, etc but wonder when/if you have them do any writing-maybe I missed it somewhere as I didn’t have a lot of time to read over thoroughly. Thank you!

  53. Julie M. Smith on April 24, 2008 at 10:16 am

    No, Elizabeth, no writing.

    Many 5-year-olds aren’t physically ready to do a lot of writing. Two of mine weren’t: they could read Harry Potter at five, but barely write their own names. Had I tied reading and writing (which most schools do, by necessity–the kids have to be writing not because they have to be writing but because the teacher needs to evaluate their knowledge level through written work), I would have held back their reading skills by years.

    On the other hand, my third is only three but can already write most of his name–he seems to be a different animal. In his case, I would start handwriting a little earlier than first grade because he is already forming letters on his own.

    Mine have easily caught up in handwriting, mechanics, and composition even though we started a little late, so I don’t see any harm in waiting. I do see harm in pushing written work on a child who isn’t ready. And the change is very noticeable: one day they are sweating over writing a “KEEP OUT” sign for their bedroom door and the next day they’ve written a comic book. Then you know they are ready.

  54. Raymond Takashi Swenson on April 24, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    #51–Mark M: By third grade my elementary school teachers were letting me work ahead in the arithmetic books. In seventh grade we had an experimental math class that introduced set theory and basic algebra and geometry. In eighth grade our basic algebra book included some optional problems that really could only be solved with techniques that had not yet been taught, such as solving systems of equations in two variables, and I was doing those. During geometry in ninth grade I also worked through a self-study book on trigonometry that was a precursor to an adaptive computer program, which sent you to different study sections depending on your answers to problems. During the next summer I took the conventional trig class at the high school, then the analytic geometry class in tenth grade, so in eleventh grade I was working through a calculus book on my own. So the next year I started college as a math major.

    To a large extent, I could have done most of that in a home school environment. My teacher for most of my junior high and high school math courses was the same guy, who earned a masters in math, and was certainly capable in all of the topics I studied, but he was mostly occupied teaching everyone else. And I am not sure how many public high schools even today are prepared to take students through calculus and beyond.

    In fact, my personal feeling is that to the extent conventional axiom and theorem geometry is still taught in public schools, it is a waste of time. It interrupts the transition from first year algebra to second year algebra, requiring so much refresher work that it limits how much can be learned. All of the practical applications of geometry and trigonometry can be learned in a much more straightforward way in an analytical geometry context. The logical training can be acquired in any aspect of mathematics. Many more students could be introduced to calculus in high school, and classes could be taught in statistics and probability and linear algebra or numerical analysis and related programming of computers for solving and displaying math problems. But a better math curriculum for public schools seems to be limited by the capabilities of many secondary school math teachers, who had to take so many “education” classes that they could not go very far in their study of mathematics itself.

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