(Last Updated on November 16, 2023)
One of my new favorite t-shirts says, “Hold on. Let me overthink this.” It’s perfect for me.
I’ve always been a Type-A, planner-loving, I-prefer-my-ducks-in-a-row momma. I tend to over-analyze and over-complicate most things – especially when it comes to our homeschool.
Thankfully, over a decade of homeschooling has mellowed me out a little bit. I’ve seen firsthand how powerful spontaneous teachable moments can be. I’ve witnessed my kids retain more from playing made-up games than from carefully crafted lesson plans. I’ve realized that it’s less about finding the “right” curriculum and more about nurturing relationships and encouraging a love of learning.
Yes, having a plan is a good thing. But please believe me when I say homeschooling kindergarten does NOT have to be hard or stressful.
There’s no recipe for a perfect kindergarten homeschool experience. No two homeschools will look the same – that’s the beauty of homeschooling!
Below is a list of the resources I’ve used for one or more of my own three kids during their kindergarten years, along with my two cents and lessons learned. Take what’s helpful and leave the rest!
Kindergarten Homeschool Curricula & Lessons Learned
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Kindergarten Bible & Character
- Long Story Short by Marty Machowski – This is a great family devotional for parents and kids to do together. It works well with multiple ages and each week always starts with a fun activity, craft, or engaging hook to get everyone interested. If you’re looking for an easy-to-implement family devotional resource, I’d recommend this book, and its companion volume, Old Story New, by the same author.
- Memory Verses – We’ve incorporated Bible memory in various ways over the years. We’ve selected random verses, used verses from our church sermons or devotionals, and memorized verses for AWANA.
- RightNow Media – This Christian video streaming service has a great selection of Bible studies and discipleship resources for adults and students. But we’ve mainly used it for their library of kids videos. Many churches and church groups subscribe to this service for their congregations and members, so you may already be able to access this content for free!
- “5 + 5” – When my kids were younger, we started calling our five minutes of personal Bible study and five minutes of family Bible reading “5 + 5” (more about that in this post: What’s in a Name? A Super-Easy Way to Get Your Kids to Cooperate!). Somehow, giving this part of our routine a name seemed to make it happen more often.
- Character Training Resources – Although we haven’t been as consistent with this as I’d like, we’ve always tried to find ways to focus on character building in our homeschool. Some of the ways we’ve done this are: reading a chapter of Proverbs each day for a month, using books like Parenting with Scripture or the God, I Need to Talk to You About… series to train in-the-moment, and finding printables online that list Godly character traits to work on for the day or week (like this one for example).
LESSONS LEARNED: I listed “Bible & Character” first since it’s the most important. I found if we didn’t read the Bible or do our family devotional time first, it was often the thing that got skipped. Do it first! Make it a habit! Let your kids see you reading your Bible. Do what you can to make spiritual growth a regular part of everyday conversation – not just a “school subject” to check off the list.
Kindergarten Reading & Phonics
- The Three R’s by Ruth Beechick – After all these years, this little book is still one of my favorites. The author makes it all seem so simple. I didn’t believe her at first but she’s right – teaching kindergarten reading and phonics just doesn’t have to be that complicated.
- Logic of English Phonogram List – I used this free list of phonograms with all three of my kids instead of any formal phonics program. Any list like this would work. We just treated letters and phonograms like anything else they were learning. The cat says “meow”, the M says “mmm”, the SH together says “shhhh”, etc. Once they know the phonograms they’ll be well on their way to reading.
- Starfall.com – All three of my kids loved the learning games on this subscription website, and my youngest (now in 2nd grade) recently asked to use it again. My oldest, in particular, enjoyed the books that highlight the words as they’re read or clicked on.
- Preschool Prep Company Phonics – These were fun videos with cute animations. They’re a little too repetitious for my taste, but I put up with it since my boys really enjoyed them even after they could already read.
- Leapfrog Letter Factory – This was by far all three of my kids’ favorite phonics video. I’ve already sung its praises in my Leapfrog Letter Factory DVD Review so I won’t repeat it all here. In a nutshell, I highly recommend it.
- Word Mastery – This is a no-bells-and-whistles book of word lists grouped by phonetic patterns. I used it after my kids had a good understanding of a handful of basic letter sounds and were starting to blend sounds to read words. It won’t win any prizes for “most exciting curriculum of the year” but it did a good job of helping them sound words out without context which really seemed to build their confidence.
- Bob Books – This set of early readers was gifted to me by my mother-in-law and really helped my kids feel successful reading. After they could already read, they’d still grab these for fun; the simple short sentences helped build their fluency and reading speed.
- Just Plain Reading – We’ve always incorporated silent reading time (do they still call it SSR – Sustained Silent Reading – in schools these days?) and family read-alouds. Reading incentive programs can help, too. And we’ve tried to fill our home with books, magazines, audiobooks, and even phonics games (like Sight Word Swat and Snap It Up) to encourage them to love language.
LESSONS LEARNED: The best way to get kids to read is to make books a staple in your home. Make reading part of your daily life. Read as much as possible. Let them see you reading for fun. Give them time to read alone and to others. And keep on reading to them even after they can read by themselves.
- The Three R’s by Ruth Beechick – I mentioned this book in the Reading section above, but it covers handwriting, too, so I’m listing it again (Spoiler Alert: You’ll see it one more time before this post is done). Once again, the author’s straightforward, simple suggestions showed me just how easy kindergarten handwriting could be. And once again, I didn’t believe her.
- Handwritingworksheets.com – This is one of many sites that allow you to make your own custom tracing and handwriting pages. I used this to make pages with quotes and Bible verses to go along with whatever we were currently studying.
- Custom Handwriting Workbook – At one point, I pulled together printables and copywork pages for my kids and bound them into a gigantic, custom workbook. I’m not sure what compelled me to spend my precious mom time doing this when there’s already so many open-and-go handwriting workbooks available. In any case, you can download some of those homemade handwriting pages on my Freebies & Resources page.
- Just Plain Writing – Finding excuses for my kids to write, draw, and color helped them have a good attitude toward writing and not see it as drudgery. We wrote lists, letters, notes, and bedroom door “Welcome” signs (though, with my kids, it was more often “Do Not Disturb” signs). I tried to mix in fun writing as much as possible. Dot-to-dots, color-by-number pages, finger painting with pudding or shaving cream, and making letters out of play-doh were some of their favorites.
LESSONS LEARNED: This is one area where I definitely over-complicated things. It worked out ok, but I spent many, MANY hours reinventing the wheel when I’d probably have gotten the same results with a dollar store workbook. Make writing (especially at this age) relaxed and fun. Try practicing in sand or air or on a whiteboard if traditional worksheets aren’t your child’s cup of tea. And, if you have a left-handed student, check out this post – 10 Best Ways to Help Your Left-Handed Kids Succeed – for more tips.
- The Three R’s by Ruth Beechick – Okay, okay. I hear you. I won’t mention this one again (in this post anyway). I just love the way she explains the stages young kids go through as they learn about number concepts. Even if you don’t end up using her suggestions, it’s still a helpful (and mercifully short) book to read that shows how un-complicated it can be to teach math to your kindergartener.
- Math-U-See (MUS) Primer & Alpha – We’ve used this program for many years now. My sixth grader will be starting MUS Pre-Algebra this week and is still enjoying this curricula’s straightforward approach and Mr. Demme’s humor. If you’re looking to start some formal math work with your kindergartener, you can use Primer for a gentle, low-pressure introduction. Or, skip right to Alpha (since it repeats much of Primer), but takes things up a notch. Math-U-See has helpful placement tests on their website if you’re unsure where to start.
- Starfall.com – I mentioned this one before, too. Starfall has a lot of early elementary math games that all three of my kids have enjoyed.
- Life of Fred Apples – The Life of Fred series is so unique – you really have to check out the sample on their website to understand what it’s like. We used the first book, Apples, as a supplement in kindergarten. My kids read it for fun and loved Fred and his antics. Even today my now-high-schooler still likes reading the series from the beginning.
- CTC Math – When my youngest daughter was in kindergarten, I let her try CTC Math for fun since she wanted to use it like her big brothers. She liked it and it’s a great program, but I wouldn’t recommend a screen-based math program for kindergarten-aged kids. At the ripe old age of five or six they’re still very concrete thinkers. In my experience, physical manipulatives and hands-on lessons are the most effective for young kids.
- Miscellaneous Math Activities – While Math-U-See was our main kindergarten math program, I mixed in ideas from books like Games for Math, and math activities from MathGeekMama and other sites. We also took full advantage of teachable math moments as they came up (which was pretty much daily).
LESSONS LEARNED: Math, like most other things, is learned easiest when it’s needed or wanted. Pointing out math concepts and talking about it with your kids in daily life is absolutely the best way to build a solid math foundation for kindergarteners. At this age, keep it fun and relevant. If you do formal lessons, end them on a positive note (even if that means not finishing as much as you’d hoped).
Other Kindergarten Subjects
- Science – Science isn’t one of the 3 R’s, but there are so many fun and easy ways to help kindergarteners explore the world around them. We’ve loved Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding (BFSU) K-2 (you can check out my thorough multi-part review of BFSU here). My kindergarteners also liked listening in on AIG God’s Design for Life (Human Body, World of Plants and World of Animals) when their older siblings were using that. (We ended up going back to BFSU because we enjoyed its less textbook-y approach). But in kindergarten, everything is a potential learning experience. Nature walks, trips to the zoo, exploring the back yard, collecting rocks, making paper, finding a feather, planting a garden — literally anything can be a science lesson!
- History – Our family has always done history together, so our kindergarteners have joined in whatever volume of Story of the World (SotW) or Notgrass America the Beautiful we’ve been working through that year. We’ve used timelines, notebooking, and history-based read-alouds which made it easier to teach multiple ages at the same time.
- Health & Safety – I happened to find an inexpensive copy of Abeka’s Health, Safety & Manners 2 when my oldest was in kindergarten. We ended up using it for all three kids and it was a nice way to generate some discussion about health and safety topics. But, if I had it to do over again, I’d just skip the formal health curriculum at this age. It’s so much easier and more natural to teach through conversations as topics come up throughout the day. Talk about teeth and dentists and flossing while brushing teeth. Talk about stranger danger on your walk to the park. Talk about choosing healthy foods at the grocery store or at meal time (for an example of this kind of conversation in action, check out this post).
- Logic – Before I was a homeschool mom I was an engineer, so my kids were destined to be surrounded by nerdy logic puzzles whether they liked them or not. Thankfully, they liked them. We’ve done maze and puzzle books, Scratch Coding, games like Laser Maze and Gravity Maze, and brain teasers. I also used Lollipop Logic Books 1 and 2 for my kindergarteners which they’ve all liked. It’s also helped to talk to myself as I go throughout my day (which is great, since I do that anyway). My kids overhear me wondering and problem-solving which helps them improve their own critical thinking skills.
- Extracurricular Activities – Over the years, we’ve always participated in a weekly co-op class where my kindergarteners took gym classes, nature studies, STEM classes, and went on a lot of field trips. They also took some art and music classes through our park district and co-op. At home, the Bastien Piano Basics series is what I used to get them all started on piano (which has helped immensely as they’ve started other instruments after that). We’ve tried to strike a balance that’s enriching while not overwhelming them with activities.
LESSONS LEARNED: For kindergarten, Bible, Character Training and the 3 R’s really are the key subjects to cover. But that doesn’t mean you can’t start introducing your kids to other topics, too. Science and history are great subjects to study as a family. Formal curricula are not necessary but, if you do use them, remember they’re a tool, not your master! At this age, just focus on helping your kids enjoy learning. No matter what curriculum you decide to use (or not use), intentional discussion is the key to success.
Kindergarteners are sponges. They can truly learn from everything around them. Anything that happens during your day can be a teachable moment. If you find some resources and curricula you like, those can be great tools to enrich your homeschool. But many families have just as much success homeschooling kindergarten with just a library card. So don’t put too much pressure on yourself!
If I had to sum it all up in one sentence, I’d say:
** Spend less time planning school FOR your kids and more time enjoying life WITH them! **
If you encourage their curiosity and talk with your kindergartener throughout the day, you’ll already be homeschooling successfully!
If you’re brand new to homeschooling and feeling overwhelmed, please take a look at these posts: Jumping Into the Deep End (but Not Really) and Thinking of Homeschooling? You Can Do It! Also check out my book, Think About Homeschooling, which was written to help you start homeschooling with confidence!
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