Curriculum Recommendations

Curriculum is not needed in vast quantities. Plan out a few weeks at a time and get a feel for what works and what doesn’t. Giving away unused curriculum or throwing away workbooks that were not completed is disappointing. So, put ambition aside and be cautious. Your children are so young. Relax and enjoy them. If they love doing the schoolwork, congratulations! If they balk at it, maybe they need more time or maybe hand-on activities are better. Remember, whether your child reads at 4 or at 8 is not a fact that is going to go on your child’s resume. But, if they grow to hate reading (or any other subject), that initial emotion will hamper them the rest of their lives.

 

So, take it slow and enjoy the journey! At this young age, I would say that learning to listen while books are read aloud and learning to play with others happily are the two most important skills a child needs to acquire.

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Pre-K

 Building Character(these are great to read at breakfast!)

 

Phonics

 

Spelling

Math

Science

The World Around Us(these are great to read at lunch!)

Penmanship

  • Handwriting Without Tears: My First School Book and My First Lowercase Book (a set from lwtears.com) here

 

Logic

Kids Running
 
Man Carrying Child in Arms

Other Elements to Incorporate

Age-appropriate Home Responsibilities: Set the table, gather trash cans from bedrooms, help put away toys, water outside plants, feed the pets, sweep the porch, clean mirrors, dust the bottoms of furniture (try hiding pennies in the more obscure spots and letting them find them--great perk for morale!)

Physical Exercise: Riding a bike, roller skating, taking a walk with mom, anything! Just lots of fresh air no matter the weather!

Rug Time: Quiet time to look at picture books

Art: Exploring with crayons, watercolors, play-do, scissors, and glue (just be sure to lay down a plastic tablecloth or old sheet first to protect your table!)

Art Appreciation: It is important to share good art with young children. Taping pictures on the fridge at their level will often result in thoughtful gazing. With time, we gathered posters of great art that reflected something meaningful for our family. We framed them and enjoyed them for many years. One book that my children loved from a very young age was First Words by Ivan and Jane Chermayeff. It introduces great art and simple words in various languages.

Music: Invest in some solid rhythm instruments and scarves! A rhythm band might drive you crazy, however, it’s a wonderful opportunity for children to interact with music. When it gets too loud, confiscate the instruments and encourage your children to dance with the scarves.

Building: Duplos, trains, puzzles

Imaginative Play: Dress up (easily gathered at a thrift store), play kitchen (you can share some of the more durable items from your kitchen), puppets, dolls, trucks, trains.

Kindergarten

Building Character

 

Phonics

  • Watch Me Read series (Houghton Mifflin)

  • Phonics Bookshelf series (Houghton Mifflin) - This is the perfect age to start encouraging your child to learn to read with the reward of getting their own library card. This may not happen until first grade, but the anticipation will be tremendous!

  • The Reading Lesson: Teach Your Child to Read in 20 Easy Lessons – Michael Levin and Charan Langton - I highly recommend this program. It worked well for my kids, though not every child is ready to start reading at this age. If this just isn’t the time, continue to read to them out loud.

  • Fun Tales - Wonderful sets of phonics-based books are available in the library. You will go through loads of them, so it is often best to just use the assortment at the library. Be careful, though, because some books are labeled as easy readers and have great pictures, but they may not be easy at all.

  • Favorite Phonics books: Hop on PopGo, Dog, Go; and other Dr. Seuss Books - The most important element of teaching a child to read is reading aloud to them. If you have the opportunity to sit on the couch and have them follow along, they can read the easy words. Sometimes, however, for the sake of fluency, they should just sit and absorb the literature. To read more about our read-aloud experiences as a family, please read my blog articles here.

 

Recitation

  • Poetry: Nursery Rhymes and Short Poems

  • A Child’s Book of Poems – Gyo Fujikawa

  • Sweet, classic poetry suitable for children by well-known poets. - My older children can still recite the poetry they memorized in their younger years. Poetry recitation has many benefits: nurturing a love of poetry and language; reinforcing positive character traits; developing clear articulation; and building confidence by sharing their poem with others. Poetry practice can take place while you are completing any task, so it doesn’t really require any extra school time.

 

Spelling

  • Explode the Code 1, 2, 3

 

Math

 

Science

 

HistoryYoung ones appreciate learning about famous people in history. Interspersed with your read-aloud literature, you may enjoy reading:

  • Abraham Lincoln - Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire

  • Any books by the d’Aulaires

 

If your child is ready to listen to books without color pictures:
 

The Childhood of Famous Americans series published by Aladdin Paperbacks

Some personal favorites:

 

Penmanship

 

Writing

  • Journal Mail - With my kids, I would staple several pages of kindergarten writing paper together (the kind with the picture area on top) to create a journal. Add a colorful cover if you wish. I would write a simple question in the journal and they had to write a response. The focus was on reading and writing, not spelling. It was a surprise to them every day. Questions might include, “What is your favorite food?”; “Where do you want to go this summer?”, “I love you. Can you guess why?”, “What did you build with your blocks yesterday?”.

 

Logic

  • Critical Thinking: Mind Benders Level 1

  • Lollipop Logic: Grades K-2 (available in 3 books) –Bonnie Risby and Robert K. Risby

Book 1

Book 2

Book 3

 
Kindergarten Student

Other Elements to Incorporate

Home Responsibilities: set the table, dust the bottoms of furniture (hide pennies and they get to keep the ones they find!), unload utensils from the dishwasher, water flowers, help clear table, sweep porches, rake, and feed/water pets.

Physical Exercise: Riding a bike, roller skating, taking a walk with Mom, anything! Just lots of fresh air no matter the weather! Learn to skip, hula hoop, and play four-square.

As a life skill, swim lessons are a must; the earlier you start, the more natural swimming is. If you can’t afford lessons, do a little research on Youtube and teach your children yourself.

Rug Time: Quiet time to look at books.

Art: Exploring with crayons, watercolors, play-dough, scissors, and glue (just be sure to lay down a plastic tablecloth or old sheet first to protect your table!)

I started to explore Art History once a week with my children at this point. Some of the books we used included:

Music: Singing together was a great activity. Most children enjoy simple American folk songs and international chants that are fun to sing together. Some of our family favorites include Hunk-ta Bunk-ta Boo albums by Katharine Dines and Kid’s Songs by Nancy Cassidy.

Imaginative Play: Dress up, play kitchen (you can share some of the more durable items from your kitchen), puppets, dolls. This is essential for building imagination.

Educational Building Sets: Legos, Pyramid Stacking Building Blocks, Hexie Snaps, Gears

Perusing websites and catalogs is essential while home educating. Though you may not purchase anything, ideas for activities and possible alternatives will be inspired. Two of my favorite companies for hands-on toys and building kits are Mindware.com and Timberdoodle.com.

Grade 1

Building Character

Phonics

 

Recitation - (Poetry)

My older children can still recite the poetry they memorized in their younger years. We tried to memorize two a month, but sometimes it was just a few each year. In retrospect, they all wish they had learned more. Poetry recitation has many benefits: nurturing a love of poetry and language; reinforcing positive character traits; developing clear articulation; and building confidence. Poetry practice can take place while you are completing any task, so it doesn’t really require any extra school time.

 

Spelling

 

Penmanship

 

Writing/Grammar

 

Math

Science This is a wonderful time to explore the human body, animals, and plants. My kids really enjoyed hands-on activities, and after all, that is what science should be. . . hands-on. Once you have established the idea of animal kingdoms, spend the year having fun with science! Here are some fun guides for science experiments.

One year, I told my kids to put on their swimsuits and I labeled all their bones in permanent marker on their skin. I totally forgot they had swim practice that afternoon. Whoops. They’ve never forgotten it.

Janice VanCleave

 

 

Fun Kits - You may want to order an ant farm, a butterfly kit (including caterpillars, food, and pavilion) - this is a nice Easter activity -, a worm farm, and other interesting invertebrates to have in the house. This is a great point at which to make a bug board!

Reading about Science - Check out the Rookie Read About Science Series. They are wonderful for expanding your child’s reading skills and explaining body parts and functions.

 

History - Just as in kindergarten, continue to read about great people in history, interspersed with your literature read-alouds. Most historical novels are geared for slightly older children, however, there are readers and chapter books about great heroes in history that make for fun read-alouds. Check out your local library’s collection.

If you haven’t read all of them, I would recommend continuing with:

  • Abraham Lincoln -Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire

  • Any books by the d’Aulaires

If your child is ready to listen to books without color pictures:

The Childhood of Famous Americans series published by Aladdin Paperbacks

Some more personal favorites:

  • George Washington: Our First Leader

  • Benjamin Franklin: Young Printer

  • Annie Oakley: Young Markswoman

  • Harriet Tubman: Freedom’s Trailblazer

 

Logic

  • T is for Think: Thinking fun with the alphabet –Greta Rasmussen

  • Nifty Fifty –Greta Rasmussen

  • Lollipop Logic: Grades K-2 (available in 3 books) –Bonnie Risby and Robert K. Risby

  • Book 1

  • Book 2

  • Book 3

Girl Jumping
 

Other Elements to Incorporate

Home Responsibilities: Set the table, help load and unload the dishwasher, tear lettuce for salads, clear the dinner table, sweep a floor, vacuum, dust, carry in groceries, water flowers, sweep porches, rake, and feed/water pets.

Physical Exercise: Swimming, running, biking, and maybe a team sport if you have the time. And, of course, lots of time for outside play, with an array of balls, frisbees, hula hoops, and possibly a swing set. - This is a great time to put your child in swim lessons and possibly swim team. We never had much spare time or money and we had lots of children, so I taught my children to swim myself and then put them in swim team as soon as they could swim backstroke and freestyle across the pool. They were motivated to swim well by the coaches and other team members and continued on to swim competitively for years. A real plus—all ages worked out and competed at the same time! Much easier than soccer. 😊

When swimming was not available, a good set of running shoes is an inexpensive alternative or supplement. As a family, we run two or three miles before breakfast six days a week. It’s amazing how strong children become and how much calmer the house is with an early morning workout! We have persisted as runners. Once they turn 13, they start running longer distances. Some of my children have run marathons as early as 13, marathons at 15, and ultras at 16. Just be ready to provide lots of food at meals and to do a lot of laundry!

 

One last note on team vs individual sports:

 

I used to spend my evenings and Saturdays running from one soccer or Little League game to another, nursing babies under my coat, eating on the go. I am sorry to say that none of my kids have too many memories of those games. They do have memories of going to swim meets as a family and running races as a family. I have come to the conclusion that individual sports are actually a better method of building discipline and encouraging self-motivation. For those that are drawn to team sports for the social aspect, working out is no longer appealing once they leave the team. However, if a child grows up with an individual workout that is purely self-motivated, they tend to continue working out throughout life, even if they are no longer able to participate in team sports.

Rug Time: Quiet time to look at books.

Art: Exploring with crayons, watercolors, play-do, scissors, and glue (just be sure to lay down a plastic tablecloth or old sheet first to protect your table!)

I started to explore Art History once a week with my children at this point. Some of the books we used included:

Music: Singing together was a great activity. Most children enjoy simple American folk songs and international chants that are fun to sing together. Some of our family favorites include Hunk-ta Bunk-ta Boo albums by Katharine Dines.

Imaginative Play: Dress up, play kitchen (you can share some of the more durable items from your kitchen), puppets, dolls. This is essential for building imagination.

Educational Building Sets: Legos, K’nex, Zoobs (we personally own this set), Uberstix, Keva building planks, marble runs (Be careful with choosing your marble run! Marble runs are endlessly fun, however, you will want to read all the reviews and make sure that it is possible for your child to have a successful and creative experience; some sets require that they build in only one way to work - this defeats the purpose! You can view here the set we personally own).

 

Perusing websites and catalogs is essential while home educating. Though you may not purchase anything, ideas for activities and possible alternatives will be inspired. Two of my favorite companies for hands-on toys and building kits are Mindware.com and Timberdoodle.com.

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