Kindergarten

039. First Day of Homeschool

It’s Back to Homeschool!

First Day of Homeschool

Celebrate your first day! Whether you’re schooling year-round or following a traditional schedule, create a special and memorable first day!

* How do you celebrate your first day of homeschool?
* What are some “NOT Back to School” traditions?
* How do you start your first lesson?

Today, we will be answering these questions and more!!

Episode 039:

Brand New to Homeschooling?
GETTING START PAGE >>
Kindergarten Page >>
High School Series >>

Show Notes

It’s back to homeschool! Whether you like to school year-round, or follow a traditional school schedule, there’s usually a time when you take a significant break and start back with a new curriculum, new supplies, and lay out new goals for your year. Back-to-homeschool is such an exciting time! It’s the perfect time to establish a good routine. 

If you’re brand-new to homeschooling, be sure to visit our GETTING STARTED Page to walk you through Step by Step!

It’s a good idea on the first day to let your kids take some time to thumb through their new curricula and resources. Some families may be totally stoked by seeing their new year’s program coming together. But if your kids aren’t thrilled with flipping through their new books, it’s okay! Some kids might find it a little overwhelming to see an entire year of school work and all the books and projects laid out on the table- even all the FUN ones you selected you know they’ll love. 

And maybe you have children who have lost their joy for learning? If you have recently withdrawn your child from school, we talked about how essential it is to go through a process of Deschooling. Typically, when people are pulling their kids up from school it’s because they are in an environment that’s not working for them academically or emotionally and going through this step is really going to set your Homeschool up for success so don’t skip it! Deschooling 101 >>

But once you have gone through this, they still might not be completely thrilled about homeschool – hopefully they are! Remember, you’re a homeschooler! You have the power and flexibility to tap into their interests and excite their learning once more!  You have the opportunity to create a fun homeschool first day to get the momentum started. Planning Your Homeschool Year >>

School Year Planner
Download your Free Planner Templates

Find your families natural rhythm is Episode 009. Schedules, Routines, and Rhythms

How do you celebrate your first day of homeschool? (5:58)

Celebrating your first day of homeschooling can be so much fun.  You can set some great traditions and make some really special memories. But before we get into some of those fun traditions, we put together some tips that are going to really help set you up for success:

10 Top Tips for a Great First Day of Homeschool

1. Don’t plan to teach EVERYTHING on the first day

It’s really important to ease back into your school schedule slowly. A lot of seasoned homeschoolers would tell you to start with just a few subjects and slowly add in more later in the week or even over the next few weeks. Relax and enjoy those first few days of school. Your children will have a much better attitude about starting school.

2. Take a picture

Those kiddos in the camera lens are the reason for all of the hard work.  They are absolutely worth it. A lot of people like to take it while their child is in their PJs all day long, or on their front porch, or at the donut shop. Taking a picture really drives home how fast they are growing and how fleeting these years really are.

Scroll down to get your FREE First Day of School Photo Signs

3. Plan a special breakfast

One of the great perks of homeschooling is that we have more freedom over our day. Take advantage of it by taking the time to go out for breakfast while other kids are waiting for the school bus. Or pick up some donuts and sit on your front porch while you wave at the school bus! You could also cook a special breakfast. Plan whatever feels special for your family – you could put together a waffle bar, have pancakes and sausage, make an omelet bar, or have that special sweet cereal that maybe you usually say no to. 

You can make Alphabet Letters with this
Pancake Pen >>

4. Plan a fun activity

  • Some people like to create a school year vision board together. If this is something you want to do, have all the supplies on hand and ready like posterboard and stencils or stickers. Together with your kids, you each can reflect on your personal goals for homeschooling. You can talk about what you hope to achieve and write them all down.
  • Design a schedule for your homeschooling activities together with your kids. Make it visually appealing and display it prominently in your learning space.
  • A lot of people like to bake cookies or a back to school cake – Home Economics 101! You could also take some of those treats to a nearby fire or police station.
  • Decorate your classroom together.
  • We’ve always created a homeschool binder and use dividers between subjects. If this is something you also want to do, you can spend some time having your kids decorate their binder.   
  • You could create a treasure hunt for them to find their curriculum all over the house.
  • Board games are a great way to start. We always play a boardgame on the first day of school! We have a great List of Educational Games. Your kids may not even know they’re learning! You can even make your own with these FREE Boardgame Templates >>
  • Water balloon fight or Silly string fight
  • All those museums are finally empty and waiting for you so plan an outing and go see that new exhibit.
  • Enjoy a day at a park with your new homeschool group.
  • Do an Art Party or do self portraits. Free Art Party with The Art Sherpa >>
  • Have a Poetry Tea Time
  • Go swimming – most pools are still open and with public school back in session, they are all yours!
  • Meet friends at the park or at a coffee shop to play board games.
  • Spend the afternoon at the lake. Your kids can break in their new literature book in a hammock. 
  • Encourage journaling or artwork where you can express your thoughts and feelings about your first day. This can serve as a keepsake to look back on as you progress through your homeschooling adventure.
  • Do an activity related to your curriculum. You can get really creative with this! For example, if you’re studying history, you can create a timeline. If you’re learning about simple machines in science, build a Lego car and create a ramp and have a race. You could also do simple experiments. Make slime for chemistry or erupt volcanoes. You can go anywhere with this! More Free Science Ideas with downloadable activities
  • Outdoor exploration: Take advantage of your flexible schedule and go on a field trip or nature walk to celebrate your first day. Observe and document your findings. For little ones, we have a free nature scavenger hunt you can download.
  • Finally, if you’re not too exhausted, end your first day of homeschool with a family game night or watch a movie. You could even choose a movie related to a subject you’re learning about. 
The fancy journal I put in my son’s Not Back to School Basket last year. He LOVED it!

The possibilities are endless!

And don’t stop the homeschool fun after your special celebration! Make fun a priority as you create a relaxed learning environment for your kids to thrive. Learn how to keep learning fun >>

5. Complete First Day of School/All About Me Questions 

Get your FREE First Day of Homeschool Packet with Questionnaire >>

Kids grow and change impossibly fast. Sometimes it’s hard to see it day to day, so I have my kids complete a First Day interview every year on the first day of homeschool. I save it and we all reflect on the changes of the previous years after they fill it out. They are always so amazed on how much they have changed and grown and quite frankly, I am too! I just wrote a blog post called The Bittersweet Beauty of Homeschooling: from Little Feet to Flying Wings. One night last week I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t sleep. I bawled my eyes out when I wrote this post reminiscing when my kids were little. Sometimes in all of the chaos and the whirlwind of it all, it can be hard to see just how fast everything is moving. They change so fast, so document it.

The Bittersweet Beauty of Homeschooling

6. Don’t forget to plan for lunch

You will be busy all morning with the excitement of the new year, projects, games, and teaching so either plan something quick and easy or cook lunch as part of a homeschool lesson.  I usually plan something really simple. Or you could pack a lunch and have a picnic and chat about your first day and what you’re looking forward to this year.

7. Read together

Reading together is one of our favorite homeschool memories. Choose a new read-aloud together and start each morning reading a chapter to get in a groove of a new routine. Maybe set up a new read aloud space or cozy corner in your house, fill a new bookshelf or basket with some special new reads.  Get some fluffy blankets, or a bean bag chair, or a new light. Check out the Top 50 Books for New Readers and Favorite Books for Middle Schoolers

8. Get the kids moving

Homeschool does not mean sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day. But it can be a little less active than running around all summer. You can ease that transition by planning something to get the kids moving. Get out in nature and take a hike, do a YouTube yoga routine, turn off the music and have a dance party, go play tennis together, go biking, or roll some exercise dice. Take them to the gym or if they are driving, let them go to the gym by themself. 

Exercise Dice >>

You may also want to Arrange meet-ups with other homeschooling families or friends who are also starting their homeschooling journey. Share experiences, tips, and celebrate together.  This really sets the tone for how social homeschooling will be- this is great for kids new to homeschooling and worried about that aspect.

9.Be Prepared and Routine-Minded

Set up a comfortable and organized learning area or dedicated education space in your home. Decorate it with colorful posters, motivational quotes, and any other items that inspire you. Remember, you’re setting the stage, take time each night before bed or on Sunday night to gather your materials and lay out your week ahead. 

You are beginning to set the stage for your entire school year. Consistency is important, but know that things are going to go wrong, so instead of having a very rigid schedule, be more routine-minded.   Even if you’re not a brand new homeschooler, this is a new year and you’re still figuring things out so be gentle on yourself and be patient with your children. They are still learning the expectations you have of them so if things aren’t perfect, give them gentle reminders. It’s going to take some time. And chances are if you’re not a brand new homeschooler, the expectations are going to be more than the previous year as they are one year older. 

Carl Azuz student news: World from A to Z

10. Prep/Plan Dinner BEFORE

You will be TIRED so make this easy on yourself, prep the instant pot the night before. Or start a tradition by ordering pizza for dinner on the first day of homeschool. 

jello ce;;
The year we kicked off NOT Back to School by making a candy Jello Cell >>

What are some Not Back to School Traditions? (27:19)

Homeschooling provides the opportunity to create unique traditions that celebrate the start of a new academic year. We’ve done so many “not back to school traditions” through the years.  

“Not Back to School” party:

One thing we really loved (and still love) is a Not Back to School Party. These are so much fun and so easy to plan.  If there isn’t one in your area, throw one together yourself.  Organize a picnic in a local park or your backyard with other homeschooling families. It’s a chance to connect, share experiences, and build a sense of community.

Not Back to School Basket:

I always make a “not back to school” gift basket for my kids. I put it out when they are still sleeping so it’s always a surprise when they wake up in the morning to find all the goodies. I put in lots of snacks, science kits, their FREE school IDs (Homeschool Buyers Club), fancy pencils, phone chargers, silly string, or water balloons. They are older now, so sometimes I like to put in Starbucks or Amazon gift cards, a fancy journal, and buy them. They each get their own Nutella jar, and on the Nutella say you can print custom labels for each grade. Download your FREE Nutella School Labels >>

Magic Pencil with Erasures >>
I can’t wait for my mine to arrive!

A few of our Not Back to School Baskets over the years:

New Pajamas: 

We always make a big deal about getting new pajamas for homeschool.  It started out as a bit of a joke for our couch school, but the grandparents look forward to our silly pajama first day of school photo every year!

Time Capsule: 

Some people like to create a Time Capsule where everyone puts in items that represent their current interests, aspirations, and goals. You can bury it or store it away to open at the end of the year or on a future milestone. 

Top 25 Homeschool Essentials
View our Top 25 Homeschool Essentials

Theme Day: 

Choose a theme that relates to a subject or topic you’ll be studying during the year. Dress up, decorate your learning space accordingly, and engage in activities, games, or experiments centered around that theme.

Homeschool Olympics or field day: 

Organize a friendly competition with other homeschool families. You can set up an obstacle course and do all kinds of physical activities, you can do team challenges, or also intellectual games. It’s really a fun way to promote teamwork, sportsmanship, and friendly rivalry. 

Curriculum Unboxing: 

Treat the beginning of the academic year like an unboxing event. Gather all your learning materials, books, and resources, and unveil them with excitement. It adds an element of anticipation and enthusiasm.

Volunteer or Community Service Day: 

Dedicate a day to giving back to the community. Find a local organization or charity where you can volunteer together as a family, contributing your time and efforts for a good cause. A school backpack/supply drive or stuffing event is also a great way for our homeschoolers to see how lucky they are!

Reflection and Goal Setting:

Take time as a family to reflect on the previous school year and set goals for the upcoming one. Talk about everything you achieved, the challenges you faced, and all the aspirations you have about the new year. We talked earlier about creating a vision board. This could be part of that. If you do create one, display it in your homeschool room to remind you of your goals.

Remember, the traditions you establish can be as unique and individual as your homeschooling journey. They should reflect your family’s values, interests, and educational goals. Feel free to adapt and create new traditions that resonate with you and make the start of each homeschool year meaningful and exciting.

How to start your first lesson? (35:12)

Starting your very first homeschool lesson can set the tone for a successful and engaging learning experience. 

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to begin:

Prepare the learning materials:

Gather all the necessary books, worksheets, or any other resources you’ll need for the lesson. Ensure that you have everything organized and readily accessible. There’s nothing worse than sitting down to do a project and finding out you are one ingredient short!

Set up the learning environment:

Create a comfortable and focused learning space. Remove distractions and provide a clean area for studying. Organize everything so it’s easily accessed and promotes a positive learning atmosphere. 

Review the lesson plan:

Take a few minutes to review the lesson plan or outline for the day. Familiarize yourself with the reading and activities you have planned.  It helps you answer the very important question- how much longer will this take?

Warm-up activity:

Start the lesson with a warm-up activity that captures their attention. This could be a short discussion, lighting a candle, or morning basket. It could be going over and reviewing what you learned the previous day or the previous school year if this is your very first day. You could also warm up by playing an educational game that’s relevant to the lesson.

When you’re ready to begin, start by introducing the new topic or concept. It would be a good idea to provide an overview of what will be covered and why it is important or interesting. Try to use real-life examples, visual aids, or stories to make the topic relatable and engaging. This is where we pull in things like our timeline for history, or lab journals for science. 

Interactive instruction:

Engage your child actively in the learning process. Use a variety of instructional methods, such as discussions, demonstrations, videos, hands-on activities, or interactive online resources. Encourage questions and discussion to foster deeper understanding. I also like to give my kids something to do with their hands while listening to readings- a handicraft basket, quiet toys, coloring, etc.

If you have kids that are old enough to be independent or if you need to have one working on one thing by themselves while you work with another, this is where you can  assign exercises, worksheets, or projects and provide guidance and support as needed.

Assess understanding:

Assess your child’s understanding periodically during the lesson. Use informal methods like questioning, discussions, or short quizzes to gauge comprehension. This will help you identify areas that may need further clarification or review.  

Wrap up the lesson:

Assign any independent work for the next day or that they need to work on one their own. Or have a discussion about what you’ll be doing the next day or in the future with this lesson.

Remember to be patient, flexible, and support your children as you navigate your lessons or curriculum. If things aren’t working, adapt your teaching style to suit their needs and learning preferences or incorporate other resources to help them understand the concept you’re trying to teach. By starting your first homeschool lesson with enthusiasm, organization, and effective communication, you’re going to establish a positive and productive learning environment for your entire family.

This Week’s Freebies:

038. How Do You Homeschool Kindergarten?

how do you homeschool kindergarten

How Do You Homeschool Kindergarten?

Kindergarten is such an exciting time for both parents and kids! Maybe the idea of homeschooling is completely new to you, or maybe you’ve been researching the topic for a while and have finally decided to pull the trigger.

* How do you begin?
* What does my Kindergartener Need to Know?
* What does a day in the life of a homeschool Kindergartener look like?
* What curriculum should I use for my Kindergartener?

Episode 038:

Brand New to Homeschooling?
GETTING START PAGE >>
Kindergarten Page >>
High School Series >>

Show Notes

Kindergarten is such an exciting time for both parents and kids! Maybe the idea of homeschooling is completely new to you, or maybe you’ve been researching the topic for a while and have finally decided to pull the trigger. 

Be sure to check out our Getting Started in Homeschooling page. There you will find all kinds of resources like finding balance between multiple children, dealing with naysayers when you’re starting off, socialization questions, and more to guide you as you begin. 

How do you begin homeschooling kindergarten? (3:34)

Kindergarten
Curriculum Guide >>

The first step is to find out what your state requires. Every state has different rules for homeschooling, so it’s important to research your state’s homeschool laws. And note that there is often a difference between what a state requires for homeschoolers and what a state requires of public school students.  Sometimes, these may not be the same things at all.  In many states, there is a *minimum* age in which a child *can* register for public schooling and then there is a *compulsory* age for when they *must* start school. Kindergarten is often not required at all.  So don’t get too wrapped up in thinking you absolutely have to have your child homeschooling with a full curriculum at 5.  In many states, the compulsory age is 6 or 7 so you may have another year or more.

What does my kindergartener need to know? (6:26)

Our kindergarten advice doesn’t really vary that much from our preschool advice other than adding a Learn to Read Program if they are ready. Our preschool advice is to read lots of picture books together, do messy art and science projects, cook in the kitchen, have lots of imaginative/building toys- blocks, Legos, trains, etc.  Spend a ton of time outside- go for nature walks.  Get binoculars, magnifying lens, specimen jars and some local bird/wildflower/tree identification guides and take them with you.  Sing, dance, play musical instruments.  Get a tub of dress up items.  Play board games for math.  Preschool is so much fun!

Our podcast episode and webpage What should your Preschooler Know? has fantastic ideas that work just as well for 5- and 6-year-olds. It’s packed with valuable information and even includes resources that celebrate the power of play in education. This playful path to learning is such a joyous journey for your child. It allows them to develop age-appropriate skills without any pressure or need for perfection.

Homeschooled kindergartners engage in a wide range of activities and lessons that are designed to foster their early learning and development. While homeschooling approaches may vary, here are some common areas of focus for homeschool kindergartners:

Basic Literacy Skills: 

Kindergartners learn foundational skills in reading and writing. They explore letter recognition, phonics, and phonemic awareness. They practice writing letters, words, and simple sentences. They also develop listening and comprehension skills through read-aloud sessions and discussions.

Emergent Reading: 

Kindergartners are introduced to early reading strategies. They learn sight words, practice decoding simple words, and engage in guided reading activities. They explore age-appropriate books for new readers and stories, building their reading fluency and comprehension.

Math:

Kindergartners focus on developing their numeracy skills. They learn number recognition, counting, and basic addition and subtraction concepts. They explore shapes, patterns, and measurement. Hands-on activities and math manipulatives help them understand mathematical concepts in a concrete and engaging way.

Science and Nature Studies: 

Young children are naturally curious about the world around them, so science and nature studies should be incorporated into their curriculum. They should explore basic scientific concepts with Hands-on Science Activities like weather, plants, animals, and the five senses. They engage in simple experiments, observation-based learning, and nature walks to nurture their curiosity. 

Social Skills and Emotional Development: 

Kindergartners learn important social skills such as sharing, taking turns, and cooperating with others. They develop their emotional awareness and understanding of their own feelings and those of others. They engage in activities that promote empathy, kindness, and problem-solving skills.

Best Tips for homeschooling kindergarten (16:52):

1. Read a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction books every single day.

2. Keep lessons short.

3. Go outside for field trips, museum visits, and exploration.

4. Be flexible with time and routines. Take a break from the curriculum to follow their interests.

5. Review & Revisit.

6. Get creative when teaching concepts. 

7. Use a lot of hands-on activities. 

8. Have lots of play and social time. 

Art and Creativity: 

This age is perfect to provide opportunities for artistic expression and creativity. Do lots of art projects using different mediums and explore imaginative play through dress up. These kinds of activities help them with so much development. Like fine motor skills, expressing their ideas, and fostering their creativity

Physical Education: 

Physical activities and playtime are important for kindergartners’ development. They engage in gross motor activities, games, and exercises that promote coordination, balance, and overall physical well-being.

KINDERGARTEN SKILLS CHECKLIST

This age learns best through a combination of structured lessons, hands-on activities, play, and exploration. The focus is on fostering a love of learning and building a solid foundation for future academic pursuits. It’s also a time when they are developing socially and emotionally.

We know that parents want to know exactly what to do and what skills to master so we’ve come up with this list. We’ve found that combining resources likeHome Learning Year by Yearand What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know along with a combination of basic state standards helps us set goals for language arts and math for each grade.

My kids learned all about money and different coins with this Fun Cash Register

Kindergartner skills to master:

 These goals can become your benchmark for the year, allowing you to use various resources and activities to achieve them. This checklist can let you be interest-led while still meeting academic goals. Remember, there’s no “BEHIND” in Homeschool, so choose goals that fit them best.

Scroll down to download the complete list!

We have an entire episode about schedules, routines and rhythms where we talk about organizing your day.  While a rigid schedule is definitely not needed for small children, including kindergarteners, many kids do benefit by having a pattern to their day.  Kids like to know what is happening next and also having an informal routine or rhythm can really help make your day move more smoothly.

A day in the life of a homeschool kindergartner:

Here’s a sample schedule for a homeschool kindergartener. Keep in mind that flexibility is key, and you can adapt this schedule to fit your child’s needs, interests, and your family’s routine.

8:30 AM: Morning Routine and Circle Time

  • Start the day with a morning routine (getting dressed, brushing teeth, etc.).
  • Gather for circle time, where you can sing songs, recite rhymes, and discuss the day’s plan.
Create a morning routine with this Interactive Calendar and Weather Pocket Chart

9:00 AM: Literacy

  • Focus on literacy activities such as letter recognition, phonics, or sight word practice.
  • Engage in read-aloud sessions or shared reading activities.

9:30 AM: Math

  • Introduce mathematical concepts through hands-on activities, counting exercises, or simple addition/subtraction games. 
  • Use manipulatives or visual aids to support understanding.

10:00 AM: Snack Break and Free Play

  • Provide a nutritious snack and allow some time for unstructured play or exploration.

10:30 AM: Science/Nature Studies

  • Explore science topics related to nature, weather, or animals. Download your FREE Hurricane Tracking Charts
  • Conduct simple experiments or engage in observation-based activities.

11:00 AM: Art/Creativity

  • Encourage artistic expression through drawing on paper or sidewalk chalk, painting, or crafting. 
  • This develops creativity and fine motor skills.

11:30: Physical Education

  • You can do things like dancing, yoga, kicking a ball outside, going for a hike, riding a tricycle, or just simple exercises.
  • Play active games that promote coordination and gross motor skills.

12:00 PM: Lunch Break and Outdoor Time

  • Have a healthy lunch together as a family.
  • Spend time outdoors for fresh air, homeschool park day, with exploration.

1:00 PM: Social Skills and Emotional Development and Good Habits

  • Focus on activities that promote social skills, empathy, and emotional awareness. If you’re at a play day, help your child learn to share, and how to be a friend. You could also go on a field trip with friends to a museum or a wildlife refuge. These interactions were cornerstones for us at that age. 
  • Engage in conversations. If you’re home, you can role-play or play cooperative games or do a puzzle together. 
  • Model good manners and practice doing chores and habit formation

1:30 PM: Theme-Based Learning

  • Choose a theme (e.g., community helpers, seasons, or animals) and explore it through various activities.
  • Read books, watch educational videos, or engage in hands-on projects related to the theme.

2:00 PM: Independent Reading/Quiet Time

  • Have books that your children love available all the time and encourage them to read or do quiet activities like puzzles or drawing. Many children aren’t reading yet, but they probably have their favorite book memorized and love to look through them.
  • Provide a cozy space and quiet exploration. We always had an art area with paper in colored pencils that were available all the time. Remember, learning doesn’t stop when school is over. Kids are always learning and having these things available keeps them engaged.

So keep in mind that even though we listed times here, this doesn’t mean that you must be doing these activities for the entire time slot until the next one.  Really, kindergarten shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes to an hour to accomplish a day.  But you can do a few minutes here or a few minutes there.

how long does it take to homeschool

This is just a suggested schedule, and you can modify it according to your child’s needs and your family’s routine. Flexibility is key, and don’t forget to include breaks and playtime throughout the day. Kids are going to learn more and retain more when they are interested in what they are learning so don’t be afraid to follow their lead. 

What curriculum should I use? (25:19)

We know how exciting yet overwhelming it can be to find the perfect curriculum for kindergarten. But here’s the thing, you don’t really need a formal curriculum at this stage! Remember, the skills we listed earlier are just a guide and many of the skills can be mastered through play. Research actually suggests that play-based learning is the way to go for young children like yours. You can create a rich learning environment right within the comfort of your home.

But we know that some of you are still going to want to buy a curriculum and get started. And that’s ok too! But I understand that you might still want some structure and reassurance that your child is covering important areas of kindergarten. Be sure that you spend some time deciding WHAT you want to teach and HOW you want to teach it. To help you, we’ve created 7 Simple Steps to Choosing Curriculum to guide you to find the perfect fit for your family.

So, let’s explore some popular publishers who offer homeschooling curriculum for this stage. 

Browse Through Our Full Kindergarten Curriculum List >>>

Blast off to Reading!

We really have made it a point to not recommend specific curricula on our podcasts and one of the reasons why is that it’s an ever-evolving thing.  Curriculum companies come and go, some change resources, and there are constantly new things coming on the horizon!

We’ve used Universal Yums for years. My kids LOVE them!

Universal Yums is a fun way to learn about geography and different people!

We’ve both been homeschooling a long time and who knows if we would have used some of the things, we did in favor of a lot of the things that have come out since.  So, this list comes to you with either our personal recommendations, or recommendations from other secular resources that we follow.  We keep an eye out and stay current on what’s new, and or what may be debatable or problematic with certain programs,

Facebook Resource Group:

As we mentioned before, homeschoolers really love to help each other out and share free resources. Many local groups do curriculum swaps and there are a lot of Free homeschool resources Facebook groups. Just this week we created a brand-new Facebook group for the sole purpose of sharing free and low cost homeschool resources. Since the popularity of homeschooling has grown so much since Covid, a lot of our go-to groups have been flooded with SPAM and it can be hard to sift through all that.

Homeschool Freebies & Support  for PreK-12
We created a new group called Homeschool Freebies & Support for Pre-K-12th. Join us and get all the goods!

This Week’s Freebie:

K-1st Grade Curriculum Choices

BTDT Homeschool was created with a heartfelt mission: to empower and give back to the secular homeschool community.

Through our informative podcasts, blog posts, daily inspiration, and a wide range of free printable tools, we aim to empower and assist you on your homeschooling journey.
New to Homeschooling>>>

We know how exciting yet overwhelming it can be to find the perfect curriculum. But here’s the thing, you don’t really need a formal curriculum at this stage! Remember, the skills we listed earlier are just a guide and many of the skills can be mastered through play. Research actually suggests that play-based learning is the way to go for young children like yours. You can create a rich learning environment right within the comfort of your home.

How do you Homeschool Kindergarten?
Learn More>>>

But we know that some of you are still going to want to buy a curriculum and get started. And that’s ok too! But I understand that you might still want some structure and reassurance that your child is covering important areas of kindergarten. There are many varieties of curriculum. To help you narrow down what’s best for your child, we created:

7 Steps to Choosing Curriculum >>

If you do choose to use curriculum at this stage, let’s explore some of our favorite choices broken down into teaching method/style:

Nature-based:

If your family loves spending time outdoors and believes in the power of nature, these publishers will be a great fit. They emphasize connecting children with the natural world and offer engaging activities and projects:

Literature-based:

For families who cherish reading and enjoy incorporating related projects and activities, these curricula are perfect. They often cover science and social studies through captivating literature:

Moving Beyond the Page>>

Play-based:

If you want to prioritize the benefits of play while homeschooling, these curricula encourage exactly that:

Slow and Steady Get Me Ready>>

Online Curriculum:

While young students thrive with hands-on activities and interaction, some parents find online curricula helpful for additional support. We actually do not subscribe to this method for younger learners.  Kids have all the time in the world to be online, and play based learning is just so much better scientifically and more effective for this age.

Traditional Curriculum:

If you prefer a more “regular” school-like experience with textbooks and workbooks, these publishers offer a structured approach:

Classical Education:

Classical homeschooling focuses on the three stages of learning: the Grammar stage, the Logic stage, and the Rhetoric stage. This curriculum is based on this time-tested method:

Learn-to-Read:

All About Reading>>

If you’re specifically looking for resources to support your child’s reading development, consider these options. Also know that our learning how to read episode has a lot of great resources too. 

Math:

Math skills can be developed independently, even during the early years of homeschooling. Here are a few reputable math curricula:

Handwriting/Writing:

Here are some handwriting curricula that you can consider to enhance your child’s handwriting skills:

Remember, you don’t necessarily need to follow a specific handwriting curriculum. You can also incorporate handwriting practice into your daily activities by providing your child with opportunities to write, such as writing letters, making grocery lists, sidewalk chalk, or creating simple stories. Ultimately, the choice of handwriting curriculum depends on your child’s learning style, your preferences, and the goals you have for their handwriting development. Consider what approach resonates with you and your child, and remember to make the learning process fun and engaging.  There is a difference between the physical act of handwriting and foundational writing- sentence structure, detailing thoughts, etc.  

Geography & Culture:

Universal Yums is a subscription service that delivers a box of snacks from a different country to your doorstep every month. Each box contains a variety of snacks, such as chips, candy, and cookies, as well as a booklet that provides information about the country’s culture, history, and food. It also contains games, trivia, and recipes to continue learning about the culture. It’s easy to build an entire UNIT STUDY around each country – and my kids love getting to “travel” from home.

We’ve used Universal Yums for years and have learned so much!

Science:

Real Science Odyssey (K-10th): Hands-on Secular and Science-Based Curricula written by real scientists and historians for K-10th grades. The curriculum from Pandia Press fits a more traditional learning and teaching approach. The style is textbook based with labs. This format is presented to be interesting and not boring at all and keeps kids engaged.

Curiosity Box In this monthly box, your kids ages 5-10 will enjoy 3 craft kits plus a small STEAM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) project We fell in love with these boxes! Everything you need – including instructions and supplies comes in the box. Each month has a variety of activities that my kids can do independently while I meal prepped or working one-on-one. Each box contains real, high-quality science equipment that we have used in OTHER experiments.

History (1st):

Curiosity Chronicles is a secular homeschool history curriculum written in dialogue form. Their two main characters, Ted and Mona, take students on a tour through history beginning in ancient times. Curiosity Chronicles takes a global perspective and includes the history of people all over the world. They cover cultural, artistic, and scientific history in addition to political history.

History Quest: This is Pandia’s newest curriculum which features hands on history curriculum for elementary ages. This would be great if you’re interested in more hands-on and less literature-based history.

We have made it a point to not recommend specific curricula on our podcasts and one of the reasons why is that it’s an ever-evolving thing.  Curriculum companies come and go, some change resources, and there are constantly new things coming on the horizon! We’ve both been homeschooling a long time and who knows if we would have used some of the things we did in favor of a lot of the things that have come out since.  This list comes to you with either our personal recommendations or recommendations from other secular resources that we follow.  We keep an eye out and stay current on what’s new and what may be debatable or problematic with certain programs.

015. How Do You Teach Your Child To Read?

Learn how to read

015.

How Do You Teach Your Child To Read?

When is my child ready?
What curriculum should I use?
Can I teach reading with games?

Tune in this week while we discuss these topics and more!

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Show Notes

Learning to read

Reading is necessary for learning and instilling a love of reading at an early age is the key that can unlock the door to lifelong learning. It’s the foundation that helps us learn and make sense of the world around us. Reading builds social and emotional skills and ignites imagination. Reading builds self-confidence, independence, and is a critical foundation for developing logic and problem-solving skills.  

Teaching a child to read is probably the most intimidating aspect of homeschooling.  This is your make it or break it moment and there is a lot of pressure.  It’s important to keep in mind that all children learn and develop at their own pace. This goes for everything from learning to crawl, walk and talk. But unlike some of those skills, many children do not learn to read naturally. 

Reading Readiness

Is my child ready to read?

One of the biggest factors and obstacles is going to be pre-reading skills and reading readiness. These are the skills children have that are essential for reading development. Trying to teach a child that has not demonstrated a grasp on pre-reading skills and is ready for the next step can lead to frustration and anxiety for your child and it isn’t developmentally appropriate. A child who is ready to start learning to read is going to be a lot easier to teach than one that isn’t and sometimes it is difficult to determine readiness.

One of the most important predictors of reading readiness is: MOTIVATION and INTEREST

Not even the best reading program out there can “teach’ an interest in reading. What are some of those pre-reading skills that are essential for reading readiness? Many of these skills will naturally and organically happen during the toddler and pre-K years. If you have a preschooler, be sure to check out our Preschool Page with free Routine Charts

Essential Pre-Reading Skills

  • Rhyming: Rhyming is one of the first indicators of reading readiness. This is because much of phonics instruction deals with manipulating language, which also relates heavily to writing. 
  • Matching/Sorting items, colors, shapes: children love to organize and sort things and it’s great to include these activities into daily life and into normal conversations. There are plenty of toys you can buy for this, but you can also just use things around your house like kitchen containers, plastic plates, tupperware with lids, socks, shoes, setting the table with colored cups with plates.
  • Motor skills: holding a pencil and drawing large shapes. Making letters with a finger in a cake pan with rice. Or using a stick and writing in the dirt, or use sidewalk chalk. Make letter shapes with dough.  There are no rules that you have to use pencil and paper. They are still learning the skills.
  • Book/print awareness: Your child should know how to handle a book properly. This means that when offered a book, they can find the cover and hold it right-side-up. It also means that they understand books are read from left to right and that we only turn one page at a time holding correct way up and the direction of reading. This doesn’t necessarily need to be instructed – they learn this just by cuddling up on the couch while you read to them.
  • Language skills: your child joining in conversations and likes to tell or retell stories. Making up stories during pretend play, or pretending to “read” a favorite book they’ve heard a million times are signs of readiness.

Signs of Reading Readiness

  • Your child can read her own name. Children are naturally drawn to their names, and once they get to the point where they can read their own name and differentiate it from others in a group, your child is getting closer to learning how to read.
  • Your child can hear parts of words (like syllables) and sounds in words (like /c/ /a/ /t/ in cat). Phonological awareness (like clapping and counting syllables) and phonemic awareness (like hearing each sound in a word) can help when they begin to look at letters and sound out words.
  • Your child understands that text has meaning. The purpose of reading is to gain information. For example, if a child saw his name written out he understands that name refers to him not anything else. 
  • Your child can recite the alphabet. Whether it’s singing the ABC song or just saying each letter from memory, knowing the alphabet can be an important step toward reading readiness.
  • Your child can identify and name some or all uppercase and lowercase letters. This is important because individual letters make up words to be read and written.  They do not need to know all of them but just see differences. 
  • Your child can correspond some or all letters to their correct sounds. This is necessary for decoding, the act of sounding out words.
  • Your child can echo a simple text that is read to them. Doing so demonstrates the child’s understanding of one-to-one correspondence in reading. That means that each word on a page corresponds to a word that is read.

There is a very broad range of when a child learns to read, and it can be just as normal for a 4-year-old to be ready as it is for a child not to be ready until age 8.

Learning Letters

There is nothing wrong with listening and watching your child and determining the best pathway to take.  All children are different, and this is one of those great homeschooling benefits where you can go at your own pace and tailor this to your child and meet them where they are.

Other Developmental Signs

  • Social Development – Social development is important to reading because children need to know how to take turns, cooperate, and develop self-control before learning to read. This is because a large part of reading instruction involves activities and short discussions where a child needs to have such skills.
  • Emotional Development – Before learning to read, children need to have a good self-concept and an understanding of how they fit into their world.
  • Physical Development – Children need to have strong bodies that can support sitting since that tends to be the preferred position for reading a book. Children also need to have the fine motor skills that accompany writing and page turning.
  • Cognitive Development – In the case of reading readiness, children need to have a cognitive level where they can both visually and auditorily discriminate between letter shapes and different letter sounds. Visual discrimination includes the ability to see likenesses and differences among letters. For example, being able to differentiate between the letters L and T, a and o, or 6 and 9. Auditory discrimination means that a child can hear the difference between /f/ and /v/ sounds. Or they can hear the difference in ending in the words ‘cap’ and ‘cat’.

What Curriculum Should I Use?

Before we jump into curricula options, let’s talk about being read to.  We talked about this in another episode and it’s a pretty awesome statistic:  The single biggest predictor of high academic achievement and high ACT scores is reading to children. The importance of reading books to children in and the profound effects of reading on child development can be seen in a study from the Ohio State University Study. Results showed that children who are read to in the first five years of life have a 1.4-million-word advantage over children who are not read to at home.

There is not really an ideal age range for reading aloud to your children and there is no end range.  Many people still enjoy family read aloud time with highschoolers and college students.The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease talks a lot about the benefits of reading aloud and also has great book suggestions for every age range.  

Read Aloud Handbook:

Benefits From Reading Together and Reading Aloud:

  • Vocabulary
  • Language patterns
  • Thinking skills
  • Writing skills
  • Encourages independent reading
  • Bonding time
  • Problem solving
  • Concentration
  • Memory work
  • Moral lessons and life skills

It’s not only about instruction. It is essential that your children learn to ENJOY THE STORY. Reading is hard and you don’t want to make it harder for them. You want to let them understand the reason for reading. Check out our Favorite Books for New Readers.

7 Strategies for getting the most out of your read alouds:
7 Strategies for getting the most out of your read-aloud
Feel free to print or share pdf: Reading To Your Children

Back to curriculum…When searching for a curriculum it’s important to note:

1. Understand the reading program parts. It should have at least two parts, but ideally will cover phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension.  These components work together to create reading abilities.

All About Reading is super easy to use and totally scripted, open-and-go. It uses the Orton-Gillingham instruction approach which not only helps kids with learning differences, but kids without learning differences find it’s a lot easier way to decipher the code.

2. Knowing the names of ALL the letters is not necessary.

3. Teach the sound the consonant represents; begin with the short sound for vowels.

4. Introduce consonants and vowels in a strategic order so a child reads sooner than later. Do not introduce letters in ABC order. 

5. Multiple letter sounds should be introduced at one time.

6. Search play vs. structured teaching approach for PreK and Kindergarten levels.

Check out our
Full Curriculum Guide>>

Teach Your Child to read in 100 Easy Lessons is a popular program. Critics say it can be dry or boring.  It also has a writing component and if you have a resistant writer, this can be a struggle, but you can skip the writing part, and you can also move on rather than cover it repetitively, if you feel you’ve mastered a concept.  It is totally ok to use curriculum as a guide and use the parts that work for you.  Don’t be afraid to adjust things like this.

Sometimes a child needs more phonics mastery after a reading program. Here are some to consider:

Phonics Pathways:

Explode the Code– This program is silly and fun and the kids really liked it- it’s probably the only workbook they would do!

All About Reading

The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading

Logic of English

Language Lessons for Little Ones by Sandy Queen an informal introduction to language arts with a Charlotte Mason flavor for preschool students.  

Your reading curriculum may have a follow up book list or recommendations for what complements their program or what they suggest students read next.

Some popular early reader recommendations are:

You can also check out our Complete Favorite Early Reader List

Mo Willems Elephant and Piggie Series

Dick and Jane

MCGuffey Primer Reader

Dr. Suess Beginner Collection – perfect for rhyming fun!

Bob books

Leveled readers may also be something kids like to start with and progress through. (I can read series and I can read it series).  Your library probably has these books sectioned off in the children’s area and can be fun for kids to pick their own. Graphic novels-there are always internet arguments about whether graphic novels are really “reading.” Of course, they are! Anything that gets your child’s interest and helps them practice their newfound skill has value.  Many students have strengthened reading skills with comics like Calvin and Hobbs or the Far Side.

Calvin and Hobbes – Graphic Novels are reading too! A favorite of mine

We are both Charlotte Mason style homeschoolers and this philosophy takes issue with what we call “Twaddle.”  The idea is that it is easy to find books that appeal to the eyes- lots of pictures, short sentence snippets, lots of action but not a lot of substance.  These books are entertaining but offer little substance and don’t require a lot of effort. Often parents think this is what young children need, but the Charlotte Mason approach would say this is not how you strengthen the mind and the imagination. We know kids have great imaginations because we can see it in their play and their drawings, and the stories they tell us.  When we give them less of a prefabricated story and idea and picture, they illustrate the rest in their mind.  So rather than giving them easy, thoughtless books, challenge them with quality, living books that will make them paint pictures in their own mind and words and strengthen their mind’s eye. We don’t need to spoon feed every scene of a story. Visual overload can squelch imagination rather than strengthen it.  

How do you do this without feeling like you are dictating your kids every reading move? Easy- when you go to the library, let them pick the things they want while also picking your own choices.  Fill your bookshelves at home with quality books.  Mix them all in.

Many find reading really takes off when you find that child’s “currency.”  Maybe a popular series that they hear people talk about often, or perhaps they want to teach themselves something.  A video game with lots of text may encourage reading- Animal Crossing was a game that encourages young readers if they want to play.

Best games for Learning How to Read

Hands-on, play based learning, especially for young children, is one of the best ways to learn.  So incorporating games and play into your reading instruction is going to be very helpful.  A really fun reading game is the app and computer game, Teach Your Monster to Read. This is a great option if you are looking for a free web-based reading game for kids.

This program has a bunch of fun reading games and built-in rewards to encourage your child to read and improve reading skills over 3 levels. They have both web browser-based and an app-based options. 

Teach Your Monster

Peggy Kaye’s books are great options.  They had fun activities like this driveway chalk hopscotch game with letters, for instance.  They aren’t necessarily things you would do every day, but fun to break up a program when it gets boring, or if you are struggling and needed to do a walk away.

Games for Reading– Playful Ways to help your child read. 

Games with Books 

Webkinz

Sequence Letters is a great board game for teaching both the letters and the sounds they make. It’s a great way to teach early phonics skills in a an interactive way and it’s a good way to include your preschooler in family game nights. 

Boggle Jr– We loved this game! Grows with your child by introducing the ABC’s with many different ways to play as they learn

Starfall and Reading Eggs are great app programs.

Starfall

When Starfall first arrived on the scene, it was a free website designed to create an environment where children have fun learning to read.  Since then, it has become a fully developed program offering pre-k, kindergarten, first-grade, and second-grade programs, with both paid and free options. Starfall is packed with great free games online for teaching your child to read. Starfall is web based and they have an app. It’s a great option if you need to use screen time while on the go. 

Reading Eggs
Reading Eggs
30 Day Free Trial for homeschoolers!

Tall Tails is a game that can boost your child’s literacy skills by encouraging them to build a creative story. This game is perfect for the entire family to play together, each adding the next twist to the tall tale. 

Scrabble Junior is letter-matching fun for your little one. It’s a great way for teaching sight words. On a more basic level, you can just hide the tiles around a room and then have kids identify the letter or sounds and make words. You can also do this with Bananagrams.

Karaoke– music is infectious! and children can’t help to watch the words dance by while they sing along. 

Reading games are fun and simple to do

These fun hands-on reading games can be done as a part of homeschool life and incorporated into the things you are already doing:

  • Rhyming games – Making up jingles with different rhyming words.
  • Making silly rhymes – make up endings or change words in rhymes, poems, songs or short stories and see if your child can find out what you changed.  “Happy Birthday to shrews…”
  • Listening games – ask your child to close their eyes and identify the sound (crumpling packaging from chips, tapping with drumsticks, footsteps, opening a door, eating something crunchy) Variations on this game is to have sounds in a sequence and remember the sequence.
  • Play “Eye Spy” – and list objects you can see which start with certain sounds.
  • Take out sounds in words – and see if your child can identify what is wrong; “Can you grab me a “flice” of bread?”
  • Clap syllables – your name, words, songs, poems with different syllables.
  • Stamp your foot or dance to the sounds of poems and songs.
  • Alliteration – have fun with making silly sentences with similar sounds… about everyday objects:  “sing a song with the sleepy sister.”
  • Play a Bingo game or memory where the flashcard shows the capital letter, and the child needs to find the lowercase letter sight word memory match.
  • Go to library story time – this was a family favorite, and the librarians are a wonderful help in finding books.
  • Sing the alphabet song and pointing out the letters – 2 different sets of letters – capitals and lowercase.

So, you can see there are so many choices and pathways to take when teaching your child to read and this doesn’t have to be a completely overwhelming experience.  Take your time, really be patient, and be willing to walk away when things get difficult just for a little while.

That is so important-don’t waste a ton of time trying to teach something to a preschooler than you can explaining in 5 minutes to a second grader.  Sometime waiting for readiness makes all the difference and just walking a way for a bit gives that little extra budge of maturity the child needed to get through that part of learning.  It seems like it wouldn’t work that way, but it really does!

Trust the process. You got this!

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