061. Talk, Read, and Sing Together Everyday

Talk, Read, and Sing Together Everyday

Tips for homeschooling your youngest!

It’s been proven that talking, reading, and singing with your child every day makes them happier and builds cognitive development. In today’s episode, we’re discussing this topic and sharing game-changing tips for homeschooling your youngest kiddos creating a memorable journey filled with laughter, curiosity, and the joy of exploring the world together

Episode 061:

Brand New to Homeschooling?
Kindergarten Page >>
High School Series >>

Show Notes

Homeschooling preschoolers and very young children is a delightful adventure that transforms learning into joyous exploration. The intimate setting of home provides a comfortable and secure environment and helps foster strong family bonds.

With the growing popularity of homeschooling, a lot of families are wanting to start homeschooling earlier and earlier. Some people even know they want to homeschool before they even get pregnant and they are really eager to get started. But getting started doesn’t mean that you have to sit down at a desk with workbooks or a curriculum. The simple act of engaging in daily conversations, reading sessions, and sing-alongs is not only a lot of fun, but it’s really a fundamental and enriching aspect of their early development. 

Talking, reading, and singing together all play a pivotal role in nurturing various aspects of a child’s growth, things like language acquisition, cognitive skills, and emotional well-being. Regular conversations contribute to expanding their vocabulary, and a rich language environment is crucial for development. It strongly influences early language, vocabulary, reading, and math skills, as well as children’s social development. Cuddling up on the couch with a great book and sharing stories fosters a love for reading and also enhances their vocabulary and imagination.

Word Gap

Research shows that some young children are exposed to more language in their homes than other children. This difference in the number of words and back-and-forth conversations to which children are exposed is called the “word gap”. And this word gap is significant! By 3, there is a whopping 30 million word gap between children. That means that the kids at the lower end heard 30 million fewer words. Researchers can already tell a difference between these kids by 18 months so when we get those listeners reaching out, asking what they can do with their very young child, this is definitely the episode for you!  There are lots of ways to improve this word gap, many of which we will talk about today.  Learn more about What Your Preschooler Should Know

When you’re ready to begin academics, where do you start? Learn all about Homeschooling Kindergarten

All children, no matter how young, listen to people talk. It is how they learn new words and begin to understand the world around them. Just talking to your kids throughout your day is such a fantastic way to support their development. And singing together, with its rhythmic and melodic elements, not only enhances language skills, but also makes for happier children and strengthens your bond with them. 

We discussed this beautiful book, The Boys in the Boat. on this episode. There’s even a Younger Reader’s version of The Boys in the Boat.

Here are some creative and educational ideas for encouraging more talking, singing, and reading in your homeschool (9:52):

Conversations during Activities

  • Engage in conversations during everyday activities like cooking, cleaning, or playing. This helps build vocabulary and language skills. Talk with your child as you go about your day: making food, riding in the car, getting ready for bed, any time. 
  • Get down on their level.
  • Tune in and listen to what they have to say. If your toddler says “flower,” you can say, “We saw a flower today.”
  • You can respond to babbling or even silence. If the child does not speak yet, look at what they are doing or pointing to and use these moments to talk with them.
  • Add new vocabulary words to the ones children are already using when talking to them. If he or she says “apple,” you can say, “Do you want an apple? That’s a very healthy food.”
  • Restate children’s language using correct grammar.
  • Don’t be afraid of using adult words.  People love to baby talk to young kids, but if you talk to them in normal language, you’ll be surprised at how much they can articulate.
  • Asking stimulating and developmentally appropriate questions can help boost the language environment.
  • Ask children about what they are doing.
  • Have them connect playing to their own lives. For example, Are they playing with Legos? You can build a little house and put a Lego person inside and ask them what the Lego person is doing inside their house. 
  • Ask them what they are doing or how something works. And you don’t want to stress out your kid with questions, these should be just light exchanges during play. Some people get really intense in their teacher/student roles as most of us have been programmed on what education should be by the public school system. Some parents ask a question and really want their kid to answer, almost like it’s an exam, but remember this is just engagement and conversation. Keep in mind that you are parent and child first and educating them is just an expansion on this. You’ve been teaching them all their life.
  • For children with limited language, giving them a choice can help them respond more easily to questions.
  • For example, “did you use colored pencils or markers to draw that picture?” “Would you like to do this or that activity?”  Ask open ended, not yes or no, questions that encourage them to keep talking.
  • You can gradually increase the complexity of your questions as your child progresses in their development.
  • Children can learn big, new, and interesting words through repeated exposures. 

You know our answer to everything is reading books!  It’s because both of us really value great literature and sharing this with our children. Reading is the cornerstone of all education and higher learning, so it’s essential to start habits when your kids are young. And we are not talking about reading instruction. We’re talking about teaching them how to really enjoy a story. That’s where the love of books begins.


  • Set aside dedicated time for reading books together. Choose a variety of books with colorful pictures and simple language to high quality books with rich vocabulary.
  • Discuss the story, characters, and encourage them to ask questions.  Have them narrate back to you what a story or book or chapter was about.
  • Pick books and let kids pick books about topics they find interesting. Ask questions that relate to the child’s experiences or interests.
  • Stop in a story and ask children to make predictions about what you think will happen next?
  • Ask them to make up their own stories about those characters. 

Visit the Library

  • If you’re not already plugged into your local library, get familiar with it. Get your child their own card. Make regular trips to the library to expose your child to a variety of books. Library story time has always been one of our favorite activities.  
  • Have kids pick out books they are interested in as well as you make choices off your list.  Mix all those books onto your library shelf at home.


  • Incorporate songs into your daily routine. Singing helps with language development and can make activities more enjoyable. Use simple and repetitive songs to make it easy for them to sing along.
  • Have a “good morning” song and a “putting on your shoes” song, etc.
  • Play music in the car- there are so many kids artists that we devoured as kids- Lori Berkner, Dan Zanes, Justin Roberts (we even saw some of these in concert). Listen to grown up music, too!
  • And I love the Beethoven Wig songs– they are classical music set with lyrics that are pretty catchy and very memorable.  I love being at the symphony and one of my kids says I know the words to this song! I just realized the other day that my washing machine plays a Chopin number when it is done. We also choose to explore the works of famous composers and musicians pretty early. 
This Composer Book Series was a favorite for both of our families:
Getting the Know the World’s Greatest Composers

Musical Instruments

Consider offering your children the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument. And this doesn’t have to be expensive. You can choose to do private lessons, but there’s also a lot of online lessons that are very affordable like on OUTSCHOOL or you can do lessons on DVDs. Instruments like the piano, guitar, violin, or even the recorder are good choices for beginners.  Have a big basket of musical instruments in your house.  You’ll be surprised at how popular these toys are!

Accordion with 10 Keys Button Accordion
Natural Wooden Percussion
Instruments Musical Toys
Lap Harp
Kid’s Toy Violin with 4 Adjustable Strings and Bow
Click N’ Play Toy Trumpet and Toy Saxophone Set for Kids – Create Real Music


Singing can be a wonderful way to bring music into your home. Encourage your children to sing along with their favorite songs or learn new songs. Singing helps develop pitch, rhythm, and language skills. You can incorporate singing into your daily routines, such as singing a “Good Morning” song or singing during chores. Singing can also help teach reading.

Wee Sing Nursery Rhymes and Lullabies

Music Classes

We took a couple classes when the kids were really little- Kindermusik and then Music Together.  They are super fun mommy and me classes that really help introduce kids to music.  I mostly took them for my toddler but my baby liked them so much- we did these for a long time.


Karaoke is not only a favorite activity, it helped my kids learn how to read.. Put a karaoke song on YouTube, give them a microphone and the reading instruction is done for the day!

One of the ways I taught my kids how to read is with Karaoke!

Karaoke Microphone

Rhyming Games

  • Play rhyming games to enhance phonological awareness. Encourage them to come up with words that rhyme with everyday objects or create silly rhymes together.
  • This is a great way to encourage older siblings to play or teach younger siblings.  One of my kids’ assignments was to do finger play with their toddler sister when they were little.
  • Nursery Rhymes are a great way to encourage speech and vocabulary and memorization work.

Letter and Number Fun

  • Introduce letters and numbers through playful activities. Use alphabet and number magnets, sing counting songs, or create simple crafts related to specific letters or numbers.
  • Letter of the day or the week is a fun way to do this and great for preschoolers just starting to learn to recognize letters and read.
Magnetic Letters and Numbers

Nature Talks

  • Explore nature together. Discuss the different colors, shapes, and textures you find. This not only encourages conversation but also fosters an appreciation for the world around them.
  • Have some field guides and learn how to identify different animals, birds, plants or trees.
  • Some of our best talks have been on walks, too.  Sometimes it is easier to talk side by side than face to face.
Kids Explorer Kit with Safari Vest & Hat and more!

Imaginary Play

8 Pack of Fabric Hand puppets with movable mouth and hands. Puppets are so much fun and we love this diverse pack that comes in variety of skin colors. 

Remember to adapt these activities based on your child’s interests and developmental stage. The key is to make learning enjoyable and foster a positive attitude toward language and literacy. The daily ritual of talking, reading, and singing creates a supportive and stimulating environment that lays a strong foundation for a child’s lifelong learning journey, fostering curiosity, creativity, and a lifelong love for learning. Being able to tailor activities to a child’s unique interests and pace of development is so great and having the freedom and flexibility to choose engaging and interactive lessons turns every day into an opportunity for discovery and growth. From hands-on experiments that spark curiosity to creative arts and crafts projects that unleash imagination, homeschooling fosters a love for learning that goes beyond textbooks.

This Week’s Freebie:

Download your Free Nursery Rhyme Posters

041. Gaining Confidence as a Homeschooler

Gaining Confidence as a Homeschooler

Whether you’re a new homeschooler or have been homeschooling for years, every one of us has encountered fear and worry at some point. In today’s episode 041, we are going to be talking about building the confidence in yourself and giving you the tools you’ll need when you’re struggling and needing assurance.

* How do I know when to start homeschooling?
* How do I teach subjects I don’t know?
* How do I build up my confidence as a homeschool mom?

Episode 041:

Brand New to Homeschooling?
Kindergarten Page >>
High School Series >>

Show Notes:

We all want the best for our children. Whether you’re a new homeschooler or have been homeschooling for years, everyone experiences fear and worry at some point. Sometimes when we have friends whose children are excelling in a certain subject, or sport, and we see their highlight reel on social media, it can be intimidating. But we all have these moments! We all feel uncertain about all our life choices at one point or another, it’s not just homeschooling.

There are a lot of reasons why people feel uncertain. This may be a brand-new road for them or sometimes it’s a matter of how aware we are of our own shortcomings. I struggled in math for years, and now I was taking on the responsibility of TEACHING math?! Or we struggled wondering if we would have the patience required to sit through lessons. Was I capable? How in the world was I ever going to teach upper-level science when I didn’t even understand it myself? It’s completely normal to lack confidence in something that you’ve not experienced before. Even if you’ve struggled with a subject in the past, you can be an exceptional teacher because you’re passionate about learning and teaching it now.

A big reason that people struggle with this is when a concerned and unsupportive friend or family member, or even a spouse puts doubt in their heads and tells them that they are incapable of such an undertaking. There are all kinds of stereotypes about homeschoolers out there, but most are simply NOT true. You are capable of homeschooling your children, and setting them up for success in homeschool, in college, and in life. It may be best to spend less time with unsupportive people.

We talk about dealing with naysayers in Episode 011. All About Family

If you have an unsupportive spouse, it’s important to listen to each other and your concerns – both of you. Homeschooling is a family decision and it’s an entire lifestyle. Let the results of all that you and your kids accomplish speak for themselves. Be patient with your partner as they grow to accept and hopefully embrace this new life. Have confidence in yourself and move forward and know it takes some people longer than others to get on board. Remember, they also have your kids’ best interest at heart.

Socialization: Episode 047. Socialization: Will My Child be a Weirdo?

Remember that there is no one more qualified to teach your children than you are. You’ve been teaching them all their life. In this episode, we are going to be identifying some strategies to help build your confidence but really the best way to grow in confidence as a homeschool mom is to DO IT. When we’ve decided that this is the best path for our children, if we are so terrified of making mistakes that we never try homeschooling or quit at the first sign of challenge, that is the real failure. If you are new to homeschooling, check out our Homeschool FAQ Guide.

There are so many reasons that families choose to homeschool.  Some families have concerns about safety and their child’s well being and want to have more control over their socialization (possibly they have gotten caught up in the wrong crowd or bad influences that are affecting them negatively)  or they may want to incorporate their beliefs, whether that be religious or cultural beliefs. Children who have had negative experiences in traditional schools, like bullying or social challenges, or feeling like a failure when they couldn’t keep up can thrive in homeschool.

Some parents are interested in customizing their child’s educational experience to meet their child’s individual learning style, pace, and interests. Some parents believe that they can provide a higher quality of education than what is available in the local public or private schools or theory may prefer alternative education philosophies. This personalized approach can lead to better academic outcomes.

Especially for children with special learning needs or learning disabilities, homeschooling can provide a more supportive and tailored educational experience. Gifted children also benefit since you can provide a more challenging or advanced curriculum. 

Families with non-traditional lifestyles, such as frequent travel or remote living, may find homeschooling to be a more practical educational option.  Homeschooling offers flexibility in scheduling, allowing families to create a learning environment that accommodates travel, family commitments, and other activities. Homeschooling allows for increased family bonding and more time spent together, strengthening parent-child and sibling relationships.

Every family’s decision to homeschool is unique and personal. Each family’s reasons and motivations may differ based on their specific circumstances, values, and beliefs. We always like to point out that every homeschool family is different.  A lot of the time, we may be homeschooling for completely opposite reasons. But at the end of the day, we believe ALL parents CAN homeschool.  You really just have to want to.

Create an entire Homeschool Lifestyle!

How do I know when to start homeschooling? (13:23)

Deciding when to start homeschooling is a significant decision that depends on several factors, including your child’s age, developmental readiness, family circumstances, and your personal preferences. Here are some indicators that it might be the right time to start homeschooling:

Maybe you have always planned to homeschool?  Consider your child’s developmental stage and readiness for formal learning. Some children may be eager to learn and show signs of readiness at an early age, while others may benefit from more time in a less structured learning environment. Once you’ve made a decision to homeschool, I know how exciting it can be, but I would encourage you to not let your eagerness overshadow your child’s readiness. We see a lot of parents wanting to start formal lessons when their child is clearly showing signs that they aren’t ready. This can often lead to frustration for both you and them. Young children learn and retain information best through play-based learning. 

If you have concerns about the traditional education system, such as the curriculum, teaching methods, or class sizes, and safety homeschooling can provide an alternative approach that addresses these concerns.

If your child has specific learning needs or interests that are not adequately met in a traditional school setting, homeschooling can offer a more personalized and tailored learning experience.

Consider whether you have the time, energy, and willingness to take on the role of a homeschooling parent. Homeschooling requires dedication and active involvement in your child’s education. Lessons may not take long, but homeschooling is more than academics. Your kids need to get out in their community and be with friends hanging at the park or playing board games, getting hands-on at the museums. Remember, learning doesn’t stop when the school books close and choosing to homeschool is a lifestyle. 

Assess the availability of support networks, such as homeschooling communities, co-ops, and online resources. Connecting with other homeschooling families can provide valuable support and social opportunities for both you and your child.

Ensure that you are aware of the homeschooling laws and regulations in your country or state. Familiarize yourself with any necessary paperwork or reporting requirements.

If you’re unsure, you can start with a trial period of homeschooling to see how it works for your family. This will allow you to assess whether homeschooling is a good fit before committing to it long-term.  If you’re pulling your child from a school environment that was not working for them, it’s important to spend some time going through the process of Deschooling.  We have an entire episode about that but in summary, it is a process to help your child transition into homeschooling if they’ve been in a school environment. If you are deschooling, download your FREE 90 Deschooling and Boredom Ideas List.

Remember that there is no one-size-fits-all answer, and the decision to homeschool should be based on what you believe is best for your child and family. Take the time to research, reflect, and discuss the idea with your partner and any other involved parties before making a final decision. But also remember that like we talked about in our deschooling episode, don’t be afraid to take that plunge. You don’t have to keep your kid in a bad situation because you feel like you don’t have a plan. You aren’t going to ruin a 4th grader by pulling them now and going through the process of Deschooling while you figure things out. 

How do I teach subjects I don’t know? (19:00)

You do not need to be an expert in any subject to adequately teach your children.  Teaching subjects you don’t know as a homeschooler can be a bit challenging, but it’s also an excellent opportunity for both you and your children to learn together. Here are some strategies to tackle this situation:

Scripted Curriculum:  Many curricula are totally scripted- the entire lesson is laid out for you with your questions and answers. This takes so much of the pressure off! And speaking of curricula- there’s a million options out there (we just did an episode on the 7 steps to choosing curriculum) so don’t feel like you need to come up with something on your own. Visit our Curriculum Guide>>

Hands on Learning:  So many children, especially young ones learn best with hands-on activities. We did so much of this with my kids. With math for instance, If you can count and recognize numbers you can teach a 3 year old math. Use objects to help your child visualize counting. Read books with numbers and counting. Point things out in everyday life.

Online Resources: Use online learning platforms, educational websites, and tutorials to learn the subject with your child. There are numerous resources available for various subjects, including math, science, coding, languages, and more. Khan academy is one we use often when we have trouble with a math or science problem and need a better explanation.  BrainPOP is an excellent resource that we have used for years.


Along with that is….Educational Apps and Software: Explore these tools that provide interactive learning experiences for your children. Many of these are designed to be self-guided, making it easier for your kids to explore subjects independently. While we don’t advocate for online programs for little kids, there are a lot of cute supplementary apps and programs that can help with things like reading. Starfall is a good option for younger kids.

Online Courses and local classes or tutoring: Consider enrolling your children in online courses or outsourcing to a local teacher or tutor who specializes in the subject you are unfamiliar with. This can provide them with expert guidance and support in their learning journey. We used both Outschool for all kinds of subjects and Thinking Reeds for upper-level science and math.

Co-ops with Other Homeschoolers: Connect with other homeschooling families who have expertise in the subjects you’re less familiar with. Organize study groups or cooperative learning sessions where kids can learn together under the guidance of parents with more knowledge in those areas. 

Library Resources: Utilize your local library to find books, DVDs, and other resources related to the subjects you want to teach. Libraries often offer educational programs and workshops, which can be beneficial for both you and your kids. Use Libby at your local library

Field Trips and Real-Life Experiences: Whenever possible, incorporate field trips and real-life experiences related to the subject. Visiting museums, science centers, historical sites, or nature reserves can enhance learning and understanding. We have an entire resource page on field trips that is totally awesome! Download your FREE Field Trip Packet

Documentaries and Educational Videos: Use educational documentaries and videos as supplementary learning materials. They can provide valuable insights and explanations on various topics. We love Crash Course, and Horrible Histories Videos, and Donuts and Documentaries Monday!

Horrible Histories explores the side of history that they don’t teach you about in school! From the Vicious Vikings and Awful Egyptians to the Slimy Stuarts and Terrible Tudors, Horrible Histories covers the funniest, yuckiest and most gruesome bits of history for kids.

Horrible Histories
Horrible Histories Video Series >>>
Horrible HistoriesBooks
Horrible Histories Book Series>>

Encourage Independent Learning: Foster a love for self-directed learning in your children. Provide them with the necessary tools and resources, and encourage them to explore subjects on their own with your support and guidance. Encourage your children to ask questions and explore their interests. Facilitate their curiosity-driven learning, and let their interests guide the direction of their studies.

Learn Alongside Your Children: Embrace the journey of learning together with your kids. Show them that it’s okay not to have all the answers, and that learning is a lifelong process. While you may not be an expert in a particular subject, you can still teach core skills like critical thinking, problem-solving, research, and communication. These skills are valuable in any subject area. It’s important to model that we are also continuing our education as adults- we never really stop.  Remember, homeschooling is about creating a nurturing and supportive learning environment. Embrace the opportunity to learn alongside your children, and you’ll not only gain knowledge in new subjects but also set a wonderful example of lifelong learning.

How do I build up my confidence as a homeschool parent? (27:18)

Building up your confidence as a homeschool parent is essential for creating a positive and effective learning environment for your children.  A lot of homeschool parents talk about how they NEVER believed they were capable! Maybe you didn’t do well in school yourself, but you are your child’s parent and the person who loves them the most in this world, so you are the best person to be teaching them! You will know what’s best for them and the fact that you know you want to homeschool is a sign of that.

  • Set Clear Goals: Define your objectives for homeschooling. Knowing what you want to achieve will give you a sense of purpose and direction, making it easier to stay confident in your decision.
  • Educate Yourself: Continuously learn about homeschooling methods, curriculum options, and child development. The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to handle challenges and make informed decisions. Top 10 Books Every Homeschool Parent Should Read
  • Create a Supportive Learning Environment: Organize your homeschooling space to foster a positive and engaging learning environment for your children, which will also boost your confidence as you see them thrive.
  • Start Small: Begin with manageable tasks and gradually expand your responsibilities as you gain confidence. Don’t overwhelm yourself with too much at once.
  • Be Flexible: Homeschooling may require adjustments along the way. So Stay open to trying different approaches and adapting your methods as needed.
  • Join Homeschooling Communities: Connect with other homeschooling parents through online forums, social media groups, or local support networks. Sharing experiences, tips, and encouragement with like-minded individuals can be very empowering. Don’t hesitate to seek advice or guidance from experienced homeschooling parents, educational consultants, or even therapists. Having someone to talk to can help you gain perspective and new ideas. 
  • Attend Workshops and Conferences: Participate in homeschooling workshops, conferences, and seminars to gain new insights, meet other homeschooling parents, and stay motivated.
  • Celebrate Achievements: Recognize and celebrate both your children’s and your own accomplishments. Acknowledge the progress you make, no matter how small it may seem.
  • Embrace Mistakes: Understand that making mistakes is a natural part of the learning process. Instead of being discouraged, use them as opportunities for growth and improvement.
  • Reflect on Your Children’s Progress: Keep a record of your children’s achievements, their academic progress, and personal growth. Sometimes just Reviewing these positive outcomes can remind you of how far you’ve come and the significant value you bring to their education. 
  • Trust Yourself: Remember that you know your children better than anyone else. Trust your instincts and intuition when making decisions about their education.
  • Self-Care: Take time for yourself. Set aside time for relaxing, hobbies, exercise, and activities that recharge you. You know I love my sports! A well-rested and balanced mom is better equipped to handle all those homeschooling challenges.
  • Practice Patience: Be patient with yourself and your children. Homeschooling is a journey, and progress may not always be linear.

By incorporating these strategies, you can gradually build your confidence as a homeschool mom and provide your children with a fulfilling and enriching educational experience.  Confidence is a journey, and it’s okay to have moments of doubt. We all have these feelings at one time or another! Embrace the challenges, celebrate the successes, and enjoy the process of learning and growing together. Take some time to write down all the reasons why you have chosen to homeschool. In these moments when doubt and fear surface, go back and read and reflect on the big picture. It’s essential to remember all the reasons why you chose to homeschool in the first place. Homeschooling is not something you have to do, it’s something you choose to do because you know in your heart this is the right path for your family. 

This Week’s Free Resource:

015. How Do You Teach Your Child To Read?

Learn how to read


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!

Scroll Down for this week’s FREEBIE!
Reading Log and Tracker with Book Rating (pdf)

Brand New to Homeschooling?
Kindergarten Page >>
High School Series >>

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 


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.


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!

This Week’s Freebies:

What Should Your Preschooler Know?


What Should Your Preschooler Know?

When should I start homeschooling?
What age should my child learn to read?
What curriculum do I need?

Brand New to Homeschooling?
Kindergarten Page >>
High School Series >>

Show Notes

Preschool is a popular topic on homeschool message boards and often a controversial one, too, because established homeschool parents can get quite territorial over “what is school age.” While preschoolers are often still in more of a parenting than schooling stage, there are things you can do with them to get started on your homeschool path.

butterfly in your homeschool

When should I start homeschooling (2:05)

When we speak of educational outcomes, statistics also show that kids that receive an intense early education tend to peak by kindergarten and the educational benefits are not noticeable at all by 2nd grade.  Everyone eventually evens out.

All About Reading Pre-reading

You can find a lot of preschool activity lists online, just by searching things like “What should my preschooler know?” if you really feel like you need a game plan for homeschooling a preschooler.

Some people also really want to know how to schedule learning with your preschooler.  We’d recommend you adopt more of a routine rather than a schedule for your child. Children thrive on routines. Honestly, we’re all happier when we know what to expect.

This book covers all the essential knowledge and skills that children need to acquire before entering kindergarten, from language and literacy to math, science, and social studies: What Your Preschooler Needs to Know: Get Ready for Kindergarten:



Preschool time can include nature walks, seed planting, pretending to be animals, measuring ingredients and stirring cake batter, taking turns in simple board games, feeding animals, making letters with clay, timing naps, and reading stories and alphabet books together.

Minimizing formal schooling for little kids is highly recommended. You can write down developmental milestones in a journal.

Save samples of drawing and of beginning attempts at writing. Also consider recording your child’s progress on video, especially if your child has special needs. Improvement may be slow, but you’ll be able to see changes year by year. Your records will prove to be far more than educational recordkeeping. They will become treasured keepsakes.

Growing a plant

Use your journal to keep track of your child’s skills. Develop and write down your own goals or use a skills checklist from a book. In a homeschool preschool, you can tailor your list to your child. Simply list the beginning skills that you’re looking for and check off when your child can do them.

Basic Preschool Skills:

  • Know what Love is – How to love and be loved
  • Respect for others and themselves
  • Communicate in sentences, ask and answer questions, say full their name
  • Talk about position and direction (left, right, under, over, in, out, etc.)
  • Explore, observe and talk about the world around us
  • Help with simple chores
  • Work cooperatively with others
  • Work independently and ask for help when needed
  • Learn how to play with friends of all ages
  • Practice manners and kindness
  • Listen, share, and take turns
  • Self care without help (eating, toilet, dressing, hand washing, etc.). Free routine charts
  • Safety (what not to touch, stay away from the street, stranger danger, etc.)
  • Enjoy music and sing simple songs
  • Develop a sense of humor
  • Enjoy books
  • Play with sounds, numbers, letters, colors, textures, clocks, and timers
  • Count objects
  • Explore rhymes, same and different, big and small, light and heavy
  • Tell stories, beginning, ending, what comes next, cause and effect
  • Remembering numbers, names, letters and sounds, I Spy, hidden pictures
  • Begin to read and trace words with three letters, names of family members
  • Fine motor skills (beading, building, stirring, squishing, cutting, pouring)
  • Draw a person with six parts, using basic shapes (i.e., cross, circle, lines)
  • Understand real and pretend, alive and not alive
  • Gross motor skills (jumping, swinging, catching, throwing, tricycle riding, games)

Download the FREE Complete Skills and Checklist Guide for PreK-12th Grade

Children will vary greatly in their strengths and weaknesses in all these areas. It’s true that kids need to be emotionally, physically and mentally ready to do new things. However, don’t get too caught up in learning skills in a certain order. Different books may list a “preschool” skill under kindergarten, or even first grade.

What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know is a great resource when your child is ready to move on.

Example Homeschool Preschool Routine:

For PRESCHOOL, we recommend you adopt more of a routine rather than a schedule for your child. Children thrive on routines. Don’t compare yourself with others. Many people post highlight reels on social media but don’t fall into that trap!

Here is an example of a preschool routine:

  1. Morning cuddles and re-reading a favorite book to them
  2. Help mom with Breakfast
  3. Morning chores (clean up breakfast, make the bed)
  4. Personal hygiene (brush teeth, comb hair, get dressed)
  5. Building block or other game fun
  6. Watch a favorite show or free play
  7. Sidewalk chalk, water outdoor plants
  8. Learning activity (make slime, build pyramids, snap circuits, make cookies)
  9. Play with friends – park, host them, go to their house, field trip at the museum
  10. Lunch
  11. Errand with mom – bank, post office, grocery, new shoes?
  12. Nap if needed
  13. Drawing, Painting Art, sidewalk chalk, music and dance
  14. Free Play
  15. Help with Dinner
  16. Clean up dishes
  17. Go for a Walk or jump on a trampoline, ride scooter or tricycle
  18. Personal hygiene (bath, brush teeth, wash face, pjs)
  19. Pick up toys
  20. Cuddle and reading

What age should my child learn to read (17:14)

Most children eventually learn to walk, talk, read and do algebra. Experts say that most children learn to read by age 6 or 7, meaning first or second grade, and that some learn much earlier.

Be sure to listen to Episode 015:
How Do You Teach Your Child to Read!
We will walk you through the entire process!

U.S. Department of Education reading programs often say children should learn to read by age 8, or third grade, because learning to read transitions into reading to learn other subjects soon thereafter. The single biggest predictor of high academic achievement and high ACT scores is reading to children.

Once your child begins to read and you are ready to bridge the gap between reading board books and lengthier chapter books, check out our TOP 50 BOOKS FOR NEW READERS:

What curriculum do I need (22:52)

You do not need anything. 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 so 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! As you begin research and make a plan for Kindergarten, visit our Kindergarten Curriculum Guide.

Cowboys and Wagon

One of the biggest advantages we can give our children is a simple, carefree childhood. 

Educate Yourself

When your kids are Preschool age, it is a great time to educate yourself. What are your eduational goals for your children? What KIND of homeschooler do you want to be? Help you fine-tune your goals with TOP 10 Books Every Homeschooler Should Read

This Week’s FREEBIES

Preschool Letter Recognition
20 Best Tips for Teaching Reading and Spelling
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