The majority of homeschool families start formal schooling with a kindergarten homeschool curriculum. This is the year to lay the foundation in the traditional three school subjects: reading, writing, and arithmetic. The best kindergarten homeschool curriculum will focus most of the energy toward these three.
Surprisingly, these three basic areas generate a lot of educational debates. Should reading instruction be whole-language or phonics-based? Should math instruction follow traditional models or embrace the “new math?” Should students invest time in learning cursive?
The typical kindergarten homeschool curriculum for reading is phonics-based. After decades of observing public school experiments with whole-language reading instruction and the subsequent drop in literacy rates, most homeschool families turn to traditional phonics for reading instruction. This method starts by teaching young children all of the possible sounds made by the consonants and vowels. Then students progress to letter combinations like ch, th, and sh and vowel combinations like ea, ei, and ou. After this step, students are introduced to short words and sentences, with increasing complexity.
While students are learning to read short words and simple sentences, they should also be exposed to more complex language as their parents read aloud to them. These read-aloud books should be above the student’s actual reading level. Parents may want to look for a kindergarten homeschool curriculum that includes pre-packaged read-aloud books. Alternatively, families can find their favorites at the local library. Some read-aloud time can be used on audiobooks, but parents should still plan to spend focused daily time reading to their children.
In the 19th century, mathematics instruction in the United States focused on memorizing addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts. Now, most elementary math texts introduce word problems and even algebraic equations at ever-younger ages. Fortunately, the debate isn’t really necessary for families choosing a kindergarten homeschool curriculum. There are simple skills that every kindergartener needs to master.
First, a kindergarten homeschool curriculum should teach young ones to count actual objects. They should be able to count to 100 by the end of the year. They should also be able to add and subtract single digit numbers using math manipulatives. Math manipulatives are any objects that can be counted, including household items like dried beans or raisins. Parents should work with their students to add some beans (addition) and take some away (subtraction).
In addition to teaching students to count, add, and subtract, a kindergarten homeschool curriculum should teach students to write the numbers 1–20. This seems like a handwriting task but is essential to students performing higher-level math in the next grade. Students may also learn how to use calendars and record the weather.
Finally, a kindergarten homeschool curriculum should include handwriting practice. Young students should learn to hold the pencil correctly and form their letters carefully. For a time, educators felt that it was no longer important to teach cursive handwriting to students. They argued that cursive was no longer needed because students could move directly from printing to typing. Subsequent studies have shown that there are two important reasons to continue to teach cursive. First, cursive writing engages the right brain as well as the left brain. Second, studies have also shown that college students retain information better when they write rather than type.
In any case, nearly every kindergarten homeschool curriculum will include daily practice with manuscript (print) handwriting. By the end of the kindergarten year, students should be able to copy whole sentences with proper punctuation and capitalization. Kindergarten students should also spend time coloring daily, as this develops the fine motor skills needed for writing.
One word of caution is necessary: Parents should not rely on a kindergarten homeschool curriculum that is completed strictly online. Young children learn best from loving adults, not screens.
In conclusion, homeschool families should feel comfortable with a kindergarten homeschool curriculum that focuses on reading, writing, and arithmetic. If they have additional time, parents and students may want to explore history, science, fine arts, and foreign languages once they have completed their basic subjects each day.
Author: Jennifer Courtney