Homeschool Kindergarten

“In this time of extraordinary pressure, educational and social, perhaps a mother’s first duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet and growing time, a full six years of passive receptive life, the waking part of it for the most part spent out in the fresh air.” Charlotte Mason, Vol.1 pg 43

I didn’t blog a bit this past year about our gentle kindergarten experience. Probably because I was creating it as I went. Although I consider myself a CM-inspired homeschooler, I have my own take on things. With a daughter already reading and desperate to learn as much as she could, I decided to go ahead and do a structured kindergarten – so not CM! But we kept to the principles of the “early years” – low pressure, lots of empty time for play, and as much outdoors as we could handle.

About the outdoors element: we live in Florida. It’s hot year round. There isn’t a day since we moved here that my kids haven’t been icky sweaty by the end of the day. So we tried. I know I fell WAY short of the 4-6 hours CM recommends but yet, I’m content that 30 minutes is better than nothing. We do what we’re able.

Here’s what our gentle CM inspired kindergarten involved:

Lots of snuggling on the couch reading worthwhile stories. A little math, a little writing, some phonics practice. Singing hymns and memorizing psalms. Followed by more snuggling and reading

For reading aloud, I kept one longer literature book going at a time to help build the skills of listening and remembering. We read a stack of TW Burgess animal stories, such as Reddy Fox and Buster Bear. These stories are an excellent introduction to chapter books – the characters are fun, the chapters are short, and the morals aren’t too overwhelming. Our top two literature reads for the year were Milly Molly Mandy by Joyce Brisley and Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren.

I used Give Your Child The World by Jamie C Martin as the main source of book ideas for our “Culture/Geography” category. One of our major goals for our homeschool is to introduce our children to the rest of the world. We want them to love people who are different than them and respect them, while maintaining our Christian worldview. I loved the picture book selections Give your Child The World offers. It offers suggestions for different age groups (4-6, 6-8, 8-10, and 10-12) for each of the major regions of the world. We didn’t have a particular order or pattern – basically I checked out whatever I could find from our local library. We stuck mostly to the picture books from the 4-6 age group. We would read the story, talk a little about how their life compares to ours, and locate the setting on the map. I kept a list of the titles we read in my bullet journal and tried to represent a wide variety of cultures.

Our favorite books in this category were:

  • Mirror by Jeanie Baker. A book without words, it shows an average day in two families: Australian on one side, Moroccan on the other. The mixed media artwork is beautiful and we had lots of fun coming up with the story ourselves.
  • Chandra’s Magic Light by Theresa Heine. Set in Nepal, two sisters earn money to replace their family kerosene lamp with a solar powered one. This book does show Hinduism. We used it as a great conversation about what we believe as well as a chance to pray.
  • Everything by Patricia Polacco! She is an excellent story teller. She writes about her history coming from a Russian Jewish family frequently, especially her beloved babushka, but dives into many other areas as well. Our favorites are The Keeping Quilt, Just Plain Fancy, and Fiona’s Lace.

We chose Singapore for math but will be switching this year.

I picked the Pathway Readers series to help Grace develop her reading skills. She took to reading like a duck to water when she was four, but she isn’t very careful. She skips words and makes up pronunciations sometimes instead of slowing down to actually figure it out. We read aloud from these for 5-10 minutes a day to practice these weaknesses. We love the Pathway Readers – simple stories of a (Mennonite? Amish?) farming family. They have a baby horse and a kitten and the siblings have to learn to play together. After reading them together, Grace poured over them again and again, savoring the stories. We will continue through these for at least one more year.

And this is a quick glance at my not-planning system. It is more of a record keeping than a planning system. I wrote a running record in a bullet journal style each day we had school. I have collections at the front for loose preplanning and an at-a-glance book list (you can see the one for our culture books above) and some of our procedure lists at the back, such as what is included in morning basket.

Other miscellaneous details: We followed the artist, composer, and hymn selections from AmblesideOnline. We sort of did drawing lessons from Draw Write Now but those fell off at some point and I just gave her the book to enjoy. We took the Christmas season to do The Promises study from Stone Soup for Five. We also did handwriting using PenTime.

And that’s it! Most days took less than 45 minutes. This left lots of time for free play – often in the form of Lego building and story telling.

We’re a few weeks from starting Year One from AmblesideOnline. Originally I had brilliant ideas of altering things but after a few months of considering and evaluating, we’re using it *almost* exactly as written. Really the only change is that I’m continuing with PenTime instead of doing copywork from our reading books. I need open and go in that area. I’m really excited to get into our beautiful stack of books!

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Oceans Resource Wrap-Up

I wanted to give a completed resource list for our play school unit on beaches and the ocean. We’re using Hubbard’s Cupboard free 2’s curriculum as a jumping off point, but as you’ll see, we added and adjusted a bit. Please go to the original curriculum for math, art, and theme activities because this unit at least I didn’t get creative. Maybe next time!

Bible:

  • Creation from the Jesus Storybook Bible
  • Genesis 1 from NASB
  • Counting and talking about the days of creation

Hymn and Verse songs:

  • My God is So Big (change “valleys” to “oceans” in the 2nd verse)
  • Genesis 1:1 (See Hubbard’s Cupboard, it’s from their list)

Fiction:

  • Beach Feet by Kiyomie Konagaya
  • Sea, Sand, and Me by Patricia Hubbell (the girls’ favorite!)
  • Sand in my Shoes by Wendy Kesselman

Non-Fiction:

  • Looking Closely Along the Shore by Frank Serafini
  • A Swim through the Sea by Kristin Joy Pratt
  • Habitat Survival: Oceans by Claire Llewellyn
  • On the Seashore by Anna Milbourn (reads like a picture book – good intro to nonfiction)

Movies

  • Eye Witness: Seashore
  • Reading Rainbow: Dive to the Coral Reefs
  • Bob the Builder at the Seashore

We’ve gotten a ton of use out of our sensory bin, which is made to look like a beach. It has a bed of cheap cornmeal, a sprinkle of gold glitter, 2 shovels (one for each toddler), a few shells, and a few beach toys. They LOVE running the cornmeal through their hands. And then, of course, throwing it in the air to be pixie dust… I love the way kids think!

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Another big hit was singing and playing “This is the way we go to the beach.” If you couldn’t guess, it’s to the tune of “Here we go round the mulberry bush.” The curriculum has a list of different verses you can add; I usually just made some up. We ran to the beach, jumped to the beach, spun in a circle to the beach, marched to the beach, swam at the beach… you get the idea. Fantastic energy burner!

Next week starts the Camping unit. The curriculum only has you making one sensory bin a month, so the kids will continue playing beach – unless I get bored and make something different! I just picked up a bagful of books from the library. Tonight I’m planning to pre-read everything to get it sorted and remake the basket. I love having the theme basket out first thing in the morning when the other kids arrive! It’s just so inviting to dive right in to our exploring.

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Getting Started Playing School

Now that Grace is two, I’ve been wanting to add just a little bit of structure to our days. It’s a looooong day with a bored 2 year old if I don’t have *some* kind of a plan. That plan, however, is really loose. I most identify with a Charlotte Mason educational philosophy, which looks a lot like unschooling in the younger ages. Lots of playing outside. Lots of reading worthwhile books.

I’m using a lovely curriculum called Hubbard’s Cupboard as a “jumping off” point. It’s lovely as is if you’re looking for something print-and-go and a great inspiration curriculum if you’re looking to add more yourself. I’m using Joyful Hearts, their 2 year old program.

My changes: They plan 2 lesson days a week; I’m leaving Grace’s theme basket available to her whenever she wants to play or read from it. They have a Bible theme but no particular lesson; we’re incorporating reading from the Jesus Storybook Bible and other places. I’m having to adapt some of the books based on what I can find at my library, plus adding in non-fiction books. I grabbed a couple theme-based videos at the library, too – we’re not big TV watchers, but some days I need her to focus alone while I get something done (like make lunch!). I’m also adding a hymn for each theme since Grace LOVES music!

The first theme is Beaches and the Ocean, for 2 weeks. Grace and her 2 friends that I watch are really loving it! Today I’ll show you our sensory activities. I’ll post our complete resource list next week when we wrap up the theme. There’s a couple books I’m still hoping to get from the library, plus a couple that I got I doubt we’ll actually use. I want an accurate list for my records.

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Our seashore theme basket: books, a movie, a tin full of real shells, and the Melissa and Doug ocean-themed instrument set

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Tropical drink mix flavored play dough plus shells to press

 

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Beach sensory tub: cornmeal, gold glitter, sea shells, shovels, and a set of pouring toys

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They loved it! Playing on our beach towel outside

I’m really enjoying playing school. It’s just enough structure without being academic. I didn’t do the math activities this week but will probably add them in as we go. I’m using the planning sheet more as inspiration and less as a rule book – mixing, matching, and adapting as I go. The next theme is camping and I’m super excited – that’s our new hobby of the summer, so Grace will really connect!