Our (Super-Relaxed) Kindergarten Homeschool Plans

Resources and inspiration for a relaxed homeschool kindergarten year

Lydia is turning five this month, so I’ve decided to add a bit of “schooling” in our lives, starting this September.

(Last year I explored the reasons we didn’t send her to preschool or do “homeschool preschool” with her.)

Our plan is to be super-relaxed. We’re not buying any curriculum, and in fact plan on doing very little formal instruction (if any). I lean towards the unschooling model, which assumes that children learn everything they need from the world around them as long as they’re given a rich environment and an an enthusiastic adult guide/facilitator. I tend to believe that kids learn best when they’re led by their own interests, and when “subjects” are intermixed and tied to real life.

I’m just not too worried about kindergarten. As long as she has some basic pre-reading and math skills and gets a chance to hear lots of stories and play with friends, I’m happy with that. I want to spend lots of time working on practical life and self-care skills, creating art, and maybe introduce some handcrafts. And I’m psyched to learn stuff with her!

I do want our home to be stocked with helpful resources. And I plan on putting a bit of effort into guiding her learning. I’ll be satisfied if we spend an hour a day doing “educational” stuff together, even if it’s just one subject on a given day.

So here are a few things I’ve looked into and/or purchased to help enhance her learning this year and beyond.

Of course these subjects and materials all overlap . . . which is kind of the point.

Math

Math is the subject I’ve spent the most time thinking about because school ruined it for me. Early on, I got the sense that I was “bad” at math and that it was boring and too abstract. I’ve hated it ever since.

So I’ve been totally surprised that in all of Lydia’s early encounters with math, she’s been enthusiastic and quick to pick it up. I want her experience with math to be vibrant, exciting, and vitally practical.

spielgaben

The first resource I sought out, then, was a Spielgaben set. (It just arrived in the mail this last week. Squee!) Spielgaben is a gorgeous set of all-natural (mostly wood with some cotton) manipulatives that encourages hands-on learning. They can be used for creative play, but I’m most excited for their potential for learning mathematical concepts. Speilgaben is expensive (we’re talking in the $400-500 range), but I believe it will be an invaluable resource for many years to come. (And we’re saving so much by not buying a curriculum.)

spielgaben - symmetry gameLearning about symmetry

(I first got introduced to Spielgaben through the blog Happiness is here. Check it out and get inspired!)

Bedtime Math - Laura Overdeck

I recently took out the first Bedtime Math book (Laura Overdeck) from the library, and Lydia LOVED it. Every page offers fun, silly math problems in a range of difficulties. I was stunned by her enthusiasm. She loved doing Bedtime Math more than reading story books. I could bribe her to get ready for bed by reminder her that we would get to do Bedtime Math. It was amazing to me. I look forward to going through the rest of the books.

I also purchased the digital book Moebius Noodles, which I confess I haven’t read a page of, but looks super-exciting.  I learned about it from this exciting article, entitled “5-Year-Olds Can Learn Calculus: Why playing with algebraic and calculus concepts—rather than doing arithmetic drills—may be a better way to introduce children to math.” Yes, please!

In the future, I want to explore Life of Fred for math, but I think Lydia’s still a little young. We’ll probably try it in the spring.

Language

For reading, I plan to try Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons by Siegfried Engelmann. I know it’s not very unschooly, but it would help me feel more confident that I was teaching her the right skills in the right order. I’ve read the intro and it looks solid. I’m just waiting for her to show an interest in learning how to read, because I’m sure as soon as she wants to learn she will take off.

Otherwise, I plan to just do LOTS of reading aloud together. The more I learn, the more I realize that this might be the most valuable thing you can do for a child’s literacy.

If you can instill in your child a love of reading, you will unleash unlimited learning potential. And what better way to encourage that love than by reading together? If nothing else, I’ll continue to read to her before bed every night.

Arts

For visual art, I plan to do the obvious: lots regular art time together! I love painting and drawing and experimenting with new materials, and look forward to explore these things together.

For music, I enrolled her in dance lessons at the local dance studio, which will be once a week. In addition to dance instruction, I hope this will also give her a chance to interact with other kids and get instruction from another adult besides me.

Science

My only plan here is to make sure we occasionally get science-y books out of the library. She’s really interested in the human body lately, so I think we’re going to be taking out lots of books on the skeletal system and the like. I can probably get her interested in books on birds and butterflies, too.

Other

museum

I want to place a strong emphasis on learning practical life skills (baking together, caring for herself and her environment, etc). I dream of doing lessons on folding laundry, preparing snacks, tying knots, and stuff like that.

I’m also interested in Waldorf-inspired handcrafts (things like knitting, felting, embroidery, etc). But I haven’t put too much thought into this yet. I don’t want to get ahead of myself!

And that’s about it. I’m sure I’ll come across more resources as we head into the “school season,” but I’m not in a rush.

I can’t wait to learn together!

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Comments

  1. So fun! My oldest is almost four, so still a ways from kindergarten, and I now work outside of the home, so all my dreams of fun and interactive unschool homeschool have kind of flown out the window. But neither boy is doing formal preschool and both will be almost six by the time they’re eligible for public kindy because of birthdays and cut-off dates, and frankly I am thankful for that extra year!

    Music is very mathematical and another fun way to work on both at the same time. Counting out rhythms and beats is fun (ONE two three four, ONE two three four, SHOUTING and whispering) and about as far as we’ve gotten, but I know there’s more there as they get older. We have a little wooden toy piano and an electronic keyboard laid on the ground instead of a stand, and a bin of wind and rhythm instruments for them to play with. They love trying to make up (truly horrific) songs and playing back what I show them–though really the favorite activity is turning on the “dance beat” function of the keyboard and dancing crazily. We also listen to a lot of music. Sometimes it’s kid songs that encourage singing along (the 3yo has memorized a few Bible verses in song form), but we also listen to classical pieces (he can pick out clarinets and flutes in obvious pieces–mostly because he’s heard my siblings play them so they mean something to him).

    Obviously music is the subject I’ve given the most thought, but I mean, it’s every subject and all kinds of skills! Math, history, listening, call-and-response, creativity, physical activity, reading, turn-taking, fine motor, gross motor…basically why is school not just the arts all day long? ;-)

    • Thanks for your insights, Katie! “Why is school not just the arts all day long?” Great question! There is so much practical stuff to be learned through them, in addition to general life enrichment.

      I envy your musical background. Music has no place in Old Colony Mennonite culture — or any of the arts, really — so I had very little exposure growing up. I could do some of the stuff you describe here, but I think I’d have to outsource most of their music education.

      • My sister is an elementary school music teacher, my brother is a professional clarinetist, and my parents and I are the hobbyists of the family as lifelong choral singers. So I come by the interest and enthusiasm honestly.

        I know you listen to music since you mention it on your What I’m Into posts, and exposure to a variety of music and musical styles is really the most necessary, basic level of a musical education anyway. :-)

  2. Laura Werezak says:

    Hi Kathleen, we are doing relaxed homeschool for the early days of Kindergarden too! I never ever thought I’d be an unschooler, I always loved school routines as a kid and my daughter loved prek last year, but we are about to move, we will be doing tons of traveling in the next six weeks and I’m not positive where we will land yet or what the school options will be (the control freak in me is totally paralyzed with panic)… I hope that having a few routines and objectives going into each day will help with the chaos, then grace will cover the rest. You always inspire me with the intentionality you put into Lydia’s everyday life and learning. Have you posted before about activities for life skills and habit-forming? I’m interested in those areas. I hope you keep writing updates as you try new things.

    • Thanks, Laura! I’m sure your daughter will do just fine with you as a teacher.

      I haven’t really explored life skills and habits on here, beyond this (and that was when Lydia was a toddler.) I’m really interested in the Montessori approach to practical life skills, but since I’ve never seen it in real life it’s hard for me to implement. I’ll keep trying, though!

  3. Your super-relaxed plan sounds awesome! Reading to them is where it’s at. All kinds of learning happens with great books being shared. We constantly read to our kids and they love it. I homeschool 4 girlies(age 6, 9, 10, 15) and I like to call our homeschooling eclectic-molded around who they are and what they like with a dash of what skills I’d like them to leave our home with. And there are many days that I’ve done my thing with them and they have the rest of the day to spend learning and playing with what they think is important-you can’t plan for that. It’s beautiful. I’m excited to follow your homeschool journey and already placed a hold on the bedtime math book at my library.

  4. Sounds great. I would add recording of some of your science and math together. After all the difference between science and goofing off is writing it down (or drawing it). It would tie in well with the fine arts.

  5. I have to add my two cents in the science department (I’m a chemist!). There is so much “science” in our every day lives. Pointing out the change of seasons and animal tracks and scat on nature walks. Observing weather, gardening, observing cause and effect, making a guess about how something will behave (does ice melt faster in an empty bowl or a bowl filled with water). Science is everywhere! Also I am using how to teach your child to read with my almost kindergartener right now. It’s awesome and as a parent who has no idea how to teach a kid to read it was a lifesaver. We waited until she was ready (interested in letter sounds, frustrated that she couldn’t read to herself) and we are on lesson 39 right now. I’m amazed at how easy it is to follow. Love your blog and your family!

  6. Coriander says:

    I bought Bedtime Math and we read it at mealtimes. My four and six year-olds really like it and often we do 2 or 3 chapters at a time. I just purchased the second one for when we’re done with the first. Thanks for the recommendation.
    I’ve been reading Jim Trelease’s book The Read-Aloud Handbook: Seventh Edition, I’m finding it to be very interesting. I think you might too.

  7. Hi, Kathleen! I’ve finally found some time today to catch up on some of my favorite blogs…and yours, my dear, is most definitely one of them! I love this post. I’m a homeschoolin’ mama of 4…with my 5th on the way. I’ve been doing this a long time (my oldest is 15 and she’s always been homeschooled) and love how you embrace the idea of children learning through life. I feel the same way! I was so excited to see you mention “Life of Fred”. We have just discovered his books this year and they have literally changed our lives! Seriously! My daughter is 15 and, like me, HATES math. Especially Algebra. Last year, we spent countless hours crying over her Abeka Algebra book and I finally gave up and told her to skip Algebra for the rest of the year until I could figure something out. I stumbled across LOF books via Angela of This Gathered Nest, when she casually mentioned how they have helped her younger daughter. I figured that I would give them a try for Algebra, math (for my middle schooler) and even our Language Arts class (a class my eldest son used to hate). And guess what? They LOVE the Fred books!! We’ll even be out and about, doing shopping or whatever, and they will start talking about Fred and laughing about his antics. Dude. They are 15 and 13. And they are talking about their school books in a happy and positive way with absolutely NO prompting on my part! My daughter’s experience with Algebra this year? Phenomenal!! She’s FINALLY understanding it! The books (for older students) are pretty student-directed and require little parental guidance. They just come to me if they need help. Which they very rarely need since Fred explains everything in such an amazing and easy-to-understand way. I really hope that you and Lydia (and later Felix) love them as much as we do. They have completely changed the way my kids look at math. I have not heard one “ugh. Algebra.” complaint since we started the LOF adventure! (sorry for my lengthy ramble…at least it was more or less focused! hahaha)

    • That’s so great! Thanks, Monica! I haven’t looked too much into Life of Fred yet, but your endorsement has me more confident than ever that it will be a good fit for us. Thanks! And thanks for your encouraging words about the blog!

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