Before my mind moves on completely from Liam’s kindergarten year, I want to share my recipe for kindergarten. Doing kindergarten at home is a great way to enjoy your little one’s childhood just a little bit longer! Especially for families in transition (moving) or with very young kindergartners, staying home might make more sense. In many European countries with excellent education results, children don’t start formal academics (how to read, basic arithmetic) until they are 6 or 7. One reason we do kindergarten at home is to allow for more important learning opportunities (see my blog post from 2009).
Kindergarten at home is easy. The key ingredient is your loving family. The action? Just living everyday life together… cooking, keeping house, spending time in the dirt, exploring the great outdoors. Add some playdates for spice and a generous helping of thoughtfully chosen resources. Here are some resources I’ve used:
Earthways by Carol Petrash is an excellent Waldorf crafts book with very earthy project ideas and suggestions for creating a positive learning environment. I’ve used this book quite a lot. It’s more about doing seasonal projects that allow the child to relate with and appreciate nature than creating anything like art.
For art, I’d recommend Scribble Art by MaryAnn Kohl. This is a classic! It has suggestions for all kinds of artistic experiences with lots of mediums. This art is about the process, not the product, which allows for real learning.
For science I recommend nature book author, Clara Dillingham Pierson. The kids loved Among the Pond People when we read it during Aria’s kindergarten (Liam just 4 years old) and we are reading Among the Forest People this year. These classics have very few pictures, which is a great way to encourage your kindergartner to form mental pictures as prep for chapter books.
Also read lots of lovely picture books, especially seasonal ones. Your local library should be able to help you put together a good list. On my old work blog, I posted seasonal book recommendations that my children loved a few years ago. Here are picture books for Winter, Spring, more Spring, Summer and Fall. We still check many of these out from the library when the seasons change, and they are welcomed like old familiar friends!
Read simple fairytales and folktales too, like The Gingerbread Man, The Turnip, Three Billy Goats, etc. I choose to save the more romantic and/or violent fairytales (like Grimm’s) for later. A good librarian should be able to help you locate a bunch of classic tales appropriate for little ears. Also, please don’t miss the REAL Winnie-the-Pooh (which I prattle on about here). It’s one of our favorites!
If you are a Christian, we love The Jesus Storybook Bible. It’s a beautifully-written children’s Bible storybook that ties each story into the larger story of redemption, getting at the point of it all.
Math in kindergarten will happen naturally at home if you look for opportune moments. Add a few simple games now and then too to expand math thinking. Today we had fun practicing counting high while tossing a beanbag back and forth. Whenever someone dropped it we had to start over again. So, um, we had to start over a lot. For ideas, see Family Math (a fabulous longterm resource) and Playful Learning (with projects and games for more than just math).
|Liam in art area, 2010|
In addition to book resources, your at home kindergarten will be greatly enriched by an accessible art area. When I was setting ours up, I wrote a 5-part blog series on creating an art area for little ones (here’s part 1), including what supplies we like to have on hand. That was especially useful during preschool years. Now Liam does mainly drawing and painting and some modeling. Also, consider simplifying and decluttering the toy shelf with open-ended, classic toys that invite creative play such as pretending and building. Soon you’ll have a lovely home environment ripe for learning, growing and a gentle opening to all that the future holds.
I hope this list is helpful for those of you who might be considering a home kindergarten. Don’t allow yourself to get overwhelmed because the essentials are so doable. You love your kid. You can read to her, give her opportunities to explore the natural world, to play with friends, to make stuff. That’s a wonderful kindergarten!
And, for those for whom a traditional kindergarten is the family choice, you can of course take advantage of any of these resources to enrich the time you do spend together. Enjoy!
P.S. For Liam’s kindergarten we’re also using the Explode the Code primer series (Book A, B, C) to work on consonant sounds and the Getty Dubay Italic Handwriting Series Book A to encourage proper letter formation patterns. Liam is an “older” kindergartner (already turning 6) and he’s interested in letters, as well as has great fine motor skills. For a younger kindergartner or any kindergartner resisting bookwork, I would definitely suggest holding back on bookwork until first grade. You can offer these things without requiring them. A child will WANT to do this kind of work when they are developmentally ready, so long as they haven’t “learned” that school is something to resist.
P.S.S. Some of these links are affiliate Amazon links, which means I will earn a small percentage if you purchase anything after clicking over. You might want to use Amazon to learn more about these resources in the way of reviews and previews and such. That’s how I consider books, anyways! Don’t forget to check your local library too and save those pennies!