Thursday, January 8, 2009

Homeschooling Preschoolers and Kindergarteners

Becca has requested that I tell about my favorite books and resources for homeschooling, so I thought that would be a good post for today.

Don't forget about the Organization Discussion going on in the comment section of yesterday's post, though. I'd love to hear some organizational hints and tips about time, money, and "stuff" management to help me with my New Year's resolutions, and I'm sure there are others with the same goals who'd love them too! Just keep adding to it, whether it be today, tomorrow, next week, etc.

I was going to have all of the info (K-12) on one page, but I think it might be better if it is broken down into age groups instead. Otherwise the post might get ridiculously long and overwhelming.

So: Preschool & Kindergarten!
These ages are great fun! They love learning! Learning makes them feel big.

As a random thought here, did you know that I took Early Childhood Development during my junior and senior year of high school. My high school had a preschool and the HS's Early Childhood classes taught it. It was then that I realized that I loved working with young children. In the second half of my senior year I got to go across the street from my high school to an elementary school and work with kindergarten kids. I loved it! And when I go back to college soon, it will be to get an Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education. I want to have a preschool in my home. So there you go! There is my weird/random fact for the day.

Preschoolers typically haven't learned to recognize the alphabet letters, even though they can sing the alphabet song well by now. What I suggest is placing alphabet flashcards, or an alphabet "strip" like elementary schools have, up on the wall for the kids to see every day. Everyday, have the child sing the song slowly with you while you point at each letter. That is a good way for the kids to realize that the song is indeed talking about the letters that they see.

The best workbooks I have found to teach about the letters' sounds is: Get Ready for the Code - Book A, Get Set for the Code - Book B, and Go for the Code - Book C, to be followed up with the Explode the Code book series. They also teach the child how to form the letters, and later teaches how to write words.

Now is a good time to tell you that my favorite homeschool store is The owners have homeschooled for years, and so the programs and books are tested and true. Their prices are reasonable and the selection is wonderful!

You can find "the Code" books there as well.

Most of my text books have come from eBay, though. After researching for the perfect books for my family's needs, I can usually find them there for great prices. Very often also has used books, too.

Once the child has learned to recognize the letters and know the letters' sounds, they will be ready to start reading "Bob Books". "Bob Books" are great little books that let children read phonetically, which is wonderful because if they can "sound words out", they can read any word in the world...mostly. Sight reading is important too, but phonics is by far the most versatile, since it is impossible to teach what every single word looks like, which is what sight reading is. There are 5 sets of books, ranging from basic phonetical reading to more advanced. They are easy to find, and are available at, and Barnes and Noble, along with many other bookstores, and eBay.

Matt loved reading Dick and Jane books. The stories are sweet and good for beginning sight reading.

McGuffey Readers are wonderful books too! If your budget allows, I'd recommend them. I love that they are a good mixture of easy to remember sight words along with being easy to sound out/phonetical. I love the sweet stories in the revised edition, and the vintage pictures. They are available at most bookstores.

Writing will be difficult for little children since their fine motor skills aren't super developed. They can work those muscles by cutting out shapes that you draw on a paper - make sure and keep the shapes easy and large until they get the hang of it. Coloring will help fine motor development, too. You can make up games to strengthen those muscles too, for instance, have them use a pair of tongs to pick up a pair of socks out of an empty plastic ice-cream bucket. Then eventually work down to using a pair of tweezers to pick up toothpicks. Pick up stix would be a fun game, too. Just think up any "game" that will increase eye-hand coordination and controlled hand movements.

For mathematics, I suggest using McGraw-Hill's Spectrum Math. Here is a description at Barnes & Noble. In fact, I have always bought these workbooks at Barnes and Noble. I'm sure other's carry them, but Barnes and Noble has always had them when I need them. I really like their workbooks and use them through about the 4th grade. There are other Spectrum books available too, but I haven't used them much. Here is a glance at some of the selection at

History can be learned very well from historical fiction books. (As a side note, the historical fiction book Johnny Tremain was where I learned the most about the precursors to the American Revolution. Before that I'd never realized that some people really liked living under England's rule and that it was treason if you spoke out against King George. I was in my twenties when I read it! I hadn't ever learned those things in school.) I love the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. There are small picture book versions that I love called My First Little House Books Series. You can see them at Children will small attention spans will do well to have lots of pictures and short books. Don't forget the American Girl series, too! Kids love them! Here is a site that I just found with recommendations for Historical Fiction for kids. And don't forget about Jean Fritz' books like: And Then What Happened, Paul Revere? Shh! We're Writing the Constitution Will You Sign Here, John Hancock?, Can't You Make Them Behave, King George?, What's the Big Idea, Ben Franklin?, and many more. They are nice ones to read aloud.

Science should be simple and hands-on. Looking at bugs and learning that insects have 6 legs and spiders have 8, for instance. Learning that each snowflake is different and then cutting and gluing snowflakes onto a paper for an art project. Go to the zoo and see animals; talk about what the animals eat, look at the maps that are in front of the cages and show where the animal comes from, talk about their teeth and how you can tell carnivores from herbivores just by the teeth. As you talk about what they think is important, just slip in knowledge for them here and there. Go for a walk and see the wildflowers. Let them help plant a garden in the spring and tend it through the summer. Let them help harvest and cook the vegies that they grew for supper.

I also like Unit Studies. They are simple: pick a topic the child is interested in, like zoo animals. Take them to the zoo. Check out books from the library about the animals. Get out your globe and show them where the animal comes from. Find a video about that region so that they can see what it is like there. Make a craft about the animal or where it lives. Play with clay, draw a picture, or whatever. Incorporate the Unit Study into every subject that you do during your "school day". Don't forget that crafts & projects really cement an idea in a child's mind.

Be sure and incorporate music too! There are books that will help you learn fingerplays and fun songs, and some will even give you patterns to make visual aids. If you are learning about bugs, you can sing about the "Itsy Bitsy Spider Went Up the Water Spout" and "There was an old lady who swallowed a fly". Or just sing songs randomly. Kids love to sing! And music has been shown to help kids learn. If you can put it to a tune, they'll learn it quicker and retain it longer. Want me to sing about the books of the Old Testament? No, you don't! But I *could* - and I learned it in 1987!

Kids won't be able to write book reports, right? No, but they *can* narrate to you! Read a story with your child and then have them tell you what the story was about while you write down what they say. It will help them start processing how to write. The first step to writing is to think of how to put things into words, the second is putting it on paper. You'll be helping them with the first step! Don't get caught up in perfectionism. They will get better and better as you do narrations with them often.

There are some fun educational shows on tv & videos; fun educational games for the computer; and educational CDs. I love to use the various forms of media to help my children learn. My middle child, Jared, loved t.v. and soaked up information like a sponge. In fact, I have a funny story about Jared.

Once an adult was telling Jared about his experience of eating caviar in a restaurant. He explained first that caviar is fish eggs. He told Jared they taste really salty. As he was speaking, Jared listened attentively. When the man was quiet, my then 8 year old Jared came out with, "Did your caviar come from the Beluga Sturgeon? Because the Beluga Sturgeon produces the finest caviar." You see, we had taken a trip to the Tennessee Aquarium and I had bought the video about the aquarium. Jared watched it a lot and simply soaked up the knowledge.

Years later, when visiting a Barnes and Noble, Jared saw a book full of Monet's art and had "MONET" on the front. Jared asked, "Is that the same Monet (said with a French accent) whose artwork is in the Louvre (also said in a French accent)?" He had watched a cartoon series from Reader's Digest entitled "Country Mouse and City Mouse". In one episode, the mice visit the Louvre and discuss the artwork while trying to solve a mystery. Jared loved that series and watched it over and over. Because of the good that I have seen come from it, I am sold on educational tv!

Did I miss any subject? Be sure and add any tried and true suggestions that I might have forgotten or missed in the comments, okay?


  1. Wow! Thanks, Melody! You really have a lot of experience. I didn't know where to start first - I went through all your links and I just think your kids must be really lucky to have a teacher like you.

    P.S. I LOVE the story about Jared and the caviar. But it's not surprising. This is the kid who did John Wayne impersonations at 3. He is a human sponge!

  2. Thanks, Becca! I really do enjoy the little preschool & kindergarten age kids. They are so excited and curious about everything! Have fun!

  3. Oooh I'm so excited for this! Thank you so much! I know James is young, but I can still start right? We're working on the alphabet now, starting with the new year. And counting. But this is great! I will definitely be using this alot! You're amazing :)

  4. Kate the Great - I'm glad that you like it and that you are excited to start working with James. I think it is key when Mom is excited about "schooling" too.

    For that reason I try to find something new that I am excited about every year so that I can bring that excitement into our homeschool....otherwise I burn out.