Monday, June 24, 2013

Homeschool planning for pre-school/kindergarten/1st grade

A friend recently asked me about getting started with homeschooling.  Since I'm in the midst of our school planing this is a great time for me to post on how I go about planning and teaching these levels. Hopefully this will be helpful to her, other moms, and me (later when its time to plan again and I've forgotten this stuff).

These early years should really be focused on training in obedience, character development, contributing to household chores and just enjoying time reading and doing activities with mom.  There is no need to stress about these years.  I love this post a friend recently wrote.  *I group all of my younger kids together in this category.  This year I'll have the 2, 3/4, and 5/6 year olds doing all of this, we will be joined to a very small extent by the new baby (she will generally be in my arms, in the room/area, or in the arms of an older sibling).  Next year she will be an active participant in all of this. 

First off I want to point out that there are many wonderful complete curriculums out there.  For our first year I chose to use My Father's World, and we all really enjoyed it while we were using it (the kindergartener as well as the pre-schooler and toddler that joined us for some of it).  I've also liked what I've seen at Timberdoodle.  However....

I choose not to use a set like this.  I found that life was presenting us with so many learning opportunities and things we wanted to study as a family.  I was getting stressed about enjoying and learning in those times and finishing the curriculum I had purchased.  I wanted to study the Pilgrims in November, Christmas around the world and Jesus' birth in December.  I wanted to be free to study Texas and enjoy our trip there without worrying about making up the time "lost."  I could go on and on, but you get the point.  My husband and I now plan unit studies based on things we know will be coming up in our lives, or things that we just know the kids should be learning.  Our younger kids are included in these studies (this is a great way to go about schooling with just younger kids too!).

Some unit studies for this year
All about me (This will include a study on life in the womb, and anatomy with the older kids)
Harvest time (alongside the older kids learning about the Reformation)
Thanksgiving (this started as a Pilgrim study every year, but also includes expanded Reformation now)
France (Older kids are studying the French revolution)
South America and Cuba (my husband's work involves these areas right now)
Arizona (where we live)
Colorado (where we are moving)

Schooling these young ages should not take very long.  I'll break down how our day looks and some of what we cover (and where/how).  This is just to give you some ideas, everyone's home, family, and needs are different so you're days will look different too.  Our day starts out with family Bible reading and prayer, afterwards everyone goes to get dressed/make beds/clean rooms while I make breakfast.  After breakfast we do the dishes and do a few chores, then it is time to gather and start our school day together with Circle Time.

Circle Time
Circle time allows us to start our  schooldays together as a family, all on the same page (it helps the little ones know they are important in this process, the big kids see that the little ones are learning similar subjects.  We are a family, in this together).  This is where we will tend to focus on our current unit study.  While this has changed a bit over the years, the basics have stayed the same.  This is what our Circle Time tends to look like (we gather in the living room on couches).
Verses- My husband and I pick verses relevant to our studies or that we just want the kids to work on.  In the past we have used AWANA verses/books for this time as well as the My ABC Verses, Big Truths for little kids, and Discovering Jesus in Genesis books by Susan Hunt.  We still pull those books out from time to time for the little ones.
Reading- During this time I pick the books.  These are our Unit study books.  We take time to discuss what we've read.

After circle time I get the little ones focused on a quiet play activity; usually as blanket time or room time.  Then I do a reading lesson with the early readers and often math as well.  As with everything else in the homeschooling world there are many options out there for reading and math.  I've used 100 Easy Lessons, LeapFrog DVD's, and Bob books for this.  Simple work books for early reading and math skills can be great too.  Then I gather all of the little ones together again for table time (though if you've got an extra active child you may want to let him/her run around outside for a bit to blow off some steam).

Table Time
snack- the kids and I usually need a snack to keep us going at this point.
Activity- This can be a simple thing, or a great time to get creative (I like to mix the two).  When possible I'll include concepts from our Unit Study.  Here are some ideas...
Play dough- I like to make kool-aid playdough and have seasonal colors available for the kids
finger painting- I like making this Finger Fudge
Pre-school toys- (puzzles, pegs, math manipulatives (commonly bears or bugs), jumbo tweezers (transfer/sorting activities, this is great for fine motor skills)
Cutting/gluing activities- cutting pages (I make my own drawing lines on paper appripriate for the skill level), colages, tissue paper glued to coloring page. (in January we will make snowflakes from coffee filters one day)
Crafts- This would tend to be relevant to our Unit study (in the All about me study we will be doing body tracings on wide butcher paper, self portrait (using a face coloring page, yarn, fabric and markers), fill out an All about me worksheet, Family get the idea)
preschool activities in a bag- look here for how I've done them, this site shows some fun examples too.
Games- Bingo (we have a color/shapes set, and an alphabet set), candy land, memory....
I can do it!-  Teach a new skill like making salad, mixing up muffins, folding napkins, make place mats marking how a place setting should look so kids can set the table....the possibilities are endless!
*this is just to get you thinking, there are so many options and possibilities!
**I plan out both circle time and table time so I don't have to think on my toes.  I make sure to mix it up enough that the kids don't get board.

This is about all you really need to do for these ages.  The rest of the day should be a bit more free, while still directed.  Our day would tend to look a bit like this....

Outside if possible (if not; give kids some play time, but limit their options to one or two sets of toys)
Lunch (have them help you put it together and clean it up regularly; if not all the time)
Quiet time- I start this time reading to the kids, then we break up for naps or individual quiet times (reading/looking at books, quiet play(legos, puzzles, dolls, train set etc), DVD (once or twice a week), older kids have projects or finish school work.
Snack time- Kids need another snack to hold them over until dinner time.
Outside- if possible or just let them have some free time inside
Clean-up- get the kids involved in getting the house ready for Daddy coming home.  Clean up toys.  Help fold and put away laundry.  Get all of the odds and ends that have been left out.
Dinner prep- Kids can help with preparations from setting the table, to making a salad and getting out condiments.  They need to feel needed and important in the family, they also need to understand that it is hard work putting a meal together and learn to be thankful and help out!
Sit time!- The kids tend to get a bit crazy while mom is putting the finishing touches on dinner.  I declare "sit time" regularly during this time.  During this time the kids are required to sit still and quietly looking at books, they may not get up or talk. You will need to do some training to get them used to this.  Start with 5 minutes and work your way up.  Practice earlier in the day when everyone is in good moods and you can focus on training instead of dinner (better yet, start working on it this summer while you are NOT doing school!). ;)  Occasionally I'll let the kids watch a DVD during this time, but I'd rather not have that on when my husband arrives.

And that takes you to the end of your day!

*I have one day set aside for running errands, that way we really are home most of the week and homeschooling.  Try to make appointments for that day if possible.  Schedule any outside lessons for this time as well if you can.  


  1. Love this post! Now I'd love to know how you school the older ages!

  2. I am so happy that I read this. I have been going crazy as to figure out how to structure a day for a four and six year old. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this, now I hope I can apply what I have read.

  3. I am so thankful that I came across this website. I have been going crazy as to how I was going to get structure back into my day. This was really helpful and I hope that I can apply what I have read. Thank you so much for taking the time out to write this.