What’s the saying…the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Yeah, that was pretty much how my kindergarten plan went.
We started our homeschool kindergarten year at the beginning of last summer knowing that we’d need some extra time from an extended holiday break with a new baby joining the family. I didn’t know that we’d also be moving at the end of the summer and that we’d be facing the diagnosis of an anxiety disorder in the spring. It’s been a much busier year than I expected.
I also feel like I jumped into our kindergarten plans blind…without knowing how my daughter learns best because we hadn’t done any formal schooling yet and without knowing what homeschool materials I prefer because she’s my oldest, the guinea pig.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive compensation if you make a purchase using these links. Thanks for supporting our blog!
My original kindergarten curriculum plan included:
- Build Your Library kindergarten for our core studies
- Supplemental books from Five in a Row
- The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading
- Handwriting without Tears Letters and Numbers for Me
- Spelling-U-See Listen and Write
- Nature study using Simply Charlotte Mason’s nature journal
- Picture study using Simply Charlotte Mason’s picture study portfolios
- Speaking Spanish with Miss Mason and François
I do believe that all of these resources are quality options and would work well for many people, but they didn’t all work for us.
What Didn’t Work
While I liked the idea of Build Your Library, I discovered pretty quickly that the curriculum wasn’t really what I was looking for. The curriculum goes through each of the continents and presents books and activities on each, but after diving in, I realized the content was pretty superficial.
My lesson learned is that I need to check out and actually read through all of the books and curriculum before making a decision to teach it. I also should have looked more closely at the activities because I would have been able to tell that they weren’t well suited for us either.
For math, we struggled through Math-U-See. This curriculum is highly rated as a hands-on approach to learning math, but I found that my daughter didn’t need and wasn’t interested in using the block set of manipulative that came with the curriculum. She was bored, unchallenged and yet still didn’t grasp the concepts.
My biggest regret from this year is that I didn’t just give up the math curriculum when I realized it wasn’t a good fit. Instead, we worked through the workbook, slowly, all the way until the last few lessons, when I became exasperated and asked my husband if we could please stop instead of finishing it. Of course he said yes, and we’ve made the switch to another curriculum that is a much better fit.
We didn’t end up doing much formal work with handwriting so our Handwriting Without Tears and Spelling-U-See workbooks were largely untouched. Gabriella had already taught herself to write all of the letters shortly after she turned three. Of course they weren’t all perfect letters so I thought we could refine her handwriting by teaching the proper formation of them, but it turns out correcting handwriting is a really difficult thing to do and a battle I didn’t want to fight.
We did a lot of nature study, but didn’t end up using the natural journal from Simply Charlotte Mason. We weren’t that consistent, and I realized a lot of the details and concepts in the journal were too much for a five year old. Again, I should have thoroughly read through it first!
Spanish lessons didn’t happened very often this year. It is so hard to find balance when there is so much going on, and Spanish seemed to get pushed aside the most. We started out by using Speaking Spanish with Miss Mason and François, but couldn’t get past the first few lessons.
I’m holding onto this because I love the method and think it will work better for an older child. We just used everyday opportunities to learn Spanish instead, and I think that was plenty for kindergarten.
What We Actually Did
Instead of stressing over how many lessons we were getting done or being “behind” on math, I used this year to focus on solidifying our family rhythms and habit training.
Most mornings started with a Waldorf-inspired circle time including an opening song, verse, movement and story. Both of my older kids love stories and storytelling has become one of my favorite parts of our day. We love books too, but there’s something so magical about the way a story develops when you’re not reading it.
What I ended up doing for our core studies was taking the framework and schedule of Build Your Library with book recommendations from “Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book At A Time” and studied each of the continents.
I cannot recommend this book enough. It consolidates so many wonderful, worldly books all into one place, broken down by ages and with a brief introduction to the topics.
We used the Five in a Row book list and manual for additional reading and as expected, these books are classic, beautiful books that engaged my children over and over again. We didn’t do much from the manual, but I picked out a few simple activities to go along with each book we read.
While our math curriculum was pretty dreadful, real life math was fun. We focused on simple counting and adding and measuring during real life activities like in the kitchen or working on a woodworking project.
For phonics, we used “The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading” and loved it. It was a really good fit for Gabriella, and I feel like the concepts are going to stick with her while she is learning to read. It teaches the letter sounds using a poem, which we still recite every few days just for fun.
We practiced handwriting through simple copywork and focused on neat and readable letters.
For nature study, we added a new curriculum to help guide our nature studies because I wanted a little guidance on topics and needed fun hands-on activities to get my toddler involved too. With studies on rocks, leaves, eggs, bugs and more, A Child’s World turned out to be a great resource, and we loved all of the activities we did. They didn’t take any prep and were things we could do on a whim outside like collecting rocks and making a mandala.
We also embarked on a totally unplanned journey to learn more about birds led by Gabriella’s interest in learning about the birds at our new house. Read more about our favorite resources for bird study here.
We used the picture study portfolios from Simply Charlotte Mason and loved them. We studied Vincent Van Gogh and Monet this year and with the beautiful reproductions and gentle questions and points to ponder, these portfolios were great to have. We supplemented with additional books and hands on activities to learn more about the artists, and I can tell they will be favorites in our house for a long time.
We did a composer study on Mozart by listening to music each day, reading a little about Mozart’s life and reading Moonlight on the Magic Flute, a fun Magic Treehouse book about Mozart as a child.
Gabriella got involved in several extracurricular activities this year, mostly due to her diagnosis of selective mutism and needing to find ways to practice her brave talking. She did swim classes, music class and horseback riding.
She also attended a nature pre-school program twice a week, which was the perfect addition to our homeschool because she got to go explore nature and be around other people without me (which is key to her recovery from selective mutism).
We also got involved with a local homeschool co-op and did poetry teatime weekly. We participated in seasonal nature pal exchanges where we collected nature items from our area to send to another family in a different part of the country.
We spent a lot of time exploring the nature areas near our home and got to watch them change through the seasons, which is a priceless lesson you just can’t find in a book. We’ve become intimately familiar with the trails and paths and flowers and birds at our favorite nature spots. We also spent a lot of time building and working in our own garden.
Gabriella is an artist and loves creating. We joined Creative Bug and did a few art classes together including drawing, watercolor and embroidery. This was a highlight of our year because we were both learning something new and doing it together, which was special.
We also did lots of reading aloud and read some great chapter books as a family. This year, we read Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, Farmer Boy, On the Banks of Plum Creek, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, Trumpet of the Swan, Stuart Little and Winnie the Pooh.
For our end of year celebration, we spread out a big piece of butcher paper and started going down memory lane by remembering all the wonderful things we did this year. This was such a fun and special way to put everything we learned on paper, and I think we’ll do this every year!
Our year had way less structure than I envisioned and a lot more real-world learning than I planned. I awakened a passion for outdoor play, and we spent most of our “school” hours focused on soaking up the sun, rolling in the dirt, hiking unbeaten paths and splashing in cool waters.
Despite basically nothing going as planned, we had a fantastic year. Gabriella learned a lot. I learned a lot. We learned a lot as a family. We solidified rhythms and built traditions. We read so many beautiful books. We played a lot. We got dirty. We spent hours and hours and hours outside. We traveled. We built relationships. I’m so proud of my big girl and love seeing what a sweet, kind, compassionate person she is becoming.
In short, we lived a full and wonderful life and learning mostly happened as a side note, not the focus.