It’s Time for Kindergarten
I love kindergarten. It’s my favorite year to teach. As the first year of school, Kindergarten captures so many firsts, just like the first year of life has all the milestones. I love seeing the joy of discovery on my children’s faces. We celebrate every new skill mastered and every new fact learned. It’s so much fun.
Usually, my children do kindergarten between age 4 and 5. It, obviously, depends on their maturity and ability. Kindergarten is challenging, though still very much play-focused. But its the first year of school, so I do have expectations of my children. I teach them to take it seriously.
My main goal for kindergarten is reading. I want my children to have the basics of reading mastered by the end of kindergarten. I know that plenty of experts out there advocate for later reading, and there are several studies that show readiness can happen later. And it’s not the end of the world if they aren’t reading by the end of the year. Not all my girls have succeeded at this in kindergarten. But reading is still my primary focus for kindergarten.
The second goal for kindergarten is writing. By the end of the year, I expect my child to be able to form all her letters correctly, without having to be reminded. I work on making letter formation automatic, a part of muscle memory, in kindergarten.
The third priority is problem solving skills. These numeracy and logical thinking skills are the basis for math success, among other subjects. We practice solving problems, thinking through questions, and following directions exactly.
I also introduce new subjects in kindergarten: science and art. I start my kindergarten students with Astronomy as their science. We cover space topics over the whole year. And we do a year’s worth of crafts and drawing, while exploring color, shape, line and various mediums in art.
Since my kindergarten priority is reading, I use a combination of phonics and sight words teaching. I love the free printable workbooks from FunFonix to cover the letter sounds, the vowels, the blends and digraphs, and the silent E rule. I also like the Dolch word lists from Sightwords.com, along with the flash cards, games and activities.
For printing, I go back to Handwriting Without Tears. We’ll complete their My Printing Book this year. I really like HWT workbooks, for their simplicity, and fun illustrations. I also appreciate the introductions to grammar rules that HWT provides. For example, we’ll talk about the different kinds of sentences, while learning how to write the punctuation marks. The subtle combination helps prepare my kindergartner for future studies.
In kindergarten, as I’ve stated several times, reading is the primary focus. I introduce a reading comprehension program in kindergarten. I like BJU Press’ K5 Beginnings, because the readers start with wordless stories. That way, my kids’ learn story structure along with the mechanics of decoding. By the end of the year, the readers have beginning level words to read, providing the perfect step-by-step process to reading fluently. (Note: religious content)
Because by now, my kindergartners’ know their numbers, shapes and colors, I really concentrate on problem solving skills. The Critical Thinking Co. has some of the best curriculum options out there for developing problem solving and logical thinking. I use their Building Kindergarten Thinking Skills & Key Concepts book for my core math program. I supplement with some review math workbooks from our local educational materials store.
In kindergarten, we begin to study science. For our first topic, we look at Space and Astronomy. I love lapbooks for the content subjects. And Hands of A Child is my favorite publisher of lapbooks. They have a great kindergarten level space lapbook: Exploring Nearby Space. I also use A Journey Through Learning lapbooks. For space, they have two: Exploring Space and Exploring Astronomy.
Lapbooks are like scrapbooks for learning. You use little bite-sized booklets to record what they’ve learned about a topic, and paste the booklets into a folder or scrapbook. When you purchase a kit, such as the ones I’ve linked here, all the info needed to complete the lapbook is included. But it’s so easy to add in fun books, videos, games and field trips to complement your lapbook. And when you’re finished, the lapbook makes a great keepsake or portfolio piece for your records.
For art, I want something that’s a little more formal than just casual coloring pages and painting books. So I love A Beka’s K4 and K5 Art Projects books. We do art every day (not the twice-a-week suggested schedule), so we complete both books in 1 year. These books contain all the patterns and instructions needed to complete seasonal and themed crafts, year round. They also give a variety of activities. It’s not just punch out, color, cut and paste. We get to play with ribbon and yarn, glitter and marker, paint and chalk, and lots of other fun materials. Best of all, given the specific activities, the mess can be kept to a minimum. (Note: heavily American-themed content — we just skipped those activities).
How long for kindergarten?
This is the first year of “real school” for my children, so I do expect them to sit down and work with me daily. However, I only expect them to work with me for about 30-45 minutes. I want them to get in the habit of doing school work, but I also want my girls to enjoy learning. We’re serious about academics. But we’re also serious about learning through fun and games. Most of the time, my girls’ enjoy sitting down with me and doing their school work. Usually, they ask to start early!