January 2012

Create Your Own Kindergarten Curriculum

When my oldest son was four, he was quite bored with the preschool workbooks we were doing, so I decided it was time to start kindergarten work. I decided to design my own curriculum with the help of the book “Home Learning Year by Year: How to Design a Homeschool Curriculum from Preschool Through High School” by Rebecca Rupp to help me know a common scope and sequence for kindergarten. The only thing I purchased was a pack of kindergarten lined paper (the type with the red line on the top, blue line on the bottom, and dotted line in the middle). I called my curriculum “Letter a Week”. Here’s how I did it.

Reading

Monday of every week, I read to my son the corresponding letter book in the “Sound box books” series by Jane Belk Moncure (I don’t own these, I borrowed them from the library). This was a great introduction to the letter sound. We also read throughout the week, books on a minimum of two other topics (usually involving an animal and a sport because these were of interest to my son) for the corresponding letter of the week, such as apples, archery, alligators, and army for “A” week. We often read multiple books on each topic. As he progressed in his phonics skills, I started introducing simple phonics books such as “The Bob Books” series by Bobby Lynn Maslen and “Easy Words to Read” series by Phil Roxbee.

Writing

Every week, I made three handwriting worksheets for my son. I tried both printing them from the computer and making them by hand with kindergarten lined paper and a highlighter. I preferred making them by hand. Each worksheet contained practice for my son’s name (this progressed from just his first name initially to his full name after a few weeks), the lowercase letter of the week (a few to trace and a few to write on his own), the capital letter of the week (again a few to trace and a few to write on his own), either a few simple words that started with the letter of the week or a sight word or review (depending on which day of the week it was), the number of the week (which eventually progressed into writing things like his phone number and address).

Math

I read the corresponding number book of the week in the “My Numbers Books” series by Jane Belk Moncure (also called “My First Steps to Math” series). This was a great way to solidify the concept of each individual number. Of course we did lots of practical application practice as well, like “How many socks are in the laundry basket today?” or “Lets see how high we can count while we wait in the line at the grocery store.” Eventually this progressed into a math concepts such as time, addition, or counting by 2s.

Science

We also related anatomy to our weekly letter. I taught my son every body part I could think of that started with that week’s corresponding letter. For “A” week, I taught him: arm, arm pit, arch (of his foot), abdomen, Adam’s apple, and ankle. Obviously some weeks I just couldn’t come up with anything. I also had a list of science concepts such as the Five Senses, and How a Plant Grows, that I wanted my son to learn throughout the year. I tried to match these up to the letter or in some case, like the Five Senses, to the number of the week. They didn’t all match up perfectly, so I just fit different concepts in on different weeks where I didn’t have a match.

Religion

We also read about a person or more from the Bible that corresponded to the letter of the week. Some weeks like “J” week there were lots of people like Jesus, and John, and Jesse, and so on, other weeks like “F” week, there really weren’t many. I used a good Bible concordance on these weeks.

Multi-sensory learning

My children love pancakes and I make them every week, so each week I made the corresponding letter shaped pancakes and often with a corresponding fruit such as apple “A” shaped pancakes for “A” week. This became their favorite part of the week! I also tried to incorporate into each week an activity or field trip such as making apple pie during “A” week or playing baseball during “B” week. Some weeks we included things like a genre of music that started with the letter of the week, such as Jazz during “J” week. Of course most children love art, so I included weekly art projects (I got ideas from books at the library). Most of these did not line up with the letter of the week, but not everything had to. Each week when we went to the grocery store for our regular grocery trip, I would point out foods that begin with the corresponding letter of the week, such as bananas, beets, and Brussels sprouts for “B” week. I would make sure to have some of these foods on the meal plan during that week. It was an easy way for us to have more variety in our diets and for the kids to get excited about trying new foods. We also did ethnic nights about once a month that corresponded with the letter of the week to teach about other cultures. My favorite was “J” week when we did Japanese night. Our whole family sat at a low table (kids table) on cushions in the living room and I prepared some Japanese cuisine complete with tea and chopsticks. My kids still talk about that night years later.

I repeated this curriculum with my second son when he was three, but did it with less intensity and used it as a preschool curriculum. With my oldest son, I taught the letters out-of-order so they would correspond to holidays or themes I wanted like “T” week during Thanksgiving and “L” week when the leaves were falling and we could do leaf projects. With my second son, I did the letters in order, because it took less planning, though sometimes it was less fun. Both ways worked great and they both learned all their letters and sounds with ease. I had a lot of fun with the curriculum and can’t wait till my younger children are old enough to do it again with them.

Is It Break Time Yet?

I have days when things just aren’t going well. We all do-it’s a part of life. Sometimes I have a sick kid that needs extra attention, or sometimes a special event that requires time to get ready for, or sometimes I’m just plain stressed out and exhausted from life. Those are the days I give myself permission to take a day off. In fact, I even plan at the beginning of my school year, for some of these days. I try to schedule our work to be done a few weeks before I absolutely want it done in the spring. That way I have more wiggle room and can take a few days off when I want to without having to stress about it.

Now if you are reading this and really want a day off, but feel you can’t because you haven’t planned for it. Don’t worry! You can still take a day off. In situations like this, I try to stay rational and ask myself “What’s the worst that can happen?” My children may have to do an extra page in their workbook tomorrow. They may have to do some schoolwork on Saturday. We may have to work an extra day later in the spring than we planned. I might save their extra schoolwork for a rainy day in the summer.  I might just skip a page in their schoolbook (I know, if I do this, I start to panic temporarily that my child might spend the rest of his life not know the sound of the letter “h” or something equally important. I come back to reality quite quickly and realize how erroneous this thought really is.). My point is that it’s great to plan for days off so I don’t stress when I need one, but even if I don’t plan for it, it’s still okay to take an occasional day off.

Now I do have one caution to keep in mind. I need to make sure that when I take my occasional days off, they are “occasional” days off. I don’t want to get into the habit of taking too many days off and find myself stressed out because I still haven’t finished this year’s schoolwork and it’s the middle of August. If I do find myself taking a lot of days off, I consider changing something in my life. Maybe I need to take a break of one or more subjects, or lighten up my schedule, or sometimes it’s as simple as have devotions be the first thing in our day to set us on the right path in the morning.

If I find myself in a season of life where I am struggling a lot, yet can’t change anything like after the birth of a baby or a long illness, I tell myself that it’s okay to do light schoolwork for even a whole year (though I’ve never had to). I focus on reading, writing and math during these times. I do the rest when I am up to it (which usually comes quicker than I expect). My children are still learning during these times just not the way I planned.

My favorite verse at these times is Philippians 4:13 “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” (NIV) I hope my struggles can encourage you in your times of struggle as well.