curriculum

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.

Enough Pumpkins Already! You don't have to do every page in the book!

My son asked if he had to color something in his math book and it reminded me of one of my earliest memories of being homeschooled. I had to color and cut out pumpkin after pumpkin after pumpkin. I hated coloring and cutting out things. I knew how to do it and was so bored. I didn’t understand why I had to color and cut out so many pumpkins. I wanted to do the ‘fun stuff’ (though I don’t remember what the fun stuff was) that my older siblings were doing.

PumpkinI asked my mom years later why she made me color and cut out things so much. Though I was obedient, it was obvious that I hadn’t enjoyed it. Her response was that she thought it was excessive too at the time, but since it was in the book, she assumed there must be a reason for it.

I’ve heard this view-point from others as well. I have no doubt that the people who design text books do so with a lot of thought and truly try to design the best book they can. However, as my children’s teacher, I feel the best designed book, may not necessarily be the best for my children.

I try to remember my experience with the pumpkins when I’m working with my children. I try to adapt the material to best fit my individual child and think about why he is doing it. Not just do it because the book says so. If there is something that he knows well and doesn’t like to do repetitively, I ask myself if he really needs to do it and what he is supposed to be learning from it. It may be something that he already knows. If that’s the case, I may choose to skip it or only do part of it. For example he may be really good at coloring and cutting pumpkins (he must take after me), so I may have him only do 2 pumpkins today or skip that section all together. Of course I want him to occasionally color and cut even if he knows how, so he continues to improve his skills and for obedience just because I said so. I am the teacher and parent and it’s important that he follows my directions whether he likes what he’s working on or not. We’ve all experienced this in our work-lives, children may as well get prepared for it.

I like this method because it gives me more time to work with my children on the stuff that they either need my help on or the fun stuff that they want to do. How much better would my pumpkin experience have been, if my mother had let me work on something that was of interest to me instead of repetitively coloring and cutting pumpkin after pumpkin.

Certainly not all of my childhood experiences were like this one. I have many good memories of being homeschooled. I also believe that my mother did the best she could and I don’t fault her for making me color and cut out pumpkins. We are very blessed to live in this time when there is support for homeschooling. My parents didn’t have that experience and had to figure it out on their own.

Help others out by sharing something you have learned as a teacher from an early school memory of your own.

My curriculum choices 2011: 3 year old doing kindergarten work

Part 1 of My Curriculum Choices discussed the choices for my 6-year-old. This time I'll tell you about my kindergartener.

Reading

Bob Books” set 1 by Bobby Lynn Maslen: These books are very short and simple and designed for beginning phonic readers. We plan to obtain the next set later in the year.

A Beka Book “K5 Readers”: I have these readers on hand from my oldest son. They are simple and progress in difficulty as my son learns more phonics rules.

Alpha-Phonics” by Samuel L Blumenfeld: It is very simple. The lessons are very short which is important since my son is so young. It is reusable.

Writing

A Beka Book “Writing with Phonics K5” & “Numbers Writing Tablet”: These books are easy to use. They teach “ ball and stick ” style of writing which I prefer over some of the other choices. There are examples of how to write the letter on each page and then room to practice. They worked well with my oldest son.

I also plan to have him copy Bible verses that I want him to memorize.

Math

A Beka Book “Numbers Skills K Arithmetic”: I have used A Beka Book math with my oldest son and it seems to work well. I like the convenience of having a workbook that my son can write in. I like the style of how it explains things simply and then gives opportunities to practice them and review them throughout the book.

I plan to also incorporate the use of flashcards.

For the rest of the subjects concerning my kindergartener, I will use a multilevel teaching approach and utilize some of the same materials that I am using with my oldest son.

As you can see from my curriculum choices this year, I am trying to teaching with a more connected approach by tying some of the subjects together such as Religion and Reading instead of having a separate book for each separate subject. I’m also trying to teach more subjects using a multilevel teaching approach. My goal is to make learning easier and more natural for my children and at the same time easier for me. I also want to make better use of our time and add meaning to our work such as writing Bible verses that I want them to memorize for handwriting instead of just writing meaningless sentences. I feel this minimizes the quantity of schoolwork without reducing the amount of learning.

You may have also noticed that I don’t have a curriculum choice listed for each MN required subject. My children are not yet of the MN mandated compulsory attendance age and I therefore do not need to have a formal instruction for each subject. This does not mean that I am not educating them in these subjects, but that I have simply chosen to not have a formal curriculum for that subject.

I’m really looking forward to teaching history this year with the new style I have selected. I think my boys are really going to enjoy it also. What is your favorite new curriculum choice this year? Please leave a comment and let me know.

My Curriculum Choices 2011: 6 year old doing 2nd grade work

In this first part of a two part series I'm sharing my curriculum choices for our 6 year old who is doing 2nd grade work.

Reading

NIrV Read with Me Bible” Illustrated by Dennis Jones: I feel it’s written at the right level for my son’s current reading ability. We want to instill in him the daily habit of reading his own Bible.

Honey for a Child’s Heart” by Gladys Hunt: This is a resource guide for me from which I plan to select books for reading and obtain them from our library. This guide will make it easier for me to select books at the proper reading level for my son that are safe from non-Christian biases.

Writing

A Beka Book “Language 2” workbook: We used A Beka Book “Language 1” last year and it seemed to work well for my son. I like the convenience of having a workbook that he can write in. I like how it explains the language rules and then gives opportunities to practice them and review them throughout the book.

A Beka Book “Writing with Phonics K5” & “Numbers Writing Tablet”: I chose to use the K5 levels for handwriting because the lines are larger. My son still struggles with handwriting and I feel this will be easier for him until he develops more fine motor coordination.

I also plan to incorporate practical application writing often. By this I mean having him write notes to Grandma, labeling things I put in the freezer or making a grocery list for me.

Literature

Honey for a Child’s Heart” by Gladys Hunt: See the section on reading.

Math

A Beka Book “Arithmetic 2”: We used A Beka Book “Arithmetic 1” last year and it seemed to work well for my son. I like the convenience of having a workbook that he can write in. I like how it explains things simply and then gives opportunities to practice them and review them throughout the book.

I plan to also incorporate the use of flashcards.

Science

Apologia “Exploring Creation with Zoology 1: Flying Creatures” by Fulbright: I chose this book because it is written from a creation perspective and I can use it with multi-level teaching. It is also more in-depth than many other science books that I have looked at, which I feel will work well for my analytical son.

History & Geography

All Through the Ages” by Christine Miller: This is a resource guide for me from which I plan to select books on Creation and Early History, Ancient Near East, and Ancient Egypt, and obtain them from our library. This book also directs me to select passages from our Bible to compliment the books we choose from the library for this time period. This guide will make it easier for me to select quality books from these historical time periods for my son that are safe from non-Christian biases. This is a multi-level teaching approach.

Health

Human Anatomy in Full Color” by John Green: This book has beautiful pictures of anatomy. Since my background is in Bio Med, teaching health comes very naturally to me in our daily life. I wanted a book with good pictures and little text to aid in my natural teaching.

Before I was Born” by Carolyn Nystrom (God’s Design for Sex series): I like to review this book yearly with my son to encourage a healthy Christian perspective of sex education.

Religion

NIrV Read with Me Bible” Illustrated by Dennis Jones: See the section on reading.

Bible Fact Pack” (Junior Bible Quiz) cards: These cards have a lot of basic information about and from the Bible that We would like our son to learn. It’s presented in an easy to learn and fun way.

Next week I'll tell you about the choices I've made for my 3 year old who's doing kindergarten work.

What do you think so far? What are you doing with your kids at this age and level?

I’m So Overwhelmed - Where to Start

When my oldest son was preschool age, we were considering homeschooling. At the time, we felt overwhelmed about where to start. I like to break overwhelming tasks into smaller chunks, so I decided to break the homeschooling starting process down into steps.

Step 1: Research the homeschool law

I decided some research would be a good place to start. The first thing I decided I needed was the law. I was familiar with what homeschooling looked like having been homeschooled myself. Since I grew up in Wisconsin and now lived in Minnesota, I didn’t know if it was legal to homeschool in Minnesota. Well it turns out it is legal, not only in Minnesota, but also in all 50 states. However, there are different legal requirements for each state. So I familiarized myself with the Minnesota homeschool law. My favorite resource for this is Home School Legal Defense Association or HSLDA for short.

Step 2: Research homeschooling in general

I was homeschooled myself for 12 years, but unfortunately that doesn’t make me an expert at homeschooling my children. There are many homeschoolers out there that are older and wiser than me and there is a lot that they have to offer. I prefer to learn from other people’s mistakes when I can, rather than making my own. So, I went to the homeschool section at the library and checked out piles of homeschooling books. One of the books that I found was most encouraging is “So You’re Thinking About Homeschooling: Fifteen families show how you can do it!” by Lisa Whelchel.

Step 3: Connect with other homeschoolers

I needed encouragement and support from fellow homeschoolers, as well as people that I could ask questions and glean ideas from. We became part of our local homeschool group, Home Educated Youth (HEY), and am fortunate enough to have developed a close friendship with another homeschooling family from our church. We also became members of Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators or MACHE and attended their conference.

Step 4: Determine my teaching goals

The reasons why my husband and I homeschool our children, influence our teaching goals. Sometimes I think of teaching as mentoring or discipling. I like this perspective because it helps me keep my focus on the end game of raising a well-rounded, Godly adult, which requires more than just academics. This helps me prioritize and determine my shorter term goals for the year. Some of the things we wanted our son to learn in kindergarten were the 10 commandments, how to count to 30, and the phonetic alphabet. Two of the books I found most helpful in determining my goals for the year were “Home Learning Year by Year” by Rebecca Rupp and “What Your Kindergartener needs to Know” by E. D. Hirsch, Jr., and John Holdren (Core Knowledge Series).

Step 5: Choose my curriculum

This is one of the steps that I found most overwhelming. There are so many good choices out there and so many different styles. During the preschool years for my son I used workbooks that we picked up at local stores (including the dollar store). I decided to continue with these books for his kindergarten year and build upon that with my own homemade “Letter a Week” curriculum. Then after he finished my own curriculum, I freaked out a little thinking that maybe I hadn’t done enough and we needed a formal curriculum. I chose to go through the A Beka K5 curriculum with him. He breezed through it very quickly to end his kindergarten year. The next year, when my eldest son was in 1st grade, we chose to go with A Beka’s 1st grade child kit because making my own curriculum had been a lot of work and I was still overwhelmed with the choices. By my eldest son’s 2nd grade year, I had done more research into curriculum choices and picked and chose different curriculums for the different subjects. I have since discovered the book “100 Top Picks for Homeschool” by Cathy Duffy. This would have been a helpful resource starting out. I also feel that going with a traditional child curriculum kit, such as A Beka or Bob Jones, for the first year of homeschooling, is an easy way to alleviate some of the overwhelming feeling. I recommend this choice.

Step 6: Design a schedule

I started by determining when I wanted to start and finish the school year and how much time I wanted off for things like Thanksgiving and Christmas vacation. In future years I also had to consider such things as the birth of another child. Then I calculated how many school days I would have. From there I looked at each subject and determined how many pages of a book or assignments in a subject to do how often. For example in 1st grade for math we did 2 pages of the workbook per day, 1 test per week, 1 speed drill per week, and flash cards at least once a week. For other subjects, like social studies, I broke them down differently and did 1 section 2 times a week only during the fall quarter and then did a different subjects during the winter and spring quarters. I gave my self a little leeway for sick days or if we got too busy. This was too much for me to remember so I then made a daily schedule for each quarter of the year.

Step 7: Start teaching

We decided to start slow. Rather than start everything on the first day, I chose to start only handwriting and phonics. The next week I added the rest of the subjects I wanted to teach.

Step 8: Keep Records

Keeping records is not only a legal requirement, but I also see it as a benefit to me. I like to be able to look back on the year and determine what worked well and what didn’t. This helps me when I choose my curriculum for the following year for the same child and also in future years for my other children. I also like to keep notes when I see something I might like to use in the future. This helps make each year a little bit easier than the year before.

How did you get started? Add a comment and help others out.

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