Kindergarten Curriculum Picks for 2017-2018
I'm writing this curriculum post halfway through the year because I wanted a chance to dig into the materials and really use them before settling on them and sharing what we actually use. This ended up being a good choice, because we have made some changes! What follows is a list of the materials I have been enjoying, using consistently, and plan to stick with through the rest of our kindergarten homeschool year!
A Mind In The Light
A Mind In The Light is a curriculum guide, pulling ideas from Charlotte Mason and classical education. It is similar in format to Ambleside Online, if you're familiar with that in the Charlotte Mason world. It drew me in for a few reasons. First, AMITL is more open-ended on the subject of faith, prompting you to add in your own faith studies, and noting when a resource contains a certain worldview. I appreciate that approach as a secular homeschooler, with our own unique set of beliefs that don't perfectly follow a specific denomination. The creator of A Mind In the Light has written many guides that take you through different subjects or books - they're a wonderful resource that dive deeper than reading and narrating. This year we aren't using any of her guides because we're using the Preparatory Level for our 5-year-old, but next year we will get to dig into some as we start Year 1.
The Preparatory Year has been enriching and enjoyable for us both! The book selections have brought forth some favorites, so good that we returned our library books and went out and bought our own copies! The variety in picture book content has fed us with ideas, and the schedule for the day has given us some gentle practice following a schedule for next year as we begin more formally. The curriculum is more of a guide, giving first a schedule, then a curated list of books to read throughout the year. You pick and choose which titles to read each week, which has been nice and stress-free! Other core subjects are covered using your choice of curriculum.
For learning to read, we are using All About Reading Level 1. All About Reading is a really comprehensive program! There are 56 lessons (or close to that number) in the level, which I assume will take us the entire school year. The pace for us has been 1-2 lessons a week. Within a lesson there are a variety of ways to learn and practice the skills - with letter cards, word cards, simple activities on a provided activity page (not a craft! more like a little game on a piece of paper, all you'll need is scissors), using magnetic letter tiles, practice sheets with the current words, and special Readers with a story for each lesson or so. The teacher guide has everything laid out down to the letter, so you don't need to be intimidated to teach reading. It's all right in front of you, along with plenty of tips and tricks to help avoid issues. I like it's thoroughness and plan to continue it for future levels.
*Update: Reading was losing its joy for her, so we stopped halfway though the program and switched to Gentle Lessons in Sight and Sound by A Gentle Feast when she turned six and she made big progress after that. I still think AAR is an awesome program for the right kids!
I wanted to start out very easy for math, so I chose Math U See Primer which is their pre-k/k level. I think starting out easy has bolstered her confidence in math - she asks to do math first! The program is a video/manipulatives/worksheet approach. At the beginning of each lesson, we watch the very short video together, presented by Steve Demme who is the creator of the program. I watch with her so I can see how things are explained, and use his terminology as we work on the worksheets. Math U See uses a "build it / say it / write it" method to math. The math blocks are colorful and fun to use, and really do help you see math! Each lesson comes with around 10 practice sheets to use throughout the week, to help work to mastery, but thrown in there are some older concepts from previous lessons toward the end of the week. Much to my 5-year-old's delight, most lessons end with a dot-to-dot which is a nice natural reward for hard work completed! We have plowed through 28 lessons out of 30 and are only halfway through the year, so I think we might begin the Alpha level in 2018!
At the beginning of the year we were using A Reason for Handwriting for handwriting practice, but the look of the sheets and size of the letters was too difficult, and I could tell it was a struggle, but unnecessarily. For example, on an unlined page she could write certain letters just fine, but then trying to follow these dots on these large lines was making her letters really unnatural looking. So we switched to Handwriting Without Tears and it has been better. We are working through it slowly, doing a page a day, which seems like a good pace.
I started out using Artistic Pursuits (the K-3 book) and was finding the lessons painfully boring to read aloud. The informing ideas weren't getting across at all! As an art lover, I knew I could do better by skimming the idea of the lesson, and just showing her myself, and it went much better! I think the key to art at this age is exploring the materials, so I don't focus much on what she must do, but on how to use the materials.
For Artist Study, I have been using small artist print cards from Miller Paper, but I recently got a few Simply Charlotte Mason Artist Study Portfolios that we will use for the next year and I'm really excited about those because they are gorgeous! I've seen some people put the art of the week into a frame and keep it on display - so I might give that a try.
Writing / Composition
I don't plan to use this much yet at age 5, but I have Jot It Down from Brave Writer so we can pick and choose projects from it to do for fun. The ideas are really playful, creative, and support thinking processes necessary for later writing and composition skills. I love Julie Bogart's approach and totally believe in it.
History & Geography
We are covering history gently using A Mind In The Light books, an anthology I found called From Sea to Shining Sea, and reading a few biographies of notorious people (George Washington Carver, Emily Dickenson, etc.). I tie in geography here and there as we come across a place in our reading, where we run and find it on the map and see how close (or far!) it is from where we live.
I only just recently added foreign language because I was being really indecisive about which program to use, and a little overwhelmed with committing. I settled on Rosetta Stone, as it is audio based and available on a mobile app. The mobile app means we can quickly and easily practice our Spanish anytime! So far, so good.
We listen to music many times throughout the day, and I don't consider it a study of the music in any formal way. It just becomes part of our daily environment to listen to the Ambleside Online Composer in the morning and the Ambleside Online suggested Folk Songs in the car on the way to music lessons! We also do a twice a month music lesson with a local musician which has been the highlight of our school experience!
Science & Nature Study
Our main source of science and nature study is being in nature! I have made this a big focus this year. We try to get outside in nature every day, go on a nature hike in the woods once a week, and go on a group hike with local homeschooling friends once a month. To enhance this, I use Exploring Nature With Children to guide our walks with some ideas of what to look out for as the seasons change, and use this for weekly library book ideas. A Mind In the Light also has a substantial list of nature books in the Preparatory Level we have been enjoying! We do nature journal as well, but not too consistently lately. I think we will start to make it a habit to pull them out when we get home from our weekly hike.
Oh, We're Halfway There...
Although in a Charlotte Mason education, formal schooling doesn't begin until age 6, we have had an amazing time so far doing Kindergarten! I keep lessons very short, and most subjects are only touched once a week, so our "school day" is done in about an hour. That doesn't include things that fall outside of that morning lesson time of course. Music, art, handicrafts, nature, and extra reading are done all throughout the day as we please! Starting to follow Charlotte Mason's methods this year has given me a huge boost of confidence to tackle it more formally for First Grade next school year!