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Teaching Kindergartners

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By Tamara Eaton

This article was written by Tamara for the readers of the Christian Interactive Network's Homeschool Forum and is reprinted here.

Reading Readiness

I wrote this recently in response to a mother's question concerning whether she should teach her young son to read yet. It appeared that he was interested even though he was only around 3 1/2 or 4. I'm posting my response here in case others might want to respond and put in their "2 cents worth" as well. We learn so much when we can share experiences with each other!
Although there are some who say that children shouldn't be taught to read at such a young age, I believe that much depends upon the interest level and maturity of the child.

Certainly you may provide the very best "reading readiness" training in the way of reading aloud wonderful books to your son! Answer his questions. Let him learn all he wants to learn, at his own pace, but never push him!
I adamantly believe that children this age should not be pushed or pressured into formal academics. Yet, at the same time, neither should we hold back information from them if they are interested!

I have a son who just turned 4 in Jan. and he has been trying his best to learn everything he possibly can--reading, writing, math, geography, science, history, etc.! It's all I can do to keep up with him! But I don't push it, and I let him lead me in his learning.
Some days all I do is answer his questions, other days I do work a little bit with him. He has observed his older siblings and parents taking out books from the library when they've wanted to learn something, so he has begun to request library books on specific topics.

For days he wanted to understand how electricity worked, especially regarding how light switches turned a light on...I found a library book for him which explained it in as simple terms as possible, and read it aloud to him.
Last night, he couldn't get to sleep and he called me in to tell me how he was thinking about robots. He had been thinking about how to design one of his own. He told me, step by step what he would do to build a robot, including the fact that he would include a small computer in the middle!

This little guy has seemed especially gifted in some areas and it has challenged me to keep up with him! But he has been exposed to a learning atmosphere in the home all his life. As a nursing baby, he attended all his older siblings homeschooling "classes" from the start! Who knows how much has penetrated his brain!
In a very real sense, God has created all of our children gifted, it's just up to the parents to help discern the gifts and encourage the children in their unique areas of interest!

If you do nothing more than read good literature aloud to him, answer his questions, take him exploring and keep the TV time severely curtailed, then you will have provided excellent "reading readiness" as well as prepared him for education in other areas as well!

You wrote ... "It is not an easy task to know when our children are ready to learn to read, but then, we all love challenges or else we wouldn't be home schooling!"

You are so right, in order to know this, we must pay attention to our child, in order to pay attention to our child, we must spend time with him! In order to spend time with him, we must willingly lay aside some of our own goals or hobbies and sacrificially give ourselves to our children!

HOWEVER, this doesn't mean that we can never have any time to ourselves. A contented child often spends hours in imaginative play or on informal hobbies, or later in reading, writing, etc. My own youngest two (2 1/2 and 4) spent all morning outside taking care of a little bug they found.

They created a "home" for it, put dirt and grass in it, fed it bread crumbs and had a ball! Unfortunately, a few minutes ago, Joel came in with a sad expression, with little Alena trailing right behind, and said, "Mama, I have some very sad news. Our little bug is dead. I think that an ant must have crawled up on him and smushed him! We worked very hard taking care of him all day." I had to hug them so they couldn't see my expression! It was so funny, but touching and I didn't want them to see my smile!

And while it is a challenge to discern just when a child is ready to read, etc., it's not nearly as much of a challenge as it would be if we tried to teach them when they weren't ready! Now, THAT can be frustrating!

If a parent reads aloud often to the child, and shows by example the value of books and the pleasure of reading...eventually the child is going to have a strong desire to read for himself. My four yr. old is now working on a phonics lesson (a short one!) with an older sister. He begged someone to teach him so he could learn how to read books by himself to his little sister! Another GREAT moment to write down in my journal! What a blessing and privilege to be a mother!

Getting Started!

I ran across my Kindergarten lesson planners /journals recently when I was looking for a book; these covered all the years I taught Kindergarten to my older four children. I had not looked at them in a long time and it was fun to see the comments I made as each one learned new things. There were gaps in those journals, as well. But I venture to say that not a day went by that I didn't teach the children *something* and I'll bet you would be able to say the same thing concerning teaching your little ones, if you would stop long enough to think about it. We are teaching all the time, if not in words, then by our example.

Here are some suggestions if you are just beginning to homeschool your kindergartner. Don't be overwhelmed! It's easier than you think!

The first thing I would suggest is that you set realistic goals. For example, if you have younger children or a baby as well as a kindergartner, it might work best for you if you would set aside maybe 2 days a week to work on your kindergarten materials with your kindergartner. (Perhaps anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour for each of those two days.) The other days in the week you could mention the sounds, or material you've just covered and review with him for a few minutes while you clean the kitchen or fold the clothes, etc. One of my children learned all her phonics by this method and it worked very well for us this way. Besides, if you do something 21 days, it's supposed to make it a habit! It won't be difficult to be consistent!
Then read aloud to your children, explore new things with them, go for long nature walks, answer their questions, satisfy their natural curiosity by looking things up together, visit your local public library, build up your home library with interesting and fun books! Have FUN with your children, make the most of these years you have together!

I have had many families say that they enjoyed using the book, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I might say that although I have never used this program, it's supposed to be excellent as long as you add *phonics rules* sometime along the way. While this program teaches children to blend sounds, it doesn't teach phonics rules and this is extremely necessary! (Otherwise children won't understand how to know which sound to use in every word.) For that you might want to either get a book to use yourself in order to learn how to teach the rules, then turn around and teach your child, or something your child could use as well.

I used Spaulding's Writing Road to Reading for myself, and turned around and taught the kids. It's nicely organized so that each rule is easy to find and very systematic. Also, you might want to check into Samuel Blumenfeld's Alpha-Phonics or his How to Tutor book. Our local library has the How to Tutor and it's wonderful--especially for those new to teaching. I'm not sure how extensively this book covers all the phonics rules. I don't remember. But I do know his Alpha-Phonics is intensive phonics training.

Homeschooling your Kindergartner is lots of fun! Get ready for the ADVENTURES! Feel free to add your comments or post any questions you might have!

Teachable Moments!

When I think of kindergarten, I don't think of a set aside time each day to do just "academics" but rather making the most of *many* "teachable moments" which occur in the course of the day.

We usually *would* spend some time around 10:00 a.m. reading aloud or learning a little phonics or math, but nothing that lasted long, and nothing that just HAD to be done (whether the child was in the mood or not!).

Young children are so curious about everything and ready to soak in all sorts of valuable information about everything! I don't know how many times in the day my little ones interrupt me to show me something *really* exciting! It's usually always worth going to see. Children do their best learning when they are excited about something. This is such a fun age to teach! Later, we must teach them that there will be times when learning is hard work and not much fun, but not now!

Phonics and Reading!

What is Phonics?

It is the phonetic approach in which students learn to sound out letters and syllables. The opposite approach is the "look-say" method in which word recognition is taught. Most of the baby boomers were taught by that method with only a bit (if any) phonics thrown in...

I personally think the best time to teach it is when the child shows an interest in learning to read. Whether it be 3 or 6 or somewhere in between. I wouldn't be worried if they weren't catching on too well even if they were 7, but I'd definitely be working with them! Some do mature at different times, as I've frequently mentioned in my posts about my own children learning to read.


My children have always seemed to learn their ABC's at an early age from their older siblings or when I'd play simple games with them. Once they learn their ABC's, I begin to teach them the sound of all the letters. When I cover vowels, I begin with the short vowel sounds, and tell them the long vowels say their own name so that makes it easier to remember. We have some cute little stories which make different rules easier to remember. It's so cute to see them sit there with their eyes lit up, just waiting to hear the story! They remember the rules well this way, and even the older kids would sometimes creep in to hear the old familiar "phonics" stories which they liked so well.

We work a bit on blending and sounding short words out, and spend a lot of time on me reading aloud to them. We have always read aloud to them at least twice a day, sometimes more. Having older siblings helps here also. But I do it at least once a day myself. It's fun to have them snuggled up with me in the big recliner reading lovely stories.

As they learn, they read aloud to me...but I don't wait FOREVER for them to sound out every word. I give them time, but if they're frustrated, I help them along. Reading is a pleasure, even though learning to read can be hard work at times. I don't want it to be too hard or something they dislike. SO I go easy on them and they are able to catch on quickly by reading along with me too.

Consistency!

A big concern for many new homeschooling parents or parents planning to begin homeschooling in the fall, is consistency. The whole homeschooling process seems overwhelming at times and they're wondering how they will ever be able to consistently get all the schooling completed every day.

This isn't a problem for parents of young children if they can be convinced that homeschooling doesn't have to imitate a "traditional, formal classroom" atmosphere. Young children don't need hours of "formal" schooling a day to learn the necessary skills and academics. Instead they do just as well by having a short amount of time to go over new materials and practice phonics or simple math, then having those lessons reinforced naturally as the family goes about their daily routine. As they're doing laundry, practicing the sounds of new letters learned that day. Setting the table, counting out the forks and spoons. Stirring up a batch of cookies or bread, teaching them the amount in a cup or a tablespoon. Taking walks outdoors explaining the process of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, the way trees and flowers reproduce, how a mother bird cares for her baby birds.

The easiest way to learn to be consistent with schooling is by "biting off small chunks at at time". Don't set too many unrealistic goals!

Time is often needed to adjust to homeschooling if you have older children who have already been in public or private schools. They may have trouble at first in exploring new things on their own because they're used to someone telling them exactly what to do all the time. Give them a reasonable amount of work to do, then give them time to get used to the idea of schooling at home. Teach them to help with the laundry, let them plan, cook, and bake meals. Ask them to help choose their new text books or homeschooling materials. Let them have time to learn how to just BE with the family again during the week! Let everyone work on having good attitudes! Sometimes it's necessary to lay aside academics for a day or two just to work on having good manners and respect toward one another!

If you fear your children are not learning enough this way and you're nervous, then read aloud to them each day! Make it interesting! Chapter books like Laura Ingalls Wilder's books, biographies, interesting books about animals or nature such as Little Rascal, or My Side of the Mountain, etc. Or read interesting books about history, there are many available for all ages, and even very young ones love to hear the adventures of Abraham Lincoln, etc.
If your children need help with their writing, write letters together! Make a family newspaper together and send it out to Grandma or other relatives.

Don't set yourself and your children up for burnout and failure by setting overwhelming goals at first. Give yourself time to adjust to homeschooling and to find a plan that will work consistently for YOUR family.

Precious Promises!

Here are a few of the many great Scriptures you can pray over your children:

"...I (the Lord) will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children." Isaiah 49:25

"All thy children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of thy children." Isaiah 53:13

"...I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring; They will spring up among the grass like willows by the watercourses." Isaiah 44:3,4.

Copyright 1995 by Tamara Eaton

Permission is given to reprint any of Tamara's articles in non-profit publications as long as the article is reprinted in full and contains the copyright information and website address. Please send a copy of the publication to:CHF Web, P.O. Box 909, Killen, AL 35645.

Copyright ©  1995  Eclectic Homeschool Association

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