Agent A will turn five in November. While we likely would not have sent him to public school this year (although technically he could have started, per our state's age guidelines), as far as homeschooling goes we are considering this his kindergarten year.
My intention with kindergarten is to focus only on reading readiness and early math skills. For this post, I’m concentrating on reading.
I should point out that when I say “focus on” I mean that’s what’s in my own brain on my own loose agenda for my own objective of having a vague endgame. We don’t follow any sort of learn-to-read program or language arts curriculum. We take a more relaxed approach—encouraging natural learning through day-to-day activities and fun.
But what does this look like in practice? How, specifically, can you inspire learning in your five-ish-year-old without using a set plan? What do you actually do?
Because I love a good list, following are 10 ways we “do” kindergarten literacy at our house without formal structure.
1. I read books to him. Or his Dad does. Or one of his sisters. Some are books he is capable of reading himself, others are above his reading level, but the concept of being read to never gets old at that age.
2. He reads books to me. Or to Dad. Or to his sisters. Mostly these are the early readers marked ready to read or level one. Some are old favorites he pretty much has memorized, although he has moved from simply retelling the story to actually hitting every single word on the page. Others are new to him and unknown words require some prompting.
3. We read books together. Sometimes it’s not that the text itself is too difficult, but that the book length is intimidating (e.g., some Dr. Seuss and old school Curious George, which tend to have simple sentences and lots of illustrations but also a high page count). Rather than have him get discouraged halfway through, we alternate pages. (And yes, he notices when my side has a disproportionate number of pictures!)
4. He practices handwriting. I don’t really ask him to do this, per se, but he knows how to form many of the letters and enjoys writing them. This may be on a piece of paper with a pencil, but it might also be on a dry erase board with markers or with chalk in the driveway.
5. He learns how to spell words. Often he just wants to repeat the letters back to me, but he sometimes writes them down, too. He also spells out words (with my help or unassisted) using magnetic letters or wooden blocks.
6. We play the Super Why game. My sister bought him this for Christmas last year, and he just loves it. It’s a simple board game where you answer questions from Alpha Pig (letter recognition), Wonder Red (rhyming), Princess Presto (spelling), and Super Why (comprehension). He insists Dear Hubby play at least three rounds with him every Saturday morning.
7. He sits in on his sisters’ schoolwork. Often he is off doing his own thing while I work with the girls, but sometimes he joins us. He may not comprehend everything we’re reading, but he likes to listen. Occasionally he will even sit at the table with them while they do their written work and have his own “school” time.
8. We go to the library. For the most part he picks out his own books, although sometimes I have to rein him in; I can only carry so many. He has favorites and even remembers where they are on the shelves. We’ll read each of them at least once over the course of the week, some way more. (I’m pretty sure I could recite any Elephant and Piggie book on command.)
9. He reads books and plays word games on the Kindle. We bought the Agents a shared one for Christmas last year, which included a year of Kindle Free Time. He especially loves the Sandra Boynton books (we have many of these in hard copy as well) and the PBS Kids games.
10. He watches educational videos with the subtitles on. Favorites include Word Word, Super Why, Blue’s Clues, Peg + Cat, and Daniel Tiger. Often we watch together (or his sisters watch with him . . . they still like these “preschool” shows although they might not admit it). They are fun ways to introduce not only reading, but also math, problem solving, handing emotions, and social skills. (I confess to having used Daniel Tiger parallels to make a point on more than one occasion.)