Notice how I didn’t state an age, but rather worded it as “Kindergarten-ready child?” Because every child is different, especially when it comes to readiness. And designating an age of readiness really bothers me. We, as parents and caregivers, know our child(ren) and out of all the people in the world, are most familiar with each child’s specific interests and signs of readiness. We don’t schedule lessons, we don’t have a time of day…we just look for the interest when it happens and go with it. Learning isn’t scheduled for us, we are very relaxed. It may happen every day for four days in a row. It may be something as simple as kiddo asking about the Milky Way, and since I am no Galileo, I end up googling and discussing any time of day, over coffee or wine (both drinks I enjoy, not the kids). So, in alignment with the philosophy of Minimalism (and from my experience as a former teacher), here is how I kicked off the start of my kiddo’s educational journey, which is now just beginning:
I. Learning about the world
-A globe: hold it in your hands; having a hand-held model of the earth is key. After searching high and low, looking for the perfect globe, I realized none of them would do. I didn’t want one with borders (yet). I didn’t want lines of latitude and longitude (yet). And finding an affordable physical model seemed impossible, until I looked for something handcrafted. I found this model here crafted by John Pierson on Etsy and must say that it is just perfect.
-A microscope: basic, but decent quality, we invested in an AmScope forward mounted stereo microscope, and searched on eBay for various sets of specimens on slides (some of which are vintage, which is cool). With the exception of winter, our kiddo hunts year-round for insect and plant specimens to examine, which leads to great conversation.
-A telescope: everyone in the household can enjoy this and, whether it happens to just be on sale or it is Amazon Prime Day (or Black Friday), this one here is pretty affordable. I actually bought it for my husband for a birthday gift over a year ago and we have YET to use it! But! We soon will. It is on our summer bucket list.
-Story Bots and Wild Kratts! on Netflix (trust me!)
And experiences are just as handy, so take your kid camping, canoeing, or mountain hiking to learn about the world.
-Read-Alouds are important, and best practice for any age, whether a Harry Potter book, Eric Carle’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see?, or DIG magazine. 15 minutes a day is all that it takes to introduce your child to the practice of reading and letters and words themselves.
-I Can Read book sets (levels pre-k or 1/first reader). I got the Superman set, as well as the Spiderman one, as my kiddo really loves those two comic book heroes.
-Sight word cards, which you can make yourself with index cards. I use one color marker for what I call the beginnings of words and another color marker for the endings. My beginning cards have br, sp, sl, st, sm, cr, cl, dr, etc. and my ending cards have am, at, ug, um, ag, ing, ink, etc. And we make a fun game of mix and match words. I even found an old set of plastic tiles with words!
III. Basic Math
-Ticonderoga pencils, My First Tri-Write
-Rainbow dominoes are great for adding and subtracting (see the dab it sheets below)
–Dab it addition and subtraction worksheets, free downloads (I search and search, and this site here has so many free worksheets, easy to download). When I sit down with my kiddo, I have one of the above-mentioned pencils and about a dozen of the same color of domino-style blocks, oh and one set of Dauber Dawgs markers. I make sure the markers are “juiced” and ready-to-dab. Using the blocks for addition, kiddo counts out the number of blocks for the first number and then, in a row above that counts out the next amount of blocks for the second number shown. Then, counts the total, picks up pencil and writes the answer, then chooses a marker and dabs the correct answer.
-And if money allows for it, a light table and translucent two-dimensional shapes and three-dimensional shapes are a great way to introduce geometry. If money is tight, these Melissa & Doug shapes and boards work great.
IV. Music & Art
-We have music on all the time! Bluegrass, Rockabilly, Classical, and even the Rolling Stones and Buena Vista Social Club. Background music, especially solely instrumental, when learning is great!
-Sidewalk chalk, modeling dough, origami paper, dry erase markers, and enormous dry erase board, and finger paints along with a roll of finger paint paper are all supplies we keep around.
-Just like when I was a teacher, I am pretty much against workbooks. I mean, if I could design my own, would LOVE IT! With my first kiddo–who is now a teen AND a public school student–I used Kumon workbooks over summer (yes, I once was the teacher-parent who kept their kid doing workbooks when school was out of session) and had kiddo choose any three pages from any workbook and just sit for 15 minutes during or after breakfast to work with pencil in-hand. Well, now with my unschooler, I still love Kumon workbooks and have a random bunch that he sometimes may work out of, if it interests him.
VI. World Religions
Hell yes, we are an atheist household, but we are a progressive one! And I am a humanist chaplain, so teaching my kids about people all around our world and giving them a sense of their foods, music, culture, and customs (and yes, religious beliefs) in a way that is not indoctrinating them is kosher by my standards. Here is a PowerPoint I designed (it is not perfect, but a decent resource) that can help parents sit down and toggle along, exploring, in a general sense, world religions.
Our goal for our unschooler is to support his needs as he develops a good sense of, and practices, self-directed learning. Given his personality thus far, we may have an autodidact on my hands (exciting!). Here is a great blog post about that, by a fellow blogging fam. Free play is the most important feature of any given day for our kids, especially under the age of seven years old. Schooling, whether public or private, would eliminate and restrict so much of that : (