How We Pulled Off an Entire Year of Homeschool for FREE

How We Pulled Off an Entire Year of FREE Curriculum

Hi there! Join me this month for the My Journey to Homeschool series. In this series, I’ll be sharing the why behind our homeschool and the process it took to get there.

If you missed last week’s post Why We REALLY Homeschool |The Honest Truth, read it here.

This week, I’ll be sharing how we pulled off an entire year of free curriculum during our first penny-pinching homeschool years.

If you’re new here, welcome! My name is Nike and I’m entering my fourth homeschool year with a new kindergartner and third grader.

Nike Anderson

 

Can you believe I’ve never written a proper curriculum review? Well, you’re in for a treat because I’ll be reviewing our entire year of free curriculum for devotional, language arts, reading, math, science, and geography!

Basically, the first two years of our homeschool journey was a free curriculum frenzy. Before I invested money in a box curriculum, I first wanted to see what resources were available for FREE. I was shocked to find awesome quality resources for kindergarten through second-grade—and beyond! I’ve even made a few resources myself. Visit my FREEBIES page to check some of them out!

I was in resource heaven putting together a comprehensive curriculum for my then first-grader, but I admit it was so much work! Maybe I can help alleviate some of the workload for you by giving you the links to everything we used in one blog post? Of course, this is only helpful if you have a first or second-grader (or an advanced kindergartner). However, some of these resources have curricula available for grades up through high-school.

To make things even better, I’ll give you a brief description of each resource, as well as the pros and cons of each. Are you ready?

Here’s What We Used:

 

1. Devotional—180 Days of Memory Verses

About:

This resource is my collective 180-day Bible series for kids that covers 36 scriptures or one memory verse each week! I created this resource because we needed fun activities to accompany our memory verses. It includes 180 fun activities that are designed to improve cognitive skills by helping children to think, reason, and write for themselves. The activities also encourage children to strengthen fine motor skills, encourage creativity, and strengthen handwriting skills. The following topics are covered:

Obviously, this resource was free for me because I created it. However, I do offer the series “God Thinks I’m Awesome” for FREE, here!

Pros:

First, the activities for this resource are great for helping children learn edifying scripture. There’s an activity for each weekday, Monday thru Friday, that requires children to do the following for each memory verse:

  • Activity 1—Draw what the verse means to you.
  • Activity 2—Write a sentence about the verse.
  • Activity 3—Arrange the verse (cut-and-paste activity).
  • Activity 4—Trace the verse.
  • Activity 5—Color the picture.
180 Days of Memory Verse Activities for Kids
180 Days of Memory Verse Activities for Kids | Drawing what the verse means to them was one of their favorite activities!

Second, my boys loved learning their verses while doing these activities! The memory verses were a terrific addition to our family devotional time. They inspired my boys to ask questions and encouraged great conversation. The memory verses are also designed to be palatable for young children, as my youngest son was three-years-old when we utilized this resource. Therefore, the verses are kept short and sweet, and the activities provide lots of repetition for mastery.

Third, this is a top-selling resource at Nike Anderson’s Classroom. By the looks of the reviews, other teachers, parents, and students have been loving this resource, too! All the scriptures included in this resource are available for patrons to view before downloading the product, so it’s clear exactly what verses are covered and how they are worded in each series.

Cons:

The activities are designed for younger children from pre-k through third-grade, which means some of the verses in the activities have been re-phrased for palatability and understanding. You’ll mainly find this to be true for the “Our God the Creator” series, which summarizes some of the Genesis verses to “God created light on the first day,” “God created the sky on the second day,” and so forth. This hasn’t been a problem for us since we always read and review the verses straight from the Bible before completing the activities.

 

2. Language Arts—All-In-One Homeschool (Level 1)

About:

If you’re not familiar with the All-In-One Homeschool, it’s an online comprehensive Christian-based curriculum that is free to use!  While I’m going to talk about their level one language arts curriculum, this resource offers curricula for all core subjects for grades pre-k through high school. It even offers electives like Bible, Art, Computer, Foreign Languages, and more! As I mentioned, it’s free, but you’ll need access to the internet, computer, and basic school supplies to take advantage of this resource.

My first-grader enjoyed the Language Arts 1 curriculum. This curriculum offers a basic review of phonics before delving into the following concepts for first and/or second graders:

  • Nouns
  • Pronouns
  • Synonyms
  • Plurals
  • Punctuation
  • Digraphs
  • Literature (Poetry from Abroad, Crane)
  • Story sequencing
  • Writing
  • Spelling
  • And more!
All-In-One Homeschool Language Arts 1 | Cut & paste story sequencing was a huge hit!
All-In-One Homeschool Language Arts 1 | Cut & paste story sequencing was a huge hit!

Pros:

First, let me say that this curriculum was well organized and easy to follow. The author did a phenomenal job arranging virtual worksheets, games, quizzes, and activity ideas for each subject. It is no-prep and no-nonsense!

Second, I loved that this curriculum was comprehensive and covered all the key concepts for first and second grade. I felt pretty confident that my child was getting a solid foundation in literature.

Third, I loved that this curriculum sets students up to work independently. Provided your child has great fluency in reading, they can totally work independently on this curriculum.

Lastly, incorporating levels rather than grades is another great concept. If a level is too easy or difficult for a child, they can be moved up or down to fit their academic need. Since all the levels are available at your fingertips, you can actually skim through them and extract from each one. For instance, your child may be ready to move up to level two for grammar but may have to stay on level one for spelling. The flexibility is awesome!

Cons:

I had to supplement this curriculum to incorporate more repetition and practice for mastery with certain concepts. I also ended up using another curriculum for spelling, as I did not like AIO’s setup for learning spelling words. I want to stress that every curriculum has different standards and will cover different concepts and topics. It’s up to you to decipher which topics outside the curriculum you’d like to cover. For me, using extra worksheets and free printables wasn’t much of a problem. But it does mean you have to search them out, making it an extra thing to add to your to-do list.

 

3. Reading—All-In-One Homeschool (Level 1)

About:

This online Christian-based reading curriculum by All-In-One Homeschool is designed to introduce readers to full-length novels, practice narration and summarizing, and improve vocabulary and comprehension. The curriculum uses the following literature:

  • The Tale of Jolly Robin by Bailey
  • The Tale of Solomon Owl by Bailey
  • The Tale of Reddy Woodpecker by Bailey
  • The Adventures of Danny Meadow Mouse by Burgess
  • Buster Bear by Burgess
  • McGuffey’s Second Eclectic Reader
  • Beatrix Potter stories
  • A variety of other short stories and poems

This resource can be used primarily online or you can purchase the materials in book form for just $15.

Pros:

First, the curriculum had a great choice of literature with advanced vocabulary. The vocabulary is challenging, yet appropriate, and not too overwhelming.

Second, I loved the fact that the curriculum introduced my first-grader to chapter books. He really enjoyed reading the novels authored by Bailey.

Lastly, this curriculum was no fuss and easy-to-follow. There’s also an audio option available, which is great because children can listen and follow along with the hardcopy at the same time—giving them an ear for what proper reading fluency sounds like.

All-In-One Homeschool Reading 1
All-In-One Homeschool Reading 1 | Inference practice on the whiteboard to accompany our reading lesson!

Cons:

The major con was that this curriculum is online. If you do not want your child to read entire chapters on the computer, you must print out the chapters, which can cost you ink and paper. Otherwise, purchasing the materials in book form is the better bet, but that defeats the whole purpose of the curriculum being free. Still, I think it’s a wise investment if you want your child to hold a physical book while reading.

Another con was that there were very few follow-up questions for each chapter, which means if you’re keeping a reading journal you’ll have to think of clever entry questions yourself. Children are just encouraged to “tell someone about the chapter,” which is fine, but not very thought-provoking.

My son was also disinterred in most of the literature selections and struggled to relate to the reading material. All-in-all, this was not our favorite curriculum.

 

4. Math—All-In-One Homeschool (Level 2)

About:

This is another curriculum from the free online Christian-based resource All-In-One Homeschool. This comprehensive math curriculum covers the following concepts for first and second graders:

  • Grids
  • Number lines
  • Graphs
  • Pie charts
  • Place value
  • Word problems
  • Money
  • Time
  • Measurement
  • Fractions
  • Fact families
  • Regrouping
  • Memorizing addition and subtraction facts

This curriculum comprises levels rather than grades, so it’s advisable to ensure the material is appropriate for your child’s mastery level before you begin. This curriculum is also set up for independent learning, so strong reading skills are required unless the child is accompanied by an adult.

Pros:

First, I loved the access to other free resources. There were a ton of free awesome math games for fluency practice! My son enjoyed playing most of the games and they really did help him understand and master the material.

Second, I loved that the first half of the curriculum focused on practicing mental math for sums up to 20, which is essential for advancing to a third-grade math level.

Lastly, I loved that this curriculum encouraged hands-on learning with manipulatives you can find in your home. Hands-on learning is so important at this age!

All-In-One Homeschool Math 2 | Hands-on practice with our lesson on money!
All-In-One Homeschool Math 2 | Hands-on practice with our lesson on money!

Cons:

This math curriculum did not cover multiplication. At least not to the degree that it should, considering it’s recommended that second-graders know how to multiply fluently by 2’s, 3’s and 5’s by the end of the school year. There’s some coverage on skip counting but not necessarily multiplication factors and products, so if this is important to you be sure to give your child more practice using supplementary materials.  There is not much material on adding or regrouping three-digit numbers, either. Again, I recommend supplementary materials if you wish to learn and practice advanced regrouping.

 

5. Science—The Magic School Bus (K-2)

About:

This is a comprehensive science curriculum that includes videos, lesson plans, experiments, and activity pages for pre-K thru second-grade. There are twelve units and topics covered:

  • Space
  • Forces
  • Weather
  • Energy
  • In the home
  • The human body
  • Animals
  • Reptiles
  • Birds
  • Dinosaurs
  • Fossils
  • Archaeology
  • Bugs
  • Water
  • Sealife
  • Rocks
  • Volcanoes
  • Habitats

All twelve units encompass a 180-day curriculum with corresponding episodes from The Magic School Bus. That means there’s something to do for every weekday of the school year!

Pros:

First, the experiments were easy to do and most of the materials needed could be found right in my home. I recommend printing out all the experiments for the week and making a checklist to ensure you have everything you need.

Second, I loved that the curriculum was no-prep. The lessons provided notations for the instructor explaining what students should learn, key terms, and what questions to ask the students, among other things. There was no additional research required unless my boys wished to advance in a topic.

The third thing I loved about this free curriculum was that it was pretty adaptable and I did not have to cover all the topics in sequence. There were many weeks where we jumped to other topics that were more relevant to my children’s current interests.

Lastly, I loved that this curriculum included a list of recommended books for each unit. That made reserving library books and planning ahead much easier. It also meant I didn’t have to struggle to find supplementary materials!

The Magic School Bus Science Curriculum
The Magic School Bus Science Curriculum | A fun lesson on constellations included making telescopes that looked like we were looking at the Big Dipper!

Cons:

While the Magic School Bus curriculum is great, especially for those moms who aren’t well versed in science, I do forewarn that older children (closer to second grade) may become bored or unimpressed by some of the experiments. This is definitely a curriculum for the younger ones who are new to science. My then seven-year-old, who took STEM classes at the time, started to lose interest in the curriculum by the second semester. However, he loved watching the corresponding episodes!

 

6. Geography—50 States of the USA

About:

I created this 50 States of the USA resource as a gentle introduction to geography for anyone looking to go through the US map state-by-state.  Each activity covers all 50 states, including the state capital, and aims to build and strengthen the following skills for grades pre-k thru first-grade:

  • Trace it—Penmanship.
  • Find it—Critical thinking and problem-solving.
  • Color it—Creativity and fine motor skills.

These activities not only help familiarize children with the US map, but helps children learn how to recognize and spell state names and recognize state flags.

Pros:

First, this product is wallet friendly. This product was only free for me because I created it, but I do have a freebie available, here, for those interested in trying it out. The freebie includes three states, Alaska, Rhode Island, and DC. If you’re interested in the full set, it is available at Nike Anderson’s Classroom and is extremely affordable. It is also currently my Best Seller.

Second, the activities in this resource not only helped familiarize my children with the US map, but also helped them learn how to recognize and spell state names and recognize state flags. It also covered state abbreviations and regions. My boys learned so much and enjoyed coloring the flags for each state.

Third, this resource is very buildable. I maximized this resource by supplementing it with other free resources. I checked-out books from the local library, I utilized the political maps in our classroom, and we watched National Geographic Kids’ YouTube channel that has awesome educational videos for almost every US state.

Lastly, this resource is no-nonsense and easy to use. It doesn’t bombard children with a bunch of facts and is a very gentle introduction to US geography.

See what other teachers and parents had to say about this best-selling resource at Nike Anderson’s Classroom!

 

50 States of the USA Geography | A fun activity to accompany our lesson on Illinois!
50 States of the USA Geography | A fun activity to accompany our lesson on Illinois!

Cons:

This resource is not a comprehensive curriculum, so you will need to supplement it. For a more comprehensive curriculum that covers regions, capitals, fun facts, and more, I created the All About the 50 States of the USA mega bundle.


Would I recommend these resources to a friend? I have actually recommended all of them to any friend that asks for curriculum advice. You’ll hear me mention often that it’s not the curriculum itself, but what you put into the curriculum that makes it effective. Where I felt a curriculum lacked, I simply supplemented. However, I’ve even had to supplement some of the boxed curriculum I purchased. Which goes to show that every curriculum will have “holes.” There’s no such thing as a perfect curriculum. If you don’t believe me, read the forums for some of the most recommended award-winning curricula and you’ll see not everyone is impressed by them.

I want to hear from you: Have you ever tried any of these freebies? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!  


DOWNLOAD YOUR 50 States of the USA FREEBIE!

Geography 50 States of the USA FREE Download Activity

 

DOWNLOAD YOUR 180 Days of Memory Verses FREEBIE!

180 Days of Memory Verses for KIDS Free Download

 

GET FULL COPY of 50 States of the USA!

50 States of the USA Geography Activities for Kids

 

GET FULL COPY of 180 Days of Memory Verses

180 Days of Memory Verses for Kids

Fun Summer MATH Activities for First, Second, and Third Grade.

How We Practice Math Fluency | Grades K-3

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

Math practice may seem redundant but it’s necessary to build and maintain fluency. To minimize “summer brain drain,” I wanted to introduce my kindergartner and second-grader to a new way of practicing math facts. Typically, I require them to complete one small worksheet a day during the summer months to keep their brains sharp. This year, however, I’ll be shaking things up a little bit.

Math Practice Activity Binder

Allow me to introduce my latest product at Nike Anderson’s Classroom, “My Math Practice Activity Binder!” This binder is a comprehensive bundle of activities that help facilitate math fluency for first, second, and third graders, depending on mastery level.

This resource includes 43 hands-on activities. Activities include addition, subtraction, regrouping, Arabic and Roman numerals, time, temperature, money, fractions, conversions, rounding numbers, multiplication, and division. Read the details below.

Nike Anderson shares Interactive Math Activities for First, Second, Third Grade.

Math Practice Activity Binder for First, Second, and Third GradeBUY NOW!

What inspired me to create this resource? I purchased a similar binder for my kindergartner with the intention of using it for summer practice and my second-grader griped about wanting one also. I couldn’t find a similar product that included all the key math concepts he learned this year, so I decided to create one for his grade level.

While I chose to use Velcro fasteners for repeated use, dry-erase markers may also be used to complete laminated activities for those of you who’d rather forgo the cutting. My boys absolutely love the Velcro fasteners, though, which are used to attach the answers to each math problem.

As a simple storage solution, I placed all the answer tabs into an envelope and used Velcro fasteners on the flap of each envelope. This ensures secure storage and the ability to reopen the envelope when needed. I also two-hole punched the envelopes so that I could store them in the binder next to their corresponding activity. See below for details!

Interactive Math Activities for First, Second, and Third GradeUse RepeadedlyEasy Storage SolutionBUY NOW!

What skills does this activity binder help students develop and strengthen? Fluency in addition, subtraction, regrouping, Arabic and Roman numerals, time, temperature, money, fractions, conversions, rounding numbers, multiplication, and division, as well as the following:

  • Analytical thinking
  • Critical thinking
  • Logic
  • Problem-solving
  • Quantitative reasoning
  • Independence

Other uses for this resource include cut and paste, file folder games, math center activities, dry-erase workbook, interactive notebook, and more! You do not have to use this resource solely as an activity binder. Read below for details.

Activity BinderBUY NOW!


Nike Anderson's Classroom

Buy today and receive a 20% off discount on this resource! Missed the sale? Follow my shop to be the first to know when this item goes on sale again.

I want to thank all of you for supporting Nike Anderson’s Classroom. I truly appreciate everyone who has used my product in their classroom.

Day in the Life of homeschool Preschool and Kindergarten

A Homeschool Day-in-the-Life of My 4-Year-Old | Teaching Preschool

One of the common challenges in homeschool families is finding the time to teach younger children when so much time is dedicated to helping their older siblings with assignments.

I have a four-year-old and a second-grader and, let me tell you, it’s tough! Even tougher for my friends with four children or more. Preschoolers often like to fight for your attention when they see you giving so much of it to their siblings. I’m here to tell you, that’s not such a bad thing and you can use this attention-seeking to your advantage.

When your preschooler sees that learning seems to get and keep your attention, they’re more likely to want to be included in whatever learning their older siblings have going on. At least this was the case for me. I know it’s tempting to let younger children go off and do their own thing, but try adding small assignments to their routine that help them feel like a “big kid.” You may find you have a little more peace during your homeschool hours.

So, here is my day in the life of my four-year-old on any given homeschool day. This glimpse into our world illustrates how I manage to balance time between my two boys. As a side note, you may notice on my blog that I refer to my four-year-old as a preschooler and kindergartner interchangeably. That’s because according to his age he is technically in preschool, but he’s acquiring many skills that meet kindergarten requirements in our state.


A Homeschool Day-in-the-Life of My 4-Year-Old


8:30 am: Devotional

Let’s start with devotional. We’re currently using Our Daily Bread for kids, which we love. The daily devotionals are short, sweet, and to the point. They also are a great inspiration to delve into the Word of God. Both kids enjoy me reading aloud and will sit quietly and attentively while I do so. In previous years, I made activities for my boys to do while I read the Bible aloud. Some days, my preschooler is just not into sitting still so he goes off and plays with his toys, which is totally allowed.  That leads us to…

Tip One: Let your little ones have off days. We all have days when we’re just not feeling something. Allowing them to choose something else to do instead shows that you understand and respect their feelings. It also reduces the likelihood of your little one making a scene which can cause disruption and set the tone for the rest of the day, making it difficult for you to maintain the patience needed to work with your older children.

Our Daily Bread Devotional for Children
My children love Our Daily Bread Devotional for Kids.

9:00 am: Basic Skills Fluency Practice

This is my second-grader’s designated reading time. Since I have him read aloud to me, I need this time to be pretty quiet. This is when I break out my preschooler’s favorite activities. We use the Hooked-on Phonics Fundamentals workbook, which is full of educational cut and paste activities that keep my preschooler busy and happy. During this time, my little one practices fluency with basic skills like letters, phonics, numbers, counting, shapes, and more. He is also engaging those fine motor skills necessary for handwriting. So…

Tip Two: Have independent activities on hand. Give your little ones activities you know they can do on their own to help build confidence, independence, and fluency while you take time to work with older children.

Preschool and kindergarten basic skills fluency practice.
Preschool and kindergarten basic skills fluency practice.

9:30 am: Reading Fluency Practice

My preschooler and I practice reading fluency while my second-grader works independently on to his spelling curriculum. We are using the Hooked-on Phonics curriculum and are supplementing with Bob Books. Hooked on Phonics has its own set of starter books, but he seems to like the Bob Books more. We borrowed our Bob Books from the local library and are allowed to have them for 6 weeks at a time. We spend no more than 15 minutes practicing reading. Another 15 minutes is dedicated to storybook read-alouds.

Tip Three: Schedule one-on-one learning time with your little one when older kids have independent work. 

Hooked on Phonics Reading Curriculum for Preschool
Hooked on Phonics is our curriculum of choice for preschool and kindergarten.

10:00 am: Handwriting Practice 

My preschooler practices handwriting while my second-grader and I delve into his language arts lesson.  I love dry-erase books for handwriting practice because children can practice as much as they’d like without accumulating paper waste. The books we love for handwriting practice are the Kindergarten dry-erase workbook and the Sight Word workbook. I taught my preschooler how to follow the arrows, and to always write from left to right to ensure he’s writing letters, numbers, and words properly. Now, he can pretty much work on his own. Therefore…

Tip Four: Train your little one to work independently during homeschool off-hours. On weekends or when all your older children have completed their homeschool assignments, take just a little time to train your younger children to work more independently on key skills. This may take time and patience but is well worth the investment when you find yourself running from kid to kid during busy homeschool hours.

Handwriting Practice for preschool and kindergarten.
Independent handwriting practice for preschool and kindergarten.

10:30 am:  Everyone takes a snack break at this point.

11:00 am: Geography

My boys do geography together. We use a curriculum base called Beginning Geography and supplement with YouTube videos, library books, hands-on-learning, and kinesthetic activities. This is a great time of day because my preschooler really looks forward to it. He may not understand everything we learn about, but he enjoys doing the corresponding activities.

If you’re wondering how I teach two grade-levels one subject, here’s an example:

This week we’re learning about reading directions on a map using a compass rose. My main objective is for my preschooler to understand that north is up, south is down, east is to his right and west is to his left. Aside from looking at real maps I had on hand, we watched a Youtube video that explained what compasses were used for and how to use them.  To challenge my oldest son, he watched a documentary on the history of the compass rose. Later, we made our own compasses using supplies I had on hand. Then we played a kinesthetic activity where the boys had to jump toward the direction I shouted out. It was so much fun and something both grade-levels could enjoy.

Tip Five: Don’t be afraid to include your little ones in on the lessons. This is especially true if the age gap isn’t that wide between older siblings. In my case, I can use a curriculum base designed for grades k-2 and it’ll work for both of my boys. Last year, we used a science curriculum designed for first and second graders and my preschooler was able to do all of the lessons and experiments with us. Children are sponges at this age. You’ll be surprised by what they pick up on.

Geography for preschool and early elementary
A kinesthetic game for learning directions: Jump to your North, South, East, and West.

12:00 pm: Science

Both my boys also learn science together. This year, we are really loving interactive science notebooks. This is actually my preschooler’s favorite part of the day because he loves cut-and-paste activities. Whenever we finish a lesson, he often asks if we can do another one. I use the same supplemental method for science that I do for geography. We read books, do fun activities, and include hands-on learning and experiments whenever possible. That points us to…

Tip Six: Interactive notebooks are a win for everybody. You can find free or low-cost interactive notebook lessons just about anywhere, for any grade, and any subject! This works especially if you have children with larger age gaps. Everyone can sit around the table with all their supplies and work on their interactive notebooks. Works for us!

Interactive science notebooks for preschool and kindergarten.
Interactive science notebooks are great for preschool and kindergarten.

1:00 pm: Lunch and Recess

2:00 pm: Math

I save math for the end of the day because it’s my boys’ strongest subject. Plus, it’s also a subject that my second-grader can do on his own unless he’s learning a new concept. I like to work one-on-one with my preschooler on the days when my second-grader isn’t learning a new concept. We use math link cubes to practice addition and subtraction. We also practice number sequencing and counting to 20, 30, and beyond. Every now and then we’ll go over basic and 3-dimensional shapes, but he pretty much has that information stored in his brain.

Additionally, I try a variety of hands-on activities that I just make up myself. Matching number quantity to the numerical value is one of the activities we do often, and we can use just about anything we have on hand to do it. I also make use of our addition and subtraction flashcards and have my preschooler use cubes to determine the sum or difference. So…

Tip Seven: Save your little one’s strongest subject for the end of the school day to cut down on frustration. If you happen to need to sneak away to teach your older children new concepts, you can start the younger ones off and they can hold their own until you return.

Math practice ideas for preschool and kindergarten.
Math practice ideas for preschool and kindergarten.

 

Our school day typically ends around three in the afternoon. This is not an everyday schedule as we have fieldtrip days, co-op days, and playdate days pretty regularly. This is, however, the schedule we fall back on to keep us on track.

I’d like to end this post by saying there will be a day when none of this advice works. Take heart, it happens to the best of us. I will say that each semester gets easier. Before our winter break, it was much harder to keep my preschooler engaged and occupied. After winter break, things seemed more manageable. Your family will live if you do away with curricula for a moment to meet the physical, educational, emotional and social needs of your younger children. A break from monotony is always a great idea!

Now it’s your turn: How do you balance homeschool with your children? Give us some ideas that have worked for your family in the comments below!


Need more ideas for preschool? Check out these posts:

Toddler Genius | YouTube Channels That Made My Toddler Smarter

Tot-School Tuesdays | Preschool Addition Facts

Tot-School Tuesdays | Number Matching & Sequencing

Tot-School Tuesdays | “I Can Count” Busy Box

Free Resources for Preschool

What Your Reading Curriculum Is Probably Missing

What Your Reading Curriculum Is Probably Missing | Pre-Reading Skills

Last year, my then three-year-old decided he wanted to start his reading journey. I admit I was a bit hesitant considering all the research I’ve read making a compelling case against early reading. In fact, I’ve had success waiting until my oldest son was six-years-old before starting formal reading lessons. Although some of his peers learned to read as early as three-years-old, my oldest son went from being an emergent reader to reading chapter books in a matter of a few short months. That alone was enough to sell me on waiting with my youngest son.

But things didn’t quite work like that. One day my little Jam was watching a phonics video on YouTube (Hooked on Phonics to be exact) and he said “I want to do that. I want to read.” I wasn’t surprised as he’d frequently asked me how to pronounce words in books and how to spell certain words. He was ready, for sure. So, I bought the Hooked on Phonics curriculum and things went so well for us. Following Jam’s pace, we moved through the preschool curriculum rather quickly and started the kindergarten curriculum a few weeks later. Jam read his first primer book and appeared to have mastered sounding out words.

And then it happened. Regression.

Suddenly, Jam became sloppy at pronouncing sounds. Words he once knew without a second thought, he seemed to struggle with. It made me question whether our reading curriculum had a strong enough base for teaching pre-reading skills.

Has this ever happened to you?

One day, while researching ways to help my preschooler read more fluently, I stumbled across a website shared by my local homeschool group. While reading through the wealth of free information shared, I discovered it may be a good idea to go back to square one. You see, our reading curriculum begins with phonics, but there’s a prereading skill all children should master before moving on to phonics. That skill is called phonological awareness.

What is phonological awareness and how is it different from phonics? Phonological awareness is the sounds in language that help children distinguish sounds in words. This is different from phonics, which involves the relationship between sounds and written symbols. Unlike phonics, phonological awareness refers to sounds only and most tasks require a student to rely solely on listening.

Phonological awareness is the building block for phonics because it helps children identify the sound components of spoken words, making it easier to master the alphabetic code. Children with high phonological awareness can identify oral rhymes, clap out syllables in a word, and identify words with the same beginning sounds. Research shows that without this foundation, learning to read and spell can prove difficult for children.

When we teach phonological awareness, we’re simply helping a child train their ear to distinguish sounds, particularly in words. I can’t talk about phonological awareness without mentioning it’s subset, phonemic awareness, because people often confuse the two. Phonemic awareness is the ability to distinguish individual sounds in spoken words. It is the next phase, after phonological awareness, to mastering pre-reading skills. The difference? Phonological awareness focuses on spoken language as a whole, whereas phonemic awareness focuses on spoken words.

Helping a child heighten their phonological awareness can be done in just a few simple exercises. According to educational professionals, teaching a child to pay close attention to familiar environmental sounds is a great introduction to phonological awareness for preschool and kindergarten. A child will then learn to master dividing sentences, whole words, and syllables before phonemic awareness training.

Here’s how it’s done! Below, I included our three favorite exercises for increasing phonological awareness (and following instructions!). These exercises can be modified to challenge your little learners. For the complete curriculum, click here.


Introduction to Phonological Awareness

Strengthen Those Listening Skills for Pre-Reading


 

1. Name that sound.

My preschooler loved this exercise. All we did was play this YouTube video to see if he could identify each sound. I asked him to keep his eyes closed and focus on his listening skills. If he recognized the sound, I asked him to tell me its name. If your child has already learned phonics, like mine, this is also a great activity for identifying letter sounds and phonemes to further strengthen their phonological skills. Remember, these are oral activities and they are using their ears only. No flashcards or written symbols are needed for these exercises.

What Your Reading Curriculum May Be Missing
Phonological Awareness Exercise | Name That Sound | Big Brother Joined in for Moral Support

2. First Sound, Last Sound.

This exercise helps children develop memory and attention as they recall two sounds and their order.  We used these sounds to complete this exercise. Before beginning the exercise, I chose two sounds to play aloud and made sure my little one understood the name of each sound. I then played each sound one at a time. After playing both sounds, I asked Jam to tell me the name of the first sound and the name of the last sound. Again, this activity can be amended for children who already started learning phonics. Just use letter sounds and blends instead. Like I’ve said, we are sort of backtracking to get more phonological awareness training.

What Your Reading Curriculum May Be Missing
Phonological Awareness Exercise | Use Your Listening Skills to Name the First and Last Sound

 

3. Start and Stop.

This is a simple exercise that helps children practice following directions and strengthen their listening skills. I made a sound by snapping my fingers and told my preschooler the name of the sound. I then asked him to raise his right hand when he heard the sound, and to place his hand at his side when the sound stops. This is one of the first exercises we started doing and by the second day, my preschooler raised and lowered his hand with great accuracy.

Phonological Awareness Game
Phonological Awareness Exercise | Start and Stop | Raise Your Hand When The Sound Starts
What Your Reading Curriculum May Be Missing
Phonological Awareness Exercise| Start and Stop | Lower Your Hands When The Sound Stops

 

It’s important to note that high phonological awareness is not necessarily correlated with high intelligence. A child may struggle with phonological awareness but excel in many other areas. Remember, there are many types of intelligence. Linguistic intelligence is just one of many.

DIY Curriculum

10 Easy Steps to a DIY Curriculum

I talk to many homeschool parents, and the common concern I get is that they don’t have the money to buy a curriculum. This was me two years ago. I was in a place where I wanted to homeschool my kids, but couldn’t rub two dimes together. It was a year of serious transition for our family. In a nutshell, I had to make the decision whether I would spend our disposable income on curricula or experiences.

If you’ve ever visited my Instagram page, then you know I chose to invest in experiences. As the mother of two small boys, I wanted them to have fun learning and experiencing new things. Not having the money to fund those experiences was NOT an option, so I forwent curriculum purchases. Instead, I invested my time in developing a customized curriculum that suited their interests and learning needs.

Of course, I must mention that I studied curriculum development in my Master’s program, but that did not mean I knew what I was doing. However, my background did give me the confidence to try developing a curriculum on my own. You do not need any degrees, but I do suggest reading up on curriculum development to gain some insight—and confidence!

There are a variety of ways to create a curriculum, but I chose what I like to call the Break-Down Method. That is, taking something overwhelming and breaking it down into sizable chunks. This method made curriculum planning less intimidating. If you’re looking to create your own curriculum and don’t know where to start, perhaps this method can help you, too. Here are ten easy steps to a do-it-yourself curriculum, using the core subject, science, as an example.


10 Easy Steps to a DIY Curriculum

1. Be responsible.

Read the legal requirements for your stateEvery state has their own requirements for homeschool families. Please take the time to read these requirements to ensure you are operating within the law for your state of residence. These guidelines can also be very helpful, as they usually entail what subjects you are required to teach your children.

EXAMPLE: By law, I was required to teach my kindergartner language arts, mathematics, social studies, and science in the state of Georgia.

 

2. Borrow a skeleton.

For your curriculum, that is. During my first year of homeschool, I used the Georgia Standards of Excellence (GSE) for my skeleton. This allowed me to kill two birds with one stone because I knew using this framework for my curriculum also meant I’d be honoring state requirements. The following year, I used books from the “What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know” series. I borrowed this series from the library. The series covers all elementary grade levels.

How did I use these resources, exactly? For each core subject, I wrote down everything my child should know for their grade-level, and then I found the resources to execute those goals. For example, if in kindergarten my child should learn about animals and habitats for science, I would borrow books from the library, look for free courses and activity ideas, and download free practice worksheets for those particular topics.

EXAMPLE: Take a look at the list I generated for kindergarten science topics from GSE

Earth and Space Science

  • Time Patterns (day to night and night to day) and objects (sun, moon, stars) in the day and night sky
  • Earth Materials (soil, rocks, water, and air)

Physical Science

  • Physical Attributes of Objects
  • Types of Motion

Life Science

  • Living & Nonliving Things
  • Classification of Organisms
  • Five Senses

3. Add some bones of your own.

You may have borrowed the skeleton, but it’s important to make it yours! You know how much I preach here about developing a vision and mission statement for your homeschool that outlines your educational philosophy and goals. Keep your goals in mind while adding some bones to the skeleton of your curriculum.

How can you make it yours? By knowing how your children learn best, what they enjoy learning, and a method of education that works best for your family.  If you have a techy child, try free virtual classes, educational computer games, and video lessons to fulfill your curriculum goals.

EXAMPLE: Our vision for homeschool includes making room for academic freedom by incorporating some form of self-directed learning. That means I give my boys a say in what they’d like to learn. When I developed their science curriculum, we incorporated geography into our life-science lessons. We also learned about the solar system because that was what they were into.

As a note, I only incorporated these topics into our formal lessons because my boys were too young to research them on their own. As my oldest became more fluent in reading, he could then read up on any topic of interest, which is self-directed learning in its truest form.

 

4. Finalize your topics for each subject. 

What topics will you cover for Language Arts? Math? Science? Other subjects you’ll be covering? List all your topics for each subject on a spreadsheet, table, or journal to refer to later on.

EXAMPLE: From the science list of topics I generated from GSE, I decided to teach the five senses, animal classification, parents and offspring, habitats, weather, and planets. Other topics, such as those in physical science, were taught the following year with The Magic School Bus curriculum.

 

5. Breakdown your topics by term. 

How will you breakdown your topics? By quarter? Semester? Whatever you choose, assign your topics to a given term for each subject. This makes it easier to administer evaluations, tests, and other assessments.

EXAMPLE: We assigned our topics by semester. For science, we studied the five senses and life science topics during our first semester. During the second semester, we took on weather and astronomy, as well as got more hands on with science related fieldtrips and experiments.

Science

6. Breakdown topics into months. 

Assign topics for each month in all your subjects. This should be relatively easy if you’ve already written down all the topics you’ll cover for the year. You’ll have to adjust this throughout the school year depending on how long it takes your child to master the information. No worries, do this step anyway.

EXAMPLE: During the first month of school, we studied phonics and word families for language arts, simple addition for math, the seven continents for social studies, and the five senses and physical attributes for science. Here’s an example of our science breakdown for kindergarten.

Science Curriculum

7.  Breakdown topics into weeks. 

Breaking down topics ensures you cover good ground, and makes it easier to control the pace. If I try to cram too much information in each week, and my child isn’t retaining it, slowing down throws off my entire curriculum. However, if I allow for some wiggle room by spacing out my topics, we can jump ahead if we need to. I’d rather jump ahead than have to slow down. Both are inevitable, though.

EXAMPLE: When we learned the five senses for kindergarten science, assigning one sense per week was ideal because it gave the information enough time to sink in. This wasn’t the original plan, but I later found it to be the better plan.

Kindergarten Science

8. Breakdown topics into days.

If it’s possible to break your topics down even further, do so. I found that breaking my topics down into days by charting them made me feel better prepared. This meant having an objective for that day, jotting down relevant questions to ask your student, and anything else that’ll keep you from asking ‘what next?’ during your school day.

EXAMPLE: Keeping with our science theme, this would be the following breakdown for Week One of studying the five senses, concentrating on the sense of hearing. This breakdown is based on thirty-minute lessons.

Kindergarten Science

9. Gather your resources.

Once you’ve decided on a schedule that works, now it’s time to gather your resources for the topics you’ll be teaching. I’ve got a great list of FREE homeschool resources, here! You can also visit my shop, Nike Anderson’s Classroom, for free and low-cost educational resources.

Remember to think beyond the internet. In addition to free books, your local library may offer free classes, workshops, and STEM kits that may tie into your curriculum. You can also check out your local zoo or museum. Many of these places offer classes to homeschool families. Ask them for a schedule of these classes and see if any of the topics fit in with your curriculum.

Lastly, don’t forget to snatch up any free informational brochures, pamphlets, or flyers located at your local dentist or doctor’s office, museum, zoo, library, grocery store, computer store, etc. Some of these informational texts can tie in nicely with your curriculum. For example, if you’re studying the human body, the doctor’s office is a great place to get free information. Just make sure it’s okay to take the pamphlets home.

EXAMPLE: For Week One of studying the five senses, I may need the following resources:

Science

10. Decide how you’ll test knowledge.

With any curriculum, it’s a great idea to implement some form of assessment. Assessments are a fantastic way of knowing when to move on or slow down. Decide how and when you will test your child. Will it be weekly? Monthly? Quarterly? Annually? Remember that the more frequently you assess your child, the quicker you’ll catch on to any problems they might be having.

A test doesn’t necessarily have to be taken in a quiet room with a fill-in-the-blank worksheet. You don’t even have to subject your child to a grading system. There are so many ways to find out whether your child is mastering the material being taught. We do oral quizzes all the time in our homeschool, and my boys don’t even realize they’re taking a “quiz.” You can also have them do a project, an oral presentation, or write a report on what they’ve learned. In fact, you can let them decide how they’d like to demonstrate their knowledge.

EXAMPLE: I already mentioned that we like oral quizzes, but we’ve also had our fair share of fill-in-the-blank quizzes. Another fun way we assessed mastery of the material was through making books. During our kindergarten year, my son would draw pictures in his “book” about what he learned, and then he “read” his book to me. By the end of his kindergarten year, he could start incorporating simple words in his books. I scheduled some sort of assessment every week.



Other things to consider.

  •  Plan your curriculum around events if possible. For instance, in spring our local museum hosts STEM classes. The week that these classes take place are a great time to cover stem related topics
  •  You don’t have to plan all at once. Once you have an overview for the school year, you can breakdown your topics into detail on the monthly or even weekly basis. I personally planned the details every week. But I also tried monthly planning as well. If you want to get the planning over with, plan the year out in detail before the start of the school year.
  •  Will you need help? For subjects you don’t feel well versed in, will you sign your child up for outside classes? Hire a tutor? Have a friend or relative teach the subject? Make sure you factor all this in.
  •  Will you supplement? I purchased workbooks and other materials to supplement curricula for certain subject areas. Think about what you may need to supplement your curriculum.
  •  Fieldtrips. It’s helpful to have a good idea of the fieldtrips you’d like to take during the school year. Decide the best time of year to take these fieldtrips and plan your curriculum accordingly. For instance, you probably don’t want to go to the zoo during the cold winter season, so planning life science curricula and subsequent activities during warmer months is ideal.
  •  Give yourself some wiggle room. Things are probably not going to go as planned. That’s okay. Even families using a boxed curriculum fall behind or get bumped ahead of the curriculum. Give yourself some grace.

 

Lastly, I want to mention there’s no such thing as a perfect curriculum. Every curriculum has gaps—even the most elite curriculum. Therefore, I can’t say this is an all comprehensive planning guide. I can attest, however, that this method helped me tremendously during my first homeschool year. I hope it helps you, too.

YOUR TURN! Anything you want to add? Help other parents and let them know your tips down below!
 

 

 

Youtube channels that made my child smarter

Toddler Genius | YouTube Channels That Made My Toddler Smarter

 

My toddler stood behind the black strip of tape and covered his left eye as the pediatrician directed.

“What do you see?” She asked.

“A pentagon!” He shouted.

The pediatrician chuckled with amusement. “Well, yea, I guess it IS a pentagon after all,” she said of the house pictured on the eye chart. “That’s the first time I’ve heard that. What a smart boy! Whatever you guys are doing with him, keep going!”

So, what did we do? Our approach to early learning was not that extensive. We relied on educational videos, one-on-one learning, and open-ended play to create a sturdy foundation for cognitive development. Today, I will talk about the role visual-learning played in the early education of my then toddler boys, who are now ages four and seven. Videos from awesome YouTube channels that helped my boys to recognize advanced shapes, numbers, phonics, and so much more. I like to think of these videos as “digital flashcards.” I originally wanted to list seven channels (I like that number!), but in reality, there were only six channels that made a difference in my children’s early learning.

I realize talking about toddlers and screen time is major taboo. There are strong arguments against image-focused learning. But the truth is educational videos can enhance cognitive development when consumed in moderation. I can’t deny that educational videos helped my boys to build vocabulary and recognize signs and symbols in everyday life, among other things. I mean, come on! My youngest son knew what a dodecahedron was at age two! And my first-born son would always point and shout the names of all the vegetables in the produce section of the grocery store. By age three, both of my boys were well versed in phonics, which made learning to read much easier for them. I don’t mean to boast. I just want to point out that image-focused learning can be helpful for some children, so long as you ensure that it’s balanced with language learning (language learning requires the brain to work much harder) and hands-on learning.

So, what are some of the educational videos I allowed my boys to watch during early toddlerhood? Before I tell you, I must mention a few things. First, pediatricians strongly discourage screen time before age two. Second, once your child starts screen time, I recommend ONLY allowing them to watch educational videos. You don’t want these videos competing with Bubble Guppies and other cartoons. Trust me! My husband and I didn’t have a television in our home until our eldest son was five-years-old. However, at age two, we started playing educational videos for him on our laptops. Our youngest son wasn’t as fortunate. He’s been exposed to the screen since he was one-year-old and he did have a period where all he wanted to do was watch Bubble Guppies. Hey, we’re not perfect people, here.

Lastly, I strongly recommend supplementing these videos with one-on-one lessons with your child. This is where quality time comes into play. You can get super creative or simply have a conversation with your child about what they are learning. Our favorite conversations are during car rides. My kids like to shout out the shapes, colors, words, and types of vehicles they see, among other things. I give them random pop quizzes on phonics (for my four-year-old), spelling (for my first-grader), mathematics, and fun facts we’ve learned. The pop quiz is like a game to them!

So, without further ado, here are my top picks for educational channels on YouTube for early learning. I’ve also included helpful books you can check out at the end of this post!


YouTube Channels That Made my Toddler Smarter

youtube-1349699_1920

 

  1. KidsTV123

It’s easy to see why this YouTube channel has earned over two million subscribers. KidsTV123 was the very first channel I found when looking for educational videos for my eldest child to watch. As a toddler, his favorite videos were the Phonics Song, the Number Song, the Shapes Song, the Colors Song, the Solar System Song, and the Reading Machine. That was nearly six years ago and now all these songs are among the channel’s most popular videos.

 

When my son was two-and-a-half, he pointed to all the letters on the chart in his bedroom and told me their phonemes without any prompting from me. He also knew planets, numbers, and shapes (including some advanced ones) fluently, primarily from watching these videos. I admit I was not in the “teaching mindset” during this time. I had no plans to homeschool and I just assumed my toddler would learn this stuff in preschool. However, when I realized all the knowledge and concepts my son retained at such an early age, I knew then that he was ready for formal learning. I began teaching my eldest son one-on-one, incorporating language and hands-on learning. My youngest son, however, had the pleasure of this one-on-one teaching much earlier.

 

  1. The Kids’ Picture Show

Okay, this channel is quite advanced. Not only does The Kids’ Picture Show teach advanced shapes, but also advanced colors, sorting, animal names, street signs, addition, science and nature, sight words, life instructions, and so much more! It’s no exaggeration when I say that my boys know advanced shapes and colors that I don’t even know! I found myself having to watch the videos with them the moment I recognized they were getting smarter than me (hehe)!

 

What I love the most about this channel is that it literally is like digital flashcards. I never expected my boys to like this approach, but they actually started begging me to play these videos for them—every day!  I think what they love the most is that they can identify these items and concepts in their everyday life. My children get so excited when they encounter a familiar street sign, vehicle, or advanced shape while we’re out and about—things they may not normally recognize had they not learned about it from these videos.  Not to mention, they’ve gotten very specific with their colors. No! It’s not just green. It’s emerald!

 

  1. National Geographic Kids

If you have animal lovers, or kids that have a bunch of “why” questions, this is the channel for you! National Geographic Kids is full of awesome videos of gorgeous animals as well as fun facts that young kids can digest and understand. I found these videos to be a perfect supplement when teaching my boys about animal classification. And that’s not all, this channel also comprises videos on weather, archeology, states, and how to make familiar everyday items. You’ll be surprised by the information your toddler digests. When my youngest son was two, he loved watching the Making Stuff videos with his older brother. They would watch how to make some of their favorite foods, musical instruments, and toys. Now, at age four, my son remembers how to prepare the pizza dough when making pizza from scratch—one of our favorite foods to make!

 

What’s essential to note is from preschool up until fourth grade is what is known as the “parrot years.” According to authors of The Well-Trained Mind, any information your child absorbs during the early years is stored for future use—even if they can’t yet understand it. Therefore, having a toddler watch channels such as National Geographic Kids will make learning about animals and other topics in the later years that much more meaningful to them because they have already stored information in their brains.

 

  1. Hooked on Phonics

While KidsTV123 was responsible for introducing my eldest son to phonemic awareness during toddlerhood, Hooked on Phonics was the resource responsible for introducing my youngest son to phonics. My youngest son loved watching videos on this channel so much that I decided to purchase the curriculum to begin formal learning with him. If you’re not familiar with Hooked on Phonics, it’s a 25-year-old, award-winning “Learn to Read” program. Their YouTube channel includes story-time, printing lessons, sample lessons, and catchy singalong songs (my son’s favorite!). It’s not an extensive channel, but you can find more Hooked on Phonics videos listed on other channels with a simple YouTube search.

 

I must say, my youngest son caught on to phonics rather quickly using the Hooked on Phonics program. I’m talking just two weeks. At age three, he read his first primer book from the Kindergarten level. I do want to mention that this was not primarily from watching the videos, I did work one-on-one with him often during this time using the lesson plans.  When I tell you that my son actually asks me if he can “do phonics today” it’s not an exaggeration. This program works so well with his personality and learning style. I’m so glad we found it!

 

  1. Mouk in English

Mouk is an educational preschool show about a bear who travels the world on his bike. I happen to have two boys who absolutely love geography. This show was perfect for introducing and reinforcing different continents and countries of the world, as well as their popular monuments. It supplemented our geography curriculum so well. And while I never expected my toddler to learn geography to the extent that his big brother was learning it, some of the information he retained was from watching this show.

 

The Mouk in English channel boasts of teaching toddlers to respect diversity and cultures. The characters explore countries on the continents of Africa, Asia, South America, North America, Europe, and the Oceana. Examples of some countries they visit are Senegal, Spain, Canada, Madagascar, Tokyo, Greece, the Himalayas, and much more! Because I’m half-Nigerian, and have friends from different parts of the world, culture is one of the topics we highlight in our homeschool. It’s never too early to teach your kids that diversity is cool!

 

  1. Kids Learning Tube

Let me just say that this channel is my least favorite because of the creepy graphics. However, my youngest son loved watching this channel as a toddler—and still does now that he’s four. The Kids Learning Tube channel comprises videos on basic learning songs for preschoolers, geography, the solar system, the human body, the periodic table, animals, and more. I don’t know what it is about this channel, but both my boys are quite fascinated by it. They are even watching it right now as I edit this post!

 

My boys favorite videos to watch on this channel are the ones about the solar system, the 50 U.S. states, and the countries of the world. These have also been my youngest son’s favorite videos since toddlerhood. The videos include catchy tunes and awesome fun facts. My toddler gained concepts like which planets are big, which ones are small, and which ones are closest to the sun. He could also name most planets, and even some countries and states at just two years old.


 

Curriculum Suggestions:

If image-learning isn’t your thing, I totally get you! I can’t emphasize enough that the YouTube channels I mentioned should be supplements only. One-on-one interaction and unstructured play is the best way for your child to learn during early toddlerhood. Other effective resources you can try out for your toddler are Slow and Steady, Get Me Ready by June R. Oberlander, What Your Preschooler Needs to Know by E. D. Hirsch Jr., The Instant Curriculum by Pam Schiller and Joan Rossano, and The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer, and Jessie Wise.

 

These books include great information and instructions on how to engage your toddler’s motor skills, imagination, self-expression, critical thinking skills, math skills, language arts skills, and much more. I found most of these resources at my local library! Stay tuned for an in-depth look into these resources in a later post.

 

Feel free to check out my Instagram where I share more fun activities and resources we’re using for our homeschool. I also dabble in Instastories, where you can peek into our lessons and life as a homeschool family.


Let us know in the comments:  What are your favorite educational channels on YouTube?

 

 

Teach Your Child to Read

How I Taught My Child to Read for FREE!

Our budget was pretty much nonexistent during our first year as a homechool family. Not only did it take almost every penny we had saved to start our own business, but me and my husband decided whatever money we did have to dedicate to homeschool would go toward experience rather than a boxed curriculum. So we took fieldtrips, we traveled, we took classes, and we invested in martial arts training for our kids.

How on earth did we survive without a boxed curriculum? We’ve been asked this question before. My answer is this: We used any free resource we could get our hands on to teach our kids. This included books from the library. After a bit of research, I realized I had enough information to put together an emergent reader curriculum for my then kindergartner. Today, I want to share some of the steps I took with you! Now be forewarned that this is not a comprehensive curriculum, but a great guide in helping you create your own.

Keep reading if you’d like to know the eight steps I used to set the foundation for my emergent reader curriculum. I had to dig deep in the back of my closet and pull out my portfolios for this one, so I hope you like it!


How I Taught My Child to Read for FREE!

In 8 Simple Steps

1.    Where do I begin? Researching “Standards of Excellence.”

First, I accessed my state’s Department of Education website and researched their standards for kindergarten English and language arts. I did not follow this curriculum-outline verbatim. I simply highlighted the standards that aligned with our goals for emergent reading. Here are the following standards I adopted into our homeschool from the Georgia Standard of Excellence (GSE):

•    Knows and understands print concepts.

•    Demonstrates phonological awareness.

•    Demonstrates phonics and word recognition.

•    Recognizes high-frequency sight words.

•    Can read emergent-reader texts with purpose and understanding.

Adopting these standards simply meant that these five bullet points became the goals we expected to achieve by the end of our child’s kindergarten year.

2.    Getting Started | Is My Child Ready to Read?  

Before we jumped the gun in teaching our kindergartner to read, we looked for signs of reading readiness. According to GSE, reading readiness occurs when a child demonstrates an understanding of the organization and basic features of print.  Here are some indicators that your child is ready to read:

•    Can follow words from left to right, top to bottom, and page by page.

•    Can recognize that spoken words are represented in written language by specific sequences of letters.

•    Can understand that words are separated by spaces in print.

•    Can recognize and name all upper- and lowercase letters of the alphabet (and their sounds). 

Additionally, other signs that demonstrated reading readiness in our home were that our son began pretending to read books, started inquiring what certain words said, and began asking how to spell certain words.

SPECIAL NOTE: It is highly recommended to teach your child letter sounds first, rather than letter names. Teaching letter sounds make learning how to read easier for the child. 

3.    Learning CVC Words.

Our first official lesson started with CVC words. CVC stands for consonant-vowel-consonant words. The words “bat” and “pot” are two examples of CVC words. I don’t think we spent any more than two weeks on these lessons, as my kindergartner mastered these words pretty quickly. In addition, most CVC words belong to word families, so I simply decided to move on to teaching word families. Here is a free CVC Word List. You can print this list and divide the words up according to how many you want to teach per week. Some of the free resources we used are no longer available, but here are other games and resources we found helpful:

•    The CVC Reading Machine

•    CVC Puzzles

•    Build a CVC Word

•    CVC Interactive Notebook

•    CVC Sensory Play

•   CVC Build and Jump Game 

4.    Introducing Word Families.

Word families are words that have the same combination of letters and a similar sound. The words “back” and “pack” are two examples of words that belong to the “ack” family. Learning word families was a great introduction to decoding words. We used the following Word Family List and learned four word families per week, leaving Fridays for review. Additionally, the following resources helped my son to practice and master these words:

•    Build a Word

•    Word Family Warm-ups

•    Cut and Paste Word Family

•    Word Family Match

•    Word Family Fun

5.    Mastering Sight Words.

Sight words are the most commonly used words in a given text. I taught sight words a little differently. Instead of simply memorizing the word (which is how they’re traditionally taught), I chose to show my son a few decoding techniques for better understanding. Here is a link to an awesome Sight Word List that helps ease your lesson planning by breaking down sight words by the month. This list only shares about 50 words. We, however, learned 100 sight words using flash cards (about 5 every week). Here are some great free resources for sight word practice:

•    Sight Word Teaching Strategies

•    Sight Word Reading Passages

•    Sight Word Comprehension and Fluency

•    LEGO Sight Word Practice

•    Sight Word Song

 6.    Embarking on Long Vowel Sounds.

My son started noticing that not all vowel sounds were created equal. After stumbling across a YouTube video on the wonders of Super E, he begged me to start teaching him about long vowel sounds. This was not a part of our lesson plan, so I had to adjust. I started with printing out this Long Vowel Rules List.  I studied all the rules of long vowel sounds and then broke them up into palatable lessons for my kindergartner. We did not get to cover all of the rules, but we did focus on words that end with “e”, as well as double “e” vowel words like “feet.” Some resources we used included:

•    Super e Worksheets

•    Super e Magic Song

•    Super e Magic Wand

•    Super e Rockets

•    Super e Planets

7.    Becoming a Fluent Reader.

By this time, my kindergartner was more than ready to begin reading. We started with short passages, taking advantage of the many freebies that Teachers pay Teachers (an online educational resource) had to offer. To this day, my son is still required to do reading comprehension practice every morning. Repetition is key to fluency. Here are some of the free resources we used for kindergarten.

•    Reading Comprehension Freebie

•    Reading Comprehension (Color it)

•    Reading Comprehension (Sight Words)

•    Reading Comprehension Sample Pack

•    Reading Comprehension Fluency Passages

Additionally, our favorite emergent reader books are from the I Can Read collection. My kindergartner’s favorite series from this collection included Charlie the Ranch Dog and Frog and Toad. You can find these books for free at your local library.

8.    Testing Knowledge.

Of course hearing my kindergartner read was proof enough that he had mastered the GSE standards we adopted. However, I did use the Sonlight Reading Assessment to gauge what level he was reading at. He tested for Grade 1 level at the end of his kindergarten year. Another method I used to evaluate my son’s reading progress was noting the levels on the types of books he was reading. For instance, for I Can Read books, he went from the emergent reader level to reading level 1 & 2 books confidently all by himself.  You can also use Book Wizard to find out what level your child is reading at.

And that’s it! Those are the eight steps I took to help my emergent reader! Here are some key points to take home:

•    We waited until our kindergartner was ready.

•    We focused on decoding words rather than memorization.

•    We used comprehensive word lists to help guide us along our curriculum.

•    We read a TON of books daily.

•    We practiced until mastery.

I would not advise a DIY curriculum if you are not up to the task. Please seek out a free virtual curriculum if you are on a tight budget but do not want to create your own reading curriculum. Easy Peasy All in One Homeschool is a great place to start. They offer a pretty decent emergent reader curriculum free of charge. Check out my Free Homeschool Curriculum Deals for more info on free homeschool curricula.


For more free resources, check out my online store Nike Anderson’s Classroom at Teachers pay Teachers!