I have a few important disclaimers before diving into our favorite homeschool resources and tips for kindergarten:
- This is my first year. I am learning every single day. I’m simply sharing what we’ve learned!
- These resources are geared towards preschool and kindergarten, though some can certainly be used beyond that as well!
- In my short time teaching, I’ve realized that the tools are only a small piece of the success of the day. Mindset, flexibility, play, compromise, creativity, and so much more go into the schooling process.
- Anything and everything can be used as an educational tool! I like to use a wide variety of things, store-bought, nature found, recycled and imaginary ;). But, as stated above, the tools do not equal homeschooling success.
- Everyone homeschools differently. You can choose anything from Classical Education to Unschooling and beyond. We don’t follow any particular structure, but strong foundations are important to me. I do a mix of curriculum and freestyle depending on my own educational strengths and weaknesses.
If you’re interested in learning about how our journey has been so far, click here.
Alright, now on to some of our favorites! I think the easiest way to share would be to categorize them by subject. The main areas of study for Kinder are reading, math, writing, and handwriting. I’ll also list our favorite overall resources at the end 🙂
For each category, I will be sharing our personal experiences with teaching/learning the subject, our favorite purchased tools, favorite free and paid online resources, and favorite real-life applications.
P.S. this list could be endless…but I’m just sharing the things we’ve used, loved, and do!
Before starting, teaching my littles to read was the task I was most intimidated by. It feels like such a big, important thing…and it is! But I’ve realized that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Every day builds on itself and breakthroughs happen when you least expect them. Every child has different areas of strength and varying opportunities for growth, which can make it difficult to follow step by step programs.
In our case, both my son and I are very strong auditory learners, but it takes longer to develop our visual recognition. It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that our homeschool reading experience doesn’t fit in the traditional “box”…which I find ironic since I chose to homeschool so that I don’t have to fit into a box, among other reasons!
As far as teaching reading goes, I’ve gone through all of the emotions: fear that I was doing something wrong, guilt that I wasn’t doing enough, frustration that I wasn’t being paid attention to, and finally, surrender. It’s happening, I’ve just got to go with it.
Ready for Reading
I purchased this reading cirriculum, developed by a homeschool mom, to help support us. We don’t follow it to a tee, but it has been a great guideline. My favorite feature is all of the support tools. It offers fun worksheets, board games, and readers that follow along with the letter introduction suggested.
Hot Dots Jr.
This game was suggested by a friend and my game-loving guy really enjoys it! I actually wish we had it earlier in our journey.
Sight Word Wipe Clean Book
I love this little book! We’ve used it so many times and love the little games at the bottom of each page.
Endless uses over here! These magnets can be used to build words, work on letters, identify vowels, and have been one of our most used tools!
Osmo ABC’s (from the Little Genius Starter Kit)
We LOVE Osmo, and I’ll share more about it below. But the ABC’s game from the little genius kit has helped my little guy connect the dots between sound, sight, and use of the letters.
For example, search something your child is interested, attach “sight words” at the end, and prepare for fun ideas!
This digital library, filled with over 40,000 books, is an incredible resource. They offer digital versions of both classics and originals, have “read to me” options, audiobooks, and videos as well.
This platform offers over 2,000 original books at 29 varying reading levels. They offer questions and prompts, sight word focused texts, lesson plans, worksheets, and quizes. They also offer many of the texts in different languages which can be a fun way to introduce that language. It is on the pricier side though.
Build Letters with Objects Around the House
Have your child use everything from blankets and blocks to wooden spoons to create the letter s/he is focusing on.
Letter Dance Parties
Put on a song and do dance moves that represent things that start with the letter you are focusing on. For example, the letter J might be mixed up with dance moves that look like you are jumping rope, have turned to jello, are jamming on the guitar, or are floating like a jellyfish. Any member of the “party” can call out a new J word and we all dance our interpretation of it.
Read and Ask
Reading short stories throughout the day is a great way to introduce and normalize reading (p.s. this is something I have to remind myself to do!). But reading the story is only half the fun! Stopping at natural pauses in the book (after we meet characters, once a problem is revealed, etc.) and discussing what’s happening is a great way to encourage comprehension. “So what do we know about the characters so far?” “How do you think they are going to solve that problem?” or “What would you do in this situation?” are all examples of questions that will help to take them beyond the story (also p.s. it took me a long time to learn to do this!)
Read Aloud / Listen Together (longer stories)
Reading or listening to a multi-part story together is fun in so many ways. Not only do you enjoy the thrill of storytelling and anticipation, but listening (as opposed to watching) forces the use of imagination as you help to create the scenes and characters. I’ve never actually enjoyed reading–and have often-times felt that this distaste for “reading for fun” made me an awful homeschool teacher from the start. The thing is, I love story and I love learning, I’m hoping to work myself up to a place where reading a chapter book aloud sounds like a fun thing, but for now, I’m meeting myself where I’m at and we turn to podcasts and audiobooks for longer reads (aka listens). Discussing the readings/stories is a pretty important part of it!
Use Organizational Charts and Drawings
Reading comprehension tools like discussion, Q and A, org charts and drawings of a child’s favorite part of the story are great tools for bringing learning to the next level.
Between story and science podcats we’ve always got something fun playing in the car or during downtime. Some of our favorites are Circle Round, Wow in the World, But Why, The Two Princes, StoryTime, Stories Podcast, Brains on, and Peace Out.
Compared to reading, math has been an entirely different experience! Although it isn’t a subject that I feel particularly strong in, there’s so much magic in the basics. My little one has a natural interest in math and he picks up on it throughout the day. The interest and ease that math comes to him with makes it really enjoyable.
Just like with reading, I wanted a foundational curriculum to guide our math journey. I couldn’t be happier with Singapore Dimensions! The lessons are colorful and interactive, they offer a teacher guide, workbook, interactive textbook and test booklet for each level. They suggest tons of hands-on ideas and outside (free) resources. And, it’s super affordable as far as a cirriculum goes. I LOVE it! You can take a placement test here to see what level your child should start with.
These little bears are one of our most used purchases to date. This particular set offers ways to play with color, numbers, and shapes.
While we do use these often, I would suggest the bears and other manipulatives first!
Buttons, small easers, toy cars, legos, pebbles, and even small snacks are all ideas for items that can be used as math manipulatives. If you can count it, it works! Smaller things test to work best for larger lessons.
Osmo Numbers (from the Genius Starter Kit)
The Osmo numbers game has been such a wonderful tool to help my son learn math fundamentals. It has multiple levels to work through, teaching different skills at every step, in a really fun and interactive way!
Oh! Super Teacher Worksheets
You can find word problems, color by numbers, and all sorts of other themed math and number games there.
Counting collections is a “cognitively guided instruction” math tool. It’s easy, fun, and can be done anywhere with almost anything. Here’s some detail about it!
Puzzles are great for pacial awareness.
Blocks / Legos
Building helps to teach about shape, design, spacial awareness and architectural strength. So many opportunities to count as well!
Point out measurements, talk about cutting in half or doubling recipes, count out how many berries should go into each muffin tin, etc.
Graphing / Charting
Measure and mark or count and document anything you’d like! Just like reading comprehension, the charting and discussing of numerical information can help to deepen understanding. You can turn counting into an experiment too! Make a hypothesis about how many (flowers are in the garden, seeds are in a pumpkin, beans are in a can, etc.) and write it down. Document your findings on a chart and talk about the differences and similarities between your hypothesis and results!
Board and Card Games
These games probably belong in every section, but are particularly great for math! Any game that involves reading a die, counting spots, using money, etc. get that math brain working!
Real-life Word Problems
Often times my son brings these up before I can even think about it! He’ll point out that there are 8 berries left since we ate 5, for example. Earlier today we built a tent and there were 6 total pegs–he was mentally calculating how many we had left with each one that we used. Our mentor teacher encourages us to continue to ask our children what information we know about the situation we are dealing with, and what we need to do to figure out the part of the “problem” that we don’t know. For example, “ok, so what information do we have here? 7 eggs in the basket, and how many total eggs were hidden? 11, ok, so how do we figure out how many are left?”. For little ones, I highly suggest *always* using manipulatives. In real-life situations, they are usually naturally occurring. 🙂
Writing has been a fun subject to explore and one that I’m still learning how to teach. The difference between reading, writing, and handwriting can feel a little blurry at times, but from what I understand writing is more about the structural skills like punctuation, parts of speech, sentence structure, story creation (plot, character development), and creativity than it is about holding a pencil correctly or perfectly spelling words.
Both my son and I have a natural inclination towards storytelling and creative problem solving–so we use a lot of that in our writing lessons!
Once upon a Pancake
This is by far my favorite purchased writing tool! It’s so much fun and gives us the opportunity to create together. I find that he still needs a bit of encouragement to give depth to the story, so I try to ask questions and offer ideas if he gets stuck. In our case, physically writing can feel really challenging for him, so he seems to be more willing if he knows that I’ll be writing part the story (word for word for him) after he writes the main content. I find that his creativity can be stifled by the daunting task of writing down all that he thinks about if I don’t offer the idea of this mental break.
Mad Libs have been such a fun way to introduce parts of speech!
Super Teacher Worksheets
This resource deserves its own section and it will probably get one below…but as far as writing goes, they’ve got “build-a-sentence” worksheets, sentence structure sheets, writing prompts, graphic organizers, and so much more!
We don’t use it much (I mostly find what I need through Super Teacher Worksheets), but this cousin of Reading A-Z has all sorts of tools for learning the basics of writing and storytelling
Knights and dragons, playing house, and cooking in the toy kitchen are all ways that I let my little guy explore his creative writing and storytelling skills. Some of my favorite imaginative play toys are a play kitchen, baby dolls, play silks/blankets, kitchen accessories, fort-building props, and old Halloween costumes, to name a few!
“Cut Scenes and Alternate Endings”
After reading a story and discussing what happened, ask what else could have happened…how else could it have ended? What other characters could have been in the story? Take this a bit further by having them draw or write their own page in the story.
Describe an Object
Using the parts of speech, describe a hidden object for others to guess. Is it bumpy? Green? (adjectives) | Can it bounce? (verb) | Where did you use it last? Who gave it to you (nouns). I always ask questions using the parts of speech to help make those connections, “Can you give me more adjectives to describe it?”, “Where did you get it? Can you share a noun that will help me figure that out?”.
Putting on a puppet show is a great way to bring movement into story creation. Often times I sit with him to brainstorm our ideas before we begin. We come up with the characters and the main idea, but we often let the rest play out on its own. If he skips quickly to the end (there once was a pink elephant who liked to eat bananas, the end) I use questions and ideas to bring more fullness to the story. I ask what problem can be solved, who’s in the way of the solution, and what skills the character can use.
“Tell me a Story About…”
This is a game we’ve played since long before we started formal teaching. It has developed and grown as we have, but the general idea is that one person offers basics elements that the other person has to use in their story. As an example, I might say, “Frog, blue, and the number three”, and then my son has to use those in a story that he comes up with on the spot. My little guy usually gets it all out of the way early, “there were 3 blue frogs that…” while I like to mix them throughout and see if he catches how I’ve woven them into the story. Again, a great opportunity to talk about story building skills and creating depth. I do think some of us are more naturally inclined to creative storytelling (don’t ask my husband to play this game–he just won’t!) but I think the earlier we can sharpen these skills, the better!
“Struggles and Accomplishments”
I’m not sure if this belongs in the writing section, but if we’re talking about story development and parts of speech, this is a great quick tool to build on those skills. It’s also helped us to create open conversation and make “mistakes” feel more like opportunities. We go around the table (usually at dinner) asking each family member what they struggled with and what they accomplished that day. It can be anything that the person feels was valid in each category. I usually ask follow up questions, connect about how that made the kids feel, and offer up descriptive words for them to use when explaining.
In the early years, handwriting is code for fine motor skill development and pencil grip. Some kids develop hand strength and the joy of letters early on, others take more time to manifest those skills into writing words. My son is the latter. Letters, and combining them together, can feel daunting to him–so handwriting doesn’t always look like it sounds in our house. We do a fair amount of tracing letters and numbers but mix it in with play-based motor skill development (which I’ll expand on below).
Wipe-Clean First Hundred Words Tracing Book
It can be used over and over again!
Cutting builds hand strength.
Great for working on grasp!
This is one of my favorite tactile toys! I find it’s texture fascinating and it offers up endless play possibilities.
Kids Knife Set
Being able to help in the kitchen is wonderful on its own. Using these kids knives bring fine motor skill development into the mix!
Super Teacher Worksheets
You can find tons of tracing and cutting activities there!
Search for Sketch Lesson Videos
You can find all sorts of sketching lessons that help to form handwriting skills in a more creative way (this page is an example)
Playdough / kinetic sand / modeling clay
Strengthen hand muscles with resistant materials like those listed above.
Coloring and painting are both handwriting skills. For beginners start with painting or whiteboard markers, then move up to mediums with more resistance, like crayons and colored pencils. You can even take it a step further with coloring books and focusing on coloring in the lines.
Trace numbers, letters, shapes, lines or anything else!
We love this Montessori skill! Use children’s tweezers or small tongs (our favorite counting bears come with a set!) to move items between spaces. You can use larger items for beginners and move to smaller items as their skill increases.
Another leveled skill, you can use large beads and sturdier string (or a set like this) for the little ones, and smaller beads and finer string as their strengths grow! You can also combine tweezer skills and beading in an activity like this one.
Cutting, especially along lines, is another easy way to incorporate handwriting.
Drawing in Sand / Rice
Drawing into sand or a bin of small grains can help with hand strength and can be paired with letters, shapes, or sight words to increase recognition.
Favorite Overall Resources:
Here are some resources (a few already mentioned) that we use and love for more than one subject.
Super Teacher Worksheets
This is probably my most used outside resource! I love searching for themed activities during certain seasons, holidays, or subjects we are studying. There are so many creative ideas for all ages and all subjects. When we need a worksheet, this is where I go! Well worth the yearly $25 fee, in my opinion!
Teachers Pay Teachers
If I can’t find something I’m looking for on Super Teacher Worksheets, I head to teachers pay teachers. This is also the place to go for complete done-for-you lessons. You can search for any subject, theme, or area of interest and you’re almost guaranteed to find what you’re looking for. The best part is that it’s a community of people supporting each others hard work and creativity–and that’s pretty wonderful!
I love using Brainpop as a supplement to many of our lessons or even random questions that come up during the day. I know I can trust that the answers they’ll give are well rounded and age-appropriate (rather than searching on Google or youtube). It is a little pricy if it’s not something you plan to use often–but they are offering free access due to school closures right now!
I really, really love Osmo. I think it’s a fantastic tool for incorporating digital and kinetic learning. My little guy LOVES anything that resembles a video game, and while I feel like I’m constantly torn between fighting it and understanding it (because I was a bit of a gamer…) I don’t have even a bit of guilt about this one. The games are meant to be used with a tablet and they’ve got something for every subject. We have both the Little Genius Starter Kit and Genius Starter Kit as well as Pizza Co. and Detective Agency. They also have lots of sketching (hello, handwriting) and coding games–you can check them out here.
Board and Card Games
We love games around here…a lot! I thought I’d share a few of our faves: Monopoly Jr., Jenga, Silly Street, Press Here, Eye Found it, The Sneaky Snack Squirrel (this company, Educational Insights, has tons of fun at home learning activities), and pretty much anything from Chuckle and Roar (they are fantastic for including non-readers). We also love the classic card games like goldfish, old maid, and “war”.
Homeschool Odds + Ends:
Here are a few other things that help our homeschool flow.
A basic whiteboard (we also love this tabletop easel) and whiteboard markers which we use for all sorts of things, like writing and correcting sentences, writing word problems, drawing out ideas, sight word practice, and the whiteboards are magnetic and great to use with the magnetic letters.
A lamination machine is great to have for games and worksheets that you want to use multiple times, keep for other kiddos, or pass on to a friend. It’s also really nice to use with whiteboard markers for tracing and such. One example of something to laminate would be this sight word fishing game, a fave of ours.
Velcro dots, clothespins, and brads are all tools that I use to make things come to life. There are so many homeschool ideas that incorporate these three things. You can laminate a solar system map and planets, like these, for a fun space activity. Brads can be used to create moving pieces, like an arm on a clock, and clothespins….so many things!
Our counting bears came with 3 large foam dice (one with dots, one with colors, and one with shapes) and we use them often! I’ve found that if you’ve got a die you can make anything a game. Here are some examples:
- Roll to see how many steps to take (first one across the rooms wins).
- Roll both the number and shape die to see if you can get a match (number of sides on the shape equals the number of dots). If you don’t have a shape die, have the child draw a shape with the number of sides that they land on.
- Play a scavenger hunt game (land on green and find something green, or land on three and find something in a set of three).
The opportunities are endless! If you don’t get the bear set, you can find large foam die here.
REMEMBER, none of this makes the magic…you do!
To learning with our littles,