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Homeschooling the Early Years: K-3

Homeschooling the Early Years: K-3rd Grade

If I had one word for new homeschoolers it would be: relax. Especially if you are homeschooling the early years (third grade and below). Children are like sponges and when their brains are ready to learn something new, they generally do it with very little effort. If they’re not ready you have to options. Wait…or force it. And I can almost guarantee that forcing it won’t make them learn the information sooner but will frustrate them and you.

Homeschooling the Early Years: K-3rd Grade
Apollo hiking at Lake Whatcom.

No Formal School Before Age Eight

I am a firm believer in not pushing young kids to do schoolwork. I use the loose guideline of “no formal schooling before age eight” as recommended in Homegrown Kids. As I explain here, this does not mean no teaching or learning is taking place, it simply means no regular schoolwork is required. If workbooks and worksheets are enjoyed, great, but don’t make them compulsory.

pythagorean theorem proof for kids

I believe in the early years, children learn best through books (lots of reading aloud, every day), helping around the house, learning life skills, exploration, and play.

Homeschool math games are a great way to inspire learning.

When we do school work at this age I like to focus on what the kids are interested in and curious about. Not only does this make learning fun, but the kids are automatically engaged. We live in a world full of resources; libraries, the internet, our communities. It’s just a matter of diving in and exploring together.

Favorite Curriculum for K-3rd Grades

Warlord's Beads Book and STEM Activity

Math Curriculum We Enjoy

Quality books about math. Here is a massive list of our favorite math storybooks. This is my favorite way to teach math in the early years.

Teaching Textbooks has both pros and cons. I like the fact that there is no prep work to do. The kids watch the lesson on the computer and then work through the problems. This means the computer also grades the work for you. The con is, borrowing and carrying on the computer is a lot more tedious than doing it by hand. If you buy the set it also comes with a spiral-bound workbook for them to use which is easier for the student but requires the parent to grade the work.

Mathematical Reasoning is pricey…especially for “just” a workbook. To me, these are well worth the price for the great foundation in critical thinking and math it gives students. My kids all found it fun as well.

Life of FredMath as serious as it needs to be is their tagline. Life of Fred approaches math from a practical point of view. Every concept introduced in story form and in a way you student can understand. The book follows Fred (a five-year-old professor) through his life and classes.

All of my kids have loved these books and often take them to bed to read for fun. In the early years, this can be a full curriculum. In the upper grades, it should be used as a supplement.

Reading and Writing Curriculum

What do I use for reading curriculum in the early years? Brace yourself…I use books. As in, real books that the kids enjoy. It’s no secret that I am a big fan of Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. This is literally the only book I have needed to teach my children to read.

Italic Handwriting Series is what I have used to improve handwriting.

Sequential Spelling is my favorite spelling curriculum. It is, as it says, sequential, which makes perfect sense to me. Learn to read and spell smaller words, then move up to more difficult ones.

Reading at Grade Level

Kindergarten at home is an easy choice.

Should I be worried if my child isn’t reading at grade level? First of all, let’s stop a moment and define “grade level”. Grade level is simply where your child is placed in school according to when they were born. Imagine, for a moment, if we assigned “month levels” to our babies. Your baby isn’t up to Month Level in fine motor skills? Is your baby behind Month Level in crawling? Sounds a bit ridiculous, am I right? Yes, we want to keep an eye on our child’s development and make sure they are progressing, but we all know 100% of healthy kids will be walking by two and all will eventually be potty-trained and learn to read.

Reading Buddy is the perfect solution for reluctant readers.

The same is true for reading. Not every child will be able to read at the same time or same level. My children have learned to read anywhere from age four to age 8. All now read at or above grade level.

Other Curriculum We Love for Homeschooling the Early Years

Story of the World– We use this for History and Geography. It is a great jumping off point for unit studies, mapwork, and more. I can’t say enough good things about this curriculum. It is flexible and the kids LOVE it.

Lyrical Learning Science These science facts set not just to music, but to old classic folk tunes. I love these so much we often listen to them while driving and I even listen to them while driving alone. We have all learned a ton from these. I am just sad that they aren’t making any more.

More Articles to Inspire You While Homeschooling the Early Years

Delaying Formal Education

How We Afford to Homeschool Our Large Family

How I Taught My Four-Year-Old How to Read

Kindergarten at Home: You’re Probably Already Doing It


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