Reading in Kindergarten: What We Use

Norah’s moving into Kindergarten!

For Reading during the next few months, we will use:

A Handbook for Reading

Bob’s Books Sets 1-5

The Handbook for Reading is my “no-frills” approach to phonics. This book was the only thing we used for reading for over a year and it really works. I used it when I was tutoring remedial readers as a full-time teacher so I was confident it would work for my daughter.
Norah and I started with the alphabet chart inside the cover. From there, we eventually moved on to the short vowels, going forward page by page and back again till she “had it.” We learned and reviewed the consonants one by one, learned how to blend each consonant and a short vowel, and now we are about to finish the long vowels and move into special sounds.

Along the way, the book teaches sight words and spelling rules when they come up, such as “K comes before i, e and C comes before a, o and u.” Norah can’t actually apply these rules, but to me, it makes sense that she learn them along with phonics and be able to recite them at a time when she enjoys memorizing things. The rules will make sense to her soon enough and she will apply them as soon as she stars spelling words on her own.

For our beginner readers, we chose Bob Books, after looking into several publishers. Norah enjoys them and gets a sense of accomplishment from reading “a whole book” herself. We borrowed the first set from the library to make sure we liked them, then we purchased all five sets through Amazon.

I thought these books would be a wise investment. I know I will likely use the books again with Avril when she is old enough to read.  The books are already up on the shelf where Norah doesn’t have access to them, so she can’t tear them up with constant use. I liked the idea of having these books on hand right when my children are ready for them and for convenience sake, not having to request the specific sets from the library, then wait till they come, then go get them and then get them back to the library before we may actually be done with them, etc.

Calendar Skills


The other night at dinner, my husband asked randomly, “What’s today’s date?” I didn’t know. Without even lifting her head from looking at her plate, my preschooler said, “March 11th.” We were both floored.

Homeschoolers don’t need a colorful text book exercise to practice calendar skills. They can just use a real calendar that applies to their real lives and learn calendar skills as they practice them in real situations. All parents need to do is provide their child with a calendar on their bedroom wall or hang one in a room (like the kitchen) where the kids will have access to it. Then discuss with them how to use a calendar on a day to day basis, as often the topics come up.

Days of the week
“What’s today?” or “When do we go to church?” or “How long till my birthday?”

Months of the year
“Find this month. January, February, March… That’s right. It’s March.” then ask “What is next month?”

Counting
“What number is in today’s box?” “4”  “So it’s March the forth.”

Time
“How many days until Saturday?”

Patterns
Instead of using Xs to mark the days, let your kids color the boxes in a pattern when the day begins or ends. Then ask them, “What will we color the box today?”

Predicting
“What will we color the box for tomorrow?”

Ordinal Numbers
“Today is the 1st, 2nd, 3rd… 12th. That’s right.”

Saying the Date
“Today is Thursday, March the 12th. What is the year? …2009. So, today’s full date is Thursday, March the 12th, 2009.”

This type of consistent practice really works! No need for a textbook!

Homemade Binoculars



The birds are coming back to the trees behind our house, singing every morning. We’ve been pulling up the shades to see what we can see. These homemade binoculars worked like a charm for my preschool daughters.

To make these binoculars, take two toilet paper rolls, glue them together and fasten them with clothes pins until they dry together securely. Punch holes in them and tie a long piece of yarn on, so little ones can wear them draped around their necks. Let them decorate their binoculars as they choose. My oldest daughter used crayons and put little circle stickers on hers. “These are the buttons,” she said and she would press the stickers to make the binoculars “focus.”

Tape Time Again

I made a second tape for Norah. On this one:

I sang her the old Shaker song “Simple Gifts.”

‘Tis a gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,
‘Tis a gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gain’d,
To bow and to bend we shall not be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.

I read some Bible verses.

“God is love.” 1 John 4:8
“God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1
“He made everything beautiful.” Ecclesiastes 3:11
“Give thanks to the Lord who made the great lights… sun, moon and stars.” Psalm 136: 3, 7-9
“Through him all things were made.” John 1:3

We reviewed the rules we’ve covered in Phonics so far:

K comes before i and e, C comes before a, o and u.
The x sound “ks” usually comes at the end of a word, not at the beginning.
Q and U are always together in a word.
When there is one vowel in a word, it usually says it’s short sound.
When there are two vowels in a word, the first vowel says it long sound and the second vowel is silent.

We counted from 1 to 100 as she pointed to the numbers on a number sheet.

We counted from 1 to 100 again as she pushed the beads on her abacus.

We counted backward 10-1.

We reviewed the seasons, months and days of the week.

Finally, we reviewed a poem she is memorizing in order to say out loud. (I had my mom read this poem to me so often as a preschooler, I still know it by heart.)

Eletelephony
By Laura Elizabeth Edwards

Once there was an elephant,
Who tried to use the telephant—
No! no! I mean an elephone
Who tried to use the telephone—
(Dear me! I am not certain quite
That even now I’ve got it right.)
Howe’er it was, he got his trunk
Entangled in the telephunk;
The more he tried to get it free,
The louder buzzed the telephee—
(I fear I’d better drop the song
Of elephop and telephong!)

What about my child’s social development?

My daughter with a friend from church.
“Apart from academic concerns, many parents ask, ‘What about my child’s social development? Doesn’t he need peers?’ Children need friends. Children do not need to be surrounded by large groups of peers who inevitably follow the strongest personality in the crowd. The question for any parent is: Do I want my child to be like his peers? Or do I want my child to rise above them?”

-Jessie and Susan Wise Bauer, The Well-Trained Mind

Practice Patterns with Building Blocks


Use building blocks that you have around the house to practice pattern recognition with your kids. Make a pattern and let your child duplicate it with her own blocks. In the picture, you can see that my daughter is copying a pattern she sees on the television: a tower of three blocks followed by one block followed again by a tower of three blocks… We may continue to make more complex patterns with Legos. That way, we will be able to incorporate colors and and even sizes in the patterns we make.

How I Taught my Daughter to Hold Her Pencil Correctly

“Teach a child from the beginning to hold a pencil correctly. Draw lots of circles and loops in a counterclockwise direction. Most printed letters use counterclockwise circles; although many children will want to draw circles clockwise, this habit will make cursive writing difficult later on.”

-Excerpt from The Well Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home

When Norah was two years old and just learning to color, I had to wrap her little hand around each crayon and place her tiny fingers on the tip just so. Then I had to squeeze her hand gently but firmly and guide her crayon around the page for a moment or two, coloring with her. This was painstaking and she didn’t enjoy my guidance.

After a while, I’d let go and let her color by herself. She’d hold the crayon correctly for a little while, but then she’d switch her grip and go back to an incorrect hold. Depending on what I was doing at the time and so as not to take all the fun out of coloring, I’d let her color incorrectly for a moment or two, just enjoying putting marks on the paper.

But, eventually, I’d start the process over again. I’d place the crayon back in her hand the right way and hold it there while we colored together again. Then I’d let her color alone.

We did this from the beginning, every time she colored in her coloring books. It ended up being worth the effort. After six months, she was holding her crayon perfectly. She never even thought to hold it wrong. When the time came for her to switch to markers for art or pencils for school work, she never had trouble holding those correctly. She could focus on drawing what she wanted or learning her letters, because she’d been holding her crayons right for years.

Enjoying Tape Time


Norah seems to enjoy Tape Time and asks to listen at least once a day, often more. It does my heart good when I hear her giggling, repeating or singing in response to the cues on the tape. And, I may be imagining it, but she seems to be more contemplative the last few days, even a little distracted sometimes, like she is thinking about something…Something on the tape? I’ve also noticed she needs much less coaching when it comes time to do a chore that I mentioned on the tape! It’s not just about making chores easier, though.  I want the messages to get into her head, yes, but I also want them to bless her and mold her precious little heart.

Let Your Kids “Ice Skate” Inside!

My preschooler pretends to “ice skate” all over our wood floors with these pieces of felt under her socked feet.  If you have carpet, paper plates would work best for your kids.

Kids can also try and balance a bean bag on their head while “ice skating.” We don’t have bean bags, but we do have beanie babies, so we improvised and my daughter put a beanie baby on her head.

This is a simple, cheap and easy idea for more active, fun, indoor play this winter.

If it’s good enough for groundhogs…

My preschooler has been asking a lot of questions this winter, wondering where all the animals have gone. So I started reading her a kid’s book called Animals that Hibernate by Larry Dane Brimner. I found yesterday’s portion about groundhogs fascinating, encouraging, even challenging.

“A female (groundhog) is a loving parent, but a strict one. A mother often ‘drills’ her youngsters. Pretending to spot danger, she’ll give a false alarm to make certain her pups know what to do in an emergency. A wise pup scampers into the burrow where it is relatively safe from enemies. Any pup remaining above ground is given a gentle nip. It doesn’t take long for the youngsters to learn the habit of going underground when danger is present.”

It seems like people, as advanced as we are, could learn a thing or two from groundhogs. Too many of us try and reason with our little ones to get them out of the busy street when they are just too young to understand what we are saying.  My mom always said that she preferred to have me afraid of her (and the fact that she might pop my hand) than to have me actually burn on my hand on the stove top. I guess I agree with that. And after what I read, I think the groundhogs would agree with her, too. It’s okay, even wise, if our little ones listen to us and keep out of danger even if it’s just to avoid our “gentle nips” during these early years.