January 3, 2022
As I prepared for the start of school again this week, I thought this would be a perfect time to share a few thoughts, ideas, and encouragements on working with a 4 year old at home. In no way does this blog post cover every facet of homeschooling a 4 year old, but I hope you can find some ideas and encouragement!
At the risk of sounding too philosophical, I am going to share briefly why I do what I do (which is philosophy at its heart). Why you do what you do gives meaning and focus to the task you seek to accomplish, and if you do not know why you are doing something, chances are the project will fizzle.
If you do not have solid reasons for why you are schooling your child at home, you will probably get busy and give up. You may decide it’s too hard and drop your child off at a preschool (which is completely fine, and in no way am I criticizing families that seek school options outside of their home). Yet if you have a heart to teach your child at home, you need to keep at the forefront of your mind why you are doing what you are doing.
For my husband and me we want to have the primary teaching roles in the lives of our children as we seek to train and teach them to be effective servants for God in whatever path He has for them. We want to create a safe haven for them to learn and thrive. We also want to create an unhurried, low-stress environment that fuels creativity and learning instead of stifling those two elements through unnecessary busyness often found in traditional schools. There are many other reasons why we have chosen homeschooling for our family, but these are just a few of the reasons why we have chosen this path.
Now that we have briefly considered a macro perspective on home education, let’s zoom in to the micro level and consider what should my goals be as a parent for teaching K4? For me personally, the following two reasons are my main points of emphasis for K4. This grade/age is a foundational time, and I want to build a solid foundation upon which my child and I can build the rest of her/his education.
1. I desire to develop a solid teacher-student working relationship.
When I first started working with my daughter intentionally on “school time”, I realized that we needed to develop some skill in working together in this new way. Sure, we have been a mother-daughter team, so to speak, for several years now, but we took a little while to get calibrated as a teacher-student team. I had to work with my daughter on important skills such as listening when mommy is talking/teaching, following instructions, and sitting relatively still (a few wiggles are fine and expected, but jumping up constantly is not acceptable).
All these skills are taught (or should be taught) in a traditional classroom, and a homeschool student should still learn these important skills of submitting to leadership and following instructions. A parent who does not lay the foundation with her child of listening and sitting reasonably still during school time will struggle with her child for quite a while. Learning will be limited with a lack of discipline.
2. I introduce key basic concepts such as numbers and their associated meanings and letters and their associated sounds.
For me personally, K4 is about introducing my child to important tools (i.e. letters and numbers), letting her handle them, and letting her explore those tools. K5 is about about how to use those tools and how to start making connections with those tools.
Did you notice that my paragraph about my first goal was longer than my second goal? In my humble opinion, K4 is almost more about developing and teaching proper behavior than it is about letters and numbers. Yes, letters and numbers are crucial, yet without proper behavior, my child will have a very difficult time learning anything.
Important thoughts to remember
Keep it simple. For many children, K4 may be their first introduction to school. The goal should not be to drown them with information but rather stir in their little minds a love for learning (well, that love is already present for most children, we just need to present food for their minds). You as the parent and educator should NOT be stressing about K4! This is a simple and fun stage, one that both parent and child should look back on with sweet memories. I used to stress about lesson plans and spend hours poring over curriculum. Once I got in my groove, I realized K4 should not be stressful at all.
Keep it short. School should absolutely not be a long, drawn-out process in K4. I would say an hour at absolute max and more appropriately about 30 minutes of concentrated “school time.” Break your school time up to keep things moving and exciting. For example we often do our bible time during breakfast. Then we clean up the kitchen, brush our teeth, sweep the floor, etc. for a few minutes and then come back to our school time. Maybe you could do your math time, run around outside for a bit, and then come back inside to finish language arts. Pay attention to your child’s attention span, and do not overtax his/her limited focus.
Keep it fun. K4 should be about exploring new ideas, people, and places. Let this time be a time of wonder and joy in learning. This will lay a foundation for the rest of your child’s education and really his entire life. I am not a fan of worksheets at this stage. I’d say one or at max 2 very brief pages a day is developmentally appropriate. K4 really should focus on reading together and exploring new concepts in a hands-on way as much as possible.
Some of you may gasp when I say this statement, but I do not make my daughter spend endless time coloring. Honestly, I rarely make her color. We focus on the academic part of a worksheet, and I leave it up to her if she wants to “fill it in” with color. I remember as a child disliking coloring. I went to a great Christian school, and every day we had coloring sheets to keep us busy. Even as a young child, I remember thinking coloring was such a waste of time (I’d rather read). While keeping students occupied in a large student-to-teacher ratio is necessary, there are other more productive ways to keep our children busy in a home setting if they are not huge fans of coloring. If your child loves coloring, then go for it!
The resources for homeschooling are many, and the plethora of resources can be intimidating. Here are a few resources that we are currently using and enjoying in our K4 journey.
Preschool Math at Home by Kate Snow. I cannot tell you how much I truly love this book! Kate presents a very hands-on approach using household items and no worksheets. The book itself is inexpensive, and since the suggested resources are probably found in your home, this curriculum is very cost-efficient. This book lets children enjoy math and creates a sense that math is all around them, not just on a worksheet.
ABC-123 K4 Phonics and Numbers by Abeka Press. This book focuses on number formation (how to write numbers) and basic phonic skills. This book goes well with Handbook for Reading.
Handbook for Reading by Abeka Press. What I love about this book is that it is a “stand alone” book. In other words, you can use just this book to teach someone how to read. I’m probably a little crazy for starting my daughter with this book, but we are taking our time. We will certainly not finish it in K4 and will continue using it in K5.
Bible Stories by Abeka Press. Abeka has a robust bible series for K4: Old Testament Stories, New Testament Stories, and Holiday Stories. I focus on one bible story/lesson a week. I’ve found that trying to cram more than one lesson in a week is too much for us. By focusing on one story a week, that allows us time to read the scripture associated with the story, take our time, talk about the story, and review. A friend of mine who now has preteens and teenagers has been using the Abeka curriculum for many years, and my friend said that her children know the bible stories incredibly well from this curriculum. She said that her children love this curriculum and the older ones still love to listen as the younger ones are taught this curriculum.
Primary Composition Journal These journals are designed specifically for primary grades. The lines include a middle dotted line to aid handwriting. Space at the top inspires artistic creativity.
Instead of a pre-made handwriting curriculum, I am using this blank primary journal to teach my daughter handwriting. She writes her name every day, and she practices writing her letter for the week. For example, today she wrote her name and then she wrote several letter “Es”. These composition books are wonderful for writing sentences down that your child can dictate to you. For example, have your child tell you about his favorite pet or stuffed animal. Write down your child’s sentence and then have your child draw a picture of the sentence. Dictation is an important pre-reading and pre-writing skill.
Book Basket I always keep several baskets of books in our living room for easy access to reading. These books may be from our personal library or from our city library. We like to cozy up on the couch or even a quilt on the floor and read books almost every day (that’s the goal at least!).
In no way am I attempting to present a comprehensive K4 curriculum for a homeschooling family, but I hope you have found some tidbit of value in this post. Maybe a resource intrigues you and could help your family. Maybe you already have a set curriculum, but you just needed a little encouragement to keep going on the homeschool journey! Whether you are a veteran homeschooler or a newbie, I hope you find joy in your homeschool journey, and I would be thrilled to know that something in this post blessed your heart.