2020 Pre-k Homeschool Curriculum: What We’re Actually Using
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We’re six months into our pre-k homeschool year. These are the resources we’re ACTUALLY using for our 2020 pre-k homeschool curriculum.
It’s been nearly a month since we decided to return to full-time homeschooling after all the health issues our daughter was having.
If you’re not familiar with our story, we started the year with full-time homeschooling, then switched to afterschooling when a Montessori, bilingual pre-k opened up in our neighborhood. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t working. After six months, we pulled her out to go back to full-time homeschooling.
I’ve talked before about the resources we bought for our homeschool pre-k curriculum, but I thought I’d update you as to what we’re actually using, six months into the year.
Adjusting the Pre-k Homeschool Workload
We were combo-schooling all through the fall and had completed about 13 weeks of our curriculum before we got to this point.
Honestly, I look back at all the work we were doing in the fall — with her going to school five days a week AND completing lessons at home in the afternoon — and I realize now that I was crazy.
She loved the homeschool work we were doing, so it didn’t feel like a lot, but I realize now that I was unnecessarily stressing myself out. It’s pre-k, folks.
But I forgive myself; we’re still new to this and still finding our groove.
Focus on Big-Picture Goals
When we first started down this road, I wrote up our homeschool vision and printed them out. They’re on the front of the binder I use to organize our weekly checklists and calendars.
It really, really helps to have those goals front-and-center. When I feel stressed because I can’t seem to squeeze in math every day, I just remember our big-picture goals: fostering curiosity, enabling exploration, connecting with family.
As I sat down to re-evaluate what we’re working on this spring, I re-read our homeschool vision multiple times to make sure we were focusing on the priorities.
Our 2020 Pre-K Homeschool Spine
Our primary curriculum is Torchlight’s Pre-K program. We base our weekly themes on this curriculum, and I really like the social-emotional components of the curriculum. The literature is also modern and diverse, which I love as well.
This is a great curriculum if you want something very light, easy to implement, secular, and modern. If you did nothing else but this curriculum, combined with lots of playtime and outside exploration, you’d be just fine.
That said, there really isn’t much emphasis on phonics or reading skills (which, to be fair, is fine for most four-year-olds) and the math is way, way too basic (Preschool Math at Home). I love Kate Snow and her work in general, but it just isn’t the right level for my kid.
I also wasn’t thrilled with the art or science books that came with Torchlight. The books looked fantastic when I got them, but they haven’t been easy to use in real life. The main art books are A Little Bit of Dirt and Art Lab. I’ve found both of these to be difficult to implement, hard to prep, and just not that engaging for my kid.
In sum, we use Torchlight as a basis for our weekly themes and to give us a base for our literature and social-emotional lessons each week. We add in a few videos from Cosmic Kids Yoga every week, and I feel good that we’re hitting the social-emotional side of things. It’s super cheap to buy the PDF of the online curriculum, so it’s not a big deal to buy this curriculum even if you plan to adapt it heavily.
Pre-K Homeschool Math Choice
We are using The Good & The Beautiful Math – Kindergarten as our primary math curriculum. I absolutely LOVE this curriculum. It is affordable, rigorous, and really gorgeous to look at. I love how they work art and literature and poems into the math lessons. It is also 100% open-and-go, so I have to do very little prep. And as far as math curricula go, it’s quite affordable.
We can get through a lesson in about 20 minutes if my kid is feeling focused. I usually break it up into two days, though. On day 1, we do the lesson intro and the main lesson. On day 2, we do the worksheet and independent activity. Breaking the lessons into 10-minute chunks works well for my kid, and I think it helps to reinforce the same concept over two days.
From our first lesson, we were doing bar graphs and building ten frames to practice place value. Just this afternoon, I opened the lesson to realize we were going to introduce odd and even numbers. Seriously? She’s four! I steeled myself for a challenging lesson. But the way they explained it made SO MUCH SENSE. This evening, she was identifying odd and even-numbered groups of objects in her toy bin.
Yes, it’s from a religious company and, as a secular family, we occasionally have to skip over the rare references to God. But it’s no big deal, and it doesn’t affect the academic part of the curriculum at all.
Pre-K Homeschool Phonics Curriculum
We started with All About Reading Level 1, but it wasn’t working for us. This was disappointing, as it’s so highly reviewed, but the lessons were too long and she didn’t like the structured nature of the activities.
Based on my love of TG&TB Math, I decided to check out their Language Arts Primer K. It is also ridiculously affordable and just so lovely to look at. We’re halfway through the book (it’s short), and she’s already reading CVC words.
The lessons are a touch long, but the activities are varied. I break up the lessons over two days most of the time, depending on her attention span any given day. I like that it incorporates counting, art, and handwriting into the program.
Overall, I just really appreciate the interdisciplinary nature of TG&TB. Seriously, if it were secular, it would be PERFECT.
We also supplement with Reading Eggs, which is an online program/app. I’d been trying to stay away from digital resources, but Reading Eggs is awesome and it’s really helped to reinforce the phonics lessons.
Pre-K Homeschool Literature
Sidenote: I’ve had a lot of questions about where I got the wooden calendar in the picture. It’s a WONDERFUL perpetual calendar from an Etsy shop called @FromJennifer. It is so worth it!
As much as I love the main books in the Torchlight Pre-K spine, they are 100% picture books. Nothing wrong with that! But I wanted to start challenging my daughter to read (well, listen) to longer stories with more complex storylines and fewer pictures.
We happened to already have BookShark’s Pre-K program. But BookShark’s Pre-K program is weird.
In their Geography & History lesson, they want you to talk about the plague and feudalism in Europe, but their “phonics” lesson is literally just looking for words that start with the letter of the week around the house.
Math lessons are basic one-to-one counting and sorting by shape or color.
And then you go back to the literature, where it talks about issues of segregation in the American South or turning your teacher into an apple and then eating her (actually, my kid loved that last story and made me read it three times).
So, I’m finding the BookShark program to be all over the place and I just don’t love it. But since I want more in-depth literature in our homeschool and we don’t have a library here, I use the read-alouds from BookShark and skip most of everything else.
Combining BookShark and Torchlight
In reality, it’s been simple to combine BookShark and Torchlight. I read the Torchlight books over breakfast as part of our morning basket. I read the BookShark literature selections over lunch or while my daughter colors.
The BookShark books are longer, with much more difficult vocabulary, and I’m noticing that her attention span is increasing as we move into books like Catwings or Flat Stanley. I have also been surprised to find how much she enjoys listening to the Mother Goose rhymes and some of the poems.
I don’t love the read-alouds from Usborne’s Stories from Around the World — they are pretty misogynistic, like many folk and fairy tales. We just have to talk about them afterwards and it feels weird to explain to a four-year-old why the princess has to marry some mean old sultan just because her dad said so (for example).
But, despite these problems, I do like how BookShark focuses on classic literature, and how the inclusion of these classics provides a nice contrast and balance to the modern literature in Torchlight. It’s working for this year, but I wouldn’t buy it again and I won’t continue with BookShark in the future.
I love science so much! I think kids can learn pretty much any subject through science, and I am happy to make science the basis for our weekly explorations (in addition to literature and art).
I am really, really sad that Elemental Science has stopped publishing their Exploring Science curriculum for preschool and pre-k kids, based on the (now out-of-print) book Science Play.
This curriculum is working SO WELL for us. There are 36 units, from air and water and weather to rocks and minerals and crystals.
Each topic includes a main experiment with lab pages, a nature walk with nature journaling ideas, a craft, extra experiments, recommended books, a recipe or snack idea, and a coloring page.
Seriously, this program could be the ENTIRE curriculum for a science-minded kiddo.
Each week, I flip through and find a topic that matches whatever we’re doing in Torchlight’s science program that week. The Exploring Science ideas are almost always more in-depth than Torchlight’s, so I usually swap out for the experiment from Science Play.
I add in the craft, the nature walk, and the recipe most weeks — whatever makes sense and looks fun. I love that the experiments from Science Play are so simple to implement and that there are several easy ideas to explore each topic. The reinforcement is amazing.
I am so happy with this program, and I plan to look into their new Summer’s Lab curriculum for next year, which appears to follow the same structure and variety of activities.
Ivy Kids Kit
I didn’t plan this, but we have just fallen in love with Ivy Kids Kits. These boxes work as a unit study, usually based around an animal topic. The kits include literature, math, art, crafts, science, and literature.
We love them so much! Honestly, this is another resource that could work as an entire preschool or pre-k homeschool curriculum in itself.
Since Ivy Kids is more based on animal sciences and Elemental Science is more earth-science based, I actually really love how these two work together.
Pre-K Art & Art Appreciation
I think it’s important that my kids have access to some sort of art every day. The habit of daily creative expression is important to me, and I think there is a lot of value in the emotional regulation that comes through art. And of course, it’s an amazing way to develop fine motor skills, executive planning, and imaginative thinking.
Most days, my kid comes up with her own ideas for an art project, and that is A-okay with me. Right now, she is SUPER into facepainting and can easily spend two hours or more carefully painting her body like whatever animal she’s currently into (this week it was servals, tigers, and unicorns).
However, I do find it helpful to have three or four projects planned for the week that will expose her to new techniques, materials, or styles.
I always try to set up the activity from Art Lab as scheduled by Torchlight. But for whatever reason, my kid rarely seems to be all that interested in the activity, even when it seems cool to me, like sculpting figures out of tin foil or making our own stamps.
I add in the craft from Exploring Science. And then I usually flip through the spectacular book, The Art of Math and Science, to round things out.
Based on what I find in this book, I’ll supplement our morning basket with a few picture studies that relate to the project. This is always a toughie, without a local library, but we do okay with the internet and a few large art reference books.
If I feel like we need more structured art, I’ll look through The Artful Parent, The Artful Year, or 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids. I rarely need to do this, though, especially since we get a monthly Ivy Kids Kit full of art projects and craft ideas.
Logic & Thinking Skills
Bookshark Pre-K came with a set of workbooks from Developing the Early Learner. We do 4-6 pages out of this book every week, and that is enough for us.
I rotate other thinking and logic activities throughout the week as well. On Tuesday, I set out puzzles. Wednesdays are our rest day. Thursdays we do a board game or SmartGame. On Fridays, we do an activity from Socks Are Like Pants or Moebius Noodles (these are scheduled as part of Torchlight).
I didn’t love Socks Are Like Pants, and I’d probably skip it the next time around. I like the idea — adventurous math, problems without a clear solution — but the execution was tricky and involved.
We also have a big old stack of Kumon Thinking Skills books, and these are on standby for whenever we run out of pages in Developing the Early Learner.
You guys, I have found the best cookbook for kids. Adventures in Veggieland has been a revelation.
I have an extremely selective eater who only eats maybe 30 foods that must be presented in a particular way. For example, she’ll only eat yellow cheese cut into cubes — not slices, not string cheese, not white cubed cheese. She’ll eat the yellow and orange veggie straws, but not the green ones. 🙄
This book introduces vegetables through crafts and sensory play. It then includes progressively challenging recipes and always includes a dessert. My kid doesn’t always eat the recipes she makes, but it gets her touching and interacting with novel foods.
For example, in the beet chapter, the kids make stamps using beets. In order to make a print, the kids have to lick the beet to get it wet before stamping it on the paper. GENIUS.
I aim to do some sort of outing once a week — the zoo, a hike, a day trip. Some weeks I’m too tired. 🤷
I really don’t want to overload our schedule right now, so I’m very selective about the extracurriculars that we sign up for. But at the same time, without a local homeschool co-op or group, I want to make sure she gets some opportunity to interact with other kids and to experience the structure of a formal lesson with another adult.
Right now, my daughter attends horseback riding lessons once a week. We recently decided to add in swimming and tennis once a week as well. It’s very important to me that my kids are safe, strong swimmers, so that’s really more about water safety than the actual swimming instruction (although my kid swims like a fish and loves it).
We only added in tennis because we have courts in our neighborhood and my kid was repeatedly crashing her bestie’s tennis lessons each week, so I figure I might as well pay the poor teacher for her time!
Daily Time Spent on 2020 Pre-k Homeschool Curriculum
On any given day, we might spend two or three hours on “school”. I block out my schedule every day from 8 am – 1 pm for school time, but this includes breakfast, lunch, chores, snacks, and playtime.
In a normal week, we might break down our time like this:
- Torchlight: Maybe 20-40 minutes on Torchlight on any given day
- Bookshark: Around 20-40 minutes on the BookShark read-alouds a few times a week
- Science: 20-30 minutes on science three or four times a week
- Math & Phonics: twenty minutes on tablework
- Art: This can last from 10 minutes to three hours, depending on how much she gets into the activity. Note: the self-directed art always lasts much, much longer.
- Logic: 10-20 minutes a day, four days a week (but this usually looks like playtime, like freely playing with puzzles).
- Extracurriculars: Three hours a week
What We’re Not Doing
First, note that while we have a lot of resources at our disposal, we’re not doing everything from each one. I pick the best activities from each resource, adapt heavily, and cut things out without hesitation.
Second, as much as I’d like to, I can’t seem to work in any organized instruction in Spanish or music.
The best I can manage is just general Spanish exposure by virtue of the fact that we live in Guatemala. We have a Spanish-speaking nanny that my daughter spends a few hours with every day, so she’s definitely picking up something.
I did buy the Whistlefritz Spanish program, but my older kid just isn’t that into the videos (they’re a little babyish; my toddler loves them). I incorporate some of the Spanish songs into our morning basket, but that’s about it.
There’s definitely more I could do. I could insist that all screen time is in Spanish or that we read books in Spanish. But she resists this to such a degree that it’s just not worth the fight right now.
We’ll do more Spanish as she gets older. I’m not interested in finding more bookwork or worksheets right now, so in the meantime, we do what we can for natural language exposure.
Oh man, I wish we could find a fun group music class, particularly in Spanish. She’s definitely not ready for formal lessons in an instrument — maybe next year.
I do make a playlist each week that includes nursery rhymes, Spanish songs, and a variety of musical genres. We listen to this throughout the week while driving or eating.
We experimented with Prodigies Music in the fall, but I think she would enjoy this more if it were taught live. We might attempt to work this back in a few more weeks, but for now, our schedule is plenty full.
2020 Pre-K Homeschool Curriculum
There’s our homeschool pre-k curriculum for the spring term of 2020. I know it sounds like a lot, but honestly, all of this only takes maybe two hours a day and the rest just happens through daily life.
We prioritize free play, self-directed learning, and outside time. I’m always happy to ditch the tablework lessons if my kid seems really engaged in independent play.