Here are our pre-k curriculum choices for our first full homeschool year. I am fully aware that I am making the rookie mistake of buying All The Things, but oh man, I love me some shiny new curriculum.
Note: I’ve made an updated post about what we REALLY use in our pre-k homeschool, six months into the year. Check it out here.
We will start our homeschool year July 1, and I’m planning on doing six, six-week terms with at least a week break between each term. We anticipate that we might want to take some extended time off mid-year to spend with family back in the US, so that’s factored in as well. I plan on wrapping up our year in early June of 2020.
While I’ve mapped out a general year-long goal for each of the subjects I want to cover, I’m only planning out lessons six weeks at a time, just in case something isn’t working or we need to make a change.
One of our biggest challenges to homeschooling abroad is the lack of a local library. I plan on using a literature-heavy curriculum, which equals potentially mega bucks for books. By only planning out six weeks at a time, it helps spread the cost out a bit and keeps me from getting too overwhelmed, which for me can lead to making bad purchases just in an effort to get it over with.
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How I Plan My Homeschool Year
I used Pam Barnhill’s “Put Your Year on Auto-Pilot” course to get us set up for this year. I plan on doing a full review of the course in a later post, but for now, I’ll just say that I found the course helpful and straight-forward. It was a great resource for our first year.
In a nutshell, I first wrote out all the subjects I wanted to include in our year. I researched standard pre-k and kindergarten learning objectives for these subjects, and made my own spreadsheet where I modified and added new objectives to fit my own vision. Then, I went searching for resources that would help me achieve each of these goals.
I also frequently referenced my own Educational Manifesto, which I wrote while I was still making the decision to homeschool. I wanted to make sure that I was still in keeping with my bigger goals for home and school and family, rather than just re-creating school at home.
Last, I stopped and made a list of my daughter’s current abilities and skills, and I gave her a few short placement tests that I found on sites like Timberdoodle, All About Reading, and RightStart.
I knew my daughter was a bit ahead, but I was surprised when she tested easily into kindergarten and first-grade-level work. For all that, she was still only three-years-old (she will be four when we officially start the pre-k year), and a particularly busy, energetic, tactile kid who doesn’t like to sit still for long. I knew I had some work ahead of me to find material that was challenging but still developmentally appropriate.
Most importantly, I wanted it to be fun. I wanted her to love learning.
And worst case scenario, I figured she’d learn nothing at all for an entire year and would still be at “grade-level” at the end of it.
How I Chose My Resources
The anchors of our homeschool year are connection and outdoor time and reading. Everything else comes second. While there is a very long list of resources and options below, our #1 focus is joy, curiosity, and connection. We will continue to spend hours outside every day, and I will continue to follow my daughter’s lead 100% — when she loses interest or gets frustrated, it’s time to move on or try a different approach. I’ve decided that we’ll spend no more than 40 minutes a day on “table” work — everything else will be nature walks, art projects, puzzles and games, cooking, science experiments, and free play.
When looking for resources, my criteria were as follows:
- High-quality, age-appropriate literature that was beautiful and pleasant to read
- Academically thorough
- Easy to implement as a parent
- Culturally sensitive and inclusive
- Bonus points for use of nature, great art and music, and hands-on activities
- Secular, or easily modified to fit our secular home
- Double bonus points if I’m able to include my toddler
Core Pre-K Homeschool Curriculum
- Torchlight Pre-K: I liked their emphasis on modern, quality literature as well as the inclusion of social-emotional skills.
- BookShark Pre-K: I’ll have to do a complete review of BookShark’s pre-k program elsewhere. We started with BookShark back in January of 2018, while I was still flirting with the idea of homeschooling full-time. After completing the first month of their curriculum, I found some of the material to be too mature and not in keeping with our family values. But I did like most of their read-alouds, which were longer and more complex than Torchlight. We’re going to weave these into our morning basket, being very liberal with which ones we choose to include.
Phonics & Reading
- All About Reading Level 1: There is ample evidence that early reading provides no later benefits, and can actually discourage children from enjoying reading if they’re pushed too early. That said, my kid had been reciting her upper and lower-case letters and their sounds for two years now. She is beginning to sound out simple words, and she has good print knowledge. She is ready for Level 1, but we’ll go slow and keep it fun.
- Get Ready for Explode the Code: A homeschooling friend gifted me copies of the entire Explode the Code series, and my daughter weirdly seems to like workbooks. We’ll match the letters that we’re studying in AAR that week to the appropriate pages in ETC as a supplement, but we won’t stress about getting all the pages finished.
- Hooked on Phonics: I already owned the full set, and I honestly don’t love them (they’re a bit flashy and repetitive). But they have nice activity pages, and so I plan to incorporate some of the activity pages as another supplement as needed, again without stressing about finishing everything.
- The Good and The Beautiful Level K: Oh man, I AGONIZED over the math choice. I read a ton from Kate Snow’s website, and she even wrote a lovely personal response when I asked her a question via email. Based on her recommendation, I really wanted to use Right Start Level A, but it was pricey. Then I stumbled across TG&TB, but I initially wrote it off because it was from a religiously-based company. However, I kept coming back to it, because I loved the layout and design, the inclusion of real art and stories and games into the curriculum, and the scope and sequence of the material. They provide an online copy of most of the entire book, and after reading it through multiple times, I found the religious material to be very minimal and easily modified.
- Torchlight Pre-K provides a math option, and I will supplement with their recommended books and materials as appropriate throughout the year. I like their Math Inquiry tables, and plan to use these as morning invitations for semi-independent work while I get breakfast on the table.
Science & Nature
- Exploring Science: I stumbled across this recommendation from a Facebook post in one of my homeschool groups, and I really adore the scope of the curriculum and the types of activities they include. It includes nature work, reading, art, and sometimes cooking activities to support each week’s experiment. I match the weekly experiment to whatever syncs up best with our current Torchlight week.
- Torchlight also has a lot of good science and nature activities that we’ll also incorporate.
- BookSeeds: This resource from the fabulous Blossom & Root makes great unit studies, and provides lots of art projects, nature studies, and cooking ideas to supplement our theme of the week. We work these in when we’re feeling inspired.
- Music Prodigies: I am IN LOVE with this early education music curriculum, which focuses on ear training. It is simple to follow, robust, and developmentally sound.
- We’ll be using Art Lab and A Little Bit of Dirt as scheduled by Torchlight, but I knew I also wanted hands-on art pretty much every day. We got in the habit of a daily art project while using the Mother Goose Time preschool curriculum, and it was often the best part of our day.
- The Art of Math and Science: I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love this book. It features simple projects linked to a specific artist or movement, and it includes so many culturally diverse artists and movements. I am syncing up the artists to match our Torchlight weekly theme (so, O’Keefe during the “Flowers” week; Hokusai during “Gardens,” etc.)
- The Way They See It: I’m still exploring this resource, but I’ll update when I have more info.
- The Artful Parent: I’ve had this for a few years, and I really love this beautiful book. We’ll be referencing it for additional projects as needed.
- Picture Study Portfolios: These portfolios are sold by Simply Charlotte Mason, and they are a great resource for morning picture study. I sometimes buy coffee table books for each artist we’re studying, but this can get expensive fast. These portfolios are a really lovely alternative that are easier to hold and manipulate for little hands.
- Capable: I love this book of life skills, which fits in perfectly with our emphasis on teaching life skills as part of school. It’s an easy read and a great one to have on hand to reference down the road.
- Various cookbooks — we cook together weekly!
- In addition to the social-emotional curriculum in Torchlight, we’re going to try Cosmic Kids Yoga as part of our morning routine.
Logic & Games
- I really love the idea of gameschooling — learning shouldn’t have to be hard work (at least not all of the time). Torchlight provides a game option for most weeks, which we’ll explore as our finances allow, and we also bought a ton of resources from Timberdoodle. I like strewing STEM and engineering toys around the house, and regularly mixing them up during independent play time.
- Developing the Early Learner: These books came with our BookShark Pre-K box, and my daughter LOVES these. I have to cut her off each morning or she’d just fly through the whole book in one sitting. Since I don’t plan on doing any formal handwriting curriculum at this age (because, um, we’re doing more than enough), these books are a great way to practice a pencil grip.
Pre-K Subscription Boxes
These are a post all in themselves (we have tried SO MANY), but in short, these are the ones we love and will continue using:
There you have it — a full run-down of our pre-k homeschool curriculum for a gifted four-year-old.
The BEST Pre-K Homeschool Resources…
…are totally free.
If money is tight, you really only need a few things at this age:
- A park or access to the outdoors
- A library card
- A loving caregiver
Everything else is frosting. And, just like homeschool curriculum, frosting is delicious, but too much can be overwhelming and unnecessary.
Keep it simple.
Find what works for you, your child, and your family.
Now it’s your turn:
What Pre-K homeschool curriculum and resources are you using? Do you have any questions about the resources listed above? Let me know if you’d like in-depth reviews of any particular options!