Written by Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool and founder of Steady Mom
When I had two children, both still toddlers, I planned out their entire education for the next 15 years. I spent hours drawing charts, researching, thinking about socialization, and narrowing down curriculum options.
We haven’t followed any of it.
Since then I’ve found a better strategy is to plan for tomorrow, not next week or next year. I don’t mean you should never look ahead; I just mean that when stress or overwhelm kick in, that’s your clue to stop.
Today I want to share not only the resources we’ll be using in the upcoming year, but also what we’ve used in the past. Hopefully this will help those of you with younger children as well.
Before Five in a Row
I used this program with my oldest son when he was between two and three years old. We spent this time together while my youngest was napping. Jonathan and I read, talked, and did short activities together. This was not necessary for his academic development in any way–it was just plain fun.
Tsh of Simple Mom had success using Five in a Row for preschool as well.
Letter of the Week
I began this free online curriculum when my two oldest kids were ages four and three, though we never fully completed it.
I want to stress that no formal curriculum is necessary for preschool at all! But if you and your kids enjoy it, then it’s fine to spend a little time together this way–keeping it light and playful. A wonderful resource along these lines that I recommend is Kindergarten with Your 3 to 6 Year Old by Donna Simmons of Christopherus Homeschool.
Finding out about Sonlight was what first convinced me to give homeschooling a try. As someone who loves books and reading, I couldn’t believe my luck at discovering this literature-based program.
We began using the P3/4 level when my kids were 5, 3.5, and 3. This is a wonderful collection of books and we read them alongside the Letter of the Week program mentioned above.
When my kids turned 6, 4.5, and 4 we progressed to Sonlight’s P4/5 collection. And this past year I used Core A with my 7, 5.5, and 5-year-olds. By this time I began to notice that I wasn’t using the Instructor’s Guide regularly. It had been such a comfort when I first started (and many families swear by it), but as I grew in confidence I no longer referred to it as often.
At that point I decided to begin using Sonlight’s book collection without following the program rigidly. Sonlight is great for combining a range of ages; many of their book selections are advanced and can be used with older kids (So the Core A readings were perfect for my seven-year-old too).
I first discovered Oak Meadow because of their relationship as sponsors here on Simple Homeschool. But it just so happens that it was the perfect resource for the perfect time for our family.
I appreciate Oak Meadow’s creative approach to introducing academics and their respect for the whole child’s development, not just their academic skills. I also appreciate the structured presentation of lessons in the syllabus. I love that just one syllabus covers all subjects: language arts, math, social studies, science, music, and crafts.
Though the presentation of lesson plans may appear somewhat structured, the way I integrate the activities into our days is anything but! That’s the beauty of making a curriculum work for you, instead of the other way around.
This year we’ve been using the Oak Meadow Kindergarten program and next year I plan to continue with the First Grade program. I’ll be doing it with all three of my children, who will be 8, 7, and 6 when we begin. I prefer to introduce academics at a later age and my oldest is developmentally delayed, so I’m able to combine all three with minor modifications.
Books, Books, Books
Of all we’ll be doing over the upcoming year, I most look forward to our read-alouds. I pull my reading choices from the lists at Sonlight, Ambleside Online, Simply Charlotte Mason, and my own research.
Because I don’t like being overwhelmed by book clutter, I use the lists to determine the classics I know I want to keep on our shelves long-term. Other read-alouds we’ll check out from the library.
Here are the books I’ve decided to purchase for our home this year:
- A Child’s Garden of Verses
- Homer Price
- Charlotte’s Web
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
- Follow My Leader
- Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle
- Pippi Longstocking
- Mr. Popper’s Penguins
- A Little House Christmas Treasury
- First Human Body Encyclopedia
- First Animal Encyclopedia
- Eye Wonder: Space
Listing all this curricula doesn’t make me sound like an interest-led learner, does it? Over time I’ve found out how to use resources in the way that works for us, without feeling pressured if that doesn’t line up with the original intent of the materials.
Don’t stress out if your three to six-year-old doesn’t want to “do” school–they’ll astound you with all they are learning naturally if you give them the freedom to do so.
What resources have you found most helpful for your younger kids?