Monday, April 27, 2009

Preschool/Kindergarten Recommendations

After many years of homeschooling, I have figured out a few things that I really, really like for this age group. Here they are!

My Very First Bible: Old Testament and My Very First Bible: New Testament by L. J. Sattgast, il. by Russell Flint

I didn't initally like the illustrations in these books, but it ends up that that's what we love most about them! They are exaggerated and dramatic, but realistic, not cartoon-like (which I hate for Bible story books). If someone is pointing, their whole body points. If someone is surprised, their facial expression is hugely surprised and their hands are clapped to their cheeks! The stories are brief and well-summarized, and my kids always begged me to keep going to the next one. I also used it with our 3-5 year old class at church, and the full-page illustrations really grabbed them.

Teach Your Child to Read in One Hundred Easy Lessons

I have to admit, teaching a child to read is NOT one of my favorite parts of homeschooling. Listening to w-o-r-d-s being slowly s-ou-n-d-ed ou-t sets my teeth on edge and requires more patience than I usually am able to muster!

This book has worked for me for 5 kids now. It's so simple and easy to use that my husband or an older child can help me out by giving a reading lesson! The lessons begin very simply and build slowly to longer words and stories. Each lesson reviews sounds, sound combinations, word reading and ends with a quirky little illustrated story. (My older kids have all enjoyed teaching a younger sibling to read, and it's partly because they like revisiting the silly stories in their old book!)

I recommend a couple of modifications. You can go through the first 10 lessons or so very quickly. I had two kids that really hated the beginning exercises of rhyming and "stretching out" words, so we skipped a lot and I just taught those skills as they came up in the lessons we picked up with. I also ignored the "script" a lot, after the first child.

Secondly, I always start a lesson by reviewing the story from the previous lesson. We get more mileage out of each little story that way, and it's a good way to start out, since they remember it from the last time, which gives confidence and reinforces what they already learned.

Third, I never ended with the last exercise that teaches them to write letters. Instead, even though it doesn't teach the letters in the same order, I used...

Get Ready for the Code, Get Set for the Code, Go for the Code

These are the primers to a series of phonics workbooks called Explode the Code, which are good too, though we've barely needed to use them with 100 Easy Lessons doing such a good job. These, on the other hand, I have used with every child!

These primers teach all the consonant sounds with very fun little workpages, filled with cartoon-y drawings, and include letter formation as well as recognition. All my kids have enjoyed these, and here's my big frugal secret--we have used the same workbooks with five kids, because instead of writing in them, we cover each page with a plastic report cover and use a dry erase marker. (I think using colored markers on a shiny page is half the appeal, honestly, and when they eventually get their own workbook that they can write in with a pencil, they feel like such a big kid!)

My only complaint about this series is: I wish there was a fourth book that taught all the vowel sounds! The first Explode the Code book does that, but in combination with consonant sounds instead of in the single letter format we love so much in the primers. Oh well.

Learn to Read at

I don't think this website was around when my three oldest were little, but I have allowed my last three children to poke around on it as much as they want! It's really well-designed. Go look.

Picture Books

We read lots! Some favorites:

anything by Eric Carle
Flower Garden by Eve Bunting
Owl Moon
by Tony Johnston
Make Way for Ducklings
Blueberries for Sal
The Old Man Who Loved Cheese by Garrison Keillor
Tomie dePaolo books, especially The Clown of God
Henry and Mudge books
Frog and Toad books
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Engine
anything by Dr. Seuss
fairy tales and fables
anything by Jan Brett (fabulous illustrations)
Go Dog Go
Beatrix Potter books
The House at Pooh Corner and Now We Are Six
Little House in the Big Woods

[forcing myself to quit!]


Duplos--be sure you have some people and a big foundation mat
coloring books
sewing cards
bath toys
"indoor swimming pool"--fill a tub or sink with water and let their little dolls or people go for a swim. I can't believe how long this game always lasts!

What's missing? Math! We don't sweat it at the younger ages. Counting just happens with life--setting the table, for example--and they naturally learn to count higher and higher. We work on writing their numbers sometimes, but not often before first grade. They catch on very quickly once we start.

With older kids to worry about, I haven't had as much time to work with my younger ones. I felt guilty until I began reading more about natural learning, unschooling, interest-led learning or whatever you call it. Now I feel that I am doing myself and them a favor by delaying formal academics with them. The only thing I try to do every day is read aloud to them. It's a blessedly relaxed lifestyle!


Heather said...

I went ahead and bought that first Bible when I asked you about it a few months ago. We love it! DH and I sometimes have a hard time not laughing at the illustrations, but BB really gets into the pictures. I have heard so many positive things about the 100 lessons. I think I'll probably end up using a combination of that and the FIAR series.

At A Hen's Pace said...


I'm so glad you are enjoying the story Bible!

I think Five in a Row is a good choice too. I used the preschool book a little bit one year, but it didn't fit with some other things we were doing at the time.

I'm off to find you on FB!


Amy said...

I wish I had been more relaxed about schooling when my children were younger.

Great list!

Jessica said...

Jeanne - just wanted to say that I enjoyed reading this post and getting ideas.

And we love Robert McCloskey! (though our favorite is "One Morning in Maine")
Have you read any Peter Spier? That's another favorite in our house.

At A Hen's Pace said...


Thanks for your encouraging comment! It's nice to hear from others who've been there too.


Oh, I love Peter Spier's wordless books, especially! The stories he tells with his illustrations!


Amy said...

This is so helpful to me since I'm just starting out! Thanks for all the great resources and the permission to relax a little! I've been enjoying your series.