What they are like: Average age 4½ to 5½ - Kindergarten children are like older pre-schoolers, active, curious, enthusiastic, eager to please you. Often a little more matured than pre-schoolers and more self-assured.
What they should know: Personal knowledge e.g. can they tell their name - first and surname - address, phone number and birthday. Recognize different shapes. Relationships between size, colours and shapes. Count up to five objects or more. Ability to write their first name.
Focus for the year: Develop social skills, acquire a love for learning, enjoy experiments, become equipped with a foundation for literacy. Active learning - experiment with materials and ideas, learn about the world around them. Group participation - answer questions you as a parent may ask, have a discussion within a group of children like brothers or sisters, friends or family. Independent work - start an activity and finish it within an allotted time. Follow simple rules - locate materials and put them back after use. Learn to follow directions - take two steps left, one step right. Proper and polite communication - gaining parent attention appropriately, asking for information and re-stating rules or directions when asked.
Important subjects: Build a solid foundation for the ABC's and basic numbers 1-20. Reading is usually introduced in year one but you need to build a strong foundation for reading if you want to help your child at this young age. Play games that involve the letters of the alphabet and numbers. Sing and listen to songs that include the alphabet letters and numbers. Read appropriate picture and story books to encourage a love for reading. Artistic abilities are explored at any age using creative methods introduced by you as a parent and improved upon by your child.
Best way to help: Encourage independence and cooperation. Ask them to make small decisions and learn how to work together as a family and in groups outside the family. Set time frames for when to start school and when to finish, stick to these as much as possible. Regular routine is of utmost importance. Assign simple household chores, ensure these are completed. Promote obedience and be an example by carrying out what you say or promise.
What they are like: Average age 5½ to 7 - Children in this age group are interested in acquiring knowledge and often insist in absolute accuracy. There is right and wrong and no in-between. They are often full of giggles and fun at the beginning of the year but will come out more organized and knowledgeable at the end of the year.
What they should know: At this age you usually begin with the more formal and structured learning. Children are expected to write on lines, use books and worksheets. They should know good letter and number recognition. Be able to read basic words and sentences and recognize basic everyday signs and symbols. Know how numbers are used and that they signify amounts. Be familiar with number orders. Understand the left-to-right progression of reading and writing and be able to focus on tasks for longer periods (E.g. 15min to half an hour).
Focus for the year: The main focus for the year is reading. Not all children will learn how to read in their first year but most will. With consistent and regular routines of home schooling, most children will be able to read basic words within three months, basic short sentences within six months and short stories within twelve months. Learning in year one will involve books, sounds, letters, words, and everything in between. A wide range of learning to read approaches should be used to help children become efficient readers. Reading should be integrated with other subjects such as Mathematics and Science. I would recommend phonics being the best method to start with and once mastered, it can be incorporated with several other methods; see our reading methods page.
Important subjects: Besides reading being the most important subject, Mathematics comes second. Develop an understanding of how to arrive at answers rather than memorizing them. Use blocks, sticks, coins or any other objects to grasp the facts of addition and subtraction. Use real money to understand the value of it. Basic clock reading, measuring, graphing of data and estimating values. Don't neglect the importance of responsibility and politeness. Children should be taught respect from a very early age. If not taught when they are young, it will become a social problem later in life. Artistic abilities are explored at any age using creative methods introduced by you as a parent and improved upon by your child.
Best way to help: Be interested in everything your children do as you are regarded by them as their security, support and an important part of their lives. Reading is fun and should be treated as such. Do not instill fear in children just because you are doubtful about your teaching abilities. A parent is a child's first teacher and the most effective, efficient and valuable one. Your abilities to know your own child far outstrips that of a stranger. You know your child's abilities, habits, strengths and weaknesses. Build upon these and you will find that soon you and your child will both enjoy learning. Home schooling is not easy especially if you have more than one child.
While writing this my thoughts drift back when we started home school as a family. Four children under the age of seven and another one on the way. Initially it was hard work, tears of frustration and tears of joy when the first sentences were read without parent help. You too will get there! It takes time, patience, persistence and a strong will not to give in. Do not give in to negative input from other family, parents, in-laws, friends or school teachers who all assume they know better. You may even lose friends but it is better to have friends who encourage and support you than those who will destroy your family unit.
That said ; be prepared to listen to advice. You are never to old to learn from others. What others say may not sound plausible at the time but think it over, discuss it as husband and wife, if possible, and weigh up what is best for your children. If you find that you can't cope with home school after the first year don't feel you are inadequate as a parent. Homeschooling is not for everybody and it is no shame to send your child to a public or private school after you realize it would be better for you and your child.