Homeschool Kindergarten Activity Cards

My Kindergarten Homeschool Curriculum: Our Routine

In my last two posts, I told you about the ideas that have influenced my kindergarten homeschool curriculum, as well as the subjects we’re studying, the activities that go with those, and the way I’ve organized our approach. In this post, I’ll describe our academic routine.

Every weekday, we make time for two school sessions: morning and afternoon.

  • The morning session is our focus session; we focus on the same subject for five mornings in a row.
  • The afternoon session is our wildcard: King Sturdy gets to pick which subject he wants to do (provided he hasn’t already done that one earlier in the week).

For example, last week, our focus subject was writing, so every morning all week, King Sturdy chose a writing card, and we did whatever activity was on the card. In the afternoons, he got to take his pick of whatever he hadn’t done already. Here’s how it went:

Monday

AM: writing
PM: world studies

Tuesday

AM: writing
PM: math

Wednesday

AM: writing
PM: reading

Thursday

AM: writing
PM: language games

Friday

AM: writing
PM: nature studies

Between the focus and the wildcards, we touched on all six subjects at least once over the course of the week.

Other points of note:

We use magnets on the chart to remind us which subjects we’ve done, or are doing. For the focus subject, we use a special magnet which stays on that box all week. Every time Monday rolls around, we advance it to the next box on the chart.
Whenever we finish a wildcard activity, we move its magnet from X to ✓, so we know we’ve done it already, and we can’t choose it again until next week. (At least not for a session. If King Sturdy wants to do extra, he always can.)
Whenever we do an activity card, we put it in a discard pile, so we don’t end up doing the same card over and over or having one that we never get around to doing.
When we’ve used up all the cards in a suit, we pull them all back out and put them in the draw pile again. This happens on different days for different suits; it doesn’t matter when it happens.

On this schedule, we’ll work through all the cards every six weeks or so, doing the whole deck about four times over the course of the school year. Each subject will get to be our focus for about a month altogether, and whatever’s not in focus will continue to shuffle through in review.

I’m guessing our school sessions average 15 minutes. Since we do two sessions a day, this means we’re spending around 2.5 hours a week on academics. If we averaged 30 minutes per session, we’d be doing five hours of focused instruction.

That count doesn’t include Aikido class (another two hours a week), reading before bedtime (who knows), watching cartoons in French (about an hour a day), or the many random things we learn and do along the way (converse in French, talk about science, history, mythology and so on as the topics come up, go to the library, etc).

Reflections

The curriculum I’ve shared in these posts makes doing school really easy for us. It gives us just enough structure that we don’t have to worry about structure. It’s simple enough that the five-year-old can use it himself, moving the magnets, choosing the cards, tracking where we are in the week and making choices about what he’d like to do next.

In that way, it gives him freedom to direct his learning himself. If we continue homeschooling for the long haul, he’ll gain more freedom the older he gets. This is one reason I call our approach unschooling: it’s a minimum of structure with a maximum emphasis on King Sturdy’s interests. He doesn’t always get to choose the bus, but he gets to drive it.

Two and a half hours a week isn’t a lot of time to spend on school; part of that is King Sturdy’s age, but another part is the approach itself. The thing about unschooling is that it’s low-effort: you don’t have to spend hours at the table working on lessons, because the lessons come to you all throughout the day, unplanned and unexpected. On the other hand, it’s high-curiosity: it demands that you notice opportunities, ask questions, seek answers and pay attention pretty much all the time.

Some versions of unschooling involve no structure at all. Clearly that’s not what this is. I feel that some amount of structure is a good thing. Everyone in my household is either self-employed or a small child; we have no external structures to shape our lives for us — school, work, daycare, anything — and structures don’t create themselves. We’ve learned over the years how important it is to take the initiative on that.

I also feel it’s important to spend time on things that may not be immediately interesting to a kid, which goes over easier if you’re following a routine. Whatever activity card we may draw for a given session, we always spend at least a few moments on it, whether we feel like doing that one or not. We always try to find what’s fun about it, to see it from different angles and to hone in on what interests us, whatever that may be. Interest is a personal, ephemeral thing, so it varies.

But we don’t force it. If King Sturdy isn’t into something, we do the minimum and move on. After all, kids develop at different rates: a lack of interest may mean he’s just not ready. On the flip side, if he’s excited about it, we keep going with no time limit.

There you have it — our kindergarten homeschool curriculum

If you’re doing kindergarten homeschool too, I hope this information is useful. If not, I hope it’s interesting. In either case I welcome your questions, stories and comments.