Overview: There are many different skills that Kindergarteners need. Learn what to teach a Kindergartener in a developmentally appropriate way.
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I was so excited to start officially homeschooling my daughter this year. We’ve been doing preschool at home and toddler homeschooling up until now. Now that she’s in homeschool Kindergarten our days have been a bit more structured.
Kindergarten is such a fun year. They’re still little enough to appreciate the fun activities, but old enough to begin learning the “important stuff.”
There are many different philosophies on what to teach a Kindergartener. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re trying to decide the best course of action on what to teach your unique Kindergartener.
That’s why today I wanted to share what we learned during the Kindergarten year. Plus I’ll be sharing what’s developmentally appropriate on what to teach a Kindergartener.
Related: Our Unique Approach to Learning
The Truth About What to Teach a Kindergartener
I have to admit, I’m a bit old-fashioned when it comes to Kindergarten. There is a meme going around that shares what to teach a Kindergartener in the ’70s, and I’m absolutely in love with it.
In today’s society, this list would be what a 2-year-old would be expected to learn such as how to tie a shoe, how to make a friend, and how to listen to a story.
Think about it though…
As Kindergarteners, your child is only 5/6 years old. That means their little selves have only been walking this Earth for very few years. There’s a lot to explore and experience.
Why do we try to rush it all in before they turn 5 years old? Most parents and school systems expect a 5-year-old to forget about exploring and be ready to sit still for “real learning.”
To me, real learning is exploring the world.
Below you’re not going to find a huge list of specific skills that your child should be learning in Kindergarten. Most school standards are not developmentally appropriate, so you will not find that in this post.
Instead, I’m going to share what your child MIGHT be interested in learning in Kindergarten. Plus, I’ll share what a typical Kindergartener should be learning. As a reference, when I say a typical Kindergartener, I’m talking about a child who has free range to learn when and what they want without adult expectations.
Kindergarten Math Skills
In the preschool years, your child should be exposed to numbers and shapes. Being exposed to these skills does not mean they master them. It simply means that they are familiar with them. For example, you might count the steps as you walk down them or you may ask your child to hand you the star cookie.
Formal learning of math concepts in the preschool years is not developmentally appropriate.
So what to teach a Kindergartener in math starts at the very beginning because now is the time when your child might be ready to master these basic first skills.
We used Kindergarten Math With Confidence this year. I love this curriculum because it’s hands-on, developmentally appropriate, and connects skills to real-life experiences.
I read a lot of reviews on this new curriculum and was shocked by the number of parents that said it was too easy at the beginning.
To be honest, lesson one is all about number one. So yes, it may seem easy, but it’s critical to start your Kindergartener at the beginning.
Learning about the number one may seem boring for a Kindergartener who has had lots of exposure to numbers, but when you start at one while moving forward one number at a time, your child begins to develop strong number sense skills which are crucial for all math skills.
The main thing on what to teach your Kindergartener in math is number sense. Kindergarten Math with Confidence does an amazing job of building number sense before tackling more complex math skills such as addition and subtraction.
All other math skills in Kindergarten are secondary compared to number sense. Once your child has a strong number sense with numbers to 20, you may teach:
- Addition to 10
- Subtraction from 10
Kindergarten Reading Skills
If you look at what to teach a Kindergartener in reading, you may think that your child should be reading by the end of the year.
This could not be further from the truth.
Yes, the public school standards require a child to be fluent readers of short stories by the end of the Kindergarten year.
But what would you say if I told you that not a single person on the committee that wrote Common Core was an early childhood professional? The majority of the committee members were not even teachers.
I did a little search on these committee members, but only found a deleted press release on the National Governors website. They want to keep the names of committee members a secret, but I did find a short biography on each of the 24 members on Who Wrote The Common Core Standards. It’s also mentioned in this journal article from The Alliance for Childhood.
With that said, it’s safe to say that the people who wrote the common core standards, especially for the early years, didn’t know what they were doing.
The science of learning to read is simple:
Decoding Strategies x Language Comprehension = Reading Comprehension
In order to learn how to read, a child needs to have a strong foundation in phonics and an understanding of language before they can comprehend a text. You can learn more about how a child learns to read by click here.
What to Teach a Kindergartener in Reading
I want to say this loud and clear…
Your child does not need to know the alphabet before starting Kindergarten.
According to the science of learning to read, Kindergarteners are in the Pre-Reading or Initial Reading stages (click here to download our free guide on the science of learning).
This means at the beginning of Kindergarten, your child should be playing with words using alliteration, rhymes, and letter recognition. Most of this is done through songs, fingerplays, and reading books.
By the end of Kindergarten, your child may begin explicit phonics instruction if they are ready, but make sure you’re using a curriculum that’s hands-on and fun such as Logic of English Foundations.
Many Kindergarteners may not be ready for any reading instruction, which is normal. The average age for a child to intrinsically be ready to read is eight. So if your child is getting frustrated during reading instruction, stop and just read books together.
Kindergarten Writing Skills
Writing development starts when your child begins picking up objects as a baby. One of the very first writing skills your child needs is to be able to hold a pencil correctly. This is why fine motor skills are a huge part of the toddler and preschool years. For most Kindergarteners, this skill is still really hard.
Again, the Common Core Standards are not developmentally appropriate for what to teach a Kindergartener in writing.
In order to write, even just a sentence, a child needs to be able to…
- Hold a pencil correctly
- Have the stamina to hold it for a given length of time
- Form letters correctly without much thought
- Encode words (at least phonically, without knowing spelling rules)
- And get their ideas out of their brain and onto the paper
Those 5 separate skills need to be combined in order to write a short phrase or sentence.
Now imagine that you’re just beginning to learn how to decode/encode words and you’re just learning how to form letters correctly with a pencil. How do you expect a child who is in the beginning stages of these skills to be able to focus on them while getting their ideas out of their brain?
It’s impossible! And it’s why most upper elementary students are struggling with writing. They were never given the time to focus on their original thoughts separately. By 4th grade, your child will be able to do the first 4 of the skills above without much thought.
However, when learning to write at an early age they were so focused on the top 4 that they weren’t able to strengthen their original thoughts. So by the time the other 4 skills come naturally, they have no idea how to get their ideas from their head to their brain or they have no ideas.
The only physical writing your child should be doing in Kindergarten is letter formation. Instead, for writing instruction, you need to be focusing on original thought.
Any good Kindergarten curriculum will encourage you to dictate your child’s thoughts and stories.
What to teach your Kindergartener in writing should solely be focused on developing their ideas and YOU writing them down.
What to Teach a Kindergartener: Social Studies and Science
I’m going to make this one really simple. I don’t think your Kindergartener needs any formal social studies or science curriculum. Their job is to explore the world. This time should be focused on free play both inside and outside.
What to Teach a Kindergartener: Emotional Intelligence
Emotional Intelligence should be the second most important skill you teach your Kindergartener. Free play and exploring the world should be number one.
Emotional Intelligence is simply being able to regulate your emotions. You should be teaching your Kindergartener how to identify their emotions, use mindfulness and breathing techniques to calm down, and how to use positive affirmations to build a strong self-esteem. Click here to check out our Emotional Intelligence Curriculum for Ages 4-8.
What you teach your Kindergartener doesn’t matter as long as you follow their unique learning timeline and the science of learning. Make it fun, hands-on, and relaxed.
Traditional Education Standards Are Failing 65% of Students
It's Time To Do Something About That!
Download our free guide on the developmentally appropriate, natural learning standards. Use the research-based guidelines to help you understand what and when your child should be learning specific skills, so you can get your child’s homeschool plan completed in 30 minutes without spending hours researching curriculum.