If you’re planning on homeschooling your kindergarten aged child or your little one is signed up for virtual learning you might be wondering where you should start. Let’s face it suddenly at home learning is a pretty hot topic. This is our second official year of homeschooling (three if you count a very relaxed introduction to homeschooling the year prior) as we begin Senior Kindergarten this month. I don’t follow any set out curriculum for my 5-year-old daughter Isla at this age yet but instead just incorporate a variety of workbooks, worksheets and other educational games, tools & resources as part of our pop-up on the go version of homeschool wherever we are.
I felt it was important to put together an intimidation free guide to help others get started with homeschooling a kindergartener or even just looking to compliment their child’s remote learning at home. Here’s a look at some of our most used kindergarten items I feel every parent interested in homeschooling should own to make life easier and learning more enjoyable (you can find a full list of items at the end complete with links where to get them)!
#1 – Wooden ABC Letter Blocks
This is by far our number one most used homeschooling tool every parent should own for their child! It might even be something you already have at home but have only used on occasion for building towers to knock over. Either way be sure you own a full set of wooden alphabet blocks. The set we have has a combination of two different letters on each block along with four different pictures. Here’s just a few of the many ways we use them.
When your child is first learning their letters the blocks are a great way to just get to practice recognizing each letter. They can work on putting them in alphabetical order, match up with flash cards or you can set them up and remove a handful and ask your child to figure out which ones are missing.
Practice with phonics
Because you get 26 blocks in most wooden block sets you usually get at least two of each letter which tends to be enough to get your started to spell out a variety of words with your little one. I pick about five to ten blocks and arrange them side by side letter side up and then choose a bunch of blocks with the picture side up and have Isla sound out each picture and place with the right starting letter sound.
The next step has been working on spelling out simple three letter words like “HAT” and work on sounding them out with her. I would then swap out the “H” for a “P” or the “A” in the middle for an “O” and have her sound out each new word and so on. I feel it really helped Isla because we had something tangible to hold onto and move around as she worked on phonetically sounding out each word. Eventually you’ll have your child choose the letters to swap in and out to create new words they have to say out loud.
To complement worksheets
I really do use a variety of tools as part of our daily homeschool set-up. Whenever I have worksheets I find it’s also helpful to have more hands on items close by to turn to so she can help build and see the word in a three-dimensional way that she’s sounding out on paper.
Simple math problems
This might seem like an obvious one but you really can use anything as counters for your child! You can have them simply count out all of the blocks and eventually you can have them start to add and subtract them. Whenever you have them all laid out in alphabetical order it’s also a good way of combining a little math by asking them “tell me which letter is the 15th block” or to pull out every second block to start helping with counting by twos.
TIP: I have included a link to a great set of blocks below that includes letters and pictures only (it’s important to purchase blocks that only have pictures because most also have the picture word printed on them which isn’t as helpful when trying to get your little one sounding out words on their own without a helper)
#2 – Dry Erase White Board
Here’s another item we get A LOT of use out of! We had a large wall mounted white board and then a good friend bought Isla a handy portable magnetic white board for her birthday and it’s been a game changer. These smaller white boards are great because your child can sit with it on their lap, to place down in front of both of you to work on something together or pop up on an easel. Since we really do homeschool on the go or even when we’re at home we move around from the living room to the front porch to the balcony to the park…so this comes with us everywhere.
Beyond using the board for homeschooling purposes we also use it quite a bit to just draw or play on. My daughter has a book that teaches her how to draw various different animals step by step and she loves to use her portable white board to practice drawing. Our board is a chalkboard on the other side but we normally only use the dry erase white board side. Since we really do use it so often we even brought it with us to Canada in our suitcase especially since we knew we were headed into quarantine for 14 days.
#3 – Dry Erase Pockets
Yet another item I consider an absolute must have homeschooling tool! I found that some of the worksheets we were using were great to revisit again so instead of using pen directly on paper we slip each worksheet into one of these plastic dry erase pockets. Often times I come across a worksheet my daughter hasn’t fully grasped yet so having the chance to be able to continuously wipe clean the dry erase pockets as we go makes things easy and saves the waste of reprinting each sheet over and over.
TIP: It does take a bit of trial and error to find the right dry erase markers to use on the pockets that easily wipe off. We like the smaller almost pen size markers that each come with an eraser on the end of the cap so she can practice proper pen control and can quickly wipe any mistakes as she goes.
#4 – Magnetic Letters & Numbers
The portable white board we have is magnetic and actually came with magnetic letters and numbers but we have the separate fridge magnet sets we bought as well. If you don’t already have magnetic letters and numbers I do recommend you purchasing them separately. I find it helps quite a bit whenever I can bring something we’re working on off of a flat surface. For example instead of just using the dry erase markers alone to phonetically spell out words I might pull out certain magnetic letters, draw 3 lines and ask her to spell out as many three letter words as she can. Using a marker off to the side I then record each word she has spelt. Her being able to physically hold each letter, move them around and swap them in and out for different letters to sound everything out helps a lot.
When your child is ready to start moving past counting and simple addition or subtraction math problems only using physical objects as counters, the magnetic numbers work the same way as the letters that they’re sort of a fun transitional tool to get from tangible counting items to just number problems on pen and paper. We often still use counters off to the side but moving the large colourful numbers in and out of each math question is a great way to get your child ready for the next step.
#5 – Educational Posters
I definitely have a theme of loving homeschooling items that are reusable and portable. I found these great educational posters which are laminated so we can write on them with dry erase markers and easily clean them up. They’re nice and colourful and we often use them as a reference guide depending on what we’re working on. Most kids go through a phase where even if they’ve learned the alphabet they haven’t truly mastered memorizing each letter so having an alphabet poster handy to glance at is key.
The posters we use the most would most definitely be the alphabet (has both the upper & lower case letters which are important), hundreds chart, months of the year and days of the week. If you have a homeschooling room or area in your house you could put these up but personally I find they’re more useful to be able to hold and use rather than just act as room decor. The ones we have are the perfect size as they’re big enough to be eye catching but small enough to travel with (these have come with us in our suitcase to Canada, on road trips and to resorts).
TIP: use painter’s tape to put the posters up. I actually carry blue painter’s tape with us so I can create our classroom on the go wherever we are without causing any damage to walls or the posters themselves.
#6 – Magnetic Daily Calendar
This has been a great way for us to start our mornings by going over the month, the day of the week and talking about the weather. Learning all 12 months and the days of the week can take a little time but the calendar helps as each day your child can update it and get a better grasp on the bigger picture going over which day of the week it was yesterday, today and what day it will be tomorrow. This is one of the few items we don’t carry around with us but when we’re home we do use it every day.
#7 – Portable Lap Tray
Since we homeschool on the go or often like to homeschool outdoors a portable lap tray was a must for us. The one we have is made out of sturdy plastic with legs that can fold in & out as well as a lid that flips open. Sometimes we just use it as a hard surface to write on and other times we use the inside area with the lid flipped open to arrange our counters for working out math problems or place the wooden letter blocks to spell out words.
#8 – Tabletop Pocket Chart
Keeping with my theme of portable items I love this pocket chart because I can bring it out when needed or fold it up and store it away the rest of the time. We usually do school in a more casual setting like sitting together on a couch or on a blanket on the ground in a park so anything that we can bring with us and get up close to is best for us as I didn’t just want an oversized pocket chart just hanging on the wall. A pocket chart is perfect to use with various flash cards, sight words or index cards you can write on. This tabletop one we have is double sided so I can load in cards on one side and use the storage pocket on the other side.
#9 – Wikki Stix
I first bought Isla Wikki Stix as a fun light portable toy to play with on long flights (still recommend them for the plane or road trips). Wikki Stix are basically wax covered crafting sticks which you can bend, twist and reuse. Imagine colourful and durable sticky pieces of yarn. Once we started homeschooling I bought the Alphabet & Numbers cards sets which were a big helper to learn her letters and numbers by tracing each one out using Wikki Stix. There’s also an awesome activity book you can get which is just another great resource to work on fun activities without your child even realizing it’s a continuation of school.
Remember those plastic dry erase pockets I recommended above? You can also print out sheets to place inside the dry erase pockets and use your Wikki Stix on top of the plastic sleeves so they won’t stick to the paper.
TIP: be sure to remove the Wikki Stix from the alphabet cards or activity book before putting them away. We’ve made the mistake of not cleaning them up right away and coming back to them a week or so later and in that Cancun heat they’ve almost cemented themselves on to papery or cardboard surfaces!
#10 – Primary Journal with Oversized Pencils
This is a newer addition for us as truthfully we’ve really taken our time for Isla to learn her letters and begin with phonetically sounding words out, spelling and concentrating on starting to read first before focusing on perfecting her handwriting. We’re just starting to really practice writing properly within the lines and bringing a few words together on her own to create simple sentences.
The primary journals are awesome because they feature ruled lines to use as a guide for writing out each upper & lower case letter between the solid and dotted lines. They also have a blank space on each page so kids can draw a picture to go with their text they write at the bottom of each page.
Here is a full list of all must own homeschooling items mentioned above with direct links to purchase…
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Love this! Excellent suggestions for Us (new home-schoolers).
Thank you Valeria! 💜