There are thousands of free resources out there for teaching young children the three Rs and more in your homeschool. But we all know that materials vary in quality, right? Even the ones you pay for sometimes end up being stinkers. It can be hard to wade through all that is available.
This is a list of top-notch resources that will give your early learner a strong skills foundation. I’ve chosen resources that are easy to implement and won’t keep you completely tied to your computer, but will give you a strong skeleton to which you can add whatever your homeschool heart desires. I can’t guarantee that they will fit you and your child perfectly (because we’re all unique), but these programs aren’t stinkers. Most of them I am currently using with my daughter, Emma (age 5), or have used with another child in the past.
Reading and Writing
There are a number of vintage phonics primers and readers available free for download, including McGuffey’s Eclectic Primer, which is available from Project Gutenberg as a pdf, ePub, or Kindle file (save yourself some ink). This is a tried and true method and for variety sake, we combine a similar program with…
Progressive Phonics, a complete program with readers that can be viewed online or downloaded to print. This program uses partnership reading. Initially the parent/teacher reads most of the page and the learner reads the indicated words. Over time, the student reads more and more of each reader on her own.
We add in Starfall, a free website with reading and handwriting resources. There are interactive books and activities, as well worksheets and mini-books you can download and print. For handwriting and spelling practice, check out the “ABC Print-Outs” and “Reading and Writing Journals.” This may not be a complete complete program in itself, but it’s a good place to start and works well with Progressive Phonics. Note: Starfall does use some sight words.
Donna Young offers plenty of handwriting worksheets to give your child plenty of fine motor practice. If writing on paper is still too hard, you might try practicing in a salt box or air writing as those muscles develop.
I highly recommend reading to your kids often and from an early age. If you have access to a good library, you’ll have a large selection of books to choose from for literature.
Kathy Jo Devore offers Pathways, a free (and excellent) reading schedule for Pre-K through K that features many public domain books which you can find online and download to a tablet or e-reader for free (or print). There are additional selections that you can probably find at your library, but there are SOOO many books scheduled that it’s easy to pick and choose what to use. There is MORE than enough here to keep you in books all year and many of the books can go along with your science studies.
The Centre for Innovation in Mathematics Teaching (CIMT) has a 100% free, downloadable elementary curriculum Mathematics Enhancement Programme. It includes daily lesson plans, practice books, and copy masters.
Depending upon your K-er’s current level, you might choose the Reception year or Year 1---Emma started off this year using Reception, but raced through it, and about halfway through the lesson plans I switched her to Year 1 (which she is loving).
Now, this program is from the UK, so it uses metric units, British money, and there are some British terms used. If you are from another country, you may need to make some minor adjustments (one of the worksheets wanted to know how many “lorries” there were pictured, for instance). I just change those things to what we would call them in the US---the lesson plans are written to the teacher. For money and measurements, we prefer to do hands-on informal things at this age, anyway.
Can you do more than that? Sure! But math is all around---play with toys, build with blocks, tell the real time, bake, sort, discover patterns…Keep it light and have fun.
In addition to getting out and about and learning about your community, a favorite free resource in our house is Home Geography for the Primary Grades. All you need is the book and your own neighborhood.
Add in some family history by creating a family tree and telling true stories about your family. If you want to expose your child to more history and geography, pick some interesting selections from your library. Generating interest is more important at this age than retention, so let your child pick books that look interesting to her.
There are many directions you can go with this. Nature study is fun with young kids and be very informal. Just go outside, see what you see, and talk about it. Pick up a book at the library if you find a topic you want to learn more about.
If you want something a little more organized, but still very flexible, try The Handbook of Nature Study, both the site and the book (which is available in the public domain here). The site uses the book as the basis for “Outdoor Hour Challenges,” which will get you and your child out communing with nature with regularity. Just pick a new challenge each week to try.
Peruse your library. There are lots of great science series aimed at young children. One of our favorites is the “Let’s Read and Find Out” series.
If you want something more structured, The Math Science Nucleus is a free K-6 science curriculum that covers 6 main areas each year: Plate Tectonic Cycle, Rock Cycle, Water Cycle, Life Cycle, Applied Science, and Universe Cycle (these can be viewed online or find the link near the top of each page to go to the download page for that area---includes lesson plans, background information, lab activities, and student workbooks). There are a few materials called for that you probably won’t have on hand. You can find a list of them here.
If you have older children you are also homeschooling, your K-er will probably enjoy “tagging along” for their social studies and science studies, too.
Art & Music
My suggestions in this department are going to be a bit sparse, partly because it’s hard to find something that meets the requirements I set up for resources in this post and partly because kindergarten is a time for exploration and little ones can learn so much about art and music by looking/listening and doing. If I didn’t live in a state with mandatory kindergarten and that requires that I show proof of instruction in ALL the subjects, I would consider that enough. But I do have a couple of really good freebies to suggest.
Meet the Masters is a free downloadable K-5 picture study program that includes art prints to print, guidance for discussion, and related art projects.
Hoffman Academy offers free video piano lessons (my kids love these!). There are pay materials that you can add, but the video lessons are quite valuable and fun for your littlest ones on their own.
Check your local library for art and music programs! This is a great way to do crafty things without having to stock the supplies and clean up the mess yourself.
Play outside. Hop, skip, gallop, jump, “tightrope” walk (use a jumprope to walk on or draw a line with chalk), catch and throw, use a bat, dribble a ball, ride a bike…if you want a curriculum that shows you proper form and gives you an idea of what you can expect in terms of physical development, here’s a downloadable pdf for the elementary grades that focuses on physical skills. There are 12 skills, with 12 different levels of mastery. There are streaming videos here that demonstrate the skills. The scope and sequence will give you an idea of what level of mastery is appropriate for kids of different ages. You can use this program with all your elementary kids.
This list is a place to start.
There are plenty of real-life opportunities and online goodies that can be added to provide a unique education to your child, but it’s important to start with a strong foundation.
You might also like:
Do you have a great free kindergarten resource to recommend?