What My Child Needs to Learn Before First Grade –  Math and More!

What My Child Needs to Learn Before First Grade – Math and More!

Kindergarten Skills

Homeschooled Kindergarten boys play outside. Exploring and learning hands on.When you first begin homeschooling it can be difficult to figure out what you need to teach your kids to keep them “on track” as they approach first grade.

We are here to come alongside you with our brand-new Kindergarten program, which meets three times a week for just twenty minutes. This program is built around small, bite-sized chunks of learning that keep your children engaged and eager for more!

Below you will find a checklist of “essentials” that a child should know in order to successfully begin most first-grade curriculum. In this post, I focused specifically on arguably the most mysterious subject, Math, and then added a little more.

Mathematical Thinking Happens Naturally

Math is a natural process that children begin to explore at a young age.

As they sort toys into different arrangements, count things, recognize patterns, and otherwise make sense of the mathematical world around them, they are validating Galileo Galilei’s famous observation that “Mathematics is the language with which God has written the universe.”

The inherent order, intricate detail, and mathematically precise structure of our world all point to the nature of our Creator, and even the youngest children can see how wonderfully God has made all things.

Sometimes, however, our kids struggle to see the relationship between this beautiful world of natural math and the numbers and symbols that represent them.  Math can seem abstract when represented by numbers and symbols. By making it visual and hands-on, we can bring their natural ability to understand math back into play.

Our Developing Number Sense I and II and  Math Art classes focus on making abstract math concepts more concrete for our younger learners.

Preschool Math Skills

There are many math skills that can be accomplished without paper and pencils that will prepare your child for a more formal math curriculum. Use this list of preschool Math skills to introduce fundamental math skills into your child’s play:

  • Identifying colors (if your child struggles with identifying colors after age 5, and especially if colorblindness runs in your family, you may want to consult your doctor about the possibility of colorblindness)
  • Identifying numbers (0-9 initially)
  • Counting by rote (saying numbers, not counting objects) – start with counting to 10, then 20, then up to 100
  • Counting objects (up to 10)
  • Understanding one-to-one correspondence – that the last item counted is the quantity represented (if child counts ducks, 1, 2, 3 – he understands that there are three ducks)
  • Subitizing — being able to identify the number of objects without counting (up to 5)
  • Sorting by color, size, texture, or other feature
  • Making simple patterns (block, car, block, car…)
  • Doing simple addition and subtraction problems using objects (2 bears sat in the car, 1 more bear got in, how many are in the car now?)
  • Saying/singing days of the week and months of the year
  • Identifying seasons
  • Using counting books, shape books, and other math concept books to gently introduce math concepts

Laying a Solid Foundation in Number Sense

Once kids are able to count to 20 by 1’s, to 100 by 10’s, and understand the idea of one-to-one correspondence, they are ready to move up into the next level of developing number sense.

If you can help your kids develop number sense from the very beginning of their educational journey, you will set them up for success as they develop Mathematical reasoning skills throughout their life.

What is Number Sense?

Number sense refers to the ability to work flexibly and confidently with numbers based on a deep understanding of how numbers work, which largely depends on seeing numbers in groups of 1, 10’s, 100’s, etc.

Since our mathematical system is built on a base-ten framework, it is imperative that children see numbers grouped in 10’s from their first encounter with Math.

There are three key concepts that all children need to know in order to truly understand HOW Math works, rather than skating on the surface of fact memorization and a few highly recommended Math tools (manipulatives) that help reinforce these concepts.

Three Key Concepts:

  • Subitizing
  • Composing
  • Decomposing

Subitizing refers to the ability to see groups of numbers at a glance without counting. When kids first begin counting, it will serve them well for years to come if they can learn to arrange the objects they are counting in groups of 10’s which are further broken up into sub-groups of 5’s.

For example, instead of counting a random pile of eight raisins, they should practice laying out the raisins in a line of five with a line of three more underneath.

The sub-groups of five are key because that is what allows our brains to instantly see amounts without counting individual objects. For example, a random pile of nine toys is not instantly countable, but an ordered group of five and four can be instantly recognized – with a little bit of training.

This ties in directly with the skill of composing and decomposing numbers – that is, grouping objects in their base ten values and breaking them back apart in meaningful ways.

If you can make this type of exercise a regular part of their play, it will help them intuitively begin to “see numbers” in instantly recognizable amounts – so that ultimately when they think of the number eight, they see groupings of five and three more, or visualizing the number twenty-six as two groups of tens, a group of five, and one more.

This basis of intuitive number sense leads spontaneously into a solid understanding of addition, subtraction, fact families, place value, estimation, and much more!

As they practice this “instant recognition” skill of seeing numbers in groups of tens with sub-groups of fives, they will find themselves adding and subtracting before they even realize what’s going on.

With a bit of intentional practice, you can help them master all the combinations of “ten” which is key to everything else in the Math Facts world, as well as develop fluency in their single-digit addition facts.

Then you can overlay “Math Talk” equations onto the familiar hands-on play-based experience and show them how subtraction is a simple extension of addition. For instance, asking how many more you need to add to six to make nine should prompt a visual image where three missing spaces “light up.”  This also opens the door to early algebraic reasoning!

The Best Math Manipulatives

Anything that helps kids see numbers grouped in “10’s” is useful. The best tools, however, take this a step further and focus intentionally on the sub-groups of 5’s within every 10. This simple aspect turns every number into an instantly recognizable amount.

For young kids, ten frames serve as the perfect tool for this. You can purchase plastic or magnetic ten frames and use them to develop number sense as described above, or you can simply draw a 5×2 grid and use it repeatedly to group objects that you count.

As kids get older and are ready to work with larger numbers, you can extend all these ideas by using an abacus (if the rows of ten are differentiated into different colors in groups of five) or a rekenrek. A rekenrek is essentially a rod or string of ten beads with five in one color and five in another color. There are usually at least two of these rows to help with subitizing and adding/subtracting within twenty, but you can also get a 10-row rekenrek (which is similar to an abacus with ten rows of ten beads on each.)

You can easily DIY these Math tools, and the hands-on experience of making these may be just what kids need in order to solidify these Math concepts!

In Developing Number Sense and Mastering Math Facts Level 1, we cover all these ideas and use these tools very strategically to help walk kids step-by-step through a fundamental, lifelong understanding of HOW Math works.

This class focuses on helping kids enjoy learning as they lay a solid foundation for all future Math skills through:

  • hands-on activities,
  • Math games,
  • creative practice (making mini-books, completing color-by-number worksheets, solving picture puzzles, using note-taking guides, etc.),
  • digital activities,
  • quizzes focused on ensuring skill mastery at each level, and
  • ongoing conversations about the HOW and WHY of Mathematical problem-solving skills.

If you’re interested in learning more about this course, you can see the full course description here or contact me at sandra@realworldlearners.com.

 

For Parents of Older Kids

If you have older kids who have some gaps in their understanding (or fluency and self-confidence!) of how multi-digit addition and subtraction with re-grouping works and are ready to begin their journey into multiplication and division in a way that builds on deep understanding, not memorization or “tricks,” then you may be interested in Level 2 of this same class.

To round out the discussion of subjects and topics kids can learn before first grade, refer to this list of ideas and this blog post on What My Child Needs to Learn Before First Grade.

Other Subjects:

Before First Grade, Science, Social Studies, and even foreign languages can be explored through educational shows, books, and by exploring the world through nature, museums, zoos, and other field trips.  Have fun! Learn about the world around you with your preschoolers!

Here are some ideas:

  • Community Helpers – fire, police, construction workers, store clerks, servers, food service, doctors, dentists
  • Lakes and ponds
  • Flowers and grass
  • Gardens
  • Animals (zoo, pet shop, etc)
  • Reading/exploring signs in multiple languages (around here a lot of things are in Spanish and English, or have Braille on them)
  • Visiting hands-on museums and exhibits
  • Finding family-friendly festivals and cultural events in your area

You will prepare your young children for future learning by providing them with active educational adventures. Those will give them an understanding of the world around them and joy in exploring it that will lead to a lifelong love of learning.

About the Author: Sandra, formerly a Math teacher (M.A.), now homeschools her three kids and funnels her passion for teaching into creating engaging, hands-on Math curriculum, courses, and activities that help kids develop a deep understanding of how Math works and enjoy the learning process. Her dream is to help raise a generation of Math Superstars who have never heard of Math anxiety and are confident in their own ability to make sense of Math. She teaches K-6th grade math including Math Art, Number Sense Addition & Subtraction, and Number Sense Multiplication & Division through True North Homeschool Academy.

Getting Started – Homeschooling Preschool and Kindergarten

Getting Started – Homeschooling Preschool and Kindergarten

I’ve had several young Mommas (so young I could be their Momma!) ask me about homeschooling preschool and kindergarten recently. The biggest challenge of littles is keeping them engaged. Most still have a relatively short attention span, are quickly tired, and need to be fed and watered at regular intervals. Habit is key- routine is your safest bet.  

(Still considering homeschooling? Check out our post on three reasons we love homeschooling.)

So what are my tips for homeschooling preschoolers and kindergartners?

Tip #1 – Morning Baskets

I would recommend developing a morning basket for littles. This method means they get your attention first thing, right after breakfast.  This basket is a great way to think about what you want your littles to learn and how to organize it. Morning Baskets for littles can include card matching games, Kumon workbooks, Memory CD’s, Poetry, Simple Bible Stories, Phonics, and math games if they are ready for them.

After years of doing this, I recommend over-planning before you get started and then going with the flow once you start. With littles, like with anything else, you don’t get what you want, you get what you plan for. With littles, you often get lots of surprises, too, right?!

Tip #2 – Add in age-appropriate chores.

Kids do what you inspect, not what you expect, BUT, they do need to know what you expect, too! One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from Andrew Pudewa is that if your child keeps asking for help, they need help. This seems simple- well, it is, really, but it might not come naturally! Life skills are a big part of homeschooling preschoolers and kindergartners.

Tip #3 – Add in Some Books

If you live with books and magazines, your kids will think having them around is normal. My kids love books on tape. We use Sonlight, Bethlehem Books, Memoria Press, and Veritas Press catalogs as reading lists. Ranger Rick, National Geographic for Kids, Ladybug, Boys Life have all been favorite magazines around here.

Pre- Reading: Read aloud 15 min a day. There are so many adorable books on everything under the sun; don’t limit your read-alouds to baby books.

Curriculum Suggestions for Homeschooling Preschoolers and Kindergartners

I think some table time is good at this age because it helps kids get acclimated to regular study. Art or History Cards are great to look at, even for pre-readers. Usborne, Memoria Press, and Veritas Press all have beautiful ones.

Christian Studies- Arch books are a fabulous way for your littles to get a great introduction to basic Bible stories with pictures that they’ll remember for a lifetime. We also have loved and read out loud to our kids a couple of different Children’s Bibles, including the Golden Children’s Bible.
We had tons of felts, and teaching Bible stories through felts is always an attention grabber.

IEW Language Acquisition through poetry memorization– this is a fantastic program and easily accessible for littles, especially with the CD. There are four sections of 20 poems each, starting with simple, short poems and ending with epic dramatic re-tellings. Andrew Pudewa (who put the program together and recites the poems) has incredible diction, so your kids will hear fantastic vocabulary and superb story-telling.

Letter and Number recognition– we used Kumon and Usborne workbooks, colorful, easily accessible, and fun. There are tons of complete programs available.

Phonics- We always used Alpha-Phonics in conjunction with Explode the Code. There are other great products out there. We took the low cost, no bells, and whistles, a practical approach.

Bible Study– Arch books, Bible Memory, reading a good quality Children’s Bible, Veggie Tales, Veritas Press, or Bible Study for All Ages Bible cards.

Memory Work – When our youngest was four, she learned 160 VP history cards that year (even though she was a pre-reader), along with 24 history sentences, several others hundred facts related to grammar, geography, Latin, poems and more because we regularly and diligently used CDs and table time to review. She also learned the letter sounds and started on a notebook-sized time-line. I say all of this so that you realize your littles are capable of learning a LOT.

This is NOT to say that you should set them at the table and force information down their throats. Kids this age, however, can learn a ton through CD’s, good DVD’s, books and great visual aids such as flashcards. Also, if you have older kids, why not include your younger kids? They are sponges. If you start early “training their brains to retain,” you’ll be amazed at how much they really can and do retain as they grow older.

More Fun Ways to Learn while Homeschooling Preschool and Kindergarten

Outside play, exploration, and nature walks – Nature journaling and nature tables are an excellent way for kids to display the cool things they’ve found as they explore the great outdoors! Homeschooling your preschooler and kindergartener should always be fun!

Read-alouds – At least 15 minutes a day; more is better ; )

Crafts and Art – There are so many fun art books, but in any case, an easel, paper, and paint is always appropriate. Colored shaving cream is excellent for bath/shower painting. And hey, how about a shower tile wall- works great as a whiteboard and for painting- easily wipes off- all for $15 bucks.

Gardening – This can be in the yard, with containers, or how about a Fairy Garden?

Open-Ended toys – Brio Trains, Playmobile, Duplos/Legos, Stuffed Animals. Pinterest has some adorable pins of old entertainment centers rehabbed as play kitchens. Add some felt food; and old pots, pans, and measuring cups.

Art Supplies – Easels, paint, glitter, glue, pipe cleaners, colored paper, stickers, colored rice bins, colored shaving cream to “Paint” in the bathtub, Whiteboards around the house (make a whiteboard wall with shower tile or several smaller lapboards), chalkboards and magnet boards (easily made with some chalkboard or magnet paint).

Unstructured Outside Play – Trampoline, playhouses, daily walks, parks, swimming, Gardening, Sandboxes, Swings,

“Sound exploration” – Musical makers. Kids loving making sounds.

Cooking- My kids have all loved to help cook in the kitchen. Usborne’s First Cookbook is full of fun and simple recipes.

Gross motor skill development–  For years, we had a “Step 2” playscape, complete with ladder and slide, IN our house.

Sandbox or table– a friend built a sandbox in their basement for their kids, and we had a sand table on our front porch for years.

Fine motor skill development – Have plenty of pens, pencils, markers around for the kids to play with, sewing cards, small toys (once they are past the “everything in their mouth” stage- legos, of course.

Travel/ field trips –  What better way to learn about the mail than actually visiting the Post Office? These types of learning experiences make learning fun AND educational.

Singing – the Wee Sing series, with books and CD’s are full of old favorites.

Daily Prayer – Family evening prayers, with everyone snuggled in a bed together, is a gentle way to teach your littles about what’s important to you. We have each child pray, youngest to oldest, ending with Daddy blessing each child. If your kiddo doesn’t know what to pray for, just help them along following ACTS (Adoration, Confessions, Thanksgiving, Supplication). We would have them repeat a simple sentence or two, such as, “Thank you, God, for this day.” This year, we made an Easter garden.

Finally, as a word of caution…..Limit screen time.

There are so many apps, computer games, DVD’s, etc., and they are all fascinating. We use some but in limited quantity. You want your pre-Ker neurology to be hard-wired to people and words, not electronics. Studies have shown that kids learn language skills by interacting with people-NOT screens.

For littles, almost everything they encounter is new and amazing. It’s so fun to explore the world together and to see it through fresh eyes. You don’t have to be super planned, but some planning does help and kids, again, thrive on routines. So what are you waiting for, take the leap to homeschooling preschool and kindergarten today!

Like what you see here but need more? Check out our post on Homeschooling Basics.

Are you considering making the homeschooling leap with your preschool or kindergarten child? Do you feel overwhelmed and under prepared? Let's us help you! At True North Homeschool Academy we strive to make your homeschool journey a success while fighting your overwhelm. Check out these great tips on homeschooling preschoolers and kindergartners. #TrueNorthHomeschoolAcademy #homeschoolingpreschool #homeschoolingkindergarten #newhomeschooler