Book Suggestions for Preschool and Kindergarten Units

I am creating lists of books for preschool themes that I am doing with my own child at home. For each theme, I searched out books on that topic at my local library. My list includes the books that I found to be appropriate for my child. I have personally read each of these books to my child. I have attempted to include books that are culturally diverse and that cover a range of subjects within each theme. Most themes will not contain books of a religious nature, unless the theme highlights the diversity of holidays in a season.

My review includes a brief summary of the book. Following that, I include the subjects (such as math or social studies) covered by the book. I have included an affiliate link to the Amazon page of the book, so that you can quickly read more about it, if it interests you. If you make a purchase through one of the links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you if you purchase products using these links.

Sometimes, my lists will follow a common idea for a while. Occasionally, I will make a random list unrelated to the others because we had a reason to learn about a certain topic. The list of themes below will be expanded and grouped into units as I create new lists of books:

Dissecting Homeschool Law: Age for compulsory schooling

Note: This is part of a series I am writing about the actual application of the stipulations in the homeschooling regulations in the state of Maryland.

During a recent conversation, another homeschooling mom expressed concern about the increasing compulsory school attendance age. So, I perused the laws to put myself at ease. I don’t envision the upper limit being a problem for me because my child turns 18 during the summer after his senior year, although the lower limit could affect my daughter.

In July 2017, the compulsory age of attending school is increasing to 18. Last July, it was increased from 16 to 17. The school district has sent notices to homeschooling parents about this law changing multiple times over the last 2 years. The age requirement is not actually included in the homeschooling regulation linked above.  It is contained in the larger body of laws governing all education in the state, which can be found here. The law states that:

“except as otherwise provided in this section, each child who resides in this State and is 5 years old or older and under 18 shall attend a public school regularly during the entire school year.” The exceptions include “a child under the age of 18 years who:

(1) has obtained a Maryland high school diploma, an equivalent out–of–state high school diploma, or a GED;

(2) is a student with disabilities and has completed the requirements for a Maryland high school certificate of completion;

(3) is receiving regular, thorough instruction during the school year in the studies usually taught in the public schools to children of the same age;

(4) has completed an instruction program under item (3) of this subsection.”

Exceptions (3) and (4) together cover homeschooling. The wording in (3) is the exact same wording used in Maryland’s law for homeschooling. In my interpretation, there should not be any problem declaring that 17-year-old senior with a late birthday has completed his homeschool program. I can see how there may be issues if a parent tries to graduate a child earlier than that if the child has not completed a documented 13 years of K-12.

Another gray area I perceive in the law is the beginning of schooling at age 5. The school districts will only enroll children in kindergarten who turn 5 by September 1 (there is wiggle room to October 15, if the parent takes the child for gifted testing). So, any child born after that cut-off date has to wait until the next year to start school. However, the way the law way is written, it seems like on your child’s 5th birthday, bam, she needs to start school. There is an exception clause in the law that states “a child who resides in this State and is 5 years old may be exempted from mandatory school attendance for 1 year if the child’s parent or guardian files a written request with the local school system asking that the child’s attendance be delayed due to the child’s level of maturity.”  Is every parent with a child born after September 1 really filing this request?  More likely, the “shall attend a public school regularly during the entire school year” means that there is a grace period that covers the time from September 2 to the end of that school year.

If you are interested in my other thoughts on Maryland homeschool law, please check out:

 

 

Do I fit into the homeschooling community (instructionally)?

I began my homeschooling research with what I am used to from being a teacher.  I tried to figure out what my school district teaches in the 5th grade.  For some subjects, a simple list of 5-7 subjects was given.  For others, it was dozens of pages of standards with nothing specific.  I had to wrap my head around the fact that, unlike in school teaching, there is no checklist of topics to complete in homeschooling.  So, I looked for sources of materials, free if possible.  I didn’t want to have to buy textbooks for every subject.  I discovered that homeschooling falls into 4 categories of instructional approaches.

Traditional

This is essentially the parent acting as the teacher for every subject.  This is the approach I initially thought I would take.  However, one issue with this approach is that I have a much younger child to take care of while homeschooling, so I can’t really be teaching everything every day like I would in front of a classroom.  So, my son needs to be able to do a lot of learning on his own.  I am also cheap, so I do not want to buy a curriculum.  School-use textbook prices are ridiculous.  Plus, the materials that he has been getting at school the last few years are sometimes total crap, so I certainly don’t want to buy that same crap to use at home.  Materials marketed to homeschooling parents often cater to the majority, so history and science contain a heavy dose of religion.

Classical

This seems to be a conflicting concept.  On one hand, it is the approach used by many religious families.  On the other hand, it is an approach that teaches children logical thinking.  It seems to me that the logical thinking aspect would lead to children realizing the religious aspect makes no sense.  Maybe the two different groups use the same term to mean different things.  I really only read up on the logical thinking version.  I would like to infuse some of the logical thinking concepts into my home education.  However, I realized, sadly, that I have no training in logic, so I need to work through those ideas myself.

Computer-based

This means online school.  Again, I am cheap, so I am not going to pay for someone else to virtually instruct my child.  We may go this route of we are going to continue educating outside of public and private schools once my son gets to high school, so that he can get an actual diploma.  In the meantime, we are going to make ample use of free online resources, databases, etc.

Unschooling

This is basically letting your kid be in charge of his own education.  I am too much of a control-freak to try this.  Then, I let the idea marinate a little.  I do want my child to peruse his own interests and branch off from what I am teaching him.  I want to make use of “teachable moments” that come up in every day life.  So, maybe over time, I could loosen the grip a little.

My Approach

I am starting with an outline of ideas I got from Almost-free Homeschool 5th Grade: A Free-Thinker’s Secular Curriculum (a low-cost Kindle book I found on Amazon).  I am going to use the history curriculum and the language arts curriculum pretty much as it was detailed.  However, I am going to add some literature related to our history topics using library books.  I might have to buy a couple of books for history reference.

The science curriculum was all biology.  I am going to use some parts of it, but I am basically going to go with the topics that my school system teaches in the 5th grade.  I just don’t like biology that much that I want to just do that all year.  We are going to mix in some Earth science and physics.

Math is my subject!  I am going to be doing a lot of direct instruction myself here.  I have been beyond frustrated with the lack of coherent instruction my son has gotten in at least the last two years.  It is difficult for me to even pinpoint what he knows.  So, I am using Khan Academy as kind of a skills check and I am making up my own curriculum from there.

Having covered the 4 major subjects, let me talk about the “electives”.  We are a bilingual family, so I have been teaching a second language at home my son’s entire life.  Homeschooling will actually give me an opportunity to even out his skills between the two languages.

I am going to outsource music, art, and phys. ed. for at least a portion of the year.  I am not an artsy/musical person.  My son wants to learn how to play the guitar, so there is his music class.  I can probably wing an art class, but if I come across some kind of lesson, I’ll take advantage of that.  My son doesn’t care for sports despite my husband’s love for them.  We are going to try swim class and maybe something else, though.

Do I fit into the homeschooling community (philosophically)?

Society has trained me, like many other people, to have a certain image of homeschooling families. The first image is of long-skirted fundamentalist Christians who like to keep their many children (especially the girls) as sheltered as possible. The second image is of long-haired anti-establishment hippies who like to let their kids follow their every whim.  I don’t actually know any homeschooling families that fit either stereotypes.

Over the years, I have taught several students in school who had previously been homeschooled.  Some were a little strange and missing in major background knowledge, but so are many children who have always attended school.  But others were just filled with amazing intellectual curiosity, thinking skills, and study habits rarely seen in their schooled peers. I didn’t really know the families of these students, so I wasn’t privy to their decision to homeschool in the early years and later send their kids to school.  I am presuming that many of them did homeschool for religious reasons since I was teaching at religiously-affiliated private schools.

We are not religious.  In fact, we are devoutly atheist.  So, a large part of the homeschooling world is on the other end of the philosophical spectrum from what I am looking for.  But I have found some resources and groups that either do not actively promote religion or are strictly non-religious.  Although, percentage-wise, I know that I am in a very small minority.  The fact that this blog name wasn’t taken yet, is a testament to that fact. We shall see how things go as I meet more homeschooling parents.

The Home Educating Decision

I have been pondering the problems with public school since I started teaching in the system.  My son has occasionally asked if he could be homeschooled for a couple of years now.  My husband figured we turned out fine on a public education, so why rock the boat.  About a month ago, however, we made the decision that after the current school year, we will educate our son at home.

Who would have thought that traveling would bring my husband around to the idea of homeschooling?  The man needs to be heavily medicated to get on plane.  However, he loves Disneyworld!  (He drives or takes the train to get there.)  And he loves money-saving deals.  So, to save money on a Disney vacation, you have to go when most kids are in school.  The dilemma became whether we could take our child out of school (plenty of people do) to take a cheaper trip.  In the end, my husband realized that it would be much easier if we didn’t have to go by the school calendar.

The realization that the school superintendent was standing in the way of our family vacation planning happened to conincide with my lamenting about standardized testing.  I have been fighting with the school system about a particular assessment.  This test is supposed to show how students progress over time, however, my straight-A student’s scores are see-sawing.  I know that I was not going to win this fight, but at least I might make a little dent.  In the end, my son won.  He will not be taking anymore standardized tests for at least a couple of years.  Ironically, there is only one public school activity in which the state allows homeschoolers to participate: the standardized testing.  We are going to opt-out of that, something which my state does not allow public school students to do.