Parenting and Beyond

How to Start Homeschool: My Plan for Play-Based Kindergarten

I’m sharing our decision to homeschool our children. I’m discussing exactly why we chose homeschool, my plan for a play-based kindergarten, and how we’re scheduling our days!

the word "school" spelled out with colorful school supplies, text overlay reads "how to start homeschool: my plan for play-based kindergarten"

Goooooooood morning and happy Back-to-School Season! We’re sitting at home today in our jammies, watching cartoons and drinking coffee (the coffee is only for me so I can keep up with my energetic boys!), and not missing the hustle and bustle of getting ready for school. Why, you ask? Because we are now a homeschool family!!

Disclaimer: all opinions are my own based on extensive research that my husband and I have completed. I am choosing to share about our homeschool journey to educate and support others. 

Don’t have time to read the whole post now? That’s ok, you can pin it to Pinterest here!

Why We Chose to Homeschool

Oh man, I really don’t know where to start with this. There’s obviously several reasons why we chose to homeschool our boys and we did not make this decision lightly. So let’s start with a few of the reasons that lead us to this decision:

I’m a licensed teacher! Yup, I talk about this on my about me page, but I’m a teacher by trade. I quit when Bubba (our oldest) was 1 so that I could stay home. But I’ve kept up with my licensing and it seemed like a natural fit for us to homeschool since teaching is what I did for a living pre-kids.

We’ve debated public vs. private vs. charter school for years. I used to teach in a public school but my husband and I both grew up attending private, parochial schools. I’d love for my kids to attend a private school that shares the same beliefs we teach at home, but we can’t afford that. And even if we could I don’t believe a formal school setting is what’s best for our boys right now.

We Believe in Play-Based Learning. To say my boys are active is an understatement and I don’t believe they would be successful in a traditional school setting where they are required to sit still and perform on command for six hours a day. At least not in the early elementary school years (K-2nd grade).

My boys need fresh air, sunshine, and plenty of time for free play. In my opinion, all kids need that and our schools (both public and private) should be more focused on learning through play and less focused on standardized tests.

I am aiming for a play-based homeschool program. What is play-based learning? Essentially it is learning through play. It is NOT making learning playful. Does that make sense??

In formal education we have gotten really good at making learning playful and calling it play-based education. But it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing. We put down numbers on the floor and tell kids to call out the numbers as they hop across them. We give kids bean bags to toss at words they recognize as we call them out.

Sure, those things are fun. But it’s NOT true play-based learning. It’s just making learning playful. Because in these examples we’re still expecting children to learn what WE tell them to learn and demonstrate their knowledge on command.

Alternately, true play-based learning would allow a child plenty of time to play freely. To use his imagination and guide his own learning throughout the day (as much as possible).

Does this mean that we’ll NEVER sit down and practice math or writing or reading. Of course not. Remember, I’m a teacher, there’s always a time and place for formal schooling.

Want to know more about play-based learning? Check out this article, it’s a super quick read (I didn’t write it) and is a great place to start!

This post contains affiliate links, you can read more about that here.

How to Start Homeschool

Research the Laws in Your State: If you are planning to homeschool (or even considering it) you’ll want to start with researching what your state requires. Every state has different requirements around homeschooling, it’s important to be educated about that. Perform an internet search for your state’s department of education and then click around to find the requirements for homeschool.

In the state of Colorado we don’t have to officially begin reporting homeschool efforts until the age of 7. Bubba just turned 5 so that gives us two full years of homeschool before we have to report to the state.

Why is that important?

For two reasons: first because I intend to do play-based and child-directed learning for as long as possible. That would be pretty difficult to report to the state since there won’t be a ton of official teaching happening.

Second, it’s important to spend time laying the foundation of a successful homeschool framework. That would include everything from routine (how and when we school) to foundational basics (like letters, numbers, site words, etc.).

Research Homeschool Resources in Your Area: You’ll also want to do research about homeschool resources in your area.

I never want my boys to feel stuck at home with me. And there are some subjects that will be better taught outside the home. Colorado has many resources for homeschoolers including online resources and enrichment programs.

My plan is to stick with as much play-based learning as possible and also work to build a routine and some basic foundational skills over the next two years. This will also give me plenty of time to iron out the best way to track our schooling.

Grab Your Essentials: The advantage of homeschool is that you don’t have to run out and spend hundreds on school supplies . You won’t need backpacks or lunch boxes but you will need a few essential items. I’ve link my faves below:

Choose Your Curriculum. I’m not going to be using a curriculum for now. That’s largely in part because my background in education gives me the confidence to derive lessons from state standards. I don’t need a prescribed curriculum, yet. I might find that I more guidance in the future, but for now I’m comfortable adhering to state standards and digging deep into my bag of teacher tricks!

What Will Homeschool Kindergarten Look Like?

I’m using this year, our kindergarten year, to really iron out all of the kinks. There’s a lot to juggle around our house, especially with little ones in the house. So our kindergarten, and homeschool this year, will look much more relaxed than it will in the future.

I have simple goals for the year:

  1. Develop a consistent, sustainable routine for homeschool. This is my number one goal for this homeschool year, and if we accomplish nothing else I’ll be happy. I plan to give him as much free play time as possible and slowly build our routine.
  2. Teach Bubba to do activities on his own. Eventually he’ll have to be able to sit through a lesson with me and then work on his own. So I’ll start teaching him those skills now by guiding him to activities that he can easily complete on his own like coloring, building LEGOS, or finishing a puzzle.
  3. Master the basics. Even though I’ll be mostly focusing on play-based learning and building routines/independence I would still like him to master some basic skills. Here’s my list.
    • Recognize letters by name (both upper and lower case) and sound
    • Recognize numbers up to 100, be able to count to 100
    • Begin teaching time (days of the week, months of the year, seasons)
    • Begin teaching money (names and values of coins and bills)
    • Be able to draw a self portrait
    • Be able to write his full name
    • Know the first 100 site words
    • Knowledge of his address and phone number
    • Safety skills: how to call 911, what to do in an emergency, how to exit house in case of fire
    • Stamina, stamina, stamina!!!! This will be HUGE for our success in later years.
    • Read the Bible every day

Our Play-Based Schedule for Kindergarten

To be honest, the word “schedule” seems almost oxymoronic to the play-based homeschool programming I’m aiming for. The reality of our day-to-day life is that we all do much better with some structure.

With that in mind I’ve put together a bit of a schedule/structure for our day that will give Bubba plenty of time for self-guided play but will also make sure we are establishing a routine. That way I know we have time for school every week day.

Here’s the loose plan I’ve come up with so far (I’ll readjust as needed):

  • wake-up – 9:00 am — slow start to the morning: which includes lots of lounging, reading books, play time, and watching cartoons.
  • by 9:00 am everyone should be dressed, fed, ready for the day; TV off
  • 9:00 am -11:30 am — morning activity, this will vary from day-today but will include trips to the park, visits to the library, hikes, nature walks, etc.
  • 11:30 am – 12:30 pm — lunch and little kids go down for nap
  • 12:30 pm- 1:30 pm — school lessons, during this time we will do a mix of guided activities (a more formal lesson with me) and independent activities (like coloring or reading books on his own)

Note: keep in mind that at this time we have NO routine for school, we’re starting completely from scratch, which is why the school block is only an hour. Initially it might even be less. My goal over the course of the year is to build up to more.

  • 1:30 pm – wake-up — independent activities and free play for Bubba

Usually the littles are up from nap and ready to roll by about 3:oo ish. Our afternoons usually consist of lots of outside time, dinner around 5:00 pm, then more play time and we start bed time around 7:00 pm.

Those are my goals, fairly simple and yet if we can master ALL of that by the end of our kindergarten year we’ll be in great shape!!

What are your thoughts on homeschool? Is that something you would ever consider? If not, tell me one thing that is holding you back!

Good luck and happy homeschooling!

colorful school supplies at the tops of a white page with the words "why I chose homeschool: exploring play-based kindergarten" by forgotten lattes written below


2 thoughts on “How to Start Homeschool: My Plan for Play-Based Kindergarten

  1. Love this! We also homeschool and when we were looking at moving I *really* pushed for Colorado because of the availability of secular resources/groups/activities for homeschoolers. I lost that one but we’ve managed to find a tribe and enough resources where we are. Homeschooling has been an amazing journey for us and I’m so glad we chose to do it!

    1. Yes Colorado has an incredible amount of resources, it’s pretty cool! I’m hoping to find a co-op eventually but haven’t had much luck with that yet. I’m glad to hear you love homeschooling, it’s always encouraging to hear form other moms who have done homeschooling (or are doing) and loved it!

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