How to Homeschool Preschoolers and Kindergarteners: 18 Tips for Creating a Natural and Joyful Learning Environment

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How to Homeschool Preschool and Kindergarten: 18 Tips for Creating a Natural and Joyful Learning Environment

I shared with you my big-mouthed opinion on pushing young children beyond their readiness levels. What you should be asking at this point is “Who are you?! Who are you to be saying this? Do you have a degree in education? Do you have a title?”

Good question. I’m glad you asked.

I do not have a degree in education. For what it’s worth, I have a triple major in English, communication, and communicative arts (whatever that is), but that’s not what qualifies me to write this post..although it does help me properly punctuate this post. What qualifies me is my “experience in the field” of homeschooling little ones–sixteen years of it. For over sixteen years we have been creating a natural, enriching learning environment for our kids, and, yeah, while they’re all a little weird cuz the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, they all have an unquenchable love of learning.

How do we do it?  How do we ensure that our littles are growing in wisdom, knowledge, and a love of learning through their early years?  In other words, how do we “do preschool and kindergarten” at home? I’m glad you asked.

18 Tips for Creating a Natural Learning Environment for Preschoolers and Kindergartners

In random order, because random is fun.

1. Read together daily.

I cannot overestimate the value of sitting together and reading. It doesn’t have to be a formal reading session. Some days it can be as simple as saying “yes” when a little one brings a book or reading a favorite bedtime story every night. Some tips:

  • Become regulars at the library, but not during flu season if you have a book-licker or a nose-picker.
  • Give books as gifts to build up your library within your current budget.
  • Follow along with your finger as you read so they see that words have meaning, and they begin recognizing some of them.
  • Don’t shy away from chapter books or non-fiction. They don’t bite…except for maybe that pop-up shark book.
  • Gradually get rid of the dumbed-down books. Your children are apparently smarter than the people writing the children’s books. Adios, Disney!
  • Repeat your child’s favorite books or poems often to teach memorization skills.
  • Don’t worry if your child can’t sit through a simple picture book or you can’t get past the first page because of all her questions. This is normal! Don’t make “finishing the book” your goal and lose sight of the needs and abilities of the child on your lap.
  • It’s okay to let your reading be the “background noise” as your children play, eat, or take a bath.
  • Don’t be afraid to read straight from the Bible with your littles. It was written for them, too.
  • For a bit more on this topic, read my post entitled Read Aloud to Your Children. It’s about reading aloud to your children…if you didn’t catch that.
2. Cook and bake together.

Children in the kitchen make a big mess and they slow you down, partly because your feet stick to the floor. Still, if you keep them out of the kitchen, they lose out on an excellent opportunity to learn this:

  • cooking skills
  • cooperation
  • following directions
  • safety lessons
  • developing a habit of follow-through and clean-up
  • strong work ethic
  • the joy of caring for and serving others
  • preparation for a future in which, chances are, they will need to eat.
  • basic math lessons. (When you’ve been doubling, tripling, or halving recipes in the kitchen for years, a worksheet full of fractions is a piece of cake! Mmm, cake.)

Keeping them out of the kitchen robs you of this:

  • an element of joy to your work
  • bonding time
  • over-easy eggs and toast, caramel apple pie, homemade bread, and fresh cookies made by (supervised) six- and seven-year-olds.

Bring it on!

How To Create a Natural Learning Environment at Home for Preschoolers and Kindergartners

3. Explore nature together.

This can be as simple as planting a pot of flowers and putting up a birdfeeder on an apartment balcony, or as elaborate as visiting national parks and homesteading. Take walks through parks, get good and dirty in a garden, or lie on your stomachs to stare at a square foot of earth. Follow ants, watch  butterflies, look closely at flowers, be observant with your five senses. Look up discoveries in field guides if the interest is there, but don’t force it. Keep this fun and informal as you wonder together in awe at God’s creation.

Help your littles begin the practice of keeping a simple nature journal–simple! For now, give them a blank notebook (check craft sections or office supplies) and let them “draw” what they see, draw it for them, take pictures, or press flowers and leaves. We sometimes tape treasures into their nature journal and cram it back into the book shelf to press it. (That is not the right way to do it, but it works for us. I use to use a flower press like this one, but…well…now I don’t. Uh, that’s an affiliate link.) We’ve even been known to smear interesting colored mud and dirt on a page or two.

To perk interest in nature when stuck inside, try classic stories like Beatrix Potter’s tales for the youngest set, Parables of Nature by Mrs. A. Gatty, Thomas Burgess’ Bird Book for Children and Animal Book for Children, Rudyard Kipling’s Just-So Stories, and...somebody stop me! (These are affiliate links, although most of them are free.)


4. Teach your little one to do what you do.

Are you an artist? Teach her to draw or let her explore alongside you as you work. Are you a cook? Get him in the kitchen, even if he’s making stuff up. Are you a grocery list maker? Give her paper and pencil to make her own list. Do you work on the computer? Let him sit on your lap and press “Enter” when you need it, or open a notepad for him to type in. Break the big jobs down into something small that he can do alongside you. This is especially important for parents who may be gone during the day and find themselves busy with projects and “homework” at night.

 5. Answer questions.

I don’t know any child who isn’t full of questions, unless life has drained the God-given curiosity from his soul. When your child has a question, take the time to answer it or look it up together or “figger” it out. Say, “Hmm…I don’t know where that ant is going, but let’s follow it and ‘figger’ it out.” “Figgering” together is a great way to develop a curious mind that takes learning to the next step. By the way, “figgering” doesn’t always have to involve a book. Gravity can be figgered out fairly memorably with an egg and a tall ladder or an upstairs window. Yee haa!

6. Use big words.

When my firstborn was a baby she reached out for a knife. I said “Dangerous!” as I pulled her hand away. Someone scolded, “She’s a baby! She doesn’t know what ‘dangerous’ means.” No, kind Someone, but she will never know what “dangerous” or any other word means if she never hears it. Don’t shy away from the big words. Before you know it, your three-year-old will be lisping, “What an unusual piece of artwork!” or “Actually, I prefer white milk, thank you.”

How To Create a Natural Learning Environment at Home for Preschoolers and Kindergartners

7. Live life together.

Whatever is going on in your life is an opportunity for your child to learn. Are you headed to the dentist? Touch on tooth care and the job of a dentist. Are you counting out money? Let him help. Are you repairing items in the home?  Give your little one a safe tool and ask for help. Chances are you’re not going to find a preschool or a curriculum that includes helping Daddy fix a bicycle. Take him with you to the election booths, the grocery store, church, the bank, the library…everywhere! Feed him, give him a nap, tell him your expectations for behavior, wipe the peanut butter off his chin and bring ‘im with you. Yes, this is harder than going alone, but that’s parenting! Another part of parenting is training your child, so if the reason you don’t take him is because he doesn’t behave, make training a priority at home and away.

8. Hold real conversations.

Discuss big ideas with your little ones.  This sets the groundwork for an open flow of conversation throughout the years.  If you ask for and respectfully listen to your children’s views on a subject, you will encourage the children to begin to think. When I say think, I don’t mean parroting what their friends or the media says. I mean discern, rationalize, come up with fresh ideas…you know, think.

9. Be observant.

Do you see signs and numbers throughout your day? Point them out as early reading lessons. Do you see someone performing a job? Talk about it. Do you see a critter? Discuss its colors, behavior, and habitat. Learning is everywhere if you keep your eyes open.


10. Develop social skills naturally.

Take your littles to the library, to Grandma’s house, to the voting booth, to Bible study, and anywhere else you go. Don’t waste this opportunity by dumping your child in the nursery as soon as you arrive. Let your kiddos hang out with a mix of people from every generation. This is society; being able to function in society is being socialized.

Teach by example, but also by explanation and practice: “Hey, Kiddo, you’re four now, and it’s time to learn to shake hands like a man.” And then show him and practice. When you’re out, introduce him like a man and let him shake hands. It sets the stage for a teen who will look a person in the eye and say, “Nice to meet you,” rather than grunt at you with earbuds permanently encrusted in his ears. Ugh.

11. Be a learner.

I frequently hear,”I don’t know enough to teach my kids everything they need to know.” Wow, that’s a shocker. Hello! Nobody does! That’s why you teach your kids to teach themselves, and you do this first and foremost by setting the example. Exemplify curiosity. Look things up. Ask questions. Wonder out loud. And do this with your child.


12. Play.

Play together. I don’t mean Barbies…unless you want to. Play chess, blocks, hopscotch, 20 questions, I spy, dollhouse, cars.

Also, let your child play alone so she can develop self-motivation and a bit of independence.  Fill her life with a small number of excellent toys and puzzles (we love Lauri puzzlesaffiliate link). Aim for quality, not quantity. In fact, keep it simple. Keep it simple! A child in a room full of toys will fill a room full of mess. A child with two cars and a pile of blocks will fill his head with big ideas. So will a child with a pile of dirt and a few sticks. Don’t paralyze their imaginations and make cleaning up an overwhelming agony by filling their lives with too much stuff.


13. Dabble in foreign language.

If you are fluent in a foreign language, use it…all the time. Most of us aren’t so lucky, but that’s no reason to throw in la toalla. Libraries and used curriculum sales generally have foreign language materials. Some pricier companies, like Rosetta Stone, offer samples that are fun for kids. Online apps, games, and lessons are readily available as well. Incorporate the words you learn into your daily life. Your child won’t become fluent in this manner, but he’ll get a great head-start.

 14. Explore art and music.

However possible, expose your child to the greats and let him copy them. Get a Bach or Tchaikovsky CD from your library or online and listen while your child colors or plays.  (My kids enjoy the Classical Kids collection. Again, sneak it in budget-wise by giving it as gifts for birthdays and Christmas.) Attend local free concerts. Sing patriotic songs, folk music, and hymns with your child, and encourage him to explore a variety of musical instruments that you can pick up at garage sales or as toys, or make your own.

Hunt for books or calendars containing the art of the masters and mention who drew or painted the pictures. Keep a ready stash of art supplies for your children to explore at any time. Replicate the masters, or get a Dover coloring book about an artist of your choice.   It doesn’t have to be structured to be effective.

15. Get rid of the desk notion.

Who needs desks and chalkboards and stations? What’s wrong with the floor? Come on, what’s more fun, sitting on a hard chair with pencil in fist, circling the bigger rectangle and the bigger ball on a worksheet, or lying on your stomach on the floor building a house, and then a bigger house out of blocks with Mama? Do a little over and under talk for some spatial recognition training, and you’ve had school, bonding, and playtime. Add cookies and call it lunch.

How To Create a Natural Learning Environment at Home for Preschoolers and Kindergartners

16. Do a little school.

But didn’t you just say…? Yes, I did. At this young age workbook school is fascinating to some children. Take advantage of that! Here are some items that were well-loved in our home (most of these are affiliate links):

Keep it short and pressure-free, and stop before their interest fades. Remember, your goal is creating a lifelong learning attitude, not finishing a book or impressing Grandma. Sorry, Grandma!

17. Don’t rush!

There will always be a child smarter, faster, or more talented than yours. That’s just life. (Pick yourself up off the floor.) While life does involve competition, don’t let it pressure you into rushing your little one into things he simply can’t do yet. The only thing your speed will accomplish is burn up your kiddo’s tires like an Indie car. Don’t let the expectations of others or yourself drive you to squelch the precious love of learning innate in children.


18. Don’t worry about the gaps!

If you are afraid your preschool-aged child is missing something vital by not following a pre-planned curriculum or being taught by the professionals, just relax.  A young child whose life is rich in experiences, real life learning, and the respect and attention of a loving family will in no way be hindered academically or socially. Yes, your child will miss something. We all have gaps in our learning, including those of us who have been in the system since age two. Instilling in your little one a love of learning, however, will give him the ability and desire to bridge those gaps when necessary, a skill many of today’s adults don’t have. It’s not the job of education to give children all the knowledge they’ll ever need in their lives.  It’s the job of education to give children the skills to gain that knowledge for themselves.

How do you create a natural learning environment for your preschoolers and kindergartners?


High School Literary Study Guide of The Scarlet Pimpernel {Review}

Take note: We received an electronic copy of The Scarlet Pimpernel pdf interactive study guide for high schoolers by Michael S. Gilleland and Eileen Cunningham in exchange for this fair and unbiased review. Thank you, Progeny Press, for this opportunity!

Don’t you love reading a book with your kids. I know I do. Now that I have teens (four teen girls, thank you), we often read books “together” without reading them aloud, although we’re still into read alouds. We don’t often do formal literature studies, because I had the joy sucked out of reading while attaining my five-year bachelor’s degree in English. When Progeny Press sent me the study guide for The Scarlet Pimpernel, I fought my instinct and assigned the book to my freshman, Elisabeth, and my seventh grader, Emily Rose, with the intention of reading the book simultaneously, but separately, and going through the study guide together. 

I sincerely enjoyed using the Progeny Press literature study guide for the Scarlet Pimpernel with these two lovelies!

Here’s the thing about youth–they can read a book without falling asleep. Both of them finished the entire book while I was still inching my way through chapter two. Sleep–you beautiful, cursed, necessity; how I love/hate you! I did finally finish the book at 2 a.m. one beautiful night.

Regardless of my slow pace through the book, the girls still were able to work through the study without my having finished the entire thing in advance. In fact, they didn’t need me to read it at all, but it’s so much more fun to read together than alone and to share quotes and frustrations and joys and laughs, isn’t it? Plus, I can add legitimately to the discussion if I’ve actually read the book. Duh.

About That Study…

The Scarlet Pimpernel study guide contains the following:

  • Instructor’s recommended usage guide with options–I love options!
  • Book synopsis, particularly awesome if you didn’t read the book–ack!
  • Author bio–fascinating! (I am totally over-using exclamation marks here–pet peeve.)
  • Historical background, which helps make this book an excellent history study, if only to add to a timeline or book of centuries.
  • Ideas for pre-reading activities…none of which we used, I have to confess, although we did use some as post-reading activities. We started reading the book before we received the study guide link.
  • Exercises divided into groups of five chapters, containing a fun variety of vocabulary activities (which my kids enjoyed), comprehension questions (which my kids didn’t like, since they already understood the book), analyses, and digging deeper activities (some of which they liked).
  • Overview, which can be used as a final review or exam.
  • Additional essays and projects
  • Answer key, in case you couldn’t stay awake long enough to read the book and therefore are struggling to contribute intelligently to the conversation.
  • More resources, including my personal favorite, further books to read–A Tale of Two Cities,


Literature Study Guides from a Christian Perspective {Progeny Press Review}
What We Did…

We each read the book independently, but simultaneously. We bought the book on Kindle for free, and also bought a paperback copy for a little more than free. The girls (and I) prefer a real book to an imaginary one, but someone (me) had to read the digital version until everyone else was finished with the real thing.

We then dove into the study guide. I printed up the vocabulary sections for them to complete together or independently. I did not print up the comprehension or digging deeper questions. Comprehension questions are usually a waste of time on my kids, since they “get it,” so we breezed through these together. We didn’t skip them, because sometimes there are misunderstandings of the story line, so the questions do prove useful. We did, however, often have to be sneaky about our answers, because the discussion around this book made it so appealing to others in the family that they wanted to read it, too, and didn’t want spoilers. For digging deeper, we discussed the questions orally…preferably with a bowl of popcorn at hand.

I assigned them the final “exam” overview section to work on as they were working through the study guide instead of at the end. I’m not much of an examiner…except in math. I love giving math tests–bwaa haa haaa!

We dug a little deeper into the history of the time. We used the study guide, the intro in the book itself, and the internet. We also added the French Revolution and Orczy’s life to our timeline books and Orczy to our list of new favorite authors!

The Big Question…

Did this suck the joy out of the reading experience? Here are three brutally honest opinions on that matter:

Emily Rose (13): I already understood the book, so the comprehension questions were boring. It would be good if you didn’t understand it, but I understood it. [Teacher interjection: I knew this and we talk about books that we read anyway, so I breezed through these questions.]

Elisabeth (15): I thought the vocabulary was a good idea, but the comprehension questions were just kind of lame. If you didn’t understand the book in the first place, you wouldn’t understand it to answer the questions. [Teacher interjection: exact opposite answer of her sister. Hmmm.] Some of the discussion questions were interesting.

Christy (That’s me.): While I certainly wouldn’t assign a literary analysis to every book we read, I do believe it has its value. Used on, say, every fourth book assigned, a literary study guide of Progeny Press caliber is quite fun…at least for this book geek! (Oops, another exclamation point. Good grief.) I really enjoyed studying the book and time period with my two middle girls–they sometimes get lost in the school shuffle as we teach reading to littles and help olders navigate college at home. This opportunity provided scheduled time to share my love of literature with my two lovelies.

While my daughter’s reactions don’t sound very positive, they enjoyed most of our discussions. Just today I heard them chatting about the revelation of the Scarlet Pimpernel himself with another sister who just found out his identity, and {SPOILER ALERT} describing it as a “dramatic irony,” something they learned from the discussion questions. They’re “doing” the discussion questions without even realizing it.

I love that.

Additional Thoughts for My Fellow Roadschoolers

Printing vs. Interactive

While ideally you would normally print discussion questions and activity pages, those of us who live in about 25 square feet of space are a little printer-phobic, especially if you have to unbury the printer like an ancient Egyptian treasure every time you want to transfer something from the computer into the real world. That said, printing up this guide is not that big of a deal–do it all at once, throw it in the kids’ binders, and you’re done. Or you can do what we did, and just print parts of it.

If you really don’t want to do any printing, I have good news! because this is an interactive guide, the students can type the answers directly into the file, so there really is no need of printing at all! Of course, then there is need of a computer to do the work. Our computer is named The Behemoth for good reason, so lugging that baby out requires a forklift and some crow bars. (You could also load it onto a Kindle and have them write the answers on paper.) I gave the girls the option of using the interactive guide on the Behemoth, looking at the screen and writing on paper, or using printed sheets. They’ve done all three, but paper is the winner.

Internet Access

The download time was not an issue, so even if you’re stuck in that po-dunk campground with the nearly non-existent internet access because everyplace else was booked by weekend warriors, you should still be able to download the pdf guide with minimal angst. That’s good news.

Weight and Space

Many, if not all, of the books for which Progeny Press has published study guides are available on Kindle, so that is not a space issue. Of course, there’s nothing like the real thing–nothing like it. So grab the paperback and swap it out at an RV park when you’re finished…if you can bear to part with it after falling in love with the brave heroes of this treasure.


Progeny Press digital study guides are a really great option for portable literature studies without breaking your leaf springs.

A Little More About Progeny…

Follow Progeny Press on Facebook or Twitter and get to know this small family company.

Click on the banner below to learn what other homeschoolers have to say about a variety of literature studies for kiddos of all ages from Progeny Press.

Literature Study Guides from a Christian Perspective {Progeny Press Review}

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Online Bible Curriculum for the Whole Family

Note: Veritas Press gave us a one-year family subscription to in exchange for this fair and honest review. It would be ironic, don’t you think, if I would be dishonest on a review about a Bible curriculum. Ha ha. Am I the only one who sees the irony there?

People ask us what Bible curriculum we use, and I usually answer, “God’s.” We read straight from the Bible and talk about it. It works for us.

But that doesn’t mean we’re the least bit opposed to other programs in addition to getting the goods straight from God’s Book. Veritas Press’ Veritas Bible program has been an excellent supplement for my children. I’ve even learned a few things and brushed up on some rusty information.

Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review

Veritas Press’ Bible program is an online subscription that takes you through various chunks of the Bible. You can enroll in one segment, or purchase access to all three for the whole family, which is what we have for the year. They currently offer these three segments:

  • Genesis through Joshua
  • Judges through 2 Kings
  • The Gospels

The following are coming soon:

  • Acts through Revelation
  • 1 Chronicles through Malachi and Job

The sections cover 32 events from those portions of the Bible. The students are guided through the lessons by real life people in period clothing (or possibly there was some time travel involved in the filming). They chat with the student and banter with each other.

My prudish side didn’t always like the bantering, like when the siblings were bickering, but my laid-back rough-around-the-edges side thought, “Ha, good one! I’ll have to remember that line for when I see my brothers.”

Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review

The videos move into animated lessons, with each collection introducing the kids to different animated friends–like a big ol’ gnat. Every kid loves a big ol’ gnat, right? Wink.

They then offer games and challenges for the kids to do to reinforce the lessons. The games might just make this the most exciting way to learn the Bible. See:

Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review

If you read it online, it must be true!

Seriously, the games do a good job of reinforcing what was learned, and it does make it fun for the kids. They’re not those horribly obnoxious loud video game type annoyances either…although they are, technically, video games.

One issue I have with all children’s Bible programs is the lack of realism, which sometimes makes Bible truths look like fairy tales–can you say cutesie little arks? Of course, children might be scarred by a video of hundreds of thousands of dead bloated bodies floating in the water, so…there’s that consideration. There must be a balance. The live people help to get across the idea that the Bible is real, and I don’t think the cartoons negate that.

What we did:

I used this program with three of my kids:

  • Elijah who is 10
  • Rebecca who is 7
  • Eliana who is 4 (I’m four and a half, Mommy.) Eliana who is four and a half

Elijah flies through lessons with no assistance whatsoever. He is completely independent, and is doing all three sections at the same time. The course keeps track of where he is so I can check in.

Rebecca needs minimal assistance, usually merely a matter of our rebellious internet connection. Unless she has a problem, she’s completely independent as well. She’s working through the Genesis through Joshua section.

Eliana needs hands-on help. She can’t read, so the challenges and quizzes require guidance. If someone is willing to help her, she can do them, but she’s really better off doing the program with someone else. She is also working through Genesis, but isn’t moving very quickly…but that’s how we roll…slo-o-o-o-o-o-wly.

The kids are retaining what they’ve learned, asking to do their lessons, and enjoying the process. I’m pleased.

Additional thoughts for my fellow roadschoolers:

I’d love to recommend this for roadschoolers, but it is highly situational. As you know, the roadschoolers two main considerations are…you guessed it…space and internet connection.


Because this is entirely online, it takes up no space whatsoever, as long as you have the necessary electronic device to use it. If you’re reading this, you have the device, I’m guessing.

Internet connection

Here’s the rub. Some of you have great internet set-ups; others, not so much. We are not so much and sometimes we are not at all. This was a pretty big issue with this program. Sometimes it wouldn’t work at all with a slow connection, and other times it would alert us to the slow connection and work slowly, or at least switch screens slowly. When we had a good to great, this program was a delight; when we had a sub-par connection, it was frustrating for the kids.

One benefit is that when we would completely lose a connection and have to quit, the program saved our progress for the most part. That was nice. Elijah experienced some repetitions, which got dull, but when I worked with Eliana, we didn’t have that problem too often.

So consider this a situational recommendation. Remember, we are in a new place every 2-3 days and usually hooked up to church, RV park, or state park wi-fi. Your situation is almost definitely different than ours. For example, I have some great pictures of my kids using this program, but I can’t get them “down” from “the cloud,” because I have a not-quite-good-enough internet connection where we are this week. See what I mean? Of course you do. So make that judgment for yourself–if you can stream videos without frustration, you should be A-OK with this nifty Bible program.

Honestly, the best thing you can do is hop on over to their site and give the free trial a go.

Connect with Veritas Press at their social media links:
Twitter:  @VeritasPress

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Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review
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