We homeschoolers tend to associate standards (like common core) with negative ideologies for good reason. However, a set of standards is really just a set of minimum, basic principles students should learn in a certain grade. I disagree with the idea that children should learn anything at a specific, arbitrary age, because children are individuals, each on their own developmental track. But I like the idea of having a set of standards — a list of things that should be accomplished. It’s really no different that a home builder having a list of minimum requirements to protect the home buyer.

While children should be encouraged to develop academically at their own individual pace, standards are helpful as a framework for educators to use, in that they can say, this set of standards is taught first, then this set of standards and so on. I’ll call these “kindergarten standards”, but I think they will work equally well for children from ages four to seven or eight, and are just a step along a continuum. With that in mind, here are the “kindergarten” math standards for my state, distilled and translated into non-educator terminology.

- Identify and sort basic shapes, and be able to make new shapes from them.
- Identify shapes as two-dimensional (“flat”) or three-dimensional (“solid”).
- Classify objects into given categories; count the numbers of objects in each category and sort the categories by count.
- Count by rote to at least 20.
- Count backwards from 10 to 0.
- Recognize that written numbers represent real items (number recognition and correspondence) to 20.
- Be able to write numbers.
- Understand ordinal numbers: first, second, third, fourth…
- Compare sizes, such as length and weight, in general using words such as taller, bigger, or shorter.
- Describe measurable attributes of objects, such as length or weight. Describe several measurable attributes of a single object.
- The concepts of more, less and equivalence.
- Understand prepositions: up, down, under, near, beside…
- Count to 10 by 2’s.
- Count to 100 by 1’s, 5’s, and 10’s.
- Understand the concepts of addition and subtraction with single-digit numbers, using word problems, picture problems and digits.
- Operations in base 10. Compose and decompose numbers from 11–19 into ten ones and some further ones. Use objects or drawings and record each composition or decomposition by a drawing or equation. For example, 18 = 10 + 8. Understand that these numbers are composed of ten ones and one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, or nine ones
- Operations and algebraic thinking.

If you’re curious, you can look up the math standards for your own state, but they will probably be similar to what is above, due to attempts to regulate standards across the United States (recently called common core).

We Play Math meets and exceeds the standards outlined above. But I don’t recommend that your child accomplish all of these objectives at any arbitrary age or within any set time limit. As your child’s parent, you know him better than anyone else. After working with him individually, you will know whether he understands the concept and is ready to move on, or whether he needs some more practice. If he needs more practice, you can pull out one of our recommended games to play with him, or let him re-watch the videos or play the online games. Or maybe your child really likes to color worksheets. You, along with input from your child, are the best equipped person to decide when and how to proceed with more advanced concepts.

I will tell you that all of my eight children flew through all of these concepts between the ages of four and five, and most of them also accomplished the first grade standards while about age five. As a family, we learn together around the kitchen table from approximately 9 am to 11 am every day, and my littles have always just wanted to be a part of what everyone else was doing. These lessons (and kindergarten lessons in general) are structured to only take a few minutes per day, so my littles would generally complete more than one lesson per day. If your child wants to do the same, let her! But if your child seems reluctant or is struggling to understand a concept, remember that building a strong math foundation and a love of learning is more important than winning any race. Homeschooling is not a race. I find it more useful to structure our days with a certain amount of time dedicated to learning, and let the learning unfold naturally, than to decide that we’ll accomplish a lesson per day or one grade level per year. That way, it doesn’t feel stressful to be “behind” any arbitrary date or goal I added to the calendar. Rather, I see the learning happening incrementally and daily and we can prioritize learning over accomplishing, or “checking boxes”.

When you think of education as building a foundation for life, it doesn’t feel like a punishment to have to back up 30 lessons in order to revisit a concept that wasn’t learned thoroughly or that was misunderstood the first time around, and nobody feels dumb about having to slow down to spend extra time on difficult concepts. It