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The Hands-Down Best Reading Curriculum For Kindergarten Homeschoolers

Best Reading Curriculum Kindergarten Pin

Are you on the hunt for the very best reading curriculum for your kindergartener?

It is surely a journey packed with uncertainty, intense pressure, and seemingly impossibly high stakes for homeschool moms.

What if you pick the wrong one?

What if your kid hates it? What if YOU hate it?

What if it’s too simple, too complicated, too boring, or takes too much time to teach?

What if it costs more than your budget can stretch right now?

And worst of all…what if it doesn’t “work?”

I know some of you are nodding your head in solidarity with me, and the rest of you are thinking – “I never even considered those things – now I AM worried!”

There Is No Reason To Worry Because I Already Found The Best Kindergarten Reading Program. Period.

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To give you some background about me, I have been homeschooling for 6 years.

I have three girls – 6th grade, 3rd grade, and 1st grade.

I have taught all three of my girls to read, and I have gone through a handful of reading programs to accomplish that. 

I have liked the majority of what I have used, but I always had complaints here and there. I wished I could tweak things, or blend certain things together. 

And then I stumbled onto what I consider to be the very best option for the large majority of kindergarten homeschoolers. 

In this post you will find:

  • What Makes An Excellent Reading Curriculum

  • 9 Reasons Why The Best Program Is Off The Charts Awesome

  • What Level Your Kindergartener Should Start With

  • The Best Places To Buy The Reading Program

So What Qualities Make Up “The Best Curriculum For Reading?”

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1. Price

Yep, this is at the top of the list because it matters to a lot of families.

I’ve seen curriculum that is easily $300-$400. For just one year!

Man, and you STILL need to buy math curriculum, science curriculum, foreign language, social studies, or whatever other subject areas are on your list.

Sure the expensive reading curriculum may be awesome, but you can get the same results from MUCH more reasonably priced options.

I know, because I’ve tried both ways.


2. Phonics Based

Read Phonics In Blocks

Phonics is the undisputed best way to teach reading.

The best reading curriculum needs to focus on phonics and only use sight words very sparingly. 

Many reading curriculums (including this one I just used earlier this year) use way too many sight words.

This will dazzle you in the early years, but will not lead to long-term reading success.

3. *Engaging* Readers

storybook full of imagination and coming to life

This right here is the holy grail you don’t even know you need to find. In order to reach reading fluency, kids need to practice reading.

But very few books out there are phonics based. They are smashed with huge sight words that will frustrate you and your kid. 

Your #1 homeschool reading curriculum pick needs to come with great books that match up with what your child is learning.

This will develop fluency, a desire to learn more, and a love of reading!

4. Open And Go/ Minimal Prep

There are many options out there that require you to do a lot of work on the back end. 

You have to buy loads of supplies, read pages of material before every lesson, set up games and activities every day, etc. 

That will be fun for about a week, but as the school year stretches on, it can be very difficult to keep up with that. 

Your best choice is going to be open and go, so you can just flip open the book every morning and get going! 

9 Reasons Why Primary Phonics Is The Best Homeschool Curriculum For Reading

Kindergarten Reading Curriculum Books

Yep, Primary Phonics is the hands-down champion of reading curriculum. 

I own three levels of it, and I so wish that I had started with it when my youngest was in kindergarten last year. 

I used Explode the Code – which I love! – but it doesn’t include readers. I spent so much money on easy kindergarten books that didn’t always match up with the reading skills my child was learning.

I switched to The Good And The Beautiful but quickly found out that it is sight word HEAVY and the readers will bore you to tears.

Seriously, it was bad. 

I switched to Primary Phonics in first grade and I am so, so, so in love!

I highly recommend it for all budding kindergarten readers and here is why:

1. Solid Phonics Curriculum

Reading Program Workbooks

Primary Phonics is seriously committed to teaching kids how to read with a strong foundation that is built on phonics.

Hence the name…Primary Phonics.

The public school system is finally starting to acknowledge that the sight word system is a failure, and they are talking about coming back to phonics.

Check out this NY Times article for a fascinating look at how the school system ignored scientific-based research in reading, and as a result, reading scores tanked.

The article also includes what happened when phonics was reintroduced – so interesting!

2. Minimal Sight Words

Staying on the phonics theme, Level 1 of Primary Phonics only asks your student to learn a handful of simple sight words: a, an, is, a, the, on, in, yes, no, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, brown, and black.

That’s it.

A far cry from the 100 words my oldest had to learn when she was in public school kindergarten.

This short list is so much more manageable and fun for a developing mind that might struggle with so many “letter pictures” to remember. 

3. Included Readers 

Reading Curriculum Readers Levels 2, 3, and 4

OMG, let’s talk about the readers.

They are the shining jewel of this reading curriculum and the biggest reason I love it so much.

The readers perfectly match up with the skills being taught in the workbook AND are so engaging!

We have read stories about a stubborn mole who won’t leave a man’s backyard, a dog causing mischief on a crowded bus, a man who has a deer as a pet, and many others that have my kid gasping, laughing, and turning the page to find out what happens next!

The readers actually tell a story that your child will be interested in – which will hugely motivate them to come to the table for reading lessons!

“Easy readers” that don’t match up with your curriculum are not much fun for kids, and they will make reading lessons oh so much harder.

Because great success in reading comes with fluency…and fluency comes from reading books.

4. Included Reading Comprehension Workbook

Reading Comprehension Workbooks For Primary Phonics

This is something I haven’t seen offered in any of the other reading programs we’ve used – a structured reading comprehension program!

Each level includes simple workbook pages for kids to go over the new book they just read.

This is huge because it helps you see from an early age if your child is understanding what they are reading.

There are simple yes or no questions, areas to draw the answers, copy words, and matching. 

5. Open And Go Style

To-Do List Everything Dry Erase Board

I have three kids to teach, so I really need this to be simple and straightforward.

Primary Phonics has simple workbook pages that your child will enjoy doing and will even be able to do on their own.

Yes, you read that correctly. Your child will learn the format of the pages and be able to work independently at times.

This is a significant time saver and confidence booster for young learners! 

The teacher’s manual also includes detailed lesson plans, review, and activities.

6. Teacher’s Guide That Spans Levels

Primary Phonics Teacher's Guide

This is so nice for your budget.

The main levels of Primary Phonics only have 2 teacher’s manuals. One for levels 1, 2, and 3, and then another manual for levels 4, 5, and 6.

It is a very approachable book with a simple layout and easy-to-follow instructions.

7. Extra Workbooks And Readers If Needed

More Sign

If your child is struggling through a level, you can purchase the Primary Phonics MORE workbooks. 

That allows your child to move to a “new” book that is still teaching the concepts your child hasn’t quite grasped.

And as an added bonus, the levels all have a second set of readers to go with these workbooks! I buy the extra readers just because my kid loves them and I think they’re wonderful for fluency.

8. Easy Lessons That Are Customizable

The curriculum is laid out so that you can really make it your own. 

You can skip pages ahead if your kid gets the concept quickly. Or you can slow down and really take your time. 

I have used other reading programs that move at a breakneck pace. The lessons were long and full of (too many) hands-on activities.

We would both be worn out at the end of the lesson or feel defeated to only get through half of it.

This workbook-style curriculum gives you plenty of time on each concept.  You can do short lessons every day, or longer lessons several days a week. 

Whatever works for you and your kid.

9. Price

money bags

This curriculum is so wonderfully priced.

The workbooks are all around $5-$10 depending on where you buy them. The reader sets cost between $20-$30 depending on how you purchase them (in a set or not). This is so affordable compared to many phonics book sets. 

You can buy the workbooks in bulk, or you can buy each set as you go along.

Whatever works for your homeschool budget.

So Which Level Of Primary Phonics Would Be a Good Fit For My Kid?

Question Mark

Great question.

Primary Phonics is not based on grade level. It is based on skill level.

For example, my first grader is in Level 3 right now.

So it really depends on where your child is at with their reading skills.

There isn’t a placement test, but here is a breakdown of what each level teaches to help you decide:

Level 1: Short vowels plus six common sight words and basic color words

Level 2: Long vowels a, i, o, u and vowel digraphs ie, oe, ee, oa, ai, ea, ee

Level 3: Plurals, initial and final blends, compound words, two-syllable words and the sight word are.

Level 4: Consonant digraphs and r-controlled vowels.

Level 5: Additional vowel combinations, qu, three sounds of y, special sounds (esp. the letter a), and open syllables.

Level 6: More plural forms, compound words, two-syllable words. New consonant sounds and diphthongs including soft c, soft g, gu, dge, ph, ie, oi, oy, ight, ow, and au.

And just so you know, you could easily go through 3 or more levels in one year.

If your young children are not quite comfortable with letter sounds, then you need to look into the Primary Phonics K Program.

This will include a teacher’s manual, workbook, consonant workbook, and color workbook. 

This pre-program focuses on 17 consonants, phonemic awareness, colors (red, yellow, blue, orange, green, purple, brown, black) and proper formation of lowercase letters.

If your child knows their letter sounds, you should feel very comfortable starting with Primary Phonics Level 1. It is truly the reading basics of CVC words – bat, cat, sat, etc.

The color words and other things are heavily reviewed at each level. 

Letter formation could also be supplemented with a handwriting curriculum.

Where Can I Buy Primary Phonics?

digital shopping cart

The main places that sell the reading curriculum are:

  • Amazon
  • Rainbow Resource
  • Christianbook.com

I would recommend checking all three places to find the best bundle rates, sales, and shipping deals.

Rainbow resource seems to have the best bundle deals, but after you add in shipping, it becomes a toss-up.

Amazon has many sets that will deliver in one day, so that is always tempting if you are looking to start right away. 

Almost all of the links in this post are for Amazon. That is partially because the shipping is so great, but also because they always have great reviews from other real parents to read.

What Else Can I Do To Help My Kindergartener Excel With Reading?

kids at a library

A formal curriculum will go a long way, but there are other things you can do to develop the basic skills of reading.

I would say the number one thing you could do is make it a priority to take your child to the local library on a regular basis.

Flip through picture books with your child, find great read-alouds, and maybe even find a good book for yourself.

Set the example that reading is awesome!

For other early interventions, check out my favorite pre-reading activities.

What About An Online Curriculum For Reading?

Teach Your Monster To Read Homepage

I know we all wish there was an app out there that could do the heavy lifting of teaching reading for us.

I have tried a number of options myself, but I haven’t found very many that I think are quality.

Most are just fancy ways to teach sight words.

If you would like an online program to supplement your day-to-day work, I would recommend Teach Your Monster To Read.

It is a free program when used on a laptop, but I think it does cost a few bucks if you opt for the app.

Teach Your Monster To Read is a very cute phonics-based program from Usborne Books that will appeal to many kids.

Recap Best Homeschooling Kindergarten Curriculum For Reading

I hope the homeschool parents reading this can breathe a sigh of relief. 

Learning to read is an exciting time in any kid’s life!

And I know that Primary Phonics is the right homeschool curriculum to get you off on the right foot!

The post below will take you to a very practical schedule for your day and a list of my other top kindergarten homeschool curriculum picks!

Read Next: Looking for ideas for a super easy daily homeschool kindergarten schedule? Check out a sample of our flexible, simple schedule! A free printable is included that will keep you and your kids on task, productive, and learning!



  1. We are looking for something to switch to and found your blog. Right now we are using the good and the beautiful kindergarten program and we have hit a wall with reading. My daughter is 5 almost 6 and just getting very frustrated and doesn’t want to do school anymore especially reading.. It’s time to make a change. She is reading some cvc words some site words and can sound things out. Not sure what level I should be starting at with her?

    1. Lauren Schmitz says:

      Hey Katie, Thanks for the comment. I have used TGATB and I have written a lengthy review about it if you want to go find it on this blog. The summary is that it is aggressively above grade level and way too much in one lesson for most children. I would start your daughter at level one of Primary Phonics. Some things may be a little easy for her, but if she has been frustrated with reading, it’s okay to let her build her confidence up again. Regularly encourage her and tell her what a hard worker and good reader she is. I find that those words from mom are so important to carry kids over educational challenges. Happy homeschooling!

  2. I read this post and was just about to buy the phonics program, and then saw your post on All About Reading Pre-Reading, and was wondering your thoughts for a 5 year old already reading some words: Would you suggest the pre reading course or would you say it wouldn’t be necessary?
    Would love to hear your advice.

  3. Kathy Craft says:

    I landed here after reading your explode the code review I am returning to explode the code next year for my oldest in combination, with a Grammar curriculum that offers a spelling list that matches explode the code, so it will not be used for the phonics of learning to read. However, I have others in line behind her, and I am leaning towards primary phonics as I can relate to the fancy ones that have too many parts and too many games and just take too much time for a bigger family. I was curious do you still use the explode the code workbooks at the younger learning to read stage or do you find the primary phonics workbooks are enough?

    1. Lauren Schmitz says:

      Hi Kathy, Once we switched from ETC to Primary Phonics, I didn’t go back. My third child is almost done with book 6 and I have been very happy with it. As long as you use the readers with it, it should be plenty for your kids. Hope that helps! 🙂

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