People have strong feelings about this step-by-step reading program, but it worked great for Shelli's family.
You don't have to rush or totally shift gears to successfully homeschool first grade. Figure out how you want your homeschool to feel, and build your days from there.
When I began homeschooling, I felt overwhelmed. There were too many books, blogs, and other resources. I wanted a short, sweet guide to help me get started teaching my son. I never found that, so I decided to write one myself.
I’m happy to announce that The Everyday Homeschooler’s Guide to Teaching 1st Grade is now finished and available for you! It’s short, but it’s also packed with information. This book will be helpful to any parent who has a child between the ages of 4-8 or thereabouts. “First Grade” is merely a guide. Not an absolute.
When we officially began homeschooling (that is, according to the state law), I asked, “What are 1st grade students supposed to learn?” Yes, there are books and websites out there that will tell you, and when I looked at them, I started to panic! Are you kidding me? A first grader is supposed to know all that?!
I calmed down, and ultimately, I used those lists as a guide for some simple lessons, but truthfully, I didn’t teach even a quarter of it to my son that year. Instead, I realized that by creating an environment that would honor his questions and foster his creativity, he was learning more than enough. I knew it was important that I let him use his imagination, play, and start a good routine. When he was five-years-old, I decided to create priorities for our homeschool that are still helping me plan our goals six years later. And the daily habits I set in place that year have helped me tremendously as we dig into more academic work now.
I wrote The Everyday Homeschooler’s Guide to Teaching 1st Grade for those of you who want to teach your children, but you also don’t want them to lose their love of learning. There is a list (not an overwhelming one) about what 1st graders typically learn in school, but then I also show you how to start thinking like a homeschooler. The first grade is the perfect time for setting up good habits that will last throughout your child’s whole education, and I will encourage you to set up the habits that are most important to you.
Also in this e-book you will find:
- a list of the most popular educational philosophies used by homeschoolers today
- clickable resource links
- how to create a physical environment that will foster creativity and learning
- a tip on how to get your child to try something without forcing him/her
- tips on lesson planning and scheduling
- tips on how to meet other homeschoolers
- a secular resource guide
- suggested reading list
- and more…
I hope you’ll check out the Table of Contents and Introduction here and also get back to me about this and other resources you’d like to see here on home/school/life. Amy and I are dedicated to making the home/school/life website a complete resource for families at every stage of homeschooling, so we want your input. Thanks!
This year, my eldest son enters 4th grade, and my younger son enters 1st grade. Here’s a snapshot of the curriculum resources I’m using with them this year.
- My main goal has always been to read good literature to my boys, which I do regularly, so we’re continuing with that. At the moment, I’m reading The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich to them.
- My 4th grader is dusting off an old, unused Star Wars Brainquest workbook to practice handwriting and spelling. It may say that it’s a 2nd grade workbook, but it’s basically just creative writing prompts, which I am adapting for our needs.
- I am also making him learn how to type this year, and I’m using this free online program. You can also pay a little to have the ads removed, if you prefer.
- My 1st grader is learning how to read. I have used Starfall.com, Star Wars workbooks, and now I’m beginning again in Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. (I tried it last year, but he wasn’t quite ready for it yet.)
- My 1st grader is almost finished with his Handwriting Without Tears workbook too.
- My 4th grader refuses to use anything other than the Life of Fred books, which is okay with me. We’ll work through Honey, Ice Cream and Jelly Beans this year, and then I’ll decide if we need to do more.
- I am also working with both boys on memorizing the times tables.
- This is the first year I began a science curriculum with my ten-year-old. He always loved science, and we learned plenty about science through child-led activities in the early years. But I thought it would be a good idea to round that out, so I am using Biology for the Logic Stage by Elemental Science. (This is a secular program.) I’m adapting it for his needs too.
This is the core of our homeschool lessons, i.e. those formal lessons that I plan for my boys. However, our day doesn’t end there. My eldest son is studying classical piano, theory and music history because this is his major interest right now. My younger son is learning about birds. As a family, we watch documentaries everyday, and sometimes I throw in lessons on art and civics too. Learning never really ends in this house! The curriculum is just a supplement. ☺
What are your favorite curriculum resources?
Whether or not you are familiar with the wonderful, wacky world of young Fred Gauss, made famous in the unique Life of Fred series, I’m beyond excited to share with you details of Schmidt’s newest work, Life of Fred Eden Series for Beginning Readers. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading other Life of Fred books, please be sure to check out my review of Stanley Schmidt’s curriculum in the summer issue of home/school/life magazine.
The Eden series is an eighteen-book collection of reading primers, which takes you through one continuous story. This review looks at the first six books in the series (with a guarantee I’ll be purchasing the rest of the books this afternoon!).
When your littlest learners get their hands on these primers, you’ll likely be delighted by their enthusiasm as well as their immediate desire to connect with these offbeat stories. At last, just like their older brothers and sisters, beginning readers can finally enjoy Fred’s offbeat world first hand.
The 32-page books do not teach phonics or specific concepts. Instead, this fun-filled romp takes readers on an absurd trip with Fred and his doll Kingie to Fall River Lake, where the two intend to enjoy some R-and-R. If you are familiar with Mo Willems’ Gerald and Piggie books, you’ll be struck by the similarity of tone and style of the two series. Simple text scattered on uncluttered pages is mixed with illustrations that provide meaningful context clues to help readers puzzle out new words. Both sight and phonemic words are repeated throughout the texts. The stories are engaging and full of quirky fun.
I tested this series out with my 4-year-old. When his 6- and 9-year-old brothers (both die-hard Fred fans) joined us on the couch to read along, my youngest guy beamed with pride to find the “big boys” sitting in on his learning time with Fred. The text is easy enough to keep early readers challenged, but will generally not be frustrating. The stories are colorful and will entertain older children (and their parents) as well. This versatile series is appropriate both for early readers and older struggling readers. Another nice feature of the Eden series is that in between the laughs, Schmidt succeeds in unobtrusively including lessons about time, counting, nature, and basic shapes, among other things. An emerging trend of intelligent, effective readers is a genre I’m eager to see expanded.
These volumes manage the same high quality and affordability as the rest of the Life of Fred series and retail at about $6 per book.
Shelli and I both passionately believe that our magazine should be inclusive of lots of different homeschool motivations and methods. We continue to strive to bring you a variety of resources that will inspire you as you consider what is best for your family. Because we know most homeschoolers enjoy sharing the resources and insights they have learned through homeschooling, we thought we would start a series on our blog about our own homeschools. If nothing else, you will get a behind-the-scenes look in the homes of the editors of home / school / life, but if something here helps you, all the better!
Because there’s a pretty significant age gap between my kids (six years), I decided to do two separate posts to make things easy for myself. Today, I’m sharing some of the resources I use with my 1st grader.
The spine of our curriculum is Oak Meadow’s first grade program, which we use for language arts, social studies, art, and science. For these early grades, I really wanted something that would encourage him to try different things without worrying about whether there was a right answer. I like the way Oak Meadow emphasizes observation and imagination, and I love flipping back through his main lesson books (we have one for science and one for everything else) as the year progresses.
For history, we use Story of the World, which we do as a readaloud. While I read, he’ll draw a picture in his main lesson book related to the topic at hand — the Vikings and samurai were his favorites this year. We spend a little time discussing previous chapters at the beginning of every lesson, but I don’t expect him to remember everything. At this age, for me, it’s really about introducing him to important names and events. (My daughter often joins us for the readaloud — she still loves Story of the World.)
We use Miquon Math, which my son adores, for his math. We usually do a few pages in his book every day together, and he may keep going and do several more pages on his own. I let him set his own pace, though every once in a while, if I notice that he’s making a lot of simple mistakes, I encourage him to slow down. It took me a little while to get the hang of Miquon’s method — this is definitely a program where you will want to read the teacher’s manual in advance — but it’s proven to be a great fit for us. I wish the program continued through high school!
Oak Meadow’s science emphasizes nature study, but we also use The Nature Connection workbook and keep a daily nature journal. Usually, we stick to our backyard for journaling, but every once in a while, we’ll hike along the river or hit a nature center for a change of pace.
We started the year with BOB books, and now we’re powering through the Magic Treehouse series. My son was a pretty reluctant reader — maybe partly because he has a big sister who will pretty much always read him anything he wants — and it was really hard for me not to push him to read because books have always been such a big part of my own life. But I learned with his sister that pushing anything is the fastest way to make a kid avoid it, so I bit my tongue, and this year, he did start reading on his own. (I think it was mainly because he wanted to be able to play Pokemon without assistance, but I’ll take it!)
A lot of our literature comes from readalouds still, which we do a chapter or two at a time each day. We usually start the day cuddled up with a book. I keep a little notebook for each kid with a running list of what we read each year. This year, we’ve averaged about two and a half books a month, including Detectives in Togas, Henry Reed, Inc., The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Fablehaven, and The Island of the Aunts.
We use Oak Meadow’s crafts book and art lessons. I am not a naturally artsy person, so having the projects be both open-ended and spelled-out for me is great. (I highly recommend Oak Meadow's art and craft materials for non-crafty parents.) My son has really enjoyed finger-knitting, sewing, soap-carving, and making pinch pots. We are always done with lessons by lunch, so we take a few hours in the early afternoon for project-making.
On Thursdays, he takes a Philosophy for Kids class at our homeschool group, where he works on logic puzzles and discusses things like “Should you get everything you want?” and “What assumptions do you have about candy?” He really enjoys the class — this is the second year he’s taken it.
We also memorize a poem every week (or two, if it’s a tricky or longish poem) for Friday recitations. My son has been using the 20th Century Children’s Poetry Anthology (edited by Jack Prelutsky) for most of his poems this year. I think memorizing and reciting poetry is a highly underrated activity, and I frequently annoy my children by loudly and dramatically reciting poems when we are stuck in traffic.
We’ve also been cooking and reading our way through Jewish Fairy Tale Feasts by Jane Yolen. Every chapter has a Jewish folktale and traditional recipe, so we get in a little culture and cooking practice.
Writing it all down, this seems like a lot, but we’re pretty relaxed about all of it. If my son complains that he doesn’t want to do anything school-y one day, I don’t push. He’s always free to take the day off to do something else, but he usually opts to do a little work every day. (In fact, on days when I am running late, he’ll often come into my office with a stack of books, asking me when I will be ready for school.) I don’t want him to feel like learning is something you only do when you’re “doing school.”