Time flies when you’re having fun. I can’t believe Claire is in first grade! This is our second year homeschooling (third, if you count preschool). I love that Claire is so excited to start school.
(If you’re curious as to why we homeschool, you can check out that post here)
Our initial plan was to continue school throughout the summer (but probably a lightened version with reading lessons, math, read alouds, piano practice and nature studies). Summers are hot in the Midwest (not as hot as those of you in the South), so there’s not a ton of playing outside. I’d rather have the flexibility to take time off in the fall, when the weather is beautiful and begging us to come outside. Unfortunately, moving threw a wrench in my plans (more info on why we moved here if you’re interested). We have still done some lessons here and there, but we’ve been so busy settling in and planning first grade, that they haven’t happened consistently.
First grade is going to look quite a bit different than kindergarten. I’m adding more subjects and trying to have a bit more structure. Sometimes when planning, I make lofty goals for myself, so I really hope that I haven’t done that this year. However, I think I have planned things out to where they are doable. We will make adjustments, if need be.
As I did in kindergarten, I am continuing to follow a basic outline of what we have planned. Rather than writing out full lesson plans with boxes to check, I find it more helpful to write down what we do each day. When I am planning, I write out lists of what we are working on, books we are using, goals of how many lessons/chapters to complete, etc. But rather than planning out page numbers (rookie mistake for me), I just write down what we complete each day. It helps me not to get behind and it’s much easier to plan.
I mentioned in my kindergarten post that I had planned out a day each month to reassess how homeschooling was going. That was so helpful last year and I’m continuing to do that this year. It helps to ensure we are staying on track with our goals, especially when I’m not checking boxes.
I’ve mentioned before that, while we aren’t purists by any means, we draw a lot of inspiration from Charlotte Mason’s methods. This year, there is a bit of deviation with that, but overall, we still love her principles.
In my kindergarten post, I mentioned that we attempted this book, but that we ended up switching to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. That was a better place to start for us (though The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading does start with the basics). We have a few lessons left in Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, so we are finishing those and then will move on to The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading. This book covers everything you would need to teach about phonics, so it’s a very valuable book to have. Claire is disappointed it doesn’t have pictures to go along with the stories, but I still think it will be enjoyable for her.
I have found it best to pair lessons with games and activities from Education Unboxed. She shows good ways to teach concepts with the rods and have fun with it. Best of all, they are all free! As a homeschool mama on a budget, I’m always thankful for free resources.
We are supplementing with My Book of Money: Dollars and Cents and My Book of Telling Time: Learning About Minutes from Kumon. Miquon doesn’t teach about money and, while it does teach about time, I felt it didn’t break it down well for beginners. I also purchased this fun clock from Rainbow Resource to teach analog/digital time.
We are so excited to start Brave Writer!
For overall language arts, we are using Quiver of Arrows. Quiver of Arrows uses children’s literature to teach the mechanics of language arts. You read through the book over the course of four weeks and then the child does copywork for each week. Not only does the copywork teach handwriting, but you also use the copywork to point out grammatical rules, writing techniques and more. The guides show you how to teach through copywork. At the end of each week, there is also French dictation (which was new to me). At the end of the month, there is a fun writing project. Quiver of Arrows is for 1st and 2nd graders (the next group up is the Arrow, which is for 3rd-6th).
It involves quite a bit of writing (which Claire doesn’t love) and things that may be over Claire’s head. Our plan right now is to get through 5 books, rather than 10 for 1st grade. However, if Claire excels, we may end up going through all of them. The books we are using are:
Mr. Popper’s Penguins
The House at Pooh Corner
Sarah, Plain and Tall
The Cricket in Times Square
… and The Wheel on the School (which I had to purchase through eBay as it is out of print).
For writing, we are using Brave Writer’s Jot It Down program for ages 5-8. At this age, physically writing is work for kids. Jot It Down has all kinds of fun writing projects to keep your child’s imagination going and to develop a love of writing, rather than a fear of it. At this age, you will typically be writing down things for your child, rather than them writing out a whole story. There are different projects. The recommendation is to take a month to do each one, but you can also stretch it out as long as you would like. We’re beginning by designing mailboxes and writing each other letters that we “deliver” to each other. This is pretty fascinating to Claire, not only because she loves giving/receiving letters, but also because Daddy is a mail carrier.
Also, Brave Writer can be a bit expensive, so I recommend purchasing digital copies through Homeschool Buyers Co-op. It’s free to join and they offer all kinds of amazing discounts for homeschool products. Right now, Brave Writer products are 40% off! For certain purchases, you earn smart points, which, once accumulated, can get you free curriculum! You get 100 points just for joining.
Here’s one of the ways we are deviating slightly from Charlotte Mason this year. For history we are using Mystery of History Volume 1 Revised: 2nd Edition. Mystery of History is technically a textbook, rather than a living book, although the author writes in a very conversational tone, which I like. Volume 1 begins at creation and ends at the resurrection of Jesus. It covers all of ancient history, including Egypt, Greece, Macedonia, China, India and Rome. There are optional activities you can do with each lesson to make it more fun.
The reasons we chose Mystery of History are numerous, but the main reason was the way they teach Bible history right alongside secular history. Growing up as a pastor’s kid, I learned a lot about Bible history, but it was always very compartmentalized. For example, did you know that Jonah was going to Nineveh around the same time frame as the first Olympics? I love that everything is side by side. It helps to understand cultural context in the Bible. In addition, it starts with creation and is a young earth curriculum, which is so difficult to find.
I have done a lot of research to find living books to supplement the lessons and make it more Charlotte Mason-y (that’s totally a word, right?). I’ve compiled quite a list! If you’re interested in that, let me know. I like to share free resources.
We will be doing some fun activities (some suggested in the book, some our own ideas) and using History Through the Ages Timeline Figures to make our own timeline. These timeline figures are gorgeous! If you follow me on Instagram, you probably saw my story where I shared a few.
For science, we are also using a textbook as our spine. I mentioned in my kindergarten post that we struggled to find something we could consistently use for science. Science in the Beginning was the answer for us! Science in the Beginning goes through each day of creation and teaches 12-15 lessons on what was created each day. Right now, we are learning about light. Each lesson begins with a short experiment. That sounds very intimidating, but the experiments are simple and almost all of them involve common household objects that you likely already have in your home. These experiments really help the lessons come alive. The age range for this book is 1st-5th grades, so you can teach it to multiple age ranges at once. It goes more in depth than I expected, so some of it goes over Claire’s head.
We’re doing Bible in several different ways. One of my goals this year was to graduate Claire from picture storybooks to reading the actual Bible. As a family, we have been reading the Bible together in the evening. We just finished the book of Esther this week. Claire was riveted and kept begging for one more chapter. Most of her kid’s picture Bibles didn’t have the story of Esther (and if they did, it was very simplified).
For school in the morning, we will be reading Indescribable: 100 Devotions for Kids About God and Science. We’ve only read a few days, but so far we are enjoying it. I like the correlation between God and science and so does my science loving kid. However, I’m not a huge fan of just using devotionals for Bible reading. There’s nothing inherently wrong with them, but with devotionals, you’re typically reading a verse or two of the Bible and then paragraphs of someone else’s opinion. You can gain valuable insight this way, but if you’re not spending a lot of time in the actual Bible, it’s easy to become deceived or reliant upon someone else’s interpretation of God’s Word. So, in conjunction with Indescribable, we are also going to be reading a Psalm every day.
We will also be working on Bible memorization. We’re starting with memorizing Psalm 100. It’s only 5 verses, so I thought we would give it a try. Claire memorizes really easily, so I think it’s feasible for her. Any suggestions for Bible verses that are important for kids to memorize?
This will be the first year we are actually doing an art class. Through other homeschoolers, I heard about Yellow Spot: Sun, an online art course. She offers courses for all levels, in all sorts of mediums. There are many of her courses that are free, so we decided to try out the easter lily watercolor course. Claire and I had a blast! It was great for beginners to art and was easy to follow.
Turns out that Yellow Spot: Sun offers a course on architects of the ancient world, which pairs perfectly with ancient history. It walks through different mediums (oil pastels, watercolors and charcoal, I believe) and many different techniques.
We are tying geography in with history as well. Though Mystery of History comes with maps in the back of the book, I decided to use a program called WonderMaps. Not only does WonderMaps include every map from every volume of Mystery of History, but it also has loads of other maps, both modern and historical. My hopes in purchasing this program was that I’d never need to buy anything else for geography, as you can print out filled in, blank and customized maps. I also went with WonderMaps in lieu of historical and Bible atlases to accompany Mystery of History. WonderMaps has all of those, so all I needed to do was print them off.
Our goal is to have a poetry teatime once a week. Last year, we were trying to read a poem a day and it just became tedious for me personally. Claire absolutely loves poetry, so I feel like it will be easier this year. We found this book at the library a while back and it has quickly become our favorite poetry book. There is such a wide selection of poems, some silly, some beautiful, some sad and thought provoking. Claire loved some of the poems so much that she memorized a few on her own with no prompting from anyone. Here’s her favorite:
A peanut sat on a railroad track
His heart was all a-flutter
The 5:15 came rushing by
Toot toot! Peanut butter
We started reading the poems with Peter in the evening and he loved reading them aloud. While I was initially planning to do an afternoon poetry teatime, we’ve decided to do it in the evening to involve Daddy (especially since he is enjoying poetry right along with us right now).
Music & Art Apprecation
I mentioned these subjects in my kindergarten post. We did pretty well with music appreciation, as my only goal was to expose Claire to classical music. This year, music appreciation will essentially be the same. I follow Ambleside Online’s schedule for composer, as it exposes me to composers I’ve never heard before. I make playlists on Spotify and play them in the background often.
We also love Usborne’s Famous Composers Reference Book. This book has information on many different composers. It tells their life, background, what kind of music they composed, etc. Many of the pages have a QR code on the bottom of the page which, when scanned, plays music from that composers. It’s a great resource! And if you don’t have an Usborne consultant, I can point you in the direction of one.
We are using the Come Look with Me books for art appreciation. Each book has beautiful pictures of art with discussion questions to ask while you’re studying the picture. We are starting with Come Look With Me: Animals in Art. We’ve only done one page, but Claire is loving it so far.
My goal this year is to go on a nature walk at least once a week (even if we only walk around our neighborhood). I’ve included here some of the books we love for nature study. The field guides have been very helpful in identifying things. The illustrations in Nature Anatomy and the Curious Collection books are amazing and we have really enjoyed them.
We’re also thrilled to have the St Louis Zoo so close! It is a huge zoo and it’s FREE! I would go every week if I could, but we’re sharing a car right now, so it’s not feasible. But zoo trips totally count as nature study, right?
Remember in my kindergarten post how I said afternoon school just works better for us? Well, we are trying to ditch that. It’s harder to get into a new routine, but there are days when Peter gets home by 2, so I want to make sure we are able to spend time with him when he gets home. He will be working 6 days a week for the foreseeable future, so we are trying to be intentional and maximize our family time.
I’m not naturally a morning person, but I am trying to become one. I’m trying to get up early enough to have my time with Jesus, workout and shower done before Claire gets up. It’s not happening every single day, but I’m trying to put good habits in place to be able to start school right after Claire has breakfast.
I’m also trying a new scheduling system for our school subjects this year. Rather than trying to do every subject every day or determining that each day of the week will be devoted to certain subjects, we are putting those subjects on a loop.
Our daily subjects are Bible (not so much a subject as devotions to start off our day), reading, math, copywork and piano practice. Every other day we will alternate history and science.
All the other subjects will be looped. This means that I have a list of all other subjects and each day, after we have completed our daily subjects (and history or science), I will choose 1-3 of the other subjects. How many I choose depends on how long the subject takes and how much time we have. Some days I may not choose any loop subjects. This could be because we got a late start, are having a rough day or have other plans for the afternoon. Last week, Peter was home around lunchtime, so we did our daily subjects before he got home and then spent the rest of the day at the St Louis Zoo together. Loop scheduling provides flexibility and enables you to get in all those great “extra” subjects without feeling overwhelmed or like you’re behind.
Our loop subjects are literature read alouds, history read alouds, geography, writing, music appreciation, art appreciation, art, nature study and poetry. We may add in a foreign language at some point too, but I didn’t want to add in too much at the beginning.
That pretty much covers everything we’re doing for our first grade year. I’m certain I’ll update how things are going and write reviews of some of the curriculum we are trying out. Have you started school yet? Let me know in the comment section below!