Homeschooling 1st Grade: A Look at Our Year & Curriculum

This year has been going well for my youngest son who is seven-years-old and in the first grade. At the beginning of the year, I gave you a glimpse at the basic curriculum I was going to use, but in this post, I am able to tell you more in depth what he’s been working on this year. In a future post, I’ll write more about his self-led projects.

My main focus for him continues to be reading and math. I don’t worry about finishing any curriculum in a set amount of time. We go slow so that we can keep it light and be thorough. I spend about an hour with him after lunch 3-4 days a week (while older brother practices piano), and we do reading, handwriting, piano theory, math, related games, and I read certain books that I want him to hear (see below). He also does a few lessons with his brother in the mornings — listening to the history lessons or science lessons or other readalouds. Otherwise, he gets to play while I’m working with his brother.

Reading & Language Arts

We’ve worked our way up to lesson 65 in Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, and he’s doing quite well. I am extremely satisfied that I waited until he was seven to start this book unlike my eldest son whom I tried to teach at five. Now I know that’s too young (unless your child is an early reader). The book gets more challenging as it goes along, so I think we may take a break from it starting soon and use some other resources. Then we’ll come back to it in the fall. But I haven’t completely decided about that yet.

I’ve also enjoyed playing games with him that may help him learn to read, such as my sight word game, sight word bingo, and also matching games with words.

We finished Handwriting Without Tear’s My Printing Book, and now I’m having him work in Printing Power.

I wrote about some of the fiction I’m reading to my 10-year-old in 4th Grade Homeschooling: Language Arts, and my 7-year-old sits and listens to some of those books. However, he still loves picture books, and every night before bed, I read something to him. This year I decided to take some of his favorite picture books that we own and order other books by the same author/illustrator from the library. For example, he loves The Mitten by Jan Brett, so he wanted to see more of her books. We got a few of them from the library, and we enjoyed comparing all of them. Then we got Lentil by Robert McCloskey because Make Way for Ducklings is one of his favorite books. (Mine too.) I also got him a big book of Curious George because Curious George has been one of his all-time favorites, and this isn’t the first time I’ve had to get more Curious George from the library. Anyway, it’s been fun to explore our favorite author/illustrators. In addition, I read a lot of Calvin and Hobbes to him. 😉

Math

We finally finished book 1A of U.S. Edition of Singapore Math. I know I probably took way longer with this book than I needed to, especially since my son is quite good at math, but I’m also glad we took our time and had fun with the activities. I will probably begin book 1B soon, but right now I’m taking a break and reading from an old World Book’s Childcraft Shapes and Numbers book, which has some fun activities and stories. (Library sale find!)

I should also mention that my youngest son loves games in general. He especially loves his digital games, which I’ll write about someday, but we also play games together several nights a week for fun. I’ve noticed how these games have quite a bit of math in them, and he enjoys doing the math himself. He can add up the dice in Yahtzee quickly, and he enjoys being the “banker” in Star Wars monopoly. He even enjoys playing the games to memorize the multiplication tables with his older brother, though that is much more difficult for him. So I feel like we’ve gone well beyond the math in our curriculum.

History

I’ve let my first grader listen along to the history lessons I’m giving my 10-year-old. (See Homeschooling: Diving into Human History.) I think he’s a little less interested, and some of it goes over his head, but he also seems to like some of it too. He also enjoys any history documentary we watch together as a family. Overall, I think he’ll get a good general idea of human history, and when he’s older, we’ll dive into it again in more depth.

Science

Science was something we used to do everyday in this house, and we attended many homeschool science classes at the nature center too. But that’s all changed, so now I’m reading our vast collection of science books to my 1st grader (mostly the Let’s Read and Find Out Science books that I picked up at library book sales), and he also follows along with his brother’s science curriculum. He especially likes the experiments! We also watch a ton of science documentaries together as a family.

In addition to this, my 1st grader still loves birds, and we make a point to read a little bit about birds in one of our bird guides after every lesson. This is a self-led project. He always gets to pick what he wants to read, and he usually chooses just one or two pages — perfect, really! I love this long-term interest and how consistent he is with it. I hope he’ll always love birds.

He also mentioned to me recently that he’d like to do more experiments, so we’re diving back into DK’s 101 Great Science Experiments, a book that I used with his older brother. I think his interest is more in doing an experiment/activity than actually learning about science, but that’s okay with me for now, and it’s why this book is perfect too. He can pick any experiment in random order as long as we have the materials to do it, and he’s still learning a little bit about science too.

Music

I’m not sure whether I’ve mentioned this yet or not, but the seven-year-old started piano lessons last October! We asked him if he’d like to try piano lessons since we have the piano and his older brother is a pianist. He wasn’t sure at first, but we assured him we wouldn’t make him continue, if he didn’t like it. Well, he likes the lessons, and he’s already passed the Primer level and well into Level 1. I have no idea if this will turn into a long-term interest or not, but so far he says he wants to continue to “at least until the intermediate level.” For reasons that aren’t relevant here, he goes to a different teacher than his brother, but that is working out well, and I’ve enjoyed learning about how different teachers do things — a good education for me! If anyone is interested, all the teachers that we have had the pleasure of working with have used Piano Adventures for their beginning students. The seven-year-old’s teacher supplements it with other books and sheet music that she owns too. (If you have any questions about our experience with piano lessons, purchasing a piano, or finding good teachers, you are welcome to e-mail me. This is not something I plan to write about in the near future, but I know that for parents who have no musical background, there is a big learning curve! )

Extracurricular

In addition to these lessons, my seven-year-old has attended a homeschool class at the state botanical garden this year. This is a class I spearheaded by asking and meeting with the awesome facilitators at the garden. It meets once a month, and it’s been a great class for him. They get outside on the garden trails, learn about animals and plants, and do a lot of activities. Once they even met at the art museum. I’ve been especially happy with this class because I feel like my older son got to participate in so many classes and camps when he was younger, and his younger brother was just a tag-along then. Now it’s my seven-year-old’s turn to have his own special classes. 🙂

I think that’s about all I can say about 1st grade this second time around. What a difference it makes to have done this once before! It’s been a huge pleasure to spend one-on-one time with him and plan special lessons just for him. He is a pleasure to teach too. I’m a lucky mama.

As always, if you have any questions, ask away!

5 thoughts on “Homeschooling 1st Grade: A Look at Our Year & Curriculum

  1. I find it interesting to think about the effects of birth order and homeschooling. I am homeschooling grade 1 for the first time, and I can already see that it will be an entirely different experience to do it the next time. I wish there was more written about homeschooling middle and youngest children. Thanks for your post.

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Tara. You’ve given me the idea to write about this in more detail. There are so many things that make homeschooling the second child different from the first: my experience, a different personality, our schedule & so much more. Yes, I’ll definitely have to write about this! Thanks, again.

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  2. Even as I am trying to get my head right about this homeschooling thing, I find the greatest comfort comes from understanding how the day shakes out for other people homeschooling 1st graders. I’m just not loose enough to throw grade levels to the wind and develop our own path. Maybe I will be in the future, but right now, I’m finding comfort in understanding what is required learning for a 7 year old and how other homeschoolers are doing it. Your schedule looks an awful lot like ours – meeting for about 90 minutes 4 days a week for reading, sight words, handwriting, math, online literature games, etc. Then a day of games, activities, meeting with friends, outdoor school on Fridays and lot’s of clam digging, fishing, heading to the park, etc on the off hours. Also nature shows, music (for my daughter, it’s voice – she’ll sing to anything and everything) and lot’s of read aloud at night. We blitz through picture books like no one’s business. I have started silent reading every day, too, and that is going….okay. We will see. Really it’s strongly self interested at this point – I need time to get through the mountains of books that I am interested in and the only way to do that is have silent reading time in the afternoons and then curl up at night until I fall dead asleep.
    I know in years to come I will be able to relax and enjoy this process – I can already start to feel that happening as we begin our descent into the Spring of our first year at home. All the long term homeschooling parents say the same thing : the first year is just being neurotic and trying to get out of your own way. Then it get’s easier.
    Thanks for this post – have a great week!!

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    1. Lindsey — I probably do more planning now than I ever have in the past. And it’s helpful to have a sense of what a typical 4th grader is learning. But I do let my son guide me mostly. I have slowly gotten to a point where I can gauge what he can handle in any given year. It’s very freeing to not feel tied to a specific curriculum, but instead create one that suits our needs and his abilities. Good luck to you! It sounds like you’re doing a great job! You will come to trust yourself, I’m sure.

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