PDF Resource: How To Homeschool 1st Grade/The Early Years

How do I teach 1st grade? What are my kids supposed to learn? What resources should I use? How do I plan lessons and schedule my day? How do I meet other homeschoolers? 

The Everyday Homeschooler’s Guide to Teaching the Early Years will answer these questions and more.

This simple guide also shows you how to create an environment that will honor your child’s natural desire to learn, how to foster creativity, give tips on setting priorities, and start you on the path to becoming a family of life-long learners. Recommended for parents of children from 4 to 8-years-old.

Shelli Bond Pabis is senior editor of home/school/life magazine. She’s written hundreds of articles, newspaper columns and blog posts about the homeschooling life, motherhood, how to homeschool, project-based homeschooling, books, curriculum and more. She and her husband, a history professor, homeschool their two boys. Besides the fundamentals, they have learned a tremendous amount about science, engineering, classical music and birds because of their boys’ interests.

48 pages : $4.00 : Click here to purchase

Share on Facebook and Twitter, and you can receive a 25% discount. 

My 1st Grader’s Ongoing Projects

As I look back over our school 2016-2017 school year, it’s been fun to think about what my boys’ major projects were this year. For my eldest, it was pretty much piano and gaming. But for my seven-year-old, he pursued many endeavors, and I had fun pursuing some of them with him. Yet it was so different from when his older brother was seven and I assisted him with his many building projects at that time. This has also been part of the fun — to see how these boys are both similar and different.

I used to feel that it was a bit of a shame that while my eldest son got so much of my one-on-one attention, his younger brother had to be a sidekick or share my attention. Well, the tables have turned a little bit. Now that my 10-year-old spends so much time practicing piano, I get to spend more one-on-one time with my first grader. I partly use this time for teaching lessons. The other part I let him decide what we’ll do together. Sometimes, he likes to play by himself, and that’s fine too. (Then I can be an audience for my 10-year-old!)

So what does this little guy like to do? Well, I’ll show you. The following are snapshots I took with my phone camera, but each of them reveals a bit of my first grader’s favorite pastimes!

Playing games

Truly, his favorite games to play are digital games. Both my boys adore their digital games, and much of their conversation and make-believe are inspired by digital games. So, I’m going to write a post just about their digital games. (I know I keep saying that — I promise I really am!)

My youngest son also loves to play board games, card games or dice games with me. What I love about this is that many of the games we play help him with math skills, and he’ll insist on doing the counting himself. He likes to be the banker in Star Wars monopoly! As I’ve noticed in the past, he seems to be good at math, and he’s always been a little bit obsessed with numbers. So I’m more than happy to indulge him in this pastime, although I sure wish he weren’t such a sore loser.

Serious Make-believe

While his elder brother used to like building things (but he rarely played with his creations), younger brother will build lots of little things with zoob pieces or Legos and then use them for battle. He covers the entire floor with his imaginary worlds, and for this reason, he rarely wants to go outside — the action is clearly inside! This happens on a daily basis, and I love it!

Drawing and Painting

If you’ve read my blog in the past, you’ll know my son used to love drawing and coloring. For many months, this interest went away, and I thought it was gone forever. But a few months ago, he suddenly wanted to draw and color again. Then painting came back too. He likes for me to draw with him, and I’m more than happy to. Sometimes he’ll try drawing what I’m drawing such as the mug above. I was also drawing mugs as I was working through the exercises in Drawing for the Absolute Beginner. I would love to do more exercises with him, but he resists being taught. So I just do what I want to do, and sometimes I’ll get lucky, and he’ll follow along.

Baking & Cooking

This kid loves to help me bake and make other things in the kitchen, which is a great motivator for me to cook more! (And believe me, I need the motivation in this area.) I’m planning (hoping!) to continue to bake seriously and have him help me frequently. I want both my boys to learn how to cook basic meals, but I feel that this boy may someday be a more serious hobbyist chef, at the very least!

Puzzler

My 7-year-old has always loved doing puzzles. Again, I think it has something to do with that math brain of his, but I’m not sure. He used to put together puzzles often when he was a little tyke, and this year, he got into it again. I also bought some 300 piece puzzles and one 500 piece puzzle, which were harder for him, but I helped, and even the whole family got into these puzzles a little bit because they sat out on the table for awhile. It was a lot of fun, and now I just need to talk him into letting me take them apart so that we can do them all over again!

Piano

This was my 7-year-old’s first year taking piano lessons, and he did quite well! We weren’t sure whether he would like it or not, but he says he wants to keep taking lessons, and he continues to practice once a day for about thirty minutes.

(Obviously, this is the one thing we don’t do while his older brother is practicing!)

 

 

 

 

Last But Not Least: Birds

Again, if you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you’ll know that birds have been this young boy’s major passion for several years now! (See: Birds & Feathers and It’s All for the Birds) He has been carrying around his toy “Chick,” a black-capped chickadee, for well over a year. (You can see it perched next to him at the piano.) He even wanted to be a black-capped chickadee for Halloween, so I made him a chickadee costume! But mostly he’s just had me read to him — just one or two pages at a time — about birds from some bird guides at the end of his lesson time. I’m quite impressed how this has been a steady interest of his for several years now, and though it’s subtle, he continues to learn about birds in his own way.

Observing and identifying my child’s major interests helps me consider how I can continue to support his endeavors. I’ve realized I can do this effectively in these ways:

  • Give him the time and tools. Then get out of his way!
  • Don’t tell him what to do. Get out of his way!
  • But be there. And pay attention. Help him when he wants help. (He won’t always say he wants help. Sometimes he gets frustrated and cries. Sometimes he gets “bored” or tired. Sometimes he needs a break more than my help, and he’ll return to the project later.)
  • Start my own similar projects without expecting him to join me. But the magic is that he often does! 

Both my boys have showed me that these tactics work. Children will feel their interests are validated when they see adults doing the same things! There is no better expression of love than this.

***

Be sure to check out:

The Everyday Homeschooler’s Guide to Teaching the Early Years 

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


Now available!  The Everyday Homeschooler’s Guide to Teaching the Early Years is for all parents of young students who are beginning to homeschool or who are in their early elementary years. Homeschooling young children doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, and this no-fuss resource will show you how. It will show you how to create an ideal environment that will honor your child’s natural desire to learn.

This resource also answers many questions that new homeschoolers have, such as What are my kids supposed to learn? What resources should I use? How do I meet other homeschoolers? And much more.

***

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!

Homeschooling: Diving into Human History

bookshelf

I’m extra excited to tell you that one of the things I added mid-year are history lessons. If there’s one thing I’ve been wanting to learn more about, it’s history. 🙂

Until now, history is something I have not worried about incorporating into our homeschool lessons for several reasons. First, I don’t think young children need a lot of history unless they are interested in it.** I doubt they will fully understand it or remember it. Also, my husband is a history professor, so I knew we would get a good history education with his help. Indeed, he peppers our documentary-watching with relevant historical facts as needed!

Until this past year, my eldest son didn’t show much interest in history. We watch a lot of documentaries, but when the boys were smaller, they needed to be nature documentaries. They liked animals and nature, but documentaries about people were boring, and frankly, over their heads. However, this changed during this past year~year and a half or so. We have slowly begun to watch other kinds of documentaries such as science, engineering and history, especially those dealing with archaeology. So I saw more of an interest in history creeping up. It was at this time I made my big history timeline, and as we watched or read about historical events or people, we would add a tag about them to our timeline. But I still didn’t do “formal” history lessons.

Then, my boys began to play digital games that incorporated military tanks and ships, etc. In the games, they would learn a tremendous amount about many, real military vehicles, and they soon wanted to know more. One of their Christmas presents was a big book about tanks, and they still study it everyday! This is one of their major interests right now.

My 10-year-old began asking questions about the world wars, and one day, I let him listen to his father’s U.S. history podcast about World War II. It was at this point that I felt we could start history lessons. I considered doing American history first since his interests seemed to gravitate in that direction. In addition, I’ve been reading to them about Native Americans now and then for a while now too. But ultimately, with my husband’s help, I decided to go with World History first because that’s what I wanted to do in the first place, and we happened to find some very cool books that we both loved. (I want to give a shout out to my online friend, Kristina Daniele, for sharing her history resources with me. She helped me get started in my search for history resources that would appeal to my young boys.)

What’s exciting about studying history as a homeschooler is that we can start at the beginning and spend time delving into each era, and we don’t have to stop. In public school, I got bits of history in each grade, but I only remember the big events of American history. I know I never studied ancient humans or ancient Egypt. I know I never understood “the big picture” of the human timeline (until now). I am sure when my boys are adults, they will have forgotten a lot of our history lessons too, but that’s why I made the history timeline, I’m going slow, and in high school, we’ll circle around to the beginning again. Even if they don’t remember the finer details, they are going to understand the big picture of human history.

I’m going to write in more detail about our history lessons as we come to each unit. But below is a blueprint of how I’m getting started and what I’m using for our “spine.”

I am using my husband’s history lectures as a “spine” or guide. Even though his podcasts are for college level students, they are short, and my boys can understand most of what he’s saying. I use the “key terms” he lists under the lectures as a guide when I’m searching for additional books at the library. I don’t try to get a book on everything, but for example, under “Mesopotamia,” one of the key terms is “Epic of Gilgamesh.” When I looked up Mesopotamia in the library search engine, I found a storybook for kids about the Epic of Gilgamesh — that’s a nice supplement to our studies on Mesopotamia!

We also bought three history textbooks that we’re reading as we go along too. My husband gets a lot of free college textbooks to review, but we obviously needed books that would appeal to young kids. Finding the perfect world history text for kids didn’t prove easy! My husband and I spent some time searching for books on Amazon, and I checked these out from the library before we bought them. I’m going to list them in order of our preference.

The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia — This is our favorite. It’s a beautiful book with rich photographs and illustrations, and it has all the relevant information in it that we’re looking for. However, this is not meant to be an in depth look at history. Like my husband’s podcasts, it can be used as a starting point. For example, “Ancient Egypt” covers a two-page spread. Still, this is the kind of overview that kids would be getting in a world history class, and you can pause wherever you like and get more books from the library about each section. (This is a perk of homeschooling — no rushing through a curriculum!) As we get further into this book, I’ll be able to tell you more about it.

The Usborne Encyclopedia of World History — This is a great book too with beautiful illustrations and photographs. It doesn’t have quite as many details as the Kingfisher, but it covers everything and then some. We bought this intending to let our son read it on his own. Usborne considers “World History” to also mean “Earth’s History,” and it begins with about eighty pages dedicated to prehistoric time, what fossils are, and evolution, etc. When I think of “World History” I tend to think of that as “Human History,” which is what they do in school. But that makes little difference, and there is something to having the “big picture” laid out in one book. However, we’ve already learned so much about Earth’s history through our science interest that we already know this information. So I’m not requiring my son to read those first eighty pages unless he wants to.

The Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer — We are well aware of the criticisms of these books, but having looked at the first one, we decided we would try it because learning about history through story form might interest our sons. As a history professor, my husband reviews many college level textbooks, and he tells me that many of them have biases. The point is that you should never use just one text as your information source just as you should never use one media outlet for all your current news. By studying many different resources, you will be more informed and better able to find mistakes or biases, and learning how to do that is a good learning lesson in itself. We have not gotten very far into SOTW, and my 10-year-old doesn’t love it, but I think my 7-year-old liked it better. I am not sure we’ll continue with these books, but I’ll let you know.

As we get to each section of our history curriculum, I plan to write short posts about what we’re reading for each. For example, right now we’re studying Ancient Egypt, so I’ll tell you what books I found for that soon.

If you have any history resources you love, please tell me about them in the comments.

**Note: My seven-year-old is less interested and perhaps doesn’t understand the history I’m teaching as much as my 10-year-old. However, I usually ask him to try to listen, but if he’s really bored, I don’t make him. I think he picks up on quite a bit, however. At this point, I’m not requiring any written work. We’re just enjoying reading about history.

 

Homeschooling 1st Grade Curriculum

A quick note about a resource you may like:

The Everyday Homeschooler’s Guide to Teaching the Early Years is for all parents of young students who are beginning to homeschool or who are in their early elementary years. Homeschooling young children doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, and this no-fuss resource will show you how. It will guide you on how to create an ideal environment that will honor your child’s natural desire to learn as well as how to foster creativity and tips on setting priorities.

This resource also answers many questions that new homeschoolers have, such as What are my kids supposed to learn? What resources should I use? How do I meet other homeschoolers? And much more.

Thanks so much to my readers for inspiring me to write this. I hope it helps.

Click here to view the Table of Contents and Introduction.

Click here to purchase.

Now back to the original post….

***

This is my second time homeschooling 1st grade, and it’s so much easier. Once you gain experience homeschooling, you realize how little you need to worry about first grade, and you’ll already have most of the resources you need!

It could be that my youngest child is a little easier to work with too. Since he has the advantage of watching his older brother do lessons, he accepts it as part of our day. (He still groans about them a little, though.)

I spend about an hour with my 1st grader approximately 3~4 days a week on lessons that are just for him. Our curriculum is very simple, and we usually do one lesson or two pages at a time.

Reading

We started Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons again. If you want more information about this book, click here. Last year I attempted it with him, but it got too hard, so we stopped, worked with Starfall.com & the Brainquest Star Wars workbooks, and now we’re back at it. I think it’ll go smoother this year.

He is working through Handwriting Without Tears’ My Printing Book.

As far as language arts, I read many books to him. I’m not going to go into that here since I’ve written about our “readalouds” many times before.

Math

We are using the U.S. Edition of Singapore Math. We are almost finished with level 1A, and we’ll be moving into 1B next. These levels do not necessarily correlate with grade level, so you’ll need to read their website to see where your child should start, if you want to try this program. You’ll need to purchase the teacher’s manual, textbook and workbook for each level.

I have enjoyed using Singapore, and I think it’s a thorough program. I go slow, making sure we do all the activities, textbook, workbook and games, but I could easily go faster, if I wanted to. There is some prep time involved, but it has been pretty easy once I got the hang of it.

That’s the core of his curriculum! In the first grade, I don’t think we need to do more.

But remember: He joins his older brother for some work too, such as listening to books, memorizing the times tables, or watching a 15-minute educational video. We also watch science and nature documentaries everyday as a family. When I do art projects, they are usually for him because he’s the one that likes doing art. He also has had a long-time interest in birds, which I just wrote about.

This year, I also signed him up for a once-a-month homeschool nature class at the botanical garden. (I’m the one who asked the garden to create a homeschool class!)

Do you have a first grader? Tell me how that first year is going. 🙂

Project-based Homeschooling: It’s All for the Birds (in a good way)

A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song. ~ Chinese proverb

seven-year-old's bed
Guess whose bed this is?

In past years, I wrote a lot of posts with examples of project-based homeschooling in our home, mostly because my eldest son was always making things. This year I have written only two! This is because both boys have been pretty singular in their interests lately. My seven-year-old, while he still loves dinosaurs, and he loves playing digital games more than anything in the world (and I know I should write a post about that), has had one on-going interest since he was what? Four? Five maybe? I’m not sure, but it’s been a long time. I wrote about his interest in birds and several projects he did a year ago in Project-based Homeschooling: Birds & Feathers

But this year, I have less tangible projects to write about, and that’s okay. Sometimes PBH isn’t about making things. Sometimes, it’s about playing make-believe or talking about an interest. Sometimes the doing may not seem educational in the traditional sense. Sometimes it’s a small observation here, or a short burst of activity there. Sometimes it’s simply loving something and enjoying its presence. But there does seem to be a slow progression toward a deeper understanding of the subject.

This is what my son’s love of birds looks like this year:

My seven-year-old's bird collection and then some. The one he is holding is
My seven-year-old’s bird collection and then some. The one he is holding is “Chick.”

His constant companion is Chick, an Audubon black-capped chickadee made by Wild Republic. Chick is carried around the house, slept with, and travels with us in the car. The only time he’s not within reach of the seven-year-old is when he’s lost (3~4 times so far), but eventually he’s found and restored to his owner. This bird is so well-loved that the sound it made died a few months ago, and it’s been washed and sewed up twice. We tried buying another chickadee, but Wild Republic has changed their products, so the new chickadee looks different, and the sound died almost immediately! (Not an experience we usually have with these quality toys.)

While no new bird has been able to usurp “Chick” in my son’s heart, this doesn’t stop him from wanting more birds. He’s always asking for one, and since we can find these birds in most museum gift shops, he has amassed quite a collection of these birds. He even wrote Wild Republic to tell them they should make a golden-crowned kingletand they wrote back, sending him two, complimentary birds!  The boys recently put all of them together on our sofa for a group photo (above), but believe it or not, a few of them are missing! lol

We’ve been lucky to see some new birds in the wild this year, and it’s always exciting to come across them in our travels, on our hikes, or in our yards. Both my boys are very adept at using the iBird app on the iPad to look up information about the birds, and my seven-year-old will sometimes sit down and look at this app for a long time by himself.

Loons are one of my favorite birds.
Loons are one of my favorite birds.

But as the facilitator of my boys’ educations, I do keep an eye and ear open for opportunities to support them, if they have an idea to do something. Or, if a special opportunity comes up, I pounce on that too. This happened twice lately.

When we visited Chicago in September, we went to the Field Museum. (We never not go to the Field Museum when we are in Chicago.) I remembered their fabulous Hall of Birds, so I told my husband we had to make a point of going there again because the seven-year-old was too little on prior trips to remember it. So we went there first thing, and we all had such a wonderful time looking at the birds.

Standing in front of the chickadees.
Standing in front of the chickadees in the Field Museum’s Hall of Birds.

When you have a little person in your family who loves birds, everyone suddenly loves birds. Then again, who doesn’t love birds?

Later during the trip, we encountered some fabulous birds on our walk through the Chicago Botanic Garden. Most of these we had seen before, but we never had such long looks at them before. We saw Mallard ducks, Canadian geese, goldfinches eating the seeds from large sunflowers, and most exciting of all…the black-capped chickadee!

Chicago Botanic Garden
Chicago Botanic Garden

Note: The black-capped chickadee does not live in Georgia. The Carolina chickadee lives here. However, when I looked up the difference, I found out that they look exactly the same. The difference is in their songs and the ranges they live in.

While we were walking around the botanical garden, the seven-year-old said to me, “We should read more about birds.” This excited me very much because so far, he hasn’t wanted to read much about them. I promptly reminded him that the storybooks I bought him for his birthday all featured birds, and in the back of those books, they had bird facts we could read about…..

***INSERT LOUD BUZZER***

Ahem. That was an example of me taking over my son’s project. This is not recommended in project-based homeschooling. And what did it do?

My son shut down. He said, “No! Never MIND.” And he wouldn’t talk about it again.

***Insert me shuffling away with my tail between my legs.***

What should I have said? I should have said, “Okay. What do you want to read?” And left it at that.

But I did redeem myself. Later at home, when we were getting back into our routine of doing lessons every morning, I said to my son, “You mentioned that you would like to read more about birds. Would you like to do that during lesson time?” I received an emphatic “Yes!” Then I asked, “What do you want to read?” At that, my son went and got a little, old bird guide that my dad had given to him. He was very clear that we would read the entries for one or two birds each day….birds he would pick out randomly. Then we’d move on to another, similar book.

This makes sense to me. At seven-years-old, my son isn’t ready to understand lengthy science texts about birds, but these short little descriptive paragraphs are perfect. He picked out what he’s ready for. So that’s what we’re doing, and even though it takes only five minutes, it’s a very exciting step in this long-term interest.

Please tell me what interests your kids today.

Homeschooling: Our 1st Grade End of Year Review and Progress Report

A quick note about a resource you may like:

The Everyday Homeschooler’s Guide to Teaching the Early Years is for all parents of young students who are beginning to homeschool or who are in their early elementary years. Homeschooling young children doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, and this no-fuss resource will show you how. It will guide you on how to create an ideal environment that will honor your child’s natural desire to learn as well as how to foster creativity and tips on setting priorities.

This resource also answers many questions that new homeschoolers have, such as What are my kids supposed to learn? What resources should I use? How do I meet other homeschoolers? And much more.

Thanks so much to my readers for inspiring me to write this. I hope it helps.

Click here to view the Table of Contents and Introduction.

Click here to purchase.

Now back to the original post….

***

{Homeschool Progress Report} {Free Printables}

homeschool review-1

Like everything in our homeschool, our end-of-year reviews are evolving. I know that eventually I’ll settle into a way of doing this that sticks. I think this year was a winner.

When my son was preschool age, I decided to go ahead and use grade levels despite the fact that I know they are arbitrary — yet not so arbitrary if I can pick a grade that I feel best suits my son’s level and then not be rigid about keeping him in that level for all subjects. I simply use it as a frame of reference for myself as I plan our few formal lessons, and I think there’s nothing wrong with letting him feel a sense of accomplishment as we close out one year and start another.

When he was little I did a Pre-K “graduation,” but afterwards, I felt that was overkill. I wanted to mark the end of our years, but I didn’t want to attach a heavy meaning to it like a graduation each year. That would detract from the real graduation when he’s 18 years old.

Last year I decided we would simply call it our end-of-the-year review. As project-based homeschoolers, I find this review to be another way of reminding my son about those things he has shown interest in. If he sees it and says, “Oh yeah! I want to do that again!” we can work on that project some more. If not, it’s a nice closure to the project.

Before the review, I prepared the legal stuff I’m supposed to do for the state of Georgia even though we are only required to keep it for our files. That’s an end-of-the-year progress report. I know that many people wonder how to write these progress reports, and really, you can do it any way that you want! But if it helps, I’ll let you view my son’s first grade report. (I’ve removed his name from it, and I’ve created links back to each topic that I’ve written about on this blog, if you want more detail about something.) There’s also a blank progress report on my free printables page for you to adapt to your needs, if you want to.

(For more details about the Georgia law on homeschooling, see this document I created: Georgia’s Kindergarten and Homeschooling Laws.)

For my own pleasure I also keep a book list, and I used a three-ring binder to keep my daily charts and any paperwork my son did for the year, including the progress report. In the binder I also put any receipts for classes or pamphlets of the places we’ve visited. The binder or portfolio does not document our whole year, however. I would say my blog is the best-detailed documentation of what we did, and the progress report is a nice summary.

Our end-of-the-year review is for fun, and the main thing we do for that is view a slideshow of the past year.

So far each year I have created a slideshow of everything my seven-year-old did over the year. It was so fun to review his projects and creativity as well as the hard work of formal lessons. I included our field trips, his classes, camps and everything that had to do with his “homeschool.”

This year I had a hard time getting started with the slideshow. I couldn’t figure out what format I wanted to use, and I kept thinking, “Why is this so hard?” Then it occurred to me that making a slideshow of the 7yo’s work wasn’t relevant anymore. My 4yo has been accomplishing quite a bit lately, and even though he’s not “officially” homeschooling, I needed to include him.

And then there were all the family snapshots and vacations pictures. When am I ever going to get around to putting those in something the family can view and enjoy?! To be honest, I’m the only one who has even seen all the pictures I’ve taken! …for many years! I am just too busy to do anything with the photos other than the few I use online.

It’s so silly I didn’t think of this sooner, but I decided to make a slideshow of our whole year. Badly exposed family snapshots, trips, projects, hiking, home life, the wildlife we found in our yard and elsewhere and the books my son has used for his homeschool. Because all of life is learning, right? It was a massive slideshow over 45 minutes long. I was worried it was too long, but my husband and the boys loved it, and they even reminded me of things I needed to add. So, I think this will continue to be my “summer project” each year.

I also give my son a certificate of completion for the year, and this year I felt the four-year-old might feel left out if I didn’t do something for him, so I made him up a little certificate too. I also like to give my boys a small present, but I want it to be something to encourage their interests and learning:

  • For the seven-year-old, who is still slowly learning to read, I bought him the books he seems the most interested in reading, which are some comic-style Lego books about various super heroes as well as some Ninjago books. (I’m happy to see he really loves them, and he’s even looking at them when we’re not doing our lessons!)
  • For my four-year-old, who loves to cook with me, I bought him some wooden spoons that would be just for him to use, and I promised him we would cook together more this year. (That’s something I still need help getting motivated to do!)

So, here’s a summary of how we mark the end of our years. I put in bold what the family sees. Everything else is what I do behind the scenes!

  • I have no particular date we do this. “Sometime in the summer” is the best I can do.
  • I prepare the end of year progress report required by the state of Georgia. To see a blank example of how I do our report, which you are free to download and adapt to your needs, and all these other print-outs I use, see my free printables page. To see this year’s report, click here.
  • I print out the progress report and book lists, and I put them into a 3-ring binder that I’ve kept for the year along with the daily charts I keep, loose paperwork my son has done, pamphlets for field trips, receipts for classes, etc. (None of that is required by Georgia law. I do it because I’m an organization freak because I want to.)
  • I prepare a slideshow of our past year for the family to view and enjoy one afternoon. 
  • I prepare a certificate of completion for my son’s year and give him a small gift to encourage his interests.
  • I put the past year’s portfolio in storage, and I prepare a new binder for the new school year. (I’ll probably keep binders for about three years since Georgia requires we keep our records for the past three years.)

I’m not doing anything special to mark the beginning of my son’s 2nd grade year. We simply continued with the light summer routine consisting mostly of reading lessons. I will add a few other lessons in early September, but other than that, I consider our end-of-year review a nice occasion to review and remember all the fun we had this year, clear off my desk, put away the binder, and continue on with the next year.

What do you do to mark the end of your school years?

Project-based Homeschooling: This year’s cardboard projects

It’s the end of our “school year,” so I’m wrapping it up at home and on my blog. A few more posts to go!

As I review our past year, I have found that my seven-year-old has been quite a builder! I’ve written extensively about his interest in clay here and here. Now I want to share with you all those little cardboard projects that I thought might get their own post, but actually, they add up into one big post: my son’s interest in building. (I wish I could find a woodworking class for him. I think he would love that!)

The material we have most readily at home is cardboard, or more specifically the cardboard used to make cereal boxes or frozen pizza boxes — they are much easier to cut. I also keep LOTS of tape on hand, and I though I ask him to try not to be wasteful, I don’t fuss at him for being a little excessive with the tape when I see him being so productive!

We also have a cool shot glue gun, which I let him use on his own. It works well, and the glue cools more rapidly, which makes it safer. We had a regular glue gun, and while my son never got hurt, my husband and I both got some scalding burns from it! 😉 My son has learned to be quite cautious with glue guns.

Here are his creations made between last summer and this summer in no particular order:

“spaceship robot”

Thank you Curious George for giving my son the idea to make this big robot!

A representation of the Mayflower. Unlike most of his creations, I did help him a lot with this because he didn’t have the motor skills for the fine details, especially tying the thread. However, he absolutely directed me on where everything was supposed to go. He looked at photos of the Mayflower and designed it himself.

He wanted a toy tank, so he built one for himself. I helped him a little, but I’m certainly not responsible for that excessive use of tape! 🙂 He also looked at a photo online to help with his design.

A “thin, flat lizard” inspired by a box he found.

A bee made out of a toilet paper tube and some wire, etc.

I think this is supposed to be a mosasaur.

“A drill that goes to the center of the earth.” “It’s pretend,” he said.

Airplane.

He loves Star Wars and decided to build Darth Vadar’s ship as closely as he could to the design in the movie. He was willing for the center to be a cube since it’s hard to make a sphere out of cardboard.

These creations take up a lot of space in the house. They can fall apart, and sometimes he’ll fix them and other times he doesn’t. I encourage him to throw them away or recycle the materials when something is unrepairable, or when we’re running short of space, but I don’t force him to throw anything away. It’s all important to him, and I respect that. My sanity suffers a little, but mostly I’m just super proud of my little builder!

Project-based Homeschooling: Long-term Clay Interest

I’ve already written a detailed column about my seven-year-old’s recent participation in pottery classes and his growing interest there, but I wanted to create a post that showcases some of his work with clay over the long-term and how it has slowly culminated to the point where I knew he would love those clay classes!

He’s been working with clay since he was four. A year or two ago, he watched some videos about pottery and clay, and he made this little car following a tutorial.

And he made a tree of his own design.

His Titanic was part of a long project, and my column became one of my first and most popular PBH articles.

Remember when he made this penguin?

I never showed you his space shuttle.

Or his sauropod.

His Mayflower. He also made the Mayflower out of cardboard, and we read a book about it, so this was a little bit longer project.

His hummingbird. He also painted it, but I haven’t got a picture of that.

Earlier this year we enrolled him in a homeschool pottery class where he learned how to use the pottery wheel…

…and sculpting techniques such as “pinch pots” and “slip and score,” and then he used those techniques at home…

…to make some sculptures such as this frog. Later he painted it green, and it’s really cute.

And he made a bird sitting in a nest.

And a dinosaur.

We also let him take a week-long pottery summer camp, which was about Asian pottery and Raku methods…

The big pieces on the left and all the pieces in the front row are from his Asian pottery camp. (The big black one is a lantern shaped like a house. Though it looks black in the photo, it actually has some very cool, iridescent colors in it.) Also there are two sushi plates and the plate with different compartments are from his Asian pottery camp. Everything else he made in the homeschool pottery class. And he’s anxious to take more classes!

As I mentioned in my column, we’ve also taken him to some pottery sales, and he’s had a chance to speak to local potters and see their kilns. We plan to continue letting him take classes as long as he wants to (and as long as we can afford it), but this will probably happen over a long time. I look forward to seeing where he takes this!

And I guess I need to get more shelves. 😮

Project-based Homeschooling: Mama’s Sketchbook Habit

The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls. ~ Pablo Picasso

Over a year ago, I bought a little sketchbook while I was browsing an art store with my boys. I knew that I wanted to use it myself, but I justified the purchase by allowing it to be another homeschooling tool that I was just going to keep on hand for when the moment was right.

A couple of weeks ago, I was proofreading the Art Start column for the summer issue of home / school / life magazine. (Did I mention I recruited Amy Hood because she’s awesome at explaining this art stuff in a completely stress-less way?) Her column is about starting a sketchbook habit, and it came to me at just the right time.

My little sketchbook that I bought a year earlier was still empty. So were the big, beautiful sketchbooks that were given to my boys for gifts a year or more ago. As soon as I read her column, I knew it was time to change that.

The most important reason besides me wanting a new hobby is that my four-year-old loves to draw. He draws and draws and draws. And paints. (I wrote about that in Project-based Homeschooling Preschool: My four-year-old’s projects.) I’ve got several stacks of paper with his artwork on it, and I don’t know what to do with it all, but I’m not throwing it away. I’m encouraging him to do more. And if I am going to help him draw, then I need to learn about it too. (Remember in project-based homeschooling, parents should model the actions they want their children to take.) While my seven-year-old prefers other mediums, I knew a sketchbook habit might be fun for him too.

But I knew that I couldn’t expect my boys to just start a sketchbook habit. They don’t do things simply because I tell them to. That never works! I knew that I had to get past my insecurities about drawing and just do it for myself. Then, maybe then, they would follow. But if they didn’t, that would be okay too.

I am not an artist, and frankly, I don’t want to be. I can draw well enough to enjoy drawing, but I want to do this so that I have something just for myself. Just for fun. With no pressure.

My passions are writing and photography, but after working at those for so long, they aren’t as fun anymore. I want to remember how to be creative and simply have fun. When I do that, then I start to have more fun with my passions. Does that make sense? I need something that gets me away from my computer too.

I was very happy to see that when I pulled out my sketchbook, my seven-year-old was interested in what I was doing. I told him about that beautiful sketchbook I had been saving for him. I gave it to him, and he’s been using it. (Unfortunately, it has caused some stressful breakdowns on his part when perfectionism rears its ugly head. Sigh. But I think over time the sketchbook may help him deal with that. At least I hope.) It’s supposed to be fun and just for practice!

lagoon outside our vacation condo by seven-year-old

I decided not to give the four-year-old his nice sketchbook yet. This is because he flies through the paper, and I have my limits. First, I gave him the little sketchbook that came with the pencil set I bought. After that, I bought him another inexpensive sketchbook. I will give him the nicer one when he gets a little older.

apple tree in the rain by four-year-old

I do not exaggerate when I say that I think this new sketchbook habit saved my sanity while we were on vacation. My four-year-old was sick that week, and I was stuck in the condo quite a bit, which was disappointing. But it didn’t seem so bad at all when I pulled out my sketchbook, sat on the back deck and drew the gnarly, big oak dripping with Spanish moss. Or when I took a chair down by the lagoon and tried to draw the snowy egrets and their nest.

If you are looking for a creative outlet, I recommend starting a sketchbook habit, especially if you make it stress-free by not caring if your drawings are good or not. It’s the act of sitting quietly, concentrating on an object, and really seeing it that is relaxing. For me, it’s an act of mindfulness and a respite from my busy life.

 My four-year-old asked me to draw the cecropia moth so that he could paint it, which he did.  He said he also tried to paint a luna moth, but he didn’t like it.

seven-year-old drew our cat