I can barely believe I have a child entering first grade – I can clearly recall the fresh plastic smell of my pink Minnie Mouse lunch box on my first day of first grade … and now my own child is that same age. Bizarre.
We will be homeschooling the boys again this year for first grade and kindergarten. While there are many reasons that help mold our decision, the bottom line is that we love it! It is exciting and fun and we can make of it what we want.
My boys are third generation homeschoolers (weird, right? My mom was homeschooled as a missionary kid in West Africa! Then both my husband and myself were homeschooled) and it has left me with a pretty confident perspective when it comes to educating my own children and gives us an incredibly supportive extended family.
On top of that, I am so blessed to be surrounded by wonderful homeschool mothers that are stages ahead of me – you know what their top piece of advice is? Relax, enjoy this season. And second to that is; I wish I could go back to the elementary years and do it all over again, it is so much fun!
I have heard those sentiments many times and have taken it to heart; our education choices for grade 1 and kindergarten are laid back and, like last year, will focus on mastery of skills and reading a lot of books.
This year we will be following a history, science and language book for our studies – I will share a bit about each one and why we chose it below.
The audio cds for our history book was the only full-price purchase I made. The science books I won in a giveaway and everything else was either given to me or purchased for very cheaply at book sales, yard sales or thrift stores. I will share in a future post how I organize and collect books for our homeschool for future years but for now I can’t emphasize enough how beneficial it is to attend book sales, to find the thrift store that your local school system libraries feeds into, and to communicate to homeschool moms that are ahead of you that you are on the look out for good homeschool stuff.
At the beginning of the year the boys and I took a long road trip and in preparation for it I did some serious research for a worthwhile audiobook to purchase. The Story of the World kept coming up in my reading, so despite the fact that it was created to be a year long history curriculum, I purchased it and we listened to it on our drive. It was fabulous. The three of us were enthralled and learned so much. The boys have since listened to it three more times.
I love the idea of focusing on history in a four year rotation – the ancients, the middle ages, early modern (through 1849), and modern. So it was a natural decision to make Story of the World our history spine for the year. Given the boys intimacy with the content already we will be able to do a lot of extra reading and hands on activities. We will also be following a schedule that has laid out a reading plan to use Egermeir’s Bible Stories to correspond with the history lesson. (sadly, I printed it and it doesn’t have a link back to the source. I will try to find it!)
A friend gave me the Story of the World activity book and I found the book at a book sale. A test booklet is also available, but we won’t be using it.
I have a couple other local friends that are working through this book with their young children too and we will be meeting monthly to do activities with our children pertaining to our current studies. I am so excited about this!
Why you might not like it :: It includes myths and stories about the gods. It doesn’t clearly define the myths from the facts. (easily amended, but worth noting.) And if you strictly follow this schedule for history it will be ages before your child gets American history, which I am addressing by reading them The Bookshelf for Boys & Girls Famous Events and Famous People which does a fabulous job talking about explorers and pioneers and inventors and authors (not just Americans, but a strong emphasis on them). We are also casually making our way through the Sleepy Bear Press alphabet books. A is for America is a very general one about America, and there are many others – I believe each State has their own. Good stuff.
I did a lot of debating on whether or not to include a language book this year (as opposed to just talking and teaching through every day life) – I had been leaning towards English for the Thoughtful Child which is a beautiful Charlotte Mason friendly book and I happened to have on my shelf thanks to a friend. But then I was given First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind and it just seemed like a perfect fit. I am pulling our memory work and our copy work from it too.
Why you might not like it :: the common complaint I have read about this is that it is repetitive and simplistic. Having only looked over it (and not yet used it) it seems like it builds mastery through repetition. Last year I won a blog giveaway for any Apologia science book of my choice – it was an incredible blessing! I had heard excellent things about them but wasn’t convinced enough to spend the money, so it was an especially exciting thing to win. I included the boys in the choice and they were adamant about wanting the Human Anatomy and Physiology book!
Apologia was incredibly generous and sent us the ‘text’ book, the audio book, and two jr notebooks. The jr notebooks are FABULOUS! We can be as complex or as simple as I wish. The Human Anatomy and Physiology book is a bit daunting to consider doing with a 5 and 6 year old but they are fascinated with the human body and I think we can make it work well and will leave out the bits that are just too much without guilt. Here are a couple of pages from the jr notebook: Why you might not like it :: I have read about many young families that start this and then switch to just living books and hands on experiments for their science due to the enormity of this book. Maybe I will be one of those families, but I think if you are comfortable extracting what you want and leaving the rest without guilt, then this is perfect. It is well organized and interesting and beautifully presented.
OUR MATH CHOICE FOR GRADE 1
My math choices have been heavily influenced by writings about leaving a child until fourth grade to start math, as that is when their mind is able to easily grasp the concepts and the same struggle will not exist as trying to reason through it now. One of the books that talks about this is Teaching the Trivium. There is a lot in this book that I don’t agree with, so I am not endorsing the entirety of the book but it is still an interesting read.
I have a Math U See set of manipulatives and a Base Ten Starter Set – both get used “for play”. Sometimes free play, other times directed. (“Show me what 1,100 looks like!” “How many ways can we make 20 with these blocks?”) We have a balance scale, rulers, abacus, flash cards, laminated clocks with move-able hands and pattern blocks as part of our math arsenal.
We are not ignoring math, but it is going to be a part of our every day language rather than a subject with a textbook and worksheets. My goal is for the boys to enjoy math and develop the discipline to sit and reason through problems, but we are on a long term path to get there.
OUR READING CHOICES FOR GRADE 1
A friend lent me her set of Bible Stories for Early Readers (Alpha and Omega Publishers) and Judah has been reading through them and they will soon be passed on to Wesley to read aloud and Judah will move on to other books. We try to have them read aloud each day.
For our reading I will be doing a lot of books connected to our history study of the ancient time period. We will also be doing more missionary biographies, animal stories and perhaps some biographies on nurses and doctors that have influenced history (which will sort of connect with our science studies).
We have a pretty extensive reading routine down pat for bedtime – a chapter book, a picture book, a short story (short biographies or original fairy tales, etc.) and a Bible story – so reading I want to do “for school” may get assigned to our bedtime reading time.
OUR NATURE STUDY (& ART STUDY & COMPOSER STUDY)
I happily stumbled upon a local Charlotte Mason Facebook group that was interested in starting a co-op for this fall to do nature, art, composer, poetry and folk music study together once a week. It is starting the beginning of September, with each of the moms contributing towards the short lessons. I am super excited about this group and the vision for it.
Because these plans are pretty encompassing of those arts I don’t know that we will do much on our own, however I have a few excellent books on my shelf that I may pull out from time to time for our own study and we will continue adding to our nature observation table.
Nature Connection An Outdoor Workbook by Clare Walker Leslie is a beautiful workbook to use for nature study. It is designed for you to write and draw in it, but we will just follow her prompts in our own nature journals and preserve the book as a reference. She has several other books published that are actual pictures from her own nature journals and I would love to collect them sometime. Her work is beautiful! Well worth at least checking out from the library. The Nature Connection is worth owning.
Opal Wheeler has written (or co-authored) many books on various composers and that, combined with music found online, will give a good sampling of the composers life and music. I have a few other biographies of artists and composers that may get used.
HYMNS, HANDICRAFTS & HABITS
The final pieces to our education will be continuing to memorize hymns and learn about the authors of hymns, working on handicrafts and focusing on developing good habits.
Our hymn study will be done by reading some books on the writers and the hymns and singing them together, as well as playing them for the boys to hear and then also going to a nursing home weekly to sing.
There is great benefit to handicrafts and learning the skills to complete something with your hands. This is a good clip about the subject. I have started the boys on embroidery and hammering nails/string art. Embroidery may be a funny thing for a boy to learn, but a 6 year old that can handle a needle and thread with growing skill will be a 7 year old to be entrusted with a carving knife. Skills grow confidence and deeper skills, and I have just started them with what I know and am able to teach them.
Our year of intentional habits was so very good for all of us. I didn’t have a plan laid out for this year, and thus didn’t do anything (funny how that happens…) but we will be starting our intentional habits again with the start of school.