We’re approaching the end of 1st grade for Maggie! As our oldest, she gets to be the guinea pig as we try out different curriculum and find out what works best for our children and family when it comes to homeschooling. I’ve had a number of readers and friends reach out to me with questions about homeschooling and curriculum recommendations, so I wanted to take the time to write a post about what our family used for Maggie’s 1st grade.
Please keep in mind that what worked well for our family and my daughter might not work as well for you. My personal style is a mix of Charlotte Mason and unschooling. You’ll also need to be aware of the requirements for your individual state when it comes to homeschooling.
To me, this was probably the most important aspect of Maggie’s 1st grade year. Once you master reading, the world of education really opens up! It was also the thing I was most concerned about teaching her, because it’s such a vital life skill. I certainly didn’t want to screw that up!
I’ve read a lot of studies and articles, like how requiring some kindergarten to read may harm them and how Finland delays schooling until age 7 (and how they are seeing huge success in their students because of it). I’ve also spoken with career kindergarten teachers, now at retirement age, that agree children are being pushed too hard, too soon with the new standards these days. With these things in mind, unlike the current public school system that expects children to be reading at the end of kindergarten, we spent Maggie’s kindergarten years on letter names and recognition and left her grammar studies at that. She had NO interest in learning to read, so I didn’t push it on her.
This year for first grade, we eased ourselves into learning how to read. I purchased the book Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons because I wanted Maggie to learn phonics, not just sight words. It had good reviews from other homeschooling moms I talked to. Some days, Maggie did great with her lessons, other days, she would nearly cry at the thought of doing another lesson in the book. When Maggie seemed to be struggling to find the desire to learn to read, I’d ease up a little bit. Instead, I’d read to her, or I’d let her write in her journal. At only 6/7, I was confident she would come around, when she was ready. Slowly but surely we’ve been plugging away at this book all year and have completed about 75 of the 100 lessons so far.
And Maggie is READING!
I’ll never forget the day we came home with a copy of the book Are You My Mother and Maggie started reading it (unprompted) to me in the kitchen while I fixed dinner. She beamed with pride and I felt such relief that our studies were paying off!
I fully intend to finish all 100 lessons with Maggie (most likely throughout the summer) but it was such a boost to her confidence as she read this classic book, that lately many of our grammar lessons for the day have been her reading other beginner reader books aloud, like Hop on Pop and Fox in Socks. We’ve started taking bi-weekly trips to the library to stock up on new books for her to read to me and others for me to read to all of the children.
If you are interested in teaching your child to read with phonics, I highly recommend Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. My son Jacob who just turned 5 years old has a strong desire to learn to read. He started following along with some of the lessons when he was 4 and I predict will be reading very well before he’s even 6. He frequently asks to work on lessons himself. And, of course, I’m happy to do so with him!
Not only does the book teach phonics, but it also incorporates handwriting into each lesson. I have noticed Maggie’s penmanship progress as the year has gone on. I also take that time to dictate words to her that she’s learned and have her practice spelling them.
I also have a number of different workbooks I’ve acquired over the years to reinforce letter sounds and phonics, so some days if we need a change of pace from reading out of the books, Maggie will do a few worksheets instead.
Sometimes to change things up and add a bit of fun, I’d let Maggie spend some time playing Teach Your Monster to Read. This is a free, online game that teaches children phonics.
I’m so happy that we made it to our goal of Maggie reading by the end of 1st grade, and I’m so excited to see it blossom as she heads into 2nd grade! It’s fun to sit and let her read stories to me.
Our year in math started off with me giving Maggie math worksheets from random workbooks I’d picked up. Maggie is a natural when it comes to mathematics. Some days I would just give her addition or subtraction, other days we’d talk about the calendar or telling time. I had actually ordered curriculum for both math and grammar from Abeka, but once it arrived I realized rather quickly it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for.
I really wanted a math curriculum for Maggie but hadn’t found the right fit……until I stumbled upon Math Lessons for a Living Education. After reading about the series, I took the plunge and ordered the first book mid-way through the school year. And we LOVE it! Maggie enjoys its it so much, she frequently wants to complete more than the pages allotted for each day.
There are 2 main reasons I love this curriculum:
- These books are a workbook style book, but one that tells a story which builds throughout the entire book. It puts math lessons into real world scenarios, so your child can see why learning certain skills is necessary. The 1st grade book tells the story of Charlotte and Charlie visiting their grandparents’ farm for the summer.
- The writer is a Christian and she weaves Christian character traits and ideals into the narrative.
I’ve seen Maggie flourish in her math skills while using Math for a Living Education. There are 6 levels in this series and I plan to use it all the way through 6th grade with her. This year in the book she’s learned about:
- Place values (ones, tens, and hundreds)
- Counting 1-100, counting by 10’s, counting by 5’s
- Shapes and colors (although she had already mastered these)
- Simple addition and subtraction
- Days of the week
- Telling time
- Counting using dashes
I can’t recommend this series enough and can’t wait to move onto book 2 next year in 2nd grade!
One of the things I didn’t mention about Math for a Living Education is that it also pulls in concepts from science throughout the book. For instance, in one unit they talk about how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. In another unit of the book, it has you sprouting a bean with your child.
Since Maggie is still rather young, we haven’t used a specific science curriculum this year. Instead, we’ve used books from the library and educational documentaries and shows to teach Maggie about science concepts in a way she really enjoys learning them. Some of the things we’ve done this year include:
- Watching episodes of The Magic School Bus & Wild Kratts
- Growing our own mushrooms and beans at home
- Taking nature walks at the Yankauer Nature Preserve
- Visiting the zoo to learn about animals
- Reading books about animals, dinosaurs, outer space, the seasons, etc
- Hands on learning with water tables, sand tables, etc.
History & Social Studies
Much like science, we developed our own curriculum for history this year, and it mainly consisted of hands-on learning opportunities and reading historical-based literature that we’ve checked out from the library. Some of our favorite books and series to read include:
- The American Girl series
- The Berenstain Bears series for teaching important social concepts
- The Bible
As historical holidays passed, we’d take the time to talk about the history associated with that holiday (for example, Thanksgiving and the pilgrims). We also utilize historical shows and movies to teach Maggie about history, like The Greatest Adventure: Stories from the Bible series.
Another very important thing I wanted to tackle with Maggie this year (and also her younger siblings) was to talk with them about inappropriate touching. As we are doing more out and about between church, play groups, etc., I knew it was important to make sure my children knew how others are allowed to touch them and likewise, what is acceptable behavior from them. I’ve made a point to address this once a quarter this year, so it’s fresh in my children’s minds.
Okay, this isn’t a subject, but I wanted to mention it. Flash cards can be pricey and sometimes it’s hard to find the exact ones you are looking for…so I made my own. I ordered these cheap, colorful index cards from Amazon and then used them to create flash cards to practice addition and subtraction problems (both horizontally and vertically) and then also used it to practice new words as Maggie learned them in the How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons book.
At 6/7 years old, I strongly feel that play is a very important aspect of learning. Maggie still spends a good portion of her day playing with friends and siblings. This is vital to children learning how to cooperate with other children, be a good friend, and learn many valuable life skills like sharing, taking turns, etc..
We incorporated board games into her education frequently. They are a fun way to encourage learning without your child even realizing it’s a part of school. Playing games will help your child to learn counting, taking turns, addition skills, and so much more! We have a HUGE board game closet with probably over 30 different games. Some of our favorite games to play include:
- Monopoly Jr
- Pancake Pile Up
- Pop For Letters Game
- Money Bags
- Sum Swamp Game
- Frida’s Fruit Fiesta Game
So, that’s what 1st grade looked like for Maggie in a nutshell. If you’re considering homeschooling, you might enjoy this post about why we decided to homeschool our children.