Monday, August 18, 2014

Our Plan for First Grade

I thought I'd share what we'll be studying this year because...

Language Arts: 

I ended up writing a program of my own with a lot of help from The Three R's by Ruth Beechick. We'll be doing much of what you can read on my Writing page.

For reading, we'll keep going at his pace with easy readers. We're also going to use the Victory Drill Book, for practicing phonics, spelling, and word-building. Just for fun, I'm getting DICEcapades Word Pirates for game days. I am a believer in practicing skills with games rather than flash cards. It's more fitting for young children and doesn't zap the life out of school.

Update: We tried several things for writing, but our Science lap booking was by far the most profitable thing for his penmanship skills this year. I also learned that there is such a thing as TOO MUCH writing at this age, and I had to optimize how much he wrote. What I mean is, if we were going to do much writing in Science or History then I needed to count that as his writing for the day rather than having him do it in addition to his writing lesson. 

Victory Drill was GREAT. I might write an entire post about it sometime. It's basic and repetitive (a little boring for ME) but was really good for him. His reading skills have grown exponentially this year and now he's reading chapter books like a champ. *Huge sigh of relief* 


We did Right Start Math, Level A last year and loved it, so this year we'll be doing level B. It is a very hands-on math program with learning strategies that make SENSE, and make learning fun (or as fun as Math can possibly be!). (Read more about it in my Right Start review!) I can tell that my son is getting a great foundation as we work through this program together. I just hope I can keep up w/ the one-on-one time it requires, with a new baby in the house! (That's one thing that would make a regular "go sit down and do your math workbook all by yourself" program handy. But as long as I can swing it, we'll stick with Right Start.)

Update: We did it! Whew. Although we did have about a dozen Math lessons left to finish in the summer time since we didn't quite make it all the way through during the school year. Granted, we had a lot of days that counted as school days when we didn't actually do any desk work, like all of our co-op days and field trips. Those days in addition to the ones when Math just didn't quite happen (or it took more than one day per lesson on occasion) resulted in a little spill over into summer. I still am confident that Right Start was the right program for us, and we plan to use it again next year. 

My intention was to play a lot of the Right Start Math games over the summer (since kids regress over the summer and year-around school is so much better for their brains). That said, by the end of the school year I need a break. So I'm giving him Life of Fred to do over the summer, which he happily does completely on his own. 

Social Studies (Bible, History, Geography)

We are studying ancient history this year, with a focus on Egypt and other civilizations of the time period. Our history curriculum is Simply Charlotte Mason History Module 1: Genesis - Deuteronomy & Ancient Egypt, which is the first module of a six-year chronological history program that incorporates world geography and social studies. For a timeline, we're using Stick Figuring Through the Bible by Grapevine, which is a great resource for making a child's first timeline in a visual way that makes sense to them. We're also using Visualize World Geography to learn the African countries, and notebooking about them with Discover Africa Notebooking Packet.

Update: Well... I switched mid-year from Simply Charlotte Mason to Mystery of History. We also got this History Timeline Notebook, which is fabulous! The Stick Figuring Through the Bible is also great. We were successful in learning all the countries in Africa with Visualize, which I reviewed fully here. The Discover Africa Notebooking Packet was good, but in hindsight I would have skipped it since it was too much writing for a first grader. I'd save it for students studying Africa in the upper grades. I look forward to learning the rest of the countries in the world with Visualize, but am considering taking a break from it for a year or two until Little Brother can join in on it with him. When they can take it together they'll be able to play review games together.


We are studying astronomy this year, using Apologia's Exploring Creation with Astronomy, and we'll get to do activities, labs and make an astronomy lapbook together with our co-op. If you're studying astronomy, check out this Out of This World notebooking packet!

I'd like to teach the little guy some constellations when we have clear nights. For that we'll reference a book we already own and love... The Stars: A New Way to See Them, by H.A. Rey. If you or your children are interested in learning to find the constellations, this is THE BEST book to use. I promise.

Since science is only scheduled two days per week, I'd like to also read a couple books the Simply Charlotte Mason book list of Living Science Books for young children. We've already started our first one and are enjoying it.

Update: Apologia's Astronomy course was great. We did the experiments with our co-op which included kids from Kindergarten up to sixth grade, and I believe it was a good science course for all of them. We ended our year with a trip to the Science Museum and watched a show about Tonight's Sky in the Planetarium. As the Science Show Guy was talking to us and asking questions to the audience, all of our kids were shouting out answers like champs!

We only did one Living Science Book this year since I ended up adding in an Astronomy note booking packet. The packet was good but to much writing for a first grader. I'd use it again for a slightly older (or less opposed to writing) student. 


We're reading aloud classic children's literature together. I'm using the recommendations from Simply Charlotte Mason, Book Group 1 for Younger Students. Here are our books for the year:

Update: I like the SCM Literature book lists and plan to stick with them. This year I also discovered how wonderful audio books are. Since I greatly dislike Pooh but my son was really into it, I set him up listening to the audio book of it, while following along with a hardback copy. It was perfect. Our library uses OverDrive which is a free way to borrow audiobooks by downloading them directly to your device (smart phone, tablet, iPod, etc.). I made good use of that as I needed or wanted a break from reading to him. 

As for my review of each book I would tell you this:
Pooh- Set them up with an audio book because it's not a great read-aloud due to all the dialogue (and, well, I don't like Pooh anyway). It was great on audio because of the different voices. 
Pinocchio- Read this one aloud to them yourself. It's an enjoyable story and there are so many points through it when we had good discussions afterwards about making good or bad choices. Be warned that they do use the word "ass" for "donkey" because it was written so long ago. Though it's not a curse word when used that way, I'd rather my child say "donkey" simply because of modern vocabulary. 
Oz- I was so busy with Baby at this point that I turned him loose with this one. I gave him the paper book as well as the audio book, and he listened while following along. He loved it and we watched the movie afterwards. 
Mr. Popper's Penguins - We listened to this audio book together while he followed along in the paper book. My three year old also thought it was a riot and listened in on most of it. They both really enjoyed this one. 
Five Peppers - Ok, this book was not my cup of tea. He thought it was great fun, so although I started out reading it to him I let him finish it himself, following along in the book while listening to the audio book. Are you starting to notice a trend here? Well. Audio books saved me this year. Blame it on the baby if you want, but baby or no baby I didn't like Five Peppers. He did though, and that's what matters.
Trumpet of the Swan - I read this one aloud to him and it was enjoyable to us both. It's written by E.B. White, the same author of Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little. 
All of a Kind Family - Ok, this one was similar to Five Peppers. I didn't enjoy reading it. But I mean, it wasn't written for adults, was it? It was written for kids. And he liked it. So he finished this one without me too. 


We're using I Can Do All Things, by Barry Stebbing which is a beginning book of drawing and painting. Depending how much we do it this year, we may continue using it slowly next year as well.

Update: We totally dropped this. My son didn't like it, and I refuse to have a son who says he doesn't like Art. I mean, art is supposed to be FUN. I'm sure plenty of other kids will find this a fun course, but he didn't. I'm saving it to either tray again with him when he's older or to try for a younger sibling. We'll see. Instead, we did a lot of neat art projects with our study of Ancient Egypt

Character Building

Remember the co-op I mentioned before? I'm teaching the history portion, a friend is teaching the science portion, and another friend is teaching a character building class. We're using the book recommendations from Simply Charlotte Mason, which are:

A day or so a week we'll be doing an Enrichment class. Our first trimester will be poetry (reading "A Child's Garden of Verses" by Robert Louis Stevenson, our second trimester will be a music study about Beethoven and the last trimester will be a Van Gogh picture study (using this picture portfolio from Simply Charlotte Mason).

Update: This was all good. We really just did it as we had time. We didn't get all the way through Poetry or Van Gogh, so we'll continue those next year. I really liked SCM's picture portfolio and plan to continue using them in the future. 

Our Daily Plan
We don't do every subject every day; several of them rotate. Here's our approximate daily plan:
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Math
  • Social Studies (Bible/History/Geography)
  • Science, Literature, Art, OR Enrichment
Update: Yeah, it really just happens when it happens. But somehow by the end it all leveled out and we finished what we set out to finish. So go us!

Well, that's my plan for the year, what's yours? 

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