Curriculum · Uncategorized

Blossom and Root First Grade Curriculum Review

Why I Love Blossom & Root

Blossom & Root is a rich and secular homeschool curriculum choice that is flexible, engaging, and affordable. Each year can be purchased in its entirety or families may pick and choose which specific subjects meet their needs.

When you purchase a specific subject for a specific year, note that the Parent Guides are robust and meaningful; the “how to” is thorough but there is also a lot of room for freedom for you to implement the curriculum in a way that makes sense to you. All book lists and website link are thoughtfully curated to be age-appropriate as well as include a diverse range of perspectives. This is one of my favorite parts — knowing I can trust the resources that pair with our devoted topics.

Blossom & Root focuses on language arts and supports STEAM subjects. Blossom & Root incorporates lots of hands-on activities, projects, and outdoor activities. Student notebooks are included to document your child’s learning, but so much of the curriculum is “done” through hands-on and rich learning practices. This curriculum helps foster a child’s natural love of learning and invites them to make connections on their own.

Blossom & Root is decidedly secular at its core, but educators will be able recognize some learning style elements from Charlotte Mason, Montessori, and Waldorf approaches. Of course any religious family may use this curriculum and easily incorporate their family’s personal beliefs/choices in addition to this curriculum! Open-ended play and outdoor adventures are encouraged. Narration, copywork, and dictation are incorporated in the language arts programs. Rich literature is celebrated. STEAM subjects are included through a range of hands-on experiences.

Lastly, I mentioned above that Blossom & Root is committed to including a diverse range of perspectives in its curriculum. This is shown through a commitment to revisit and revise existing curriculum to alter booklists and learning subjects when appropriate.

You can read about my entire set of curriculum choices for First Grade here.

Language Arts

The MOST IMPORTANT point to make right out of the gate: Blossom & Root just released their Version 2 of the Level 1 Language Arts curriculum! So exciting!

You can view a sample of the booklist here. Stories include a wide range of folktales and legends from Indian, Scottish, Vietnamese, and Hispanic origins, among many other fairytales and folktales.

The Blossom & Root Level 1 Language Arts curriculum contains:

  • literature projects
  • journaling
  • word building
  • poetry activities
  • narration
  • copywork

In addition to these language arts components, there are opportunities to explore geography and culture as you read through favorite folktales of the world. Children will have opportunities for storytelling through play and engaging project ideas as well as record their ideas and what they learned in a Student Notebook.

This past year wee had the first edition of The Stories We Tell. The literature used in this version was:

Note: The Version 1 and Version 2 language arts components both include fairytales, myths, and folklore. Version 2 does not include the nature lore stories (Among the People). If you purchase the Blossom & Root Level 1 Language Arts curriculum at this time you will receive BOTH Version 1 and Version 2 of the curriculum. Please read more at Blossom & Root for details.

VIDEO INSIDE LOOK at both Version 1 and Version 2 language arts components

Okay, so how did utilizing this curriculum go for us?

The short version: I gave up on using this curriculum *exactly* as directed pretty early on in our school year.

The long version:

If you join the Blossom & Root Year 1 Facebook group, you’ll see lots of discussion about the literature used for Version 1 of The Stories We Tell. As stated above, this curriculum has all been recently updated. We honestly did enjoy the Among the People nature lore series; however, my kids were less enthused about pairing these stories with literature projects and narrations and copywork. So, in the end, we just read the stories and let the stories just stand on their own without projects or notebooking. I do know others had children that did not enjoy these stories and left them out entirely. In terms of the fairytales and folklore section of the curriculum, read below for how I adapted that.

I decided then to switch tactics a little bit BUT keep the same spirit of The Stories We Tell. I bought my kids each a simple composition notebook, then would read them one of the fairy tales or folklore stories. I chose some stories from this curriculum selection (books noted above) and other stories I picked on my own from books like the following:

The kids would illustrate something from the story, I would have them do simple copywork from a memorable line from the story, and then they would narrate to me what happened while I wrote down exactly what they said in the notebooks. We did this one day per week. Again, this style of learning in essence captures what you’ll find in The Stories We Tell curriculum! In addition there are fun, engaging narrative prompts, ideas for play in storytelling, word lists, and even prompts for creating poetry using cut-and-paste words. The depth of skills touched on in this curriculum is rich while remaining age-appropriate.

I want to note that a part of the reason I switched to simplifying this language arts component was that both of my children are working through All About Reading and All About Spelling (which I still love). So, I felt like some of the words lists and other journaling prompts provided in The Stories We Tell Student Notebook were redundant with what the kids were getting in All About Reading.

Science

Okay, this science curriculum (Wonders of the Earth & Sky) is SO GOOD!! This is partially due to subject matter, but my kids ADORED every minute of this curriculum. They would beg to do science every day! Yes, probably because sometimes were were making igneous rock treats and building exploding volcanoes outside — but that’s exactly the point! This was so much fun. The concepts for geology and meteorology can be complicated for college students, and I love how these were all broken down in meaningful ways while keeping the kids engaged with topics.

Wonders of the Earth & Sky covers geology, weather, and seasons. You will get a Parent Guide, a Laboratory Guide, and a Student Notebook. The main book spines used throughout the whole curriculum are the Super Earth Encyclopedia and Nature Anatomy. There are alternative suggestions when you purchase the curriculum.

For each week, you as the parent are given several “big picture points” to read over with your child(ren). Beyond that, there are lots of options depending on what kind of family you are, what kind of time you have, and how your children learn best. Each week presents at least one hands-on experiment or project. You obviously do not have to do these each week, but I did find that most of these were easy to implement without too much fuss or even expense.

There are books (some required, and many optional) to gather from the library for that week. Or not. If it feels like too much to add in the extra reading, skip it. But, I personally did love all the extra picture book options for each topic. The book list is fantastic.

Each topic also has a few curated videos to find online (typically 3-5 minutes long) which I found to be extremely helpful for my visual learners.

Lastly, there is a student notebook which includes a single notebooking page per week/topic. Children are asked to illustrate what they learned and either narrate or write themselves what they learned. At the end of the school year my kids absolutely loved having this completed Student Notebook of their very own to read through and remember all the fun learning we did this past year.

NOTE: There is a coordinating Nature Study companion to this science unit, which I think can be a great way to get children out in the natural world around them, exploring the topics they are learning for science. That said, I choose not to have a specific nature study curriculum for our homeschool because this particular topic I prefer to have nature itself be our curriculum. What happens in the natural world and what we observe through our regular outdoor time is the thing that is our guide, our teacher. I just want to be clear that I think the Blossom & Root Nature Study companion to the science is great and that my choice to not use it has nothing to do with my opinion on the quality of the program.

Book Seeds

Year 1 also includes six special edition Profiles in Science Book Seed issues. You get all of these with the purchase of the curriculum so do not add these to your cart. These Book Seeds all coordinate well with the Wonders of the Earth & Sky curriculum topics and can be incorporated throughout the year at any time. I preferred to dive into these around the same time a coordinating topic came up in the Wonders of the Earth & Sky that way the kids could make connections. For example, we read more about Marie Tharp when learning about the Earth’s crust and plate tectonics in Week 3. It is also possible to come back to the Book Seeds once you finish the science curriculum altogether.

Math in Art

Exploring the Math in Art is a unique and fun curriculum component for the Year 1 level! Each week you introduce your child to a specific art piece for an art study, then you discuss and learn about a given math concept and how it is incorporated in that art piece (e.g. shapes, symmetry, patterns, and balance). Last, you can give your child an opportunity to do an art project implementing what they learned in a way that coordinates with the selected art piece and math concept.

I love how unique this program is and the wide range of art, artists, and art styles that are incorporated. We looked forward to this each week and the kids especially grew in their art study skills over the course of the year.

On to Second Grade!!

We plan to use the full Blossom & Root Second Grade curriculum next school year. Though, I think I may also include some stories from the updated Version 2 of the First Grade Language Arts! The book selection looks fantastic, and next school year I will have a child in Second Grade and a child in First Grade, so I do think I will included language arts elements from both years.

NOTE: The next big sale for Blossom & Root will run August 1 – September 15th. Please note if you are homeschooling beginning in the fall and need time to print out the parent guides and student notebooks this process of printing may take awhile. Online printing companies like Making Family Count, Family Nest Printing, and The Homeschool Printing Company get busy this time of year.


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Curriculum

History Quest: Early Times Final Review

What Is History Quest All About?

You can see my Halfway Review of History Quest with some more detailed introduction here:

History Quest: Early Times Halfway Review

Since we concluded the entire curriculum, I will highlight some of my favorite aspects of History Quest: The Early Times:

  • The chapter-book format can be used with a variety of age ranges, and different kids will get out of it different things, depending on age and interest. It works well for the whole family.
  • The curriculum is secular, diverse, and inclusive. Multiple world religions are introduced beautifully, cultural groups are included across continents (not just focused around the Mediterranean and Europe) and women are included just as much as men in the History Hops.
  • The Study Guide with extra learning for visual learners and hands-on learners is excellent, well-organized, adaptable, and fun!

DO I NEED THE STUDY GUIDE?

  • It is possible to only read the History Quest chapter book (or do the audiobook) and not do the Study Guide or any additional material! If you are interested in teaching history to your child(ren) but have a hard time imagining incorporating a full schedule of history each week, it’s definitely a great option to simply read through the chapter book! It’s engaging and covers the material well without the need for a lot of additions.

HOW MANY DAYS PER WEEK DOES THIS TAKE?

  • The Study Guide lays out a 5-day week schedule but you do not need to follow it. There are many ways to fit History Quest in to your week in less days, or expand lessons/weeks even further. There are lots of ideas in discussion threads on the History Quest Facebook Group on how to schedule it out. I usually spent 2-3 days each week on history.

WHAT ABOUT NOTEBOOKING?

  • Some notebook pages are included in the Study Guide (for recording what the child learned through that week), but depending on your child’s age and interest you may want to consider buying or creating a more extensive notebook. I created separate notebooking pages with copywork (which was provided in the History Quest Study Guide) and kept everything in a 3-ring binder. In the end, we had a nice memory book my son had created to review all the material.

DO YOU KEEP A TIMELINE?

  • No timeline cards or banner or specific project is included with this curriculum. There are lots of options for incorporating this, though. I purchased The Big History Timeline and the corresponding sticker book which helped my son see how we jumped around in time as we covered different historical groups reading through History Quest.
  • I know others have purchased the timelines that correspond to History Odyssey (different from History Quest) and just used the stickers that match History Quest.
  • Others have created their own timelines.
  • Or, you could work on a Book of Centuries (Charlotte Mason homeschoolers use these; note these use BC/AD and often won’t include prehistory). For secular homeschooler, there is a free printable one here from Lauren at Chickie & Roo that uses BCE/CE or this awesome brand-new Rainbow Notebook: History Timeline Notebook from Megan at schoolnest, which I recently purchased!

FOR THE VISUAL LEARNERS

  • My family loves exploring videos to aid in our learning. Having History Quest, through its website, and the internet links curated from the Usborne Encyclopedia of World History was such a huge help and joy each week! I didn’t have to do a bunch of research to find appropriate videos for my children; someone else did all that work. And I’m here for it!

WHAT SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKS DO YOU NEED?

Highlights for Each Unit (Second Half)

I left off the last review with Ancient Greece, which we spent four weeks on as follows: (1) Minoans and Mycenaeans, (2) Hygge History Week: Greek Mythology, (3) Greece Develops, and (4) Classical Greece.

After Greece, we covered Macedonia, India, Rome, Kush & Aksum, China, the Byzantines, and Arabia. I will detail each of those below.

Macedonia

Well, covering Alexander the Great is pretty epic and memorable, to say the least. This unit was especially interesting and my son really latched on the the Alexander the Great by Demi book! It’s beautifully done, contains maps, and details and captures Alexander’s life so well. Highly recommend.

We ended up not really doing a specific craft or hands-on activity for this week because the kids were having so much fun with the pretend play and I felt like that was enough. They get to lead the learning a lot!

Other books pictured:

Ancient India

Ancient India was covered in two parts: we first covered the very early Indus Valley Civilization and then got in to more of the Mauryan Empire and learning about Ashoka the Great. We really enjoyed a variety of tales from Ancient India, eating Indian food, and created a clay Indus Valley Seal.

But, the real and lasting highlight of this unit was reading the stunning and perfect story of The Ramayana: Divine Loophole by Sanjay Patel. We read this so many times! This is one of those books that is worth owning, in my opinion. Many of the other suggested books throughout the curriculum can be found at your library and you probably don’t need to own.

Other books pictured:

Ancient Rome

When I told my son we would be learning about ancient history this school year he in advance determined that he was the MOST excited to learn about Ancient Rome. Not surprisingly, these several weeks spent on Rome were a hit. That said, I do think that his level of interest and engagement was just as high when we did other units. There were some weeks that I think surprised even him as to how “cool” he thought it was. As I just mentioned, he really latched on to Ancient India. But even learning about some “smaller” ancient cultures like the Nazca or Aksumites was a memorable and engaging experience.

Yes, Ancient Rome is indeed epic and awesome in a young child’s mind. My husband and I even joked about showing our son Gladiator (don’t worry, we didn’t!)

I put our Ancient Rome Playmobil figures in the photo just so it’s clear that in our homeschool we use play as learning on a regular basis. I don’t want it to seem that history lessons with my 7 year old were stodgy and boring! One of the crafts from the History Quest Study Guide was to create a catapult with popsicle sticks and rubber bands, and we had a blast with that!

Because my son was extra excited about this unit AND because there is a wealth of books and knowledge out there about Ancient Rome, I added some books in beyond what was recommended in the History Quest Study Guide:

Other books pictured:

Kush & Aksum

The one week we spent learning about Ancient African peoples (other than those pesky Egyptians) was so fun! The African Beginnings books (recommended to pair with this week) is stunning and wonderful. Lots to explore. And my favorite part was introducing my kids to the game Mancala!

Other books pictured:

Ancient China

Remember when I said my son was super excited about Ancient Rome? Well, I think when we hit Ancient China his level of enthusiasm was superseded! We had so much fun with these few weeks. History Quest included two weeks of Ancient China: Part 1 and Part 2 chapters, and then a built-in History Hygge week with Chinese folklore. We enjoyed reading through Chinese Children’s Favorite Stories and Fa Mulan. There were wonderful historical videos to watch about the Terracotta Army and the Great Wall, and we even enjoyed the nature study lesson of the silk moth and silk making!

Other books pictured:

Books used but not pictured:

The Byzantine Empire

The Byzantine Empire was an interesting unit, and I felt like we delved more in to art & architecture with this one than some other weeks. I liked structurally how History Quest chose not to cover this chapter immediately after Ancient Rome. The separation helped my kids understand a bit more of the cultural shift.

It was harder to find good children’s books for this unit, so we stuck with Usborne Encyclopedia of World History and the linked websites/videos. We definitely enjoyed creating a mosaic art project in Byzantine style, and learning about the Haggia Sofia (the open book depicting this is Atlas of Adventures: Wonders of the World.

Arabia

We ended our Early Times year with a journey to ancient Arabia to learn about the rise of Islam. My children had both been taking some beginning Arabic lessons at the time we reached this unit, so we were all very excited. I added in a couple of books beyond what was recommended for this unit, and we enjoyed some cultural food as well this week.

Books used:

In Summary

Remember that the bulk experience of History Quest: The Early Times is sitting down with a great book and reading it with your child(ren). I’ve included in my post a number of flatlay photos, many with crafts and notebook pages and additional books, and all of that certainly added to our enjoyment and learning. But, I want to make it clear that I believe this history curriculum is decidedly fuss-free and really adaptable for families. I think the content is fantastic and I can’t wait to do History Quest: Middle Times next (the Fall of Rome to the 17th century)!


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