ABOUT OUR HOMESCHOOL
What School Year Are We In?
This coming year I have a 6-turning-7 year old and a 5 year old. My oldest will be doing his First Grade year and youngest will be doing Kindergarten. We have been homeschooling from the beginning with both children — you can read about our Preschool and Kindergarten curriculum choices and years of learning on this blog.
What I Changed This Year
This year I am changing some things up a bit and I am very excited about it! Last year (for Kindergarten) we used The Good & the Beautiful for Math AND Language Arts but this year I have chosen not to continue with The Good & the Beautiful. I honestly do not have any major complaints — they provide wonderful curriculum options at very low prices. Truthfully, the low cost was a major factor in my choice for that for Kindergarten. Plus, the Level K Language Arts program helped me teach my son to read. How cool is that?! That said, we ended up skipping a LOT of the curriculum — both in the Language Arts and the Math–more so in the Language Arts. And I had concerns about continuing with it. I will explain more in detail in those subject areas below.
What Is my Homeschool Philosophy?
Note also that I do not follow any one homeschool philosophy. If you are new to homeschooling I recommend you check out my Homeschooling Resources page for helpful articles and quizzes on a variety of philosophies as well as websites and curriculum broken down by a few of my favorite philosophies. We are an eclectic mix of all the things and I am happy to change it up at any time.
Preference for Secular Curriculum
One other factor that has guided our curriculum choices: We are cautiously Christian and prefer secular curriculum. I did not realize this last year but I do know now! We are a Christian family and faith in God and spiritual practice is important to us, but I am finding that most Christian-based homeschool curriculums are not in line with our family’s values and beliefs. I am more often than not frustrated with institutional Christianity and I guess in a way it is not surprising I find Christian-based homeschool curriculum to be frustrating as well.
When thinking about a science curriculum, I do not want it tied to the Bible. When thinking about a history curriculum, I want something that features a diverse and inclusive set of voices. When thinking about literature, I want books published today and not 75 years ago. I am not saying all Christian-based curriculums are wrong or off, but that I have a less likelihood of running into these personal-preference problems if I seek out secular curriculum.
Now — please know I’m sharing my own personal preference here and not making any kind of judgment overall about how I think everyone else should operate. I thought I would take a risk and share the truth of my journey with homeschool curriculum choices because I know many of you struggle with this kind of thing. There is no perfect curriculum so we all have to make our individual choices on what we feel is best. I am also NOT saying I will never use a Christian-based curriculum, just that I am generously skeptical about it.
For me, I have found that basing our core curriculum in a secular framework works best, and then I can add in our spiritual practices in a manner befitting our family.
Alright, so here we go!
FIRST GRADE SUBJECTS
- Language Arts
- Reading and Spelling
- Nature Study
- Art Appreciation
- Music Appreciation
And a few extra things which I will explain in detail below!
Keep in mind: curriculum covers academic subjects but home education is about SO MUCH MORE than academics.
I love the literature included in this curriculum and how Blossom & Root incorporates principles of Charlotte Mason using living books and narration. The literature featured in this curriculum and others of Blossom & Root are diverse and inclusive, which I often find lacking in many Charlotte Mason booklists. Fearless Girls, Wise Women, & Beloved Sisters is an excellent example. This curriculum even integrates geography and culture as you explore the countries of origin of many of the folktales you read together. “Language arts” can include MANY different categories—in this curriculum it includes:
- literature projects
- word building
- poetry activities
Oral narration and copywork are both things I am excited to incorporate more with my oldest; that said — I plan to do this gently at least at the beginning. Because we are also doing a reading/spelling curriculum (see below), it may not be that every week we are completing all of the language arts elements listed above from The Stories We Tell.
What I love about Blossom & Root is that this curriculum invites you to explore narration through play and imagination, not just in a formalized oral narration or written narration. It should be fun and natural, and in that regard both my kids are already excellent at narration–we just don’t write it down! I highly recommend reading Know and Tell by Karen Glass if you are interested in incorporating narration in to your homeschool.
Note that we are using other elements from the whole Blossom & Root First Grade pack.
I love Julie Bogart and Brave Writer! She’s such an inspiration. Highly recommend reading The Brave Learner. The Jot It Down! curriculum includes one project per month for 10 months and is geared towards ages 5-8. I will note that Brave Writer is not just a writing curriculum—it’s a lifestyle. There is much that I am excited about with this addition to our homeschool.
READING AND SPELLING
I mentioned in the introduction that last year for Kindergarten we used Level K Language Arts from The Good & the Beautiful and it helped me teach my son to read. However, we skipped so much of the curriculum. He was interested in the reading portion, but the curriculum incorporates spelling alongside the lessons which I felt he wasn’t ready for. Not to mention we skipped things like poetry memorization or art narration or curriculum-specific stories included in The Good & the Beautiful Language Arts. At base level I thought: if I’m skipping so much, why are we using this?
Enter: All About Learning! This curriculum separates out reading and spelling which is EXACTLY what I wanted! Here is a helpful post explaining why reading and spelling is taught separately. It’s brilliant. I really wish I had done this last year. Honestly, a big factor in my decision last year was this felt more expensive than The Good & the Beautiful, but now I totally see the value and understand why. This is an amazing put-together curriculum that’s easy on educators and incorporates a wonderful multi-sensory learning style that I know my kids will love and respond well to.
For my First Grader we are using:
For my Kindergartener we are using:
I also LOVE LOVE LOVE the coordinating Letter Tiles App which we will use on our iPad. This removes the need to have a white board and physical letter tiles for the lessons (which has been the standard use for All About Learning). We live in a small house and I am so excited there is this option to have LESS STUFF to manage for lessons. The app also makes it super easy to switch between children at different levels as well. It’s made for multiple-child families in mind. Love it!
Note: Later we will likely add in a bit more grammar lessons. This post is helpful to understand language arts sequencing as a whole.
Last year we used The Good & the Beautiful Level K for Math and as I mentioned in the intro, I felt like we just skipped a lot. The content of math subjects and flow was fine, but it felt like there was a lot of narrative and stuff I just skipped. To be honest: I also found when we got to cartoon Native American depictions in the 2nd half of the curriculum, I just could not bring myself to continue. Note — I also had *briefly* tried Math Lessons for a Living Education before we started last year and did not care for it. It is not comprehensive.
As I researched what math curriculum to switch to, this was a helpfuI post I came across:
I ended up landing on Dimensions from Singapore Math. This is a helpful detailed review of Dimensions Math I do not feel the need to repeat. But, I will say this: I am a huge fan of math! My favorite subject in high school was Calculus. I want math for my kids to be fun and interesting and yes: challenging.
What We Are Using
For my First Grader we will be using Dimensions 1A and 1B. Note that pacing of these levels is entirely up to you. I have looked through 1A and think we will end up going through that pretty fast with my son because he knows most of that already.
For my Kindergartener we will be using Dimensions KB and we will go slow with that for her.
Key Notes on Dimensions from Singapore Math
- Dimensions is the newest line of curriculum products from Singapore Math. It was written by American educators who have been using Singapore Math in their classrooms for years.
- Singapore Math use a unique CPA (Concrete, Pictorial, Abstract) progression to learning.
- Dimensions has full-color Teacher’s Guides and Workbooks through all of Elementary.
- The curriculum provides a wide range of activities and hands-on learning to make math hit home. You will use math manipulatives to pair with the lessons. The textbooks are fun and engaging, but that is not the core learning of this curriculum.
- Currently the Teacher’s Guides are designed for classroom use. They WILL be making Home Educator’s Guides for the Dimensions line soon (Home Educator Guides are available for the other Singapore Math lines that exist). But, this means in the meantime if you have Teacher’s Guides as a homeschooler you will need to adjust and adapt (or just skip) some activity options! To me, this has been no big deal because I am not interested in doing EVERY activity anyway. I strive to keep our Math lessons short and engaging.
- I think this curriculum works well for a range of types of learners!
- Coordinating printable resources (flashcards, printable ten frames, etc.) are all available online and organized by chapter.
Thankfully there are a lot of different Math curriculum options out there. I am happy to have found one that so far seems to work well for both of my learners.
This year for science we will be using Blossom & Root: Wonders of the Earth & Sky. As indicated in the name, this is an earth science curriculum. We will learn about geology, weather, the seasons, and more.
I love the Parent Guide in this curriculum — each lesson is guided with several options on how to explore the topic further depending on what type of family and learner you have:
- Book Basket
- Visual Learners
- Outdoor Learners
- Table-led Crowd
The idea is that each week you aren’t doing ALL of these to learn one thing; instead, you can pick which idea best suits your situation! I love this. There are so many great ideas and depending on the week I think we will change our tactic. Maybe one week we will do an outdoor learning idea and another watch curated videos and the next do a craft.
Note : the purchase of Wonders & Earth & Sky also comes with the Blossom & Root Book Seeds curriculum which focusing on great thinkers in the STEAM world: Marie Tharp, Mary Anning, William Kamkwamba, Isatou Ceesay, Charles Darwin, and John Muir.
Secular Homeschool Science
For those interested — here is a helpful list of secular-based homeschooling science options.
Additional First Grade Science
I would love to also do sometime this school year another science unit — I think both of my kids would love a Human Anatomy unit.
We may also do one of the Burgess Simple Studies units this year because my kids love those stories.
I do not follow a specific nature study curriculum. You can read more about how we do nature study here. The short version is: we spend time in nature every day. We let that be our curriculum. Nature is the curriculum. If a particular topic or creature becomes a notable interest point, then I go about gathering some coordinating books or printables. Though, most often we are not doing some elaborate nature study parent-guided lesson!
That said: I fully appreciate that we live in a not-average setting. We live on a woodland camp property with a lake, wetlands, creek, etc. to explore with easy access right out our front door every single day. I fully appreciate that that is not normal! If we did not live where we live now, I would possibly follow something like Exploring Nature With Children. The truth is I have tried to follow that before and became frustrated when topics did not line up with what we were actually witnessing in the natural world. So, I just gave up and we do our own thing. But in a different setting, I could see that working out well.
Note that Blossom & Root does have a coordinating Nature Study that pairs with the above-mentioned science unit. It is very open-ended and prompts are not even designated specific week numbers! You just do the prompted activities as you see fit.
This school year we will be studying the ancient world using History Quest this year! My son has been showing major interest in this part of history so I am so excited to be using this curriculum. History Quest is designed as a narrative-based history curriculum (similar in style to The Story of the World for those who are familiar, but History Quest is secular and excludes religious bias). Note that Pandia Press is committed to inclusivity and anti-racism and is currently rewriting all their older history guides.
I am excited that this ancient history goes all across the globe to different places and includes wonderful coordinating book lists where we will explore archaeology, mythology, and a variety of world religions. Because of the nature of this curriculum, this inherently includes culture & geography. Through the year I will use related fun books like See Inside World Religions or The Ancient World in 100 Words.
We will also use the coordinating Study Guide which includes curated book lists, educational videos, simple-to-implement projects, as well as journaling through narration and illustration.
Shopping for history homeschool curriculums presents a challenge if you are looking for diverse and inclusive options. Truly inclusive. I do know many people end up just creating their own “curriculum” by reading from diverse and, more importantly, own voices literature. Moving forward, after we do this ancient history curriculum, I would like to do American History. Some sites for inspiration I am currently looking at for that are here:
- A River of Voices: The History of the United State Vol. 1 (Blossom & Root)
- Inclusive American History (Little Women Farmhouse)
- Infusing Black History into a Traditional Charlotte Mason Homeschool (Heritage Mom)
- 100 Best Children’s Books for African American History Month (Book Riot)
- Living Books of All People (Facebook group)
I want to wait to do American History until my youngest is at least First Grade level that way we can dive in a bit more.
For art appreciation we will be using Exploring the Math in Art from Blossom & Root. This is a super simple guided art appreciation curriculum that includes a wide range of art styles, eras, and country of origin. I appreciate an art curriculum that goes beyond “the masters” which predominately means white Europeans and Americans.
For this curriculum, each week we will explore an art piece in three ways:
- Simple Picture Study
- Explore the Math Concept in the Art Piece
- Create a Coordinating Art Project
I will find each week’s art piece online or in a book if we have it. I have the following art history related books that we may or may not use depending on the week:
- Artists: Their Lives and Works (Amazon) (Bookshop)
- Vincent’s Starry Night and Other Stories (Amazon) (Bookshop)
- A Child’s Introduction to Art (Amazon) (Bookshop)
Note that art appreciation is also incorporated in to our history curriculum.
We will be using the Musical Era Bundle from SQUILT this year, beginning with the Modern Era. These lessons are wonderfully curated and include important music concepts in such a fun and engaging way for kids.
We also have a SQUILT Membership BUT you do not need to have a membership to use the Musical Eras Bundle! You can also purchase the Meet the Composers cards, Meet the Instruments cards, and Elements of Music posters. I keep all of these in a “music” bin and we use them regularly through our lessons.
I am also super excited about the upcoming release of the book Composers: Their Lives and Works to enhance our music learning experience.
You can view my Favorite Music Appreciation books and resources here.
CULTURE & GEOGRAPHY
We also subscribe to Letters From Afar.
After we finish History Quest, I plan to do a culture, geography, and history unit on Africa. We will using books from Heritage Mom’s blog post African and African-American Culture: Early Elementary Books and her Amazing Africa Heritage Pack as well as others!
You may also be interested in a previous Culture & Geography post of mine.
Rooted Childhood is a thoughtfully created inclusive seasonal guide that includes poetry, book recommendations, songs, handcrafts, and recipes to help connect through seasonal-based experiences. We use the songs (which include tutorial videos for those who are like me and not musically-inclined) for our morning time and love them!
You can save 10% at Rooted Childhood if you use the code: SILVAN
We include meditation and mindfulness into our spiritual transformation practices. I also seek to find Christian-based prayers, hymns, and meditations that are in line with our beliefs. Below are a few current favorite things in our Morning Basket:
- I Am Me Affirmation Cards
- Mindful Kids Activity Cards
- Breathe Like A Bear
- Smiling Mind (Free Meditation & Mindfulness App)
- The Very Best Day: The Way of Love For Children
- Psalms for Young Children
- Images of God for Young Children
- The Prayer of St. Francis
- In God’s Name
- Brother Sun, Sister Moon
Telling God’s Story: Year 1
As a progressive Christian who is frustrated with institutional Christianity, I struggle with finding children’s Bibles and Christian-related curriculum that are in line with our beliefs and faith practices. Most children’s Bibles feature a white-skinned Jesus, or the theological bent is too fundie. I do find it hard to know exactly how I want to pursue faith-based practices with my kids, and it is something I am constantly thinking about and discovering new things to incorporate and try. That said, I do truly do feel we encounter the Divine on a daily basis without my efforts or the need for structured curriculum!
The current children’s Bibles I am using are:
I read from The Jesus Storybook Bible a fair amount but even that one I don’t fully love.
I also have The Child’s Story Bible and the Read Aloud Book of Bible Stories which I can’t fully get in to. It’s just a CHALLENGE for me to happily read a children’s Bible to my kids is all I’m saying.
Okay, so now that we have the Bible covered. I was excited to find this curriculum authored by Pete Enns called Telling God’s Story. I have incorporated some of these lessons already in our Kindergarten year and will continue with First Grade. The lessons are based on short Bible stories you read together and then do a few correlating activities (the options vary by each unit but usually include crafts, games, memory work, recipes, and other projects). The sequence of the curriculum runs 1st through 4th grade. We will do one unit per week on Fridays.
While you can definitely skip A Parent’s Guide to Teaching the Bible, it is useful for understanding Pete Enns’ methodology and reasoning in creating the curriculum. Like most things, there are aspects I like and agree with and aspects that I don’t jive with. I cannot decide for you if you will like this or not.
If this interests you I also recommend reading:
- Faith at Home: A Handbook for Cautiously Christian Parents by Wendy Claire Barrie
- Parenting Forward: How to Raise Children with Justice, Kindness, and Mercy by Cindy Wang Brandt
I am also interested in maybe trying out Waldorfish this year.
Poetry Tea Time
Poetry Tea Time is something we have done for awhile and I plan to continue. It’s honestly way simpler than it sounds. The idea is for it to be time together reading poetry and (sometimes) drinking tea. We don’t always make fancy snacks or anything. It is often popcorn and chocolate bars. I have a range of poetry books I use and enjoy skipping around. We will use poetry from Rooted Childhood and once a month also use the Chickie & Roo Flower of the Month Club once a month.
Brave Writer has a wonderful free quick-start guide on Poetry Tea Time if you are interested!
I honestly really want to continue with our Spanish learning but it happens so slowly. I treat this more as a fun thing to add on rather than a true curriculum we have to incorporate.
And I do not want to leave out the fact that just “living life” is a subject of its own that is beyond the scope of curriculum. This is such a huge benefit of homeschool: we incorporate chores and self-care and all that good stuff just as a result of all being together in the same space all day. It is simultaneously simple and maddening, right?
I also try to be mindful of health & safety on a regular basis. This stuff isn’t popular to talk about and doesn’t make for pretty social media photos but it’s so important. Do my kid’s know how to call 911? Do they know their address and phone number? What should they do if someone is choking? And we have conversations about getting lost in the woods and body autonomy and so much more. I put a “health & safety” note on my monthly planner pages just to make sure I am mindful to incorporate these topics regularly. I have the Safety Unit from The Good & the Beautiful (*religious content) which works well for some aspects but I don’t feel it is wholly necessary to have a guide like that.
FOR MY KINDERGARTENER
My Kindergartener will join along for Morning Time each day. She will listen to the stories from our language arts curriculum: Blossom & Root The Stories We Tell. She will not do the coordinating oral narration or copywork, but will certainly participate in our play-based narrations and general enjoyment of literature! I often let her choose picture books she wants to read for Morning Time as well.
I imagine my Kindergartener will want to participate in the History Quest stories and lessons but I am not requiring her to. It’s totally up to her!
For reading, she has been showing interest and readiness, so we are doing All About Reading Level 1 with her.
For math, she is on Dimensions KB by Singapore Math. Lessons are short! Maybe 15-20 minutes at most.
For science, she gets her own Student Notebook to pair with Blossom & Root: Wonders of the Earth & Sky, but I am not requiring it of her. I suspect she will want to fully participate though. She really does not want to be left out of what her big brother is doing and loves anything labelled as “school.”
Nature study = go outside every day.
And I imagine everything else she will participate in to the degree she is interested. We really do most things together. She especially loves crafts and cooking so I plan to have some focused one-on-one time with just her during our weeks as well.
VIDEO INSIDE LOOK
HOW DOES THIS ALL COME TOGETHER?
Well … you’ll have to wait for it!
But, seriously, that was just a lot of info so I’m saving our weekly schedule & plan and how this comes together for a separate post. Stay tuned!
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