Uncategorized

Engaging STEM Activity Books for Children

The popularity of STEM-based activity books for children has increased over the last few years. Today I am excited to share The Kitchen Pantry Scientist books that I think really hit the mark in this genre of books.

The Kitchen Pantry Scientist series, from Quarto Kids, contains the following three books:

Physics for Kids (published February 2022)
Biology for Kids (published May 2021)
Chemistry for Kids (published May 2020)

Each book contains 25 different labs utilizing (mostly) items that can be found around the house. Each lab contains nicely detailed instructions paired with real photographs and a summary paragraph explaining what is going on with each lab experiment. In addition to all of these engaging activities, each experiment is actually paired with a specific scientist from that field of study. A short one-page biography and illustration of the scientist is included in the book before each experiment. So, not only are your children able to participate in some fun hands-on science activities, they get to learn a little history and context using a real scientist as an example. Many of the scientists featured will likely be unfamiliar to the children (and adults).

These activity books work for a number of educational scenarios and I think parents and educators alike will find value in them. The intended age range of these books is ages 6-12, which is a decent age span. Note that the younger children will need assistance in reading through the activities and completing the experiments. I think a number of the concepts and labs would be fun and appropriate for 6 and 7 year olds. Children on the older end of that age spectrum will be able to read through the book and complete the experiments on their own, mostly using materials found already in their home.

I love how engaging these books are and the experiments are nicely detailed. The scientific explanations are just the right length for children this age. The photographs and illustrations paired with each lab are spot on. There is much to love!

For an inside look, take a peek at this video I put together:

For more book reviews, follow me on Goodreads or view my Amazon favorites.

***Note: I was given review copies of these books via Quarto Kids. Opinions are my own.

Curriculum · Uncategorized

Our Second Grade Homeschool Curriculum Choices

ABOUT OUR HOMESCHOOL

I’ve been blogging about our Homeschool curriculum choices for awhile now and have used a variety of things over the course of Preschool, Kindergarten, and First Grade. I’ve settled in to a few favorites and you will see some continuations from last year. At this point I prefer secular curriculum, but I do not mind sourcing a few things from religious-based companies as long as the curriculum can be adapted. I’ve landed on Blossom & Root as my go-to curriculum and we will be using almost all of their Second Grade year materials.

I’m choosing curriculum that makes sense for my second grader and our family values. The beauty and freedom of homeschooling is that there is not one perfect formula or expectation for every single child at the same level. So if you have a second grader, you might find there are some things that are more advanced for where your child is at and some things that your child mastered last year. That’s not something we should stress about or feel shame over. That is the gift of homeschooling! We get to choose and then make adjustments when things aren’t working or we feel like totally changing up the methodology.

A few curriculum options I will be sharing are currently in process. We are already working through a certain curriculum level because those items are mastery-based and it’s not like there is a clear line of NOW it’s second grade. It’s just what we are working through. So, you might see me share two different levels of a curriculum, just to say we will work through those as the year goes on.

Note that I have a second grader and a first grader for the 2021-2022 school year, so because my kids are so close together, there are a few things we do together – things like science and literature and history. So, in a way, a number of things I’m sharing are a hybrid first-second grade year. Again, with homeschool, I do not think it really matters what “grade” we call it.

I also understand that beyond curriculum people often want to know how the function of our actual school day works and how all the components come together in a sane and manageable way. I am always a bit overwhelmed when I read about other people’s curriculum choices because I’m like HOW are you doing all of that?!? So, I get it.

The HOW is just as important as the WHAT. But, for this post, we’re just going to discuss the WHAT. So, take a deep breath and let’s begin!

SECOND GRADE SUBJECTS

  • Language Arts:
    • Literature
    • Reading
    • Spelling
    • Writing
    • Grammar
  • Math
  • Science
  • Nature Study
  • History
  • Art Appreciation
  • Music Appreciation

Keep in mind: curriculum covers academic subjects but home education is about SO MUCH MORE than academics. 

Also: it’s important to know your state’s legal requirements when it comes to homeschool. I am in a state with very little requirements or regulation, so I have quite a bit of freedom with my curriculum choices.

LANGUAGE ARTS: LITERATURE

For this coming school year I am combining Blossom & Root Level 1 Language Arts and Level 2 Language Arts. The Level 1 Language Arts has recently been updated and the entire selection of literature is different from the Level 1 that I used for First Grade. I was really excited to see all these changes and since I have a Second Grader and First Grader this year I thought it would work well to pull from both language arts curriculum pieces. So, I am using 16 weeks from Year 1 and 19 weeks from Year 2.

We will be reading from the following books:

What I am leaving out from Level 1 (Weeks 1-19 and Week 36):

  • Classic tales and fairy stories
  • Ananse stories

We already have read a lot of the stories used in the first half of the Level 1 Language Arts, so instead I wanted to incorporate the folktales from around the world from the second part. We also just finished a special unit on Africa and read a bunch of Ananse stories so I am leaving that out too.

What I am leaving out from Level 2 (Weeks 13-29)

We have already read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz twice together so I do not want to repeat that again. I’ve tried The Wind in the Willows before with my children and did not care for it. And — The Hobbit is a book both my husband and I have been excited to read with our children since before they were born! My husband *really* wants to read this with them, and so of course that’s what we will do! Therefore, I didn’t see the point in including it as a “school” focus where the kids would also do some narration and copywork. They’ll just read it for reading’s sake with their Dad.

I am also using a condensed version of this curriculum, focusing in on:

  • Literature
  • Narration
  • Copywork

In addition, we may (or may not) incorporate some of the:

  • Fun projects, play, and storytelling
  • Journal prompts

***I’m skipping all the reading lists and poetry activities from the curriculum because we use a separate curriculum for reading and spelling (see below).

I printed out and bound an abbreviated student notebook using just the relevant narration and copywork pages for the corresponding weeks in Year 1 and Year 2.

Note that I do not expect ANYONE will be following exactly what I’m choosing to do for this year! I thought it would be helpful to share, though, to see how easy it is to adapt curriculum to suit your family for any number of reasons. For me, it came down to: (1) not repeating stories we have already read and (2) meeting my two children in the middle. I really love the style and literature choices Blossom & Root makes for their language arts program, so that’s why at the core I wanted to stick with that rather than just do a different curriculum.

READING AND SPELLING

We will continue using All About Learning for reading and spelling in our homeschool.

Right now, my 2nd Grade son is working through All About Reading Level 3 and we will begin All About Reading Level 4 at some point this school year. And what happens after Level 4? We’re in the “Read to Learn” phase, hooray!

I also wanted to mention that we do a lot of independent reading separate from the actual curriculum. My son can read a lot but we still stick with this reading curriculum because I believe in the effectiveness of giving a child a strong foundation for reading fluency.

You might be interested in this post: My Favorite Early Readers

My son also listens to audiobooks during his quiet time and throughout the learn-to-read phase we’ve enjoyed using ABC, See, Hear, Do products.

For All About Spelling my son is on Level 2 and we will continue on with other levels as he completes them. I will be purchasing Level 3 next! I also use this Primary Spelling Notebook from schoolnest — they work perfectly with All About Spelling because they have the same number of lines as the word lists in the curriculum.

If you are interested in getting a closer look at All About Reading Level 1 see this blog post.

I really love this curriculum BECAUSE it separates out reading and spelling into two separate tracks. We have tried a one-size-fits-all style curriculum (The Good & the Beautiful), and it did not work for us. Read about why All About Learning is customizable and why that might be a good fit for you here.

Note that we use the Letter Tiles app which is perfect for switching between the two curricula as well as switching between two different children at different levels.

WRITING AND GRAMMAR

Building Writers from Learning Without Tears

For this curriculum you can also download the Teacher’s Resources for free which have extra printable writing pages in this program’s format — these are SO great because you can write well beyond what the notebook provides!!

In terms of other writing programs, I have heard good things about Brave Writer (we’ve actually used some of Jot it Down), Once Upon a Pancake, and Writer’s Toolbox.

Handwriting Notebooks from The Good and the Beautiful

Note that these notebooks are not secular and include Bible verses.

*Note that since the writing of this post I have decided not to promote, support, or recommend ANY products from The Good & the Beautiful.

Grammar and Punctuation from Evan Moore

I like the simplicity of the lessons in these notebooks. I have also looked at Easy Grammar and may give that a shot as well this year.

We will work on other types of writing activities through our language arts and history programs as well. And I have these fun resources to help inspire creative writing (which we will use with the Building Writers format:

Overall I still try to take a really gentle approach here and do a lot of writing WITH my kids, transcribing their words in little books they create or we verbally create stories through play. I also still write or type out for them their narrations when it comes to science and history.

MATH

For math we will be using Dimensions Math Level 2 from Singapore Math. I buy the Teacher’s guides, Textbook, and Workbook for each level.

You can read about our experience with Dimensions Math Level 1 on this blog post and why I love it so much!

Note that the curriculum rollout for the Home Instructor teacher guides for Dimensions Math has begun. As of this blog post, the Year 1 guides are available. The original Teacher’s Guides (like those pictured above) are designed for classroom use. Many activities assume several children can work together, which doesn’t always fit for a home experience. The Home Instructor guides are tailored for homeschoolers and eventually there will be a guide for the later elementary years. As soon as the Year 2 ones come out, I think I will purchase them. Though — I will say that using the Teacher’s Guides is working out just fine for me.

SCIENCE AND NATURE STUDY

Blossom & Root Wonders of the Plant & Fungi Kingdom

One of my kids’ favorite parts of our school year last year was the Blossom & Root Science Unit – Wonders of the Earth & Sky. The format and style of this science curriculum worked well for our family.

The recommended books to pair with this curriculum are as follows:

I also really like the DK Trees, Leaves, Flowers, and Seeds book and I Ate Sunshine for Breakfast — I am using these instead of the recommended Botanicum book to pair with the curriculum.

I’ve also pulled out the following books to explore with our year of plants & fungi

We will also incorporate fun things to extend all the learning:

*Note that since the writing of this post I have decided not to promote, support, or recommend ANY products from The Good & the Beautiful.

A NOTE ABOUT NATURE STUDY

I like to say this a lot: nature is the curriculum. I mostly consider nature study to be simply: immersive nature experiences. Any kind of “nature study curriculum” to me should involve being outdoors and very little to no expense, printouts, resources, etc.

There is a Nature Study companion to the above-mentioned science unit, and I do have this printed and ready to use. The nice thing about this curriculum is there’s no particular order or schedule to it. The projects are all something we can fit in throughout the school year without it being overwhelming for me to prep. The big project ideas to coordinate with Plants & Fungi are things like creating your own leaf book with pressed leaves or seasonal wreaths out of plant material. Overall there are about 32 prompts and 4 bigger projects, all of which can be completed in whatever schedule makes sense to you.

I like the overall approach of the Blossom & Root curriculum when it comes to nature-based lessons. The idea is that it’s great and fine to have a prompt or guide, but the topics are never intended to be a fixed agenda that you hold fast to at the expense of letting your child’s interests and curiosity be the guide. Therefore, we will use this in ways that are fun and assist in learning our science concepts, but I won’t let this be something I feel we have to do.

HISTORY

This year for history we will be using History Quest: Middle Times. Last year we so enjoyed History Quest: The Early Times — the format and depth and richness of this curriculum was so lovely and I can’t wait to continue with it! The curriculum uses the Usborne Encyclopedia of World History to pair with lessons.

The Study Guide provides learning summaries, guided prompts, curated reading lists, suggested ways to plan out your week, examples for copywork, and additional crafts or engaging projects. You can just read the chapter-book style book of History Quest, but I highly recommend purchasing the Study Guide as well.

I created a unique student notebook for each of my children using some of the student pages provided by History Quest (in the Study Guide) but also included pages for copywork with ruled lines for my kids to write on, and then pages for illustrations and narration to summarize what they learned each week. If you follow me on Instagram, you can see the details of how I created this notebook in my “History Quest” stories highlight.

We will also be using this awesome History Timeline notebook from schoolnest to document our learning.

ART APPRECIATION

For art appreciation we will be using Blossom & Root Exploring the Math in Art (Year 2) which is such a unique and interesting way to approach art! We enjoyed the Year 1 version of this curriculum. In includes a simple picture study of a famous work of art (sourced from a wide range of artists and styles), then exploration of a math concept. There are also simple guided prompts to crate an art piece based on that week’s artwork and math concept.

I recently came across Drawing Workshop for Kids and hope to find ways to incorporate this with my kids this year!

My kids also take a weekly art class that they both enjoy attending — the teacher usually has different themes each month like ancient art or color theory. My kids also spend a lot of time with independent drawing and creating. I purchase drawing notebooks for them to fill up to their heart’s content.

OTHER SUBJECTS

We build in music appreciation to school as well and poetry. My kids have a few other activities they participate in but overall I try to keep lots of room for freedom and play and exploration in their days. I know all the above seems like a lot, but I want to be clear that we also do a whole lot of nothing in particular. It’s glorious sometimes and boring sometimes.

VIDEO INSIDE LOOK

WHAT THIS LOOKS LIKE ALL SCHEDULED OUT

I’m not going to give a fully detailed weekly schedule here, but just wanted to share a few quick thoughts about how all of this fits in to a week of lessons.

We work on our core academics Monday through Thursday. Every day I make sure we do (1) math, and (2) some form of language arts (reading, narration, literature project, copywork, writing, spelling are all options — we might do a couple of these but I would never do all those in one day!)

I then rotate and switch around history and science lessons, typically spending maybe 2-3 days on each of those topics, depending on that week’s topic and/or my childrens’ interest level. Some weeks I’m sure we could do science in one day. I’m pretty flexible with how we spend time on these subjects. I just try to make sure I’ve done a library grab of topical books in advance (based on curriculum suggestions), and we go from there!

Fridays are for nature time, poetry and art appreciation.

And of course we take breaks here and there just because. I don’t keep a planner or anything. I might look one month or two in advance just to get a general idea of where we are headed with the topics and how we might need to work around holidays and celebrations, but I would never strictly plan out our weeks far in advance!

FOR FURTHER READING

You can find more details about our curriculum choices for Preschool, Kindergarten, and First Grade here. I also have lots of general homeschool related resources on that page!

Thanks for following along with us. I know some of you have been with me since the very beginning of our homeschool journey and I can’t believe we’re on to 2nd grade now! It’s so fun and crazy.


This content uses referral links. Please read my disclosure policy for more details.

Curriculum · Uncategorized

Human Body Science Unit (Early Elementary)

Curriculum & Project Book Used

The Human Body, Part 1 (The Good & the Beautiful Science Curriculum)

Note that The Good & the Beautiful is religious and includes Christian-based ideas in its lessons. That said, I do think their science units can be adapted for a secular family or family of a different religion! Note: I had an older version of this science unit and can’t full speak to the most recent updated version.

My First Book of My Body

This book is fantastic! It honestly could work as a unit study curriculum on its own. There are different topics covered in detail and then lots of hands-on project ideas, all nicely detailed with real photographs and illustrations to help you work through the projects. We used a lot of ideas in this book.

If you have older elementary kids, the Blossom & Root Fourth Grade Science Unit covers the human body, among other topics in Wonders of the Physical World

Reference Books for Entire Unit

DK Human Body! Knowledge Encyclopedia*

Inside Out Human Body

Big Book of the Body

*Note this book does contain information on the Reproductive System

I will detail additional books used below for each week/theme.

I created simple spiral-bound notebooks for my kids to document our learning through the lessons, but note that The Human Body, Part 1 curriculum does provide one page of notebooking per week/theme.

Our main structure for each week/theme was as follows:

  1. Learn basic concepts
  2. Explore in depth information through books
  3. Explore videos
  4. Do at least one hands-on project
  5. Complete notebooking

Extra Materials – For Fun!

None of the following items are required for the curriculum I used, but are just fun elements to add on to the learning for the early elementary ages.

Kiwi Crate My Body and Me

Safari TOOB Organs

Smart Labs Human Body

Magnetic Human Body Play Set

Videos for Visual Learners

One thing I learned this last school year using the Blossom & Root science curriculum is that both of my kids learn well from videos. Obviously searching on YouTube can be risky, so I fully appreciate when videos are vetted by a curriculum in advance. I didn’t have any for this Human Body unit, but used the following channels/sites that had LOTS of fantastic video options for each week/theme:

Typically for each unit I could find one or two videos to help drive home the lesson.

Week 1: On Being Human…

Week 1 of The Good & the Beautiful Human Body, Part 1 curriculum covers identity in terms of “God made my body” and includes a Bible verse. I wanted to share how I adapted this portion of the curriculum to instead take a secular approach. I did a library haul of several books that celebrate our identity (you can see the list below). We also covered human evolution at the start of the unit, as well as an age-appropriate understanding of the “where do babies come from?” question. I’m not here to say you should or should not cover these things, but rather these are some options. Obviously how you cover the reproductive system will depend on your family’s values and children’s ages. Note that The Good & the Beautiful does not cover the reproductive system in the curriculum I used.

Humans: Affirming Our Identity
Human Evolution

See this blog post for favorite books on evolution.

We also watched these videos:

*Week 1 of The Good & the Beautiful curriculum does cover the cell in addition to the “God made me” stuff.

Reproductive System

*I adore this little book because it covers all sorts of family structures: adoptive, foster, multi-parent, etc. and is LGBTQ+-inclusive.

Week 2: The Skeletal System

For the Skeletal System we used resources from The Human Body, Part 1 curriculum, and also did a super cool project from My First Book of My Body to create a robotic hand from cardboard, string, and paper straws. I also used human skeleton 3-part cards from Montessori Factory. The Good & the Beautiful curriculum does contain lots of handy printouts for every week/lesson, so honestly you do not NEED to purchase any extra printables if you go with this curriculum.

Videos:

Week 3: The Muscular System

For the Muscular System we mainly used resources from The Human Body, Part 1 curriculum. I also loved this helpful poster printout of the Muscular System from Art Design Collection. The extra books pictured for the muscular system here we just explored by browsing. Most books like this I grab from the library.

Videos:

Week 4: The Respiratory System

The main project we did for the Respiratory System was found both in The Human Body, Part 1 curriculum and in My First Book of My Body to create a lung simulation. The extra books pictured for the respiratory system here we just explored by browsing.

Videos:

Week 5: The Circulatory System

We created “blood” using mini marshmallows, oats, and red hots based on an idea found in My First Book of My Body. So fun! I also loved the Human Heart Anatomy 3-part cards from Montessori Factory. We also enjoyed the simple artery and vein “lacing” heart project from The Human Body, Part 1 curriculum. The extra books pictured for the circulatory system here we just explored by browsing.

Videos:

Week 6: The Nervous System

We had a lot of fun playing with ideas to learn about The Five Senses from My First Book of My Body. The five senses posters from Wild Feather Edu were nice to pair with this unit.

I combined ideas to have the kids create a play dough model of the brain and label parts, with the main idea coming from The Human Body, Part 1 curriculum. I also really liked the book Why I Sneeze, Shiver, Hiccup & Yawn.

Nervous System Videos:

Five Senses Videos:

Pictured above shows the hands-on lesson idea from The Good & the Beautiful science curriculum.

Week 7: The Digestive System

What Happens to a Hamburger is a great book to learn about the digestive system. We also created a fun model to get an idea of the length of the intestines, which of course blew the kids’ minds! There are some other fun (and super gross) ideas in My First Book of My Body to learn about the digestive system.

Videos:

Week 8: The Urinary System

Well, not sure which unit was more silly to my kids — this or the digestive system. I will say that the fun hands-on experiment from My First Book of My Body (pictured below) helped the kids see the “wow” factor and understand the function of kidneys. But, of course their notebooking illustration involved lots of use of the yellow crayon.

Videos:

Week 9: The Immune System

Lots to learn about the immune system, and certainly this topic is quite relevant to the kids right now. We made some model germs out of play dough to try and have some fun with it, and there was a great little board game from The Human Body, Part 1 curriculum. For books, we enjoyed The Good Germ Hotel and Tiny Creatures which I think were both helpful to not only think of microbes as bad. We are all a bit germ-intensive lately so it was nice to gain some understanding and have fun with it. I could see this being an anxiety-inducing topic for some children, but I think The Good & the Beautiful approach helps focus on the science and makes it fascinating to explore.

Videos:

Week 10: The Integumentary System

The last unit we covered was all about skin, hair and nails. There were LOTS of fun projects in My First Book of My Body. My kids especially enjoyed investigating their fingerprints and doing some hot/cold tests with their skin.

Videos:

Thanks for Reading!

Thanks for following along our little homeschool adventures.


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Curriculum · Uncategorized

Dimensions Math Level 1 Curriculum Review and Favorite Math Resources

All About Dimensions by Singapore Math

Dimensions from Singapore Math 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. Currently, Teacher’s Guides are designed for classroom use, but lots of homeschoolers are successfully using this program and adapting it for use at home. Singapore Math has a great Q&A blog post for Homeschoolers on their site.

Singapore Math use a unique CPA (Concrete, Pictorial, Abstract) progression to learning. There is a nice explanation in that link with a video explaining the concept in detail.

Dimensions has full-color Teacher’s Guides and Textbooks through all of Elementary. The Workbooks are grayscale. You can view the entire scope and sequence of Dimensions Math here.

For each Lesson you will follow a sequence: Think, Learn, Do (and then sometimes: Activities) and then additional practice in the Workbook. Note that each Chapter contains a number of Lessons, and, again, this Teacher’s Guide is intended for a classroom experience so there will be a number of activities that I find we either skip or adapt. I tend to read an entire Chapter of the Teacher’s Guide in advance, then flag just a couple ideas from the Activity section of each Chapter which I might incorporate. So, for example, in one week we might do math for four separate days. One of those days I might include an extra activity that fits with the math concepts being learned. Otherwise, we work through the Think-Learn-Do sections, often using something hands-on and some of the Textbook/Workbook each day.

Initially the amount of choices and information in the Teacher’s Guides for Dimensions Math can feel overwhelming! Eventually, I think if you commit to this curriculum, you will get the hang of it and learn to go through the Teacher’s Guides with a discerning eye for what makes sense for your home learning style and your student. I personally like having lots of instruction and detail and ideas in the Teacher’s Guides. I’m never left wondering how the heck to teach in Singapore Math style (which is different than how I was taught). And, I like having lots of ideas for activities so I can select which ones I think will work best for us (or ones that use materials we already have around the house). That said, I fully appreciate that there will be some who do not like the idea of picking and choosing and just want a simplified instruction manual.

Note also that there is no scripted lesson plan here. I have tried other math curricula that do have more of a scripted approach and understand that that can be nice because it does not require you to read in advance. So, just note that I do recommend that if you use Dimensions Math you should read ahead a whole chapter before you begin with your student.

If you don’t have time to read “how to” do something before the day it’s scheduled to begin, don’t begin. Make sure you understand what you’re asking your kids to do before you do it with them.

Julie Bogart, Brave Writer

For another helpful resource, see: How to Choose a Homeschool Math Curriculum

The Essentials

For First Grade I purchased the essential set from Singapore Math:

  • Teacher’s Guide 1A
  • Textbook 1A
  • Workbook 1A
  • Teacher’s Guide 1B
  • Textbook 1B
  • Workbook 1B

You can always search for the Teacher’s Guides on the Buy-Sell-Trade Facebook Group.

The Teacher’s Guides provide clear explanations on how to teach in the Singapore Math methodology and demonstrate what each Chapter is trying to accomplish, addressing any variances or concerns that might come up. I would be surprised by a homeschool that could use Dimensions without the Teacher’s Guides and only using the Textbooks, but I’m sure it has been done.

Blackline Masters are companion printables for the curriculum. Each chapter in the Teacher’s Guide will let you know upfront which printables you will need. I recommend waiting until you get to each chapter to determine which items you actually need to print. Many times the same ones from previous chapters show up and you should not need to print them again. I also found that a lot of these we did not print at all! Sometimes they are items designed for a classroom activity which would not make sense for us to use. I also recommend getting some Dry Erase Write-and-Wipe Pouches and using dry erase markers — several Blackline Masters can be placed in these and you can use them over and over again rather than need to print a new sheet multiple times for different lessons.

Below I am going to give you a number of extra math resources we have and incorporate in our math lessons. I first want to say that the MAIN two resources I use the most are:

You can print number cards from the Blackline Masters but I felt that would be a lot of paper and cutting and laminating so just bought flashcards instead.

The Linking Cubes are fantastic! There are 100 total an 10 different colors. These work well for so many uses throughout the curriculum that I find no need for any other specific math manipulatives.

Other Helpful Math Manipulates and Resources

In Level 1 of Dimensions your student will, by the end, cover addition and subtraction within 100, fractions, time, measuring, grouping and sharing, and money.

Specific supplies used for the curriculum are listed in the Teacher’s Guides and you can peruse the Singapore Math store to get an idea of the types of materials used. Note that for each lesson you likely do not need EVERY supply listed in the book, as these guides were intended for classroom use.

I try to simplify what we use and purchase things that I feel will get a lot of use. For example, I purchased a nice Wooden Hundred Board which seems to have more longetivity of use in math than some other things. Instead of also have a wooden Ten-Frame, I printed out the Ten-Frame and Twenty-Frame 8 1/2 x 11″ sheets from the Blackline Masters and keep them in a Dry Erase Write-and-Wipe Pouches for reuse. There are ways to not go totally crazy on math supplies! I also use a small Dry Erase Board that fits on our school cart since we live in a space space and do not have a wall chalkboard.

Below is a list of what I have regularly used through Level 1 of Dimensions Math:

A Few Favorite Games That Incorporate Math Skills

We also have a variety of puzzles!

Video: Do A Lesson With Us of Dimensions 1A

Below is an inside look at an early lesson of Dimensions 1A. I took these videos at the beginning of our school year near September 2020. My son was at the beginning of his first grade year and near 7 years old.

Note that I did a little extra activities for this video than I normally would so that you could see a few things in action.

I also said in the video that we did not use the extra 1A Workbook. However, we did end up incorporating the workbook because I do feel that those extra sheets for practice and review come in handy.

Hope this is helpful!

A Note About Number Bonds

Number bonds are used in Dimensions Math both in the Kindergarten and Level 1 curricula (and looking ahead, I see them in Level 2 as well which gets in to multiplication and division). When I switched from a different math program to Dimensions Math, I actually started my 1st grade son with Dimensions Level KB because I wanted him to get comfortable with the structure and style of Singapore Math before diving in to the Level 1 curriculum. One component of the curriculum I wanted him to gain a comfort level with is the use of number bonds.

Number bonds are pictorial representations of a number and the parts that make it. Often this is shown with two circles around the parts with lines drawn to one circle around the whole. When describing a number bond we use “____ and ____ make ____” instead of the formal addition and equal symbols (+ and =). For example: “2 and 3 make 5” as shown in the photo above (from Dimensions 1A Chapter 2).

Chapter 8 in Dimensions Math KB is used to familiarize students with number bonds with the idea that at the end of Dimensions Math Kindergarten the student should know their number bonds to 10 automatically. Lots of games and activities are used in the curriculum to help the child achieve this goal. Note that in the video above you will see my son use a Rekenrek to help learn those 0 to 10 subtraction facts in Level 1A, which eventually we phased out as he gained more confidence and knowledge with Dimensions Math. Eventually, the idea is that he would know “5-3=2” because he knows the number bond “5 is 2 and 3.”

Video: Inside Look at Dimensions 1B

Dimensions 1B expands on the addition and subtraction basics covered in 1A but takes it further. Your child will go from doing addition and subtraction within 100 by the end of Level 1B. This section of the curriculum also covers length, fractions, time, and money.

Here is a look at one page of the Teacher’s Guide:

This is the corresponding Textbook page:

Note that the Teacher’s Guide indicates by this point the students should mostly be doing these problems in the textbook without the use of manipulates. The illustrations in the book show the Linking Cubes but the student won’t be actually counting out 25+47 linking cubes.

Below is a video inside look with more detail about the 1B Dimensions Math curriculum:

What’s Next?

My youngest child is already in to the Dimensions Math 1A curriculum. My oldest is finishing up 1B and then for his second grade year start we will work on Dimensions Math Level 2!

That’s it! Thanks for reading and watching. I do hope this is helpful. You can see all the other details about our first grade year here:

Homeschool First Grade

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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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Favorite Early Readers

Early Readers From Our Homeschool Curriculum

We use the All About Reading curriculum to teach our children to read. I love this curriculum for so many reasons–it’s phonics-based program with a multisensory approach. It’s fun, easily to teach, and follows a developmentally appropriate progression. My son (First Grade, age 7) is finishing up Level 2 soon and will move on to Level 3. My daughter (Kindergarten, age 5) is currently working through Level 1. Keep in mind the curriculum is mastery-based and Levels do not correspond to grade level. You can read more about our use of Level 1 on this blog post and see a video walk through as well: Do A Lesson With Us: All About Reading Level 1.

All About Reading has decodable readers that coordinate with the curriculum. These readers contain a number of wonderful and engaging stories that work through concepts learned in the curriculum. Each reader contains about 15 stories and each level of All About Reading has 2-3 readers! I love having these readers to work through with my children. They love the stories.

Note that you can purchase just the readers from All About Learning! You don’t need to be using the curriculum to use the readers with your child(ren). When you go to the appropriate Level of the curriculum, there is a drop-down option for purchasing Individual Items and you can select the readers there.

While these readers are fantastic, my children have also wanted to have more to read than just these readers when we “do school” and work through the curriculum. I desire that for them as well. They now take turns with us reading bedtime stories and spend timing reading in bed each night with booklights.

Reading is one of life’s true delights, and so I do what I can to spread the feast for my children with literature they can read and enjoy. Below I’ll share my favorites.

About Using & Finding Early Readers

I first want to say: I’m not an expert on this topic at all! In many ways I feel out of my league trying to figure out how to teach my children to read. Which is why I love All About Reading — it takes the pressure an anxiety off of me.

Beyond teaching my children to read, searching for the right books for them can be a confounding process. One frustration I have run in to is that different publishers use different distinctions for their “levels” of early readers! So, here’s a scenario: you reserve a bunch of Level 1 readers from the library to find that some are WAY too easy for your child, some are WAY too difficult, and only a few are just right. It can be frustrating to find the right fit.

One way to possibly combat this is stick with the same publisher/line of readers–that way when you know your child is comfortably reading at Level 1 of those readers, you can try some Level 2 from that same publisher. I recently did this once I latched on to the fact that my son could read Level 3 in the Penguin Young Readers series. So, I just hunted for others at the library at that same level. That feels unrealistic to always do, though, and it is limiting to try and stick with one publisher.

So — my best advice is: use the library as much as humanly possible, and realize you’ll run in to some challenges with the search.

Favorite Early Readers

ANYTHING by Arnold Lobel!!

The Frog & Toad series gets a lot of attention but I really feel the other early readers of Lobel’s are equally amazing. I cannot even contain how much I love him. And the audiobooks (with him narrating) are equally spectacular!

Mo Jackson Series

There are six books in this series and these particularly appeal to my son to have a male protagonist playing sports. The stories are sweet and playful and this is an excellent series representing a boy of color.

Other Notable Early Readers With Characters of Color:

Henry & Mudge Series

I am a huge fan of Cynthia Rylant — she has an excellent way of creating stories where characters are kind and the storylines celebrate life and love. Henry is a boy with a 182-pound Mastiff named Mudge and they have all sorts of adventures and lessons together. This series is a joy because your child can get to know the characters and have a wide range of scenarios to read. Twenty-eight stories in all!

Mr. Putter & Tabby Series

Similar to Henry & Mudge, this series was written by Cynthia Rylant and features endearing characters with relatable stories. There are 19 books in this series and they never get old!

The Good & the Beautiful readers box sets

*Note that since the writing of this post I have decided not to promote, support, or recommend ANY products from The Good & the Beautiful.

I love the nice progression from each box set (A, B, C, then D) with these books! When your child masters one set you can confidently move on to the next level. Each set comes with 10 beautifully illustrated and diverse books, and the stories are of a nice variety that will appeal to children with a wide range of interests.

I particularly love that these box sets have little mini books for children just starting out to read (Box A and Box B), so those children can feel like they are reading a whole little book! It’s so satisfying.

Note that these boxed sets CAN coordinate with The Good & the Beautiful homeschool Language Arts curriculum, but they do not have to. You can purchase and use these readers even if you are not using their curriculum!

Penny Series

This is a lovely Level 1 set by Kevin Henkes. Really sweet and engaging stories. There are four total in the series. Again, I appreciate books that have recurring characters for children at this age.

Usborne Beginning Readers

These beginner books are on the more challenging level of early readers and definitely note that some subject matter might even be sensitive to some kids (hazardous weather, history, etc.). Usborne books aren’t always my favorite, to be honest, but what I particularly love about these readers is that they are an opportunity for children to engage deeply with nonfiction information in a reading-level-appropriate format. Your child can read to you and feel like they are teaching you something! So fun. And, this type of book has repeat-read value if it is a subject matter of interest to your child.

Note: I am not an Usborne representative. These links are from Amazon, for which I am an affiliate.

Little Bear Series

The classic Little Bear series is a sweet and enjoyable series for kids and adults to enjoy! There is a very good reason these have been favorites for years and years.

Other Early Reader Joys

Elephant & Piggie series

Ling & Ting series

We do like some of the Dr. Seuss books as well.

A Note About Interest-Based Books

I want to put in a note here to say that I personally love finding random (and admittedly sometimes absurd) books that fit my child’s interest! Both kids get so excited to read these types of books. Yes, I understand the need and desire for providing quality literature to our children, but for me I also want my child to enjoy reading and that means that they often get to pick the subject matter. LEGOs, dinosaurs, natural wonders, dragons, and characters based on TV shows or movies.

No, I do not want ONLY these types of books around, but I definitely want the range available. I myself enjoy reading a range of genres of literature and can understand the value in exploring a variety of types of stories.

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Happy Reading!

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What Kindergarten Language Arts Looks Like This Year

Kindergarten Language Arts Curriculum

For my first child, I used A Year of Tales as our Core Curriculum (which has language arts components as well as others) and then added on The Good & The Beautiful: Level K Language Arts to teach him how to read.

You can read about our First Grade Curriculum choices here and why I stopped using Language Arts from The Good & The Beautiful.

*Note that since the writing of this post I have decided not to promote, support, or recommend ANY products from The Good & the Beautiful.

For my Level K child this year (2020-2021 school year) we are using All About Reading Level 1 and the coordinating Letter Tiles App to teach her how to read.

You can read an in-depth blog post of this curriculum in action (with video) here:

Read Alouds

Language Arts encompasses a great number of things, and this year for my Level K child has not been solely about teaching her how to read and write. The All About Reading curriculum has reminders with each lesson to read aloud to your child. We read aloud from a range of stories for my Level K child. NOTE: because my children are so close in age, what we read for my First Grader is easily combined in to read alouds for my Level K child. I don’t treat them separate, other than I do make sure not ALL our reading each day is coming from history texts or longer books. We read a lot of picture books! Most days I let my Level K child choose what picture books she wants me to read to her. This happens regularly in the mornings and bedtime, and then we try to incorporate some other reading throughout the day.

If you need inspiration for the importance of reading aloud to your child, I recommend the following books:

Story Podcasts

I wanted to give a special mention to a number of stories podcasts we have enjoyed over the years. These are great ways to fit in stories on car rides!

Narration and Copywork: For Kindergarten???

In addition to simply reading stories, for my First Grader and Level K child I purchased some Composition Notebooks to journal and keep track of copywork and narration for stories. I would not normally see this as a requirement for Kindergarten to do copywork and narration; however, my child has shown lots of interest and wants to do what her older brother does. So, she gets a notebook of her own. I keep the copywork very simple and minimal for her, and it is only one time a week. The narration is optional, and usually she keeps it brief. Know and Tell by Karen Glass is an excellent resource for learning about narration.

We started out using the Blossom & Root The Stories We Tell (First Grade Language Arts) curriculum for inspiration for stories, but I ended up dropping this curriculum because it felt like too much language arts on top of our All About Reading / All About Spelling stuff. I love the actual stories used (fables, folklore, classic tales), though, so we have kept in theme with that.

I also love the Blossom & Root Kindergarten Language Arts curriculum option, but I felt unprepared this year to go back and do that after I had originally planed for the First Grade option. I think if your child in Kindergarten is not quite ready to do a learn-to-read curriculum the Blossom & Root Kindergarten Language Arts curriculum is an excellent option!

Books I currently read from that the kids do narration & copywork for are:

I honestly don’t keep a schedule with this at all! I just randomly pick a story (I do read it advance) and then we read it together and the kids (1) illustrate the story, (2) copy some words, a phrase, or sentence from the story, and (3) give a narration of the story that I write down.

Kindergarten Handwriting and Letter Formation

For handwriting and letter formation for Kindergarten I utilize a variety of methods. I love all the Montessori-inspired methods utilized in The Peaceful Preschool, and ever since we used that curriculum I’ve still kept a lot of those methods in the mix. My daughter is old enough now and self-directed in some aspects so some days she’ll just ask for what she wants to do. It might be a salt tray or it might be a Handwriting notebook with worksheets. She’s doing great with her handwriting so I really do not pre-schedule this kind of thing in to our days. I just make sure we are doing a little bit each school day.

Here are some products we have used over the years that may or may not be helpful to you:

Tracing Boards

I created that simple tracing sheet linked above and my kids do this multiple days a week. It’s a nice option for me to give to one child while I work with the other on curriculum. My Level K child no longer uses the wooden tracing board but does use a tracing chalkboard sometimes.

Pictured in this photo are printouts from Kinder Nature Beginnings, which is a wonderful option for this age!

Salt Handwriting Trays

I like using a simple tray for salt writing but love special wooden trays made by small shops like the ones from my friends Cam Kennedy or Crystal Torres.

Handwriting Curriculum

Note that you can get the Handwriting Without Tears letter formation chart for free, which is helpful even in the preschool years.

Other Kindergarten Language Arts Resources

We also love alphabet books that are playful and make language learning FUN! You can read a longer list of my favorite alphabet books here, but for now I’ll list a couple:

One Last Note

I just want to say that mostly for Kindergarten I focus on child readiness and learning that is fun and engaging. I really am not aiming at this age for school to feel forced or burdensome. Often I even find that most of my daughter’s learning happens through simply living life, and not through a curriculum or purchased material. For example, we have taught her that asking questions is ALWAYS good and so she is constantly asking “What does that word mean?” when she doesn’t know. She also particularly loves to draw so we have encouraged her to “write stories” and you can hear her often yelling from the next room “How do you spell ____?” so she can write a word or two on her art piece. Mostly I want to emphasize that with Kindergarten it helps to set yourself (the educator) up for success and give yourself the tools you need, but often education at this age is simply: pay attention to your child. Give them room to be a child. Much of the learning develops naturally.

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History Quest: The Early Times Halfway Review

About History Quest: The Early Times

History Quest is a new curriculum designed by Pandia Press. The first unit covers the Early Times. The most recent History Quest release covers the Middle Times. The curriculum is designed as a narrative approach, and the main book can be utilized on its own without the need to pair ANY supplemental books or the study guide with activities! Seriously: you can just read the core chapter books to your child(ren) and leave it at that. There is even an audiobook option!

Each segment of history is covered in two parts in the chapter book: one narrative section and then something called a History Hop! where you pretend to travel back in time and have a conversation with one main person from that time period. You likely travel to a significant event or location in that time period and witness things “first hand.” Both the History Hop and regular chapter portion do an excellent job of making connections between various civilizations and helping your child put people and events in context.

If you desire, you can do more than read the core chapter book. We did purchase the companion Study Guide because I do feel that having supplemental picture books, videos, and hands-on activities is beneficial to learning AND the study guide provides notebooking pages & maps to keep track of what your child learns. My children are in First Grade and Kindergarten, too, so I feel that having all the hands-on activities and visual learning is so fun and helps them saturate in the learning. My Kindergartener often skips out on reading the entire chapter from the History Quest book but she will happily participate in everything else.

Key Features of History Quest

  • Secular-based history
  • Engaging narrative in a chapter-book format
  • Utilizes the Usborne Encyclopedia of World History which includes engaging curated internet links to explore
  • Allows your children to delight in imagination and exploration
  • Explores civilizations all around the world
  • The study guide is detailed and easy to follow for the parent!

And last but not lease: History Hygge weeks!

Occasionally throughout the curriculum you are instructed to schedule weeks where you read and explore longer narratives from that period in history and do nothing else. No main chapter to read or a History Hop, no activities, no notebooking. Just read.

We absolutely loved reading a picture-book and young-child-friendly version of the Epic of Gilgamesh:

For the multi-week journey into Ancient Greece we are exploring Greek myths for History Hygge:

Highlights and Additions for Several Units

I wanted to spend some time highlighting a few weeks of the curriculum. I won’t be going through every unit below, just a few to kind of give an idea of what is covered.

Paleolithic Times

We loved reading The Secret Cave and The First Drawing, learning about cave art, and creating some of our own with our homemade charcoal crayons. This printable cave art game is also a fun addition.

Civilizations Begin

The kids loved the cuneiform project for learning about the beginning of civilizations. Learning about the beginnings of writing paved the way for learning about how later civilizations wrote and kept records. We more recently learned about the importance of the Phoenicians and the invention of the alphabet. This is a great example of a provided hands-on activity that doesn’t require a lot of materials, prep, or set up.

Sumer

So, we created a cardboard ziggurat as we learned about the ancient city of Ur!! This ziggurat was much more work than the cuneiform tablet BUT it got a ton of play. Also, since this was so early on in our History Quest journey, I think having kind of an epic project like this helped solidify the joys of learning about ancient history. We used a number of different small boxes and cut holes so the kids could play with people figures and put them in the ziggurat. Too fun!

Ancient Egypt

My son in particular was REALLY looking forward to all things Ancient Egypt. And so, I decided to supplement History Quest with some extra play and learning over the course of several weeks:

Andes Mountain Civilizations

Learning about the ancient peoples of Peru was so fun! We watched some interesting videos on the art of weaving and dying cloth. We learned all about the Nazca lines — so fascinating. We enjoyed the lovely story The Llama’s Secret. Again, I appreciate that History Quest does a great job of representing a variety of peoples, cultures, and religions throughout the curriculum.

Mesoamerica

For learning about Mesoamerican civilizations we took a deeper dive in to learning all about chocolate. We loved the book No Monkeys, No Chocolate and the unit study on Chocolate from The Masterpiece Studio. There was so much to learn about and explore with this! Again, this deep dive was NOT a part of the original History Quest curriculum, but I wanted to share how this curriculum does inspire so much learning beyond the core because it engages your children in a variety of ways.

Persia

For Ancient Persia the History Quest study guide did not have any picture book suggestions but I did some searching online and found The Secret Message and The Green Musician were both ancient Persian tales. We enjoyed both, and used our MAPS book to explore Iran, and made baklava to enjoy with our lessons.

Note: The copywork page you see in this photo was something I made for my First Grader. The History Quest Study Guide has copywork suggestions and I decided to make pages in advance with traceable text for my son because he doesn’t love handwriting. For older elementary children or kids that enjoy that much writing, I think you can just get blank lined paper to have them do the copywork.

Ancient Greece

We are currently in the midst of a multi-week journey to Ancient Greece. Some books we have been enjoying are:

We also enjoy playing Santorini and Zeus on the Loose for some Greek-themed play.

Additional Books We Use

Other than the main History Quest: Early Times chapter book and Usborne Encyclopedia of World History, I have also utilized a number of Ancient History based books. Some are all-encompassing that we use as references depending on what unit we are on.

Note that a few of these do include history through modern times and depending on the age of your child you will likely want to screen these in advance for any images that may be too sensitive to your child. I personally keep a couple of these on my bookshelf and only get them out to reference when it matches our lesson.

Here are several of our favorites:

When on Earth? History As You’ve Never Seen It Before

The Ancient World in 100 Words

Curiositree: Human World

Behind the Scenes at the Museum

MAPS: Deluxe Edition

Ancient Wonders

The Story of People

Inside Out: Egyptian Mummy

Greek Myths

Mythologica

I also use the coordinating History Quest Study Guide to reserve unit-based picture books from our library to pair with each chapter. These picture books mentioned in the Study Guide are all nicely curated with explanations and things to be aware of. Sometimes delving into history can hit on sensitive topics for children and I find it so helpful to have these things curated in advance.

For example, for Ancient Egypt we used these excellent books:

…To Be Continued!

We have LOTS more ancient history to cover this year and I’m hoping to write a similar post documenting our journey through Ancient Rome, India, China, and Arabia.

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Do A Lesson With Us: All About Reading Level 1

Why I Use All About Reading

All About Reading is offered by All About Learning. Note that this curriculum thoughtfully separates out Reading and Spelling into two separate curriculum tracks. Here is a helpful post explaining why reading and spelling is taught separately.

Going in to Kindergarten year with my oldest (2019-2020), I used The Good & the Beautiful Language Arts program to teach my child to read. This for the most part worked, though it became clear towards the end of it that his reading level was more advanced than his spelling level. That, combined with all the extra stuff in The Good & the Beautiful Language Arts program that we constantly were skipping, I decided to search for something different. ((By “extra stuff” I mean that The Good & the Beautiful Language Arts is intentionally designed to go well beyond reading and spelling. It includes literature, poetry, memorization, and more)).

I had heard about All About Learning for several years but it can be so hard to purchase a curriculum you haven’t seen in action! It is a lot of money, and what if you don’t like it or it’s just not working with your child? I can honestly say after using this for several months I totally understand what the hype is about and I am so happy we made the switch!

Here are a few of my favorite things about All About Reading:

  1. Lessons are clear & focused for the child.
  2. Lessons are fun! There are lots of engaging activities utilized and the illustrations and stories are wonderful.
  3. A multi-sensory approach is used so I know my kids will take part fully in their leaning and maintain excitement for the lessons.
  4. It’s truly open-and-go! Lessons are easy-to-follow and require minimal prep for the educator.
  5. I’m not left wondering if I’m forgetting something or doing it wrong!

One important note is that in both Level 1 and Level 2 I have noticed one “lesson” in the curriculum can be quite long. I strive for short lessons with my children so often it may take us more than one day to complete one “lesson” in their curriculum book. The All About Reading curriculum does suggest spending no more than 20 minutes per day on these lessons, and that’s what we aim for — a set time or a feel instead of trying to complete a whole lesson and check a box.

Which Specific Curriculum We Use in Our Homeschool

As I discussed in detail in our First Grade Curriculum Choices post, this school year I switched to using All About Learning.

For my First Grader we are using:

For my Kindergartener we are using:

We also use the coordinating Letter Tiles App for all levels which we will use on our iPad. The app makes switching between programs super easy, plus requires less space than having physical letter magnet tiles.

I also purchased the All About Reading Review Box to store all the phonogram cards and word cards. Since I have two kids with two separate curriculums in use, this box has proven super helpful in my organization!

Note: All About Reading Level 1 is for our Kindergartener, and I approach this in a gentle and interest-led way. She has shown interest in reading but also this is a challenge! I am in no rush to get through this whole curriculum this school year or have a set completion date in mind. I want her to gain confidence and continue to learn in a way that she enjoys.

Video: Do A Lesson With Us

This is for All About Reading Level 1

Note that we are on Lesson 10 and have been doing school this year for 12 weeks. This is to say: we spread out these lessons over more than one day. And, I often incorporate reading activities for my Kindergartener that do not utilize this curriculum.

Other Resources We Use for Teaching How to Read

The All About Learning curriculum contains everything you need to teach your child to read and continue to expand on that learning.

That said, we also have a couple things I occasionally incorporate that help build in some phonological awareness:

And A Note About Handwriting…

Since we are using All About Reading Level 1 for our Kindergartener, I wanted to also share how we are handling handwriting at this age.

I incorporate letter formation using a Montessori-based approach — writing letters in salt trays, Montessori Sandpaper Cards, and using a Letter Tracing Chalkboard or Wood Tracing Board. A lot of this is inspired by The Peaceful Preschool, which I think is such an excellent foundation for children of this age. This curriculum provides a wide variety of hands-on multi-sensory learning opportunities for language arts for young children.

For handwriting at this age I keep it pretty relaxed. I do not require copywork but if my child wants to that’s fine. I do have the Level K Handwriting book from The Good & the Beautiful as well. We have also used Handwriting Without Tears.


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