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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

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.

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.

Take Advantage of the Pandia Press SALE!

The Black Friday – Cyber Monday sale is currently on over at Pandia Press! Take advantage through December 1, 2020.

Pandia Press
Pandia Press

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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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Our First Grade Homeschool Curriculum Choices

FIRST GRADE HOMESCHOOL CURRICULUM.jpg

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
  • Math
  • Science
  • Nature Study
  • History
  • 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. 

LANGUAGE ARTS

Blossom & Root Language Arts 1st Grade.jpg

Blossom & Root The Stories We Tell

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

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.

Jot It Down! from Brave Writer

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

All About Reading All About Spelling.jpg

All About Reading / All About 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.

MATH

Dimensions Singapore Math

Dimensions from Singapore Math

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.

SCIENCE

Blossom & Root Science First Grade

Blossom & Root: Wonders of the Earth & Sky

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:

  • Minimalists
  • Book Basket
  • Visual Learners
  • Outdoor Learners
  • Table-led Crowd
  • Crafts-and-Projects

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.

NATURE STUDY

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.

HISTORY

History Quest

History Quest: Early Times from Pandia Press

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:

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.

ART APPREICATION

Art Appreciation.jpg

Blossom & Root: Exploring the Math in Art

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:

Note that art appreciation is also incorporated in to our history curriculum.

MUSIC APPREICIATION

SQUILT.jpg

SQUILT: Eras of Music

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

Our culture & geography is covered both in History Quest and Blossom & Root The Stories We Tell.

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.

EVERYTHING ELSE

Morning Time

Seasonal Songs

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

Spiritual Transformation

Spiritual Transformation.jpg

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:

Bible Curriculum

Telling God’s Story: Year 1

The Stories We Tell.jpg

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:

Creative Time

Art is integrated in to several of the curriculum choices above but we will also do projects from ChalkPastel and Rooted Childhood.

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!

Spanish

The Cultured Kid

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.

Everyday Life

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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