May 8, 2006

First Grade Curriculum Review

Well as we are wrapping up the year I thought I would throw out my thoughts on the main resources we used this year.

Ambleside Online - We tried this in the beginning of the year. I love the free schedule and the free resources and books, however we found the schedule not to work for us and some of the books to not be the best fit. We may try it again in future years and did follow a similar artist/composer/nature study format.

Illustrated Bible - This was perhaps one of my favorite things Rhiannon did this year. Her feelings for this have been back and forth between love/hate. She loves the results and sometimes enjoys the work but finds it to be a big task and therefore sometimes her least favorite subject. She read the First Graders Bible from My Fathers World and drew illustrations of each bible story and wrote a few sentence summary.

Miquon Math Red and Orange Books - These were a good fit at times they pushed her right to the edge I thought we would need to pull back but then they naturally got gentle in nature again. What a great mastery of the basics and a natural gradual introduction to more complex concepts like multiplication, division, fractions and order of operations. We will continue the Miquon series next year.

First Language Lessons
- One of Rhiannon's favorite subjects all year long. Easy and gentle though at times extremely repetitive. She especially enjoyed memorizing and reciting all the poems. This is a two year book so we will continue with it next year as well.

Story of the World Vol 1
- A solid history program with flexibility told chronologically and lending itself naturally to keeping a history notebook. Purchasing the Activity Guide is an essential part of this curriculum. The text reads like a story, especially in the beginning and is easy as a read aloud or even for the child to read themselves, though I enjoyed reading this one aloud. The activity book contains mapwork and activities for each chapter as well as review questions or narration exercises and additional reading suggestions. When some of the topics were too intense for sensitive Rhiannon I would skip them or edit the story as I read and do more of the fun activities. We did not do an activity for each story but rather found a balance that worked for us. We chose not to finish the entire book this year and will pick up the last few chapters when we start second grade in the fall and move into Vol 2.

Spelling - I simply found some online spelling lists from local public schools and taught her a few words a week. We did not start this until the end of February when she was more ready and then we breezed through the entire list in just a few short months rather rapidly. We found short sessions of spelling twice a week to work well for us.

- We began the year with outdoor nature studies, keeping a nature journal and discussing flowers and animals as we interacted with them. We kept it rather simple and went with the flow. One day Rhia picked up a typical science unit text book (like I remember using growing up) and started reading it. She loved reading science this way and continued through the entire book sometimes reading one chapter a week sometimes reading three in one day. As her interest was sparked we would go into more detail about a particular subject. She finished two of these textbooks this year on her own, one a general text and one a good health text. My science downfall, experiments - I was bad about them and she wants more of them. Room to improve next year as we try the Exploring Creation series of science most likely starting with botany and more experiments.

Copywork - This was fluid and kept simple. Rhiannon seems to have naturally good handwriting so we did not work too hard on this. She wrote a few sentences a week in the beginning. Sometimes bible verses, book quotes or famous sayings, or just letters to family and friends. By the end she was writing several sentences a day, most typically for her illustrated bible.

Geography - We studied this through our history program and a few little unit studies we did on places like Mozambique, England, Ireland and the US States. We would dive in deeper to these locations and learn a lot of details about them as there interest was there. Rhiannon really enjoyed doing a US state study where she learned and drew pictures of interesting facts about different states.

Read Alouds - There were too many to write down here, I have kept lists, some I have previously placed up here others I have just kept on my computer. Some of the highlights for her this year. Reading several complete American girl series (Kirstin, Samantha, Felicity, Kaya, and Kit). Reading nearly all the Magic Treehouse books she could find. Getting into the Bobsey Twins and Pippi Longstocking series. She read nearly the entire Little House on the Prairie series and Betsy Tacy as well as the Mary Poppins series and many of the Great Illustrated classics versions of some of the best kids classics. She read many Pony Pals the Misty series as well as the Black Stallion series and several books from the Chronicles of Narnia. Simply put Rhiannon LOVES to read.

Fine Arts - We studied art and music through listening and looking at masterpieces. We studied Monet, Mary Cassat and Van Gogh for artists and Vivaldi and Beethoven with a little Bach for composers. Very simply we listened to their works and looked at their pictures, that was it. As she gets older we will do more including music and art classes or study but right now we need simply to learn what great work looks and sounds like and how to appreciate that. She will begin a drama camp this summer and we will see where that takes us.

All the rest - We filled in the cracks with many resources including field guides, non-fiction library books, field trips, Academy classes (sign language, manners and character), ice skating, soccer and other activities. I look back on her first grade year and I think we did so much yet it did not feel overwhelming as we did it. We had to take off quite a bit of time for her surgery and still we are finishing early. Best of all to me she still has a love for learning and a passion for reading. She likes learning even if she does not always love "school" time. We still have fun and she has accomplished and learned so much.

I am looking forward to the break simply so we can have more time just to play and have fun and examine the world together all the time. We still do those things while we homeschool but we have even more time in the summer to just enjoy each other and the world God created. I look forward to more silly time and fun time with all three kids. Then we will be refreshed to begin again in just a few months, this time second grade and Kindergarten as well as a precocious three year old who will be sure she can and should do everything her siblings will.

Another adventure of teaching a child to read is beginning as Ciaran is starting to desire to read. He starts and pulls back and we just go with his flow and know that will work better than trying to force it on him at his tender age.

Peace in Him,


  1. I enjoyed reading about your year and what worked/didn't work for you.

    Have you stopped posting your reading lists all together? I often found great ideas in your lists.


  2. Jen

    Thanks. I have to get back in the habit of posting them. We have been busy that I am lucky when I get them all scanned in and putting them here requires formatting and editing quite a bit. Now that we are done with school I can get back into doing it and hopefully rebuild the habit!.

  3. Thanks for the review of Story of the World - I've been considering using this for our next year and I think you helped me decide to give it a try!

  4. Thank you for this. I have one going into first grade so it was very helpful. Just as helpful were your comments on Rhiannon's feelings about learning and school. Somehow I had the idea that if I schooled "correctly" then my children would always be excited and love everything they were doing. Consequently, when my 5yo kindergartener is less than delighted about some part of school, I get discouraged. Your differentiation between loving learning and liking all parts of school helped me a lot.