Elephant & Piggie Save the Day (1st grade homeschool update)

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In this post I shared my plans for our 1st Grade homeschool year. Once we started there was some tweaking I had to do, so I’m here to report. Now we’ve found our groove and things are going well.

Reading:

I quickly realized that the Sing, Spell, Read & Write book we had was moving too slowly for Caleb. For a short time I switched back to Catholic Heritage Curricula’s Little Stories for Little Folks (which we used quite a bit last year).

Then one day when it was time for reading and I got out the next story, Caleb broke down in tears. He had taken one look at the first page full of words and was overwhelmed. I insisted he read the page because I knew he was up to the task, but after that experience I reevaluated. I don’t want him to dread reading. I want him to love it.

During a providential internet search for funny beginning readers I happened upon the Elephant & Piggie books by Mo Willems. I was able to get lots of them at our local library, so for at least a couple of months we’ve been working our way through each one.

These books are great! There are only a few words per page (but usually around 60 pages per book), and lots of repetition. They use plenty of diphthongs, consonant blends and digraphs. But best of all they are FUNNY. Caleb does not even realize how hard he’s working to read each page because the story is so funny and engrossing!

Recently I discovered that Mo Willems has a series of Pigeon books, so when we’ve exhausted Elephant & Piggie we will move on to those.

Handwriting:

We went back to our Catholic Heritage Curricula handwriting book from last year. It is spiral-bound at the top, which makes hand/arm positioning very easy, and I feel like the size of the letters is good for beginning writers. We are almost done with Level K and Level 1 is ready and waiting. These books are more expensive than I’d like to spend on handwriting, but the format and content has worked so well that I’m willing to pay the higher price. Caleb spends only 5-10 minutes each school day on handwriting, but improvement in his confidence, speed and accuracy has been steady.

Other subjects:

In all other subjects we have stuck to the plan. Sonlight for history and literature has been really good so far. MCP Math and our Evan-Moor Beginning Geography book have both worked well. We have not tried Artventure yet.

So far that’s all there is to report. I’m sure there will be more tweaking before this school year ends, so I’ll give a final update in the spring or summer.

Preschool (Age 3) Curriculum Plan (2017-2018)

I’m keeping it SIMPLE for preschool (which to me, by the way, is a completely optional season of “school”…three year-olds learn whether or not there is a “curriculum”).

For our three year-old daughter, Anna, I’ve planned a very loosely organized curriculum that follows Sonlight’s Preschool Package and added in activities that I know she will enjoy (and will keep her busy while I work with her older brother).

I ordered Sonlight’s Preschool Parent’s Companion from their website. It is titled “Fiction, Fairy Tales & Fun” and is a (much) more relaxed version of their Instructor’s Guides. Instead of a daily schedule there are simply checklists of books or stories and ideas/activities to go with them, plus inspiring quotes.

The book list is wonderful! It includes some that are already favorites, such as the Virginia Lee Burton books, two Richard Scarry books and stories illustrated by Eloise Wilkin. They also include a couple of fairy tale collections, which will be new for us. The more I look at the list, the more I want to buy all the books!

Aside from reading together, I bought the game “Mighty Mind” that was on Sonlight’s list for preschool, as well as a few scratch art books, paint with water activities (including one of Melissa & Doug’s “Water Wow” books), and a Melissa & Doug washable stamp set. Anna is our resident artist, so these are all right up her alley. I also have paper, markers, colored pencils, paints and preschool scissors ready for her.

I will see how interested she is in learning about letters/sounds and numbers this year. If she seems ready I will gradually introduce these through worksheets or activity books I find here and there.

And that’s it! More than anything I am looking forward to reading with Anna and discovering new favorite stories together.

1st Grade Curriculum Plan (2017-2018)

The beginning of the school year is right around the corner! I’m excited for more structured days and lots of reading together.

Our first two “school years” have been extremely relaxed.  Caleb began reading last year and made a good start in handwriting and math, but I’m pretty convinced that playing is more important for 4 and 5 year-olds than sitting down to “do school.”  Now our little guy is 6 and it’s time to become a bit more structured, although even this year I intend for him to have lots of play time.

My goals for this year:

1. Reading Proficiency

Some children are not ready to start reading until later, but Caleb was absolutely ready at 5. I would have been holding him back if I had not begun to teach him to read. We have a good runway from which to take off, so we will continue on with Sing, Spell, Read & Write. I’m using the 1st edition because my mom saved the teacher’s guide and the readers from when she taught me to read in the early 1990s!  This program covers reading, handwriting and spelling.

2. Basic Math Skills

We will continue on in MCP Mathematics Level A. It is quite dry and repetitive, and I will probably switch over to Saxon Math or something else down the road, but for now it seems to be laying a solid foundation of beginning math concepts.

3. The Adventure of Good Books

I have, quite suddenly, decided to use Sonlight for History and Literature. I only discovered it a few weeks ago, but I think it’s what I’ve been looking for. The whole goal is to invite the student into the delight and adventure of learning. If there is one overarching goal I have in homeschooling it is to help my children LOVE to learn. If that happens they will never stop learning.

We are using a pieced-together version of Sonlight’s Core A program. I bought the Instructor’s Guide (used) through Amazon, and am getting many of the read-aloud books through our local library system. The books I can’t get through the library I will buy. This is saving us a LOT of money, and I think it will work well for this year. If we like the program and continue on with it next year, I will buy the Instructor’s Guide directly from Sonlight and probably buy many more of the books, either from them or Amazon, depending on price.

And a few more items I intend to include in our curriculum:

Geography – Evan-Moor Beginning Geography Book. Caleb loves maps, so in addition to the geography included in Sonlight, I plan to use this book.

Art – Artventure is a possibility. I will see what the time frame of our school days ends up being, and if time and attention permit I may begin this.  I am not an artist, so I’ll definitely need help in this area.

So that is the basic plan for this year! In less than two weeks we will begin 1st grade!  I will update as the year progresses and let you know what is working and what is not.

Our Favorite Children’s Books

Books! There are so many we have grown to love since having children. Some of them are from our own childhoods and some are not. To make it easy I’ll put our favorite books in list form with notes.

  • Goodnight Moon – This became a nightly read when our oldest was a toddler.  Read it slowly and quietly and you’ll almost put yourself to sleep.
  • Sandra Boynton books – My introduction to these silly, fun books came via my oldest niece. Some of our favorites are The Going to Bed Book, Pajama Time!, Blue Hat, Green Hat, Snuggle Puppy and Night Night, Little Pookie.
  • Bread and Jam for Frances and other Frances books by Russell Hoban. Frances is just delightful.
  • Katy and the Big Snow, Mike Mulligan and His Steamshovel, The Little House, Choo Choo and Maybelle by Virginia Lee Burton. She was a mastermind at illustrations for children as well as the stories behind them. Our six year-old still loves tracing Katy’s path through the snow of Geopolis.
  • Just A Bath, Just Lost and other Critter books by Mercer Mayer.
  • The Please and Thank You Book and Cars and Trucks and Things That Go by Richard Scarry.
  • Big Dog, Little Dog and The Alphabet Book by P.D. Eastman.
  • The Boy With A Drum, My Good Morning Book, My Goodnight Book, Poems to Read to the Very Young, Baby Dear and others illustrated by Eloise Wilkin. Wonderful!
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? by Eric Carle. We give each animal in Polar Bear its own voice, and the last page becomes a song.

I look forward to adding many many more books to this list in the future!