2017-2018 Preschool- First Grade Curriculum Review

Since we are winding down with the school year, I figured it was time to update you on my thoughts on the curriculum we used this school year. Now, we technically school year round, so we aren’t really done with the year, but we are winding down and I’m planning next year already.

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You can find my post about our plans here. As usual, some aspects of the plan changed, but for the most part, this is what we stuck with.

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Turns out my Preschool/First Grade kids were the most problematic in terms of finding and sticking to a curriculum. My first grader started the year unable to read. He is currently barely reading CVC words. He is just struggling with reading. It isn’t clicking just yet. In my experience, kids who struggle with reading seem to struggle for ages, then something clicks and they speed through and “catch up” extremely quickly. I am waiting for the “clicking” moment for my first grader. I decided halfway through the year that while I would keep putting phonics in front of them, we weren’t going to stop our world because they couldn’t read or remember all their letters.

Life of Fred

Turns out my little kids did not care for Life of Fred. They thought it was funny, but they weren’t really learning much from it. I had it from a pervious child who did really well with it, so I was a little surprised that it wasn’t working for these kids. We read it anyway, but it was pretty clear they weren’t learning much from it, simply being entertained. We may pull it out again when they are a little older and see how they like it, but for now, we’re setting it aside.

Math Games

I made a box of math games at the beginning of the semester. (I promise I will get around to making a post about it!) It worked out really well for the most part. Each game had several “levels” of play. They really enjoyed it and it was easy for me to take out while the toddler napped and let them have some hands on math fun.

Fairy Tales

For our first term, we went through Fairy Tales. We pulled from several books, including Time Lord Fairy Tales. I expected that to be their favorite, but it had no pictures, so it was a little difficult for the little kids to imagine. The love Doctor Who, but the books were a little difficult for their level. I appreciated them. Their favorite Fairy Tale book ended up being Mary Engelbreit’s Nursery and Fairy Tales Collection.  We read Hans Christian Anderson, Grimm’s, and a few more. I added activities in to go along with the stories. I just looked them up on Pinterest. They liked the snack activities best. The bog kids were constantly asking to sit in.

Peter Rabbit

During our second term, we read through all the Peter Rabbit books. The boys were very into it. Add in a squirrel and rabbit hand puppet to use as a narrator, and we had a hit on our hands. I also bought them each a Peter Rabbit Coloring book that we colored throughout the term. The coloring book was a picture by picture version of Peter Rabbit. It is just that story. I expected it to have more characters in the Peter Rabbit world, but it did not. However, the boys did enjoy the coloring books.

Winnie the Pooh

For the third term, we read through Winnie the Pooh. For this, they bring their own bears to story time. I contemplated buying them each a classic Pooh bear, but ultimately, since they eat have a bear given to them at birth, we used their own bears. I had a lot pf ideas for this unit, but ended up deciding to stick with the simplicity of story time with bear. The boys are loving it. The big kids are jealous.

Phonics

We did use Alpha Tales and Phonics Tales. We really like Alpha Tales. Phonics Tales, not so much. I think Bob Books are better. We used Alphabetimals Coloring books. The boys loved them. I ended up having to buy the toddler one, too. When they finished those, I bought them each The Garden Fairy Alphabet Coloring Book. These are pretty detailed for younger kids. My boys liked them, but they did not love them. My oldest daughter would have loved them at that age. But the boys weren’t as excited about the fairies and the flowers. After they finished those up, I bought them each a Little ABC Coloring Book. These are much smaller coloring books, but the boys LOVED them. They loved the small size and the simpler pictures. They really enjoyed the alphabet coloring books, so I will probably keep that up next year. The Letter Factory DVD was also in high rotation. I didn’t have the Fridge Phonics set with it this time, just a set of magnetic letters. I really think the combination of the Letter Factory and the Fridge Phonics makes learning letter sounds so easy and simple.  My ABC Bible Verses was a surprising hit, as well. I think it was a stretch to consider it an alphabet book, but we liked the wholesome stories about a brother and sister and how they learned certain Bible verses. It was a good start to our “class time” but it didn’t really reinforce letters so much as it did Bible verses and character building. We will likely try out My ABC Verses from the Psalms next school year because the boys did really like it.

We tried numerous apps and games on the tablets that I just didn’t think worked. They loved them. I didn’t think they were learning anything. Some of them were just too repetitive and didn’t get on to the next thing for them to learn more than the A sound in a month. Some of them just had too many bells and whistles. ABC Mouse was one the boys liked, but they didn’t learn anything with. Veritas Press Phonics Museum was good, but the boys didn’t enjoy it as much. Homer I loved the books and music, but the program itself was far too slow moving. (I still have my Homer subscription because of the books. I screen share from my iPad to our home TV through an app on the Xbox called AirPlay. I also do this with Kindle books for kids. I throw them on the screen so they can see the pictures easily while I read.)

Science

The little boys sat in on our morning basket time, so they did get some science there. Other than that, we read selections from The Handbook of Nature Study and took nature walks. They loved doing this. Though, in the suburbs, there is only so much nature you’re really going to encounter. But we talked about weather, trees, seasons, dirt, rocks, and wind. We also read through the Kingfisher Animal Encyclopedia. Whatever our letter of the day would be, we’d pick an animal with that letter. While they enjoyed it that way, I think an animal encyclopedia goes best with weekly zoo trips, which we did not do this year. I’m looking to do that next year, though Topher is trying to convince me that the natural history museum will be more fun. (Because it has dinosaurs.)

Critical Thinking

We got Critical and Creative Level One for these little guys. I honestly did not like this level as much as I like the higher levels. There was a lot of content that was assumed a young child would know that my young children did not know. They don’t know much about Hanukah. They don’t know much about commercialized Christmas. They don’t know about a traditional school setting. We ended up having to skip a lot of the beginning content because it was just stuff they didn’t know. And since this was about logic skills, I didn’t see why it would be necessary to teach them about the topic just for them to complete the thinking skills work. I also liked skipping around in the book because you want to do the Halloween section around Halloween (if you want to do it at all). You want to cover Fall at the beginning of Fall. I’m not sure if we’ll continue the Critical and Creative books next year. I liked them, but I didn’t like them. They were good in terms of teaching logic, but I didn’t actually like the content and the books. If that makes any sense at all.

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Overall, we didn’t make as much progress this year with this age as I thought we would. They had a lot of fun. We read a lot of books. So, the exposure was certainly there. I wouldn’t consider it a failed year, because they really were engaged and exposed to a whole host of new ideas. But as far as their skills in reading and math, they’ll need another year to work that out. So, Ransom will stay in the “little kid class” next year and not move up into the “Upper Grammar” stage. Again, there is nothing wrong with this at all. This is just my assessment of where they are and then using that to plan for next year. My kids usually work from “Lower Grammar” where I do more Kindergarten and “little kid” stuff with them. Once they are reading proficiently and have a grasp on basic math concepts and numbers, they move into “Upper Grammar”. They get more independent in this phase and have to read a lot more books and have a much more in depth math program. After “Upper Grammar”, they move into the “Logic Stage”, which is their middle school years. They read a lot. They write a lot more. They are much, much more independent. After that, they’ll move into the “Rhetoric Stage”, also known as high school. We don’t have any that far yet, so I’m not sure what that will entail, but I am currently thinking dual enrollment will be in their future. We’ll see.

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But the boys are right where they are. And where they are is where they are “supposed” to be. That is part of the beauty of homeschooling. Their education is hand made for them, so their progress is the right progress. No matter how fast or slow. No matter how lopsided it may seem. They are where they are “supposed” to be.

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2017-2018 at Godbold Academy

I’m finally mostly planned out for this coming school year. I usually don’t do quite so much pre-planning, but I’m having a baby late October/early November, so I figured I should plan out all I could in advance. A couple new things for us this year: First, I planned in terms instead of just all year. 5 terms total. Three 12 weeks terms, an Advent term, and then a summer term. The kids have been begging me for a more traditional summer, so I have taken their request and we made a compromise. (We usually do year round school.) They will still be completing their third term after the local schools get out. But then they get an actual summer term, which will mostly just consist of each of them having a required reading list. The other new to us thing is the Morning Basket. It is a Charlotte Mason homeschooler thing, but I have adapted it a bit for our more classical methods. More about that if you click the Morning Basket link below.

I did look into switching from The Well Trained Mind to Ambelside this year. I love a lot of things about Ambelside, but ultimately felt The Well Trained Mind is still a better fit for our family. I did look over the Ambelside reading lists for the corresponding years of history and picked a few of those suggestions that I thought might be a good fit for my crew. The Well Trained Mind is really adaptable on a child by child, family by family basis. You have a wide variety of ways the method is really done and worked out in families. We’ve used it from the beginning of our homeschool journey. (This is our 8th homeschooling year.) I’m always tempted by other things, but ultimately decide every year to stick with The Well Trained Mind. It just fits us best.

This year, I am homeschooling 5 kids. One of those is an optional one who is currently opting in. (“School” in our house is optional until you are 6 years old.) Grade levels also get a little mixed when you’re talking about homeschool, especially when you’re not just using a box curriculum. Kids tend to move at their own pace and advance quicker in some areas than others. I kind of average out their level and that is what grade the kid says they are in, since “What grade are you in?” Isn’t usually meant to be answered with, “Well, I have the vocabulary of a high school sophomore, but in math, I’m around grade 6. In literature, we read higher level books than our ages would suggest. And in Grammar, I am on grade level.” People usually expect something more like, “I’m a sixth grader.” Believe me, getting testing scores back for homeschoolers learning in non-traditional methods is quite amusing as they may very well likely place in every single grade in something. But on the average, this year I have a preschooler, a first grader, a fourth grader, and two sixth graders.

This year should prove to be a bit of a challenge for each of them as I am realizing they can do some pretty hard things. They are typically limited by the challenges, or lack there of, that I give them. We are not doing Latin this year, though that is a typical classical homeschooler subject. We are incorporating it a little in their vocabulary studies. We are also leaving out handwriting for the time being. They have a lot of writing to do, so I am not too convinced a full handwriting course is really necessary this year. If I change my mind, I can always add it in for Term 2 or 3 or even the Summer Term.

To save us from an infinitely long post, click on the links to the individual parts of our school year below.

Morning Basket

First Grade

Fourth Grade

Sixth Grade

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First Grade and Preschool Curriculum 17/18

There are a few things my first grader is doing that my preschooler will not be joining in on because of ability. However, I like to keep the kids grouped as much as possible because it is a better use of time and it helps the days flow more smoothly. These are in addition to the Morning Basket time.

Math

The current plan is to use Life of Fred alternating with a few math activity boxes that we’ll rotate through. That could change depending on how these guys do with Life of Fred. Keep your eyes open for a post about those math activity boxes!

Literature

Our first term, we are studying Fairy Tales. We will be reading them daily and doing a couple activities a week based on a fairy tale from that week. We’re reading various tales from the following books:

Mary Engelbreit’s Nursery and Fairy Tales Collection (the illustrations in these are amazing)

Mary Engelbreit’s Mother Goose

Time Lord Fairy Tales

The Little Mermaid and Other Fairy Tales (Hans Christian Anderson)

Grimm’s Fairy Tales

A Treasury of Best Loved Fairy Tales (Barnes and Noble Bargain Books)

Phonics

For the first two terms, we’re doing Alpha Tales and Phonics Tales the first two and we’ll see where that gets us. I expect the preschooler to stick to Alpha Tales while his brother moves through Phonics Tales. We’ll also be adding in My ABC Bible Verses whenever it isn’t backordered anymore.

Science

This age really loves books about science. So, we’re doing science daily with them.

Kingfisher First Encyclopedia of Animals

Usborne First Encyclopedia of Science

Usborne First Encyclopedia of Seas and Oceans

Handbook of Nature Study

Critical Thinking

My first grader will be doing this one alone. He’ll be going through the Critical and Creative Thinking Activities grade 1 workbook. This is our first year using these, so we’ll see how he likes them.

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***While Amazon usually has much cheaper prices for classic books, I really love the hardback Barnes and Noble classics. If you go that route, take your declaration of intent or homeschool ID to your Barnes and Noble for an Educator’s Discount Card! You’ll get 20% off your books!***

Explode The Code Online- A Review

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This is Emery. He is a spirited little guy. He is very persistent. He is extremely passionate. He is very driven. He is a self-started. He is also not a fan of being told what to do. He dislikes workbooks. He has some super awesome qualities, but because of his independent and quite exuberant personality, he can be a challenge to teach.

Last year, we tried the Explode the Code workbooks. They were not a great fit. Emery and I butted heads for a month or two at the beginning of the school year, and then I just decided we’d wait a year for Kindergarten. Then something awesome happened. Emery decided he’d be his own Kindergarten teacher. He taught himself all his letters and letter sounds. He taught himself to count and do basic math. By the end of the year, he was reading. All without my involvement. The kid is driven. So, this year, it was time for first grade, since he mastered Kindy all by himself. I knew I needed something different. Then I saw it- Explode the Code Online!

It covers reading and spelling all in one online program. You pay per year and they progress through at their own pace. Each lesson awards them a badge. They get bees when they don’t do so well, ladybugs when they need a little work, butterflies when they do well, and paper airplanes when they do excellent work. I can log into my parent portal and see how Emery is progressing. It tells me how much time each lesson took. It tells me what areas need improvement. He is absolutely thriving on this program. He can do it completely without me and he loves that. He is proud of his badges and is progressing through first grade quickly. He may start tackling second grade material soon!

Now, some kids, you could help them in areas they struggle. Not so with Emery. What I usually do is leave books with the tricky words for him on the top of the book piles and highly visible for him so when he runs to grab a book to read, he will hopefully grab the book that will help him with his lacking skill. (Like bl- combination words or whatever it is that week.) I really could not have asked for a better reading program for this kid.

They do say you can use it on your tablet, but I have not tried. Emery sits at the computer in our kitchen to do his reading work.