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.

Ransom

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.

Topher & Pip

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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Human Body Box

I explained previously  our plan for science this year. I’m making self exploration boxes. Each box has a topic. I rotate the topics out so the kids have new material to explore. How much they find out about any particular subject depends on their level of interest. They can read every book and do every activity or they can not glance in the direction of the box. I know some of you are hyperventilating at the thought of your children self guiding their learning. But this works well for us, particularly for science. For my children, their interest in science exceeds any curriculum I could find. They don’t want to just learn what the curriculum says, they have questions that they want answered. Self exploration boxes lets them find the answers to those questions and then find more questions. I help guide them through the resources to find the answers they seek. They’re learning research and science all in one.

Our first box (and my boxes are milk crates) is The Human Body. I included books about learning to use the potty since I have one currently working toward that. Also, we don’t own all these books. We utilized our local library. So, this box cost me nothing. Here are the contents: (and some parental blurbs to see if this book is right for you)

The Holes in Your Nose by Genichiro Yagyu (contains illustrated pictures of blood and a penis)

Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi (contains illustrated pictures of poop and a penis)

All About Scabs by Genichiro Yagyu (contains illustrated pictures of blood and scabs)

The Gas We Pass by Shinta Cho (contains an illustrated picture of a penis)

Pigs Make Me Sneeze! by Mo Willems

That Tickles! by Cindy West

Time To Pee! by Mo Willems (potty training book; contains illustrated pictures of butts)

The Foot Book by Dr. Suess

My Trip To The Hospital by Mercer Mayer

The Value of Believing in Yourself: The Story of Louis Pasteur by Spencer Johnson

What Make You Ill by Kate Woodward (contains information about immunization- it basically says all babies get them, which isn’t true.)

Sick Days by Jan and Mike Berenstain

Hidden World Human Body by Claude Delafosse (contains illustrations of babies in utero)

Why Do People Eat by Kate Needham

The New Potty by Gina and Mercer Mayer (potty training book)

Exploring Weird Science by Rebecca L. Grambo

A Picture Book of Florence Nightingale by David A. Adler

Germs Make Me Sick by Melvin Berger (contains a tiny bit of information on vaccines, but doesn’t assume all kids get them or that they are the cure all)

Parts by Tedd Arnold

Science Verse by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith (contains a poem on evolution)

Everybody Has A Body by Robert E. Rockwell

Oh, Yuck! The Encyclopedia of Everything Nasty by Joy Masoff (Aidan, age 5, loves this book. It is pretty gross and contains information about body lint, cannibals, farts, poop,      pus, vomit, and more. Also has illustrations that are pretty gross, including illustrations of vomiting.)

You and Your Body by Susan Meredith (contains illustrations of babies in utero, vaginas, and penises. Also contains information about sex and reproduction. Also includes information and illustrations about breastfeeding. Also has a little information on immunizations, which assumes all babies are immunized, which they are not. Also has information about c-sections and continuous fetal monitoring. And information on menstruation.)

The Visual Dictionary of The Human Body by Dorling Kindersley (contains images of babies in utero and a side section view of a vagina. Also has side section view of a penis. As well as a statue of a naked male and a naked female.)

First Encyclopedia of the Human Body by Fiona Chandler  (Has minimal information on immunizations. Contains illustrations of babies in utero and sperm and egg. Contains information about hormones and reproduction, but starts from sperm meets egg and does not include any information about sex.)

The DoubleDay Children’s Encyclopedia by John Paton (This set of books moves through our boxes. (Has information on both asexual and sexual reproduction, but does not go into great detail. Side illustrations of male and female reproductive organs.)

From Head to Toe by Eric Carle

Bones: Our Skeletal System by Seymour Simon

Blood: The Circulatory System by Gillian Houghton

Bones: The Skeletal System by Gillian Houghton

All About Teeth by Mari Schuh

Your Bones by Terri DeGezelle

The Monster Health Book by Edward Miller

 

A Stethoscope

A Blood Pressure Cuff

A Thermometer

Make A Shape Person

Kaplan Anatomy Coloring Book (free)

Kid’s Body Worksheets 

Super Teacher Human Body Worksheets

Activity Village Human Bodies Printables

Science Kids Human Body Pictures

Blank Human Skeleton

Labeled Heart Diagram

Brain Anatomy Diagram

Cerebrum Function

What are Freckles?

Mouth Coloring Page

Vitruvian Man Image

Urinary System Coloring Page

Lungs Coloring Page

Ear Coloring Page

Bottom View of Brain Coloring Page

Pregnancy Cross Section Coloring Page

Arm Muscles Coloring Page

Inside A Bone

Heart Coloring Page

Skeleton Back View Coloring Page

Digestive System Coloring Page

Brain Labeling Worksheet

I printed off several copies of the worksheets and let them use the encyclopedias and books to color them in and label them. I simply put all the print outs and activities into the box and they pulled them out and used them as they wanted. I kept this box out for the month of September and they poured over every book (some multiple times) and utilized every single worksheet and activity. We also looked up a few things on the internet when they had specific questions.

From Conception to Birth Video

Fetal Development Video

And remember, Wikipedia is your friend! I couldn’t answer all their questions, but when I didn’t know the answer, we looked it up!

Next box: Weather