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.

img_1639-2

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.

img_1470

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.

**This post contains affiliate links. Using these links does earn me a small amount of commission. It does not cost you more to use an affiliate link. Using affiliate links is a great way to support your favorite bloggers.**

Advertisements

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

**This post contains affiliate links. Using affiliate links on your favorite blogs doesn’t cost you more but it does help the blogger out!**

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.

**This post contains affiliate links. These links don’t cost you any extra to use, but they do help us a little! Using affiliate links on your favorite blogs is always a nice thing to do.**

***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!***

Morning Basket 17/18

I got the idea for a Morning Basket from some Charlotte Mason homeschoolers I came across. We have used similar methods, but this is the first year we are giving it an official name and an actual basket. Morning Basket work is so ideal for large families. We do a lot of our work together. For the younger kids, it provides exposure to more complex ideas and themes. For the older kids, it can be a great jumping off place for their more individualized studies. We already try to do as much together as we can, a one room school house sort of vibe. But the Morning Basket really makes it official and gives it a more organized place in our home and our day.

Our Morning Basket consists of 7 categories. It is mostly reading and discussing. Some people call this “Couch Time” since you’re not sitting at a table pouring over workbooks.

Prayer

Each morning we will begin with prayer. We have time throughout the day for spontaneous prayer, so during this morning prayer time, I wanted to focus on memorizing prayers. We will pray through each prayer daily for four weeks, then change to the next prayer. The prayers we are learning this year are:

The Lord’s Prayer

For Joy in God’s Creation from The Book of Common Prayer

For the Human Family from The Book of Common Prayer

John Wesley’s Prayer

St. Augustine’s Prayer

St. Patrick’s Prayer

St. John Vianney’s Prayer

St. Francis Prayer

John Wesley Covenant Prayer

Truth

This category includes our Bible Study, character reading, and manners study. Our older kids also do their own personal Bible study. And as a family, we also do family devotions. This morning basket Bible study is separate from both of those. During Term 1 and the beginning of Term 2, we are finishing our Herein Is Love: Genesis study. In Term 2, we are also doing The Talk. Term 3, we will be doing Herein Is Love: Exodus.

For our character study, we will be reading through 7 Men. Once we finish that in Term 3, we’ll be reading Fierce Convictions.

For manners, we’ll be reading through the book Modern Manners once a week.

Beauty

Beauty includes art and music. During Term 1 and 2, we will be doing a different hymn each week. Term 3, we will be using a more contemporary worship song each week. For Art, we are reading about one artist each week from 50 Artists You Should Know. Here is our list of hymns and worship songs for the main three terms (Advent has its own unique schedule.):

All Hail The Power of Jesus’ Name

What A Friend We Have In Jesus

This Is My Father’s World

Amazing Grace

Praise to the Lord, The Almighty

Lead On, O King Eternal

Jesus Paid It All

I Am Thine, O Lord, I Have Heard Thy Voice

For The Beauty of The Earth

Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling

Praise Him! Praise Him!

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

And Can It Be That I Should Gain

Trust and Obey

This So Sweet To Trust In Jesus

Be Thou My Vision

He Leadeth Me

How Firm A Foundation

I Must Tell Jesus

It Is Well With My Soul

Jesus Keep Me Near The Cross

Jesus Lover of My Soul

My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less

Savior Like A Shepherd Lead Us

Called Me Higher

Come Alive

Oh How I Need You

But For You Who Fear My Name

Lift Your Head Weary Sinner

The Cost

Up On A Mountain

Burn Like A Fire

In Christ Alone

Old Church Choir

I’ll Always Love You

I Heard the Sound of Voices

Goodness

Our literature selections that we are reading aloud together fall into this category, as well as our once a week poetry readings. For poetry, we’ll be reading a few poems from a Treasury of Selected Poems (Barnes and Noble Bargain Book) one day each week. We are also adding in Mad Libs Mondays just for fun. Our literature selections for the year:

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

At The Back of The North Wind

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

The Pilgrim’s Progress

Minn of the Mississippi

The Swiss Family Robinson

Memory Work

I like challenging my kids to memorize things. But I don’t want them memorizing useless things. This year, we’re focusing just on Bible verses. For the first two terms, I selected random verses, one verse each week, that I felt were worth memorizing. For the third term, we’ll focus on memorizing a verse from Proverbs each week.

History

This isn’t usually in a Morning Basket, but since it is something we do together, I added it here. The older kids have additional work to add to this, this is simply the portion we read aloud together.

I decided to redo Story of the World Volume 3 this year. We used it last year, but we did a really poor job of it. I was tempted to just move on, but there are so many interesting parts of this particular time period, including the American Revolution, that I felt deserved more time. Once a week, we will read one chapter of Story of the World 3. I do have a few weeks with 2 chapters in order to get all the book done this school year. In addition to that, we’ll also be reading the following our loud together:

The Landing of The Pilgrims

The Three Musketeers

The Jungle Book

George Vs. George

Can’t You Make Them Behave, King George?

If You Can Keep It

Little Things Make Big Differences

John Wesley: The World and His Parish (I would seriously love the entire collection of these Christian Heros books. I’m building a library of them.)

Frankenstein

The Mexican-American War

What Was the Gold Rush? (I would also love a collections of these “What Was” and “Who Was” books. They make it so easy for kids to read and understand.)

In addition to these, we’ll also continue our Godbold Academy Geography. The older ones have their own geography specific assignments, but we enjoyed learning about the spiritual needs of various countries and having the opportunity to pray for them. So we will continue choosing a country each week from Operation World.

Science

Again, not a usual Morning Basket inclusion. However, it is something we do together. The little ones have their own science stuff, but they loved watching the experiments last year, so we’ll continue with that. We are continuing with Berean Builder’s: Science in the Scientific Revolution. We’re doing about a lesson per week of that and then some additional Science reading out loud. The Berean Builders series is science chronologically by discoveries made. We chose this particular year because it goes along with our history timeline. It does include experiments, which my kids love. All the ones we have done have used simple household items and haven’t needed anything complex or weird.

It Couldn’t Just Happen

Always Inventing

Madam How and Lady Why

**This post contains affiliate links. These links do not cost you any more if you use them to purchase the item, but they do benefit our family!**

*** Amazon usually has the cheapest price on classics. However, I love the look and feel of the Barnes and Noble hardback classics. If you go the Barnes and Noble route, be sure to take you declaration of intent or homeschool ID to the store and pick up an Educator’s Discount Card that will save you 20%! Though I also really like the look and feel of Puffin Classics. Even Puffin paperbacks just have a better font and page feel than some of the other publishers.***

**** You can get a lot of the classics in e-book format for very cheaply or even free in some cases. I’m just a book lover than prefers reading an actual book.****

Preparation?!

This is more or less a rant. That is your warning.

The kids are watching Nick Jr. this morning and some commercial comes on. “Did you know half of all kids go to kindergarten unprepared?” Then this celebrity goes on to tell you how you, the coach, can prepare you child for Kindergarten. Isn’t kindergarten preparation for elementary school? It isn’t even mandatory (at least not here). So, let me get this straight. You (the general “you,” not you personally) send your kid to pre-K to prepare them for kindergarten. (Several levels of pre-K, in fact.) Then they go to kindergarten, which prepares them for elementary school. Elementary school then prepares them for junior high. Junior high prepares them for high school. High school prepares them for college. College prepares them for the real world.

Am I wrong in thinking that this is the real world? This is their life. Why can’t we just enjoy living and quite perpetually preparing for a future that just never arrives?

Kindergarten Math

Preschool homeschool has been going well. The kids love it! The Moose read her first book the other day, so that was exciting for us all! It did take her 20 minutes to read a little Bob Book, but she persevered and was very proud of herself! I informed her Bob Books were for kids to read. Moms and Dads cannot read Bob Books to kids. So, when she tried to quit a few pages in and suggested I finish, I had to remind her I couldn’t do it. She just couldn’t not finish the book. (What a cliffhanger that would have been!) I’m proud of her.

Science has been going well. It has been far too hot to go to the zoo, so we’ve turned our focus to sea creatures and plan to visit the aquarium in a week or two. Worman loved shark week. The Moose decided she isn’t a fan of sharks.

I finally decided on a math! We decided on Singapore Math. (Yeah, we! Me and that mouse in my pocket.) I opted to go with Essential Math instead of Earlybird Math. It goes with my life mantra of “try simple first.” I’ll let you know how it works out. We won’t be starting mid to late September on the math. I did break out a math workbook a few days ago, just to see what the kids have picked up via osmosis. To my complete surprise, not only can they count to the teens, but they can identify all the written numbers one through nine. Not sure where they picked up that one! They kind of thought the little preschool math workbook I picked up was silly. They were like, “Mom, we KNOW this stuff!”

And just so you know, I’m just updated on our homeschool progress, not bragging on the goblins. I’m often asked if I think my children are above average or “gifted.” I don’t. I think they are average kids. Not that I think my children are dumb or dullards. I just think they are average. I think they are awesome and each talented in their own way. I think they are cool. It is my assumption that all parents think their children are cool and awesome. I think most moms would say their kids are spiffy. But I think we can all agree most kids are average. Thus it being the average.

Preschool

We officially started “Homeschool Preschool” a couple weeks ago. I had planned on waiting to do anything “formal” for another year, but the kids were begging me. (When can we learn to read? When can we do that book? When can we have school? Will you teach me?)

I had read A Well Trained Mind and decided we’d go that route. It makes the most sense to me. It seems the most compatible to my education philosophy and the easiest classical route to implement. Of course, the book doesn’t have you doing any “formal” education until the kids are 6. Not that you don’t teach them anything before then, but that learning and teaching before then is more “informal” and unstructured.

Well, the Goblets (term coined by The Pastor’s 5th grade class) were itching for something- anything- structured. So, I decided to start small. Our goal for the summer is for them (the two bigger ones) to learn to read. We also decided to get started on science, because they are EXTREMELY interested in scientific matters.

For reading, I snagged The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading on Amazon. It is a complete reading program. The Goblets seem to like it. The lessons are very short and each reviews the lesson before.  The Princess wanted to do the whole book in one day so she could commence with the reading. However, I told her we should take it slow. So, we have been making letter pillows each day to go with the letter of the day.  The kids love that. Imogene has also been writing her letters, though the book doesn’t call for that. (I may need to go ahead and get her a handwriting book since she is wanting to go that route.)

For science, I decided it was the perfect time to begin Zoology. Why zoology? Well, it is first in The Well Trained Mind and we did buy The Princess zoo passes for her birthday! We’ve been following The Kingfisher First Encyclopedia of Animals, covering one topic a week. We started broad and we’ll move to more specific topics later. (Last week we covered habitats. Next week we’ll cover defense mechanisms.) We supplement each week with books from the library. And, of course, we visit the zoo weekly to look into our topic further and in person. The kids are really enjoying it. I’m really excited to see them loving learning so much.

Examining a baby elephant statue.

Getting up close and personal with the animals.

Loving his letter E pillow.