Thursday, May 7, 2015

First grade curriculum plans

I've been planning and researching and organizing these past few months in preparation for our first year of official homeschooling.  Izzy (6) will begin first grade sometime this year and I finally feel like I'm getting a grip on the whats and hows of what I will teach her.

It may be a little early to post curriculum plans, but I have decided to begin Izzy's first grade year around July (only two months away!!) because we have baby girl #3 due in September.  I would like to get at least a month or two in before our whole schedule/routine is thrown off due to a newborn.  Also, because of said newborn, I have a lot of "bucket list" items that I would like to complete in the next few months:  decluttering, yard sale, general baby prep, etc, and I don't want my homeschool plans to be put on the backburner.  I'm just not a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of gal and I need a plan!  Plus, I tend to procrastinate and I just don't want to keep putting this off.


We're relying pretty heavily on Charlotte Mason's (CM) educational methods:  living books instead of textbooks to teach different subject areas, copywork in the place of spelling and grammar, narration instead of worksheets, and short lessons, just to name a few things.

So, here we go!


I've decided to rely on Ambleside Online (AO) as our spine curriculum.  Here is the link to their year one (aka first grade) booklist for each subject - history, literature, poetry, science, geography, etc.  I plan to use all of these books with one exception:  Trial and Triumph.  I do think we'll read it at some point but I'm just not sure I want to read it yet.  I'm thinking of waiting another year or two when Addy (4) will be a little older and we can read the book together as a family, maybe on Sunday evenings or something.


I plan to have Izzy do no more than 10 minutes of writing each day (CM is an advocate of short lessons).  She can write fairly well, but I still plan to start with her mastering the correct way to form each letter (for example, making sure she writes an "o" counterclockwise and not clockwise which she has a tendency to do).  After we go through the alphabet, I'll have her begin copying words and short sentences from the above readings.

Reading Instruction

We'll do 15 to 20 minutes of reading instruction each day.  At this point, she already knows the sounds each letter makes and we've done quite a bit of word-building using CM methods.  You can find a breakdown of those methods here.  She has learned pretty well how to sound out words.  My plan is to use the McGuffey readers, beginning with the primer, to continue with both phonics and learning to read by sight.

The McGuffey readers are in the public domain, so they can be found for free online.  Here is a link to the primer.  Also, the Eclectic Manual of Methods is invaluable for learning how to teach reading using the McGuffey readers (and for teaching math with Ray's Arithmetic which I'll mention below).


I've had a difficult time choosing a math spine, which seems silly because I have a math degree and I taught math in the public school system for five years.  However, there's a big difference between teaching 9th grade algebra and figuring out what and how to teach first grade math.

After much consideration, I've decided to use Ray's Arithmetic.  I like it because 1) it is that classical, tried-and-true method of teaching arithmetic, focusing on mental math and really understanding numbers, and 2) it's free!  You can find the Ray's New Primary Arithmetic book here.

Actually, the book isn't even used for the first year, unless the child masters the concepts quicker than anticipated (which I wouldn't be surprised if this will be the case with Izzy; she's pretty sharp when it comes to math...she must get that from her mother HA).  Like I mentioned above, the Eclectic Manual of Methods is a must for learning to teach math using Ray's Arithmetic.  AND the Ray's Arithmetic Yahoo group is also invaluable.  It has the whole plan for the first year.

I also plan to add in some living math books (great sites with lists of books here and here) and math-y games here and there.  My math pinterest page isn't much, but there are a few good games that I've pinned, so feel free to look!  We'll probably spend 10-15 minutes on math each day.

Foreign Language

I've decided on Spanish as our foreign language.  I really wanted to do French, but I'm much more familiar with Spanish, having taken it in high school and college, and it's just more practical living in the southern U.S.

At this age my goal is to introduce the language to the kiddos and have them learn some common phrases and vocabulary.  I'm thinking we'll shoot for about 10 minutes per day.

I'm not buying a Spanish curriculum at this point.  I searched around the AO forums and found a couple of sites on the internet that provide free resources for teaching Spanish to children.  One of them is the Salsa Videos, and here are some Salsa Teacher Support Materials and the support materials for teaching grades k-2 with the videos which I think will be necessary to implement this program.  I actually don't plan to use the videos at this point, but I'll definitely use the support materials because they contain a great deal of vocabulary and common phrases.

Someone on the forums also mentioned Spanishtown, which may prove useful as well.  I would also like to incorporate some illustrated children's Spanish literature (gotta search the library) and Spanish children's songs which I'm sure I can find on youtube.

Memory Work

I'm taking the suggestions at Charlotte Mason Help (CMH - scroll down to the Recitations section) for this area.  Izzy will learn and recite one Psalm, one passage of scripture, and one poem, as well as two hymns and two folk songs, per 12-week term.  I plan to set aside around 10 minutes each day for memory work/recitation.  I don't have my official selections yet (I'm not that organized at this point!), but when I do, I'll share them.

Picture Study

I'm again taking the suggestions from CMH for picture/artist study.  AO has a rotation of artists and prints to study each year, but I think it's important to expose young children to art that will capture their particular interests, developing an appreciation for fine art.  So, I'm going to be choosing different prints to study, rather than the ones listed on the AO website.  I'll choose one artist each term and we'll study six paintings by that artist - one every two weeks.  I haven't made my selections yet (see above), but again I'll share them when I do.

Hymn/Folk Song/Composer Study

And yet again, CMH for this one.  At this point I'm not going to use AO's song and composer rotations.  I like how CMH introduces the young'uns to the orchestra, the ballet, and the opera, so we'll plan on that.  And I'll be choosing the hymns and folks songs at least for this year.

I plan to do the picture, hymn, folk song, and composer studies on Fridays, rotating each week.  I'll play the composer selection at different times throughout the week, and I plan to include the hymns and folk songs during memory work, too, rotating them on different days.


Not quite sure about the painting part yet - CM advocates learning the dry-brush technique and I've played around with it, but I'm just not comfortable yet to teach it to a 6 year old.  So we'll plan to start with just plain ole' drawing lessons using the book Drawing With Children.  I should probably read this book's on my summer bucket list ;)

I would also love to incorporate some drawing drills that go along with this book which can be found here.  I'm wondering if we could do these during our morning time.

Nature Study

We'll plan to go on a nature walk once per week and keep a nature journal, recording and drawing birds, plants, and animals/insects.

We'll most likely take the journaling part kind of slow - maybe every other week or so in the beginning to get our feet wet.  We'll probably start this in the next few weeks.  As a result, I'll probably supplement a little with some nature/science books.  At this point I'm thinking of reading some of the Among the People series, probably during morning time.


Oh boy.  Here's where I'm kind of at a loss at this point.  I know I want to teach the girls to sew, but first I need to learn!  Of course, I could just learn right along with them...

Anyway, I would love to teach them all kinds of things, but again, we're going to take it slow and go with something I'm familiar with.  (Plus I'll have a newborn, know.)  We'll most likely spend the first term working on some cooking and baking skills (now that's what I know), and I'm thinking of doing some card making as well.

I know CM had her students working on the drawing/painting, nature study, and handicrafts every week, but I'm thinking of doing a Friday rotation, kind of like what Brandy explained on her blog, just so that we can get acclimated to all this new stuff.

Music Instruction

I haven't thought a whole lot about this area, but I would love to have the girls learn to play the piano.  I'll probably use CMH's suggestion of how to teach children to play the piano, starting with the use of a recorder.  I know this will need to be something done consistently, so I'm shooting for about 15 minutes, 4 or 5 days per week.

Whoo!!  Is that everything??  I hope so!  Sometime in the near future I'll share my plans as far as a schedule/routine for getting all this done.

Have you started planning your next homeschool year?


  1. You are a kindred spirit, Angela. I am already making plans for the 2015-2016 school year, too. I was just thinking yesterday that I should probably start printing next year's schedules, with some tweaks, of course, if need be. ;)

    1. Lol, sounds like it. I get a little gung-ho when it comes to planning and organizing because I actually really enjoy it. It's like a puzzle to figure out what and how and when. I used to be a teacher and that was one of my favorite parts - organizing the lessons, ha.

  2. Hi Angela, Debbie P (debbieinak) on Google + has some great Spanish book suggestions. Also, we use the Complete Book of Spanish (which was really inexpensive) and focus on one theme per month. For example, last month we did clothing. :)

    1. Thank you for the recommendations! I just looked up Debbie's site and I'm definitely going to have to take time to browse around. It looks like she has a lot of great resources as well as book suggestions. And I like your idea of focusing on a different theme per month - I didn't think of that. Thanks!

    2. And congratulations on Baby #3! :)

  3. An exciting year for you. All the best with your plans & your little addition.

  4. I'll be starting Year 1 with my 6yo in July too. :) We have a baby coming in November, so we'll at least get a term in before then, and plus, I like starting in July--it usually means we finish in April, which is SO nice. Your plans look great!

    1. Congratulations on your baby! I think I actually got the idea to start in July from your blog somewhere :) It's so hot and humid here by that time of year that we usually do most of the outside playing in the mornings and evenings, and stay inside in the afternoons. So, I figured that would be a good time to do lessons. And finishing in April sounds so lovely - just in time to enjoy the warm spring weather :)

  5. Congratulations on baby #3! My 5five-year old has been complaining about being bored, so I am thinking it is Time!! She doesn't turn 6 till December. And yes I started planning for next as well. Really looking into what Miss Mason has to say about Math. Very interesting that as a Math teacher you choose Ray's. Please write more, when you can.

    1. Thank you! I thought about waiting until after the baby was born to begin year one, but I can tell my 6 year old has been bored for awhile, too, so we'll get on it. Plus year one is so light anyway. And I've actually just started reading through CM's writings on math - your request is noted :)

    2. Yes please! I agree with Paola about the math post! ;)

  6. It was fun to see your book stack! I am planning Y9 also using AO and CMH. It is exciting to gather the books and make the schedule!

    1. It is exciting! I love to plan anyway. I've been working on our "schedule" which is really more of a routine, and plan to post that pretty soon. Y9, wow, that seems so far away!

  7. Your plan looks great Angela! Might I suggest Simply Charlotte Mason's Handicraft DVD's?! Our girls really enjoyed them. The Hand Sewing DVD was wonderful and really taught them many basics of sewing.

    Blessings to you in your new school year!