I’m so excited to get started with my shiny new 1st grade curriculum! I don’t homeschool year-round (Sweet Friends, I need a break from formal lessons!! Summer is my absolute favorite. Summer is life to me–and isn’t all of life learning? Maybe I’m technically an unschooler in the summer…). Anyway, for me, it’s back-to-school time–at least “formal,” homeschool (whatever that is–math with a side of pajamas, anyone?!)! And looking at all my new curriculum fresh from the box, it’s like that smell of fresh crayons and sharpened pencils from my childhood–all filled with so much promise and possibility! So as much as I love summer–I love back-to-school…And I love hearing what all my homeschool friends are using and planning for their new school year! In case you’re curious like me, here’s what I picked for my sweet first grade son–my homeschool curriculum 1st grade!
Check out my video if you’d prefer to see me showing and talking about my curriculum picks…
Saxon Math 2: I’ve been using Saxon Math in some way, shape, or form for most of the 15 years I’ve homeschooled. It is a great curriculum–especially for early elementary kiddos! (I actually use Teaching Textbooks with my high school daughter–here’s a post on that if you’re looking for a comparison.) This was my total “no-brainer,” choice…I already own the Teacher’s Manual, so I just purchased the Student Workbooks (which come with a fresh set of flash cards). It was a super economical, easy pick for me!
Why Saxon Math 2 for 1st grade? Well, my little guy is actually an older 1st grader, and he began using Saxon K when he was 5 and in Pre-K. Saxon K is very gentle–and I think perfect for preschool. So we worked through Saxon 1 in kindergarten, and are now ready to jump into Saxon 2 in 1st grade. It does move a bit faster than Saxon 1–and we may need to slow down to master addition and subtraction facts. But that’s okay! That’s the beauty of homeschooling!
We spent a lot of time in kindergarten working through a formal phonics program (Saxon Phonics K), which I used to teach all of my kiddos how to read. This year I wanted something a little less structured, but also something that still included phonics. I also really wanted a curriculum that incorporated excellent readers to build confidence and a love of reading. Sonlight Language Arts 1 picks up right where we left off in kindergarten…It starts with short vowel words (consonant-vowel-consonant *cvc* pattern) and builds from there. My little guy will be so excited to start reading the readers right away–I know it will be a big confidence boost!
A lot of the readers are books we already own (Dr. Seuss titles)–except the I Can Read It! series…I decided to purchase the entire series (3 books and a Word List book)–and they look great! The program utilizes those books for slightly more than the 1st half of the year.
I also love that basic grammar, copywork, spelling, and handwriting practice are all rolled into the schedule (which is completely planned out for you–I just adore an “open and go,” curriculum, anything to simplify life!)
Handwriting Without Tears (HWT) is a handwriting program Sonlight recommends, and I’ve used it for years! Very simple and affordable (I only use the workbook–no need for the teacher’s guide). **My son happens to be a lefty–if you’ve got one too, here are some tips I’ve learned to help them with handwriting!**
The Rest is Icing on the Cake…
I’m a huge believer that your homeschool should primarily focus on Reading, Writing, Math, and Jesus in the early years…everything else is icing on the cake! So please don’t get stressed out about what history or science to use! Kids are naturally very curious and interested in subjects that fall into history or science categories–these are probably already part of the rhythm of your home and life!
My son is obsessed with learning about all things bugs, lizards, dinosaurs, and birds–and I’m guessing he is not the only 7 year old into all things nature! He regularly watches shows and picks up library books about these topics. I cannot even tell you how many field guides we have at our house!
So my point is this–feel free to follow your child’s lead in these areas. And if you’re teaching multiple-ages, please consider exploring a common topic or time period! Honestly, a unit study approach is a great way to keep your sanity if you’re teaching several kids!
But this year I’m not having to teach multiple kids! My freshman daughter will be working on her History lessons independently, and my 4 year old twins only jump into history and science lessons occasionally. So I decided to take advantage of this season and try Sonlight B: Intro to World History with my son.
I used Sonlight years ago, but ultimately switched over to Tapestry of Grace because I felt like it was easier and more economical for teaching 3 kiddos at one time. Now, I know many people use Sonlight with more than 1 child–and there are definitely ways to make it more affordable. But I haven’t tried it for a few years, and I’m excited to give it another go!
In my experience, many of the books can be found at the library or purchased from Amazon for less than the Sonlight (or Tapestry of Grace) prices. So instead of buying the entire set of books, I like to buy the Instructor’s Guide, and then spend time looking to see if my library has the books and comparing prices from various sources (usually I find the best deal with Amazon–plus I have Prime, so shipping is always fast and free).
I did go ahead and purchase one book in addition to the Instructor’s Guide: The Usborne Time Traveler sounded too good–had to add it to my book collection! And I’m glad I did–the pictures and details have already captivated my son! (Plus the idea of being a time traveler is pretty fun!)
**I created a page in my Homeschool Long-Range Planner (Homeschool at-a-Glance), which has a page for tracking books! It’s in my Free Subscriber Resource Library. You can also sign-up and download it here!)
And my goal is to simply introduce topics, so that they become like little pegs or hooks in the mind. Later, when those History topics are revisited–my son will have a place in his mind to hang the new information. We are forming the “prior knowledge,” that future lessons will attach to and build from later.
Apologia & The Usborne Book of Science Activities Volume 1 and 2
As I said, my son already has a huge passion for science and nature, so I typically like to follow his lead at this age. We already own several titles from the Exploring Creation series from Apologia, and so I plan to use them very informally throughout the year. For example, in the winter–we set up bird feeders and do some bird watching from the warmth of our living room. So we’ll take a few weeks to study birds in-depth from the Apologia book, Exploring Creation with Zoology 1: Flying Animals of the Fifth Day.
My son really wants to do more experiments this year, and I noticed that Sonlight’s Science Program B includes the Usborne Book of Science Activities Volume 1 ( Program A includes Volume 2). I decided just to grab these two books and use them for weekly science experiments. We already tried some over the summer, and they were a huge hit–very simple, engaging, and easy to modify!
In addition to weekly science experiments, my goal is to take a weekly nature walk (which isn’t so easy in Kansas come January–but we’ll try)!
Treasure This Time
I’m super thankful that God has given me a “second chance,” of sorts to homeschool again…My three oldest children are very close in age, and we thought our family was complete…Until my little guy (the one now going into 1st grade) came along after an 8 year gap! My oldest son just graduated from high school in the spring…It certainly puts into perspective that the time goes by fast…Like that old saying, “The days are long, but the years are short…” So hold onto your sweet little people for as long as you can–and keep school as simple and joyful as possible!
Happy First Grade! You’ve got this!!
I’d love to hear what curriculum you’re using this year! I know other mom’s will be blessed to learn from you too–so feel free to share in the comments below!