Another year has come and (almost) gone in our homeschool. We homeschool year round here at Lighthouse Christian Academy so in some ways it feels like we’re never really done for the year. We do take a short break in August to give us all a breather as sometimes you need a little time away from the daily schedule to regroup and refocus.
So lets talk 1st grade curricula. I gave an extensive list as our school year was about to begin on what resources we would be using, what subjects and grade levels we were covering and some extras like unit studies and field trips. Here’s the list of curricula to refresh your memories:
Bible The Picture Smart Bible, Old Testament
K5 Bible Truths*
Math Math U See, Alpha
Challenging World Problems, Book 1
Reading All About Reading, Level 2
Language Arts 1st Language Lessons of the Well Trained Mind, Level 1
Draw Then Write
Spelling All About Spelling, Level 1
Handwriting A Reason For Handwriting, Level K
Science Berean Builders, In The Beginning*
Evan Moor Science Books
History Story of the World, Volume 1*
Geography Geomatters, Galloping the Globe
Where on the Earth is Carmen Sandiego DVDs
Music Beethoven Who
Art Artistic Pursuits
Social Studies Me and My World*
Spanish Duo Lingo
Phys Ed Taekwondo
It is a lot and we got most of it done! I made some changes and some things were left until our low key summer months (now). I’ll go ahead and start with All About Reading since I did some previous blog posts on how this went. I love, love, LOVE AAR….but we dropped it! Ha! Why you might ask. Well it’s as simple as this…our son outgrew it. Quickly. He went through level 2 in one month. One month! I then started looking at the words for the last two levels and realized that Creative Kid knew all these words and then some. I found a couple of quick reading level quizzes online and realized he was reading at somewhere between a 4th and 6th grade level, well beyond the instructional levels of AAR.
I was still a little hesitant to drop reading as an instructional subject as I was afraid he would miss learning ‘the rules’ of English so to speak and so I asked some gifted children groups I am in what they would do in this situation. They all whole-heartedly agreed that I should drop AAR and focus instead on AAS as he could get all of the same rules in AAS as in AAR. So that’s what we did and that brings me to AAS.
We started out All About Spelling at the beginning of our school year and after a couple of bumpy weeks navigating how to break down words into individual sounds and from there into letters, Creative Kid took off. We finished level one around Christmas time. I then picked up level 2 and we finished that in another 3-4 months. I then picked up level 3 but decided to wait until 2nd grade to start it and just do periodic reviews in the meantime.
I really cannot say enough good things about All About Learning Press. Yes it’s a little pricey to start up, but it simply works. I spent about half of the price of start up trying various easy, parent-led reading instructional books and aids that simply did not work for my son…they did not keep his interest. That’s money that was truly wasted, let alone the time and frustration. I urge you to not focus on supposed ‘cheap and easy’ methods and instead think of this as an investment in the foundation of your child’s education because that is truly what it is…it’s a firm foundation that everything else is built on. If you don’t have good reading and spelling skills you are going to struggle everywhere else. Oh and please don’t focus on sight words first! The American education system has this so wrong right now to focus on memorization over real learning of phonics. ?♀️
Moving on through my list of curricula, I had listed two different things for bible curricula. One of them was a hold over from kindergarten and in the end I decided not to use it. It just wasn’t a good fit for us and I had to let go of the fact that I had paid so much money for it which for me is frustrating. Instead we focused on The Picture Smart Bible Old Testament curriculum for this year. Creative Kid is not really a kid who likes to color and that showed, but he did learn using it regardless. I had purchased the curriculum as a bundle and we will be doing the New Testament next year.
In hindsight I should have known better to get something that was coloring based, but I can’t say it is a bad curriculum….just not the most ideal for my kid. After we got done with the program for this year, we then read through the Old Testament in The Action Bible which helped reinforce some of the stories we had previously covered in The Picture Smart Bible. We finished that at the end of May and have been doing a book of devotions each day during our summer school sessions. I chose a devotional that includes God and science called, Indescribable.
Math has been a source of frustration to me this year. CK seems to be less focused doing Math and after a while I attributed it to using Math U See and the blocks being more distracting than helpful. In retrospect I’m not certain if that is the problem or if it’s the mastery method in general. I love the mastery idea of learning one area really well (which can be repetitive) before moving on and not really having to re-cover the same topics over and over again. I like doing things once, doing them right and moving on and never having to go back. I hate “touching things twice” so to speak. But I had to start thinking in terms of what works for CK and not what works for me.
We did eventually finish MUS Alpha, but at one point we did have to take a break and go over some math facts some more because what I thought he had learned, he hadn’t. I worry that the mastery approach with more of a ‘drill and kill’ method of memorizing math facts, as some people call it, is actually boring my child to tears and that’s why he wants to goof off/lose focus. To that end we are going to be trying out a couple of additional math curricula along side Math U See Beta through this next year and we’ll see if different educational approaches serves to be the ticket to fix the focus issues.
Language Arts is another area where we will be making some changes. I chose 1st Language Lessons based on a lot of recommendations on homeschool groups. And while it is easy and straight forward, it is very repetitive and boring. Do you see a pattern here? My son does not do repetitive and boring well. It’s one of the reasons he would not be doing as well in public school because I know he would get bored and when he is bored he acts out.
None the less we finished it and he has a basic understanding of nouns and verbs. However we did skip some things that required lots of handwriting (CK’s least favorite subject) and things that were just too repetitive. My son got to the point where I think if he had to give the definition of a noun one more time, I was going to have a serious revolt on my hands. He actually felt insulted after a while that I was asking him to recite the definition…yet again.
We also went through a Draw Then Write book, which is pretty straight forward….you draw…then write about what you drew. My little guy loves drawing so I thought this would be a good way to sneak in a little extra handwriting and sentence practice without it being so overbearing. There are 3 different levels of writing ability to choose from and during the course of the year we moved from the first level of just picking a word out of a word bank to answering basic questions about the figure they had him draw. I am sure I will pick up more of this style of workbook for a little fun and sneaky practice in the future. ?
We continued using A Reason for Handwriting this year. CK hates handwriting…because it’s repetitive and boring of course! Basically anything that requires practice of something he thinks he already knows gets on his nerves. His handwriting is improving, but not as consistently as I would like as it depends on his mood. He can write really well though if he wants to….the trick is getting him to want to. He has dropped most reversals in letters but still has some 2/5 confusion when writing his numbers. At this point I think he knows them if he thinks about it, but he is not confident that he will get it right and insists on looking for another 2 or 5 on his paper to make sure he wrote it right. The A Reason For series is not a ton of handwriting…about a half of a page per day and is definitely Christian as they are copying/writing scriptures. I like it and he would hate any handwriting curriculum so we’re sticking with it.?
Next up is science. We had a main science curriculum, but also did some unit studies from using some left over Evan Moor workbooks that we never got around to the year before. So my husband taught the main curriculum 2-3x per week in the evenings and weekends while I finished up my Evan Moor books. I had bought them so I wanted to complete them. Those books are better suited for a classroom setting but I still felt CK got a lot out of them. Richard seemed to do well with teaching the Science in the…series from Dr. Jay Wile. The experiments were fun and easy to do with basic things that for the most part you will probably already have lying around your house. We definitely recommend this science curriculum for these younger years. Our little guy learned SO much from this curriculum and it really seems to be sticking as he will bring up things later and make connections that really show he understood and absorbed the information.
We took Story of the World volume 1 and really dove into it for history. I found some great resources online for planning out the weeks for all the Story of the World books and I basically used that as a starting point and added in my special activities and additional books. I love the story format of this curriculum and the resource lists they give you to go along with each chapter. Be sure to buy at least one of the listed encyclopedias to go along with this curriculum.
We did a world geography curriculum from Geomatters called Galloping the Globe. They have basically gathered several different books and materials (some theirs, some not) and created a curriculum to go along with those resources. This included things like a book of recipes from a bunch of countries and stories from missionaries. We would focus on one country for the week and try to do a craft or a recipe from that country at the end of each week. Did we memorize where things were located? No. Did he get a lot of exposure to different types of culture and some general memory of location? Yes. More in depth studies will come in the future, I am sure, but for now this was a great curriculum to get our feet in the geography waters and make it more than just about positions on a globe.
Music….what can I say about the music program I chose? We didn’t do much of it. The curriculum seemed to be a little bit too old for him as well as just wasn’t interesting enough to him at his age. We listened to some of the pieces, but the detailed discussion of music terms was just not a good thing for him to learn at this age. We have purchased a digital piano and I have gotten some books that we were going to start him on. I had hoped to start at the beginning of this calendar year but have put it off for a while as I am not sure if that’s the way to go as I have heard of some great free online resources that might be a better fit.
We are currently working through the art curriculum I purchased from Artistic Pursuits. I put it off until summer thinking it is a great fun activity to focus on when we have less book work to do. So far he likes it and has definite opinions on what he likes and doesn’t like when it comes to both artistic styles and media. He will never be an impressionist painter, let me tell you!
We finished off a social studies workbook we had called Me and My World. It gave him some knowledge of the world around him, but was definitely more geared towards a classroom setting. I will be more mindful of that when picking out workbooks in the future. For this book, we simply skipped activities that he couldn’t do without other students and ones I could adapt to do with him, we did together.
Creative Kid had expressed interest in learning Spanish so we downloaded DuoLingo. He did a bit of it, but it wasn’t high on my priority list at this age so when things got busy it was definitely the first thing to scratch off the list. If you have been reading this blog for a while you know that we were building a house last year and even after we moved in there was (and still is) a lot to do, so this was one of the extras that just wasn’t necessary to accomplish this year.
Finally when it comes to PE, his main activity has been Taekwondo. When he started this school year he was in an orange belt on the little kids side of our ATA facility. At the beginning of this calendar year he switched to the big kid’s side and there has definitely been challenges in going from one of the oldest kids in the younger class to one of the youngest kids in the older class. He has focus issues in general so add in a lot more kids and starting to do sparring and it just meant a rough transition. This past week he received his purple belt, so he’s went up approximately 6 belt levels in the last year. He’s getting better with his focus and sometimes I have to remind myself of where he came from when I get frustrated with his behavior.
I’m also happy to say that CK finally got down swimming on his own, without any flotation devices, near the beginning of this school year! We were living in the temporary apartment that had a swimming pool for most of last year and that meant we got to go swimming way more often than we normally would. CK had a specific huge float that he wanted to buy near the beginning of the season last year. We told him the only way we would buy it is if he got to the point where we were comfortable that if he fell off the float in the deep end that he would have the swimming skills to swim to safety and not panic.
He’s also been told that we won’t get a pool at the new house until we are confident in his swimming ability. The pool float sitting there in the box seemed to be good motivation and then we worked with him to slowly get rid of all of his “safety crutches” and get him more confident in his ability to swim on his own and after a few months it finally paid off! I was worried that after not swimming over the winter months that he would regress, but after about 5 minutes in a pool at a hotel this spring he found his swimming skills and was good to go! We are so proud of him!
We also did a variety of unit studies which included everything from Charlotte’s Web to Ohio history to dinosaurs. We had planned a lot of field trips and only actually accomplished a couple because the building of our house, weather, etc. This next year I am hoping to make field trips a higher priority.
So that’s it! That’s how our school year curriculum this past year went. I already have stacks and stacks for next year and can’t wait to do a preview of 2nd grade. I’m really looking forward to starting out a school year at our planned time and without so many disruptions. This past yeare was so disjointed because of the build and moving and setting up a new house that I felt like my planning was closer to flying by the seat of my pants than I am comfortable with even though in the end we got most stuff completed. I even bought a new planner this year that I can’t wait to use and do a review on! So be looking for those posts in the coming months.
Until next time…Thanks for reading!