Saturday, June 14, 2014

We're Going Back to School! (First Grade & PreK curriculum choices for 2014-2015)

Starting on Monday, we're launching into our school year for 2014-2015. Yes, it's only June, but we have been on "break" for the last two months (friends and family visits, and traveling, took up our time) and we're going to be taking a month-long vacation to the States at the end of August (our first trip back in two years!). We are itching to have some routine back in our lives, and want to get started well before we spend another month traveling.

This will be our second year homeschooling. I have a Preschooler (she'll be five in November) and a First Grader. I'm going to try to homeschool on a 4-day schedule, taking off one morning for myself (if I can find a daytime babysitter, which is the HARDEST job position to fill). 

Needless to say, I feel like I've been working non-stop to get things ready before next week. I've been ordering materials, browsing Pinterest, printing worksheets, and trying to figure out our daily/weekly schedule. Even with all the planning I've done, I've not done nearly as much as I did last year. The past year was our first year officially homeschooling, and I learned a few things - one of which was to calm the heck down. I don't have to plan out every single lesson for every. single. subject. (See: my science curriculum last year. Oy.) And my kids learn an amazing amount by just soaking up the things around them: nature, library books, educational shows and computer games, and play.

So this year is hopefully going to be a bit more laid back as far as curriculum goes. We are eclectic homeschoolers... we mix a little bit of unschooling, interest-led learning, and classical philosophy and do what works well for each of us as individual learners. We're not doing a science curriculum. We're not doing spelling. Or a formal reading program. We are going to concentrate on reading/language arts/writing and math as our core, with lots of room to study everything else we find interesting: history, art, science, geography, religious, and special project work.

One other change that I'm going to try and implement this year are workboxes. Some homeschoolers go workbox crazy, but we are doing workbox *lite* (if that's a thing.). We struggled with finding a good routine last year, which in turn led to problems with my eldest knowing what was expected of her. This year, she'll have daily work to be completed before any afternoon activities (read: fun) can be done. I'll also be preparing work for my Preschooler, but this will be very informal and fun. She needs a fun year. Every day, they'll find something in their daily work, handwriting, and math boxes. History will be two days a week, and art, science, and religious education one day a week. 

So here's what we're going to be using this year:

Daily Work

The first thing in our workboxes will be a daily worksheet. I bought the "1st Grade Morning Workbook" from Second Story Window for my First Grader, and she'll just have a one-sided page to do each morning. I thought this would be a great way to cover several things in small increments (reading, writing, math, and spelling) over the course of the year.

For my preschooler, I will use coloring pages, simple worksheets, or activities in her "daily work" drawer. She hates sitting and doing workbooks, so this will have to be something fun to start her school day.


In our handwriting drawer will be one page of handwriting work. For my first grader, this will be a page from her Getty Dubay workbook. She does not enjoy writing things out by hand, and complains about her hand getting tired. She also continues to make mistakes with some letters and numbers. So, this is something that I want to work on despite her predicted protests. I know handwriting will become easier as she grows older, so I'm fine with her doing just one page per day. We'll work on italics for a while, and when that seems to be better, I'll let her start learning cursive (which she is very interested in). 

My preschooler will also have a daily letter- or number-tracing page to complete. And because she is opposed to workbooks, she'll have the option of completing the page with a pencil/crayon, or using her markers/dry-erase board or a gel bag to practice her writing. There are lots of free handwriting pages online, and I might use these from Confessions of a Homeschooler


My eldest is a year or two ahead in math. It seems to come easily to her, and she enjoys it, so we're following her lead. She's finishing up her Math Skills Grade 2 workbook, and will be starting Teaching Textbooks Math 3 in the next week or two. TT3 is a computer-based curriculum that needs little-to-no help from parents (yay!). She is very excited about doing math on the computer and loved the demo lessons that we tried before buying. We'll see how well she does with the third grade curriculum, and will do some first/second grade review if needed.

While my eldest is on the computer, I'm going to be doing some simple, fun math games with my preschooler. She thrives with one-on-one time, and we ordered some manipulatives for our core math work (counting bears, pattern blocks, scale, clock, money, etc.). I also bought her the Math Skills K workbook in case she comes around to workbooks by the end of the year. It is very colorful with minimal work on each page, so I think she might come around to working on one page every day alongside me (and with plenty of manipulatives within reach).


I've debated about this a lot, but I think we're going to start over with Story of the World Volume 1. We started this last year, and have made it about half-way through. The girls seem to have enjoyed it and we've taken our time studying about the ancient peoples in the chapters we've read. However, there is so much to do with Story of the World that I think I'd like to start it over again and really dig in this year. I will be using this as the spine of our homeschool. Story of the World can be used for narration, dictation, copy-work, vocabulary, geography, social studies, music, art, read-alouds, and history. Almost all of this is spelled-out in the Activity Guide, and I'd like to make better use of it this year. What can it hurt to study the Ancients again? My preschooler is in love with ancient Egypt, and I'm sure she won't mind.

I'm also going to be ordering the audio cds so that I can upload them onto my phone and computer and play them during snack time, rest time, or travel in the van. I'm hoping this will also help the girls to soak up even more of the information.


We're not using a science curriculum this year, but that doesn't mean we're not going to study science. We're going to be utilizing Brain Pop and Brain Pop Junior (can't say enough good things about these websites! worth every penny!). They have a science section loaded with videos, activities, vocabulary, book suggestions, and games for a whole slew of subjects aligned with Common Core (if you're worried about that sort of thing....). We'll be going through the videos one by one, completing the activities and checking out corresponding books from the library.

We'll also continue to fill our home with all things science - nature study, science toys (Snap Circuits, science experiment kits), books, and educational tv shows like the Magic School Bus and Cosmos (if you haven't watched Cosmos with your children, you should). My kids have learned an amazing amount from these things already (my 6-year-old can tell you about DNA, for instance), so we'll just continue to see where our interest leads.


Grammar has become such a regular part of our lunch time that the girls hardly even know they're "learning grammar." I started First Language Lessons: Level 1 towards the end of the year and will definitely keep working through the levels. It is very repetitive, but for my young kids, that's okay. Each lesson takes about 5-10 minutes and I go through one lesson while the girls are finishing up their lunch. My 4-year-old can tell you the definition of a noun and my 6-year-old is learning about proper sentence form, capitalization, proper and common nouns, and narration. And that's good enough for me.


We hardly did any arts and crafts last year, and I want to change that. Not only do I want my girls to get their hands a little dirty, but I want them to learn about some famous artists, and technique. That's where Home Art Studio comes in. I picked up the Kindergarten, First Grade, and Second Grade DVDS at a steal from Homeschool Buyer's Co-op. These videos were made by an art teacher who wanted to bring age-appropriate art classes into the home. My girls are SO excited about these, and we'll be doing one project each week.

Religious Education

We don't have a Unitarian Universalist church here, and have not found much of a religious community for ourselves or our children. I've become involved in a local Zen Buddhist temple, and have made friends with several priests, and am very grateful that my children have become involved as well. They enjoy going to the temple with me and feel very comfortable there. But in one year, we'll be moving back to the US, and our kids are going to need to learn a bit more about Christianity. I also want them to develop more spiritual awareness and their own relationship with God.

I purchased the most progressive, liberal, non-creedal Christian curriculum I could find, from where else but... Progressive Christianity. I'm going to try to do one lesson a week and see how it goes. I'll definitely be writing a review of this after we've jumped into it. If you'd like to see a list of lessons, go here.

Yay for school!

I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am to begin school on Monday. We have long-awaited dentist appointments that morning, but I'm not letting that stop us. Our appointments are early in the morning, and when we get back home, to school we'll go!

If you are homeschooling, when will you be starting your next school year? Have you used any of these books or curriculum? I'd love to hear what you're doing in your homeschool. 

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