First Day Flop

I had great plans for our first day of school etched in my notebook. It was going to be a day of introductions to the vigorous first grade curriculum that I compiled. And, in my wildest dreams, it was going to flow right into Day 2, when we would get right down to work for the next 180 days.

As the day progressed, I could tell that my plans were going by the way-side. We stayed at the fair longer than I had anticipated, the baby needed to be nursed (over and over again), I had to go to the grocery store, and time just wasn’t on my side. I was feeling defeated. I was feeling like this was a First Day Flop. And then, I turned around and was pleasantly surprised at the way my plans were blown out of the water.

We enjoyed our annual “First Day of School Fieldtrip” by cheering on our favorite farmer at The Grange Fair Swine Competition.

Then, Vivienne went up in the ferris wheel, and I watched her from below. Two little pony-tails, bobbing way above the earth; she was higher than she’d ever been before, looking over tree tops and watching people mill about below. A book could never have taught her about that thrill, or about that perspective.

My sister Erin was visiting for the week, and, while I scurried around the grocery store, she took Viv under her wing.

First, they made paper chains and paper lanterns to decorate the school room.

Then they went out in the canoe and paddled around our pond, looking for fresh water wonders. We have a bucket full of snails and such to meet.

Then, they sat on the swing and Vivienne read aloud the first chapter in the beloved “B is for Betsy”.

Erin helped to create a better first day of school than I could ever dream up. In doing so, she reminded me how beautiful homeschooling can be.

Posted in First Grade, Homeschooling | 3 Comments

First Grade Curriculum

A friend of mine recently asked about our choices for First Grade curriculum. I didn’t have a chance to go through the list with her yet, so I thought I’d gather all my thoughts and links here and share them with you, too!

DISCLAIMER: From one curriculum-junkie to another-possible-curriculum junkie: if you are happy with your curriculum choices, you may not double-guess yourself or change your mind! Just move fearlessly into the future! I simply offer this list to those who are still looking for a few good suggestions. I’ve greatly benefited from other bloggers’ suggestions, and want to return the favor.

So, here’s what we have on our docket:

BIBLE: Because I’m using Ann Ward’s classic Learning at Home with Lia this year, we’ll be learning the Bible lessons all together and singing related hymns and songs (from Wee Sing Bible Songs as well as our local church’s weekly songs). This is also the first year in which Vivienne will begin her own personal devotional time; I’m hoping to encourage her in the daily enjoyment of reading from the Bible and praying.

LIFE SKILLS + ART: Again, Ann Ward offers such fantastic suggestions that we’ll be learning these sections together: kitchen skills, stewardship, and community service are just a few of the activities that Ward covers. She also includes seasonal and simple art suggestions.

MATH: Saxon 2. We just love us some Saxon. It’s simple, straight-forward, and has plenty of opportunity for review. Viv loves the logic questions that show up regularly (in patterns, word problems, etc.). I love the manipulatives. And my dear math-whiz of a friend highly approves of the teaching approach, which is all I need to know.

P.E.: Since she was three, Vivienne has loved taking dance lessons with a local Worship Dance studio. She’ll continue in the Fall. Also, we’ll be following Ann Ward’s P.E. suggestions and checking out CrossFit Kids for ideas. (To get this mamma back in shape!)

HISTORY: Here we go! This year, we embark on our adventure through Susan Wise Bauer’s The Story of the World. I keep staring at the spines of Volume 1: Ancient Times and the Activity Book, which are just waiting to be loved and read. I’m really hoping to bring you along on our journey and offer lots of suggestions and feedback about the curriculum.

SPELLING: I just ordered Level 1 from All About Spelling. I’ve heard way too many good things to pass this one up…

WRITING: I AM SO EXCITED to begin Susan Wise Bauer’s Writing With Ease curriculum; it’s full of beautiful selections for copy-work and simple building blocks so that someday we can all enjoy a glimpse of Vivienne’s fantastic imagination and interesting thoughts. 😉

SCIENCE: Again, we’ll be piggy-backing off of the science topics in Learning at Home, to explore astronomy and biology in more depth throughout the school year. I’ve written before about our natural interests in science, so we’ll just be using our good questions, the local library, and the Internet to explore and learn.

READING: Reading is another very natural subject around here. I feel pretty confident pulling resources from the likes of Sonlight Curriculum, etc. I’ll also have Viv read aloud to me from the Rod and Staff Pathway readers. (Note: Viv completed the first grade Veritas Press Phonics Museum last year, so she’s reading pretty confidently. If she were coming into the Fall on a first grade reading level, I’d definitely do the Phonics Museum. It was aggressive, thorough, and interesting! AND, from what I can tell, the curriculum put her in a fantastic place to begin All About Spelling with confidence. I’ll let ya know…)

MUSIC: Vivienne will happily take her second year of piano lessons with “The Best Piano Teacher in the WORLD” who uses a beautiful series called Keys for the Kingdom.


Posted in First Grade | 5 Comments

During the “school year”, we enjoy a Morning Circle Time at the breakfast table.

Typically, I read from a devotional book as the girls eat. Afterward, we find the date on the calendar, and do a couple of exercises that correspond with the girls’ readiness (i.e. we talk about the weather, make the date with coins, do some skip-counting together, etc.).

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how “identity determines biography“. Who we are – or, who we believe we are – informs our thoughts and behaviors. Thus, my passion to establish a firm foundation of biblical identity in our children.  I’ll be incorporating these couple of additions to our Morning Circle Time this year:

* Our Family Ways

We’ve loved learning the first 12 lessons in Clay Clarkson’s “Our 24 Family Ways“. We’ll save the second half of the curriculum for the Spring, but until then, we’ll review one of the 24 Family Ways every morning. I typed out each Family Way, wrote the corresponding memory verse on the backs, and laminated them. I’ll attach a velcro circle to each Way. Then, every morning, one of the girls will select an oval and attach it to our Circle Time bulletin board. We’ll look up the Scripture reference on the back, giving the girls an opportunity to navigate their way around the Bible. I’m looking forward to this regular review so that I can hide these virtues in my own heart.

* The Learning Parents’ Character Trait Cards

I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to review The Learning Parent’s Character Concepts for Preschoolers this year. (I’ll keep ya posted about how it works for us!) But I’ll tell you this much, I’ve looked over the curriculum and can’t wait to get started. We’ll spend four weeks on each character trait, according to the lesson plans provided by TLP. I laminated the Character Trait cards and will attach velcro circles to these as well so that we can begin each day reviewing that month’s character quality. We’ll hang the month’s card next to a colorful piece of paper, where we’ll attach stickers whenever we share examples of ways in which we grew (or didn’t, but realize we should’ve) in that quality.

If I remember, I’ll post a photo of our bulletin board when I get it all ready for the end of August! In the meantime, though, I just wanted to get these ideas out to you in case you’d like to include them in your own home.

Posted in First Grade, Our 24 Family Ways, Preschool | 1 Comment