Saturday, April 2, 2011

First Grade curriculum choices

I don't know how many of you will actually care what we chose, but I wanted to put it out there for you just in case. Even if it helps just one or two on their decisions, its totally worth it!! It's been a very LONG and difficult process to make these decisions. Mostly because Tyler is advanced in several subjects (math & reading) and in others we'll just be starting for the first time as he enters 1st grade (okay, now that I type that out I'm a little sad and amazed that my oldest is entering 1st grade! WOW!!!). So, as much as I'd like to go with a single curriculum (for ease on me & planning purposes), it’s much more cost effective for me to use several different ones. There are so many options out there, which only contribute to my confusion & stress level when trying to choose the “BEST” curriculum for us. But, nevertheless, I made it through and I’m pleased with our choices.

Now, I have included links to each of them. Most of them I am getting from Timberdoodle for several reasons. 1) they have flat rate shipping of $4.75, no matter the size of order! 2) they are offering FREE shipping on orders over $120 (which could likely be me this time!) 3) you earn “Doodle Dollar” points, which help you with future purchases!! WIN-WIN!!!

I must also say that I decided on several of these based on recommendations from a friend of mine, Crystal. You can follow her blog (she’s much better at posting than I am) here. She is on several different curriculum review groups & does quite a few reading reviews. She has been a GREAT resource to me this year and I’m grateful she has more time than to do some of the research I could not. However…I didn’t choose the same things she did just because we’re friends. I thought they were GREAT choices & would be a great and natural fit for us this year. (I will write some of my observations about our first year of schooling in another post.) So, without further ado, here are our choices!

Handwriting – This year has been a real struggle for us in the area of handwriting. Since he attended a GREAT preschool program, he came into K already knowing how to write his first & last name, the entire alphabet along with their sounds, some blends, counting 1-100 and MORE!!! When I began researching school curriculum last year, frankly I didn’t know where to start. So, I just went with a book & quickly realized that one was not for us. Then, I just moved on to printing things from the internet to get him writing. We soon realized he HATED writing!! He complains about it daily. So, this year I set out to find something that would give him purpose. He needs to have a reason to write what he’s writing. Which is why I am absolutely in LOVE with the A Reason for Writing series!!! We don’t need to do the K book, so we’re starting with book A/1st grade. Not only are they reasonably priced, the Teacher’s guide is too & works for all 6 grades!!! WOO HOO!!!! (I know this is getting long, but trust me it’s worth it!) The reason I love this series is because it incorporates Scripture with their weekly handwriting lessons! Then, they give them something practical to do with it. It’s wonderful!!! You can find a sample lesson here. Check it out!!!

Geography Tyler has always enjoyed going places. He always wants to know the names of streets, cities, highways, etc. A couple years ago, while riding in my parent’s car, he noticed the polar directions were on their display. He began asking what they stood for. My dad told him about North, South, East & West and then they began naming what direction they were going each time they turned. This continued when he got in our car, which did not have a display. Amazingly he was still correct! So, I knew this year we needed something to help him read maps, know his directions, etc. I began looking at a series by Evan-Moor. The Beginning Geography is what I saw and I immediately loved it! But, as this year progressed I realized that might be a little too simple for him & he would get bored too quickly. So, we’ve decided to move up to Daily Geography. We’re also going to get the Beginner’s World Atlas, so he can begin seeing where things are in the world. I like this series because the maps are reproducible!!! That’s a homeschoolers dream! I’m so excited to get started on this series with him. You can also check out sample lessons for Beginning Geography here & Daily Geography here.

Science – this is Tyler’s absolute FAVORITE subject!!! Mine – not so much! ;) But, we do what interests our kids, right?! All I know is that when it comes to dissecting things – he’s on his own! (Or I’ll find him a tutor! LOL) We did a few things this year in science, however, we both need more guidance and I think this series is going to give us just that. He has been very interested in space, stars, astronomy-type things this year and wants to know more than I can give him. So, we’re going with Apologia’s The Young Explorer Series, Exploring Creation with Astronomy. We’ll also use the accompanying Junior notebooking journal (coming this summer). My friend Crystal is also going to use this for her oldest and I thought maybe I should really look into it. I have seen them at our local Christian bookstore and browsed through them, but didn’t really think much of it until I saw she also liked it. That gave me more motivation & confidence in my original thought/choice. I showed him this series and I thought he was going to come unglued he was so excited!! My parents & grandparents both have telescopes – so he is pumped and ready (and so am I)!!!!

Math – Okay, so this was my MOST difficult decision. Tyler has always liked numbers. Before we even started homeschooling last August, he was adding things in his head & sorting things into groups to add them (& essentially multiply them too). I was amazed and knew that if we could teach him how to do it on paper he’d just take off. And, well…I was right!! He picked up addition in no time & then we moved onto subtraction, which took a little longer. However, he’s got it now. So, I didn’t know what else to do but move on to First grade work. So, we’ve done money, double-digit addition & now he’s working on fractions! ARE YOU SERIOUS?! I had no idea what to do with him in this subject. I absolutely LOVE that he’s picking it up so fast, don’t get me wrong, but AAAAHHHH!!!! So, I had gotten the last half of a book from someone to use. He’s just flying through it, but he absolutely loves the lessons (we actually do 2 a day). So, we’re going to continue on with that series. I think by the time we start “First Grade” we will be in book 2, but nonetheless we are going with it. So, the name of our choice is Horizons Math.

History – Okay…I take it back. THIS was my MOST difficult decision. But, not for the same reasons as math. Simply put…I don’t like history – or at least it was my least favorite subject in school. I have been absolutely dreading the day when I had to pick a history curriculum. I looked into several different ones and was not impressed. Frankly, some of them covered waaaaay too much material in my opinion for a first grader. As I researched, I realized that my schooling just covered the “highlights” from history, which I vaguely remember. I want my child to know and understand things that went on in history. I also want to teach it from a Christian perspective. I think the Mystery of History does both!! I’m so excited about this series!!! (Again, a recommendation from Crystal!) Check out sample lessons here on their website. Right now, they are having a sale on the curriculum and its actually cheaper than Timberdoodle. So, when I’m ready to purchase our curriculum, you better believe I’m gonna buy it where its cheapest! ;)

Reading – Well, as I’ve mentioned before, Tyler has become an avid reader (for a Kindergartner anyway). Once we learned our blends & how they fit together with vowel sounds, etc. he took off and has been reading ever since. I will admit, I cried the first time he read an entire sentence by himself! ;) I was so proud! Last summer I had purchased several A Beka readers at a garage sale and I really liked how they built upon each lesson. It worked so well for him. He’s now reading his 8th first grade reader!! He loves them (despite what he tells me most days). He thinks he’s ready for a chapter book, but he wants his first one to be The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe!! WOW!!! Quite ambitious for a first grader, don’t ya think?! After he read 2 pages, I talked him out of it for now. His attention span isn’t quite there, so we’re going to continue on with the A Beka first grade readers that we have and then move into the second grade readers. I think by the middle of First Grade he might be ready for his chapter book again, but for now we’re going to stick with short, simple stories!

Bible – I will be honest. I have avoided buying Bible curriculum because I thought we could just do it ourselves. I mean, my husband and I both graduated from a Bible college – so we should be able to do it, right?! WRONG!!! I mean, we could do so much, but I have just felt like he needed more. We’ve started morning devotionals for him, where he reads from his Bible (on his own) and then reads the accompanying story and we talk about it. Find what we use here. But, I just feel we need to have something a little more structured/school-like for him to really get it. So, we’ve chosen Apologia’s (yes, I love them) What we believe series, book 1 Who is God and can I really know Him? for this year. I’m so excited that it also has an accompanying journal & coloring book, should we choose to use it (which we probably won’t because he’s not big into coloring). The journal & coloring book are not available just yet, but they are coming soon. I love that they are teaching kids from a Biblical Worldview!! This is exactly what we’ve wanted for him and I can’t wait to get started!

Foreign Language – Okay, so now you probably think I’m crazy!!! Well, I just might be! HAHA!! I saw this series when I was browsing on Timberdoodle and I left it up as a joke for my husband. I thought he would think I was absolutely NUTS for wanting to teach a 5-6yr old Greek. However, just the opposite happened!! He loves it!!! In fact, he and I are going to join in the fun and take it too!!! This is a 3 yr series and he thinks it will be so beneficial for us (adults) in our Bible study time and for our son (and others as they get older) as they grow in God’s Word. I can honestly say I’m a little nervous, yet excited that we’re going on this journey together. I like that this series allows you to buy extra workbooks so we can each have our own!!!

Grammar helps - I have also thought about using a couple of musical helps for us in this area. Learning parts of speech & such can be tricky and difficult to remember, so I've been thinking about using one of two items. The first is called Intelli-tunes by Sing & Learn. The other is Grammar Songs also by Sing & Learn. From what I can read, Intelli-tunes is basic grammar words & like an intro into it and Grammar Songs is when they are actually learning more about their functions and even ready to diagram. I'm still researching these two products, so I will let you know what I decide.

Okay, so that’s it!!! Whew!!! Those are our choices for First Grade. If you’re homschooling now or even thinking about it, I hope this helps you get started on your journey. If not, you’re probably not still reading this! LOL Don’t worry…I’m not offended!! I do have curriculum picked out for Tucker too, but since this post is already so long, I will put it in another one (hopefully later today).

Thanks for sticking with me through this post and Happy Schooling!!!

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