Curricula- First Grade

** Under Construction **

If you read the tab titled "Curricula- Kindergarten" you will see that many of the curricula we are using now are continuations of things we started last year.  I think that's a pretty good testimony to how much we like them.  In first grade, we'll focus on continuing to build both reading and math fluency.  But this is the year we get to add in the good stuff!

For phonics, we'll continue using Explode the Code and Explode the Code online.
    I just cannot praise this series enough.  I really does touch on so many different facets of reading, spelling and writing.  And, as I've mentioned, I just LOVE the online component.

For math, we'll continue with Singapore Math.
   My kids love math.  When I schedule to do 2-3 pages of math, I usually have to make them stop at 4 or 5.  Singapore does such a nice job spiraling the topics that my kids are the most confident in math over any other subject.  They may get that from their parents, but the certainly get to show it off in Singapore.

And, now, the GOODIES!

Writing With Ease 1 by Susan Wise Bauer
   I will admit, I was very hesitant about this book.  I read it, saw the expectations of what I was supposed to get our of my kids, and I thought- "Uh, not my kids."  J HATES to write.  G HATES to listen.  So a book that alternates lessons between copywork and narration (aka reading comprehension) sounded like an impossible, daunting thing for us to attack.  But, well, it's becoming one of our favorite things!  The basics of the method are to use passages from classic literature and have your kids take turns copying sentences from a passage, or answering questions about the passage and forming a summary/narration.  The book will provide the passages and questions for a week, and then tell you to follow that schedule with your own literature books for another three weeks.  There is a companion workbook that actually provides the passages, sentences for copying and narration questions for every single day, which I didn't think I needed.  My original intention was to just use our own literature read-alouds and narrate from them.  But then I realized- I didn't like stopping!  Who wants to read a paragraph from the fight scene between Peter Pan and Captain Hook and stop to ask questions?!  So, I decided to keep our literature read-aloud separate from our WWE work.  This has been a great, great modification.  The kids are happy to knock out their WWE work knowing that when they're done we can all cuddle in my bed and just read from our latest book.  If you had asked me before the year started, I would have said to just get the book, don't bother with the workbook.  One month in, I'll tell you that the workbook is totally the way to go.

All About Spelling
  This is probably the curriculum I am the MOST excited about adding.  It has been so much fun!  And spelling has quickly become my reading- and writing-reluctant son's favorite subject.  Well, other than math, of course. But he actually ASKS if we can have a spelling test, every day.  Now, part of the beauty of All About Spelling 1 is that it starts at the beginning.  So, you know, he's pretty much an expert in what we're spelling as he's been reading it for a year, and spelling it in the Explode the Code books for a few months, too.  I don't care- the child is actually asking to WRITE something, so we're going to embrace that for all it's worth.
   The main draw for All About Spelling is that it is 90% kinesthetic.  All lessons are done with letter magnet tiles on a large magnetic white board.  So my kids roll around on the floor, chanting phonogram sounds, dragging letters along the white board and segmenting words.  The written tests are suggested, you could skip them completely if you wanted.  The fully active, tactile part of this program is the biggest draw for me.
   The other beauty of AAS is that the structure is fluid.  You teach a lesson, practice some words, move on when you're ready.  Do a lesson a day?  Sure!  Take a week and a half to do a lesson?  Fine!  They are not intended to be broken down in set lengths, and the authors seem to go out of their way to not give you any time-indicators.  You are truly just working until a child understands and moving on as soon as they're ready.  The lack of labels like "First Grade" or "Week 17" make this check-list obsessed mom sigh in relief. I don't have to worry about how fast or slow we go because there is no perfect pace.  I looked at other spelling programs and most just seemed to add more workbooks to our world.  I'm not anti-workbook, but I definitely think less is more in that arena.  Especially with a wiggly boy.  Who somehow decided he likes spelling, especially the writing.  Go figure.

Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer
   This is a great history program for Lower Grammar students (in first through fourth grades.)  It is written by one of the authors of The Well Trained Mind so it fits perfectly into our classical philosophy.  We are starting with Story of the World, Volume 1: Ancient Times and I could not be happier.  We purchased the book itself and the audio CDs.  I play the narrated stories in the car and my son actually yells at me when I turn them off.  They are absorbing SO MUCH that it just blows my mind.  Each chapter is short enough (2-5 pages in the book or less than 5 minutes on the CD) for the kids to handle in one sitting, but meaty enough to be re-read, or re-heard, multiple times throughout the week.  If you decide to look into SOTW, and you spend any amount of time in the car, I highly recommend the CDs.
   We also have the Activity Guide which is also, to me, a must.  The Activity Guide includes reference pages that correspond to four different encyclopedia.  We chose to use The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia and The Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of the Ancient World.
I think the Usborne is a little simpler and the Kingfisher is a little more detailed.  We almost always have time to read from each of them each week.

  The Activity Guide also recommends what I call Living History books and Historical Literature.  Living History (in the AG called Additional Readings) are usually books written about the time period, the people or a specific aspect of the time or people.  For example, in the week we studied Ancient Egypt, there were some books about pyramids and mummies listed.  We try to find the recommended books at the library.  Often times, though, we end up just getting the call numbers, heading to the shelf, and picking out our own books.  Literature books will tend to be books on myths, for the Ancient period, but as we progress over the years, that will change.  We're really enjoying getting to read all sorts of books in all sorts of styles and voices.
   Lastly, the Activity Guide has, well, activities.  Each week has a written component, and that is usually map work.  I love this part, as I love to see my kids develop a much better un derstanding of world geography than I had at that age.  The map work is VERY simple.  There are also crafts and projects, from as simple as coloring pages to as complex as mummifying a chicken. Right now I set aside one afternoon a week for map work and literature reading and another afternoon for the project.  Sometimes there are too many projects to choose from so we have to do some on the weekends.
   I think this program is perfect for my two kids.  It's very broad, and will cover Ancient History through the Fall of Rome in one year.  We will touch on everything but not work toward mastery on anything.  Because it's designed for a 40 week year and we school year-round, we will be able to take an extra week here or there to really dig into anything we may want.  But, so far, I feel like it's well-paced.

Easy Classical Science
  I have to admit, I threw this in as an after-thought.  But probably the best after-thought I've had this year.  I was't sure how I wanted to address science this year and definitely didn't want something big, intense and expensive.  I ran across a forum post on The Well-Trained Mind Forums that mentioned Easy Classical Science.  And it is just that- easy, classical, science.  I paid a small amount of money, curriculum-wise, for a pdf file that gives me weekly lesson plans.  We chose the Animal, Plant and Human Body series, as this seemed the most appropriate topics to coincide with a study of the Ancients.  The curriculum uses DK First Animal Encyclopedia as its "spine."  We also use Usborne's First Book of Nature, a book on nature journaling and an Evan-Moore workbook.  (I've only looked through the Animal Kingdom section so far, I can add more details to the other section as we go along.)

** To Be Continued...**

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