As a homeschooling mom, I’m always interested in seeing what my fellow homeschoolers are up to: What curriculum are they using? How are they structuring their days? Where are their kids getting their social needs met? I don’t necessarily base my own decisions off of what these other families are doing, but it’s certainly helpful to get insight into their approaches.
I’ve found that other homeschooling parents are also interested in what OUR family is doing. . . and it’s not just fellow homeschoolers who are curious: I receive just as many what/how/where questions from parents who are NOT homeschooling their children (and sometimes people WITHOUT kids who are just intrigued by this whole business of homeschooling).
To that end, I like using this space to share the nitty gritty of what our family’s homeschool plans “look” like. You can find my post on last year’s game plan for homeschooling Kindergarten here, as well as a Kinder update here. Some aspects of this academic year are the same as last year’s, but a lot is different. We are about a month into school at this point, and so far I’m so pleased with how it is all shaking out.
Before I get into the specifics, I want to make it clear that this post isn’t intended to generate comparison wars or stir up controversy. There are many opinions regarding homeschooling, from whether or not parents SHOULD be teaching our kids at home, to what styles or methods work best. (If you’re curious about the various homeschool philosophies, this post gives a thorough explanation of the several popular homeschool models and curriculum that aligns with each one.)
I genuinely believe every family and every situation is different. Our own family’s reasons for homeschooling are numerous, and if you and I ever get a chance to sit down over a cup of tea to “talk shop,” I’ll share them with you. While we are committed to homeschooling our kids for the foreseeable future (through high school, if possible), we are open to changes in plans. I am also not loyal to one particular style of teaching my kids, and have pieced together an assortment of models, methods, and resources.
Who knows what homeschooling will look like in future years with Charleston and, eventually, the twins; for now, we are taking things one year at a time, and this is what our First Grade with Charleston is looking like.
Our Schedule and Routines
Charleston attends an enrichment program for homeschoolers on Tuesdays and a homeschoolers’ sports day (PE) on Thursdays. These supplemental programs provide him with a touch of the “real school” experience I don’t want him to miss (practice being in a classroom, receiving instruction from someone other than mom, establishing friendships, etc.) and they allow me to outsource a few of the subjects I don’t necessarily want to teach (Science, Spanish, Music, Art, and PE).
Because he attends other programs on Tuesdays and Thursdays, we call them our “school break” days—which is mostly true, but we still do reading (read-aloud and Bible) on these days, and if we find ourselves with some extra time in the day, I assign Charleston a few pages from a math workbook or we will spend some time working on addition and subtraction facts (with flashcards or timed tests).
We have “official” school days on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Charleston and I start our school time around 11:00, once we get home from our morning’s outing (as I discussed in this post). I get the twins settled into playtime in their room while Charleston gets out his work and completes his calendar, then we convene at his desk in his room. We begin our “class” with the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a prayer and recitation of the Apostle’s Creed.
I work one-on-one with Charleston for about two hours, leaving him with short independent assignments while I periodically check on the twins. We are done with all of our heavy lifting by 1:00, and Charleston completes his remaining independent assignments while I make lunch. (These usually take him less than half an hour; if he needs more time, he finishes up during the twins’ afternoon nap.)
We do our read-aloud time during lunch with the twins. I read from his Bible and chapter book, as well as the day’s history reading, and we discuss while the kids eat. The twins enjoy listening in on our reading and I like that we are able to include them in this part of our schooling.
By 2:00, we are done with school work for the day. Of course we might throw in additional activities, crafts, or games. . . not to mention plenty more reading time. . . but the official school day is done.
We began school mid-August and are on track to finish up the year just before Memorial Day, taking breaks at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and in the spring.
What We’re Using (Curriculum)
I took a hodgepodge approach to our curriculum last year and it worked well for us. This year, I wanted something that would require less effort from me, so a majority of our curriculum needs are being met through a curriculum package from Sonlight. We did not purchase materials for every subject listed in the package, and I am adapting the Sonlight curriculum to suit Charleston’s needs, but most of what you’ll see listed below comes from Sonlight and was accompanied by Teachers Guides and suggested calendars (which we are following very loosely).
LANGUAGE ARTS: We are using the Language Arts 1 guide from Sonlight, which relies on Beginning Reader books and a combination of activities, games, and worksheets to teach phonics, grammar, and writing skills. I created a binder to hold all of Charleston’s printable worksheets, and we have a dedicated Language Arts Journal for all of his writing assignments. So far this first-grade curriculum has been too easy for Charleston, so I have been tweaking the assignments to make them more challenging. (For instance, having him handwrite portions of his own stories rather than having him dictate the whole thing, or adding comprehension activities onto his assigned reading.)
SPELLING: Our weekly spelling lists are derived from our Language Arts curriculum. On Mondays, I introduce the spelling pattern for the week and have Charleston write the words out with magnet letters or on a white board, then he copies the words into his Spelling Journal. On Wednesdays, we practice the words orally and he does a creative spelling activity (writing them extra big or extra small, in rainbow colors, or in fancy handwriting) in his Spelling Journal. And on Fridays, I give him a spelling test (also in his Spelling Journal) and ask him to write and illustrate a sentence containing three or more of his words from the week.
HANDWRITING: Our Language Arts curriculum includes daily copywork that aligns with each day’s reading assignment. We are also using the Handwriting Without Tears My Printing Book to review number and letter formation, spacing, and punctuation.
BIBLE: Each day we read and discuss a story from Egermeier’s Bible Story Book, which we LOVE! It’s more of a kid-friendly Bible translation than a story book, as it covers the whole Bible and not just a few well-known stories. After reading, I have Charleston answer the comprehension questions included at the end of each story, then we spend some time talking about personal application.
SCRIPTURE MEMORY: Each week we introduce a new verse from the Sing the World from A to Z CD. (There is one verse for each letter from the alphabet; by the end of the year we will have memorized 26 verses.) On Monday I write out the verse in Charleston’s Bible Journal and we discuss the verse’s meaning, then we listen to the corresponding song while he draws an illustration for the verse. On Wednesdays he copies the verse in his own writing in his Bible Journal. And on Fridays we record (and share) a video of him reciting his verse.
HISTORY: We are following Sonlight’s program, which teaches history and geography through a variety of read-aloud novels and readings/questions/activities from The Usborn Book of Wild Places, The Usborne Book of Living Long Ago (this one is a HUGE hit with both of us!), and The Usborne Children’s Encyclopedia. So far, this history curriculum has been the highlight of our school days.
LITERATURE: Each day we read and discuss a poem from The Bill Martin Jr. Book of Poetry, focusing our discussion on literary devices as well as comprehension. We also read one or two chapters each day from our current chapter book, all of which came with our curriculum. We discuss themes and vocabulary as we read, and at the end of each book, we work together to write a Book Summary/Review in his Language Arts Journal. Charleston also prepares and gives an oral book report, which I record and share with family. I have Charleston create a new bookmark to use in each book, and we occasionally do activities (vocabulary work, sequencing, art projects, reenactments, etc.) that align with our current book. I supplement these chapter books with endless picture books from our shelves or the public library.
MATH: We are working through Part B of the Singapore Math 1 Program we began last year. I don’t love this curriculum, as I find it unnecessarily complicated and lacking in practice work, but we already purchased the curriculum and it gets the job done. We do one or two lessons and the corresponding activities each school day, and I usually create a few additional practice problems to reinforce that day’s math skill. On our non-school days, Charleston does a few pages from a supplemental math workbook (this is the one we are currently using).
PRESENTATION SKILLS: This is admittedly pretty difficult to do without other students, but we make it work. Every Monday, Charleston records a show-and-tell video that we send to friends and family. These are in addition to the videos we record for Scripture recitation and book reports. When he “presents,” I ask Charleston to stand and speak as though he is in front of a classroom, and we work on posture, gestures, pronunciation, pacing, projection, and other public speaking skills. After making a video, we watch it together and talk about what went well and areas for improvement.
MUSIC/SPANISH/SCIENCE/ART/PE: Charleston does these subjects in his Tuesday enrichment program, but I do incorporate these into our other lessons wherever possible.
Every classroom must address behavior, and our home classroom is no exception. So far, our biggest issue is attention/hyperactivity, which I address through a variety of tactics such as extra breaks, changing our workspace, timing our activities [a huge motivator for keeping Charleston on task], and hand-holding when he’s struggling to attend to a particular assignment.
Another challenge area for us is Charleston’s attitude and compliance with school work. In order to encourage a cheery disposition (i.e., doing his work without grumbling), we have a star chart with 100 stars. Charleston has the opportunity to receive up to five starts for each school day, and when we’re done with work for the day, he and I discuss how the morning went and how many stars we think he has earned. We have rewards in place for every ten stars, fifty stars, and one hundred stars he fills in.
Odds and Ends
In addition to our curriculum, these are a few “accessories” that enhance our schooling at home.
- I use this planner to keep track of our assignments. I generally spend a couple of hours at the end of each month planning out what our schedule will look like for the next four weeks. Of course, I plan out everything in pencil as plans are subject to change!
- Charleston updates this magnet calendar each day.
- Charleston has loved doing his school work at his own desk this year. It’s big enough for us both to sit at, and it has been nice for him to have his own work space away from the twins’ curious hands.
- These math manipulatives have been great for teaching basic math concepts.
- These are the notebooks we use for Language Arts, Bible, and Spelling Journals.
- We use this white board/magnetic letter set to introduce and practice spelling words.
- All of our textbooks are kept in these filing baskets, which fit nicely under Charleston’s desk and are easy for him to pull out when it’s time for school.
- We could NOT homeschool without our library cards! We check out dozens of picture books (and occasional chapter books) every week and read together every chance we get!
Well, I think that about covers it all for this year of homeschooling. As I mentioned at the start of the post, this all is subject to change as Charleston’s needs fluctuate over the year, but as of now we are both happy with our current system and excited (admittedly me more than him) to be embarking on another year of schooling together at home. If you have any questions, suggestions, or feedback, I would LOVE to hear from you! Please feel free to reach out!