It’s March, so our homeschool year is already winding down. I wanted to take a few minutes to make a post about what we’ve used, what we’re currently using, and how it all went down this school year.
My son, Heath, has a September birthday. We decided to start him in Kindergarten a few weeks before he turned 6, just like he would have done with the public school system. This turned out to be the best decision ever, because he’s been able to easily complete everything I’ve thrown his way with a maturity that I’m sure he would have been lacking if I had started him early. Not only that, but I really believe that kids need to be kids. They need time to PLAY and just use their imaginations without worrying about book work.
This year, I knew I had to step it up a notch. First grade shouldn’t be a picnic. It shouldn’t be as easy as kindergarten, and reading and writing have to move beyond simple phonics and letter formation.
With 3 kids homeschooling this year, I needed more structure. I decided to give each kid a milk crate to put their school stuff in. We keep it on a little table in our kitchen, near our pantry.
Each kid can put their school supplies, books, library books, and their planner inside. Actually, it also became the best place to hide special candies and treats because their 2 year old brother can’t see inside or reach it. You can usually find a pack of gum or half a bag of chips in there, too.
I gave each big kid their own planner this year. Heath chose this lesson plan book (affiliate link). What I love about it is that it has 7 columns across, and says Monday-Friday for the rows. There are check boxes for each day. There’s tons of room to write assignments. Best of all, it is not dated. I love it, because I don’t feel like a failure if we skip a week here and there.
I have used basically the same headings for his planner’s columns all year. We have Horizons Phonics, Lightning Literature/Eclectic Foundations, Math, History/Social Studies, Science, Spelling City, and Personal Reading.
Every Sunday night, I fill in the planner with what I want him to get done that week. I wait until then to do it so I can account for when we might have more or less time to ‘do’ school, depending on our activities like sports or playdates.
For the most part, we’re using the same curriculum now that we started out with. I did made a few changes, which I will note below.
For language arts, we’re still working through Horizons Phonics, which is the kindergarten curriculum. When we started it last school year, it got to where the writing part became a bit of a struggle, so we shelved it temporarily. This school year, we’ve picked it right back up. I have him do an average of 4 pages per day, plus reading from the readers 2-4 times a week. I do not pay attention to lesson numbers, just the amount of pages he completes. He really does enjoy this curriculum, and I do too!
Reading came pretty naturally to him, so I like that this covers a lot of those phonics rules that he might have been using without noticing. I want him to learn the rules behind it so he can tackle harder material better.
For literature, we were using Lightning Literature for the first half of the year. His older brother, Michael, had used this for a review and then for a time after that, but it got shelved. I had Heath using it depending on what books we could find at the library or had at our house. It was awesome for enjoying new stories, discussing literature, and having him do real writing assignments that were not copywork.
Once we started using Eclectic Foundations, though, I replaced LL with that. We already listen to a lot of audio books and do a lot of personal reading, so I made the executive decision to can a formal literature program for now.
Some might say that Eclectic Foundations and Horizons Phonics are overkill together. I get that, but EF is actually VERY gentle in the beginning, which works out great with him finishing up the phonics program. By the time EF gets more intense, he’ll be done with phonics and can dedicate more time to it. I will be adding a more formal literature program to his studies next school year again, but we’re relaxing that right now.
Personal reading is assigned every school day. He can pick whatever he wants to read, which usually ends up being either educational books or something funny like Ripley’s Believe it or Not. Sometimes I’ll catch him with something totally fluffy, but he’s been really good about choosing higher quality books lately. I assign between 10-30 minutes of personal reading a day and don’t require anything written or anything further from that. I want it to be enjoyable, but frequent.
Spelling City is another resource that we use. I have him play some games on there each school day. I change out the list every week or two, and I usually use 2-3 pre-made lists at a time that are at grade level. I don’t tell him which games to play or which list to use. He’s a natural speller, so this is simple for him. Still, I want him to be practicing!
We started the school year with him doing CTC Math. We LOVE CTC Math. He really loved doing the videos and then the exercises. However, he was able to move through quickly and started getting stuck on some of the harder 2nd grade math since he zoomed right past 1st grade. Just a few weeks ago, I have started letting him use a few online resources to help him focus on math concepts without struggling through. He is advanced, but I don’t want him to be burnt out.
I’ve given him the placement test, and I’m confident he could start Teaching Textbooks 3 right away, but we’re lending it to a friend right now. Besides, he’s got plenty of time to do that. 🙂
For the most part, I’ve been assigning Heath lessons on Moby Max. We use the free version, and it is fabulous.
They cover social studies well, and he loves using online resources for school. Sometimes, I will assign him to read history books instead. We especially do this when we’re away from home and I know he’ll be sitting around and waiting. This allows him to get school done when we’re out and about and keeps him from getting too rowdy when we’re supposed to be calmly waiting on someone or something.
For history books, I let him read whatever he wants from a section of books I’ve gotten together in our home library. We have about 3 shelves dedicated to history books now that range from autobiographies to geography books to illustrated encyclopedias to topical chapter books and more. It’s fair game as I don’t assign exactly which books to read when I assign the readings. I really want to instill a love of reading, so I try and keep it guided but open-ended.
We’ve been using Apologia Astronomy this year. I bought a supply kit from another website before Apologia started offering their own, and I’ve got to say that it was SO worth the money! I am one of those people that won’t DO science without it being as easy as possible. Having the kit has truly made it open and go.
I do this subject with all 3 of my school-aged kids at one time, which makes it so much easier since we’re only going over the information once and everyone can cross it off of their planners when we’re done.
Some days we do not have time to do Apologia, or they just want to do something a little different. I’ll assign some personal reading of science books some of the time. Other times, I’ll have them watch a science documentary or short clip such as a Crash Course video on the planet they’re learning about.
As this school year comes to an end, I’m really proud of him for all he has accomplished. Since he’s the third one that I’ve homeschooled for this grade, I feel like he is having to do a lot more work than I expected from the older kids. For one thing, they had the complications of new babies or family moves in the middle of their 1st grade years!
Heath has done an amazing job at staying organized, getting his work done almost without fail, and exceeding my expectations in almost every subject. He’s learning at a pace that is challenging, yet comfortable. He’s been able to get his school work done fairly quickly and still has plenty of time to just hang out and play each day.
I may give him a California Achievement Test at the end of this school year just as a benchmark. I had the older two take one in October and was pleased with where it placed them. I have a feeling that I’ll be happy with Heath’s scores, too!