In most families, first grade is considered a transition year. If the child were going to a traditional school, they would be expected to stay for a full day. It is the year in which many, but not all kids learn to read. Expectations can be high. Your child may start to realize that to many people, learning is not all fun and games. Our first grade curriculum choices reflect our desire to keep our child’s love of learning alive and allow them plenty of time to play.
The pressure can affect children. I encourage you to take a step back and relax. What your child fails to accomplish in first grade is not going to seriously impact the trajectory of their life. Especially if they are homeschooled, kids are able to come into to their abilities on their own timetable without any issues. Enjoy your 6 or 7 year old. They will only be this little once.
Also, skills that are difficult for a child to learn at a certain stage often come easily if you just give the child a little time. Don’t stress if your child does not seem to be retaining what you are trying to teach. When my daughter was in first grade, she had trouble remembering information like days of the week or the name of our hometown. I eventually gave up trying to teach them to her and now, a couple years later, she just knows them. Whatever it is, don’t worry, it will come!
Below is a summary of our family’s first grade curriculum choices by subject. Please note that we never fully complete any curriculum. While I tend to finish books that I’m reading aloud, I frequently choose just the activities that I think sound most interesting and beneficial. If our curriculum suggests activities or written work which doesn’t fit into our schedule, I have no problem skipping them. Leaving my kids plenty of unstructured time to play is a priority for me.
The most important language arts goal in first grade is continuing on the path toward becoming a reader. Some kids will be ready to start deciphering real books. Others will be through the first Harry Potter novels. Still others will have trouble remembering that “the” says “the.” Wherever your child is, don’t fret. To grow a reader, the most important skill to promote is helping your child learn to enjoy stories. Read alouds and audiobooks are more than sufficient.
Here are some resources that will be helpful to round out your child’s Language Arts education in first grade. You will not need all of these suggestions. While I have done all these activities with my children, I have not done them all with the same children all in the same year.
- Try to get your child hooked on a book series at an appropriate level. This will give them regular practice reading for pleasure.
- Also, be sure to regularly read aloud to your child. Choose both plenty of pictures books and longer chapter books. In first grade, my kids have enjoyed books like The Prairie Thief, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, and Ramona the Pest. Here are some more book suggestions for early elementary.
- Invest in a couple poetry books for kids. Our family likes Where the Sidewalk Ends and The Random House Book of Poetry for Children. Use the books to regularly hold poetry tea time.
- Whistling Whales is a great book for teaching kids multi-letter phonograms, like “ch,” “sh,” and “ck.” Learning phonograms is not necessary, but basic familiarity makes both reading and spelling easier. Once they have mastered these, Knitting Knights is the last book in the series with more advanced phonograms. (If they are still working on single letter sounds, start with Doodling Dragons.)
- Check out Jot it Down for fun, creative ideas to get your kids writing. Here is some free illustration paper and lined paper I created for new writers.
- Practice printing skills with the first grade level Handwriting Without Tears workbook.
- If you would like a complete first grade language arts curriculum for children who are not yet confident readers, I recommend either The Wand or Foundations curricula. Foundations begins at teaching children letter sounds. The Wand assumes children are fairly confident with letters and moves straight into multi-letter phonograms and grammar rules. While at different times I have used both curricula as loose guides and like them, I have never felt the need to complete either.
- For children who are already reading and are ready for handwriting, copywork using A Quiver of Arrows is a great way to teach grammar, spelling, and writing skills.
I take a very low key approach to math in elementary school. While I love math and fully intend to have my kids studying calculus by the time they are in high school, I don’t rush it. Especially in first grade, I would rather my kids maintain an open mind and a positive attitude towards math than have them experience math as drudgery.
In first grade, my child spends about 20 minutes per week on math. I have created my own minimalist math curriculum for my elementary-aged kids by looking through various purchased curricula and using them to create 10 problems for my kids to do each week. We work on them together using hands-on manipulatives if needed.
Here are some math resources that you might find helpful.
- The cornerstone of my first grade math plan is my free printable first grade minimalist math curriculum that I created for my kids using problems from various traditional curricula. If nothing else, we always be sure to do these hand-selected 10 problems each week.
- I like to use Montessori-style manipulatives to help kids learn place value. Here is a set on Amazon and here is the DIY set that I made several years ago and still use with my kids. I love all of Montessori’s hands on learning material. You can find more free Montessori math material that I created here.
- Interlocking cubes will be more helpful in second and third grade when kids learn to regroup, but can be useful for simple addition and subtraction in first grade.
- A teaching clock is very helpful in teaching your child to tell time.
- To practice adding single digit numbers, we have used Addition Facts that Stick by Kate Snow. This includes both games and worksheets. My kids LOVE the games, but since I haven’t been overly concerned with their adding skills, we only play them about once a month. We don’t do anywhere near all the worksheets. My kids do about 2 of the worksheets per month. I have also used these resources on my Addition and Subtraction page to help my kids gain fluency with basic math facts.
- For a fun way to practice adding to 10, try the game Clumsy Thief Junior. For adding to 20, try Clumsy Thief in the Candy Shop.
- Logic puzzles may not be exactly math, but they are so fun and help children learn to think critically. I make them a regular part of our homeschool for all my kids and include them in my math folders in my homeschool crate system. For first grade, I use this Mind Benders Level 2 Book.
As is my general approach with all science and social science, if you have an older elementary-aged homeschooling child, plan your science around them. Whatever you decide to do with your older child, find a way to include your younger children. You would be surprised what young children are capable of understanding. This past year, since my fourth grader studied chemistry, I had my kindergartner and second grader filling out electron shells as well. Will they retain it all? Probably not. But when they’re older and presented with terms like nucleus, protons, and molecules, they won’t be intimidated.
If your oldest child is in first grade, here are some science resources I have used and recommend:
- My kids LOVE Sassafras science, a living book based curriculum supported by written work and activities. It is an adventure story following a set of twins who learn all about different areas of science. While not necessary, the story line will make the most sense if the books are read in order. Secondary characters reappear in later novels, though they are always reintroduced. The first year of curriculum includes Zoology and Anatomy. If you decide to do this curriculum, you will need either the book or audiobook, the teacher’s guide, and the lapbook or Scidat logbook. Personally, I choose to have my kids do the lapbook rather than the Scidat logbook as it involves less writing. You can see some of our lapbooks in this review. I cut out all the pieces over the summer to make it easy during the school year. I file them away in our homeschool crate system.
- The other science curriculum we have used is REAL Science Odyssey from Pandia Press. I really like this curriculum. Honestly, I kind of prefer this one over Sassafras, though my kids disagree. I feel like it is very thorough and doesn’t take an excessive amount of time. The experiments are doable and fun and usually the worksheets can be completed in about 10 minutes. Even when we use Sassafras as our primary curriculum, I like to pull experiments and worksheets from the corresponding Pandia Press curriculum. (They make great samples for our charter school.) Though all of the REAL Science Odyssey curricula is meant for a broad age range, the recommended curriculum for first grade is Life: Level 1. This is a very gentle, but surprisingly rigorous introduction to the field of biology. If you decide to do Sassafras, you definitely do not need this guide, but note that it does include sections on animals and anatomy (the topics covered in Year One of Sassafras.)
So far our family has only used one social science curricula in first grade: Story of the World. We just completed the four year curriculum this past school year. Since I like variety, next year we are planning to try the 4 year History Quest sequence from Pandia Press. If I don’t like it, I will happily go back to Story of the World.
Here are my recommended resources for Social Science in first grade.
- If you do not have older homeschooling children, start with Story of the World Volume 1: Ancient Times. It is the most appropriate volume for 1st grade. However, if you have an older child doing a later volume of Story of the World, just have your younger child join in where ever you are in the series. The only caveat is if you are doing Volume 4: Modern Times, it is not recommended for children under 4th grade due to the violent nature of modern history. I disregarded this recommendation and don’t think my young kids were traumatized, but be aware so you can decide what is appropriate for your family.
- When I was doing Ancient Times with my oldest back when he was in first grade, somehow I had no idea there was an accompanying Activity Guide. Since I didn’t know there was an Activity Guide, back when we did Ancient Times, instead I used Evan Moor’s History Pockets: Ancient Civilizations. I think this is a really high quality product and our family has enjoyed several History Pockets. (Just FYI, Evan Moor has a service called TeacherFileBox.com in which you pay $100/year for the ability to print (but not save) ALL of their printables. They have A LOT. Depending on what you decide, this might be well worth the investment.)
- We have used the Story of the World Activity Book for the last 3 volumes. There are way too many ideas in these guides to fit into a school year. All I have chosen to pull from the activity guides are the map work, chapter summaries, and occasionally coloring pages. Very rarely have we done the hands-on activities or supplemental reading, but the activity guide is still well worth having. It is a treasure trove of suggestions.
- There is also a Story of the World audiobook narrated by Jim Weiss (our favorite storyteller). If you do a lot of car travel, the audiobook is great. Since I do not, and my kids and I have trouble paying attention to audiobooks at home, I prefer to read aloud to my kids.
- In case you are interested, Story of the World volumes also have an accompanying book of tests. So far, I have never used the tests.
- I highly recommend investing in a globe and world map. If you have space, a large laminated wall map is nice so you can mark on it. If not, they make relatively inexpensive, foldable fabric maps that are practically indestructible. We got one at Target for just a few dollars.
- Geopuzzles are also a fun way to learn about geography.
I hope our family’s first grade curriculum choices are helpful to you. Whatever you decide, I am sure your child will get an excellent education. I wish you lots of luck on your homeschool journey!
Favorite Homeschool Resources
Learning Activities for Kids
I wonder how easy was it to do mind benders? I got this book, level 1, but My 5yo is not enjoying it. Perhaps it is hard and he doesn’t see any fun doing it. Did all your children like solving them? I wonder if I should just remove it or have him do it as part of the non negotiable routine.
Hi Nancy! If he is not enjoying it, I definitely would not force him to do them. However, I would recommend that you sit with him and help him work through a puzzle occasionally. I probably should mention that when my kids are in first grade, they don’t typically read well enough to do them on their own, so they definitely need my help. I tend to guide them through the puzzles by asking leading questions and helping them decipher the clues. After they have a few under their belt, they need less and less help, though I still read for them as long as they need it. By the time my kids are in third grade, they can do them completely on their own (most of the time), and they seem to really enjoy them. I hope that is helpful! Good luck!
I am researching Logic of English and I love the idea of using multiple phonograms. However, is there a single book that describes what rules to determine how to actually read it? Take “ea” phonogram, it has 3 ways of reading it, how do I know which one to use and when? Is there an actual rule to distinguish it? And many of them have several ways to read it. I simply don’t know them and wonder if I can find a book where I can lookup all the rules without getting an entire program for myself?
Also, do you have a resource yourself or maybe a favorite workbook to practice them? You mentioned you are using cards as flashcard, but do you have exercises to use the phonograms in applications?
Hi Alex, I have the Logic of English Phonogram & Spelling Rule Quick Reference. I use it ALL the time to remember what the more complicated multi-letter phonogram sounds are with my fifth grader. It has all the same info as the flashcards, but in a handy little laminated pamphlet. It lists words for each phonogram so that you can tell the different pronunciations. For example, for ‘ea’ it lists eat, bread, steak. That can be found here: https://store.logicofenglish.com/products/phonogram-spelling-rule-quick-ref
They also have this book of games you can use to practice the phonograms: https://store.logicofenglish.com/products/game-book
I purchased the book, but honestly, I haven’t used it much. I think we played phonogram baseball one time and my kids enjoyed it, but I just prefer to not spend a lot of time on phonograms. I’d rather go through the flashcards in about 5 minutes a couple times a week so that they have more time to play.
The primary way I use the phonograms is helping my kids when they ask me how to spell a word. For example, if they said, “How do you spell meat as in food?” I would say, “Use ee-eh-a.” If they were trying to read the word meat, I would say something like “Use “ea”s most common sound.”
As for knowing which to use without getting a hint from a parent, I think it’s mainly a matter of experience. There are rules that help some of the time. For example, a single letter vowel in the middle of a syllable usually makes its short sound, while a single letter vowel at the end of a syllable usually makes its long sound. The only example I can think of off the top of my head is bu*gle vs. bug*gle. I know buggle isn’t a word, but you can see how it would be pronounced differently, lol. However, I don’t really bother teaching my kids the rules. If we continued on the Logic of English path, they would eventually learn them all, but I’ve found that just through a lot of reading and some copywork, they are naturally able to figure out how to sound words out based on context. I can also see their spelling improving over time. Logic of English is very thorough if you want to go down that path though! It’s just really time intensive. Good luck!
This is such an informative blog and would help many parents. Thanks for sharing and explaining it so well. Must say, it was a good read and very helpful!
Thank you! I’m glad it was helpful! :)
Where did you purchase all of your stuff to make your curriculum?
Hi Brandi! I purchased Saxon Math, Mammoth Math, and the Kumon books off the website, Rainbow Resource. We belong to a homeschool charter with an educational allowance, so I was able to use my funds to purchase those curricula. I purchased Singapore math myself off Amazon.
While I respect your curriculum choices I am sure you were in my shoes a few years ago and can provide an advice. My kids are younger, oldest is 6 and is in public school. I, just like you, have a PhD in STEM and I am very passionate about getting my children to love Math and related STEM fields. And while I understand they are kids and we should let them be kids my mom guilt is always telling me that why don’t I teach STEM sooner. I know they are capable of. There are so many wonderful resources, I love math word problems, I love logic puzzles, riddles, etc but, my 6yo doesn’t share my passions!(or yet!). I can get him to do the work/certain number of problems a week, etc, and he picks up the content and is good with math, but it is a chore for him when I say it is math time. He doesn’t find it exciting, he would rather have free play time. I am afraid that if I don’t do that now I am basically wasting time and everything is only being built on top of it. But the struggle is real, there are so many resources, I don’t want him to miss out! I wonder if you find to teach math on an advanced level a bit later is a wiser choice? Do kids mature and are more ready? Perhaps it will be a lot easier too when the child is self motivated. Would I still be able to catch up later? I bet your were thinking the same thoughts some years back but decided not to go that route and not to have a lot of math in your curriculum.
And have you ever tried for your kids beast academy or OSMO math games? I am not big fan of apps for learning but perhaps if pen and paper are not exciting perhaps apps could be? Just wondering what your thoughts on those.
I understand your dilemma! There are only so many hours in a day and there is so much we want to expose our kids to while they are still young. You can’t possibly fit it all in! I have not used beast academy or OSMO math games. A few years back, probably because I am a blogger, my kids were offered a free period of a couple of months to try out a program called Smartick. It was amazing, and for the most part, my kids enjoyed it and were learning a lot, but it was just way too expensive to continue. I never wrote a review, because I just couldn’t justify the cost. My kids have also tried out the free online math site, Prodigy. They liked it at first, but the novelty wore off, and I didn’t want to push it. I guess all that is to say I am not opposed to online apps if the kids are self-motivated, but personally, I don’t like to pressure them into doing it if it becomes a chore. There are too many other fun things to do.
It’s a hard decision. I have made the choice that while they are young, we are focusing on read-alouds and cultivating a love of reading, spending time in nature and using our bodies to stay physically healthy and strong, and free time to play and be creative. I have also made music lessons a priority, but I question that decision weekly as my kids do not love it. I feel like I’ve made my decision based on research showing the importance of these aspects of development and also that certain skills such as math concepts are more readily learned at older ages. However, I am still in the middle of the journey, so I do not know how things will turn out. I can say that my kids have to take yearly assessments as part of our charter school and despite their lack of time practicing math, they all test at or above grade level.
I don’t believe there is one right way to do anything and I am sure that whatever you decide for your family will work out in the long run! Good luck!
Thanks for your reply. Yes, it is a dilemma. Indeed, we want to pack our kids with all the best out there and the resources are limited!
But I must admit I also did not love math as a kid, that was not something I enjoyed doing on my own. But my mom had to make sure I was good at it and I still did math as a kid for an enrichment. I must admit though the enjoyment came with mastery. As I got better at it(close to high school) I started enjoying it more. I am saying this to hang on to music for now unless it is a struggle and then maybe you need to find another variate of it.
We all have to do things that we don’t love but I feel that this is also something to teach them. They have to be able to bear some discomfort if this is part of the long term goal they will enjoy. My kids also resisted piano practice until I signed up them for JoyTunes app. It is definitely not the same as doing it with a teacher from the notes but at least they are doing it now without fighting and I can see their hand memory does get better! I am not an expert on music but at least they enjoy playing it for now and possibly as they get older they might self motivate themselves!
I also have not noticed you do any thinkfun/smartgames(brands) or logic games with kids(but I might have missed it). I personally a big fan of deductive thinking, e.g. rush hour game and related. I can see your kids play a lot of board games so thought to throw a suggestion in case you want to incorporate some game type of logic exercise into your day! They are really great and I can see very similar as to what type of puzzles Beast academy offers but in this case kids get to physically move the objects and not clicking the mouse on the computer which can be frustrating for sloppy little hands!
Thanks, Alex! I am hoping one day my kids appreciate their hard-earned (and hard-fought) piano skills. If nothing else, I know that it has helped them improve their self-discipline and taught them that they can do hard things. Also, thanks for the reminder about logic games! My kids love Rush Hour. We also really like Zoologic and Logic Land. It has been a while since I pulled those out of the closet, but I will have to put them back into rotation. They are such a great, easy way to add a little fun to their critical thinking practice.