Thursday, May 10, 2007

Homeschooling, year in review and planning

We are currently wrapping up the first grade at our house. We follow a classical/Charlotte Mason model. I would like to use this post to review what we've done and ask for suggestions for next year. I would also love to hear what you've been studying.

This year, I have followed the literature lists from ambleside online. I liked that the lists included excellent, classic books. My daughter has expecially enjoyed the fiction reading. The only thing that I would do differently is that I feel a study of American History would've been more beneficial to our family than a study of English history. I will probably use them as a resource in the future, but never exclusively.

I have done 'some' nature study for science. We can identify some of our local birds, flowers and trees. We also started Apologia's Astronomy book which I will likely continue next year. I think that Nature study is a wonderful way to slowly introduce the world of science to little people. My only trouble is that I don't know any of it, so it becomes difficult for me to learn and teach very effectively. I see this as something that we'll master over many years. And, we really liked Apologia.

We used Phonics Museum for Phonics, Reading, Spelling and Handwriting. (it includes Modern Manuscript) This program was thorough, but hasn't produced as fluent of a reader as I'd hoped for, and was rather laborious at times. The readers, while certainly well-intentioned are full of contrived phrases which strive to incorporate the current phonics over making sense. One example is that we read a whole book about Rockwall Jackson. I am certainly open for considering a different curriculum to use with my kindergartner next year.

I used Singapore for Math. And, I really like it a lot. It encourages thinking about numbers and how they fit together over rote memory of facts. In my opinion, memorizing 2+2=4 doesn't mean much unless they understand why. I have loved the conversations that my daughter just starts up about numbers. Also the lessons are short, we rarely spent more than 30 minutes per day on Math. And, the books are cheap! The whole year cost us about $25. We'll keep this one.

For Grammar, we used First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind. This program is written to be covered over two years (first and second grade). My daughter knows what a noun, pronoun, and verb are. She has also learned the Months, Seasons and Days of the week. The program also includes story and picture narration. At about 5-10 minutes per lesson, this is a nice, gentle way to begin Grammar. We will probably use Shurley in later years, but this is great for now.

I took my kids to the symphony, but didn't formally cover art or music appreciation as much as I would've liked to. I think that I might need an informal coop for next year to be sure that this gets covered.

As for next year, here's what I'm considering. Let me know if you have any advice or experience on the following subjects:

Reading (kinder) - considering Phonics Pathways, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 easy lessons, or just using Phonics Museum again. I am definately open to ideas.

Spelling (2nd) - considering the Grammar of Spelling, or Spelling Workout. Ideas?

History/Geography (K & 2) - TruthQuest History American History part 1, I'm pretty much decided on this unless you know of a better elementary early American History program.

Math (K & 2) - Singapore! And will add in some fact memorization work for the second grader.

Spanish (K&2) - Phrase a Day looks pretty good, I don't want to spend a lot of money. Any other ideas?

Science (K & 2) - Either Apologia or NOEO, any experience with either?

Handwriting - StartWrite, I just found this computer program that allows me to print out my own custom sheets in a variety of different handwriting formats. It looks like all I'll need for all four of the kiddos! At $35 dollars, it's kind of a lot up front, but I'm sure that it will save me plenty over the years.

Literature - I will probably just pull from a lot of different lists and keep on readin' good ones! I think that I might like some early readers with study packets for my older one - any suggestions on where I could find that?

Wow, if you read this huge post and are commenting for me, you are one amazing woman!


  1. thanks for this post kids are still really young, 1 and 2, and so i will not be starting any "formal" homeschooling quite yet, but i am already starting to think about resources....good to hear from someone firsthand. sounds like you have done a great job this year with your kids. They are so blessed to have you as their mama!

  2. I really liked 100 easy lessons. I used it w/my son and now will use it w/my daughter.

    I was glad to hear your thoughts on First Language Lessons. I am using that for 1st grade this fall.

    Thanks for sharing this.

  3. 100 easy lesson is good, and cheap. I also love Sing, Spell, read and Write, but it is expensive! All of my children could read at about a 3rd grade level by age 6.

    As for your lit, Prodigy Press has great study guides. They are about $6-$8. My children liked them alot. They go all the way through high school. Also, they are reproducible, so make copies to use with future children. This makes them VERY cheap.

  4. Our teachers are trying out Rebecca Sitton's Sourcebook for spelling, and I like it so far in a third grade school setting. Check it out at

    I was less than thrilled with Phonics Museum for 1st grade homeschool. I thought Sing Spell was great, but I loved the idea of beautiful books with good, true, beautiful content instead of Cat Sat on the Mat.

  5. Hi,
    I am a homeschooling mother of 3 little girls ages 8, 5 and 18 months. Dad has been gone with the Army for the past 16 months as we are finishing up second grade and preschool and preparing for third grade, kindergarten and a 2 year old! So, I like to find resources that are Bible-based but don't require a ton of prep time that I don't have to give.

    We love 100 easy lessons. My oldest daughter was not at all interested in learning to read - we tried several programs and this one worked for her and we already started it with my 5 year old.

    We LOVE My Fathers World curriculum - you can check it out a Everything already planned out by the day - any projects are from things you'd already find around the house - wonderful! We've done the K, 1st and this year will start the Adventures program that is all about US History.

    We supplement with Pathway Readers, love Singapore Math, and Draw Write Now for art and extra writing practice.

    There are some excellent auction / swap sites out there where you can purchase gently used curriculum - I just purchased the Pathway readers, teacher guides and workbooks for 3rd, 4th and 5th for more than half off their new price even at the discount offered by Rainbow Resource.

    Try these:

    Hope these comments help - we feel so blessed to be able to homeschool our girls and enjoy trying to help and encourage others on the same path!


  6. I'm a veteran kids are 18 years old down to 4 years. I have loved my Startwrite program from the first time I saw it. The features are much improved over the first release. Enjoy! Be glad you found it early. Be extra glad to have found First Language Lessons. I only discovered it about 5 months ago. What a wonderful GEM in the homeschool arsenal.

  7. I love looking at what other homeschoolers are doing. So helpful. Seems to me like you are on a great track.

    I'm doing Sonlight this year with my 6 year old for the history/geography and some Bible (I hunt for the books used!). It's similar to the TruthQuest where it uses good literature as it's major thrust. I like that we can start at creation and advance through world history.

    Best Wishes!