Our Homeschooling Curriculum: First Grade

I have been meaning to write a post summarizing our year's curriculum for some time. I know I am always interested in what others are doing. In this post I will summarize what we have used for Jacob who is in first grade.

Reading and Phonics

Explode the Code (Books 1,2,3, and 4)
Now I'm Reading! (Levels 1,2, and 3) by Nora Gaydos
Bob Books
Sight Word Flash Cards (homemade)

We also read many of the books by Arnold Lobel mentioned in my Teaching Your Child to Read post. Isaiah has almost finished Alphaphonics and this last month we started reading from The Beginner's Bible which has been a great next step.

Reading Comprehension

We use the Charlotte Mason method of oral narration to assess Jacob's reading comprehension. You can read more about this method here and find lots of narration ideas at Simply Charlotte Mason. I have Jacob orally narrate back to me what he remembers from our history, science, Bible, and other books we read. We have read and listened to a number of great books this year. I will add our favorite fiction books that we have read or listened to this year below. I am so thankful for audio books because I only have time to read so many books out loud.

Fiction Read Alouds/Audio books
The Boxcar Children (books 1 & 2)
Freddy Goes to Florida
The Indian in the Cupboard
The Adventures of Jimmy Skunk
The Adventures of Paddy Beaver
Black Beauty
The Wizard of Oz
The Saturdays
The Four Story Mistake
Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Read Aloud Treasury
Raggedy Andy Stories
The Tale of Peter Rabbit and other stories by Beatrix Potter


Handwriting Without Tears: My Printing Book
History & Bible Copywork

In addition to copywork, Jacob has dictated his own stories to me which I write out on three lined primary paper for him to copy. He has written a couple of stories himself by sounding out words phonetically. I correct the spelling, punctuation, and grammar mistakes on Jacob's favorite stories and then he rewrites and illustrates them. Jacob has also written letters and thank you notes to family.


We have used words from Alphaphonics, Explode the Code books, and misspelled words from Jacob's writing for spelling. I have him write out his words on the chalkboard or dry erase board. He also spells his words to me orally and we have used the free Spelling City website to practice and play games with his spelling words. The best thing I have found this year related to spelling is a wonderful resource called The ABC's and All Their Tricks: The Complete Reference Book of Phonics and Spelling. This book has taught me so much and I have been able to explain why most words are spelled the way they are when Jacob asks. One rule that I can't believe I was never taught is that K is used before e, i, or y. Jacob kept asking me if a word started with c or k and after learning this rule he was able to figure it out on his own.


We keep grammar pretty simple. We discuss punctuation when I go over Jacob's writing work and we also read stories about nouns, verbs, and adjectives. I have listed some of these stories below. Just recently, I gave Jacob a Mad Libs Junior book and he had great fun filling in the nouns, verbs, and adjectives to complete the silly stories. Mad Libs Junior books provide a list of nouns, verbs, and adjectives which can be used in the stories. This allows younger children to enjoy them. Some of the words provided are words we do not use in our house like stupid or a certain bodily function noise so I have Jacob cross those out. He has certainly heard those words from other children before but it is something to take into consideration if you plan on buying Mad Libs Junior.

Grammar Stories

Kites Sail High: A Book About Verbs
Many Luscious Lollipops: A Book About Adjectives
Merry-Go-Round: A Book About Nouns
A is for Angry: An Animal and Adjective Alphabet
The King Who Rained
Eight Ate: A Feast of Homonym Riddles
Pitch and Throw, Grasp and Know: What is a Synonym?
Stop and Go, Yes and No: What is an Antonym
Hairy, Scary, Ordinary: What is an Adjective?
To Root, to Toot, to Parachute: What is a Verb?
A Mink, a Fink, a Skating Rink: What is a Noun?

More Language Arts

We have put on our own little plays and puppet shows. The kids have both enjoyed acting out their own version of "The Three Bears", "Cinderella", and a story which Jacob wrote himself. We have memorized a couple short Bible verses but we could have done more in this department. Jacob also enjoyed putting word cards in alphabetical order by the first letter. I wrote out individual words on index cards and he laid them out on the floor in the correct order. In addition, I showed Jacob how to look up words in the dictionary.


We used Miquon Math (orange and red books) for Jacob this year and it has been a good fit for him. We did have a little trouble with fractions and had to come back to them later in the year. Jacob is very good at math and Miquon Math is great for kids who are kinesthetic learners. It is more parent intensive then some programs on the market and it would not be a good program for parents who are uncomfortable teaching math. If you decide to go with Miquon Math, you will definitely need the Lab Sheet Annotations teacher's book. You will also need a set of Cuisenaire Rods. We also found a set of Unifix Cubes to be very helpful and I would recommend Unifix Cubes to go along with any math program. Miquon Math only goes to 3rd grade so we will have to find a different math curriculum after that. Miquon Math is giving Jacob a very strong foundation in math and we will definitely be using it all three years for him. I am looking into other programs for Rosa because I feel Miquon Math would be too challenging for her. You can read more reviews of Miquon Math at HomeSchoolReviews.com.

In addition to Miquon Math, Jacob has done lots of dot-to-dots which he really enjoys. I have made up oral word problems for him to solve, we have read some enjoyable math related picture books, and we have played with our balance scale, geoboard, magnetic pattern blocks, tangrams, and time and money flash cards. We really liked the tangram books, Tangram Magician and Three Pigs, One Wolf, and Seven Magic Shapes. You can print your own tangram puzzles here. We also printed and used our own custom calendars from DLTK, played Bingo, Addition in the Amazon, and Skip Bo. You can check out our favorite math story books and more under the Kids Love Learning Favorites: Math section.


I created my own World History Unit Study which covered Creation to the Fall of the Roman Empire. I really like the book, A Child's History of the World by Hillyer, which is available to buy through Sonlight. I did not have the money to buy the complete Core Package from Sonlight and I wanted more hands on activities which was why I created my own unit study which included Bible history. We also used the The Usborne Book of World History and lots of other books which you can check out under the Kids Love Learning Favorites: World History section.

In addition to books, we used a time line book from Sonlight called Book of Time.
I also bought Sonlight's time line figures which worked well. You can make your own timeline book and I wrote about that under my Ancient Egypt Unit blog post. This year I am making my own time line stickers using the wonderful clip art site Clipart ETC.

We used Blackline Maps of World History for map work and I highly recommend these maps if you are studying World History. Each map has instructions which make them easy to use. We included crafts and activities in our study of World History as well. I wrote about some of these in my Ancient Egypt Unit blog post.


I made up my own science units with books from the library and other interesting things I found. This year we learned about animals, the human body, space, magnets, volcanoes, growing a garden, and more. You can check out some of our favorite science books under the Kids Love Learning Favorites: Science section and Nature & Animals section. The "Lets Read and Find Out Science" books are great for early elementary students. I also found some simple and fun experiments to go along with our units in Janice VanCleave's Earth Science for Every Kid and The Human Body for Every Kid books. We probably had the most fun using The Body Book to make models of the skeletal system, the digestive system, and the respiratory system. You can see one of the models we made in my post here. If you decide to study volcanoes, don't miss the free Volcanoes Lapbook on Homeschool Share.

This spring we have focused on nature study and starting seeds inside. Jacob began his own nature journal which I wrote about a few weeks ago and you can read about below. We have greatly enjoyed listening to The Burgess Animal Book for Children which you can listen to for free on LibriVox. The Burgess Bird Book for Children is another wonderful free audio book on LibriVox.

Bible & Character Study
We have read through one of our many children's Bibles this year to go along with our World History unit study. In addition, we have found some other great character building books which the kids have enjoyed. They are listed below.

Five Minute Devotions for Children: Celebrating God's World as a Family
A Child's Book of Character Building
Hero Tales: A Family Treasury of True Stories from the Lives of Christian Heroes (volume 1)


We did a number of fun projects related to our world history study including making a cave painting, making clay coil pots, designing a Greek vase, weaving a very small blanket, and creating a mosaic. We read a number of art related picture books from the library. You can check out our favorite art books under the Kids Love Learning Favorites: Art section. Jacob greatly improved his drawing skills by using the Usborne I Can Draw Animals book, the Usborne I Can Draw People book, and Draw Really Cool Stuff. You can read more about how the Usborne books inspired Jacob in my blog post here. You can also read about the rest of our random art projects this year under Art.


Jacob began learning how to play the keyboard this year and my husband has been teaching him. The Pretime Piano books were a big hit. These are books of very simple well known piano songs for beginners. Playtime Piano books are the next step and a bit more advanced. We listened to lots of great classical music, learned about the Orchestra which you can read about here, and borrowed our favorite children's music CDs and books from the library. You can check out our favorite music CDs and books under the Kids Love Learning Favorites: Music section.

In addition to the above activites, we had family sing-a-longs with the guitar which my husband plays. We enjoyed attending music concerts in the community including a concert of Peter and the Wolf done by our local orchestra, children's concerts covering the instrument families also done by our local orchestra, and music performances at a near by college. Both my kids had fun playing their rhythym instruments and lap harp.

Field Trips

Our State Museum
Wildlife Animal Park
Historic Fort
Blue Angels Air Show
Fire Station Tour
Pumpkin Farm
Nutcracker Ballet (children's performance)
Cinderella Ballet (children's performance)
Ski Trip
Planetarium Show
Arctic Museum
Art Museum
Children's Museums
Orchestra Concert
Niagara Falls (planned for this summer)
Lake Placid Olympic Center (planned for this summer)

We have had a great year and I am having fun planning for next year. A book which I find very helpful when planning out my school year is Home Learning Year by Year by Rebecca Rupp. This books gives me a general idea of areas to cover for each grade level and lists many excellent homeschooling books and curriculum for each grade. As you can see, we are very eclectic in our approach and I try to find things that make learning fun for our kids. Both Jacob and Rosa are doing well academically and are at or above where they should be in most areas. A good education should not be dull in my opinion. I have learned as much or more then my children have in all the subjects we have studied. A major benefit of homeschooling for me is getting to learn right along with my children. We all get excited about learning.

Now I have to admit that not everything we did was fun. I find spelling to be tedious and it was never my favorite subject. We very recently started a new spelling curriculum which has been very enjoyable so far. If it works for us next year, you will be sure to see it on this blog. As I mentioned above, we did get bogged down in fractions for a little while and had to take a break and come back to this subject later. Jacob also had a period of time where he did not enjoy reading out loud. It was hard work for him sounding out all those words and hard work is not always fun for children. I found some books that he enjoyed more and that helped quite a bit along with keeping his reading practice to 15 minutes a day. Now that Jacob is getting more proficient at reading, he is volunteering to read easy books to his sister and tonight he was a reading a new library book out loud to himself with no prompting from us. His hard work is paying off and this has been a good lesson in perseverence for him.

Well, that is most of what we did this year. There is so much great curriculum, games, books, and activities to choose from now days. I try to narrow the choices down based on my children's learning styles and interests, what I have available to our family free through the library, and what gets consistent great reviews from other homeschoolers. This strategy has worked well and I have had good success with most of the curriculum I have purchased. I have not listed the few things which didn't work for us. That may be good material for another post.


Mom4Two said...

Wow, Amy! This is so impressive! I think you have your portfolio done... Thanks for all the great ideas!

schmobes said...

Looks great! I am planning our "first grade" year, so I appreciate the outline!

Mike and Barb said...

Amy, I am way impressed with your work and your dedication!!
Love, Barb

Kristenph said...

We make very similar picks for curriculum and resources. You've picked out some great things.


tie-dyed doula said...

This is great! Thank you for sharing...I am working on our 1st grade curr choices now. Have you tried the Language Lessons from Queens Homeschool supply? I started the 1st book (it is a charlotte mason approach) and absolutely loved it! Just FYI. Shine on!

Suzuki Mom said...

You have definitely been busy! It sounds like you had a great year. I am working out my plan, and love to see what people have used.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing. Another useful resource for math is:
It provides a range of free math teaching resources, math games, and hands-on math activities for Kindergarten through 5th grade and all activities are correlated with the Common Core State Standards.

JoyFilled said...

Thank you for this post! I am trying to get started with more of a structure for my 5 year old, and we ADORE Charlotte Mason. I really appreciate you taking the time to write this up, it's going to be of great value to me!! Thanks again!

shayna said...

I agree with what everyone has said here. You did a great job on this website. Thank you :)