“I want a curriculum that is completely done for me, lesson plans, activities, everything. I won’t have time to sit and actually plan things out, at least not to start, so I want it done.” – Melissa Grooters circa May 2011
Hello, I’m Melissa, and I’m a control freak. All together now: “Hiiii, Melissaaaa.”
Those words were spoken in the middle of a lot of crazy things going on during a time that I didn’t have any time. I knew homeschooling would require much from me and since there are a bajillion curriculum options and the freedom to choose (which can often be very daunting), I wanted a straight out of the box system. Until, I started doing the research. Turns out I would like bits and pieces from some, whole subject areas from another, nothing from popular curriculum x, etc., etc. On top of that, Drew, is sort of in between grade levels. I had a problem committing to a kinder level curriculum because he would be bored silly and I’d have to supplement. I had a problem committing to a higher level curriculum because I didn’t want to miss anything accidentally or go too far ahead in case this homeschool thing is too much for me. Then, I’d end up back at a reoccurring concern of mine, that he’d be in a classroom ahead of the other kids, bored silly, and become a distraction. I also do not want him in a classroom where the teacher tells him to just go read when he’s done, which unfortunately happens often. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for reading, but I know he’d be done quickly and that would become a constant event.
Sooooo, with all that said, I am eating my words – the ones I spoke circa May 2011, yep, those. I ended up piecing a curriculum together based on some great sites, which I will share and my experience as a 5th grade teacher. So, here it is for the most part, our kinder/1st grade level curriculum:
Reading: Reading Workshop using Fountas & Pinnell’s Guiding Readers and Writers. You’ll notice that is says for grades 3-6. I used this book when I was teaching because it was something our district wanted us using. It is a FABULOUS way to teach reading in my opinion. The focus is constantly on what “good readers” do and how they do them. The book takes you step by step from day one of introducing Reading Workshop (even what to say to the kids), how to set up a classroom or your reading area/materials, and through the lessons. The whole system works on mini lessons and a ton of focus on independent reading and the kiddos applying what was learned in a mini lesson. Throughout the independent reading time you also conference with them and you can work on other guided strategies or things that need to be covered. This is just a very basic overview of this reading philosophy. I’d be happy to tell you more about it if you have specific questions. I honestly don’t know how I would implement this exactly if Drew weren’t a strong reader, but I’m sure I’d find a way to adjust it.
Writing: For writing we are using bits and pieces of the writing workshop (also from above), along with lessons from The Well-Trained Mind. We will keep a writing journal and I will allow Drew freedom in writing on topics he likes, but not total freedom. That was always a frustration of mine with the writing workshop, when I gave the kids the freedom to write all the time without a topic, things were never completed on time or at all, the topics were always the same, the whole process to me was extremely tedious and I couldn’t stand it. It could very well have been the way I ran it, but for me it didn’t run very smoothly. So, we will use mini lessons (about writing and conventions), apply it to our writing, some free topics while others will be guided by me.
Spelling: We are following a spelling system that a friend of mine did with her first graders. I’m starting with a 1st grade level list of words. Drew will choose 5 from the list and make flashcards. Throughout the days he will do different activities with those words, then be tested on them Friday. If he misspells them on the test, those will be added to his list for the following week. (Thank you, Allison for this and for answering all my other questions!)
Math: The district I worked in used Developing Number Concepts by Kathy Richardson and I was very fond of it. We will be using quite a bit of the curriculum from her books, but we will also be including a good bit of memory work for our basic math. I’m a big believer in flashcards and memorizing things. It stretches the brain and there are some things that people should just know off the top of their head, yes even kids.
Geography/History: We are using Road Trip USA and Expedition Earth, which I discovered on one of my new favorite blogs – Confessions of a Homeschooler. I’m really excited to use these guides and I love that picture books are used to supplement the information, there’s memory involved, games included, along with the history that went on in the location being studied.
Science: This one is a hodgepodge of stuff that I’m putting together as I go. We will begin with a unit on What is a scientist? Moving on to tools used to explore/study/etc., then onto the scientific method. From there we will start focusing on units probably beginning with life science.
Art: I found this curriculum on my favorite blog, also. This is an artist study based on the books The World’s Greatest Artists. The books are broken up by artist beginning with Picasso. They are very easy and entertaining reads for the kids to remain interested and they include some of the artist’s best or most popular pieces. The curriculum comes with flashcards (I told you I was a fan of them) and has lessons you can add on to or omit. Either way, I think it’s a fantastic thing to expose the kiddos to.
This is how we are beginning. I plan to include music along the way and I’m sure I will tweak things as I go. So, there you go! I can’t wait to get started. Our official first day is right after Labor Day! Drew is so excited, too. He came home this evening and saw everything laying on the ground. He went through all the books, then picked up a notebook and wanted to start writing. I LOVE his enthusiasm.
If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them. If not, you can just keep track of our homeschooling adventures here as we go.