It’s that time of year when we’re all thinking about what worked this year, what’s worth re-ordering for next year, and what needs to be placed on a funeral pyre and burned at sea. Here’s the curriculum that worked – or not – for us this year.
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All About Reading – A
I don’t know why I resisted All About Reading so much, but I’m glad that I finally got over myself and decided to try out a used copy I found on a resale board. All About Reading is our third reading method. When we first started kindergarten, I tried to teach reading with real children’s literature, introducing reading concepts that would help them decode the books they were working towards reading. It SO didn’t work for my kids. We were butting heads every day. It was no way to do kindergarten. An online program seemed like the answer, and they certainly did learn. By the end of the year, though, it was clear that they had figured out how to game the system.
I bought All About Reading thinking that my kids would fly through it based on where they been in their online program. Nope. We backed up to the beginning of the All About Reading program and dug our way through level 1 and got a start with level 2.
Shiller Math – B… maybe?
I love the Montessori, manipulative-heavy approach of Shiller. It’s essentially what sold me on the program. On the other hand, I’m not sure that some of the things emphasized in books 1 and 2 are super crucial to know at this point, like Roman numerals. Book 3, which we’ll tackle in 2nd grade, is going to be the make-or-break portion of the program for me. If Shiller can actually have my kids multiplying and dividing by the end of 2nd grade, I’ll be impressed and amazed. Otherwise, you might find me crying in a closet. One of those things is going to happen in 2nd grade.
Words Their Way – C
We started the year with the popular-with-public-school-teachers Words Their Way, which does, in fact, come in a homeschool bundle. Missing from that bundle, though, was the book of poems designed for classroom use, which seems like an integral part of the program in the teacher lesson plans. At that point, I just decided it was all too much and my kids weren’t really ready to tackle spelling anyway. It might have worked out if I had ordered that book of poems, but I didn’t. And now Words Their Way is sitting in my To Sell pile.
Spelling You See – A
We picked this program up later in the year, and so far, I love, love, love this part of our school day. Spelling You See is truly open-and-go, and my kids are having real success with it.
Winging It – D
I resisted any kind of formal handwriting curriculum because, I mean, how hard could it be to teach someone how to form letters correctly? Well, that turned out to be the Handwriting WITH Tears approach for us.
Handwriting Without Tears – B+
Handwriting Without Tears has turned out to be another big win for us. I only wish we had started earlier. I do wish that I had only ordered the print books, though. The teacher’s manual hasn’t been so useful for me.
Child’s History of the World – C+
I know that so many people love this book. My kids just don’t, though.
History Pockets (Ancient Civilizations) – B
I wasn’t sure what exactly to expect from History Pockets when I ordered the Ancient Civilizations book. It turned out to be a fine little supplement, though the activities are repetitive.
Classes at Our Local Science Museum – A Win
Our bi-weekly classes at the museum paired with complementary library books were just the right amount of formal study for 1st grade. We’ll continue this approach through 2nd grade, but by 3rd grade, I think we’ll be ready to step up our formal study of science.
Nature Study – A-
I’m a little crunchy about nature study. I totally agree with the message of Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods, and I’ve overcome much of my indoorish nature to become a person who revels in outdoor time with my children. They’ve learned so much. I’ve learned so much. Truly. The minus is beside that A only because I wish that I had gone into this knowing more than I did or even do now. They have so many very good questions, and I wish I had more confident answers.
Writing – A Win
We cooked low and slow with writing this year, just as we did in kindergarten. Once or twice a week, I gave my kids story paper and invited them to write and illustrate anything they wanted to on it. Sometimes they wanted to invent a story about their favorite cartoon characters, and sometimes they wanted to write about the events of the day. When they brought me paper – either blank or illustrated with their story ideas – and asked me to write down a story for them, I tried to always say YES. We also had a lot of success with blank books. Nothing seemed as enticing to them as those bound blank pages, and when they ran out of purchased blank books, they made countless books out of the paper in our art supplies.
Instead of formal lessons about mechanics, I gently reminded them to use end punctuation, talked about the different kinds of end punctuation (and pointed them out in books we read together), guided them through when apostrophes are used, and coached them through when to use upper and lowercase letters.
1st grade isn’t within my certification area, but I do have expertise in where this writing stuff is going. More than anything at this point, I want writing to always be something they can enjoy, and I don’t want to hinder their interest in turning to writing to record their ideas.
I hope that sharing our experiences with curriculum might help families heading into first grade. A big takeaway from this year for me – it is so okay to turn to a formal curriculum rather than creating your own thing. Even for the simple stuff.
Happy curriculum shopping!