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Advice for first grade curriculum?


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hi. :) I am homeschooling for Kindergarten. This year I am just doing momma made unit studies. She is learning to read and picking it up fast. I think she will be reading very well by first grade.


I need to figure out what we want to use for school NEXT year before taxes, so I thought i'd start looking around now.


What I am looking for is something to inspire my creative girl. She is active, but has a good attention span. She likes drawing and hands on learning (Like using clay to form letters for reading, or beans to help with counting) She likes crafts and projects. I have a fairly small budget of around $100 a little more isn't too awful, but i'd like to stay away from the $200 mark. I will be looking for things used. I realize that this means I will probably need to buy books, and not actual kits/curriculum. I don't mind supplementing my own ideas in, but would like something to help guide us. I feel like having a thorough math resource is especially important.


Please don't abbreviate anything. Thank you so much for any insights you may have and of course the time it takes to read and reply!

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Well, my list is in my signature, but I'll expand a bit. Here's what we are using for first grade (6yo DD):



  1. Little House on the Prairie year-long study: I mainly wanted our first grade year to focus on READING and MATH... and DDs were into the series, so this study became our Literature, Art, History and Geography for the year. I have been able to find most of our ideas online for free, just needed to buy the set of 9 books. Nothing strict, just fun together with it. (I am glad I purchased The World of Little House, valuable in background, ideas.)
  2. Phonics/Reading: Rod & Staff, which I think is very thorough and affordable, especially when you buy it used
  3. Math: Singapore Math Standards ed. which my 6 yr old & I love! I do recommend buying the Home Instructor's Guide, textbook and workbook. I also recommend some manipulatives (we use 2-sided/colored counting chips and unifix cubes often.) We also use cuisenaire rods for our Fun-math Friday, which is usually games, oral math drills and c-rod play.
  4. Science: I'm using the ACSI Grade 1 student text as a spine/reader. It's affordable when one skips the teacher guide. We study each Unit over 4 lessons (2 lessons a week) and add in lots of library books, dvds, Pinterest-inspired crafts & activities. So basically, I just use the book as a pre-made almost-year-long outline (which you could do for free, but I'm too lazy and like seeing the content laid out for me in age-appropriate doses. Also, if I get lazy/behind/busy and we don't find any REAL books or activities on the topic, the reader/text is sufficient and I just do the experiments in the text.)
  5. Handwriting: Just a pack of lined paper and I make up our writing for the week (usually names, days of the week, colors, short sentences, etc)
  6. Bible: no formal curriculum, just 1-2 (or 4-5 :D) Bible stories a day. I have several kids Bibles, each increasing in detail/maturity, so once we finish our current Bible (The Beginner's Bible) we'll move up to the next level. (ETA: thriftbooks.com and amazon.com have some AMAZING prices on used--but great condition--kids Bibles!)


Edited by alisoncooks
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I just got in Grade 1 Climbing to Good English today. It's adorable. I've been using the upper levels for awhile with my tutoring students. I won't be using more than a few pages for my students, but if I had a 6 year old, I'd love it. There is a LOT of coloring included in the grammar and composition lessons. $4.00 is quite the bargain. This is the only workbook without a teacher manual. I don't need it, and don't think anyone would either.


See if your library had a copy of How to Tutor. I love :001_wub: this book. I can teach a LOT directly from this book, and you also might be able to. This book teaches slanted cursive for handwriting, which I don't teach, but the general handwriting instruction is invaluable. It covers all of the 3R's.


I like Spalding's Writing to Road to Reading better for handwriting. All the editions teach excellent manuscripts, but the 6th edition cursive instructions are far superior to the earlier editions. The cursive is vertical, not slanted. Your library should be able to get you this book, too.


For science I like Evan-Moor Daily Daily Science. This curriculum can sometimes be bought at Amazon for $20.00, but full price is $30.00. This curriculum is SO easy to supplement and teach. There are 6 Big Ideas a year, with 4 sub-lessons and a review lesson. The sub-lessons ask a funny question as the theme of using a concrete example to illustrate the big idea.


Big Idea 1 is: Living things have basic needs that help them stay alive. The weekly questions are: Can a rock grow? Do monkeys really eat Bananas? Do plants have mouths? Do fish drink water? The hands on activity for the review week is celery in colored water.


The student I am using this with right now REALLY struggles with the big ideas. I just use the workbook when I don't have time to get to the library, and then when I do, I pile up on books about the funny concrete topics. I incessantly draw her attention to the connections to the big idea. I incessantly review past lessons. She's getting it, and she's having fun.


I know some people will find this workbook to be the cheesiest thing they have ever seen and would be appalled at any student having this as their science curriculum. But I feel that it's a tool that is allowing me to accomplish big things with the big ideas. And supplementing is as easy as pulling books off the shelves at the library, or hitting youtube.


I'll write more later.

Edited by Hunter
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For reading, I'm a fan of McGuffey's ECLECTIC (not the original tan covers) Readers.


Hardcopy Primer


Free Primer


Hardcopy Book 1


Free Book 1


These books are based on a wordlist that you don't need and that is expensive to aquire. But because they are based on a word list, you can TEACH each word and KNOW that no lesson will use a word that you have not previously taught. I go over the pronunciation, meaning, spelling and cursive handwriting of each word. McGuffey's was my only source of copy work, but now I also use sentences from How to Tutor and Evan-Moor Daily Science.


I do NOT teach comprehension strategies to grade 1 level. I teach DECODING, at this stage. So I won't link you to any of my favorite comprehension sources, unless you ask me to.


I also like the Treadwell Readers, but seldom have time to get to them.


McGuffey's is about READING SKILLS, and Treadwell is about LITERATURE. Literature is an art, and arts are important for different reasons than skills. When time gets crunched, :tongue_smilie: the arts get shuffled to the back, unless a student is in a situation that makes me put the arts first, such as depression. The short cold days after the winter solstice is when I am most often needing to attend to the arts.

Edited by Hunter
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Rainbow Resource is carrying Prang crayons again. $3.95


The reason I like Prang 64 so much is that the box includes all the primary, secondary and tertiary colors. And there are light, medium and dark, for the primary and secondary colors.


I like to teach color theory with crayons, instead of by mixing paints. The library should be able to get you a copy of Using Color in Your Art. Most of the lessons can be adapted to Prang crayons, instead of using the paints suggested.


If you are mail ordering these crayons, instead of being lucky enough to purchase them locally, try to afford 2 boxes as some of the crayons sometimes break in shipping. Sigh!


Prang crayons are of slightly better quality than Crayola.



Edited by Hunter
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Character Development


Achieving True Success Used copies are pennies plus shipping.


WARNING! This book is new to me. Several nicer and more expensive curricula have been created off these same 49 character traits. I'm hoping this slim book will be enough, to use as a spine.


There are secular and Christian resources for these traits. The above book is secular.

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Physical Education


Pick a sport a month. use whatever library and online resources you can find to learn a little history and rules. And look for an independent skill to practice. For example practice dribbling for basketball. For baseball throw a ball up and try to catch it. For gymnastics practice walking and hopping on a board raised on two bricks.


Art and Music Appreciation.


Borrow "What Your 1st Grader Needs to Know" from the library.

Edited by Hunter
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Well a lot of people LOVE MEP for math. It is free online you just need to print the worksheets. You can read the teachers manual online.


Science at the first grade level can EASILY be done by reading library books and getting experiment books from the library. You can either do the WTM way and focus on Biology topics or follow the World Book Encyclopedia Typical Course of Study for 1st grade


Social Studies/History for 1st grade I would recommend Story Of The World or Mystery Of History if you want to follow the WTM history cycle.


Explode the Code is a good way for good readers to keep up on their phonics skills (just get the correct book levels) then just have her read books for reading practice silently and aloud (libraries usually have decent leveled readers)


Engish/Language Arts I would recommend First Language Lessons and Writing With Ease at this level (both widely available used on the FS boards here!)


Arts and crafts you can pick up books at the library or get AWESOME ideas online. Also, I have a TON of sites bookmarked for school. I am running out the door now but will be back later to link those for you!


You can do it EASILY!

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Math is where most people spend most of their $100.00 if that is all they have to spend. My math goals are to get students ready for Saxon 54, and I'm continually looking for the most efficient way to get them ready.


I found the controversial information about math in How to Tutor fascinating and I highly recommend reading it.


I'm currently using HTT and https://www.xtramath.org/ as my base curriculum for 1st grade level and TRYING when I am ABLE to add in conceptual and fun resources.


Grube's Method Free


African Waldorf math Free


I am currently using bits of Professor B($25.00 without the workbook and charts) and Ray's($6.25), but if you just have $100.00 I don't recommend them. Ray's is free online, but the only key is $10.50


None of these curricula require printing or workbooks which are so expensive, and a big reason why I'm using them. The copywork method of HTT was the glue that helped me figure out how to better use all these other resources. I really think 1st grade math can be done with just HTT, xtramath.org (or flashcards), and library books.

Edited by Hunter
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My big girl is currently at first grader and I have to report to the state. For art and music, we don't do anything fancy...I bought a bunch of art supplies and she just goes to town with the supplies. Lately, the girls have been painting. While they are working on their art projects, I put on some music...yesterday it was classical and the other day, we listened to a Bela Fleck CD. They painted and listened to music for over an hour - that was art and music. Easy, cheap (we have an Xbox so I use last.fm for music a lot).


We don't use this but Rod & Staff has very inexpensive workbooks. When I buy math books, I use eBay often since I can specifically buy from people who offer free shipping.


Google free handwriting worksheets...there are a lot of those and some you can generate yourself.


Also, utilize the "want to buy" board here.

Edited by MissKNG
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I like keeping it simple.


Five in a Row (use the library)

Pentime handwriting

Rod and Staff Math 1

Phonics Pathways (add leveled readers or picture books from the library)


All of the above may run you slightly over $100 new. If you like FIAR but don't want to use the library Rainbow Resource has book packs for reasonable prices. I got most of mine 2nd hand though.


I like Ambleside Online Year 1 set up for the most part and a lot of it can be downloaded for free. But I use Y1 (in my own way) with my 2nd grade child because I find the books advanced.

Edited by Susie in MS
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The Well-Trained Mind set-up for first grade is pretty inexpensive, and just the right amount of gentle in my experience. Here's what most of mine used.


-First Language Lessons

-Phonics Pathways (I don't start spelling until they're ready to get all their phonics from their spelling book.)

-copywork on a tablet for writing, primarily using the instructions in The Well-Trained Mind (The main Writing With Ease hardback book will walk you through this in detail, and you can choose your own selections, thus skipping the workbooks.)

-Veritas Press literature (most titles available at the library)

-Rod and Staff math 1

-a couple kiddie encyclopedias for science, look at used book stores for bargains (again, read that section in The Well-Trained Mind)

-Story of the World volume 1 for history


I would go w/Well Trained Mind 1st grade suggestions too.

For us it was slightly different than above:


Rod and Staff math, phonics, reading, handwriting (for one of mine. One of mine did just fine w/ copywork by me and the writing practice in the reading/phonics workbooks) This includes spelling and dictation in the reading/phonics.


Story of the World and A.G.


Science was a study of animals, plants, human body using Usborne Encyclopedias as spines and lots of library books. The Well Trained Mind gives you an idea of how to put together your study for each year of science w/out a specific curriculum. It worked fantastically for us for 4 years.


Altogether new this program would be over $200. But you could easily search ebay for the teacher's manuals for R&S and then only have to buy the workbooks new. You should be able to find the Story of the World used there as well and the science encyclopedias and a copy of the Well Trained Mind which will come in handy for the entire school career.

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Here is our 1st grade line up for next year:


Math: Saxon 2 (or 1 if not ready)


Phonics: Saxon 2 (or 1 if not ready)


Handwriting: LOE Manuscript (or WRTR if can't write in regular manuscript), followed by Phonics Museum 1 for more handwriting and phonological awareness and the primers


Building Thinking Skills Primary


Latin's Not So Tough 1 (the alphabet and pronunciation)


Hey, Andrew Teach Me some Greek 1 (alphabet, pronunciation, and a few words)


Veritas Press Literature 1 guides and books and other living books in 1st grade for Art, Bible, and Music (they have a math book of riddles too)


Classical Conversations for everything else :-) This spring they will come out with copywork called Pre-Scripts. There is a $5 Science curriculum from homeschool curriculum co that goes with the memory work.


Character: Character First (based on the book Hunter mentioned)


Poetry Memorization: Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization (by IEW)


First Catechism, AWANA, and The Gospel for Children are also great resources for memorization.


Actually, I would recommend Nancy Larson Science 2 and Story of the World 1 as well. We'll do those when CC's not in session.


Read alouds from Read From the Heart or Teaching the Classics.

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I'm finding the reading level of Story of the World 1 too hard for first grade level, and each book gets harder. I've been having to use library books with shorter sentences for history, because I cannot find an ancient history text easy enough.


I've never taught chronological history before, as it worked JUST fine to unschool content, but I've realized now that SOME students DO need systematic delivery of content subjects. :tongue_smilie:


I've ordered some TWTM 1st edition history resources, mostly for ME, but think the reading level is going to be too high, and the pages too busy, to use directly with students. I can't think of anything I like well enough to recommend on a $100.00 budget. That's why I recommended TWTM 1st edition from the LIBRARY and to just take notes from the manual and suggested resources. I'm truly amazed how little is available for K-3 chronological history. :glare:


There is a BFSU (Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding) thread going on now, and I've been rethinking about how to use the cheap $5.00 ebooks more effectively. I'm thinking that MAYBE if I use this

for BFSU I'll be able to use it, instead of the more expensive Evan-Moor Daily Science. I've learned a lot about sequencing and teaching "Big Ideas" from Evan-Moor and wonder if I can apply the techniques to BFSU. I'm going to be doing some major BFSU reading this weekend.
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I haven't read the responses, but I'm sure you got some great ones! If I were going to do first grade on $100, I would probably go with-


-Phonics Pathways- use to fill in any phonics holes, then use as a spelling book (we are 2/3 through and enjoying it)

-Readers from the library

- WWE teacher's book (covers four years) with homemade selections for copywork

-Five in a Row teacher's book, plus the books from the library

- Miquon Math

- Nice art supplies, and some books from the library for ideas

- Memory work, which you can come up with on your own (poems, definitions of parts of speech, skip counting, etc)

- Do a lot of walks outside for science, and maybe consider Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding, which is cheap and wonderful!!!

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This is what we do for 1st grade with ds6.


- Singapore Math Standards 1a/1b - HIG, textbook, workbook

- Handwriting - HWOT and I print out some extras - he was holding his pencil incorrectly so I got some of those grips and having him use those.

- Read alouds - he reads to me (he's learning to read and doing really well). I also read to him a ton.

- Science - we watch videos a lot (always have) - Magic School Bus, Bill Nye, Beakman's World, etc. We also watch online Steve Spangler and The Happy Scientist. DH sets up experiments from Steve Spangler's book (this is for both kids). We read a lot of living science books (again, both kids).

- History - we listen to the audio version of SOTW1 (good reminder for DD9 also). We read a ton of books (I'm reading Howard Zinn book 1 to dd9 right now and of course he listens). We watch Liberty's Kids, and other historical-type videos.

- Explode the Code workbooks (just started these).

- He likes writing stories, but following the Jot It Down guide, I mostly have him dictate to me at this point, so he can *really* tell the story he wants to tell.

- Art and Music - we are using a couple art books and trying to do projects every week. I also like to read Art History books (for example Mike Venezia books) and music history as well. Or we'll listen to Classical Kids cds (which are great). We also like going to live theater and the symphony. Both kids take weekly piano lessons.

- Geography - we play games, we have maps on the walls over the house, we have two globes (he has always played with and loved a "talking" globe we have - it really helped to learn! He knows more than I do - you can ask him where something is on the globe and he goes right to it -- we got ours at Christmas a bunch of years ago at Costco - they are normally $150 but Costco sells them for $75 at Christmas.)


Over the years, he's been exposed to so much in part because of DD9, so he knows a surprising amount. I think we try to just "live" learning all the time and so it's just always happening. We also play tons of games - sometimes he needs a little help and often not. He does need some help with the 10 Days in *Wherever* games, but he's excellent at Yahtzee, Chess, Monopoly, etc. He's always played with things like Snap Circuits (loves them). Yesterday DH read a Max Axiom book about Light and this morning he was outside using a magnifying glass to burn things.


I think the biggest thing we do is not separate much of their learning. Sure, dd9 gets more out of some of it than he does, but that's okay. It's working really well for us this way.

Edited by tammyw
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If we had to do 1st as cheap as possible we would do


Spelling: Spelling Workout

Math: Rod and Staff or MCP Mathematics or Christian Liberty Press

English: Rod and Staff or FLL

History: Library books

Science: Library books

Art: Drawing, coloring, cut and paste

Music: Download free classical music and youtube

Phonics: Phonics Pathways with library books

Handwriting: Christian Liberty Press

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We just finished year one of AmblesideOnline, though we didn't use all of the selections. HUFI at charlottemasonhelp.com is another free curriculum that follows the four year history cycle such as laid out in WTM. Ambleside has most of it's texts available free online in pdfs through one of the yahoo groups, and they also have a yahoo group that has files you can print for picture study.


Ambleside uses the Burgess Bird Book for first grade, and we used the iBird app and did plenty of birdwatching, my son loved this. Satori Smiles also has a great resource page for this book with links to coloring pages.


We also used the "Among the ___ People" series, which looks at life in the forest, pond, etc. They are free online, but I also purchased them for my kindle because my son enjoyed them so much.


MEP math is great and free, although we use Singapore Math

We use these free sheets for drilling.


My son used HWOT, but Donna Young also has some free handwriting sheets that I like.


Coloring is important and often overlooked, we love Dover coloring books.


Don Potter has plenty of free public domain reading programs and other books that he has reformatted, including Blend Phonics and Word Mastery, Word Mastery is the same text that MP used for their Classical Phonics text. My son did really well with Word Mastery. He also has links to the McGuffey readers and the Treadwell readers.


Don Potter also has great math resources.


When your son is ready for spelling, Spell by Color is free. I haven't used it, but it is a rules and phonics based program. I am going to try to use The Writing Road to Reading next year, I need to digest it more.


We also read Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans free online as well.


We also used SOTW 1, and I would also recommend FLL and WWE.



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