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Help with first grade curriculum choices


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I need help figuring out what to do for first grade.  We did alright in kindergarten; it was fairly relaxed and we will be finishing over the summer.  I am not an organized person and while I would do best with a packaged curriculum my son would not. I have never seen one where I liked everything it included. I have quite a few programs/methods I love but I need to figure out how to make them work together without it being too much.  

 

Here are the things I know I'd like to include; All About Reading 2, All About Spelling 1, Horizons Math, Story of the World and Handwriting Without Tears  I think I'd like to do First Language Lessons and Song School Latin.  I'm thinking the dictation in Story of the World will cover writing.  I have a few different options for Art and Music.  Here's my dilemma though - I really would like to do the timeline and memory work from cycle one of classical conversations and I'd like to compile a read aloud list to work on for the year from a variety of sources; Sonlight and a few others.  Science I am completely undecided on.  This sounds like way too much to me and I'm not sure there is a way to make all of this work. What do you think?

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My DD is just finishing up first grade and she has done well with Horizons Math, All About Spelling, and First Language Lessons.

 

We are starting Story of the World and Song School Latin this coming year.

 

I am not much help with Classical Comversations because we have not participated in that program. For memory work I basically create my own using definitions and important facts from what we study. First Language Lessons has memory work included.

 

For science, we tried Answers in a Genesis Life last year, but it did not work well for us. This year, I have decided to go with Elemental Science. I also looked at Sassafras science (living book series from Elemental Science) and it looks interesting.

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We are halfway through first grade now (run Jan-Dec). I do not use the curricula you have chosen, but we do do Math, reading, read alouds (also chosen from lists like you want to), and some form of writing daily - the writing can be creative, or a narration (copywork or own) or spelling dictation or handwriting (we do little of this and only if there is a problem as my DD has good handwriting for her age), or possibly a worksheet - usually two or three of these choices per day but it will depend on many things. I cycle them round so that each thing is covered regularly but do not have a specific schedule for this.

 

Then we also do SOTW about 2x/week, science 2x/week (this also varies as if something is flowing well we drop the other for a while - it evens out in the end). She also does a foreign language though this needs better scheduling than I have been giving it.

 

When I write this down it does sound like a lot - and in actual fact it is the read alouds that take up a lot of time and I move them into evenings and bedtime reading a lot of the time to limit school time. 

 

I don't like planning too heavily because if things change or something doesn't work out then I want the freedom to change it without feeling guilty. You could always start with the things that are most important to you and find out how much of your time that will take and then add in the rest only a few times a week or less or even leave it out if there is not space for it. Maybe write a priority list and see where that leaves you.

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Have you looked at the blog Half a Hundred Acre Wood? She has extensive read aloud lists that correspond to CC by cycle and week. I've also been using Memoria Press lists for read alouds. I have purchased Science in the Beginning to use in the fall for my rising fourth and first grader, but I've also decided to do a more CM style science with my first grader by using a nature journal and narration. I'm also going to use the science resources recommended in The Well Trained Mind book for him. I felt like last years science curriculum was over his head and therefore uninteresting, so I want to do something much more appealing to him and age-appropriate. Hope that helps a little! :)

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It does sound like you're trying to do too much, especially for a first grader. You need to decide if you want to do SOTW or CC/reading list for history. It's really tempting to try to do it all, but it's an excellent recipe for burnout. Your child will be exposed to the information either way, so it might help you to choose the one that helps your child learn best. My DD actually did better with the CC cards (actually, we have an old version of CC that uses the Veritas Press cards), because she could go over them again and again (she's a visual learner), where she only vaguely recalls the material covered in SOTW. 

 

If you really, really can't make up your mind, you can do bare-bones SOTW (just the review questions and narration, no projects or extra books), CC cards aligned to the SOTW chapters, and a few history related books (like a picture book of the story of Gilgamesh and something about the Trojan war) mixed in with other non-history-related literature. This plan will require advance planning on your part, though. For the record, my personal preference is to expose my child to good literature over shoehorning in a bunch of books just because they happen to be related to the current history topic. You can always make the child read more history-related books when you get to the second cycle. 

 

Don't spend all your time on history. There are MUCH more important subjects to cover, like reading, writing (both handwriting and composition), and math. It's no tragedy if your first grader can't remember whether Alexander the Great conquered Persia before or after the fall of Carthage. It will be a tragedy if your second grader can't remember how to add or has no clue what "free time" is because you spent 7 hours every day reading 48 books on mummies. 

 

 

Oh, for science, at that age, DD learned best by reading books from the library, with a few kits (caterpillars, magnets, etc) and GEMS units mixed in. 

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I like Getting Started With Latin better than Song School. It's much less cutesy-condescending and classroom oriented. Little ds had no trouble with the earlier chapters in kindy and a lot of other people on this board have used it in first grade. You can get a sample for your Kindle if you have one.

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It sounds like you know what you want to use; why not just make for yourself a weekly checklist (not a schedule with what to do when), but simply a checklist. Your weekly list might include AAR 4x, AAS 4x, Horizons math 4x, HWOT 4x, SOTW 2x, science 2x, SSL 2x, FLL, 3x, CC memory work 5x, etc. This doesn't lock you into doing a certain number of pages or following a rigid schedule or using programs you don't love, but might help you stay on track and see how the various programs can fit together to fill out your week.

 

I do something similar. I have a good weekly plan that I follow then I record what we ACTUALLY accomplish in my daughter's planner. I can then glance at it and tell what I need to steer her toward if it is Thursday and we haven't touched typing or geography that week, for example. We have gotten into a very good groove with this system, while still being somewhat relaxed and 'schedule averse'.

 

If there is something you're consistently NOT getting done, flip your routine and do that first for a few weeks OR do your daily/core work 4 days and tackle all your science, history, Latin, art, music on one day.

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Here are the things I know I'd like to include; All About Reading 2, All About Spelling 1, Horizons Math, Story of the World and Handwriting Without Tears I think I'd like to do First Language Lessons and Song School Latin. I'm thinking the dictation in Story of the World will cover writing. I have a few different options for Art and Music. Here's my dilemma though - I really would like to do the timeline and memory work from cycle one of classical conversations and I'd like to compile a read aloud list to work on for the year from a variety of sources; Sonlight and a few others. Science I am completely undecided on. This sounds like way too much to me and I'm not sure there is a way to make all of this work. What do you think?

I agree it sounds like too much, though I am unfamiliar with AAR/AAS/FLL so I can't say for sure. Perhaps you could check if there is overlap in those programs? Another idea is to alternate/rotate them.

 

I rotate most of my subjects. We read aloud every day, and we do math every day. We switch back and forth between other things, like phonics/reading (LOE) and grammar/copywork (ELTL). And still others we rotate weekly, like music, art, geography, ect.

 

I find not doing every subject every day makes a huge difference.

 

SOTW does not cover dictation. Perhaps you meant narration? Eiter way, I don't think you need to worry about a writing program while you are still teaching the physical act of writing. Lots of read alouds and occasional narration is enough. (IMO)

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My youngest is starting first grade next fall and we use much of the same curriculum you do. This is how I have streamlined it in the past and what I plan to do with him this year...

SOTW dictates just about everything. Doing a notebook page for each section our writing. But "writing" in 1st is just narration. We will read aloud from the selections in the activity guide (when my oldest was in first I added in from Sonlight and other book lists, too.) then the fun part of school is the weekly chapter activity.

We have a daily memory work time. I went through the CC sentences and put them in chronological order. When we get to that topic in SOTW we also learn the sentence.

Handwriting and grammar and a reading lesson take only take a few minutes each day.

I do not do spelling with my boys until later as well as SS Latin.

For science we have done (and will do) just as the WTM suggests.

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It sounds like you know what you want to use; why not just make for yourself a weekly checklist (not a schedule with what to do when), but simply a checklist. Your weekly list might include AAR 4x, AAS 4x, Horizons math 4x, HWOT 4x, SOTW 2x, science 2x, SSL 2x, FLL, 3x, CC memory work 5x, etc. This doesn't lock you into doing a certain number of pages or following a rigid schedule or using programs you don't love, but might help you stay on track and see how the various programs can fit together to fill out your week.

 

I do something similar. I have a good weekly plan that I follow then I record what we ACTUALLY accomplish in my daughter's planner. I can then glance at it and tell what I need to steer her toward if it is Thursday and we haven't touched typing or geography that week, for example. We have gotten into a very good groove with this system, while still being somewhat relaxed and 'schedule averse'.

 

If there is something you're consistently NOT getting done, flip your routine and do that first for a few weeks OR do your daily/core work 4 days and tackle all your science, history, Latin, art, music on one day.

 

This is sort-of what I am doing for 1st grade next year, and we have already started some of the schedule (we are doing year-round) so that when 1st grade "starts" it won't be unfamiliar and a big shock.  I wrote out how often each week I wanted to do things, and then created a schedule in MS Excel that I broke down into 10 minute increments to figure it all out.  

 

We tried AAR1 and AAS1 this past year, but the tiles were too distracting for my DD6, and she made huge jumps in reading so that AAR1 became pointless very quick.  However, in my schedule, I had one of them for 20 minutes in the beginning part of the day, and the other for 20 minutes in the later part of the day, so that she did not get burned out.  I do the same thing with the two maths we use, 20 minutes of "fun" math in the morning (CTC), and then 30-40 minutes of Singapore later on.  History I do 40 minute blocks 2x a week and alternate with Bible, but you could alternate with science.  If you do Bible as well, you can add in science on the 5th day or do a small amount each day, etc.  It would depend on the program you chose and how you want to lay it all out, etc.

 

DD6 LOVES the history, Bible and science, and though it seems like "a lot" of work for a 1st grader to do them all, those are the ones she wants to do.  By breaking everything down into 10 minute increments, you can really allot exactly how much time you need.  After a few weeks of the schedule, you will probably be able to adjust to how much time it actually takes, or you can adjust your plans based on how much he gets done in the time period.  For example, HWT takes DD6 five minutes, but we do one page per day and I just review the formation.  She got all the program instruction last year in her university-model kinder, so just the review is enough.  This might not be enough time for you and your son.

 

We also do Song School Spanish first thing in the morning for 20 minutes 4x a week, and that is plenty.  I don't know anything about CC memory work or dictation, but we do Bravewriter and it is usually 20 minutes 4x a week and that includes grammar and literature discussions on top of the copywork/modified dictation.

 

So, we end up doing school pretty much all day, from about 8am-2:30pm (including a number of breaks to run around outside and lunch), but the things I would cut out are again the things she really wants to do.  She puts up with math to get to the subjects that she thinks are fun.  It works for us.  

 

How much time do you have to get all this done?  Is he your only, or do you have older kids too?  Do you want to do M-F or M-R or something different?  Again, I don't know anything about CC but I hope this helps to give you some ideas.  Also, we don't do read-alouds in the traditional sense.  We do read-aloud some stuff during our history time, but most of the literature read-alouds we do as audiobooks in the car on our way to and from extra curricular activities (gymnastics, swimming, piano) and we get in about 45 minutes - 1 hour every day this way.  DD6 follows along with the books in the back of the car, and she isn't totally distracted by everything going on in the house.  Maybe that is a way you can get in that read-aloud list?

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So altogether that looks like...

Reading - AAR

Spelling - AAS

Penmanship - HWT

Math - Horizons

History - SOTW

FLL - grammar

Language - SSL

Writing - done in history

Art

Music

History - CC

Literature/read alouds - compiled lists

 

 

That is a lot, but it can be streamlined to cover the same things with less separate subjects. :)

 

Reading/lit - Decide if you'll use a program like AAR or work through lists of high quality children's book. Not both.

 

Writing/penmanship - Can your DC form all the letters correctly? If so, copywork can double as penmanship. Decide where the bar is for neatness, and always erase anything less than that and have him redo it. Don't do dictation yet though. Doing copywork and narration through subjects like science and history is a good idea. :)

 

History - Decide on one spine and go with it. Or else just spend 5 minutes on the memory part as part of your daily history.

 

Art/Music - I'd put these together one day a week in place of science and history.

 

Science - Living books are great for this age, or the first encyclopedia method in TWTM.

 

That puts you down to reading/lit, grammar, spelling, writing, math, language, history, science, and fine arts.

 

 

I'll also have a first grader this fall, my fifth one. She'll have grammar (First Language Lessons), mama-made writing, spelling based phonics (Writing Road to Reading), Horizons math, world geography with literature intertwined (replacing history), and living book based science. She gets fine arts as an extracurricular.

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