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  1. #1

    Default Advice Needed on First Grade Curriculum/First Year Homeschooling

    Hi there! We're now 2.5 months in to our first homeschool year and I still feel like I'm awful at it...? I had planned on using Singapore Math, HWOT/TWOT, and working on other subject areas without pre-planned program (our backgrounds are in history and science, so this seemed to be a good idea..), supplementing with some unit studies from TpT, etc. My kid is 6, has a huge range of interests, reads at a 3rd+ grade level, math is on point for a mid-year first grader.

    I found myself using every minute of my time planning lessons and then executing lessons and absolutely hating every single minute. If I'm sitting there, my kid looks to me for the answers or "help", despite knowing how to do it without any. Last year in private kindergarten, the kids did a journal entry every week, wrote frequently otherwise, etc. This year, writing at home is like pulling teeth. I added fidgets, field trips, GoNoodle time...still so much pushback. I feel like this big homeschooling failure, despite the fact that my kid is doing well. Maybe I expect too much? Maybe it's my own fault for raising my kid to be fiercely independent (jokes!)...soooo much pushback when mom is the teacher. Maybe I just expect to get way too much done in a day? Or maybe I don't have a good handle on what constitutes enough?

    I quickly changed to using an online program for Math and Language Arts - (I know some of you hate the marketing for this program!) - and that made things better. Lessons aren't coming from me anymore, and the motivation to do well is there - this kid loves using the computer. I also added several apps that have been recommended here - Mystery Math Town and Mystery Word Town are hits.

    I guess what I'm asking here is for recommendations for history, science and writing for a good reader who suddenly hates to write? (This was going on before the computer lessons started). Is there something that combines history and writing? Thoughts on BraveWriter?

    Thank you for any suggestions!

  2. T4L In Forum Oct19
  3. #2


    From what I read in your post, it seems to me that you mostly need to stop 'doing lessons' with you son and try to just live educationally rich life together with him. I'm sure you are already doing it with him - reading books together, researching, googling, watching enriching movies etc etc....but, for some reason, you do not value it as much as your pre-planned and executed-against-his-will lessons.

    You do not need curricula to teach a 6yo! Your son does not like proper lessons, but I am sure he likes reading, and learning, and exploring. He wouldn't be reading at the 3rd grade level if he didn't. I would drop everything lesson-like and concentrate on books, projects, educational games, and following his interests. Maybe, look into activity/science boxes, puzzles and hands-on projects from the Smithsonian, or the National Geographic. Play Ticket-to-Ride to learn geography. Listen to Magic Tree House books together and explore whatever catches his interest in more depth.

    Writing at 6?! Whose expectation is it that a 6yo is supposed to love writing? Especially a boy. Leave him alone. Let him build his fine motor skills and hands' strength by playing with clay, or Lego's, or whatever he likes. Listen to the stories he tells you and ask him open-ended questions about the books he reads and that would be plenty for that age.
    Last edited by Oksana; 11-15-2016 at 07:07 PM.
    mom to 3 girls: DD10, DD9, DD6

  4. #3
    Senior Member Arrived TFZ's Avatar
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    Mar 2015
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    My DS has the Usborne history encyclopedia and Nat Geo science encyclopedia on his Christmas list this year. His interests are so varied that there's no way I could get him to stick to a plodding curricula - like a four year cycle or nature studies for a year. I'm just kinda planning around what he asks to learn.

    I've been taking him to science classes at the kid's museum when something looks interesting. I'm planning on continuing that for first grade. He's getting snap circuits from great grandma and grandpa - STEM. Lately he's asked to learn about space next. We'll get some books and watch a playlist on YouTube. Great science resources on YouTube.

    I agree that Magic Tree House has been an amazing jumping off point for History. He mainly listens to them, but we've read a few together, and so far one on his own. He picks them out himself. We also are in the middle of Build Your Library Kindergarten - it's basically a unit study of each continent. It would be completely appropriate for an older kid. I'm planning on doing them again when my youngest ones are ready. I prob will use it as separate unit studies over two years, though, instead of a full year curriculum. It covers around-the-world geography, cultural studies, animals, and landmarks.

    I'd recommend What Your 1st Grader Needs to Know to get an idea of what is expected for the age group. It sounds like he's mastered his grade level now, so the rest is bonus time. When I taught first grade, science and social studies were very basic. Looking at a map, learning about your state, a few major people in history. Learning the seasons, about the sun and moon, animals and insects, magnets, stuff like that. Simple. If you're going more in depth, which you probably are if he is interested, you've got it covered.

    As far as writing, some first graders write whole stories and some struggle to get a four sentence paragraph together by the end of the year - even with sample sentences and sentence starters (My favorite restaurant is...). If he doesn't want to learn the writing process or write in a journal, I wouldn't push that. I have a couple ideas for you, though, that I used to use.

    I used to do funny/silly prompts with the kids - every year the favorite was "Would you want a monkey as a pet? Why or why not?" It was hilarious. No one ever wanted a monkey. The monkey will steal my toys! The monkey will poop all over the house! The monkey will make a mess and I will have to clean it up! Anyway, my point is, use humor or silliness to encourage him to begin to think of a storyline. Work on writing the story together first in order to encourage storytelling and writing on his own.

    The other thing the kids liked was writing a book based on facts. I've been doing lapbooks in kinder this year with my son. He loves them. Shorter writing - sentences or fragments, fill-in, stuff like that. With my first graders, we did a report about Florida and a report about animals in the second half of the year. It was kind of the same idea - we'd learn about it, talk about it, and start to write it together. It was A LOT easier for many of them to come up with facts that they learned than to tell a story. Also motivating for them to write about a topic they were interested in - especially with the animals, but I made Florida seem amazing, too. Haha.

    Good luck! Sounds like a really bright kid who loves to learn and wants to do it his own way. Those are the good kind of problems to have
    I'm a work-at-home mom to three, homeschool enthusiast, and avid planner fueled by lattes and Florida sunshine. My oldest is 6 and is a fircond grader (that's somewhere between first and second, naturally), my preschooler just told me she wants to learn how to read, and my toddler is a force of nature.

    I gather all kinds of secular homeschool resources and share them at

  5. #4


    Don't beat yourself up. It's still've just started.

    I'm not gonna suggest any more rabbit holes...because it's all so overwhelming. I'll just say this. Homeschooling is as much, or more, about parenting as it is about educating. And I'll agree with Oksana in saying that, especially with a six year old, "try to just live educationally rich life together with him"

    I know you're thinking..."what is that supposed to mean?" It means.....just be his engaged mother. Not his school "teacher".

    You'll be fine. Once you look at it with a different perspective, then you will have more information about yourself and your son which will make it easier to be realistic about which materials to use.

    Best of luck
    Homeschooling two sons (14 and 16) from day one. Atheist.
    Eclectic, Slackschooler covering 8th and 10th grades this year.

  6. #5


    When my DS was 6, I was wondering what to do and really, I wish I did less. Less formal lessons, less worrying, less frustration.

    Read, go on field trips, do art and science experiments, without them being a lesson. Allow for simple explosions and messy art projects or what ever he is into. Let him tell you stories. We received magnetic poetry as a gift when DS was about 7. It was fabulous. We collectively would make up outrageous stories and poems.

    Watch videos. We watch all kinds of time travel videos and read time travel books. Great jumping off points for geography and history. I don't turn it into a big lesson. Just fun conversations and see where they take you.

  7. #6
    Senior Member Arrived RTB's Avatar
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    Feb 2012


    For what it is worth, it took me awhile to find a groove. A couple of years actually. All those 'maybes' you have, tend to work themselves out over time. The first year especially, is all about adjusting and readjusting. I still get push back from time to time. Sometimes I think they just have to get it out of their system (like after a longer break), and sometimes we have to readjust. Hang in there!

    Practical stuff. . . .

    Bravewriter, Jot it Down, worked really well for us in the early years. It is a very relaxed, fun approach to writing. I also use prompts for free writes as part of the Bravewriter program - Julie has them on her website. You can find lists of prompts through google or you can buy a workbook. You can also have them free-draw the prompt and narrate it to you (you write down their narration).

    I did not use BYL for the younger years, but I've used her unit studies (love them) and I use her book lists for ideas all the time. You can read a book and have your child give you an oral narration of the book / chapter, while you write. Or use clay, draw, set up a play using stuff animals for narration.

    Evan Moor makes a workbook called History Pockets (other subjects also) you can find them on Amazon, or in book / teacher stores. They are more or less a condensed unit study on a period or topic in history. They are very hands on - cutting, gluing. My dd enjoys them, my ds hated them.

    Magic School Bus makes science kits. You can find them on Amazon or Educents (I'm sure other places). They are topic specific and contain everything you need to conduct simple experiments, more like an illustration on the topic. Combined with the correlating book or video (also Amazon), I found it perfect for the younger years.

    I know people who prefer a more rigorous approach, but for us we found it a waste of energy / time / money. It is ok, to be relaxed or have fun. You have loads of time. Sometimes I think deschooling ourselves is the hardest part of HSing.

    Keep asking questions!
    Last edited by RTB; 11-16-2016 at 10:51 AM.
    DS 14, DD 12
    Year 8

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Advice Needed on First Grade Curriculum/First Year Homeschooling