So, you have a student in first grade! Congratulations! That’s when all this homeschooling stuff really started feeling real to me! Up to that point, I just felt like I was doing and teaching my kids what every mommy does and teaches.
Then, the panic started to set in! How do I know if I am teaching her everything she needs to know?
As you’ll read in the previous article I wrote on this topic, I was pretty nervous to pull together my own first grade curriculum. Now that I’ve done it, I am so glad I did! It was fun and a satisfying challenge. Since I published that first article, I’ve been getting lots of visitors interested in the topic, only a little more in-depth.
In the next few articles, I plan to present you with a very helpful series on building your own first grade curriculum by using what you have on hand and free resources on the internet. You won’t want to miss one of these valuable articles – consider signing up for my articles to be delivered to you via RSS feed or email!
Find Your Starting Point
As I described in the previous article, I had originally planned to use the ACE 1st grade curriculum for my daughter this year, but when it came time to order, we couldn’t afford it. Since I do want her on the curriculum at some point, I started with the scope and sequence for 1st grade from their website. That way, I would know that I was on track with that program once we started using it.
There are literally TONS of websites out there that will tell you “what your child needs to know when“, or scope and sequence by grade level, or topics covered by age. There are also many many books with the information. Just take a few minutes to search the internet or use the ACE scope and sequence to give you a starting point. You have to know what to teach your children in order to figure out how to teach them.
Gather up all the books you have around your house that could be used to cover the information found in the scope and sequence. Whether it’s coloring books, curriculum books, workbooks, reading books, idea books – anything you have on hand that will help you meet your goal. These are your “in-house” resources.
I created a spreadsheet to organize the information I had with the resources I was about to track down. Here is what I created for myself. I saved it as a document instead of pdf so that you could manipulate it for your own needs. The first column is the list of topics covered in 1st grade by ACE. Then, there are two columns – one for “in-house” resources and one for online resources.
The other spreadsheet I created was a checklist. By calculating how many days of school I had for the year, I figured out how many days I could spend on each topic. Using the ACE scope and sequence for 1st grade, I have two weeks (four lessons each week) for each topic. So, my checklist has the same first column as the spreadsheet linked above, but with 8 checkboxes after each topic. For each lesson I found, I checked the box until I had 8 lessons per topic. Here is the checklist.
Finally, you’ll need something to keep all of your lessons and papers together. I used a large binder and lots of page protectors because I happened to have them around the house. At least 100 page protectors will get you through. Now that I’m done creating the curriculum, I wish I had put tabbed dividers in between the page protectors by week. It would have helped in the planning phase – but it means you need as many dividers as you have weeks in the school year and that can get expensive.
Setting Aside The Time
Putting together the lessons for each day will take some devoted time. And, it will likely take you longer than you might expect. The way you carve out that time for yourself will depend on exactly how long you need. I used a combination of the methods below to make some time and it took me roughly two weeks.
- Hubby Help. My husband is just as committed, if not more committed, to making sure our kids get a great education. There are lots of times that he sends me to a quiet corner of the house to work on important tasks like this one while he makes dinner, gets the kids’ pajamas on and gets them in bed. Not every husband has the time to do all that, but maybe you can tap into him for a Saturday or two or even just an hour here or there.
- Steam Roller. You could just take two weeks and work on it as often as possible – day and night. Set the kids up with some books for as long as it will last and get to work. Then, let them watch one video from the library and get to work. Then, put them each in a different room with a bucket of toys and declare “quiet play time” and get to work. Then, eat lunch, put them down for naps and get to work. Every time it seems like they are getting a little bored of what they have in front of them, sing the clean up song and then pull out something new. The bulk of the time I was working was in this fashion.
- Night Owl. You could also only work on this while the kids are sleeping at night. Make sure to wake them at the same time each morning – for us, it’s 7am. Play with them all day long and put them in bed early – for us, it’s 7pm. You should have several solid hours of time to work each night this way.
But, I don’t have that kind of time! You’ll either have to spend time or money, but at least one of those resources will be needed to make sure your child gets a good education. If you don’t have the money (like me), then you will have to spend the time.
Doing The Work
Now, you have the starting point, you have the tools you need to keep you organized, and you have the time set aside. It’s time to get down to the nitty gritty.
In this step, you’ll be pouring over your books to pull out anything that will help you teach the information.
- Start at the top of your list of topics that need to be covered and take the first topic, for instance “knowing the numbers by symbol and name”.
- Go through your books and pull out or copy the pages that will help you teach that topic to your child.
- As you examine the idea or page, decide about how long it will take your child to complete the task – over estimate the time! If it will only take a few minutes, don’t count it as a full lesson. If it will take 15 to 20 minutes, count it as a full lesson.
- For each lesson you have, mark one box on the checklist.
- Gather any additional materials you need for the lesson.
- Put each complete lesson in a page protector – you’ll end up with one lesson for each subject in a protector. (You’ll be able to take one page protector out of your binder the night before your school day and look through it to make sure you are ready for the topics that will be covered.)
Look at each and every page of each and every book you have. Try to keep scanning the list of topics so that you don’t have to go through each book 100 times. Sometimes, books will be broken down by subject with a contents page in the front or an index page in the back. Start there, but don’t rely on it completely. Some of the things that were listed under Math, I used for Social Studies (such as maps and mapping).
I happen to have a printer that is a copy machine as well. For every lesson or every page that had an idea I wanted to use for a lesson, I copied it immediately and wrote on the sheet what topic and subject it was supposed to cover. There are lots of things you can do if you do not own or have inexpensive access to a printer and/or copier.
- Use a notebook with one page per school day. Write “Day One” on the first page and then separate the page into subjects. Under each subject heading, write down the book and page number of the lesson idea and also write down exactly where the book is located in your house. I put all the books I needed in a plastic bin with my binder. Then, put that piece of paper in the page protector (or leave in the notebook and don’t use the binder).
- Lesson Squares. Neatly rip small squares of paper from recyclable paper you have around the house. (If I print something by mistake or it doesn’t look right, I don’t always throw it away. Those sheets that still have a blank back-side can be used in times like these.) Write the subject and the topic at the top of each piece of paper and then write the lesson idea. Put the piece of paper in the page protector.
When you have exhausted all the books you have, look at your checklist and see where the holes are. Some places, there will be huge blocks of information that are untouched and some places will be completely filled up.
This is when you get to your computer and start scouring the internet. I started with the places that had the biggest holes. Just type in the entire phrase that they have listed in your topics and maybe follow it up with “first grade” if necessary. I like to start with a very narrow search and broaden it if I need to.
There are craft and activity ideas, videos, interactive games, worksheets and more online – all for free. (If you don’t count how much you are paying to have the internet in your house! But, you could always use the computer at the library.) You won’t be able to print out the videos, so I used the “small squares of paper” idea that I mentioned above for those who don’t have a printer and/or copier. I just wrote down the subject and topic and then the web address of the site with a brief description of what they would be doing.
Making It Usable
My binder was so stuffed full of all the lesson plans, books, and ideas that it was hard to take out one page protector without all the other ones spilling out as well. I ended up grabbing another empty binder and putting one week’s worth of page protectors in there. When the week is over, you could either leave it in the second binder or put it back in the initial binder – I have been leaving it for now.
In the very front of my binder, I put some other helpful administrative forms.
- Daily Schedule. I made up a schedule for each day of the week and put each day in its own page protector. If your days are close enough to looking the same, you could just print out one for the week.
- Annual Calendar. That way I know when vacation days are coming.
- Attendance Record. I have an attendance record for each child, even the baby! I keep notes about when each child is actually participating in school or if they are sick or doing something else. I printed this from the Old Schoolhouse Magazine 2009 Planner – I LOVE that thing!!!
- Preschool/Baby Activity Ideas. Also printed from TOS 2009 Planner. Just in case the activity I had planned doesn’t work well for the 3 year old and the 1 year old, I can quickly refer to this list, pull out something different and keep going with my first grader. Everybody’s happy!
- Books Read This Year. This is a log that I plan to keep for my first grader – she absolutely loves to read! I can’t wait to see how full this is at the end of the year. I’ll only be including the books she reads by herself. Of course, printed from the TOS Planner!
- Nature Journal Sheets. When we take walks throughout the week or visit the park, I’d like for my children to get in the habit of noticing the beautiful things around them. The form is very simple – a box for them to draw a small picture and a few lines for date, location and description of the picture. I’d like to have one for each child with me at all times. It will be a permanent record of how their drawing abilities improve over time. Do you think I printed this from a certain planner? Yes!
- Bible Memorization Record. I am amazed at how quickly and easily young children can memorize information! I plan to take advantage of that by memorizing lots of Scripture thorughout the year. I want to have the log close at hand for each verse they memorize. TOS Planner Form.
- Arithmetic Checklist for Preschool to Grade Three. I read a wonderful eBook called “Building Strong Arithmetic Thinking” by Ruth Beechick. It really helped me re-think my approach to math with the kids. The author included a printable checklist of math skills that children need to cover from preschool to grade three. It has been a valuable resource.
- My Curriculum Building Checklist. Just in case I look at a lesson and forget why I am teaching it! I can quickly refer to my original document and remember the whole point!
- All-Purpose Wish List. One last print off from the Planner! This one is a running list of things that I need to teach the children. It’s all organized right next to me – when I have an idea as I’m teaching the kids, I jot it down immediately and when I am going to the store, I check this list before leaving the house.
The rest of the pages are the lessons for each day.
Hopefully, this has been helpful to you as you begin to introduce your first grader to a wonderful education! Stay tuned for more articles in this series such as:
- A Day In The Life – Our Daily Schedule
- First Grade Math – A Closer Look
- First Grade English – A Closer Look
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