People all over the US are currently deciding whether to send their kids back to public school, enroll in virtual/distance learning programs provided by their school districts, or just cut the cord with public school altogether and dive into homeschooling.
I do not envy them – these are difficult times and difficult choices to have to make.
Fortunately for my family, we knew we wanted to homeschool even before our daughter was born. For the past 6 years I have been actively creating a lifestyle that supports our decision to homeschool (and I know I am privileged to be able to do so). My daughter has never been to public school and I do not ever intend to enroll her. We’ve been “unschooling” her since birth.
Though we technically school “year round” and started first grade work last year, in February 2021 she will reach the compulsory school age (which is 7 in our state) so we will be stepping up our structured learning even more. We’re still doing most things on a 1st grade level, as my daughter has autism and benefits from extended processing times for new material.
Here’s what we’ll be using this year!
We started working with the Blossom and Root curriculum around this time last year and while I LOVE the curriculum, it was a little challenging for my daughter at the time. The curriculum includes a lot of reading together time, requiring the student to listen and develop story re-telling skills, which was a challenge for my daughter. In addition there is copywork and other writing required materials, which my daughter also struggled with.
This is in NO WAY a reflection on the curriculum, but rather highlighted some issues related to her autism (which was undiagnosed at the time). SO we shelved the material, pursued an autism diagnosis and have been working with her in other capacities on reading and math skills.
However, I do think this curriculum is AMAZING. It is well thought out, engaging, and has elements of both Waldorf and Charlotte Mason methodologies. It is STEM inclusive, secular, and nature based. We will be returning to this curriculum this year, albeit at a slower pace.
In particular we will be using the Math in Arts and Science portions of the curriculum. I will likely adapt the Language Arts to include the reading together time, but cut back on some of the accompanying activities, which may be harder for my child, at her current ability level. (That’s the beauty of homeschooling: meeting your child where they are and adapting as they grow!)
When Blossom and Root was too much for us last year, I looked for an online program to help us stay on task with developing the foundational skills for literacy and math. Something we struggle with in our homeschool, is my daughter’s ability to take instruction, particularly from me, and her very low frustration tolerance. In other words, she does not like to be wrong and she does not like to be corrected.
Unfortunately, that is a BIG BIG part of learning. While we were beginning to address her learning hurdles, we needed a program that removed ME as the primary source of correction/instruction and made it less “personal” (so that I could instead focus on helping her navigate frustration at the lesson material rather than frustration at me personally). Time 4 Learning helps us achieve this beautifully. In addition the lessons are presented in video format, there are practice activities, and quizzes/assessments. I can adjust the pace of the material as needed, leave out certain activities or lessons altogether if desired, have her redo assessments if she doesn’t demonstrate competency, and have report printouts of the work done.
At the 1st grade level, the program includes language arts (reading/phonics), math, science, and social studies. I personally am not a fan of the quality of the material presented in the social studies and science portions, so we do not use those. I do however highly recommend the reading/phonics and math curricula, especially if your child is a visual learner. We will continue to use this program for those two subjects for the foreseeable future.
180 Days Series – Page A Day Workbooks
I’m introducing Social Studies this year, and since we aren’t using the Time 4 Learning lessons, I invested in a few easy workbooks to help guide our explorations. Blossom and Root does cover some world culture, but these workbooks cover civics, history, and geography. There are several of these books in various subjects and they are organized by grade level. You can find them on Amazon at the links below (Amazon affiliate links).
180 Days of Social Studies – 1st Grade
I bought the 180 Days of Spelling and Word Study – 1st Grade book as well to help bolster our language arts curriculum, as reading is my daughter’s biggest challenge area.
Above and beyond the basic curriculum above, I have a hoard of supplemental books and resources to help mix things up and keep us from getting bored.
Spectrum Math 1st grade – for additional practice as needed
Sprecturm Reading 1st grade – for additional structured practice
A whole slew of Usborne Books! I’ve put some of the ones we’ve purchased over the past year on a wishlist in case you want to check them out too! I’ll update the list as we go…
We don’t do these every day, in order to avoid overwhelm, but I do feel like it’s important to include non-core subjects. For us, that is American Sign Language, Music (piano), Spanish, and Herbalism.
For ASL we use SignIt! – a video based comprehensive sign language program from the creators of Signing Time. We used Signing Time a bit two years ago and were ready to progress to a more comprehensive program.
For Spanish, we use the Complete Book of Spanish Workbook for Kids. Both my husband and I speak Spanish if not fluently, competently, so I draw on my educational background and knowledge mostly for this and use the workbook for structure. If you do not speak Spanish, then I highly recommend an immersive, video based, program like https://www.foreignlanguagesforkids.com/. (We tried Muzzy and did not like it and I feel like Duolingo is both too difficult and abstract for young learners.)
For Music we use Piano for Kids, which I REALLY love because it uses a color coded system to teach hand positioning and melodies. K loves to use this book and have her nails painted in the various colors (to match them up to the correct keys). Kids can begin playing songs right away with this book, while learning other music skills like note duration and tempo. I picked this book especially for the visual aspect and its ASD friendliness.
Herbalism will be new/not new this year. Not new because I routinely work with herbs at home and we have done some casual learning together in the form of making various teas/tinctures. She loves smelling all my herb jars, asking me what each is good for, and picking her own blends to make “potions”. However, I intend to add some structure here as well, so the way we continue our herbalism studies will be new. For this I’m looking at these 3 books:
Walking the World in Wonder: A Children’s Herbal
And there you have it! It sounds like a lot, but we spend maybe 2 hours a day on schoolwork (up to 3 or 4 depending on how invested/interested we are in hands on/exploration activities) and we only do core work 4 days a week.
If you’re just diving in, I hope this gave you some ideas and resources! Remember, homeschooling is NOT public school at home. You can adjust to your schedule, your child’s needs and understanding, your child’s interests, etc. Homeschooling is an evolving process and learning can be done anywhere – not everything is learned with pencil and paper alone. 😉