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Big Buddy's 1st Grade Curriculum

I've mentioned before that we don't strictly adhere to any one homeschooling method. However, as I was planning out Big Buddy's first grade year I noticed that I'm very drawn to the classical approach. I believe that a good education requires a strong foundation. I also like that the classical approach emphases language and that the subjects are interrelated.

The Well Trained Mind by Susan Bauer and Jessie Wise provides a very comprehensive look at homeschool classical education and has become one of my go to resources. Below is our curriculum for this year. Many of the resources are suggestions from the The Well Trained Mind. The others are ones I either stumbled upon on my own or learned about from friends.

Language Arts

Phonics/Reading (5x a week) - This is the subject Big  Buddy and I struggle with the most. He loves to be read to and has strong understanding of basic phonics but has still yet to develop a steady reading pace. We started The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading last year and are currently a little more than half way through. I know that some parents find this curriculum to be a bit boring but I appreciate that it's well planned (requires little prep on my part) and provides a very comprehensive overview of phonics. 

Last year we used Bob Books as a companion to The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading.  This year we are starting Reading-Literature, The Primer and will hopefully be making are way through the First Reader as well. I chose these books because they emphasis  an appreciation of literature through (true to the original) retellings for classical literary work. In addition to these primers we  will also work our way through some of the I Can Read books such Frog and Toad and Little Bear.

Grammar (4x a week) - First Language Lessons provides a very gentle slow pace introduction to grammar. Interspersed with lessons about nouns, verbs, etc is poem memorization and picture/story narration work. While reading is currently not a strength of Big Buddy's memorization and narration are; we both enjoy that this book has allowed those strengths to shine. 

Spelling (4x a week) - I chose All About Spelling as our spelling curriculum because it emphasizes phonics, contains multi-sensory learning activities, and the lessons are short and require little to no prep.

Printing (5x a week) - Originally, I  had not planned on doing a formal printing curriculum but instead was going to have Big Buddy practice his printing skills through journaling, dictation, letters to family, etc. I, however, started to notice that Big Buddy was beginning to "cheat" while making his letters; forgetting the techniques we had covered in years past. I had heard great things about Handwriting Without Tears and since the books are inexpensive I decided to give it a try. Big Buddy does one page and day and finds the work to be enjoyable - he particularly like the clever sayings/tricks used to remind him how to correctly make letters.   

Math (5x a week) - We started Singapore Math 1A last year and are finishing up a few lessons in 1B before we move on to 2A. Math is one of Big Buddy's favorite subjects (it seems to come very easily to him) but because I want to make sure he is fully understanding the concepts we have taken things pretty slow. In addition to the workbook we have purchased the extra practice books and I sometimes create games to help reinforce concepts. We purchased 2A and 2B used from a friend and they came with the teacher's manual. I, however, did not have the manual for level 1 and never felt a need for it. As of now we plan to stick with Singapore for future years. I like that new skills are covered in-depth and that they build upon each other, thus, providing a strong foundational understanding. I also like that meaning not rote memorization is emphasized. 

As much as I'm not a fan of rote memorization I do, however, think that certain things, at some point, need to be mastered in a way that they can be done easily with speed. Therefore, we have started to use a speed math program, Calculadder, that Jeremy used as child. The "tests" are all two to three minutes long and Big Buddy is encouraged to complete as many problems as possible. We stay several skills behind where we are at in Singapore Math and view it only as extra practice/skill building. 

Social Studies

History (3x a week) - For history we will be following the approach laid out in The Well Trained Mind with some possible American history breaks during the school year and summer. I debated between The Mystery of History and The Story of the World for most of the summer but in the end settled on The Story of The World because I believe it plays to Big Buddy's strengths more. We will also be using the Kingfisher History Encyclopedia and books from our local library as supplemental materials. 

Geography (1 to 2x a week) - My main goals for geography this year are for Big Buddy to understand that he's part of a large and diverse world and for him to have a basic understanding of maps. We have purchased a globe for our schoolroom and our history curriculum does include some map work. I also have plans to have Big Buddy draw maps to some of his favorite locations: Maca's house, the library, the park, etc. When countries are mentioned in our history curriculum we will read about their current day counterparts in our World Atlas. Lastly, I have nesting boxes primed and ready to be turned into a map tower, I just need to get busy finishing them. 

Science (1x week) - In sticking with the classical approach we are studying life sciences this year. Science is by far Big Buddy's strongest subject. For the last couple years non-fiction animal books have been his favorite read a-louds. Because of this strong interest we've also done several animal unit studies in the past. Since this is already an area of strength for him I did not feel the need to purchase a specific curriculum. I did purchase an animal encyclopedia and was thrilled when I stumbled upon Investigate Wildlife at Half-Priced Books - it not only covers animals but plants and the human body. A friend gave us the Christian Liberty Nature Readers which are great because they are written in simple enough language that Big Buddy can read some of them on his own. 

I do plan to still create some unit studies; they are a great way to incorporate the younger kids. We are currently starting one on trees and I have plans to cover the human body after the New Year. We will also be doing a few science projects and taking a closer look at the world through the microscope Big Buddy received for his birthday. 

two great resources for science experiments: hands on science activities & mudpies and magnets


Spanish (3x a week) - I had originally thought we'd start Rosetta Stone this year but after looking in to it some more I decided it was too advanced for us at this point. I was very happy when I stumbled up the relatively inexpensive curriculum, Espanol para los chiquitos. The lessons are well laid out and easy to teach even if your own Spanish (like mine) is very limited. I especially like that this curriculum uses games and poems to reenforce vocabulary.  We have also been supplementing with the Sesame Street style program Salsa which can be found for free here

Art - We are not planning on using a specific art program this year. The kids and I will continue to do seasonal and educational themed crafts and there are art supplies (a painting easel, collage box, crayons, markers, etc) in our schoolroom that the kids can use whenever they please. We will study some famous work when it aligns with our study of history (i.e. ancient Egyptian art, Michelangelo's Old Testament paintings, etc.) or if it simply pertains to our life at the moment (i.e. Van Gogh's Autumn Landscape)

Music - Big Buddy and Mini Man are currently taking group piano lessons through the music department at the university where Jeremy works. We are also following Ambleside Online's monthly hymn curriculum.

Physical Education - Our local parks and recreation offers a homeschool swim and gym class that we were hoping to participate in this fall but couldn't make it work in our schedule when they had to drop the class we had originally signed up for. A new session begins in January and we will enroll Big Buddy at that time. In the meantime, Big Buddy is participating in a Wednesday evening sports program through our church and will be taking swim lessons later in the fall. 

Religion - The Wednesday evening sports program at our church also contains a Bible study component, Kids 4 Truth, which requires Big Buddy to memorize a doctrinal question and answer as well as a corresponding Bible verse. When applicable we will also work in the study of Biblical figures along with our history curriculum. 

And just for fun here's my handsome first grader...

jedi training is independent study :) 

If you are fellow homeschooling mom and have done a post on your child(ren)'s curriculum please share in the comments - I love getting to see at what other families are doing.

p.s. lots more great kid friendly ideas can also always be found at these link parties: Link and LearnMade by Little HandsMontessori MondayHip Homeschool HopPreschool CornerFor the Kids Fridays, and Show and Share Saturday.


  1. Hi - first time to comment...I have a 3.5yrold little boy and we are homeschooling as well (preschool of course). We are part of a Homeschooling Co-op and a ton of kids are doing Story of the World and they posted this link (at bottom) that relates to corresponding videos. Hope it helps. OH - we are doing a letter a week, number recognition games/worksheets, a science topic a month (weather, space, magnets, 5 senses, etc), arts and crafts of course and the only thing I purchased was "Bible Nuggets from A to Z" from Christian Liberty. I thought about doing a Unit Study a month but switched last minute and so far so good. Love your school posts - hope more people comment on curriculum they use - I LOVE researching for when he gets older :) Here is that website:

    1. Thank-you for taking the time to comment and share such a wonderful resource. I will definitely be using it. I've only glanced at it quickly but the list looks very comprehensive and I really like that all the movies are on Netflix.

      It sounds like you have a great preschool year planned! Best of luck!

    2. Awesome! Glad you have access to Netflix :) I forgot to mention it!

  2. We just started Classical Conversations this year with my 5 year old, and are loving the classical approach. Of course, at home I'm supplementing with art, Bible, and reading. So far so good. Good luck with your school year!

    1. I'm SO jealous - I would love to start CC once my son is old enough but the nearest one is 30mins and a $15 toll away :( I've heard nothing but great things about CC!


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