First Grade Homeschool Curriculum Choices

FIRST GRADE! This is when it really begins! My oldest is six and a half and everyday I say to myself she’s so old and grown up!

first-grade-curriculum

I am super excited to share our curriculum choices. So I’m just going to get to it.

Here it is, are you ready? … Ambleside Online.

Yep, that’s pretty much it. Even though I’m a planner type person- I love to plan out my year in advance and love to spend hours upon hours creating my own planner book, and writing down everything we’re going to do, and making it all look so fabulous on paper – I’ve decided that I don’t have to “do it all.” In fact, it’s probably best that I don’t spend countless hours deciding on my booklist or figuring out what every 15 minutes of the day will look like. Been there. Done that. (Yes, already. Remember, I’m a planner type person.)

I’ve learned that even when I plan everything out until it’s “perfect,” life doesn’t allow for that. So, I’ve allowed for flexibility in my plans and I don’t expect that the plans laid out in my neat little planner book will be completed when it says they will. I’m okay with that and I’m not stressing. And, I think that using Ambleside Online really helps with that flexibility.

If you’re not sure of what Ambleside Online is all about, no worries, I didn’t really know the beauty of this curriculum until I took a closer look. But, in short, we are doing Year 1 this school year. If you’re interested in learning more about how to use or navigate the website this is a really great explanation from the Advisory Board on their blog.

What’s included in Ambleside Online? Is it enough? Is it everything you need?

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It explains what to add in where, like math and phonics, but yes, it is everything you need.

Yes, it is enough. Trust the process and you will surely see your children thrive.

What’s “included” is a list of reading assignments in Bible, History, Natural History, Literature, and Poetry. The really cool thing about this is that you can get most of your books online, for free. The schedule has the following listed as weekly work: Nature Study, Picture study, Composer study, Timeline, Mapping, Geography, Recitation, Folksong, Hymn, and Handicrafts. Everyday you do short (10-15 minutes) lessons in math, phonics, copywork, and foreign language. This is not provided by Ambleside but they make suggestions for you to use and all of their suggestions are Charlotte Mason friendly.

Here is what we chose for daily work (these are probably not listed as any suggestions on the Ambleside site, but I was already using some of this last year for Kindergarten):

Math: Singapore Primary Math 1a and 1b US edition. This is a mastery approach to learning math versus the spiral approach. We are liking this very much so far.

Phonics: Logic of English Foundations I don’t use this program in entirety any more but I do love that it is thorough in teaching all the phonograms and spelling rules. I omit the handwriting (because we do copywork), and some of the reading practice (because I ask Elle to read to me from an early reader book every day). I teach the phonograms, we do the games, and we use the spelling lists. But only 10 to 15 minutes each day, so we usually don’t get through a whole Logic of English lesson in one day.

Copywork: I currently use Patriotic Penmanship, grade 1. Each lesson is intended for a week, and it’s the perfect amount of writing for a 6 year old. I love that they are copying Bible scripture or quotes from famous historical figures or lines from classic literature.

daily-work-yr1-edit

Foreign Language: This term I decided not to introduce foreign language. Once we get into a better rhythm and habit of doing school I will add in a foreign language. I am taking this time to find a good source. We will be learning Italian because my husband’s father’s family is Italian and it’ll be a fun language with which to start. I’m hoping Cherrydale Press, a company who teaches foreign language the Charlotte Mason way, will release an Italian version soon.  If you all know a great resource – please share!🙂

Logic: This is not Charlotte Mason, but it is something my husband and I feel is important that our children learn critical thinking skills. Again, we do short lessons so this typically is 5 to 10 minutes. Right now we are using Lollipop Logic Book 2. I have already purchased a couple of other books to mix it up. Primarily Logic and Logic Safari. Elle is enjoying the Lollipop Logic so in the future I may get book 3.

We are on week twelve of Year One in Ambleside and I am grateful for the booklist already completed and scheduled for me. The work of the Ambleside ladies is truly a blessing. The decision fatigue is absolute minimal, which is a win in my book. We are sailing along and enjoying the ride.

 

Talking About Kindergarten – Curriculum and How It All Worked Out

talking about kindergarten

We are in our third week of FIRST GRADE. This is a new beginning of our home education journey and I am super excited for this homeschool year. Before I get into our choices for Elle’s first grade year, I’ll tell you a little about how the last school year went.

Kindergarten was planned with Logic of English Foundations A and B, Kindergarten Singapore Math, and Five in a Row. My plan (which we all know that plans rarely pan out as intended) was to gently school with short lessons of phonics and math everyday. In addition, a book would be read with directed learning activities from the FIAR volumes that would cover us in Geography, History, Citizenship, Science, and Art. We would read our Bibles, use Kids of Integrity for character building, go outside for Physical Education, and go on field trips.

I love Logic of English but some days it was quite difficult to do the whole lesson. It was a short 30 minutes to complete – more on that in a bit – but somebody was usually upset by the end. We love Singapore Math but I learned early on that the lessons needed to consist of me instructing with manipulatives, and not going through the whole workbook.

FIAR lasted only half the year. The book is supposed to be read five days in a row, hence the name, but Elle hated that and we could never persevere through her resistance to reading multiple times. We typically read it two or three times but if the activity closely followed the reading then Elle wasn’t going for it. I think, unfortunately, it got in the way of her enjoyment of the story. It’s like in high school when you’re asked to over analyze a book and all it’s literary glory that the story becomes a chore and the beauty is stripped away. I know I probably would have enjoyed my assigned readings much more if we didn’t have to stop and talk about every little detail and answer a million little questions.

Consequently, Kindergarten was very gentle with phonics and math when we could get it in, and a lot of read alouds and a lot of outdoor play. There were a lot of field trips and play dates. And we just went about life. I guess it ended up being an eclectic year with a dash of unschooling sprinkled in.

Reflecting over the year I’m glad that I didn’t drive myself crazy to “get it all done.” I am more in the camp of no formal lessons are needed until age 6 or 7 or even age 8. Though I’m not completely there, I find value in the teachable moments of life, talking with and discussing things with my children. I want my children to learn through play, their imaginative play. I want them to observe and see the world around them. It’s probably social pressure that keeps me from completely crossing over into that camp.

talking about kindergarent2

So, as Spring was approaching, you know, the time for Homeschool Conventions and planning out the next school year, I was knee deep in my research when I took a second look at Ambleside Online curriculum. This is a Charlotte Mason based curriculum which led me to begin (and I still am) learning so much more about exactly what entails a Charlotte Mason education.

Short lessons. Yes, sign me up. In the Charlotte Mason world for a 6 year old 10 to 15 minutes is a short lesson. Oh. No wonder the 30 minute phonics lessons weren’t working for us. Easy fix. We’ve continued the LOE Foundations program into first grade, with a few tweaks, and work for about 15 minutes. This has been much better for us.

The books in FIAR are amazing and not to be missed, but something was missing in this curriculum for us – joy. In a Charlotte Mason education children are presented with a “feast” of subjects but they are not told what to know. Children learn and make connections themselves based on their own relationship and experience with the material.

Looking back I realized that I was feeding the material to Elle, I was the middle man. Now that I’ve removed myself as the knowledge giver and I allow her to receive the information directly from the source, she doesn’t resist.

Implementing CM methods in these few short weeks of first grade have really made a difference and I am loving this approach more than I ever thought I would. The more I read, the more I delight in the education I can lay out for my children, that I certainly never received.

Are you making any changes this school year?

Making Ambleside Online “Click!”

If you’ve ever looked at the Ambleside Online curriculum you have probably felt a little overwhelmed. Maybe you took one glance and said “nope!”

Well, I dismissed it pretty early on and when I was researching what curricula we’d use for first grade something made me take a second look. I’m so glad that I did.

I’d like to share how Ambleside started to make sense to me and how I order it to keep it simple.

year 1 books1

 

First, I realized that it isn’t just books that you read or this whole feast of subjects that you cram in to make sure they are covered. Ambleside Online is just a curriculum, that’s all. It’s a tool that helps you get the job done. What makes this amazing is how you lay out this feast of subjects and how you approach reading these books.

Ambleside Online is a Charlotte Mason based curriculum. Charlotte Mason is an approach or methodology and there are countless different ways and curricula available to follow a Charlotte Mason education. There are several aspects to a Charlotte Mason education and in order to better understand Ambleside Online you have to know some basics behind the Charlotte Mason approach.

There’s a lot. I know. I’ve been reading about Charlotte Mason on other blogs and in books and I have more to go. I’ve probably read the whole Ambleside site but I have yet to delve into Miss Mason’s original writings.

When I realized that Ambleside is more than a booklist, I began to actually read through the introduction page and the FAQ page and the articles and topical discussions. While reading, it all started to come together; this is actually quite simple, yet it’s so rich and full and challenging and beautiful is what I thought to myself.

To be honest, I wasn’t completely sold at the beginning of my Ambleside journey. I thought why should we learn about British history and why would we start way back in the first century. I thought we should learn history that would be more relevant. We should begin our lessons with early American history, when it wasn’t too long ago.

But then I started to look up books and drive myself crazy, wondering if the books I chose would be appropriate in content or length or if the book was actually a good book. I started to wonder if I would have to pre-read everything. And there were so many books I wanted to include. I realized that scheduled on Ambleside for history reads there were three books for the whole entire year. Three. Okay, so if I want to teach American History, how do I choose three comparable books?

I was making things much more difficult than they needed to be. I took a breath and opened one of the links next to a book that was available online (and most of the assigned readings are available online, for free). I read one of the stories that was assigned for week one. Wow, that is the story she gets to hear. I opened another book online. This is what I get to read to my daughter, she will love this! I opened one more book and read the assigned reading. I can’t believe we would have missed this!

PicMonkey Collage1

Now that I had done my research, thoroughly, and read all about Ambleside and read a few of the assigned readings, I was ready to plan it out. I was ready to accept Ambleside Online completely.

The easiest way, I have found, to make Ambleside Online not look overwhelming is breaking the assignments into three categories: Daily Work, Readings, and Weekly Work.

The Daily Work consists of copywork, phonics or reading instruction, math and foreign language. These are the subjects you may typically do at the table. Readings are the assigned passages or chapters from the books scheduled on Ambleside Online. For example, in year 1, there are between six and eight assigned readings per week. The readings you spread out across your school week. The Weekly Work are the subjects you focus on once a week: Nature Study, Handicraft, Picture Study, Composer Study, Timeline, Mapping, Hymns, Folksongs, and Art.

We keep the lessons short, 10 to 15 minutes. This is part of the beauty. There are many reasons for this, the primary reason is practicing the Habit of Attention. The total amount of time we spend doing our school work is about two hours. This leaves the remainder of the day for free time to play, be outside, meet with friends and of course we moms need a time to run errands or work around the house.

I work from a checklist in my planner. The Daily Work is listed at the top and starts off blank for the week. As we complete 10 to 15 minutes in each subject for the day, I put a check mark and write out which lesson was finished. Reading instruction/ phonics and math are not provided by Ambleside Online. They do list suggested programs. Then I list the readings and as they are completed they, too, get a check mark. Then the Weekly Work is listed. Each day we do 1-2 subjects and they differ depending on the day of the week.

Mentally, seeing only three categories of schoolwork a day makes it less daunting than seeing 16 or more subjects that need to be completed. I hope that my explanation has helped Ambleside Online “click.” I hope that it has become more clear. And, that you too can find this to be a delightful way to educate your children.

 

Taking a Closer Look at Ambleside Online

The first time I looked at Ambleside Online I was completely overwhelmed. I couldn’t understand the schedule or how one would fit all of it in.

closer look at AO

It seemed like it was overkill and just too difficult to manage, you know making sure that nature study (how do I do that!) was done and composer study (I don’t know any composers!), and picture study (if I don’t know what this painting means how can I teach it to my kids!), and handicraft (handi-what? I hate crafts!), and recitation, and timeline, and mapping…

But then as I was doing my research for first grade, honing in on what curricula to use for this and that and the other, I came across Ambleside once again. I read it. I studied the schedule. I saw how many of the books were available online. I read passages of the books. And it was all coming together.

It just clicked! And it was all so simple. So lovely and rich. And, I’m hooked.

My homeschool journey began about three years ago when hubby and I decided that would be the way to go. I started to research everything I could and found out that I liked Charlotte Mason but I liked Unit Studies too. I found a few different curricula that I loved for history and science that I thought would be perfect for when Elle got to be in second or third grade. There was a bit from this learning style and pieces from that learning style, I could see it coming together. I was going to be an Eclectic homeschooler.

Fast forward through a couple of years of play, a year of Kindergarten, which consisted of inconsistent lessons in phonics and math with lots of books and playing. Just a few short months ago I was ready to get plans laid out for First grade. It was time to add in the science, history, geography and everything else, more formally than what Five in a Row had to offer. You know with a “real” curriculum.

(c) The Armitt Museum and Library; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) The Armitt Museum and Library; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

I wasn’t finding exactly what I wanted for history because the ones I liked were more appropriate for grade three and above. I remember Charlotte Mason and the living book approach. I finally decided on TruthQuest History. I loved that I could decide which books to read and which topics to cover. But there was still missing parts to the plan. I kept on looking around and Charlotte Mason had brought me back to Ambleside Online. I kept hearing great things about it.

As I was reading through the site I wanted to know more; I was getting really excited because it was not only making sense but it was a whole curriculum that I could picture us doing – for years to come.

So, what is Ambleside Online? It is a free homeschool curriculum that uses Charlotte Mason’s classically-based principles to prepare children for a life of rich relationships with everything around them: God, humanity, and the natural world. (Stated on the AO website). This was created as a labor of love by other homeschooling mommas. They offer much more than just a curriculum: original Charlotte Mason writings and materials, a community support forum, articles and posts from experienced homeschool parents and other resources.

Next time I’d like to share how to use Ambleside Online; I’d like to help make it “click” for you too.