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!


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?


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.


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?

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.


Top 5 Reasons to attend a Homeschool Convention

It’s that time of year… Homeschool Convention time! Yay! I have been looking forward to attending our nearby convention for the last few months.

homeschool convention

Here are my top five reasons why I attend:

1. Workshops/Lectures – Listening to the speakers, whether it’s the general session or a lecture I choose from the list, is always a great way to learn something new. I love that there are so many choices. Last year my husband and I even split up and attended a few of the classes on our own. Later, when we rejoined we shared our notes and had plenty to discuss.

2. Vendor Hall – Oh the joy of perusing curriculum! As a new homeschooling mom, I find it helpful to see all the different available choices. I like to touch and flip through all the books. It really helps to see if it is something that I may want to consider. Another great perk is that often the vendors will offer a “convention discount,” which is fabulous for the newer sets of curriculum you may not find at a used curriculum sale (like the Logic of English I have my eye on). Also for those materials that are one time use (like the notebooks that go along with Apologia’s young explorer series). Looking around last year allowed us to be introduced to Singapore Math. We had never heard of this approach so after returning home and doing some research we decided that we want to go this route for teaching math.

3. Restoration and Rejuvenation – We all get to that time of year where we want to give up; we loose our oomph. We begin to forget why we are homeschooling. I feel that the convention helps to restore my faith in my decision to homeschool. I feel so rejuvenated afterwards and I get into homeschool hyper mode. I begin researching everything I can. I start deciding on curriculum for the following year, not the upcoming year, but the next (told you – hyper mode). I read all I can get my hands on regarding methods and ideas. Then I’m looking for the perfect planner. I stay revitalized for a good couple of months. I’m sure as I become more seasoned as a homeschooling mom my excitement will wane much quicker. But for now, I am really looking forward to feeling that burst of homeschool excitement energy!

4. Meeting new friends – This is one place where you know that there are people who think the same as you – at least in the fact that they are choosing homeschool for their family too. It’s always fun to strike up a conversation: learning what other parents are doing and listening to their ideas. Maybe you’ll make a connection with someone and now you have a great resource or someone with whom to share your struggles and triumphs or even someone who lives nearby and you can plan field trips together.

5. Time away with my husband – The convention is a great excuse to get away. We use this time together as a mini vacation. We get to spend the whole day together! It’s also a great opportunity to discuss what’s next for our family in the way of home education.

So there you have it, my top 5 reasons to attend a homeschool convention. Can you tell I am super thrilled to go!?

Why do you go to the homeschool convention or what most excites you about going?