Our 1st Grade Charlotte Mason Homeschool Curriculum Choices
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It's official - we have a six-year-old which means it's time for formal lessons!
We have been digging into first grade for a month now and it has been beautiful and enriching. I wanted to write a "what we're using" post after we started rather than before, because sometimes what happens is the curriculum isn't what I expected and I change directions! I want to share what is working for us and ditch what isn't.
We follow the Charlotte Mason method, with a touch of "do what works for you despite the ideology". So take the suggestions as heavily CM influenced, but not purist! Also, take into account that I prefer secular curriculum but still include religious exploration. We don't fit well into a single box over here!
A Mind in the Light
A Mind in the Light is a secular Charlotte Mason curriculum. The Year 1 Complete Guide includes Literature, Poetry, Recitation, History, Geography, Natural History & Science, Nature Study, Object Lessons, Artist Study, and Composer Study. To provide the full Charlotte Mason feast, we still need to add in other subjects on our own with other sources.
Literature & Poetry
These are the recommended Literature & Poetry books for A Mind in the Light: Year 1. They are scheduled in a way where poetry is read once a week, and literature happens the other four days of the week. The books are read slowly, a chapter each week from four different books. For example, two poems on Monday, a fairy tale on Tuesday, a chapter from Little House in the Big Woods on Wednesday, a Peter Rabbit story on Thursday, and a Billy and Blaze story on Friday. That loop changes as the books are completed, then it moves into Aesop's Fables instead of the fairy tales, the chapter book changes from Little House to Charlotte's Web, and so on!
A Mind in the Light begins with Ancient History in Year 1 and uses A Child's History of the World as a spine (the main text). She suggests many books that go along with the readings from the main text, and we get most of them from the library. We love using the Usborne Encyclopedia of World History alongside A Child's History of the World because it's a great visual resource to look at as we read. We do history two days a week, usually reading the chapter from A Child's History of the World on the first day, and the coordinating picture book the following day.
Natural History & Science
In year one, A Mind in the Light science and nature study focuses on life in the woods, weather, seasons, bugs, bees, and plant life. Outside of the natural history readings, we will do weekly nature study and nature journaling. We do this subject four days a week, but each day looks a little different. The first two days are readings. The third day is Natural History Investigations from the Year 1 Guide - this is like guided experiments or hands-on lessons. Things like bark rubbings, parts of a leaf, measuring rainfall, and growing two plants to see how different things affect the growth. The fourth day is Nature Experience and Nature Journal - so this is the day we spend time in nature with our nature group or alone, then we come home to add something into our nature journals and pull out our field guides.
A Mind in the Light includes composer study in the curriculum, so I've been following that listening schedule. But we also listen to the suggested Ambleside Online composers as background music during poetry teatime or while driving.
I use the Ambleside Online folk songs as suggestions, but I find a version I like on Spotify and create a playlist of them to listen to as background music during playtime. I like to keep our music "study" casual and not really a study at all - more like an enjoyment.
100 Gentle Lessons in Sight & Sound by A Gentle Feast
After using All About Reading Level 1 for an entire school year without very much progress, we took a break to reassess. Reading was one of the few subjects I hadn't tried Charlotte Mason methods with, and since what I was doing wasn't working... I decided to trust her once and for all and give her methods a try.
A Gentle Feast just released this reading curriculum called 100 Gentle Lessons in Sight & Sound that takes you in a guided way through the methods Miss Mason used for reading. Guess what... it is WORKING! It is beautiful and gentle and effective and painless! My sweet girl went from telling me "I hate reading" to saying "I want to learn to read this year! This is fun!". Cue the tears of absolute joy and relief! We do one lesson per day, five days a week. The lessons are short (10-15 minutes) but it has been a small step forward every day leading to big progress and no tears!
Outside of these lessons, we love using My Very First Reading Library by Usborne before bed for reading practice. The progression in difficulty is just right for her. We just start with reading the first couple books and have been working our way forward through them as she feels ready and it's always exciting to realize she can read the next book in the series.
My First Bananagrams
We love using My First Bananagrams to practice word families. Within the Sight & Sound lessons, there are days with word family practice that are to be read off of a page, then made with letter tiles or written in a tray of sand. We pull out the Bananagrams and make "at" then see how many words we can make with it... cat, bat, rat, hat, that.
Jot It Down by Brave Writer
Jot It Down by Brave Writer is a creative writing program designed for young kids in the early stages of writing. It's made for the parent/teacher to do the writing, while the child narrates their ideas to be transcribed. The projects are out of the box creative and enjoyable and get kids into the process of storytelling, ordering events, and seeing that their original thought turned into words has value! I plan to pull this out once a month so we can do a special fun project together.
Getty Dubay Handwriting
In the past, we have used Handwriting Without Tears. I loved the Get Ready for School level for practicing tracing line shapes before writing letters. We will use that for our 3-year-old as she gets closer to 4, I think! This year, our 6-year-old has been writing letters long enough that she understands their formation but needs the practice to get into the habit of doing them each properly, carefully. I chose Getty Dubay Italics Book A and she's working on one page a day which is one letter and then one word that starts with that letter. It's simple and painless for her to work on that right away in the morning. Once she finishes that, we will move on to doing simple copywork from her readings. I'm waiting to transition to copywork once she becomes more fluent in reading.
Math U See - Alpha
We loved Math U See Primer level so we are sticking with it moving forward and are about 1/3 of the way through Math U See Alpha level. It is technically pretty worksheet based, but to make it more hands-on and less pencil-paper, use the worksheets as a guide for which problems to solve in a hands-on way with the blocks, or with other household manipulatives! We do use the sheets, after a day or two of mostly hands-on practice. This has been working well for us.
Mobi Math Tiles
We love pulling our Mobi Math Tiles out to add some fun into math fact practice. Sometimes, I will pull the worksheet of the day out and we will do all the problems with the tiles and skip writing altogether. It is nice to switch things up and feel like you can learn in other ways outside of the curriculum while still following the content!
A Mind in the Light does include artist study in the curriculum, but because I already owned some of the Simply Charlotte Mason picture study portfolios, we are studying the artists I chose this year rather than follow AMITL. This year we will be looking at work from 3 artists, one per term, a new piece of art every two weeks.
Religion & Virtues
Telling God's Story
Our first foray into learning about Christianity will be through Telling God's Story, which focuses on learning about Jesus and the New Testament. The instructor's guide is the main text of the curriculum which has all you need. We have the activity book as well, but honestly, don't think we will use it. The activities don't seem necessary, and maybe more work on my end than I feel they're worth on their end. The main text has been great so far, and the reviews on Amazon reflect that.
The Book of Virtues
The Book of Virtues is one that will last us for years worth of reading aloud together as a family over mugs of cocoa and plates of snacks. I can't think of a better book to pull out frequently to read aloud during poetry teatime or family breakfast. The book is categorized by virtue and each virtue has various classic poems and stories related to that virtue. This is so enriching for adults as well as children.
Family Virtues Guide
The Family Virtues Guide is a nice companion to The Book of Virtues. I don't love this one as a read aloud but it is better used as more of a guide for myself to help me be intentional with focusing on one virtue at a time in our daily lives.
I didn't have much of a plan or guide for this (despite the fact that I'm a pretty handcraft oriented person!) until I came upon Rooted Childhood. The handcrafts are geared toward the early years which is perfect for us with a 6 and 3-year-old! These are lovely seasonal activities the girls can both do together, and I can give the 6-year-old slightly more complicated work while keeping it simple for the 3-year-old. I plan to pick one or two per month to do together, as something we can work on as a family after dinner on days where we don't have activities.
We will look through the guide together to pick a craft that interests them most. I love that the guides will follow the seasons and give us that feel of tradition as the activities change with the year. I'm hoping to do things like hand embroidery, candle making, baking together, growing things, and some sort of paper handcraft.
I'm an affiliate for Rooted Childhood because I find that it works so beautifully with the lifestyle for the Charlotte Mason style Early Years of childhood. Songs, stories, playful learning through everyday life and home activities, making useful things by hand, encouraging imaginative play in nature.
Salsa Spanish is a series of free videos on the Georgia Public Broadcast website made for kids, teaching Spanish by way of immersion. I just pick an episode or two a couple times a week and the kids love it. It is a simple screen-time win!
The RockAlingua videos are fun to watch and the songs are super catchy! I don't currently pay for full access but we watch the free content here and there and really enjoy it.
Mental & Physical Wellness
I want holistic forms of self-care to be habitual for the girls as they grow up. With regular yoga and meditation practice, they will have a natural place to turn to calm their minds and bodies.
Calm is a meditation app that has free and paid content. There are guided meditations, soft music and nature sounds, master classes (very interesting) and our favorite - sleep stories. You can apply to use Calm with full access for free as a home educator or teacher!
Cosmic Kids Yoga
We all love Cosmic Kids Yoga in the afternoon to stretch our bodies on days when we can't get outside! We go outside every afternoon when weather allows, but in the cold Michigan winters, we have days or even weeks where it's just too harsh. Having a go-to activity to get moving indoors is really nice. Cosmic Kids Yoga is free on YouTube, and fun for both the 3 and 6 year old.
Wild + Free Nature Group
I lead a local Wild + Free group that meets every 2 weeks at a local woodland trail. We have kids as young as 1 and as old as 11 that all play freely together in the woods. It is an unstructured time, which is what they need. They're busy the entire time which is pretty amazing to watch!
Little Ninjas Martial Arts Class
Our 6 year old just started this class this school year. It's twice a week (which does make us feel busier than we're used to) but she thrives in it and loves it, so it's worth it.
Our music lessons are home-based lessons taught by a local musician. We have been going for two years now and it is the best thing we have invested in. We go a half hour every other week, and now she's starting to include the 3-year-old in the lesson toward the end to work on basic rhythm and music play. If you can find a local music teacher that offers private lessons like this I can't recommend it enough!
Outside of our first-grade curriculum choices, we will be reading slowly through the Sonlight Preschool books together for the 3-year-old to give her some special "school time". Lessons for the 6-year-old take about 2 hours per day for the main work (math, reading, history, etc) and we do the things like handicrafts, nature study, music, art, or yoga later on after lunch. This rhythm has worked out really well for us so far. I'm going to ease into adding more intentional activities for the 3-year-old soon too now that I feel a bit more settled into the routine for the 6-year-old!
This is not our first year homeschooling since I have been easing into it slowly but surely since the 6-year-old was 2... but this is our first year very intentionally doing daily lessons. I'm grateful for those earlier years because even though we didn't have to do school so young, it gave me a lot of time working it out in my mind, playing around with routine and structure, and setting the atmosphere of learning together right from the start.
I know this is a side note to the purpose of this post, but I want to encourage anyone who has kids under six and is reading this in preparation for the coming years. Don't be afraid to "play school" with your littles. Don't take it too seriously and don't make it feel formal, but don't be afraid to be intentional about some time each day with a pile of books and crayons and music and blocks together and call it school time. It's a lifestyle! Embrace it!