Tuesday, August 30, 2011

3rd Grade and 1st Grade Home School Curriculum

The favorite question among home school moms at this time of the year is, "What curriculum are you using?" Being a normal home school mom, I've asked and answered that question numerous times during the last month.

I realize not all of my readers are home schoolers but most are moms who are interested in their child's education. Much of the curriculum we use would work great for a child that is falling behind in an area or is bored and would like a little advanced work during school breaks. I hope you find something useful in my reviews of our curriculum.

During the 2011-2012 school year I am teaching a 3rd grader, a 1st grader, a Pre-Kindergarten 5 and a (almost) 3 year old. How I do all of that and stay sane is the topic of another post; for now I'm limiting this post to my two big boys: 1st and 3rd grade.

Rhode Island law requires that I include: reading, writing, geography, arithmetic, civics, English, health and physical education. My boys use the same curriculum for every subject except Language Arts. This makes it MUCH easier for me!


You'll notice that science is NOT in the list of required curriculum; and "experts" wonder why we can't keep up with other developed nations academically! Regardless of what our state requires, we believe science is an important subject to teach.

This is our 3rd year using Apologia's Exploring Creation curriculum. We LOVE it! We are studying land animals which fits well with our history curriculum and makes for easy field trips to area zoos.


Last year we used Saxon, and hated it. Saxon is one of the gold standards for home schoolers. It's based on a spiral education philosophy, which I realize now does not work for us. This year we are using Math U See, and loving it!

Math U See (Alpha and Beta) is based on a mastery philosophy, meaning you don't move on to the next skill until you've mastered the current one. The teacher's kit comes with a book that explains how to teach each skill and a DVD of the author teaching each lesson to a classroom of students. The student workbook and test/activity book includes plenty of practice problems to insure the student masters the skill.

As expected, it is designed for the visual learner. I recommend you purchase the block manipulatives as they are the foundation of each lesson. My oldest is definitely a visual learner and my #2 boy is part visual and part kinesthetic (learn by doing) so both boys enjoy "playing" with the blocks during their math lesson.

Because we had such a terrible time with Saxon for the last two years, I decided to start both boys with the Alpha (or first grade) book. My plan is to finish Alpha the first semester and Beta (2nd grade) the second semester. My #2 boy is very math minded so I don't think he'll have difficulty keeping up. My 3rd grader is more word minded so doing 1st and 2nd grade work is OK for him.

Health and Physical Education

Both boys are involved in Cub Scouts this year. If you know the Cub Scout curriculum you know that they have a health component. We are looking into putting them into gymnastics and they will play baseball again in the spring.


I am combining civics and geography by using history and literature unit studies. I have purchased Soli Deo Gloria's Lewis & Clark and Westward Ho! Also, Progeny Press's Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie and Farmer Boy study guides. In looking over each of these guides I think they are good starting point but I will be supplementing with other materials and children's books.

Language Arts

Handwriting Without Tears comes highly recommended so I'm giving it a try this year; and LOVING it! My 3rd grader is a leftie with dexterity issues. His penmanship is difficult to read so we are using the 1st grade workbooks with the hope of moving into 2nd grade next semester. He is NOT advancing to cursive this year.

My 1st grader has beautiful handwriting thanks to hours and hours of drawing and building with Legos. Unfortunately he's picked up a couple of penmanship bad habits so I'm hoping to correct those this year.

Handwriting Without Tears is designed to be very hands-on and offers a lot of extra multi-sensory components. I bought the teacher's guide and student workbooks as well as the Rock, Rap, Tap & Learn CD. My guys enjoy listening to the CD and dancing around our living room together. You could say we get our P.E. in while listening to handwriting. :)

Explode the Code is a fantastic phonics based workbook series. We are using 2-3 workbooks each year but you can go as fast or as slow as you want. I used this program last year to teach my #2 boy how to read and I'm using it again this year to begin teaching my 5 year old daughter to read. The boys are in different workbooks this year because Will's reading level is several grades ahead of Ben's. In fact, Will (3rd grade) finds the workbook super easy but I want to make sure he has a firm understanding of phonics.

Alpha and Omega LifePACs language arts is an all inclusive program. It covers handwriting, spelling, phonics, grammar rules and a few other skills that fall under language arts. I am only using this with Will (3rd grade). I think of it as my "security blanket" to make sure I don't miss anything for Will but I feel that it's kind of "a mile wide and an inch deep." It covers so many different areas that I feel Will doesn't get enough practice with key skills, which is why we use the other programs as well.

Write About Me/Write About My World is published by EPS School Specialty Publishing, the same publisher for Explode the Code. I am using these consumable workbooks with Ben (1st grade). Each page gives him a writing topic and space to write. It's a good introduction to grammar rules and creative expression.

As you can see I use a little bit of everything from a lot of different publishers. This is our 4th year of homeschooling and I've finally figured out what works best for me and for both of my boys. There are a couple of other workbooks and items we will add in as time allows over this year but for now this is our core curriculum.

So, what curriculum are you using?

* 2010-2011 Homeschool Curriculum for Kindergarten and 2nd Grade.


Amy said...

I'd love to read a post about doing all this and staying sane--mainly because as a mom I think I'm always walking that line of sanity and losing my mind! :)

Very interesting--hope you will have a good year! The Lewis and Clark study might require a field trip out west? We enjoyed touring the museum inside the St. Louis arch this summer as well as seeing the wagon wheel ruts that are still there from westward expansion among other things. So much to see! Of course, we are a history family so that would catch my eye!

Have fun! Sounds like you're excited about your curriculum for the year...

TinaAtHome said...

I think I love planning for my homeschool as much as I love teaching homeschool. Or if truth be known, I think I like the planning part best.

Stephanie said...

Amy, I'm jealous of your trip! I'd love to do a field trip along the Lewis and Clark trail but it's not going to happen this year. Maybe in a few years we'll make it out there.

TinaAtHome, I love lesson planning. I actually attended college to be a social studies teacher so books and lesson plans are right up my alley. It's fun and exciting. Just wish I had enough time to do everything I plan! :)

Maureen said...

Thanks for posting, Stephanie! Very helpful.

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