Welcome! If you’re new to This Little Home of Mine, I’m Elizabeth. I am a former elementary school teacher who is now homeschooling my kids. This year, I’m homeschooling first-grade and preschool – while continuing to find creative ways to include a toddler (and a soon-to-be newborn!).
Around here, we have kind of a year-round family-style approach to homeschooling going on. Thus far, our m.o. has been to enjoy science/social studies learning in the summer months with a heavier focus on language arts and math throughout the “school year”. This has worked really well for us so far, and I see it continuing to be a great approach as we continue to journey through a season with lots of littles. I love how homeschooling can so naturally be woven in to our day-to-day life. In our house these days, first-grade is off to start, and I’m so excited to have you following along with us this year!
If you’ve visited me in this space before, you may have seen me share about homeschooling for preschool and kindergarten. I have put together age-specific posts to assist homeschooling moms in their journey, and my hope is that as I share what is working well for us that you will be inspired to find what works best for your family.
In this post, I am sharing all about Homeschooling First-Grade! If you are considering homeschooling your first-grader, I’m so glad you’re here. I’m going to share my favorite resources, teaching strategies, and planning tips – things that have been working well in our learning environment so far this year – let’s get started!
In previous posts, I have gone in to a lot of detail, but my goal for this post is to keep things as simple as possible – providing you with a glimpse in to what we’re doing, hoping you will feel inspired in our own way.
Bible – For the preschool years and last year’s kindergarten year for my oldest, we used The Jesus Storybook Bible for our Bible time. I know we will continue to enjoy that book as a family (It is truly beautiful!), but we have kicked off this year with another book by Sally Lloyd Jones: Thoughts that Make Your Heart Sing, and then throughout the coming months, we are going to use some of the A Beka flashcard stories. I have used these in various other settings, and I’m looking forward to enjoying them with my own kids this year.
As far as Scripture memory goes, I have mentioned passages that I like to focus on for the preschool/kindergarten years, but especially for my oldest this year, his Bible Memory work will come straight from his AWANA book. If you have an AWANA program near you, I would highly recommend it. It is a fantastic way to encourage your children to learn Scripture.
Language Arts: Phonics/Reading/Grammar – My kiddos are second generation A Beka students. A Beka’s phonics program was used to teach me to read, and as a classroom teacher, this was hands-down my favorite phonics/reading program to use with students. You may feel that it is not a great fit for your child – and I realize that are all kinds of excellent options out there – but I am big fan and have seen fantastic results with it over the years.
Handwriting – We use A Beka’s manuscript curriculum. (Handwriting without Tears is another great option, if you’re interested!) In addition to A Beka’s daily workbook pages, I like to find creative ways to encourage handwriting practice – ideas that don’t include pencil and paper. For example, tracing Letters (and words!) with water is one of our favorite ideas.
Creative Writing – This is an area where I like to add in some additional activities – fun writing prompts, out-loud storytelling games, various holiday activities, etc. These storytelling cards and this Storytelling Game have been fun to include our Bedtime Basket and enjoy together as a family in the evenings.
Math – In the summer months, Kumon books have been great for extra reinforcement – with A Beka’s math curriculum being our go-to throughout the year.
I like to bring to life whatever is on the page – using as many hands-on manipulatives and activities as possible. I am always on the lookout for items I can use in this way: yard sales being my favorite spots to find the kinds of things I like to use with my kids!
Science/Social Studies/Health – Until this year, I have not ordered a specific science or social studies curriculum. I have simply browsed topic ideas from curriculum websites and put together SIMPLE units using those ideas: weather, plants, animals, patriotism, community helpers, our five senses, etc. based on the Table of Contents I’ve seen from various companies.
This year, I ordered the first-grade science, social studies, and health readers from A Beka, but honestly, I have found myself doing the same thing I’ve done in years past – using the topics as a guide, but finding my own ways to bring the material to life – library books, field trips, science experiments, art activities, etc. – all allowing me to easily include my younger ones in the activities. I love sharing snapshots of all of this on Instagram, and I would love for you join me there:
This printable planning packet has been perfect for brainstorming ideas, and I have a feeling I will take the same approach next year for second-grade:
Art – Around here, we don’t really do a lot of crafts (I’m specifically scared of glitter! ha!), but we do love to draw, color, paint, and use play dough.
My kids love grabbing their sketch books (simple Melissa & Doug art pads I found at a discount on Hollar) and drawing along with Art for Kids Hub. If we’ve been reading about a specific plant or animal, historical figure or landmark, etc. we look to see if he has a video where we can draw that exact person, place, or thing along with him, and he usually does!
Music – When my oldest started kindergarten, we kicked things off with lessons at a local studio where he worked along in the “Teaching Little Fingers to Play” book. Though all was going well there, I decided to make the switch to an area group whose teachers COME TO THE HOUSE. Yes! For our current season of life, this has been amazing! The teacher comes weekly and now actually works with both of my boys. While the teacher works with my oldest (using hands-on activities as well as the flashcards and purple books you see here), I do school activities with my preschooler, and while she works with my preschooler (hands-on exploration only at this point), I do school activities with my first-grader. It’s been perfect for many reasons!
In this house, music is constantly in the air – while we play, while we learn, while we eat, while we rest, while we ride along in the car (Thank you, Pandora! ha!), and though I am excited about having my kiddos spend time with a trained teacher, I also love having them sit by the piano – on a picnic blanket (I’m not kidding! ha!) – and we sing together. This is as simple as my playing songs found in the back of their picture books, Christmas music from a hymnal, silly tunes we make up as we go, or sing-a-longs we have on hand.
I have received a lot of questions about when might be best to start lessons, what resources to use, etc. but like with so many things, I think it depends on each child – always taking in to account their development as well as their interests and enthusiasm for different things. My advice: Consider your own kiddo – just them, no one else’s – and let that guide your decisions. In most situations, that alone will give you the answers you need!
P.E. – At this point, all of our kiddos do weekly swim lessons at a local swim school. This happens in the evenings when daddy can be involved, and it has been great for our family. Getting everyone dried off, back in the minivan, home for baths, dressed in pjs, and in bed before it’s gets too terribly late can be slightly hectic at times, but we’re in a good little routine with it all, and we usually all survive…usually.
In addition, our boys have participating in low-key soccer program that offers both a spring and fall season. This particular program has been fantastic, because it is Saturdays-only – a great option for us in this season of life. The intensity level from the coaches (and fellow parents!) is low, and the focus is on having fun!
The best thing kids can do for physical activity? Play outside! Take walks, ride bikes, run in the yard! While my kids enjoy going to swimming and soccer, they love the freedom that comes with simply playing outside together.
STEM – At least once a week, I like to have some kind of SIMPLE science experiment for us to do together as a family. This usually happens in the evenings or on the weekends – when Daddy is home.
This is one of the ways he is able to participate in our homeschooling activities, and the boys go wild when it’s time to do an activity with daddy. The ideas I use are usually something I have spotted on an Instagram account I follow or from this book: Science Experiments for Young Learners: K-2 – I realize the cover might seem a little out-dated (I’ve had this book for years!), but the experiments included are easy, peasy ideas that you can do with objects you already own – very little (if any) prep required for most of them!
A Couple of Things I Say Yes! To:
Local Activities: I am always on the lookout for local events/activities that would be a good fit for our family. I consistently watch what’s going on at our libraries, museums, parks, children’s theaters, farms/orchards, etc. and this has gifted us with so many great opportunities for learning – and another chance for daddy to be involved. With a batch of little ones, it works best for us to do these things in the evenings or on the weekends. The extra set of hands is helpful for me, and we all love having David along for these experiences.
Summer Camps: In our area, we have a handful of different places that offer excellent summer camps for kids. I am looking for quality programs that TEACH, and I have loved seeing my boys enjoy a variety of different camps that encourage them in things that interest them. STEAM camps have been their favorite: especially the ones that involve Legos, and these kinds of opportunities have been an excellent addition to our homeschooling lifestyle.
Technology: While I realize too much screen-time can have a negative impact on kiddos, I’m definitely not one to say that it’s all bad. We include all kinds of technology in to our homeschooling routines: educational apps, on-line computer games, YouTube videos, and television shows (Yes, television shows!). Our current routine includes a weekly Tech Time on Friday mornings. My oldest knows this time will give him a chance to earn more stars on Teach Your Monster to Read and more trophies on Keyboarding without Tears, and he is all about it!
Our Favorites Apps:
Our Favorite YouTube Channels:
Our Favorite Websites:
Our Favorite TV Shows
A Few Things I Say No! To:
Crafts – While I realize Pinterest is full and overflowing with all kinds of cute craft ideas, we honestly don’t include many crafts in our homeschooling activities. Opportunities for art exploration? Sure, but not many crafts.
Supplemental Resources – Once again, Pinterest. When I hop on Pinterest, I see all kinds of amazing printable resources – super cute goodies that are right there at my fingertips ready to be printed and used with my kids. However, I have to think carefully before I get too carried away with things like that.
How well does it fit with what we’re learning?
Is it just busy work or would it play an important role in their learning something new?
How much time is it going to take to print and prep this printable or activity?
Keeping our other work in mind, do I want to make time to complete this activity?
My answers to these questions determine whether or not I pin things to a board I set aside for activities I actually want to make happen with my kids. Needless to say, if something is just busy work…or if something is going to take more prep time than its worth, I usually skip it.
Play dates – When my boys were younger, play dates were a regular part of our routine. In fact, most Fridays, you would find us at the park with other mommies/little kiddos. These days? Not so much. It’s not that we don’t ever have play dates anymore, but honestly, they are few and far between. We are currently in a different season of life that requires me to be more focused at home with my kids, and the truth is that all of those play dates in the first few years of motherhood were really more for me than my babies. ha!
Outside Commitments – My current season of life as a wife and mommy is a full-time ministry of giving and serving at home. There can oftentimes be a lot of pressure for at-home moms to commit themselves elsewhere. I’m not sure why others assume mamas have extra time on their hands, but if you allow them, they will quickly fill your schedule for you – over-committing you in ways that are not a good fit for your life with littles. This is an area where I have had to be careful to set boundaries. I want to say Yes! to everyone, but when I do that, I am forced to pull away from where I have been called to serve right now. This is an area where I am constantly having to keep myself in check. Anyone else struggle with this same thing? Maybe it’s just me! ha!
A Few Helpful Tips
This school year, I will be juggling a first-grader, a preschooler, a two-year old, and a newborn! In our routines, there are a few things we do that help all of this juggling run smoothly…well, on most days anyway. ha!
Morning Time: (Read more here.) We all hang out together during this time, and because it usually takes place on the carpet, my kids call this Carpet Time – ha! You can grab an editable printable for this here:
This is a great way to kick off the morning, and it’s always the perfect time to read books together: whether it be fun picture books or a chapter book that we’re reading through a chapter at a time. Yes, even the littles are with us during this time – possibly crawling/roaming around the room, but that works. They’re listening!
Reading Time: When my kiddos wake up (and before they go to bed), they have reading time. They have always been early risers, so we’ve trained them to stay in their rooms with their books until I come to get them in the mornings. You may think this sounds crazy, but we had to do something – They were waking up before the sun, and I wasn’t getting enough time alone with my coffee! ha! Some of my friends have had loads of success with this Ok to Wake! Alarm Clock – such a great idea!
Rest Time: All of my kids have an afternoon rest time. The younger ones sleep, but my older one uses his time for independent seat work. He goes to his room just like the other kids – but instead of sleeping, he will read silently, complete his lesson pages for school, draw, build with Legos, play a math game, work a puzzle, etc. This gifts him with time to work and learn independently – something I want to encourage with each one of my kids.
Mommy’s Helper: (I am working on a blog post about this as we speak!) Have you ever used a Mommy’s Helper? For us this describes a young babysitter who simply plays with my littles while I either tackle household chores or do school activities with my older kids. In past years, this has been helpful when it comes to some of my mommy chores, but this summer, I have been using one to hang out with my littles while I do more focused learning time with my first-grader. With a new baby on the way, I have used this as an opportunity to go ahead and dive in to some of the review material found at the start of his curriculum – which will take a little bit of pressure off of us when our new addition joins us in a couple of months.
Flexibility: that has been the key word for me! Always being willing to adjust and find creative ways to make things work in my current season, and I hope you – as a homeschool mom (or future homeschool mom) feel that same freedom.
Have a child ages 2-5? Want more creative ideas for homeschooling little ones? Interested in knowing more about how I juggle it all? Check out my e-book: Homeschooling Your Preschooler and my NEW Five Senses Activity Guide – designed for kids ages 2-5!