Wednesday, May 27, 2015

1st Grade Homeschool Recap: What Worked and What Didn't

To read about my 1st Grade prep process, check out this post. I’ll be going down the list item by item for recap purposes. We finished 1st Grade over two weeks ago! Boom!

First, we ended up doing about five school days worth of “work” over the summer between kindergarten and 1st. It was mostly through field trips and book studies. It was good to have those days under our belt, and we didn’t completely lose our heads, but I think a more consistent summer “program” will be better for us in the future. I’ll talk about my plans for that another time.

Reading: My plan: use library books. How it went: great! I probably was not as consistent with making Caedmon have “book time” on a daily basis as I should’ve been. But he read aloud a lot to me during our lessons. He reads better than he gives himself credit for, he just needs to build confidence. He’s started reading to Honor a bit toward the end of the year, but it’s challenging because she prefers to be the one in charge of the agenda. To sum it up, I think library books along with reading during his other lessons was good for him.

We also did a few “book studies” – usually during a time we were taking a break from other subjects. Spring Break, for example. We took a couple of days off, but since taking an extended break isn’t beneficial for us, we continued the other days with a few light subjects and reading a book (like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and did a character study, coloring pages, etc. Pinterest is an awesome place to find resources for book studies!

Writing: My plan: use Writing With Ease Level 1. How it worked: great! I like this program – it teaches copywork at this age, as well as listening and narrating. It also gave us a jumping-off point for some of our reading. I’m SO glad I got the workbook. If I hadn’t, I would’ve had to come up with all his copywork on my own. No thank you. Writing is definitely not Caedmon’s favorite subject, but I felt like this gave him great practice and incorporated grammar elements along the way.

Math: My plan: use Saxon1. How it worked: really well. I like the concept behind Saxon – continually working on things you’ve learned while adding new skills. It seems slow to add new things sometimes (and I grow super weary of all the “meeting” stuff), but it has been a good program for us. It has lots of hands-on elements, which Caedmon really enjoys. Honor often participates with us during those exercises, even if it’s just playing with pennies.

The only thing I really don’t like is that on Assessment (test) days, it gives you a written assessment, a fact sheet, and a problem sheet. That’s a LOT of work. So, I usually ditch the fact sheet or problem sheet on those days. I’d save them for a day we needed extra practice. I found the “make your own flash cards” tedious and unnecessary since they include flash cards with the workbooks, so I quit making them about halfway thru the year and we just used the cards that came with it.

During the last few weeks of 1st Grade, I began incorporating Kahn Academy into our math program. We were going to run out of math lessons before we ran out of school days, so I sprinkled it in to stretch it out a bit and give Caedmon a bit of a change-up. He enjoys computer work, so I thought he would like this. He does, for the most part. There’s a bit of a challenge sometimes because it presents problems in a different way than he’s used to seeing with Saxon. But usually after we work through one of them together, he’s able to continue on without help.

Bible: My plan: use The Gospel Project app. How it worked: great! The kids both love this app and the videos are fun to watch while teaching solid biblical principles. I love that it’s a chronological walk through the Bible. He is still “journaling” by drawing pictures, but he’s learning and enjoying the Bible, and that’s what’s important.

Spelling: My plan: Spelling Workout A. How it worked: meh. Don’t love it, don’t hate it. I think part of the difficulty is that it requires writing and Caedmon doesn’t enjoy writing. He also doesn’t quite see the parts of words yet – like –ing, -ed, or the two words in a compound word. I think we need more phonics work before tackling spelling, honestly. I kind of wish I had skipped spelling this year. I’m not entirely sure it has been beneficial for us. Or maybe a more phonics-focused program would’ve been better for him. We will be trying something different next year.

Language Arts: My plan: First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind, Level 1. How it worked: great. Love that the lessons are short and sweet. Most don’t require writing, and the ones that did, I often allowed him to use the white board instead of paper. I do feel like it’s slow to teach a few things, but I like the simplicity.

History: My plan: Story of the World, Volume 1. How it worked: fabulous. Caedmon loves history. I loved the audio book of the textbook! We listened to history in the car while running errands, and it was one less thing I had to read aloud. It was also more “user friendly” because the kids both felt like they were listening to a story instead of a lesson. We used the Activity Book for narration guidelines, activity sheets, and maps. Caedmon has immensely enjoyed the mapwork. Honor loves to color a picture along with us since she’s listening to the “story” too. We supplemented a lot with books from the library, which wasn’t hard to do at all. We tried to use the Usborne and Kingfisher encyclopedias, but they’re a bit cumbersome for a 1st grader to handle, and they contain so much information, it was kind of an overload for us both. They’re awesome books and I know we’ll use them more in the future, but smaller, more kid-friendly books from the library were better for us. We did not do tests, but will incorporate those next year.

Science: My plan: use DK Animal and Human Body Encyclopedias as a jumping off point, and study gardening. How it worked: pretty well. I have to admit, I’ve been pretty relaxed about science this year. I chose topics from the encyclopedias, we read those pages, and checked out supporting books at the library. After reading our pages together, I gave the library books to Caedmon and told him to “go learn things” and had him report back to me with one thing he learned from each book. I wrote those down on our narration sheet and we discussed the pictures, he asked questions, etc. For gardening, we checked out some books at the library, he’s helped me prep our garden beds, plant seeds, maintain our seedlings, and has chosen to grow a watermelon plant as his “project.” My theory is that we have plenty of time to get into the details of science.  We’ll repeat these subjects again at least twice. At this point, I want to introduce topics and concepts and let his curiosity take over. He conducted an experiment last week to see if you really can’t taste stuff when you hold your nose (we were studying digestion). He thought it was awesome…and I thought it was awesome that it was his idea to try it out.

Enrichment: Caedmon attended an “enrichment” class one day a week from 9am-2pm with other homeschool kids his age. He loved it, and so did I. It was valuable for him to be in a classroom setting, interact with other kids in that setting, and learn from someone who’s not me. He actually learned some things there before we got to them in our books, which I loved. I heard more from him about lunch and recess than anything else, and I’m not sure that’s entirely abnormal.  It was a place I could feel good about sending him, knowing I could trust not only the teachers, but the content.

Sports: We’ve played the sports. Caedmon played baseball last summer, then he and Honor both took swim lessons in the fall. He played basketball in the winter, and we finished up the spring with swim lessons for both kids again. While I think playing sports teaches some great lessons (and gives an outlet for physical activity), the schedule is difficult for all of us when both kids aren’t participating at the same time. So, my favorite has been swim lessons. Both kids can participate at their own level during the same time slot, and we all get the benefits.

What I added:

Keyboarding: In January, I added a keyboarding course from Keyboarding Without Tears. Caedmon has enjoyed having a “school” reason to use the computer, and I love that it’s teaching him how to actually type. I chose 1st grade level, though they offer kindergarten. It’s all online and I found it very affordable.

Math: As I mentioned above, we added Kahn Academy during the last month of school. We’ll continue using it throughout the summer. Best part? It’s free.

Explode the Code: The best way I can describe ETC is that it’s phonics, but incorporates spelling and reading. I brought it in when we finished our Language Arts book, and we’ll continue with it over the summer.

So, has 1st Grade been all sunshine and roses? Hardly. There have been days when we didn’t want to school. There have been days when we both had to take a break…from the books and from each other. But there have also been days that were painless. And even fun. And seeing the light come on in those little eyes when the brain finally makes connections has been priceless.

I will also say that having a homeschool support group makes a world of difference. We are part of a small group of families who homeschool and have the same values we do. We do field trips together, have park play dates together, encourage each other, celebrate victories, and support each other when we have rough days. This journey would be so much more difficult without those other Mommas who are in the trenches with me.

Now, on to 2nd Grade and Pre-K…yes, already.  I’ll talk about those very soon!
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