So, next fall we will, Lord willing, begin our first foray into 1) official, state-registered homeschooling, and 2) first grade. And so I am attempting to make sure that we are covering all our bases, and covering them well! Because I am expecting to be greatly pregnant by the time we begin, and have a newborn halfway through the year, I am trying to do as much planning ahead as I possibly can. I have my lesson plans broken down to the weekly level for the entire year, and am beginning to work through which specific activities we’ll do. I am planning for a long winter break from Thanksgiving through New Years, because I’m sure otherwise school will fall apart then anyway until we settle into the routine of a new baby. That long break also means that we are beginning in August, and running through the end of May. When our year isn’t planning to be interrupted by a newborn, I would ideally like to plan 9-week terms separated by substantial multi-week breaks and run year-round. But this year, I think we need one big fat break in the middle instead.
Our core curriculum, although it is treated as more of “dessert” at the early stages, is Tapestry of Grace. This is a classical curriculum, in four yearly cores, which repeat three times each throughout the schooling experience, covering a multitude of subjects from history, social studies, English, composition, philosophy, government, rhetoric, and geography. The first year, which we are doing at lower grammar level, is the Ancient World. The thing I am most excited about is that all students, regardless of age, are centered around the same basic part of history every week, while the activities, expectations, and reading and writing assignments are tailored to each student’s individual level. So, for instance, one week the lower grammar child may be learning about the geography of Egypt and the importance of the Nile to the local economy, building pyramids and making Egyptian headdresses, while the rhetoric-level teenager may be writing a 10-page essay analyzing the intricacies of the ancient Egyptian religion and its influence on later philosophy. I think this is a great opportunity for larger families to maintain a lot of cohesion while also meeting each child’s academic needs, and I am excited to see how it plays out as the years go on! I am intending to repeat this year almost exactly in four years with E2, rather than E1, in the student role (while E1 would have moved on to an upper grammar approach to the material), so in addition to trying to make meticulous plans beforehand, I am going to try to keep detailed notes and lists as we go along. I will say, the books seem a little ambitious with only a first-grader and a kindergartener; I am expecting it to go a little haphazardly, but then of course the next time around we will use the same books except then we will have a 2nd grader and 3rd grader as well, Lord willing, because by the time the cycle repeats, even if E1 is moved on to upper grammar, the younger ones will still all be lower grammar. So I’m definitely looking at this year as a low-stress test drive of the material and the course structure.
For science, I honestly didn’t agonize over the decision very much. I’ve looked at many lower-grade science curricula, and they all seem incredibly similar. This one is MacMillian/McGraw-Hill, 2nd grade (because we’ve already been doing “first grade” for quite some time—early science is easy and our kids love science!), and I picked it because it was incredibly affordable (widely available used), and has a good website with lots of supplementary videos, and is simply structured with review questions and suggested experiments all right within the text. I am planning to keep our kids “together” for science in at least pairs, which seems doable to me because the high school sciences don’t necessarily have to go in order, so we can simply reshuffle partners around as necessary to make sure everyone gets the right curriculum at the right grade level.
For math, we are continuing into Singapore Primary Mathematics 1A and 1B for E1, and Singapore Essential Math Kindergarten A and B for R. I like Singapore, and so do the kids! From what I’ve read, it is pretty well leveled with Saxon, so I am intending at this point to switch to Saxon once we are out of early elementary… or not.
For phonics/reading, I have not been able to “plan” it very well, because it has seemed like more of a brain development issue than a textbook/teachable issue. With that said, I have been pretty pleased with EPS Primary Phonics, and we worked through the K book last year and are currently working through the 1 book, so I am hoping to begin the 2 book by fall and begin, at some point (probably earlier than fall), the K book with R. We also use lots of supplementary materials, games, and computer programs. Once such which was recently recommended is Phonics Pathways, which I’m going to try to draw all the kids into.
Lastly, preschool… L will be our youngest-yet “preschooler,” and my plan so that I can actually teach the girls is to assemble a number of “busy boxes” for him so that when I need him distracted, he can sit at the table and work on his schooltime-only special exciting activity/toy. I am expecting that with both Tapestry and science, he can sit with us as we read together and even do his own semblance of many of the activities—not necessarily to absorb any of the learning, but at least for distraction purposes. So it will be more when we are doing the “seatwork” of math and reading that I will be trying to distract him with his busy boxes, and hopefully at some point in the year he can begin his own workbooks. We have had good experiences with the Rod & Staff Preschool Workbooks, which are by far the most well-suited to very young children that I have ever come across.