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What if this year I allowed my 6 year old son to choose his own curriculum? What would it look like? Well I asked him and this is what he said.
α I would like to learn how to draw.
β How to do cool moves on my bike.
γ Learn to swim and go swimming.
δ Build stuff with my tools like a little barn or using things around the house to build my brother a toy car for his birthday.
ε Do science experiments that will explode.
ζ Visit the science center more often.
Now what if I incorporated reading, writing and arithmetic into his 6 year old interests? It’s an
idea, experiment I am willing to try. I am looking forward to trying. I am actually excited and thrilled about trying—next year.
You see it didn’t occur to me to think of his interests when planning his 1st grade curriculum. I thought only of what I must do based upon my own upbringing and experience in traditional school. I forgot I was now a homeschooler and that I had options; crazy, cool, creative options to teach, explore, discover, wonder and learn with my sons. I forgot that I didn’t have to follow the boiler plate grade-level workbooks my gracious mother in law sent to (help). I forgot I am not trapped by standardized tests and common core. I forgot I live in America where making a living doing what you love is not only possible but proven. I want to teach my children they can do what they love and make a living from it; They were born with gifts and talents that are meant to be their contribution to perhaps solving some world problem, however large or small instead of set aside as extra curricular, elective or 2nd fiddle to a “box education”. I want to provide environments where they grow in their confidence, dismiss the status quo, and acknowledge and encourage others. Beginning with their interests in mind just may be the launch this mission needs.
It didn’t occur to me to consider my son’s opinion.
Why would I? I am the parent/ educator here. It’s my husband and I job to adequately prepare and guide our sons. They’re kids-blank palates waiting for paint- which is rendered through the experiences and exposure we allow, in part, as parents. By nature, I am not that parent that allows my child to dictate his day and much more his education. That’s hard for me to do which is why I called this interest-led idea an experiment. By no means, is it a new idea. Many in the homeschool world use this approach for their schooling. However, it’s an alternative approach I am definitely game to try especially after doing “school” my semi-formal way for 1st grade. Below you will find a short description of what I planned for 1st grade.
After much toiling, researching and soul searching, I arrived at a 1st grade curriculum based on what I deemed as important for my son to learn. Hopefully you are inspired by it in the development of your own curriculum. It’s just I felt like I was planning college courses, hence the title, “Keep calm, it’s just 1st grade”. Just like all parents, I want the best for both my sons and homeschooling makes room for that in so many crazy, cool, creative ways. Education can be customized. On the other hand, it can also become very consuming.
Would you like one choice to make or 1,000,000,000 choices to make? Welcome to my brain.
There are non-negotiables in life like wearing a seat belt, maintaining good hygiene, telling the truth, etc. I agree that in education there are non-negotiables as well, such as reading, writing and math but how we arrive at those non-negotiables, I am learning, are up for experimentation. Outside of reading, writing and math, education is quite subjective. Since I am committed to carrying out these basics, I give myself permission to allow the subjective to actually come from the subject, himself…next year.
As you browse my 1st Grade Fall and Spring curriculum know this: My son took to some parts and not so much to others. Our schedule was flexible and not everything was tackled consistently, exactly as described nor perfectly. Some of this list became more of a wish list. (Regardless, I believe in always writing down my plans whether I follow it to a T or not because things written live to see another day.) Tweet that.
Interestingly, our real challenge has been with the non-negotiables.
The more I think about it, it seems a natural strategy to use he and his 4 year old brother’s interests in these early stages as a stealth way to master the basics.
We shall see— next year!
As of this year…
MY FIRST GRADE CURRICULUM
BIBLE STUDY: I create my own lesson plans around the book of Genesis and Exodus. It’s a daily study that includes games, reading, writing, video, narration and suspense.
READING: Early Learner Readers from the library are read daily, aloud with me -*after we completed Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons which he started in kindergarten.
MATH: Life of Fred: Elementary Series plus living math books from the local library with a focus on the history of counting, numbers, money, etc.
BLACK HISTORY: Read elementary age biographies of African American explorers, inventors and scientists weekly.
GEOGRAPHY: Explore the continent of Africa with a focus on North Africa and it’s countries through digital puzzles, art, video and hands-on map games.
DEVOTIONAL: I created an interactive devotional which involves physical activity, art exercises and journaling to introduce the design and purpose of God’s masterpiece—the human body.
SCIENCE: A store bought science kit (which was given to me by a neighbor) with everything you need to conduct @20 experiments.
PIANO: Weekly lessons.
CODING: Hour of Code program plus various other apps such as Hopscotch, A.L.E.X. done weekly.
FILMMAKING: Plan, shoot and edit his own movies using the iPhone and iPad. Involves storyboarding, voice over, sound and visual effects and filmmaking vernacular.
ENTREPRENEURIAL WORKSHOP: Learn about kids who have started their own businesses via internet news. Create entrepreneurial opportunities of our own. Every time he shows an interest in something, say, “Somebody came up with that idea” and proceed to research that person and thing.
COMMUNITY: Connected to the entrepreneurial workshops, the goal is to expose him to the behind the scenes by touring local businesses in addition to other community places like firehouse, postoffice, police station, college campus,etc.
If you are interested in more information about any of the subjects above, let me know in comments and I will gladly create a post describing a more detailed account of our experience with each.
Also, I am working on making the bible study and devotional curriculums accessible to those who may be interested. In the meantime check out our Alphabet and Handwriting workbooks.