Keep Calm, It’s First Grade: My First Attempt at a 1st Grade Curriculum

keep-calm-it-s-first-grade-1

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.

IMG_5049

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 (depending on who you are), telling the truth (okay, depending on who you are, too). 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.  For a short time, all I would want in return is your feedback.

-altesa

 

 

 

Advertisements

5 Reasons Why I AM Digging This Homeschool Life and 5 Reasons Why I am NOT. (Part 2)

IMG_6781

This is my mid year assessment of homeschooling my 5 and 3-year-old sons, the first year.  If you stumbled upon this post without reading Part One, 5 Reasons Why I AM Digging this Homeschool Life.  Check it out here.

A 27 hour road trip, regardless of how much you prepare, will have it’s good and bad and even ugly moments.  Stretches of one road can have an amazing view while another stretch along that same road becomes isolated and uninteresting. Well, this is the stretch of homeschooling that turns a beautiful scenic road trip with a friend into a pain in the butt.

5 REASONS WHY HOMESCHOOLING IS  A TEST OF ENDURANCE.

IMG_0034

1.  THE FREEDOM: What freedom?!

IMG_0340

I can remember after having my second child and becoming a “stay at home”, sneaking away to a quiet empty bedroom just to hold onto a thought.  I remember thinking how unnatural it is to never have a moment to yourself. Well, welcome to homeschool. Non stop action and noise.  Once my son’s heads hit their beds, I tell them Mommy  is  off duty.  I will be available for cups of water and long-winded questions about birthdays in the morning.  Although they are amused by this declaration,  it’s my feeble attempt to carve out time to myself.

2.  FLEXIBILITY is necessary whether you want to be flexible or not.

IMG_0342

It’s home-school. My home now has a dual function and the lines are easily blurred.  Things do not always go according to well prepared, thought out, brilliant plans.  Besides being kids, they are MY kids.  Instead of a teacher, they see their mommy which means I get tested in ways a stranger may not.  They see their toys, their kitchen, their food.  And yes, all of those things are tools for everyday learning. Yet, distractions abound.  Because of the home dynamic, I have to make room for adjustments to take place moment by moment, lesson by lesson.  Let’s not mention the younger sibling, in my case, the preschooler, who subvert all lesson plans longer than 5 minutes.

3.  THE COMMUNITY of opinions, ideas and advice can be overwhelming.

I love to read other homeschooler’s experiences but I have had to narrow my daily or weekly intake to 2 to 3 bloggers that fit into my homeschool model.  I branch out to the others when I need to research something in particular. It’s easier on my brain that way.

4.  PERSONAL GROWTH: Education is in the eye of the beholder.

The word “school” has become a reason to “hem and haw” even from the comfort of one’s pajamas in one’s home.   I made the error of associating “school” with sitting down and being still to a child who can barely sit still in his sleep.  He is turned off by the “school” part as a result.  I set out to inspire a love for learning and may have done the opposite in my first 6 months. UGH!

IMG_1169

A friend asked my son during a park visit, what part of school he liked most.  My 5 year old’s response was a stunner.  He said, “The part when it’s over”.  Incredulous!  Yes I took it personal.  That’s the downside.  There is no one else to blame.  It’s all me. I am his teacher.  I am solely responsible for how he views school.  I wonder often how to engage my sons creatively while still personally trying to break free from the traditional school structure I’ve grown up with.

IMG_0345

I have yet to crack the code on what will make their home education more exciting and inciting.  I also grapple with the idea that every part of school will be fun and games.  Part of a full education is understanding some things are tedious but must be done.  Right?  Although I want my son to wake up each morning excited to practice piano and to take on reading lesson in the ways that I present it, I know I have some work to do in this area. My approach, experience, educational goals, my son’s personality and the circumstances surrounding his discontent is always under evaluation.

5.  SPIRITUAL GROWTH:   A battle zone.

DSC_0021

The burden of raising children can be daunting by itself.  Then to take on homeschooling too, in a land where traditional school is often hailed by the majority as the best and only option, is doubly intimidating. Yet, here I am.  Self doubt and all.  Fears come a’ knocking quite a bit trying to poke holes in my confidence.  Am I doing enough?

In spite of the onslaught of attack on me and my children and husband, I have to labor to rest in a God that I believe equipped my husband and I to pour into our son’s lives, teach and train them up in spite of our shortcomings.  They will be just fine– better than fine. Like most promising investment options, we will just have to wait until they mature before we can see the fruitful return God promises. In the meantime, I will trust.

I imagine most of this list is first year problems.  First year or twenty-first year, what has been a constant test of endurance on your homeschool journey?

Thanks for reading. Be sure to read Part one.  5 Reasons Why I am Digging this Homeschool Life.

5 Reasons Why I AM Digging This Homeschool Life and 5 Reasons Why I am NOT. (Part 1)

IMG_6776

Have you ever been on a road trip?  I did once.  A friend and I set out to travel back to California from a family visit in Kansas City, Missouri. We had our map, a plan, trail mix and water, money for gas and Gospel CDs on deck.  It was all pretty exciting… until it wasn’t anymore.  I don’t know when the shift took place but it did.  The excitement melted away with the scorching june heat.  The music became noise. The water turned into a need for bathroom breaks and we both wanted real food.  We argued about where and when to stop for gas and could not stand each other’s presence by the end of the trip.  What happened?

My heart skips a beat with anticipation at the thought of the road ahead and the two little people I will be traveling with on this homeschooling journey.  It’s been 6 months and the “trial by fire” of homeschooling has yet to melt away my excitement. Homeschooling has been everything I expected— for the most part–the good, the bad and the ugly. My road trip experience taught me that even with the best intentions and efficient planning, things can go sour.  Yet, it is the stuff worthwhile journeys are made of.  It’s what makes it memorable, teachable, and perhaps life changing.  Experiencing the good along with the bad and ugly has been the best teacher.  That friend I shared a car with on that road trip back to California became my husband.  That experience did not break us although it could have.  We had to regroup, yes,  but our resolve to be friends and eventually more than that was greater than the good and bad and ugly that took place on that road trip.  Now it is a fond memory that adds to the intimacy and history of our commitment to one another.

There’s value in keeping a commitment and apparently taking road trips.  (Side note: I think a road trip should be something every couple considering marriage should undertake.) On a road trip, there’s no quitting in the middle of a tiring 26 mile gap between Interstate exits even if that stretch of highway is littered with the beauty of majestic mountains.  You have to ENJOY and ENDURE at the same time.  Well not unlike homeschool, we have committed to enjoy and endure the ride.  The good is mixed in with the bad and the ugly and we stand to be the stronger, the closer, the wiser because of it.

This is my mid year assessment of homeschooling, the first year.  I have listed 5 reasons why I am enjoying the ride and in another post 5 reasons why it’s a test of endurance.

Lets look at the 5 REASONS WHY I AM ENJOYING THE RIDE.

1.  THE FREEDOM to explore interests.

IMG_0330

An interest in taking pictures turned into a photographic scavenger hunt for diamonds (the shape) in our neighborhood.  Equipped with dad’s camera and a goal, our son was on a mission to document his findings with pictures that he would later edit using IMovie into a slide show for the Grandma’s to ooh and aah over.  From space shuttles, cars to foggy mornings and photography to visiting Gramme in NJ… we are free to travel and explore these interests as we see fit without external constraints.

No one can teach this kind of confidence.

IMG_0062

IMG_2043

IMG_2058

an unusually foggy morning gets our full attention.IMG_0076

Clouds on a street level.  (My husband pointed out to me the irony of a school bus passing by in the background.)IMG_1958

 

 Out of bed and into the fog before most of the neighborhood was awake.IMG_1952

2.  THE FLEXIBILITY to have school anywhere.

One day, I had an audition and my car was out of commission.  I had to take 3 buses to get to the town where the audition was being held plus homeschool the boys. No problem. My sons got a great lesson on public transportation that day, reading a bus schedule, seeing different cities and exposure to a variety of people.  They were thrilled the entire 3 rides there, even if I wished for my car the whole time.  It was great to be out of the house and on the run the whole day. However, by the time our field trip ended, none of us wanted to see another bus again for a long time.

IMG_5718

Our first serendipitous trip to the park during traditional school hours after a summer of packed out playgrounds was glorious.  We had the place to ourselves and the kids took full advantage of the empty jungle gyms.  I took to a blanket and a $5 pizza and we were gone before the after school crowd rolled in.

IMG_0336

3.  THE COMMUNITY of people who have been there and done that.

The resources that are available through the blogging homeschool mommas out there is PRICELESS. I love those women (from the newbies to the veterans) who have dedicated their time to homeschooling sometimes 8 plus children (mouth open) then to take on the blogging world by detailing their experiences and testimonies for others to glean.  They are such a major asset to me. (If you are a homeschooling blogger mom reading this post— I am talking about you–THANK YOU). In fact, I am using a preparatory curriculum for my 3-year-old from a mom who is graciously offering it online for free.

DSC_0328

4.  PERSONAL GROWTH: An education empowers regardless of age.

I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know until I began to research and teach my own children.  Do you know how to identify a cumulonimbus cloud?  Me too. I am not sure if I was taught this stuff in school or did I just forget over the years? Either way. I am learning alongside them and it is SO COOL!

IMG_0354

5.  SPIRITUAL GROWTH- School is only the half of it.

“To teach is to learn twice.” That quote points to the 5th reason I am enjoying this homeschool journey. More than once, while I am teaching my son, God teaches ME–something about Himself, others or myself. I call these “parallel teaching moments” or learning twice.

My 5-year-old was having an especially difficult time during reading lesson one day.  After much frustration for us both, my son spoke out, “Why isn’t God helping me?”. I probed.  He continued, “Why won’t God just tell me what the words are?”  My son, who has proven the skills to read these words confessed he didn’t want to “do all the work” of sounding out each letter. Instead, he was expecting to divinely know the words versus use the phonetic technique he had learned and practiced almost every day for 3 months.  I explained how God has helped him, that God gave him a brain to store knowledge to use when needed. And that God gave him a mom who has committed to teaching him.  “God wants you to use all the resources available to you to read the words for yourself.”  In that moment, I had an epiphany:  I was feeling the same way as my son in a hard area of my life.  I was expecting the same divine intervention in my life from God in an area where God had already supplied my need. It was up to me to begin using what was already available to me.  This and the other “parallel teaching moments” have confirmed God’s call on my life as a homeschooling momma.

What is your favorite part of homeschooling?

Thanks for reading.  Be sure to check out 5 Reasons Why I am NOT  digging this Homeschool Life.(Part 2)