Wednesday, January 5, 2011

How I am Teaching my First Grader ~ Advice for anyone who might want it

Yesterday I ran into a mom who had just made the (as many of us know) very difficult decision to pull her kindergarten son out of public school and homeschool him. She had that very-familiar look of fear and bewilderment in her eyes. She asked me a few questions about how we did things. I gave her my telephone number and this blog address because we all need support especially if we are just starting out on this journey.

This last semester I didn't take Brynne's schooling too terribly serious. She was eager to learn so learning came in all shapes and sizes. But, this semester I decided to give it more of a form. I thought I would post it here. Maybe it will be useful information to someone.

** Note: Brynne is 5, but we are homeschooling her as a 1st Grader because of her skill abilities. I do think the following plan can work for any age by just choosing age- and skill-appropriate lessons and activities.

The 3 R's ~ Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic

Reading

Letter-of-the-Week
  • Monday ~ Does the Tracer page ("Alphabet Worksheet - Standard") from First-School, Reads a book from the library about that letter (our library carries Letter books from 3 different publishers. I order those every week. I just do a search in the Kids Collection for, i.e. "letter j".)
  • Tuesday ~ Uses the pictures from the bottom on the Tracer page to complete the Mini-book found here, Reads another Letter book.
  • Wednesday ~ Does her "Letter Bag" where she finds three items in our house that start with the letter-of-the-week, Reads the final Letter book.
  • Thursday ~ Does a word search from First-School, Does her ABC Journal for the letter by cutting out three pictures from magazines that start with the letter-of-the-week, gluing them in her journal and writing the word next to the picture.
 Phonics

Writing
  • Monday ~ Writes a letter to someone (Penpal, grandma, great grandma, etc.)
  • Tuesday ~ Story starter page, i.e. "My favorite gift I got for Christmas was ... " She completes the sentence and draws a picture to match.
  • Wednesday ~ Writes as many words as she can from the Letter-of-the-Week
  • Thursday ~ Takes a dictation sentence. Right now I am using a list of popular sayings, i.e. "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" that I copied from What Your First Grader Needs to Know (The Core Knowledge Series). (By the way, there is one of these books for every grade up through 6th, I believe, and they are a great resource. I checked mine out at the public library.)

Math
  • Most days she does a couple of math pages from Houghton Mifflin Math: Grade 1 Practice Book (a book she used at school).
  • But starting this semester I am having her do math in different ways using the current Unit we are on (see below). For instance, since we are studying Birds for the next 9 weeks, I am replacing some work pages with math activities having to do with birds. Yesterday she matched cut egg shapes and then matched eggs that had math problems on one half and answers on the other. Tomorrow she will be filling egg cartons with beans by counting by 2's, 5's and 10's.

History

This whole year we have been learning about a historical era by using the American Girl doll series. This could easily be done with Magic Treehouse books, or other historical fiction books. Obviously these books are too advanced for Brynne to read, so I read these books to her. Then we learn about that era. For instance, we read Meet Kaya, a Nez Perce indian girl from the 1700's. Along with that we learned about Appaloosa horses and salmon. Then when we read Meet Felicity, a colonial girl growing up in Williamsburg in the 1700's, we learned about Colonial America and even celebrated our Christmas with that theme. Currently we are reading Meet Josefina, a Spanish-American girl growing up on a ranch in New Mexico in the 1800's. We will be learning about the Spanish culture, and even learning some Spanish words. At the end of each book we complete a Lapbook containing all the information we have learned. There are numerous free printables for Lapbooks out there.


Science

Something new for us this semester is a Science unit. We are also incorporating our Nature studies with it. We are doing a 9-week unit on Birds called For the Birds. You can go here to see the specifics. We are having one Focus book each week, and then doing various activities about that book .. some math, some graphing, some discussion, some drawing, some stories, some art, etc. It will change each week. (On that note, even when our Bird unit is over and we move onto another Science topic, we will still have a weekly Nature lesson. Birds may take us a while, though.)

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To someone new to homeschooling, this might look like a lot and look complicated and overwhelming. It is a system that is constantly being tweaked, believe me. So, what would be my greatest advice? Cover the 3 R's daily. Then choose something your child is interested in ... Space, Birds, whatever ... and create extra hands-on lessons  surrounding that theme. Read a lot about that topic. Write and draw about that topic. Make math activities surrounding that topic. If they are interested in the topic, they will be interested in the activities. And, they will learn while having fun!

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