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Category: Curriculum Musings

Just wanting to throw down my latest thoughts…


We started “first grade” this summer to ease  ourselves in a bit more into being a bit more rigorous. We still just do 1-1.5 hours a day at this point. This fall I’d love to increase our workload to 2-3 hours a day, but that is including some creative stuff like art and music. I’ve got our curriculum all finalized and almost finished working out our Fall 2010 daily lesson plans. I’ve been following this 50+ page thread on WTM forums on how to organize using files/crates, and gotten some good ideas from it. I don’t think I’m going to go that far, but it has given me some ideas and inspiration. I may get some use out of the Workbox system and Loop, although again, I probably won’t follow the method 100%. I think I’ve gotten ideas from all the major planning/organization methods that are making their rounds this time of year.

I’ve divided our subjects into three groups. Core, Support, and Enrichment. (I just came up with those names  out of the top of my head just now, hehe.)

Core is most important and first on our priority list. Right now they are only Reading and Math (although that may change). This fall, we’ll have finished our formal phonics reading program, but we’ll continue to practice reading and gain fluency. We’ll keep working on our ETC workbooks for as long as they work for us. For Math, our main math program is RightStart, and we’ll do 20 minutes 4 times a week. Because Satori now doesn’t like to finish the RS worksheets, we might try a bit of Math Mammoth worksheets everyone has been raving about.  I’d love to incorporate MEP too a few days. This supplemental math will take 10 minutes a day, 4 days a week. Total for our Core is one hour a day. We’ll be tackling these first and then take a short break. We’ll be doing these Core lessons everyday, in some way or another.

Support subjects are those lessons that support our core. Some of these might make it into our Core down the road, but right now I’m not too worried about them. These subjects may be ones that Satori excels at and I’d actually like to slow down to give priority to our core. Or they are ones that I don’t think are crucial at this time, but they are definitely important and nice to work on, so I give them secondary priority. Our second hour will be filled with Support subjects. These are Handwriting (we’re starting cursive), Spelling, Grammar, and Writing. Due to Satori really enjoying creative writing, some of this might seem to go at an accelerated pace for a first grader. Handwriting and Spelling will be our usual curriculum – Handwriting Without Tears and All-About-Spelling. Grammar and Writing we are trying out some new stuff, while still keeping First Language Lessons and Writing With Ease. These two programs seem too easy for Satori, but I like the memorization, narration, and copywork that these programs promote. We will be adding Growing With Grammar Grade 1 and Write Source Grade 1. Support lessons will be done 2-3 times a week.

Enrichment subjects are subjects like history, science, vocabulary, art, music, logic, geography, etc… Not totally necessary, but so much fun! I plan to really ramp up our Art now, and we are thinking of starting Notebooking for subjects like history, science, and nature study. I’ve made some changes to what we’ve done in the past so we shouldn’t get so far behind in history and science. Enrichment subjects will be tackled 1-2 times a week.

By thinking of our subjects in this way, we’ll get our priorities in order and make sure we get the most important things done for sure and done first.

When I get some time, I will flesh out our First Grade curriculum Fall semester, as I do every semester and talk about our choices in a little more detail.


I’m adding a bit of creative inspiration to our great room, I’ve got some great ideas for an art table, writing table and birding watch to place in our main room, while still hopefully retaining a room that we can still hang out in and not be overwhelmed by messy homeschool stuff. We’ll see.

Here’s a photo of David putting together our new art table:

This summer we are going to be adding a new math supplement – MEP math! RightStart is fine on its own, but I couldn’t resist peeking into this last week and it looks like it will be a great complement to RS. MEP is a free online math program covering over nine years of math. Several homeschool parents who I respect their curriculum choices all say they love this program, and most use it as a supplement to either RightStart, Singapore, or Miquon (some may use it as a stand-alone).

Satori and I just did the first 7 lessons in 30 minutes tonight out of Year 1A. I can her see zooming through 1A this summer and then slowing down in 1B. So far it was a fresh perspective and Satori loved it. Now we have two fun and effective math programs!

I must admit I spent the entire weekend printing out all the lessons and worksheets and then placed them in cool binders. I’ll give a more thorough review soon.

RightStart Math can be pricey but well worth the investment. I hear it never goes on sale, but this morning I woke up to a pleasant surprise that the Homeschool Buyers Co-op is giving a great deal on RightStart! Depending on the number ordered, you can save up to 25%. Right now it is at 20%, but I’m positive it will hit the 25% by the time the deal expires on 6/29.

What great timing, we are just finishing up RightStart A, and I couldn’t bring myself to spend the $100 to buy the A-to-B Kit to move on to the next level.

This news is making its waves on all the homeschooling boards, as people know it’s just a rockin’ program!

The only thing is, is that if I wait for the coop to mail out RightStart B, we will have almost a month of in-between time. But that’s okay! I’m a math curriculum junkie and I also have Singapore, Miquon and MEP. I would love a chance to explore MEP and Miquon a bit more, and perhaps add one as a supplement. I hear they’re all great!

I haven’t been the best teacher this spring. We skipped several subjects for entire months, unfortunately, all the creative and fun ones. Science, history, art, music, and math… yes we consider math creative and fun when we use RightStart. I am excited to  start in again on the fun activities and projects, and of course photograph and blog accordingly!

My excuse for slacking this time – I am on a mega huge health kick this spring, and it seems that all my energy went towards that. On the plus side, I weigh less than I’ve weighed in at least the past 7 years! Satori has been such a great sport and is eating very healthy too. We hike a lot and are just having a blast this year.

Here’s some updates on how our lessons are going.

RightStart Math A

Last month we finally learned the “proper” names of numbers. One of the most appealing aspects of RightStart is that they emulate the Asian way of naming numbers: “ten 1” (11), “ten 2” (12), “5 ten 8” (58). This makes so much more sense, and comes in handy in understanding place value and visualizing math concepts. Now that Satori understands numbers in this way, she now can also say them in the normal way – eleven, twelve, thirteen… twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, and so on. I loved the lessons that taught her the new names. Now I know how we came up with “eleven” (left one) and “twelve” (two left) and so on. We still use the special AL Abacus every day we do our math lessons.

We’re also in the middle of learning clocks. Here’s our little gear clock that came with our RightStart A kit. I love how they taught these lessons as well, such a great job! As we move the longer blue minutes hand, the short orange hour hand will move as well. Behind the blue hand, is a display that shows night or day, making it easy to show if 12:00 is midnight or noon.

Of course we finish up math lessons with a fun math card game, they have clock cards, time cards, hour cards, and Satori is totally thrilled to play these games.

Every now and then they have her do a short worksheet, which is no problem…


Reading is one subject we finished all our lessons in this spring, as some days we’d do multiple lessons. My goal was to have her reading chapter books this summer, we shall see on that, but she can read any children’s picture book. It surprised her that she could pick up any of her books and read them to us!

This summer we will have finished all of Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading and then she will have the tools to tackle reading her favorite chapter books like Roald Dahl, Avi, and so on (right now we are reading Ragweed).

The past month she learned to tackle two-syllable words, and so much more. Here’s what we did today – Lesson 190: The Soft Sound of the SC Blend. A short and sweet lesson, which is great on a day like Saturday when we don’t even plan to do any lessons!

Reading is becoming more and more effortless that she can read her own workbooks and answer them. How fun! Here’s her Geography workbook:

We are almost finished with Lollipop Logic. Most of this workbook was so easy, we probably could have done it all in a few weeks easily. But I’ll be progressing her logic work to be more challenging for her now. Here’s a page she did yesterday, this is one of the easiest pages. But I show it because I think her coloring is getting so neat.

We’ve just finished our 9th week this semester. Looking back on my handy online tracker (Homeschool Skedtrack), I see we only skipped two days. We’re due for a vacation! We will be trekking to Wisconsin the week of Easter, that might end up being a two week vacation.

Almost everything we planned for our Kindergarten semester is going quite well. I would hardly call our stuff kindy stuff anymore, so next fall we’ll call it First Grade year.

Reading – going swimmingly, I love Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading. I firmly believe in phonics and very few sight words so this is perfect. We cover about 1-2 lessons a day, 5x a week. Satori is trying to read things she hasn’t learned the phonics rules yet, but I’m only giving her beginner reader books until we get a little further. We haven’t covered R-Changed words yet, nor multi-syllable ones, so I can’t wait to reach those lessons, then I’ll feel a little better having her read bigger books. Right now we’re on lesson 134, just starting Silent Letters. Here’s a sample in case you were curious about this book, it covers sample lessons and shows an index to all 231 lessons.

This lesson is from last week and shows a sample of what she can read now.

We gave up on Explode the Code, it was just redundant. I don’t miss it. She is still barreling through ReadingEggs, she needs virtually no assistance from me, and everytime she sits down she gets through 3-5 lessons. One day she went through an entire map, but that was probably a mistake giving her that much computer time. I love that it teaches her to “save up” her eggs. For every lesson she gets several eggs, and she can use those to buy things for her virtual house and garden. She understands the concept of saving up, much better than Mama does!

Handwriting is closely being watched now, I mentioned her bad grip in the previous post. We’re rectifying this now, but it will take some time to get used to using a correct grip, slowing down, and trying to write neatly. We cover handwriting via copywork in a few other lessons as well.

Spelling is going well. We started Level 2, and zoomed through the first few lessons, as they were things she already knew (a review, beginning and ending blends, and Y-ending words). We’ll now take it more slowly I’m not afraid to take 2 weeks to finish a lesson, rather than the 3 days we usually take (we do Spelling 3 times a week).

Math – we just learned our hundreds, it is going well. For some reason I don’t get to this subject 4x a week as planned, but we both do really enjoy our RightStart math lessons. We’ve gotten addicted to logic games.

Vocabulary – we started Wordly Wise First Grade, which is still the colorful, fun program. She still absolutely loves this program. Is it too easy? Perhaps a bit so, but now I’ve got a daughter who loves words and I can’t say no to that!

History just rocks. So glad we started this. We’re averaging a SOTW lesson per week, which I didn’t expect to go through so fast at age 5. The next month we’ll be studying the ancient cultures of India, China and Africa, and SOTW dedicates only one lesson per region, so I think we can slow down and take our time on these cultures.

Science – Eek, totally slacking! I am working on fixing this. I’ve been working non-stop on how to make my favorite science curriculum work for us. More to come in the next few days.

Art – Bah, we haven’t done our art program at all this spring. Not too important, as we do artistic things all the time. If I can get more organized, we’ll start this again.

Writing – Just started Writing With Ease, and it is so easy. We learn about great children’s literature while working on narration and copywork. Answering in complete sentences is throwing Satori off a bit though, I can’t wait to cover more grammar so she understands what that means. She’ll reword my question and stick in her answer instead of giving me a natural complete sentence.

Grammar – First Language Lessons is going very well, also easy. Going over proper and common nouns. This program has given her a love for poetry already, or at least memorizing it and reciting it. 🙂

You know, looking back, all of the books written by Well-Trained Mind ladies are some of the easiest and most effective programs of the day.

Second half of spring plans

I am planning on adding Geography and Nature Studies as separate subjects. I am so, so psyched about adding these, even if we already have quite a full schedule! I have all materials here ready to go, just have to narrow down what to use and how to use it.

Have you noticed a lot of geography posts lately?

I recently finished reading The Latin-Centered Curriculum by Andrew Campbell. I had to purchase it used, but I did get the second edition version that was written in the past year. You can get new in stock at the Memoria Press website, including an eBook version.

It has given me several things to think about for our classical education style of homeschooling. I already knew we have been following more of a neo-classical style, but wanted to see what this book had to offer. I won’t be following it 100%, like everything, we’ll take what we like and leave what we don’t. I appreciated the inclusive manner the book spoke to me, and am considering adding a few more subjects to our lineup now. (Namely geography and I’m still debating about a few more I’ll post on my self-education blog soon.) I read this book to help convince myself to include Latin in our homeschool subjects, but mostly what I came away with was the urge to simplify and streamline our studies. Due to my personality, I would find it hard to let go of a subject, but now I’ll be looking at all our subjects with a critical eye and deciding whether they are necessary. Ironically, mostly I came away compelled to add several new subjects to our already full schedule!

Anyway, now you may understand why the sudden urge for geography in our household! We now have geography books, workbooks, coloring books and more coming in the next few weeks and I hope to officially study geography once a week from now on. Satori has missed studying it, as we did a quick burst of geography lessons a few months ago. I’m very open to any suggestions at this point – geography for the K-2 years.

Geography has been a priority for me all along, I just figured we’d include geography in our history studies. For Christmas, all I wanted was a high quality globe. Thank you Mom and Dad (Satori’s grandparents)! We totally love it. We carefully chose a globe that will reflect our family’s style. We wanted a colorful, raised relief large globe. One that would allow both adults and children to stand up, twirl around easily, and familiarize ourselves with the world.

So our Trafalgar globe is now a great addition to our household.

If the globe ever needs an update, we can get a new ball at a greatly reduced cost.

We are now well in our Kindergarten Spring 2010 semester so I feel qualified to muse on Satori’s progress and to reflect on new curriculum choices. I want to start off giving myself a pat on the back for staying on top of our homeschool schedule and getting most lessons done by 11am everyday, considering my spontaneous personality. Huge hugs to Satori for participating with such joy, and for going along with some lessons that I know aren’t the most exciting.


We’re using Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading, and the more I read about other homeschoolers and books on reading, the more glad I am to have chosen this book as our main reading program. It’s so systematic and thorough. Within our allocated 20 minutes, we easily cover a lesson a day, and a thorough review of recently covered lessons and then touch a few lessons covered months ago. Every 7-10 days we take a thorough review day, although our reviews are already thorough, so we’ll be stopping review day. We’re on lesson 118 now, in Section 13 “Common Spellings for Other Vowel Sounds” like AW, AU, OO, OU, OI, EA and so on.

Aside from the 20 minute lessons five days a week, I do not push Satori to read on her own. I want her to learn to enjoy reading and am afraid if I push it, she might get burned out or turned off by reading. Only until last month did I encourage her to read off her easy readers, which are totally below her level, but gives her the confidence of reading. So we do try to have Satori read a few books, then mama read a read-aloud, but I haven’t been consistent.

One milestone we have finally reached is Satori’s eagerness to read books. Monday night (2/8) Satori just could not get enough of her Nora Gaydos books, and read an entire set in one sitting. In 24 hours, we read both Level 1 and Level 1 Advanced sets of Nora Gaydos. She loves the stickers and laughs at the stories. (Ah, the simple things…) We’ve started Volume 2, with sentences like “The gray ape places the cake to bake on a tray.” and “The crazy snakes danced into the lake.”  This is more her level. She also started reading the Biscuit books. I’m so glad that we got this far in our reading program, it has given her the confidence to tackle beginning reading books with ease. I’m afraid she might be getting a bit too over-eager, as she sometimes wants to try to read “my” books, lol!

On a final reading note, last week Satori went gung-ho with her online reading subscription, which we recently renewed after several months. I think she went through several maps in one day! She does this completely independently, which is a nice break for mama. She’s now on Level 2, Lesson 64, although at this point, I think she could get through all of level 3 without learning anything new that she hasn’t already learned through OPG. She is using her math skills to earn her eggs. For example, she wanted to purchase a piano for 84 eggs, but only had 24 at the time. So she worked extra hard and saved up all her eggs until she could purchase her piano. 🙂


Again, I think we chose the perfect program for ourselves. We’re on RightStart A Lesson 39 today. Recently she’s been learning how to estimate, add, write equations, money, even/odd, and dozens of other things. She is not using the abacus to add things like 7+3, but she doesn’t have it memorized either. I’m trying to get her to use the abacus, but she’s doing her addition fast and without mistakes, so we’ll see how it goes. Last night we revisited a Memory Game from Lesson 9 and she wanted to do it over and over. She has a great memory, so she kicks my butt.

I love how learning our coins – penny, nickel, and dime, it reinforces the concept of grouping things in 5s and 10s. She has no problem paying me for an apple worth 87 cents, in several different ways.


Last week I posted about a handwriting emergency, letters getting sloppy/careless. We hadn’t been focusing on handwriting at all for such a long time. My mistake! As I posted a few pictures of Satori writing, I noticed a weird pencil grip. I then launched myself into researching grips and discovered I myself have an incorrect grip. I use 2 grips, both are incorrect. Satori uses a combination of Quadropod Grip (which HWT says is okay) and sometimes something totally incorrect. So both mom and daughter have been practicing using the more commonly suggested Tripod Grip.

Satori knows exactly how each letter should be written, right down to its shape and  how to write it. When people write lowercase “e” wrong on TV, she’ll catch it and tell me how they wrote it wrong. If I forget the tiniest little detail on a letter, like forgetting to come back down on lowercase “u”, she’ll point that out and correct it for me. So daughter does teach Mama sometimes!

To get back on track, we’ve started Handwriting Without Tears First Grade book, and are using StartWrite software to make practice handwriting sheets, and are constantly checking our handwriting grip. HWT has a few tricks on  how to get a correct grip, and we’re working on those.


One more Step left in All-About-Spelling Level 1 and we’re on to Level 2.  I couldn’t ask for more from a program, but I think I talk about AAS enough so I’ll leave it at that.

Satori has been writing books about 10-15 pages long. The classical education model doesn’t start “creative writing” until Grade 5 (the Logic stage), but this kindergartner sure loves to write stories. Using her phonics and spelling she knows so far, these are fun (and funny) to read. I really need to take a picture of these books, they come complete with cute pictures! She’s been writing a story about a cat named Liz and her adventures with Gest her friend, and her babies. Here’s a few pages of one story (some misspellings corrected):

Liz met a male. The owners of the cats are mad. (picture of happy cats with collars and mad owners)

Liz saw her owner and she ran fast. The 2 cats got home. The people left Liz and Gest home.

Liz and Gest had a idea. They ran to the cat bed. (Hmmmm….) In the mornin the 2 cats be friends.

Gest and Liz got mayed (married). (Picture of Gest with a top hat and bow on. Liz with a fancy gold collar.)

The End


Not much to say about Writing, Grammar, and Logic except they’re going well and only take a few minutes a day. Nothing too exciting about these subjects, but there are some Logic problems Satori loves of which she cannot get enough. Satori wants to do several lessons of vocabulary a day. She picks up on unknown words all the time and demands a definition. She attempts to use new vocabulary in her conversation. So cute!

History is amazing, I talk enough about that, so no big updates here. I did plan on going much slower in history, but we are doing one chapter a week, which is what’s recommended. Love SOTW audio CDs to listen to in the car so we can review stories already  covered. I had no clue Satori would enjoy history so much.


We just started using Discovery Education streaming Elementary Spanish which rocks! Satori actually asked for Spanish videos so she can learn on her own, so I simply introduced her to these. They come with a teacher’s manual PDF file. We are only on our first week, more to say about this later.


Science and Art big-time. I think the prep-time of these is daunting to this perfectionist mom. We have however, been watching lots of science videos on Discovery Streaming. I keep meaning to spend an entire day to pre-prepare lessons in these 2 subjects, and then doing several in a week (I schedule these once a week).