1st Grade Recap and Review of our Homemade Charlotte Mason Plans

I had so much planned for my son's first-grade year!!! Here is what worked, what didn't, what I changed on the fly and how this is all going to affect next year's plans.

What a year! I cannot believe the child I see in this picture was my precious John around his 6th birthday. He is a much bigger 7-year-old now who has grown and changed in so many ways throughout the year.

He has always been my child who humbles and teaches me. I push him too hard and he lets me know. I'm so thankful that he shows me in many different ways when I am lacking in patience and not doing my best. This year there were so many times when I would feel like he wasn't paying attention or trying only to realize that he just needed more time (minutes, weeks, or months) to get a concept.

At the beginning of the year, I feared he would never remember how to read "the," but, of course, he does now. At the middle of the year, I didn't know what it would take for him to understand how to "carry the one." But he surprised me by getting it about a month later even though we had just left off and never tried again! And at the end of the year, I thought it would be years before he could manage his own piano practice sessions . . . but he is doing it already! He surprises and delights me . . . when I can remember to take a chill pill, that is.

On to the recap . . . .

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Language Arts: Reading/Literature, Copywork/Handwriting, Recitation, Latin and Greek Roots

Reading/Literature (5x20min/week)

It has been a lot of work for John to learn to read and he has done it. When he began the year, he did not know all his letters and knew very few of the sounds each letter made. He knew no vowel sounds at all.

Now he can slowly read books like Reading Literature--First Reader by Treadwell and Free.

I did follow my basic plans for John, but I learned a lot. I hope I will do even better for John next year in knowing how to best help him move forward toward reading fluency.

With some movable letters, a small whiteboard, some homemade sight word cards, and some easy readers including Bob books, nursery rhymes, Hop on Pop, and then All About Reading readers (from Thriftbooks), he went directly from knowing a few phonograms to reading simple sentences. When I think about it, the progress has been dramatic, but he hasn't loved it.

He has cried and he has doubted. He has let me know how hard it is. But he is reading, albeit still almost only with an adult at his elbow. But reading, nevertheless.

Copywork/Handwriting (5x10min/week)

He did spend a few minutes each morning copying a few lines of copywork that I prepared for him using this website or taken from a Kumon workbook on letters. He still has to work on dawdling, but his handwriting has improved a lot.

Recitation (3x10min/week)

Each 6-week half term he memorized 2 poems and 1 passage. I picked one poem and the passage and he picked the other poem with my approval. Silver, The Children's Hour, and There is no frigate like a book were some favorites. He joined the rest of the family in performing at our twice-per-term poetry teas. He seemed very proud of his efforts.

Poetry (Listen to the same poem read aloud every day for a week at morning time)

We did focus on a different poet each term:
  • Emily Dickenson
  • Walter de la Mare
  • Alfred Lord Tennyson
I think we all loved Walter de la Mare the most!

Latin and Greek Roots (daily at morning time)

We had used these English from the Roots Up Flashcards at morning time for a few years and I planned to continue with them. However, I realized that none of us was retaining what we were learning and they didn't seem to fit in the big picture of our homeschool so I dropped them before we barely started them for the year.

During the year, I learned more about Talkbox.mom and by term 3 we had finally started a modern language. It was not something that I thought I was ever going to be able to handle, but so far we have enjoyed learning our first box of German words and phrases as a family. John did not always love listening to the German audio, but he didn't mind incorporating the phrases into daily life if he felt confident he knew them.

I have a lot of ideas about how to make our German studies more fun going forward.

Social Studies: History and Geography

History (3x30min/week, oral narration after each reading, plus related mapwork that I keyed to the readings)

I created my own book list and schedule of readings to give John an introduction to America's "Age of Heroes" or mainly pre-colonial history. I did include a few biographies and early colonial period books, partially because we just studied the 1600s in our homeschool. Because I plan to have all of my students studying the same historical time period each year, John won't get back to that time period until 4th-grade.
And we completed almost all of these titles, except we stopped 50 Famous Stories Retold after Term 1 because This Country of Ours was taking even longer than I had planned. Some of those chapters are very long! I also moved The Courage of Sarah Noble to morning time because I let our Term 3 kind of sputter out at the end due to burnout and the fact that we had already met our legal requirement of 180 school days.

I think history was one of John's favorite subjects and I enjoyed seeing how his narrations improved throughout the year. The mapwork I planned wasn't too successful, especially because John isn't reading fluently. Next year, I will not plan mapwork that needs to be added to a blank map each history session. Instead, we'll leave mapwork for geography and just consult a map as needed to go along with our history reading.

Geography (3x10min/week, oral narration after each reading, plus related mapwork that I keyed to the readings)

We completed all of our geography readings, except we didn't get as far in Elementary Geography as I had planned. We will use that book along with others next year.

John seemed to love geography, if not mapwork. Paddle to the Sea was a particular favorite and it was hard for him to wait a whole week to hear more of that book. And it wasn't just the story, but the geography of the Great Lakes that captivated him. Suddenly, he was noticing the Great Lakes on every map that he saw. It was a delight to him and also helped him to begin to orient himself on world maps--something he had not really been able to do before.


Math (5x20min/week)

Life of Fred: Elementary Series by Dr. Stanley F. Schmidt [already used by my older son, bought via Black Friday sale on Educents]

We completed the first five Life of Fred books and had started Farming before we left off for summer break. But we also mixed in lots of other types of activities like Kumon workbooks on time and money, work in Gattegno's Mathematics Textbook 1 using Cuisenaire rods, practicing addition by adding up thrown dice, solo logic games, and a few Mammoth math worksheets.

My other son is very interested and very gifted in math. For that reason, I have spent my time and energy reading and thinking deeply about how best to nurture his love and talents. John is not as wild about math as his brother, but the things I've learned about kindling an enjoyment for math apply equally well to him. To that end, I give him lots of time to wrestle with a problem if he needs it. I don't care how much we accomplish in a math lesson. We just spend the allotted time and move on. We do not drill--we play, we practice.

Sometimes John was frustrated with math. But I think it was overall a positive subject, especially when I trusted that he was doing his best.  I can't really say if he accomplished more or less than peers in public school, but I know he can work much more confidently with numbers than he could last year.

Science: Natural History, Special Studies, Nature Notebooking

Natural History (3x10min/week, oral narration after each reading)

I read the following to John and he narrated:
I had planned to read Among the Farmyard People, but we didn't get to it. Maybe another time.

Special Studies (1x20min/week, oral narration after each reading)

I chose the following topics for the year using the rotation found on Sabbath Mood Homeschool :

Term 1: Wildflowers and Seeds / Birds and Spiders
Term 2: Shells and Marine Life / Birds at the Seashore [in preparation for a few weeks at the beach]
Term 3: Wildflowers and Trees / Insects

Although it wasn't in my original plans, I decided to combine the boys and read books on these topics to them because I often found the same books that I thought would work for both of them.

I occasionally prepared object lessons based on things I thought we would be able to observe. The ones I prepared were VERY successful. But it is so hard for me to know what we are going to see. However, I have learned that it works best for me when I don't just read the Handbook of Nature Study to prepare. I am more successful by also watching YouTube videos.

Nature Notebooking (daily entries, weekly entries, nature watercolor drawings)

My son is responsible for noticing something from nature and dictating a line or two to my husband or me to write into his nature notebook daily. We still miss a few days a month and that is perfectly fine for us. We do this all year round, 7 days a week.

John's narrations have gotten more descriptive over the course of the year. Sometimes he gets in a rut of many days of "It was cold today," but then he will surprise us with what he notices. He took a lot of enjoyment this spring and summer in noticing all of the firsts in our yard (first firefly, first Monarch, etc) and recording them in his journal.

Morning Time

As planned, I selected many living science and natural history books as part of our morning time. These titles are not narrated. I am actually going to put all of our special study reading in morning time next year. Everyone in the family is benefiting from these studies. We all have so much to learn.

Wild + Free Nature Group

New for us this year, we participated in a weekly year-round nature meetup at a rural property. The group includes several homeschool families as well as several families with preschool-aged children who intend to homeschool. This was a great way to keep me accountable to weekly half-days in nature . . . even in pouring rain or freezing temps.

John really enjoys our Wild + Free group, especially the opportunity to play wild and free with the other children. He is my child who will always splash in the creek, and smear himself with mud, and climb the trees. Thankfully, he has really grown in his ability to hold his temper when he has to wait his turn to do something he really wants to do.

A note on our nature progress:

This was the first year that I was wowed by my kids' nature knowledge being beyond my own. On a nature walk with a naturalist, my kids were identifying tree after tree that I could not have identified. Even my four-year-old was able to notice a small flower and then pick it out of the wildflower guide even though I had missed it myself. I certainly don't say this to brag, but rather to say that these practices of reading nature lore, nature notebooking, and spending free time in nature make a big difference over the years.

Art and Music: Watercolor, Handicrafts, Singing, Artist Study, Composer Study, Music

Watercolor drawing (2x20min/week)

We did do watercolor drawing 1-2 times a week all year. It was still a drag. It was still not as fun as it should be. It was hard for me to participate myself while holding a crying baby. I wasn't as patient and sensitive as I needed to be. John found it frustrating to not be able to depict what he could see with his eyes on the paper.

I can tell he is proud of his nature notebook as a whole. We had started a practice of meeting weekly to share our creations and notebooks and that was really a highlight for the kids, but it was a little too unstructured and because we let the kids share everything they had made, it was taking a very long time that we didn't have once soccer season started. I think we need to revive this tradition and try to keep it to notebooks only plus one thing so that we can fit it into our routine better.

Handicrafts (2x30min/week)

This year we planned to do:

Term 1: Sloyd using Paper Sloyd: A Handbook for Primary Grades by Ednah Anne Rich
Term 2: Finished up Sloyd gifts for Christmas, then embroidering using this kit.
Term 3: Sewing using Sewing School: 21 Sewing Projects Kids Will Love to Make by Andria Lisle

In Term 2, we actually dabbled in lots of different yarn arts, including lucet weaving, knitting, and the beginnings of crochet. 

John really enjoyed handicrafts and he made lots of Sloyd, origami, and made a nice embroidered gift for his Grandmother. He especially enjoyed luceting and made beautiful bracelets and necklaces by luceting several yarns together.

I hope that next year I can do a better job at creating space to help the children learn handicrafts without getting frustrated and overwhelmed with juggling the needs of younger children. It is definitely a work in progress.

Singing (2x10min/week)

I choose folk songs and hymns. I consult Ambleside Online but I do not follow their rotation per se. This year, I selected the following:

The Gypsy Rover
Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow)
The Minstrel Boy
If I Had a Hammer
Go Tell Aunt Rhody
Low Bridge--Everybody Down (The Erie Canal)
Let There Be Peace on Earth
Cockles and Mussels (Molly Malone)
Amazing Grace
The Rhyme of the Chivalrous Shark
Hail Holy Queen Enthroned Above (Catholic)
Star of the County Down
Turkey in the Straw
Will the Circle Be Unbroken

And we learned all but the last three. We will be learning the last 2 next year, but I've dropped Turkey in the Straw completely for now.

I find it hard to learn the words and tune to folk songs, and I have the lyrics to look at. John has to learn everything aurally because he isn't reading well enough to follow along with the words. Sometimes this wears him out, but if he enjoys the song's energy, he will learn it. I always have John in mind when I select songs and determine the order we will learn them in.

Although not all songs are his favorite, John learned many songs by heart this year. Sometimes he and Peter would take our family songbook upstairs and sing together before bedtime. I think he appreciates learning songs more than he did at the beginning of the year.

Artist Study (1xweek at morning time)

This year we planned to study:

Term 1: Turner [Picture Study Portfolios from Simply Charlotte Mason, $18.95+shipping]
Term 2: Gainsborough [Picture Study Portfolios from Simply Charlotte Mason, $18.95+shipping]
Term 3: Dali [$3 art book from a Half Priced Books store]

But for Term 3 I caved and bought another Picture Study Portfolio of Mary Cassatt. We all enjoyed Cassatt's pictures and we are excited to plan a trip soon to visit the National Portrait Gallery to see some of her work in person.

My boys were so reluctant when we started picture study a few years ago, but now it is something we all enjoy!

Composer Study (1xweek at morning time)

This year our planned composers/materials were:
Each term I picked out pieces to watch on YouTube. That part of the study worked well when we did it. Sometimes the amount of listening doesn't seem like enough to amount to anything. I'm trying to accept that whatever we do is much better than nothing.

Music (7x15min/week)

John began work on Hoffman Academy [Not an affiliate link! We just love Hoffman Academy.] in May and he is midway through Unit 3. I really didn't want him to start at age 6, but he begged us. It has definitely taken more work to help him practice and keep him motivated, but I think we are over the biggest resistance.

After our almost 3 week break from practice when we traveled to Florida, he had a very hard time coming back to the piano. I realized that he had developed some slipshod practice habits because he had needed a bit more oversight of his practices than my husband had been able to provide (he did a great job with John but just didn't know as much about piano or what John really needed to be doing!).  I took over his lessons and got him back up to speed and he is now practicing regularly and making steady progress. The one downside of Hoffman Academy is that if you don't actually learn what you need to learn before moving on, then you keep feeling further and further behind. And there is no teacher to catch you!

I think there have been times where he would have quit if we would have let him, but he enjoys playing too. I hope that he will continue to work on the piano for a few more years at least.

Physical Education

This year John participated in AYSO Soccer (Fall and Spring), a weekly open swim at the YMCA with other homeschoolers, and summer swimming lessons. He also enjoyed an active lifestyle with hikes, bike rides, roller skating, and walks around town often, especially in spring, summer, and fall.

John is a very active boy who loves running, playing, swimming, climbing trees, and more.  

Overall Evaluation

John learned so much this year. And I learned so much about John. Because I did all of John's lessons directly with him, we spent a lot of time together. It was wonderful and it was difficult. I am a pusher and John pushes back. It is always a fine line between requiring best work and seeking to micromanage. I know that I got it right most of the time, but I also got it wrong a lot and too much.

I'm thankful that John is resilient and that we have the opportunity to continue to challenge and love each other. I hope that I gave him enough love to make up for the many times I lacked patience for his fidgeting or dawdling or negativity. I delight so much in John and he humbles me more than the others. This year I got to better see how his mind works and I got to better understand what he needs and what he thinks. I'll be using all of this insight to better structure our homeschool next year.

1 comment:

  1. I think your conclusion to this post shows a great deal of wisdom. I can very much relate with trying to raise and teach a bright, opinionated child. :) You've accomplished so very much that is beautiful and good this past year.