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The Ultimate 101 Guide To Homeschool First Grade
Their personal experiences with public schooling and hearing first-hand accounts from friends and relatives who are not happy with the current education system at public and private schools make them reconsider their decision about giving their kids a formal education.
I also hear of parents who were initially very happy with the daycares, kindergartens, and primary schools in their neighborhood, but gradually, they lost their confidence in the organized schooling system, became extremely unhappy with the environment and the lack of support they received from the administrative and teaching staff, and decided to homeschool their children.
Sometimes, homeschooling can be a major decision that families take based on their financial health. Private schools that offer quality education, a disciplined environment, and good values are not affordable for many families in the USA, and the state of public schools may not meet their standards.
Instances like bullying, shootings, high crime rate, violence, aggression, sexual misconduct, and child abuse in public schools around the USA are also a cause of concern.
It makes parents worried about their children’s future because they understand how influential peer pressure can be in a child’s life. They are confident that if they homeschool their children, the kids will absorb twice as much knowledge, learn things that will help them develop a holistic personality, and will remain protected from the ills and vices in our society.
General Facts And Statistics About Homeschooling
Before the Coronavirus pandemic, only 3% of the children in the USA were homeschooled. But when the pandemic engulfed us and forced us all under lockdowns, many parents were given the golden opportunity to experiment with homeschooling.
Throughout 2020, there was a major surge in homeschooling, and many parents were actively homeschooling their children.
The people’s favorable opinion about homeschooling was increased by 11%, and many parents feel that they will continue to homeschool their children even after the schools resume.
The major reason for homeschooling children was found to be individualized attention and freedom to explore topics of interest, whereas parents who did not favor homeschooling stated their reason as the lack of social interaction.
For all the parents who are new to homeschooling and are wondering how they can make homeschooling a viable and productive experience for their first graders, I now present to you my Ultimate 101 Guide to Homeschooling First Grade.
Making The Decision To Homeschool First Grade
This will be the first and most crucial step of your homeschooling journey. Homeschooling your children is a major lifestyle shift. You will have to make tough decisions and stick to your commitments.
If currently both you and your spouse are working parents, then either one of you will have to quit work and be a stay-at-home parent, or you will have to adjust your shifts in a manner that one of you is always at home for your children.
You can also choose to switch from a full-time job to a part-time job, or if it is possible, then ask your employer to let you work from home.
Quite a few homeschool mothers prefer to establish their home-based businesses while running fully functional homeschools for their children.
There are also some mothers who have decided to switch to their full-time parenting role and make homeschooling a vital part of it.
But before you take any decision for yourself, you must consider what is best for your family. Quitting a job may not be feasible financially, and even though homeschooling will reduce the overall cost of educating your children, you will still have to invest some money to purchase homeschool supplies, furniture, and resources like books, interactive learning tools, DVDs, etc.
The next step will be to discuss it with your spouse and ask their opinion on the matter. As a couple, you can also decide how involved both of you will be in your children’s homeschooling.
Will it be entirely your responsibility to homeschool your children, or would your partner like to split the tasks and be responsible for, say, co-curricular activities, physical exercises, and exploratory trips?
It’s important to get things sorted first before you discuss these matters with your children. If your child has had some prior experience of being enrolled in a formal education system during his or her preschool and kindergarten years, then the chances are that they already have some friends, good memories, and it will be a little difficult for them to leave it all behind and study at home. You will have to ask your children what their opinion is about homeschooling.
If your children seem excited about the idea and are willing to co-operate with you, then the next question that you must ask them is: what are their key areas of interest? During the homeschool classes, you should be able to effectively incorporate their unique interests because this will keep them motivated towards learning.
If you have decided to homeschool all your children, including your first grader, then you will need an efficient system in place to accommodate every child’s individual needs. There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to homeschooling. For most parents, it takes months and a lot of experimenting before you finally find a system that works for you, your children, and your family.
Hence, my first advice for the first step will be to be patient and keep trying out new things until you find that one philosophy or strategy that resonates with you.
As a homeschool parent, you will be entirely responsible for your children’s formal education. If you end up giving your children even a single piece of wrong information, they will retain it until someone corrects them or until they are old enough to search for the right information on their own.
This means that before you start to school your children, you must have a look at all the educational resources like websites, books, e-books, tutorials, and online courses to ensure that whatever you are teaching your children is the whole truth and there are years of scientific data or academic literature to prove it.
Have you ever come across a child who was taught unverified historical facts about World War I? That’s a disaster, isn’t it? It is good to have your personal opinions and share them with your children, but as a homeschool teacher, it is your job to distinguish between facts and opinions and at this stage, only teach your children the theories, principles, lessons, and techniques that have received the consensus of the academic community and school educators and are being taught as established facts.
Decide on what your homeschooling style will be because your homeschooling style will reflect in your timetable, curriculum, the kind of resources you use, and the activities that you have planned for the day.
Some parents prefer to continue with the learning through the play approach, whereas others replicate the formal school system and continue to have the same subjects, coursework, and schedule.
While deciding on your homeschooling style, you must take into account your children’s personalities. Typically, a first-grader is between the ages of 6 to 7. At such a young age, children find it hard to sit still in one place for long durations.
They want to move about, touch things, ask questions, take abrupt washroom or water breaks, giggle with their siblings and draw all day. Like most adults, first graders have an average concentration span of 10 to 15 minutes. After that, they lose their interest and look for another source of entertainment.
Therefore, it may not be such a good idea to replicate the formal school system if your child’s personality is on the curious, bubbly, or hyperactive side. However, if your child is someone who is well-disciplined, organized, follows instructions, and loves to learn new ideas and information, then a learning-through-play approach will make him feel as if he is being deprived of formal education and you are just telling him to play and have fun.
At the age of 6 or 7, children have a clear sense of their personal identity and can be very decisive about what they want and don’t want. So, have a discussion which your first graders and ask them how they would like to study at home.
Personally, I find this step to be the most fun and exciting part of the homeschool journey. I remember when I first started homeschooling my son in my living room due to the pandemic, we would sit around with a pile of books, a can of stationery, and a 15 x 20 inches storage box that contained assortments like his toys, games, comics, notebooks, etc.
Moreover, the central location of the living room and its large window that overlooked our neighborhood was too distracting for my son.
Because of my work, I was homeschooling my son at irregular hours. When the people in our neighborhood were out on the streets walking their dogs, cycling, or just walking around, it was highly distracting.
The fact that other people were having a nice time outside while we were stuck at home learning and doing worksheets would frustrate us. Yes, it frustrated me too as I was new to the whole homeschooling thing.
That’s when I decided to set up a proper homeschool. I didn’t use our spare room as a homeschool room as I didn’t want to be cooped up in the room learning. So I created small homeschool spots in my living room and family room. We either worked on the big round glass table in front of the TV (don’t worry, we work with the TV off) or a corner of our long dining table. Although these were not special homeschool rooms, they were our homeschool spots and when we sat down at these spots, it meant that we had to work.
I created a homeschool schedule to follow, and also bought more homeschool supplies such as art and craft materials to keep my son occupied, stationery, colored pencils, markers, post-its, highlighters, pencils, erasers, rulers, etc.
Scientific studies have shown that using a red-colored pen or marker to mark your student’s work can have a negative impact on their confidence and performance. They feel unintelligent and dejected. When I learned about this, I started using pens in various colors to mark my son’s work, and that gave me a great reason to stock up on more irresistible color gel pens.
In your homeschool, you will also need some learning resources like board games, a globe, equipment for some physical activity such as a skipping rope, a ball, and badminton rackets so that your child gets a balance of mental and physical stimulation.
Although having a blackboard or a whiteboard is not mandatory, it helps your child to visualize the lessons and retain them better. I only started using a blackboard later on in our homeschool when my child was learning how to write. Up until then, I had written and taught him everything on his notebooks.
But having a soft board or a notice board is a must. It will help you to pin up reminders, to-do lists, your child’s progress report, and some lesson tips on the board. Having those things on the board will help you remember important details and ensure that your classes are smooth sailing. It’s like they say, out of sight, out of mind.
I would recommend using bright colors to furnish and decorate your homeschool. Bright colors like red, green, blue, and yellow energize us, elevate our mood and bring overall positive energy into our surroundings. Dull colors like grey, brown, and white will make your child feel bored and inactive. It will not spark their interest, and they will not receive the stimulation they need from their surroundings to stay motivated towards learning. So, my advice would be to color it up, if possible.
As I mentioned earlier, setting up a homeschool can be loads of fun and I especially loved to check out homeschool ideas on Pinterest to check out what other homeschool parents were doing. It also helped that I love to shop online and I would throng Amazon for all the super cool stuff I could buy for our homeschool. I must confess that I had more fun buying homeschool supplies than going through the actual homeschool lessons!
Homeschool First Grade Curriculum
In the first grade, you don’t necessarily have to overburden your child with multiple subjects. Just start with the basics and make sure that the first grader’s curriculum comprises of these three main components;
- Reading; and
Basic arithmetic, reading, and writing skills will lay the foundation for all other subjects because if a child can master reading and writing, comprehending and synthesizing the textbooks of other subjects like science, history, geography, and the Bible will not be difficult.
Some parents like to follow the standard first-grade curriculum designed by the state’s education ministry, and they divide their homeschool first grade classes between the following core subjects:
- English Language;
- English Literature;
- French/ Spanish;
- Computer Studies;
- Physical Exercise; and
But with so many subjects to manage, your first grader can quickly feel overwhelmed, and it can get very difficult for you to keep them interested in homeschooling.
Some parents don’t have any particular curriculum for their first-graders and instead follow a freestyle, thematic kind of learning pattern. They do this by coming up with certain themes. For example, the themes could be planets, nature, animals, countries, Civil War, geometry, Christmas, etc.
Based on the theme for the day, parents give their children either a holistic lesson and cover everything that is worth knowing about that specific theme or try to categorize the information related to that theme under the core subjects.
For example, if the theme of the day is nature, then they will try to align it with science by teaching their children about the role of trees in oxygen production.
For history, they can tell them about the major catastrophic natural disasters in the past that have destroyed civilizations and transformed the landscape.
Similarly, in geography, they can learn where the largest forests, deserts, rivers, seas, and oceans for the world are located.
To incorporate nature in the English Language, they can learn 10 words that are related to nature and how to spell them.
During arts, they can either draw one thing related to nature or be encouraged to draw a piece of scenery.
For mathematics, they can be given simple addition and subtraction word problems related to nature. For example, they can be asked questions like: If Jim plants 10 trees and Jacob cuts down 3 of them, how many are left? Or if Sarah first saw 2 dolphins in the sea and later she saw 4 more dolphins, how many dolphins did Sarah see altogether?
During Bible studies, you can read aloud the verses that are related to nature and what God is trying to teach us through these verses.
For example, in Psalms Chapter 104, verse number 25, God says, “There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number— living things both large and small.” You can explain the meaning of this verse and have a discussion about the creatures that God is talking about. It will help your child to identify different sea animals.
Reading And Comprehension Skills
Your first grader’s reading and comprehension skills can be polished by reading the following books:
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dhal;
- Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel;
- Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows;
- The Boy Who Loved Words by Roni Schotter; and
- The Apple Pie That Papa Baked by Lauren Thompson.
Based on your child’s interest, you can add other books to the list and start first by reading it out aloud and later let your child read the words out aloud. Typically, at the end of the first grade, your child should have mastered the following reading and comprehension skills:
- The sounds of each letter (phonemes).
- Identification of root words and common word endings.
- Knowing 1st grade Dolch sight words.
- Reading and using contractions.
- Identification and use of punctuation marks.
- Understanding plurals of singular words.
- They should be able to identify the 5 W’s (Who, What, Where, Why, When) and their purpose.
- Synonyms of simple words like eat, feed, and chew.
- Learning the meanings of literary terms like plot, setting, characters, etc.
- Understanding and using a book’s table of contents.
Also, by the end of first grade, your child should have developed the following writing skills:
- Difference between upper and lower cases and how to write the 26 alphabets in lowercase.
- Difference between nouns, verbs, and adjectives.
- Writing simple three and four later words based on their sound.
- Spellings of simple words, such as “door”, “shoe”, “cloud”, “glass”, etc.
- The difference between synonyms, antonyms, and homonyms.
Your first grader should have also learned the following arithmetic skills:
- How to count and write up to 100.
- Know what numbers are lesser than 50 and more than 50.
- Learn the meaning of half of something.
- Simple addition and subtraction.
- Should be able to tell the time in the form of an hour and half an hour.
- Should be able to solve simple word problems.
- Should be able to identify paper currency and coins.
- Should know the difference between days, weeks, and months.
- Should be able to read the date on a calendar.
- Should be able to draw all the basic two-dimensional shapes like a square, triangle, circle, etc.
Homeschool First Grade Timetable
Some parents prefer to follow a strict timetable. The same way a first grader will typically spend around 6 hours at the primary school, parents homeschool first grade for 6 hours every day, including 1 hour of lunch break and another 30 minutes of physical exercises.
But sticking to a very rigid timetable can make your homeschool first grade classes meaningless because the entire purpose of homeschooling your child is to give them a flexible and comfortable environment for learning.
Teaching your child for 5 hours can exhaust them and make them lose interest in their studies. Even if you are teaching them the subjects that they like, they will not like to sit still for 5 hours and listen to your lessons or read, write and draw.
As I had mentioned before, the average concentration span of a first grader is between 10 to 15 minutes; after that, they need a change.
In traditional schools, the learning environment inside a classroom is very different from a homeschool. At a school, a teacher has to address the questions and queries of all the students in the class. She has to go around the class and explain the same concept or repeat the same instructions multiple times to each student individually. All of this can be very time-consuming and that’s why a typical school day is 6 hours long.
But at the homeschool, your child receives your undivided attention. It expedites the learning process and helps them absorb the message, clarify their doubts and follow the instructions a lot faster than they would have in a traditional school’s classroom.
Many homeschool educators believe that your first grader’s homeschool classes should not be longer than 2 hours. Moreover, there is no need to homeschool them on the weekends. Weekends should be primarily reserved for family time and fun-filled activities and trips.
An idea that I particularly like to practice is that one weekend should be reserved for an educational trip like a visit to the museum or a planetarium, and the next one should be reserved for a recreational trip like spending Sunday on the beach or going for a road trip.
Arranging educational and recreational trips on alternative weekends will give your child a chance to explore different places, learn how to interact with people, discover new knowledge or information, and at the same time have lots of fun.
Learning and education will no longer be boring and stressful because right after the educational field trip, they will have the opportunity to pick their favorite picnic spot for the next weekend.
Another idea that I like is that instead of making children write short essays about their field trips, ask them open-ended questions like:
- If you could be a dinosaur for a day, what kind of a dinosaur would you like to be and why?
- If you were the President of the USA, what would you do for your countrymen?
- What should be the color of a peacock?
- If you were the owner of the bakery, what will be your Today’s Special?
- If you could be the Pharoah of Egypt, what shape will you give to your tomb?
- Why do you think an ostrich buries its head in the sand?
- How will you stop the dinosaurs from dying?
- What animal should be the hero in the movie Ice Age 3?
- Why do people go to a museum?
- What animal would you like to have as a pet?
Open-ended questions encourage children to think outside of the box. They learn to use their imagination, creative thinking, and problem-solving skills. Essays are helpful too as they allow them to sharpen their memory and express in a written format what they saw during their trip to the museum or zoo, but they will enjoy recalling the events of the day more if they are given the control and asked to recreate a scenario, person or object based on their imagination and creativity.
A timetabling method that I like to follow for my homeschool classes is block scheduling. It is a very neat and organized method to divide the total time into slots. It helps you keep a tab of the time, finish the tasks within their designated time slots and plan your entire week in advance to make sure that all the important lessons and activities have been covered during the week.
A typical block timetable for a first-grader would look like this:
From the above block timetable, you can see that 30 minutes have been reserved for each activity. All the basic 3 components of your child’s formal education have been covered; mathematics, reading, and writing, and every day, 30 minutes are reserved for some kind of physical or co-curricular activity to ensure that in just 2 hours of homeschooling each day, your child learns all the important things in life.
To learn more about block scheduling, read this article “School Block Schedule Time Management Technique For Busy Moms“.
First Grade Homeschool Activities
There are several co-curricular and physical activities that you can perform with your first grader and make them a regular part of your homeschool first grade classes.
Physical and co-curricular activities ensure that your children are able to develop a well-rounded personality because it’s not just their brain that is being stimulated and exercised but their bodies too.
Moreover, physical and co-curricular activities break the monotony of your homeschool first grade classes and give children the opportunity to have some fun.
It is very important to have at least 15 to 20 minutes of physical exercise during the homeschool slot and let them participate in some kind of a co-curricular activity like putting on a puppet show, having a talent show, learning how to play a musical instrument, etc.
Moments like these help your children to learn from their experiences, adapt to situations, and use their creative thinking to handle the challenges. Moreover, they learn to work in a team, discover their talents and passions and learn how to take charge of the situation.
Some physical activities that you can organize and perform with your child include:
- Catching and throwing a ball
- Completing an obstacle course
- Watering plants
- Cooking or baking
- Shoe polishing
- Stitching buttons
- Color coding books, stationery, and loose papers
- Folding clothes
- Feeding pets
- Lawn mowing
- Roller skating
- Playing outdoor sports like basketball, baseball, soccer, badminton, etc.
Some of the co-curricular activities that you can organize in your homeschool include:
- Poem recitals
- Story narration
- Plays or tableaus
- Puppet shows
- Playing musical instruments
- General knowledge quizzes
- Gaming competitions.
With these physical and co-curricular activities, your child will learn the balance between theoretical and practical knowledge and understand that learning can take place in all forms and shapes, anywhere, anytime.
Homeschool First Grade Resources
You will find the following books to be very helpful on your homeschooling journey:
- Horizons 1st Grade Complete Set
- School Zone – Big First Grade Workbook
- Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes
- There Is a Bird On Your Head! (An Elephant and Piggie Book)
- 180 Days of Practice for First Grade
- 180 Days of Spelling and Word Study for Grade 1
- Brain Quest Workbook: Grade 1
- Evan-Moor Skill Sharpeners Grammar and Punctuation Grade 1
There are plenty of other books and workbooks that you can purchase online and use as educational resources for your homeschool first grade.
I hope that with this comprehensive and Ultimate 101 Guide to Homeschool First Grade, you will now feel more confident about homeschooling your first grader and will notice a marked improvement in their academic performance and conduct.