This post contains affiliate links to homeschooling resources we are currently using.
Disclaimer: I’m a brand new homeschooling mama, which means I have zero words of advice to share with you at this point in my journey. However, if you’re looking for someone to walk with and cheer you on as you begin your own homeschooling adventure… or you’re interested in learning more about what it might be like to start teaching your children at home… or you’re just wondering what this crazy thing called homeschooling is all about… you’ve come to the right place!
As I began to respond to that gentle nudge to homeschool my boys this year, I reached out to a handful of veteran mom-teachers to ask for any wisdom they may be willing to offer me. In one way or another, each woman said the exact same thing: “Keep it simple.”
Keep it simple.
This year, I’m holding these words close to my heart.
For now, our homeschooling philosophy is simply to instill a love of learning within our children’s hearts, make the most of the time we have left in Europe, spend more time together as a family, and live our days unhurried. I’m sure it will evolve as our boys’ bodies, minds and spirits grow, but for now, I believe it will serve us well.
Read more about why we’re choosing to homeschool this year.
In my spare time over the past couple of years, I’ve fed my curiosity about homeschooling by researching different techniques and methods to get a feel for what I might choose if I ever ended up diving in. I read Educating the Wholehearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson and The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer. I also explored Charlotte Mason’s teaching philosophy, which I find absolutely fascinating.
Instead of committing to purchasing an entire curriculum kit to start off with this year, I decided to piece together my own first grade teaching tools based on recommendations from Ambleside Online (free Charlotte Mason resources), Educating the Wholehearted Child and The Well-Trained Mind. I also see us spending a whole lot of time in the library.
Let’s just say this year is an experiment. I will do my best to keep my eyes and mind open. Over time, I trust we’ll find out what works and what doesn’t for our family (and each individual child), and we’ll adjust as we go.
Faith is the foundation of our family. No matter what we have going on each day, I plan to start the morning with a Bible story and/or our weekly verse. We are loosely following God’s Little Explorers curriculum from Motherhood on a Dime. I say “loosely,” because we are skipping over many of the optional activities to simplify our days, but we are sticking to the weekly story, verse and song/hymn schedule. It’s such a wonderful teaching plan that is ideal for little ones. I only wish I’d known about it when my boys were a little younger.
For our weekly stories, God’s Little Explorers recommends reading chapters from The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. We already had a copy laying around the house, so we were happy to pick it up again.
First Grade Language Arts
Sonlight Language Arts 1
I love that I don’t have to do any lesson plans. It’s all right there, ready to go each morning: phonics, spelling, vocabulary, creative expression and writing practice.
First Grade Math
Life of Fred: Apples by Stanley F. Schmidt
Life of Fred is a series of math books with a funny storyline written for elementary students by Dr. Stanley F. Schmidt. They seem a bit quirky, but I have heard great things about them. We may add on additional resources as we go, but we’re starting here for now.
My intention was to allow my four-year-old to learn through creative play alongside us as his big brother focused on core studies, encouraging him to jump in when he wanted… but Logan had other things in mind. He wants to do everything his big brother does. Thankfully, my awesome sister-in-law sent these fun Star Wars workbooks for the boys, and they are right up Logan’s alley. While Jacob is working on language arts and math, Logan bounces back and forth between learning pages as he pleases.
The Story of the World, Volume 1: Ancient Times by Susan Wise Bauer
Our history book, The Story of the World, Volume 1: Ancient Times by Susan Wise Bauer, is the curriculum I have been most excited and most apprehensive about digging into. An entire year devoted to learning about ancient times seems a bit intense for a first grader, but the material seems to be presented in a way even my preschooler can wrap his head around (at least so far).
The following books are recommended by The Well-Trained Mind for introducing young children to the natural world. We’ll be taking our time learning about animals, attempting our own experiments and participating in gardening and nature study activities.
First Animal Encyclopedia (Dk First Reference)
Green Thumbs: A Kid’s Activity Guide to Indoor and Outdoor Gardening by Laurie Carlson
Science Adventures: Nature Activities for Young Children by Elizabeth A. Sherwood, Robert A. Williams and Robert E. Rockwell
Art and Music
Each month, we plan to introduce the boys to an artist and a composer. By introducing, I mean we will simply be exposing them to their works, along with a few brief facts about who they were/are. No memorization involved.
We will read through Anholt’s Artists Books for Children by Laurence Anholt, check out picture books from the library, look at prints of famous works of art online, and visit museums to see originals whenever possible.
Each week, I also plan to teach one of the simple art lessons for kids that are presented in arTree magazine from arTree Kids. They just so happen to follow the Anholt’s artist series, making it easy to match up projects with the particular artist we are learning about each month.
We will listen to one composer story for children courtesy of Librovox (Stories of Great Composers for Children by Thomas Tapper), and we’ll check out CDs from the library so we can enjoy the music while we are working at our desks, drawing and doing art projects.
Our first-grader has also asked to start piano, and he is taking a 30-minute piano lesson once a week in a teacher’s home.
Since we live in Germany, we are doing our best to take advantage of the opportunity we have to soak up as much as we can while we’re here, including the language. We purchased 52 Weeks of Family German by Eileen Mc Aree to go through over the next year. We plan to practice the vocabulary and learn together at home around the dinner table.
We also do our best to try out our new words when we’re out and about, and we listen to German radio stations in the car from time to time. The boys occasionally watch episodes of German-language children’s shows with story lines they are familiar with (like The Jungle Book and Peter Pan) that are available on Netflix.
Every day, no matter the weather, the goal is to spend at least one hour outside. I see this being a huge struggle for me, especially during the winter, but I know it is so important. Challenge accepted.
Character and Service Projects
The boys will be learning as we do chores around the house together, serve our neighbors in our community, and work to develop good habits and manners.
We will slowly read our way through as many chapter books as we wish this school year. My goal is to complete two books each semester. I will share our list (and maybe a handful of reviews) as we go along.
As often as we can, we plan to incorporate learning opportunities into our family day trips in Germany and longer vacations around Europe.
Are you homeschooling this year? I would love to hear more about your family’s philosophy and curriculum choices!