How We Homeschool Using Vintage Books: 1st Grade 2020-2021

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First grade is the real beginning of academics. This year, my first grader is precocious and already taught herself to read. So first grade looks a little different than usual. I’m still making her go through phonics, though, just so that I know she really gets it! Anyway, this is how we homeschool 1st grade for 2020.

My Curriculum Choices for First Grade 2020-2021

First grade is where I start using more “academic” resources. Honestly, I don’t stress much about formal education before about age 10. The work of childhood is play. Seriously, this is FIRST GRADE. Play and family life are the most important things right now.

As for resources, you’ll notice that most of my resources are collections of old books. I print and bind copies of vintage books, and use them for our homeschooling. I also collect a lot of used books, especially reference books and old “coffee table picture books.” These stay in the home library that I have for homeschooling, that isn’t part of any particular year. (Almost all of these links are affiliate links.)

First Grade Schedule for 2020-2021

Weekly schedule for how we homeschool with vintage books, first grade 2020.

Teaching Assembly

This is exactly the same as in Kindergarten. Everyone participates. I have a different child lead each week, in rotation.

  • Pledge of Allegiance
  • Psalm 23
  • Sing the weekly hymn
  • Read the daily Bible story
  • Talk about the day (traditions, liturgy, saints)
  • Pray

I recommend finding a good vintage book about the year that fits your beliefs. I use several VERY old-school books to plan my daily assembly, and I have made it into a book that the kids can pick up and read aloud from on their day to lead the assembly.

Teaching Copywork

Yes, I really do have my first grader work on copywork for an hour. Obviously, at the beginning of the year, they haven’t learned to write their letters, but by the end of the year, they copy, in cursive, for an hour at the beginning of the day.

I teach my children how to write using McGuffey’s Primer. This is also what I use to teach reading. At the beginning of the year, copywork time is spent tracing or coloring to strengthen the hand muscles. After the alphabet is learned, and we begin the first lesson of the primer, the student has copywork to do in cursive.

I ONLY teach cursive. Writing the letter is learned at the same time as the sound of the letter, and the student is encouraged to say the sounds in each lesson aloud as he practices the letter formation.

Teaching Math

I use Ray’s Primary Arithmetic for my early teaching. Honestly, if you’ve never tried this book, it is EXCELLENT! Ray’s Arithmetics go from learning numbers to calculus, and they cover business math, surveying, astronomy — you name it. Even today, it is comprehensive, especially with the logic book that is part of the series.

Anyway, I start with the first lesson in Ray’s Primary Arithmetic. As we work through the lessons, the student learns from doing the lessons orally, practicing math facts with vintage-style flashcards, and copying the math tables down in a notebook. The triple-pronged approach builds mastery of the facts and allows me to discover any comprehension problems early. Math facts are literacy for advanced mathematics. They need to be as fluent as phonics.

Teaching Memory Work

Memory work at any age consists mostly of vocabulary. There are some other parts, too. In the first grade, they memorize vocabulary and poetry from McGufffey’s spelling rules related to phonics, and the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

Teaching Phonics

Phonics seems to scare parents as much as math, but it really isn’t difficult at all. I’ve taught a child to read with nothing more than a pen, paper, and my own ability to read.

Using McGuffey’s Primer makes it easy! Begin with the alphabet. Sing it, tap it, trace it until the child knows the letters even if you point to them out of order. That’s alphabet fluency.

After your child has reached alphabet fluency, begin the first lesson. (It’s really OK if it takes a full year to go through the primer, by the way!) You can see the first lesson below.

Lesson 1 from McGuffey's Eclectic Primer for How we Homeschool with Vintage Books, First Grade 2020.

Along the top is a list of the sounds used in the lesson. Those six sounds are the ones used in this lesson. First teach the sounds (“Short a says /a/.”) Then, teach them to blend the sounds together into the words at the top of the lesson. (“Say it slowly: aaaaa–nnnn–d. Good. Again: aaannn–d. Excellent! Again: an-d. Does that sound like a word you know? Which one? And? You’re right! Like bread and butter. So, a-n-d says and.”) Finally, have the child read the words, teaching them to read from left to right, at the bottom of the page. Emphasize sounding out each word for now, eventually, they will become fluent.

Expect this first lesson to take almost a whole week. That’s fine! Practice the phonics sounds EVERY SINGLE DAY before you go on to the next step. And introduce forming the letters, 1 or 2 every day. Practice the letter sounds and the formation of the letters EVERY SINGLE DAY. FOR WEEKS. I am not even joking. Repetition leads to fluency, and the child must develop fluency to be capable in reading and writing.

Basically, my teaching system can be summed up as: I teach them the skills, using vintage books, which takes me 30-60 minutes a day. Then they practice their skills for the rest of the day. If you look at the schedule, you will see reading listed, even though they haven’t gotten through phonics. I want them to have the habit of reading, so Sustained Silent Reading (remember that?) is practiced every day, even though the child can’t read the words yet.

Teaching Drawing

I also teach drawing like I teach reading and writing. Beginning with the 5 elements of shape (lines, circles, dots, curves, and angles), I work through the excellent series of drawing books by Lutz. There are other good books, but these ones are some of my favorites. I show them how a picture is made up of those elements, and they practice, with the images becoming steadily more complex.

Teaching Handwork

Until third grade, handwork is essentially what it was in kindergaten. It slowly begins to shift into the realm of habit training and life skills, though.

Etiquette training and helping with chores continue. Character training continues as habit training and religious instruction. Family time stays the same.

Are You Starting First Grade This Year?

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