Our 1st & 3rd Grade Curriculum, Term 1- 2016-2017

Last¬†week I briefly and very generally shared our homeschool plans for the coming year. I want to elaborate on the specifics in this post. My intentions are simply to share what we are doing/reading/learning in an attempt to help and encourage anyone who might need some guidance or ideas ūüôā

Our school year is broken up into 3 terms. Each term is 12 weeks long but at week 6, we take a short break. This year I will have a baby in January, so our second term will look a little different than our first.

I have divided this post into two sections: Individual Work curriculum and Group Learning materials.

Individual Work

Kate’s 3rd Grade Curriculum


Math: Saxon 2 followed by Saxon 3

Reading: Divided into 3 separate activities, reading consists of the following: (1) my student reading aloud to me from McGuffey Reader 2, (2) me reading aloud to my student — we’re reading¬†Understood Betsy and loving it!, and (3) my student reading independently from a list of Mom-assigned books (she’s currently reading¬†Betsy-Tacy and just finished¬†The Saturdays). I will share our reading lists in a subsequent post.¬†Because Kate reads fluently, we do not do any formal phonics.

Handwriting/Copywork: Kate will learn cursive this year and is using A Reason for Handwriting, the Transition level. We are also alternating handwriting practice with copy work. I have typed up the poem, hymn, and scriptures for her to copy.

I truly believe that copying good quality literature helps children internalize sentence structures and proper grammar and exposes them to beautiful language. Copy work is our alternative for grammar and spelling now. In later years, we will do a more formal curriculum of each subject, but for now, copy work is sufficient.

Cora’s 1st Grade Curriculum

Cora-1st day H.S.

Math: Saxon 1 followed by Saxon 2

Reading: Finish up All About Reading Level 2 plus (1) Cora reads to me from her McGuffey Reader 1, (2) we are reading¬†Aesop’s Fables together, and (3) she has a list of Mom-assigned books to read from every day. Right now, she is reading Magic School Bus: Insect Invaders.¬†I will share Cora’s booklist in another post.

Handwriting/Copy Work: A Reason for Handwriting Level A plus the same copy work as Kate but she has less writing to do than Big Sis.

Group Learning

In our homeschool we try to do as many subjects together as possible, so aside from the three R’s, all other subjects are done together around the table. Doing this helps me keep all my little ones close by even if they don’t always sit with us through everything.

As you will see below, we do a LOT of subjects: Charlotte Mason believed in sharing a feast of delicious “foods” with her students, to whet their appetites and expose them to the best of the best. Each child has a favorite subject that she latches on to and even the subjects that aren’t favorites are submitted to because (1) we have really short lessons and (2) we don’t do every subject every day. Lessons are generally between 10 & 15 minutes long, and most subjects we tackle only 1 or 2 times a week.



Every Wednesday we participate in Community Bible Study¬†where we study and discuss God’s Word in our various classes. Kate has a workbook with daily readings and questions to answer.

Additionally, we are reading the AO Year 1 selections from the Old Testament, which the girls narrate to me.

Habits: Each term we will work on 1-2 habits that we need to cultivate. This term we are starting with Obedience and Attentiveness. I’m using Sonya Shafer’s Laying Down the Rails¬†and companion volumes.

Memory Work: Each term we have a different set of scriptures, hymns, folk songs, and poems to memorize. I’m not concerned so much with word-for-word memorization but exposure. Our copy work comes from these selections too.

This term we are doing the following:

Scripture: Reviewing Psalm 23 & Psalm 1

Hymn: “Be Still, My Soul” & “Amazing Grace”

Folk Song: “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” & “You’re a Grand Ol’ Flag”

Poetry: “Let Dogs Delight to Bark & Bite” by Isaac Watts & “If I Had But Two Little Wings” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Additional Texts: During Bible time, we also read from Richard Hannula’s¬†Trial & Triumph, a book of church history,¬†and Helen Taylor’s¬†Little Pilgrim’s Progress. My girls LOVE both books – this is our second time to read about the adventures of little Christian.

Morning Basket #1: Language & The Arts

After Bible we take a short break and return to the table for more learning time.

morning basket #2

Spanish:¬†Speaking Spanish with Miss Mason & Francois vol. 1 — This is a new-to-us Spanish program that uses Total Language Response (i.e., using actions to learn the language). It’s not as “fun” like Song School Latin, but it’s amazing how quickly the¬†girls¬†are progressing by putting words into action. This is a subject we should do daily but that doesn’t always happen ūüôā

Composer Study: The AO composer for this term is Antonin Dvorak. Once a week we listen to the story of Dvorak, his life and music, on this excellent CD, and I play his music throughout the day. We also have some Youtube videos that we listen to.

Artist Study:¬†The AO artist for this term is Mary Cassatt. (Cassatt is an excellent artist for starting out artist study because she paints pictures with children.) Once a week we read a story or passage about her life and “study” a different picture. We are using these books: Mike Venezia’s Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists: Mary Cassatt, Get to Know Mary Cassatt,¬†and Lives of the Artists: Masterpieces, Messes, (& What the Neighbors Thought).

Shakespeare:¬†We will read Charles & Mary Lamb’s versions of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “The Tempest” this term.

Morning Basket #2: History & Geography

After Language & Fine Arts, we have a snack and some play time. Eventually, we reconvene for a little more learning, but sometimes this basket gets skipped. If that happens, we simply “loop” it to the next day and start with it after Bible, pushing Basket #1 to later in the day. That way we don’t always miss out on our History & Geography.

History:¬†Our primary text is Mara L. Pratt’s American History Stories¬†on the Kindle.¬†We started volume 1 last year and adored it. This year we are in the midst of the Revolutionary War in volume 2. Also, I supplement our history with living history books.

We also add pertinent dates to our Timeline and locate battle scenes on maps during Map Work time.

Timeline: We have a timeline notebook that we add to each week. I jot down pertinent dates as we read about them and cut out images I find on Google. Once a week we add the images and dates to our Timeline. That’s it!

Geography:¬†This term we are reading Holling C. Holling’s Paddle to the Sea¬†and following the little wooden canoe’s wanderings through the Great Lakes. We do a little map work and occasionally use the activities on this site to supplement the book. I also have this excellent resource from Beautiful Feet for additional help.

We are also continuing to read through Charlotte Mason’s¬†Elementary Geography.

Map Work: Instead of formal map work, we look up countries, states, and cities as they come up in our readings.

Afternoon Studies

Afternoon Studies

Nature Lore/Science:¬†For elementary science, we don’t use a formal textbook or curriculum. Instead, we read a variety of narrative-style science books like the Let’s Read and Find Out About series. In our first term,¬†we are learning about invertebrates, so we are reading about crabs, spiders, and snails. In preparation, I read up on each topic in my Handbook of Nature Study and then locate books to share with the girls. Right now, we’re reading Christian Liberty Nature Reader book¬†2 and finishing¬†Among the Pond People by Clara Dillingham Smith – both feature invertebrates.

exploring nature

A weekly nature walk is on our agenda, and while I haven’t been very diligent in the past about keeping this appointment, I’m committed to taking regular nature walks this school year. I am using¬†Exploring Nature with Children: A Complete, Year-Long Curriculum¬†to guide me. I love that the lessons are already planned out for me, by month and week, so we are enjoying nature and¬†doing seasonal activities together. Last week we learned about constellations, this week we’re making petal perfume and going on a 5 Senses Nature Walk.

Drawing/Art: This is a new subject for us. We are using Kathryn Temple’s¬†Art for Kids: Drawing this year, which has neat drawing exercises to introduce the girls (and me!) to different techniques. We are also using Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters, another¬†excellent resource we’ve used over the years.

Handicrafts: I am trying to be more consistent about doing weekly handicrafts. This term we will do some easy crafts like painting bookmarks, cooking & baking, and beeswax candle making.


Literature:¬†I have selected specific books to read aloud for literature each term. We do not do literary analysis, nor do the girls have quizzes on what they read. Instead, we read and then they tell me back what they heard. Sometimes we will discuss specific issues, like a character’s behavior or a twist in the story, but usually we just enjoy the book. This term we are reading two books: Winnie-the Pooh by AA Milne and The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.

Poetry: We read 1-2 poems a day from AA Milne’s¬†When¬†We Were Very Young.

That’s it, folks! I will share in the coming weeks (1) how I schedule all our subjects, (2) “a day in the life” post, and (3) each child’s tentative reading lists.

So, what is your favorite subject to teach? Any subjects that you absolutely despise?


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  1. Wow! I love how detailed you are in your homeschooled posts. We are still deciding whether or not to homeschool but I book mark all of your posts because they are full of such useful information. Congratulations on the new baby! I’m due next month with #3.

    • Congratulations, Sarah, and thank you for your kind words and encouragement! I pray you have a restful next few weeks before your new little one arrives.