Curricula: What We Use, Part 2: 1st & 2nd Grades

I knew I needed to switch things up for my daughter from Sonlight’s PreK to something else when half way through our year she started writing “No mommy” all over her language arts worksheets. (Notice the common thread from Part 1. Worksheets are not her favorite.)

Then My Father’s World was “boring,” but there was a bigger problem that year which caused the negative feelings from my daughter.

Up until this point, I was trying to do all our learning time together. Both kids at the table, all the resources handed out at the same time, and I tried to keep things relatively at the same pace. I was completely unfamiliar with learning styles or teaching styles.

And my son’s learning style was driving my daughter capital-C: Crazy.

She couldn’t stand it that he would interrupt the best part of a book just to ask a question about how that would work, or why it would be that way and not another way.

She gave him I don’t like you eyes whenever he would blurt the answer out loud. She knew the difference when I asked a question that I clearly wanted them to raise their hands for. (See the Traditional Model in action here? Yeah. I didn’t know better.)

Then when she saw that he was clearly excelling at all things “school,” it was as if she had had enough of being taught in a way that clearly was missing the mark and thought I don’t like school.

So the biggest change we made before starting the next learning year was to separate some of the subjects to give them individual time with me. Subjects that were separate were: Bible, math, writing, spelling, calendar time, and reading. Subjects that we kept together were: Science, read alouds, and history. By having the kids separated, I could focus on presenting the materials in a way that supported their learning style.

This was also the year that we lived with my parents. We faced atypical homeschooling challenges. I wanted to keep my focus on creating routines that were simple and not too demanding as far as projects went. We did a lot of reading together.

What we used for 1st and 2nd grades:


  • All the kids attended Bible Study Fellowship and the older two also attended AWANA. We worked on their lessons and memorization work during the week. This is my favorite Bible for kids to read on their own: Curricula What We Use Part 2 1


      • Diana Waring Presents “A History Revealed” Ancient Civilizations Elementary Activity Book with CDsCurricula 1st 2nd History
            • The CDs are a mixture of Waring teaching chronologically through the sections of the workbook but also lots of interesting facts or probing questions about the way the secular worldview understands a certain portion of history. These CDs are intended to supplement the textbook which is written for older elementary, so even though we listened to them while building Legos – I had to interpret or repeat a lot of the information to my kids at ages 7 and 5. It wasn’t intended for their ages, but it wasn’t bad for them either.
            • This package for younger elementary does not include the history text that goes along with the CDs for older kids, rather it includes a list of recommended books for each section. We really enjoyed:


      • Dr. Wile’s Berean Builders Science: In the Ancient World – This is over my kids’ heads because it is written for 5th/6th grades, but I love it and it’s worth keeping around for later elementary years. Plus I can summarize and teach the concept without reading word-for-word.
        • We didn’t make it through the whole year with me summarizing each lesson. It was the hardest topic to keep my daughter’s attention, and with our other homeschooling challenges – by November I was completely ignoring the Science drawer in our subject cart. By doing this, I realized by January or February that my son was deeply interested in science and missing it greatly.
        • We also invested in Jonathan Parks Volumes 1-2: these are great audio dramas for the whole family.  Some of the action can be intense. The episodes are focused on creation science and the evidence that proves the young earth position and the Biblical account of the flood.
        • For my son, I continued to take the time to simply answer his questions: How does electricity work? What is lightning? And lots of listening to his connections between cause and effect. This year revealed a heavy interest in science. He really enjoyed watching the Science Channel at my parents’ house too – “How Things are Made” and “Outrageous Science” were his favorites (with adult supervision though – episodes are rated differently based on content of individual shows.) Curricula 1st 2nd Science


      • Horizon’s Math
        • We started with Horizon’s with our Sonlight PreK package. At first I chose Singapore Math, but it was way too colorful. The pages were in full color, no white space. We were able to return that and switch to Horizon’s for level K. We used the teacher’s manual for a quarter of the way through and then stopped. The rest of the book was basically practice. For 1st grade, I did not buy the teacher’s manual and it’s been fine.
      • Life of Fred for 1st grade – 3 books – It recommends that the student “take out a sheet of paper for practice” at the end of each chapter, and sometimes my kids would do this – but since we were already doing Horizons for practice I did not require them to. Reading the Life of Fred was more for the enjoyment of the story and exercising our brains to think about how things work mathematically in everyday life. Both kids loved Life of Fred.

Language Arts

      • Institute for Excellence in Writing: Primary – Reading and Writing
        • The letter stories and games made this curriculum worth the expense. Each letter has a “story” and an image that resembles it. Like “c” is a cookie with a bite taken out of it. In the games, the kids learned about “helpers” – 2 letter combinations that make certain sounds. For instance, “ee” is called “squeely e’s” because when 2 of them get together they are so excited that they say their name – like in the word green.
        • This has taken us 2 years to go through – there is so much here and so many resources that the slow pace has allowed for much deeper appreciation. DVD/CD-ROMs are included with the package so we print the resources. The games, however, come in a spiral bound book to cut and assemble. There are readers, lesson sheets, poetry pages, craft pages, etc. on the CD-ROM for printing. The kids are in the “All About Spelling” part of the program (included with the package) right now and close to being finished – then it’s on to the 3rd student book. Curricula 1st 2nd LA


      • We also do The Confessions of a Homeschooler’s Learning Notebook for our “caledar time.” The kids loved this, especially when we celebrated their 100th day of school with 100 tokens at Chuck E Cheese. Curricula 1st 2nd Calendar

I buy Dollar store reward charts and they earn 3-6 checks per day. There are 25 boxes per sheet so they earn rewards every 10 days or so. Rewards like time on the computer or a Dollar Store toy are huge motivators to be disciplined daily.

The kids have kitchen timers (isn’t that one super cute?) that they set for 20 minutes to read after they’ve finished their work which earns them another check mark on their reward charts.

And one more tip – for me, going to the Homeschool convention is always way more helpful than any “curriculum” has been. I’ve learned more about how to parent and train them through the teaching and sessions there that I can apply to any “subject” – that has been way more valuable than trying to force a boxed program to work.

I have had to work through major insecurities in order to do this thing called “homeschool” and the homeschool convention has been a major part of the process of change for me.

This past convention, I learned most from Steve Lambert (mentioned in this post – your child’s fav teacher, this one – brains & books, and this one too 10 tips) but I think this quote from him struck a cord within me that confirmed that God is using this process to mature me into the woman He wants me to be. Yes, it is for the good and growth of my children, but it is also for the good and growth of me. Nothing is wasted – especially the hard things.

God invited us to work on an area of ourselves; we refused. God invited us into marriage to deal with it; we refused. God invited us into parenthood to deal with it; we refused. So God invited us to home school – and this is where we deal with it. – Steve Lambert

I hope this helps and doesn’t overwhelm. If it does, just read it again in chunks. Don’t try to take it all in at once. Give yourself time to process and pray. And ask any questions you’d like. I’m not shy.

Further Reading:

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