You may be homeschooling first grade this year and not quite sure what subjects and what first grade homeschool curriculum to choose. After hearing from other homeschoolers and doing my own research on options available, here you’ll find my top homeschool curriculum picks for first grade.
What Do You Teach In First Grade Homeschool?
To homeschool a child in first grade, here are the typical subjects taught: Language Arts, Mathematics, History/Social Studies, Science, Geography, Handwriting, Typing, Art, and Health. Physical education and music can be included as extra-curricular activities that are not normally incorporated in a regular homeschool schedule. They could be included in the evenings, early morning, or weekends, if preferred.
Some families may also include a foreign language, handicrafts, and any other personal interests at this grade level.
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First Grade Homeschool Curriculum 2020 Top Picks
Broken down by subject, here are my best picks for an affordable first grade homeschool curriculum.
First Grade Language Arts Curriculum
There are several parts that makes up a good language arts curriculum. This includes phonics, spelling, grammar, punctuation, vocabulary, reading (both listening and independent reading) as well as writing.
You will find curriculum out there that is way too expensive, and frankly, not necessary to have a good foundation in language arts. I’ve done a lot of research in this area, and if you cover all your bases with the sections I’ve listed below, you can have a well-rounded first-grade curriculum in language arts.
Plaid Phonics has some great workbooks that teaches kids to read through phonics rules.They have workbooks from Kindergarten to sixth grade. The workbooks contain short lessons that build on each other and they complement the Spelling Workout workbooks mentioned in the next section below.
For grade one, students use workbook A. There is also a teacher’s guide that you can purchase but you may find it’s not necessary at this level. It’s up to the individual parent if they prefer to have it or not to help guide instruction.
I also like to use the Explode The Code series workbooks. Kids love these books probably because of the fun pictures in them and kids can generally work on them somewhat independently. They don’t really go by grade level. I usually like to start Explode the Code 1 in Kindergarten but if a first grader hasn’t gone through the series yet, it’s a good idea to start the first workbook in the series.
Spelling Workout complements Plaid Phonics very well and is my curriculum of choice for spelling. It teaches spelling in a traditional approach by providing a spelling list of words each week for students to practice with different activities throughout the week. I also advise writing out the spelling words each day of the week too. On the 5th day, you would administer a spelling test.
There are other workbooks that use this method of teaching, but I’ve found the level of difficulty in words used doesn’t align well with grade levels as well as Spelling Workout does.
This method of teaching spelling works well for most kids. If your child is more of a kinesthetic learner, it’s a good idea to also have them use letter tiles to spell out the words.
Grammar and Punctuation
For grammar and punctuation, at this grade level there is no need to go with expensive curriculum. Save that for math!
At this level, kids are still working to increase their reading and writing skills, so something basic to work on grammar and punctuation is sufficient. Two good workbooks I recommend include Scholastic Success With Grammar: Grade 1 and the Evan-Moor Skills Sharpeners Grammar & Punctuation: Grade 1. Both of these workbooks are very inexpensive and short because there really aren’t too many grammar rules to master in grade one, but it’s good to practice what is learned.
Along with sight words that kids should master by grade one (pre-primer, primer, and grade one dolch sight words), increasing vocabulary skills will be very helpful in speeding up kids’ reading, writing, and even speaking abilities. I highly recommend the resource, 240 Vocabulary Words Kids Need To Know Grade 1.
For writing at the grade one level, I personally don’t believe in using a formal writing curriculum as it can intimidate kids in this early stage in writing. This is a great time for kids to get a sense of what good writing looks like by doing copy work. Basically, I would assign a paragraph from a good book and have the first grader copy it exactly as written, making sure they use the correct punctuation and understand why it is used as is.
Another thing you could do to help foster a love for writing, is to have your first grade child create their own paragraph (or half a page of writing). Providing a writing journal such as this one and a book that will prompt them on starting a story is perfect. I like the 101 Story Starters For Little Kids since it appeals to both boys and girls and has plenty of ideas to last until the 3rd grade level.
I’m sure you’ve heard it so much already – but, read to your kids!
Have plenty of resources either bought or borrowed, but read a variety of books that your first grader will enjoy – both fiction and non-fiction. There are book lists online that you could find appropriate if you’re stuck on choosing resources.
At the grade one level (and even Kindergarten), your child can enjoy chapter books such as any of the books in the series of The Little House On The Prairie or another classic, Charlotte’s Web. I love choosing books that also has a movie version to watch later!
If you are religious, you could also incorporate some faith-based reading into your curriculum.
Daily independent reading is very important in the early learning years. Have your child spend at least 15-20 minutes a day reading a book at their specific reading level. Don’t force it upon them. You can simply set a timer each day and say it is ‘reading time’. Even if they aren’t actively reading a book, looking through pictures is fine too. Reading is something to be enjoyed and not forced.
Side note: Since I homeschool year-round and I’m of Christian-faith, I also incorporate The Good and The Beautiful Level 1 for Language Arts. This is in addition to the above components for Language Arts.
Homeschool Math Curriculum
For Math, I like to use two different curriculums for two different reasons. Firstly because we prefer to homeschool year-round, and secondly, because I believe it’s important to learn math using different strategies. Using two different curriculums helps give kids a really good math foundation in the early years. In the later years, one curriculum is plenty since the amount of work also increases per lesson.
My preference is to use both Math Mammoth Light Series for grade one and Saxon Math.
Math Mammoth is excellent because they actually teach you both the why and how to do mental math as opposed to procedural math which just lays out the steps of doing math and there is more emphasis on memorization. I believe kids should have varied math skills and being able to do both mental math and procedural math will help kids excel in the upper grades.
Math Mammoth grade one includes a worktext A, worktext B, and a tests & reviews guide . There is no separate teacher’s guide. The instructions are right inside the lessons and very student-led which I love! This math curriculum is also affordable.
I also like the idea of pairing both Math Mammoth and Saxon because Math Mammoth uses a mastery approach and Saxon uses a spiral approach. Using a mastery curriculum means you master one concept at at time and then move on. A spiral curriculum goes over a concept several times throughout. Reviewing the concepts ensures you kids don’t forget a math concept.
Ideally you would use Saxon Math 1 when your child is approximately 5 and a half years old and then use Saxon Math 2 when they are 6 and a half years of age. Keep in mind, to start Saxon Math 1, your child would need to have done some preschool math.
I find the Saxon Math curriculum doesn’t perfectly align with grade levels so I prefer to use the age as a determining factor of what level to use. It’s not a whole grade level behind in teaching concepts (more like half a level slower), however, Saxon is excellent in teaching math concepts because it is very thorough.
Your kids will have a very solid math foundation by using Saxon.
If I could only use one curriculum for math, I would go with Saxon.
To save money with Saxon, my advice would be to see if you could find the teacher’s guide used on ebay or elsewhere online. Then, you would only have to buy the 2 workbooks and fact cards new. You can get the set of 2 workbooks and fact cards here. Saxon also comes with a meeting book but I personally wouldn’t get it you already do calendar time with other kids. Some families like to use the meeting book but many do not, so it’s a personal preference.
Every child is different in their abilities but I do find that starting Saxon Math 2 generally works well for a child who is around 6 and a half years old which would often be in grade one. I wouldn’t however, start Saxon Math 2 sooner than 6 and a half years of age. Starting with Saxon Math 1 could be more appropriate if your child is starting grade one as a young six year old.
There is a placement test to see what level is most appropriate, but age is also a good indicator of what level to start.
1st Grade Homeschool Curriculum Independent vs. Family Subjects
The fantastic thing about homeschooling is that many of the subjects can be taught as family subjects, meaning you can teach the subjects with other kids regardless of their grade level. In the table below, you can get a quick glance at what subjects are best done independently with parental help at the grade one level and what subjects can be done together as a family. This will save a lot of time and prevent frustration.
Keep reading to find out more details about the family subject curriculum that will work well for a first grader.
|Independent Subjects||Family Subjects|
Homeschool History Curriculum For First Grade
For History, I like Story of The World. It is a very popular history curriculum used amongst many homeschoolers.
It is not at all boring. It is engaging since it is written in short stories. This is a subject that could be done together as a family so it includes all ages. There are coloring pages and additional recommended books listed in the curriculum. Story of The World is done in book volumes. Therefore if you are starting this, you would use Volume One which would be all about the ancient times. This would be the curriculum for the year. Next year, you would do volume 2 which covers another time period.
The activity book includes mapping assignments, coloring pages reading comprehension questions, art project suggestions, and more. The activity book is quite appropriate for Grade One until about Grade Three or Four.
You can choose to get the book and/or audiobook and activity book, just the book or audio, or all. I personally like having the book and activity book but I might include the audio in the future because I like having that option too.
If you are a secular homeschooler, I recommend, Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding for teaching K-3 . It is a textbook, but it’s not a boring textbook.
Alternatively, if you want something very simple that could be done using one page a day, the 180 Days of Science workbook is a really good option too.
If you are of the Christian faith, you may want to consider the Science Units from The Good and The Beautiful. They have various units that could be done as a family for various grades.
For Geography, I like to keep it quite simple and fun in first grade. This Beginning Geography workbook is great for kids in K-2. They will learn about the continents and oceans and basic map skills.
Art is a homeschool subject you could save money on. With just a few art supplies and something like this book that formally teaches art for children, that’s all you really need. There are numerous youtube videos that teach art of some form specifically for kids. I love and subscribe to Art with Trisha but there are many others too.
You don’t need anything too elaborate to teach health either. If you can get your hands on some read-alouds that touch on health topics such as safety, nutrition and hygiene, that would be great for this grade level.
First Grade Handwriting Practice
For any elementary grade level, I recommend Handwriting Without Tears when it comes to handwriting. Here is the workbook appropriate for grade one although you might find your child needs one step up or below depending on their handwriting.
Including typing as part of the homeschool schedule once or twice a week is great. Kids can easily practice their typing skills using a free online program at typing.com. The only drawback of using it for free is that there will be ads on page. If you don’ mind that, then go with the free option, otherwise they do have a paid option too.
I prefer to classify music and physical education as extra-curricular activities since they are not part of our regular scheduled homeschool hours. Music classes, sport activities, and learning a foreign language, are scheduled in the evenings or weekends.
Whether you are a secular or faith-based family, there are first grade homeschool curriculum options for you to choose from here. I hope this was helpful in helping you decide what is best for you and your first grader. If I make any changes on my picks, I will be sure to update this here!
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