Homeschool Curriculum for the Elementary Years (The Grammar Stage)

Ready to homeschool the grammar school years? Here’s a list of our 1st and 3rd grade homeschool curriculum choices.

Homeschool Curriculum for the Elementary Years (The Grammar Stage)

This post does include affiliate links. If you make a purchase through those links, I am paid a small amount in way of advertising fees. Your price does not change, but your purchase indirectly helps keep this show on the road. So thanks!

I got a little weepy when I pulled our kindergarten curriculum off the shelf and placed it in the to sell pile. Not only have those books served us well through six children, but their passing off to other hands signifies the end of an era. We have no more preschoolers in the house. We have no more kindergarteners.

I started this official homeschooling gig in 2002, shortly after my third child was born. I had three boys five and under and I was determined to teach them at home. As I’ve mentioned before, the experiment is working. Six kids have entered the FishFam homeschool and I’ve lived to tell the tale. In fact, this is the last year that I will get to teach them all. That is bittersweet, indeed.

This year, I’ll be teaching 12th, 9th, 7th, 5th, 3rd, and 1st grades. Oy! How did I get here?

As I’ve shared over the last few weeks, I’ve got our high school (rhetoric stage) and our middle school (logic stage) curriculum laid out. It will get some tweaking in the weeks to come, but we’re good. Today I’m sharing what we’re doing for our elementary kids or those in the grammar stage.

Learning in the Grammar Stage

Susan Wise Bauer explains the logic stage this way:

The first years of schooling are called the “grammar stage” — not because you spend four years doing English, but because these are the years in which the building blocks for all other learning are laid, just as grammar is the foundation for language. In the elementary school years — what we commonly think of as grades one through four — the mind is ready to absorb information. Children at this age actually find memorization fun. So during this period, education involves not self-expression and self-discovery, but rather the learning of facts. Rules of phonics and spelling, rules of grammar, poems, the vocabulary of foreign languages, the stories of history and literature, descriptions of plants and animals and the human body, the facts of mathematics — the list goes on. This information makes up the “grammar,” or the basic building blocks, for the second stage of education.

Don’t be confused into thinking that our elementary school is all rote and drills to learn random factoids. The way this plays out into real life is that we read lots of stories and explore lots of subjects, in part to see that they are fun and interesting. Science is not boring unless someone makes it so. It’s really absolutely fascinating.

One of my goals for the early years of school is to impart the joy of discovery and learning about all the cool things there are in the world. These years, K-3, are actually my favorite years. There’s not so much pressure to cover material and skills as there is to pass on a love of learning and the tools to do so independently (reading, writing, and math functions).

Homeschool Curriculum for the Elementary Years (The Grammar Stage)

How we do the elementary school years at our house

Here’s what the elementary school years look like in our homeschool.

Phonics and Reading

The biggest goal is to teach my kids to read. So far, five out of six are fantastic readers. We’ve always enjoyed family read alouds and my kids don’t really have to be cajoled into reading. FishBoy10 told my husband that he doesn’t like to read which actually stunned us since he’s had his nose in Harry Potter books all summer. He’s read through the entire series since May. And he doesn’t like to read…?

Miss FishChick5 is very close to reading, she just doesn’t know it. I have witnessed this with all the other kids, so I’m not worried. She says that she can’t, but that’s not really true. When we sound out words, she does it. I would guess that she’ll gain in confidence and start to take off around January.

You can read my method for teaching kids to read here.

Grammar

I’ve used First Language Lessons from Peace Hill Press for several years now and been really pleased with the four books in the series. They do a great job in teaching the basics of word usage and placement — and gives mama a fresh and easy way to remember things.

Spelling

I’m kinda old school in that I think spelling still matters. Since Spell to Write and Read is part of my cobbled together method of teaching reading, I use their spelling lists because why go buy something else? We’ve tried Spelling Workout twice over twelve years, but each time I find myself frustrated with the expense when it’s so much simpler to use one book for everyone.

Penmanship

My kids do penmanship exercises until fifth or sixth grade, depending on their skills and natural aptitude. Some of them have excellent fine motor control and handwriting comes very easily. Others really struggle. One of my older boys said today that he wants to add penmanship into his work this year since he can’t read cursive and would like to know how to do it. So, at least four of my kids will be working on their handwriting this year.

It might be important to note that my dad is Mister Uptight about cursive penmanship ever since one of his college professors sat him down and taught him to write legibly. I ended up winning the handwriting contest each year in junior high, to his great pleasure. (I don’t always use that award-winning penmanship, but I know how to.) Needless to say, penmanship is kinda a big deal on some branches of the family tree.

Writing

Not to be confused with penmanship, writing is the art of putting words together in a way to convey meaning and emotion. I am a writer. I was trained via the South Coast Writing Project back in my public school teaching days. It was so weird to struggle with writing in my own home. I bought lots of different programs and none of them really jelled until I read Julie Bogart’s Writer’s Jungle. Then it all clicked. She takes what made sense to me in college and made it fit the homeschool. Amen and hallelujah. (Her company Brave Writer offers some great products.)

Susan Wise Bauer’s Writing with Ease fits really well with the Brave Writer philosophies: copywork, dictation, narration, etc. so I’ll finish up with those books before moving on to other Brave Writer resources.

Homeschool Curriculum for the Elementary Years (The Grammar Stage)

Math

When I started this homeschool thing 12 years ago, Saxon was one of the leaders in math, both public and homeschool. It’s what we started with and it works. I’m not going to fix what’s not broke. At third or fourth grade we switch to Teaching Textbooks — because sanity. It’s not the strongest program out there, but it’s one of the few that I know of that it mostly plug and play.

Teaching Textbooks is a CD-Rom based program that teaches the child and then grades the assignment. No more stacks of ungraded math papers! After making a few mistakes in my math curriculum choices, we’ve settled on Teaching Textbooks for math for grades 3 and up. This does need a little supplementation and the course sequence is not ideal, but it works in terms of teaching and grading. The computer does it all!

If you go with TT, be sure to do these things that we learned the hard way:

  • supplement with facts drills so that you know your kids can say their math facts quickly and easily
  • make sure they do all the practice problems
  • make sure they try a problem twice
  • make sure they watch the solution when they get it wrong
  • get through Geometry before your child takes the SAT

History & Literature:

History has always been one of our family’s favorite subjects. It’s fun and exciting, involves arts and crafts — and lots of homemade weaponry. For 11 years we’ve integrated history and literature, reading primary source texts alongside history texts. We’ve cycled through the history of the world in four-year increments. This year completes our third cycle through. I think I will have gone through it almost three more times before we are done. Ha!

In the beginning we followed the time frames laid out in The Well-Trained Mind, then for a few years we derailed onto Tapestry of Grace. About four years ago we hopped back onto The Well-Trained Mind track. I’ve been quite pleased with our move back to The Well-Trained Mind. We use The Story of the World as our spine for elementary school. This system works really well when teaching multiple children of varying ages. We all study the same time period, but each child does so at his own level. This year we should all be on track with one another, tackling the Modern Era, 1850 to the present.

Our literature choices are based on the time period we’re studying which gives younger kids lots of pegs to hang information on for future use. FishBoy13 could tell you the tale of Odysseus when he was three. (Much better than Barney.) So, when we read the Odyssey again at 7 and 11, he knew the basics of the story already and could spend his brain power synthesizing new-to-him details of the story.

Science:

Science has been difficult for me, probably because it calls for more hands-on stuff than just reading. I like to sit and read. For years we tried the elementary level books of Apologia’s Exploring Creation series. It just hasn’t worked for me. I was bored. This year we’re going to five Science in the Beginning by Jay Wile a try. I’ll be doing it with the 1, 3, and 5th graders.

Homeschool Curriculum for the Elementary Years (The Grammar Stage)

First grade homeschool curriculum

Here’s the nitty gritty of 1st grade for us this year:

Third grade homeschool curriculum

Here’s the nitty gritty of 3rd grade for us this year:

How about you?

Do you have an elementary school resource you love? Do you have questions? Do you need help? Let’s put our heads together in the comments section.

Here are our Middle School choices for the year.
Here are our high school choices for the year.

This post does include affiliate links. If you make a purchase through those links, I am paid a small amount in way of advertising fees. Your price does not change, but your purchase indirectly helps keep this show on the road. So thanks!

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Comments

  1. Robin Kait says:

    I love the concept of a Classical Education. We are implementing it by participating in the local Classical Conversations community. We get our memory work done within 30 minutes a day, mostly in the car! I love the fact that we do a science project each week when we meet as a community. I’ve even been inspired to do more art at home because of what we did during our community meeting in art. I look forward to when we do Right Start math, which is an abacus based program (designed by a Montessori teacher who is also an Electrical Engineer.)

  2. I am debating on adding Writing with Ease into our curriculum. I found a copy @ the library and was able to browse through it. A lot of the work seemed very similar to First Language Lessons. Do you feel the writing is necessary @ a first grade level or I could postpone starting until second grade. I don’t want to overwhelm our schedule since it’s our first year of homeschooling. Thanks!

    Here’s our chosen curriculum:
    Bible: 100 Bible Stories, My First Hymnal, On My Heart (memory work)
    Reading: All About Reading Level 1
    Grammar: First Language Lessons Level 1
    Spelling: All About Spelling Level 1
    Handwriting: A Reason for Handwriting Book A
    Math: Saxon Math Level 2
    History/Geography: The Story of the World Book 1
    Science: Answers in Genesis (God’s Design for Life: World of Plants, World of Animals, Human Body)
    Art: How to Teach Art to Children

    • They are very similar. The difference is the dictation and reading passages which you can totally do on your own. I just liked having it scripted for me. My first grader might not start it until second grade. It really depends on how her reading goes.

  3. Thank you for all this information! This year I will be homeschooling 5 of my 6 kids, grades preschool, kindergarten, 1rst, 3rd, and 5th. I’m losing my mind trying to plan all the school for everyone! I’m comparing my 1rst grade list to yours and I did have a few questions. I don’t see handwriting anywhere, do you skip it at this grade or is it combined into another subject? Also, I have on my list logic. Again, do you not do that at this grade? Not that I’m trying to copy you, lol, I’m just trying to figure out if there is anything I could drop to make my life a little easier. :-)

    Also, how do you complete The Story of the World in 1 year? We started Volume 1 last year and only got halfway through!

    Here is my 1rst graders list:
    Language Arts: Daily handwriting practice, phonics pathways (complete the book/more practice. He’s not a confident reader at all.), writing with ease, Explode the Code 1 1/2 & 2
    Math: Facts drills, Singapore Math 1A
    History: The Story of the World – Volume 1 (Ancient Times)
    Literature: Read aloud to the whole family (starting with the hobbit, so excited!)
    Science: Topical for the whole family (no set curriculum, out of money so I’m putting something together on my own!)
    Bible: Daily Devotions, Awana
    Art/Music: Study the Masters as a family, Piano Lessons (taught by me!), Draw Write Now (Basic drawing lessons)
    Foreign Language: Spanish (trying Rosetta Stone)
    Logic: Dr. DooRiddles
    P.E.: Outdoor play, teach to jump rope, teach to do jumping jacks, etc.

    And here’s 3rd grade:
    Language Arts: Write on Target, Daily handwriting practice, Spelling Workout C, Explode the Code 3 1/2 & 4
    Math: Facts drills, Singapore Math 2A & 2B
    History: The Story of the World – Volume 1 (Ancient Times)
    Literature: Family Read Aloud, Book list (that I put together), Reading Pathways
    Science: Topical as a family
    Bible: Daily Devotions, Awana
    Art/Music: Study the Masters, Piano Lessons and practice, Classical Music list (that I put together, CD’s from the Library), Draw Write Now
    Computer: Basic Typing
    Foreign Language: Spanish
    Logic: Think a Minutes
    P.E.: Ballet Lessons, Outdoor play

    Now add another 3 grades! Not sure how I’m going to get it all done! At least the 2 year old doesn’t need any school yet! :-)

    • I probably wasn’t super great with my explanations. We do one year of SOTW at a time. We’re in year 4 right now. For the third time. Ha!

      I do penmanship/handwriting for K through 4, at least. I’ve never latched on to any one book series, but we started with the Zaner-Bloser or “continuous stroke”. I’ve also heard this called D’Nealian, but I’m not positive they’re exactly the same. My first grader will do most of her practice in copywork and spelling, so I’m not sure I will buy a new book for her. We have plenty of teacher’s masters that I can photocopy.

      I don’t start Logic until later and it’s been pretty relaxed with books like The Thinking Toolbox and The Fallacy Detective.

      As for getting it all done, I don’t. But I aim high. Also, I pair or group kids in as much as possible so I’m not split in 5 million directions. Hope I got your questions answered.

    • Candice H says:

      That is so funny Betsy! As our family read aloud time I also chose to start with The Hobbit!

  4. Rebecca Scott says:

    Just wanted to thank you for posts like this : ) We are first year homeschoolers this year (my little girl will be starting kindegarten) and it’s so nice to have others who have been on the journey post what they do and why they do it!

  5. Thanks for all this wonderful info! We’re focusing on handwriting, reading, and math this year for K. I think I’ve heard Saxon has a k program. Have you tried that? Thanks for your time!

  6. Candice H says:

    I don’t know how many years I have been reading your blog but I know it has been a long time. This is our first year homeschooling. I actually homeschooled myself in highschool with BJU, and SOS. Both of my parents worked so I did my own school work and helped my dyslexic/ADHD brother out. So I knew some of what I would be getting in to. My children’s ages are 9, 8(end of Oct.) 6 (end of Aug) and 3. We have done 2 weeks of school so far that have gone about as I had expected them to. I love science but I am not loving the choice we made for it, God’s Design For Life. I saw the Apologia books and I just couldn’t imagine teaching only one subject so detailed for so long. The other problem I have run in to is that my children want to rush through their work getting it done ASAP so they can go play. Well, that and we don’t have a dedicated room so all school work is done on the couch and a 3yo can be distracting. lol I loved reading over your homeschool articles. :)

    1st grade, 2nd grade, 4th grade

    Em Spelling in appropriate grades except for my 4th grader who has trouble spelling, I used grade 3… this program was given to me and is not helping her at all.. it’s busy work and she needs more of the ‘why’ words are spelled the way they are. So far she has not done well on the two spelling tests we have done but the other two kids are doing fine.

    Writing With Ease & Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind- Lvl 1, Lvl 2, Lvl 3
    Once again dropped my 4th grader down a level. Reading comprehension and writing are also not her strong points. I am liking this program so far. I read about a lot of different Language Arts programs, several of my favorite bloggers who also happen to homeschool and chose this. You helped convince me but I believe if I had read this before reading your posts on it, it would have been my choice anyway.
    My kids dread the dictation and stories, especially the 4th grader who cannot spell. Our dictation turns into me spelling 2 or 3 words per sentence but I know this will change as she gets more practice. My first grader eats it up loving every minute of it. The second grader surprised me the other day when he was asked to give me ONE sentence about a passage that I was told to dictate for him. ,Instead, he had me write down a whole summary, (though not in complete order). It was only the speed of his handwriting that was holding him back!

    A Reason for Handwriting- Lvl A, Lvl T for both of the other two
    4th grader has had very little cursive taught to her and the school in our area has done a horrible job on teaching my kids to write. I won best handwriting as a child (not that I practice it now….) and their letter/ number formations make my skin crawl. They start from the bottom to write numbers and the 4th grader writes a t then gives a curve on top afterward for an f. This was not as easy to spot with 3 kids having lots of homework while I try to get a meal from scratch worked when they went to public school.

    Explode The Code-
    Starting with book 1 for the 1st grader and book 3 for the 2nd grader. The second grader has no problems with this, never has to ask a question except on ones I don’t even know the answer to because the image is unclear what they are trying to portray lol. The first grader needs me to read the directions and sometimes with a sentence here are there but seems to enjoy the worksheets over all.

    I Can Read It! Books… we haven’t even cracked these open yet I’m sad to say. I plan to remedy this soon.

    Story of the World Volume 2-
    I was unsure at first what volume I would want to start off with. I love tales of the Middle Ages and thought the kids might enjoy stories of knights, kings, and the like. I think it is too early to tell. I’m still trying to get them out of the mindset that learning has a time frame like public school and when it’s over we’re done for the day. We’ve checked out lots of books to go with each chapter and read some of them so far. It’s kind of hit or miss if a book will be what you are looking for on your grade level if you can’t actually look at the book before checking it out. I am very thankful for the library’s new(ish) system where you can request books from other libraries to be brought to yours. Our library is very small.

    Math-
    1st and 2nd grade we are doing Horizons Math. I looked into Saxon, even purchased used the Saxon 1 Teacher Manual to get a better look and while I do believe it is a good program, my first grader has a short attention span and I hoped the bright colorful worksheets from Horizons would keep her attention. So far they are both doing well on it. I kept the Saxon teacher manual just in case.
    Teaching Textbooks- 4th grade
    She likes it. The lessons are short, and easy to follow (so far.. we have only made it to Test 1) I like that I can be hands free to help the other two with their math. Math comes easy for her and I think this is a good fit. I will most likely getting TT3 for my 2nd grader to use next year.

    We are also doing Bible with a few kids’ devotional books.

    I am enjoying this homeschool journey I have set out on, despite all the criticism, and people who that thought I was crazy (especially family!).. we are doing it and they are learning. I just can’t wait for that day when I might actually feel like I know a little about what I am doing lol. I hope you have a great school year! :)

    • If you were homeschooled, why does your family think you’re crazy? Just curious. Sorry to be nosy.

      • Candice H says:

        Oh no you are fine.
        My parents think so because of how close in age and how many kids I have and it would just be a lot easier to send them to school. They don’t understand why I would create more work for myself. I honestly don’t think four kids is that many lol I would love more! Most of the others just can’t fathom teaching 4 kids, being responsible for their education and getting everything done. Plus I’m already the crazy lady because I have a grain mill, make everything I can from scratch, raise chickens and sell their eggs, etc, the list goes on. I guess I’m just not ‘normal’ to them. :)

  7. Anne Gregor says:

    Thanks for the article!

    One of the great things about homeschooling is that you can give your child one on one attention and help. This one on one attention helps you to see how your child is coping with the different subjects. You can also easily see what subjects they need to do extra work on or need help with.

    Anne
    http://HomeschoolingOption.com/

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