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Homeschool Curriculum for the Elementary Years (The Grammar Stage)

Posted By Jessica Fisher On August 6, 2014 @ 8:09 pm In Curricula,Homeschooling,Learning | 16 Comments

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 [4]. 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 [5] 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. [6]


I’ve used First Language Lessons [7] 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.


I’m kinda old school in that I think spelling still matters. Since Spell to Write and Read [8] 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 [9] 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.


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.


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 [10]. 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 [11] offers some great products.)

Susan Wise Bauer’s Writing with Ease [12] 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)


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 [13] 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 [14], 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 [15]as our spine for elementary school. This system works really well when teaching multiple children of varying ages [16]. 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 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 [17] series. It just hasn’t worked for me. I was bored. This year we’re going to five Science in the Beginning [18] 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 [23].
Here are our high school choices for the year [24].

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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URL to article: http://lifeasmom.com/2014/08/homeschool-curriculum-for-the-elementary-years-the-grammar-stage.html

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[4] the experiment is working: http://lifeasmom.com/2014/06/things-i-know-about-our-homeschool.html

[5] Susan Wise Bauer explains: http://www.welltrainedmind.com/classical-education/

[6] my method for teaching kids to read here.: http://lifeasmom.com/2012/06/how-i-taught-my-kids-to-read.html

[7] First Language Lessons: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004CZF2Z2/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B004CZF2Z2&linkCode=as2&tag=oflwtf-20&l=as2&o=1&a=B004CZF2Z2

[8] Spell to Write and Read: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1880045249/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1880045249&linkCode=as2&tag=oflwtf-20&linkId=T6O2QCPFQGCRFYEL

[9] Spelling Workout: http://www.amazon.com/s/?_encoding=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&field-keywords=spelling%20workout&linkCode=ur2&rh=i%3Astripbooks%2Ck%3Aspelling%20workout&sprefix=spelling%20wor%2Cstripbooks&tag=oflwtf-20&url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&linkId=JXPR5243SQ2RVVOE

[10] Writer’s Jungle: http://www.bravewriter.com/program/home-study-courses/the-writers-jungle/

[11] Brave Writer: https://bravewriter.refersion.com/c/b461

[12] Writing with Ease: http://www.amazon.com/s/?_encoding=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&field-keywords=writing%20with%20ease&linkCode=ur2&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Awriting%20with%20ease&sprefix=writing%20wit%2Caps&tag=oflwtf-20&url=search-alias%3Daps&linkId=EXWH2QW7S2J34L3S

[13] Teaching Textbooks: http://bit.ly/MZQ2sE

[14] The Well-Trained Mind: http://lifeasmom.com/2012/06/the-well-trained-mind-a-road-map-for-our-homeschool.html

[15] The Story of the World : http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0972860339/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0972860339&linkCode=as2&tag=oflwtf-20&linkId=DIGWBV3O65XAWVAP

[16] multiple children of varying ages: http://www.welltrainedmind.com/multiple-children/

[17] Apologia’s Exploring Creation: http://www.amazon.com/s/?_encoding=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&field-keywords=apologia%20science&linkCode=ur2&rh=i%3Astripbooks%2Ck%3Aapologia%20science&sprefix=apolo%2Cstripbooks&tag=oflwtf-20&url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&linkId=J5TVWTYRRXN2U43A

[18] Science in the Beginning: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00EUUJF3E/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00EUUJF3E&linkCode=as2&tag=oflwtf-20&linkId=LG4KOVZSCLBHS37V

[19] Spell to Write and Read: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1880045214/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1880045214&linkCode=as2&tag=oflwtf-20&linkId=K7F6MNN2MJOVU32G

[20] Saxon Math 1: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0939798816/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0939798816&linkCode=as2&tag=oflwtf-20&linkId=UO65ZGQOUA5QUK7Q

[21] Discovering Music: : http://www.professorcarol.com/discovering-music?ap_id=fishmama

[22] Teaching Textbooks 3: http://teachingtextbooks.com/v/vspfiles/tt/Math3.htm

[23] our Middle School choices for the year: http://lifeasmom.com/2014/07/homeschool-curriculum-for-the-logic-stage-or-the-middle-school-years.html

[24] our high school choices for the year: http://lifeasmom.com/2014/07/homeschool-curriculum-for-high-school.html

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