We have now completed four weeks of first grade. Which is like, nothing. But for whatever reason, it makes all the difference.

That’s the strange thing about homeschooling – you really have no idea how the family dynamics will work each year until you actually start, then at least you know what you’re dealing with. Also, no matter how much you plan and read and scour and ask for advice, you simply cannot predict what books you and your kid will love and hate.

So here’s what we’ve learned in our first four weeks.

Rewards (or bribery, as it’s known to many) are everything. Being able to visualize your rewards with perfect princesses gazing proudly up at you – even better.

A day in our homeschool: First Grade.

After forgetting this necessity from last year and hurriedly throwing together the ugliest rewards sheet ever, I started week two with the above laminated fancy sheet.

(By the way. Have I mentioned how bewitched I am with my laminator? Because there’s nothing quite like the pleasure brought forth from the consummation of plasticizing something.)

(Feel free to come over if you need anything plasticized. Bring your important papers, your gun permits, your kids. I’ll run ‘em all through.)

Anyway. Based on how well Ali focuses on each subject, she gets to put an arbitrary number of stickers on her page. And when she gets to fifty, which happens about once a week, she gets to raid my School Prize Drawer.

First Grade Rewards Sheet

(I wish it were a wall instead of a drawer. Then I could tell Ali, “Be sure to use the School Prize Wall thoughtfully.”)

As she’s picking her prize, I split my thumbnails peeling all the stickers up and we start over.

This was working fairly well, but Ali’s attitude was still not great – she was exhausted and “not feeling well” every day. At the beginning of week three, I was on the verge of booking her a doctor’s appointment when I decided to first attempt an attitude chart, on which she can earn only one sticker per day, or two if she’s an exceptionally attentive or whiny student.

First Grade Attitude Sheet

(The consequences would most likely be a grounding off of her iPad, but just leaving it at “consequences” sounded so much more ominous.)

It was magical. The moment I placed the freshly laminated sheet in her hand, her little eyes lit up with the passionate joy of a girl motivated. And since then, she’s been so cheerful she could be the focal point of an insurance commercial.

“How happy are Geico customers? Happier than an OCD little girl with an attitude chart!”

I kicked myself for not implementing it sooner. I should have known – I’m motivated in every area of life by charts and graphs – of course Ali would be even more so.

As far as our curriculum itself, the textbook approach was definitely the right way to go for Ali, and we agree that our favorite choice was the Bob Jones Reading/Reading Comprehension program.

Bob Jones Reading 1

Ali loves the activities that go with the stories, and I can already tell a marked difference in her comprehension and attention to what she’s reading. We’ve moved really fast, finishing the first and second book in two weeks each. But the stories quickly ramp up in depth, so I’m hoping that means we slow down soon.

Ali is also enjoying Explode the Code for her phonics (it has about half a dozen different formats of learning pages, and she especially loves the silly question language comprehension.)

Explode the Code

The A Beka Science, History, and Health are each going well, although I’m not doing a good job of supplementing them with fun activities or paper mache dioramas or really anything at all other than reading the books. We’ve been doing a mixture for Bible, between the Bob Jones Bible, ABC Bible Verse Book stories and memorization, and What’s in the Bible DVDs (which are perfect when I need a mental break. Which is at the end of every school day.)

The A Beka Math is good, but we’ve also been adding in other skills that Ali already knows, like multiplication tables and fractions, and doing supplemental work on concepts that are difficult for her, like telling time, skip counting and place values.

A day in our homeschool: First Grade.

Also, on one random day’s lesson, her math book included a map problem. It turned out to be her favorite problem ever (along with graph problems – again, big surprise), so I’ve been drawing her custom map problems that contain her best friend, favorite places to play, and her most adored restaurants.

Map Problems for First Graders
(I do realize that there might be some slight spatial reasoning issues with my measurements. And yes I might have considered hiding these from my husband so he didn’t realize the errors of my ways.)

Map Problems for First Graders

(And yes, we’re raising a local foodie snob – And I’m okay with that. Ali doesn’t understand why people go to restaurants where they don’t know the owner by first name.)

Map Problems for First Graders

I have to admit I’ve enjoyed drawing these problems as much as she’s enjoyed solving them, which proves that our personalities really are quite blessedly suited to be paired together as teacher and student.

(We’ll see how Noah wrecks my peaceful paradigm when he gets to Kindergarten.)

What we haven’t ended up using is the Handwriting without Tears. I suspect this is my fault as I only have the workbook, and not the entire system. However, Ali much prefers copying my writing at this point, and it seems to be more effective.

A Day in our Homeschool: First Grade

And then there’s Noah.

His passion for learning is palpable.

A Day in our Homeschool: First Grade

His first set of “School Legos” were fantastic – he painstakingly built each suggested vehicle included on the poster (which I lovingly laminated for him), and I think it was great for his comprehension.

A Day in our Homeschool: First Grade

The peace that this Lego set bought us lasted for ten glorious days.

And then he was done with it.

So on the third week of school, he got a new Lego set – this time, the construction one. So if anyone’s keeping count, school is costing me approximately $9 per week of toddler hush money – and I’m budgeting that as “Cheaper than Mother’s Day Out.”

A Day in our Homeschool: First Grade

(Suggestions are welcomed and desperately needed for his next gift. Please help soon.)

And then there’s me. I couldn’t find a school planner that I liked, so I made my own pages on Excel this year, and I’m very happy with them (You can download my template here.)

First Grade Planner Sheet for Homeschooling

As for the beautiful efficiency of homeschooling, our school days are lasting from about 8:30 to 12:00 every day, we usually end up ahead enough to have a light day on Friday, and I never plan ahead – I write down each subject as it’s completed. Because who likes changing things once they’re in ink?

And those stickers down in the bottom right-hand corner?

Yeah. That’s my own motivation section.

And it’s so totally effective.

36 thoughts on “A Peek Into Our Schoolhouse.

  1. I’m also homeschooling a first grader this year! I too made a weekly lesson plan sheet on Excel, but yours is much more beautiful :-)

  2. “toddler hush money” = genius! I need to add this line to our budget spreadsheet.
    My son had his 4th birthday not too long ago and he scored a few Playmobil sets (Tuesday Morning had them half price). All three kids are still playing with them – lots of fun, but quite a bit of tiny pieces.

    I’d love to have your Excel template! Thank you!

  3. Love the attitude chart! Great idea to compare the good and bad…I hadn’t thought of that! And I laughed out loud at the stickers on your planner! So glad I’m not the only one that needs this :)

  4. So ever since Google Reader closed down, I haven’t been reading blogs. But now, I’m set up w/ Feedly, so I’m gonna have a lot of catching up to do on your blog. Anyway, this year, we decided to put Abigail in a University Model, private, Christian, classical school. I teach her at home on TTF, so I’d love to have a copy of your excel lesson plan. Thanks :)

    1. That’s great! We don’t have many of those options here yet, but I love the model.

      And I just linked an upload of the Excel Spreadsheet on the bottom of the blog post where I talk about it, so just click on that link so you can download it. I’m pretty sure if I try to email an Excel Spreadsheet, it will just go to spam.

  5. I love all your homeschooling posts! I’m in college right now to be a first grade teacher, and you’re giving me tons of new ideas! Thanks! You sound like a fantastic teacher! :)

    1. Thanks! I don’t think I’m a fantastic teacher at all (I’d do terrible with other people’s kids!), but I know my own kid well enough to know what works for her, so that’s my only advantage.

  6. You. Are. Awesome. enough said. :) I started homeschooling my 6 year old daughter. She loves it, such a huge relief. I also have a son who is 3 and boy oh, will I get an eye opener when I start him. He likes to argue when he thinks he is right about something that he actually has no way of knowing (like which is the correct shoe for which foot and so on…) I love all the info you provide on homeschooling. I LOVE charts and lists! I would love a copy of your lesson plan. Thanks in advance! :)

    1. I think the same thing about my son. Let’s hope they surprise us!

      I linked the lesson plan at the end of the blog post where I talk about the lesson plans – I’m afraid if I email it, it will go into your spam folder. Let me know if you have trouble downloading it!

  7. Love it! Thanks for sharing! I’m soaking up all the advice and tips I can get, since this is our first year on the homeschooling journey. :)

  8. Thanks for sharing how your day goes! I’m always interested in how others’ days look like. I agree that the first few weeks are very interesting! (I’m homeschooling my oldest two boys in third and first grade as well as occupying two younger siblings ages 3.5 and 15 mos.. ) We just bought a desk for our oldest to use in his room, so hopefully that will cut down on the distractions and he can get his math done faster. We use a reward chart as well. If my boys complete all of their work on the day its supposed to be done, by the end of the week, they can get a special adult small drink at Sonic (or wherever they choose). If they only get four days completed, they can get the child-sized drink. Anything less and they get nothing. The motivation has worked so far and they have until bedtime to complete their work.

    As far as occupying younger siblings, that can be a challenge! We use puzzles, books, water color painting, coloring on a marker board and play dough. Not sure if this is what you do with the Playmobile sets, but you can always keep them back and only bring them out during school-time. That can help keep them newer and more exciting. Happy Homeschool Blessings!

    1. I like your motivation system!

      Yes, “School Legos” can only be used for during school, which actually helps him anticipate school – quite the change from last year. Thanks for the ideas!!

  9. This is great! On another note, with your previous post about how you put your K-cups on the carousel, I’m surprised you allow the same colored happy face sticker to be next to each other. :-)

  10. Ooo, love the attitude chart! We always get our work done, but it’s not necessarily with the best attitude. I’ll have to make up one of those. One of the things I love about K12 is the “Daily Plan” page that lists the day’s lessons and fills in a little bubble when you are done with each one. It’s very satisfying to see all those little green bubbles filled in at the end of our day! We’ve been getting done with all our core lessons before lunch and then doing the day’s elective after lunch. That’s also with a pretty good “recess” in the morning. I’m trying to find the balance between pushing and encouraging. :)

  11. Will you stop????!!!!!! You are making us old timers look really bad.

    It sounds like you have a wonderful school going on Rachel. You are doing a great job.

  12. Don’t remember Noah’s exact age, but check out TOMY Contructables. But if you buy them, look up the instructions on how to remove the noisemaker part and do it. (Takes 5 minutes with a screwdriver to remove the little plastic clicker thingy that make the ungodly noises, then you’re down to just standard battery powered motor noise.)

    1. Those look really cool! I’ve never heard of them. And yes, the clicker thingy removal was in every Amazon review. What were they thinking?

      Thanks for the recommendation – this might be his next prize. :-)

  13. Does Noah like cutting things up? Elizabeth loved using scissors during work time. We had kumon cutting books as well as just stuff off the internet. Is Noah getting stickers or something too (does that motivate him?) We did coins – one for “working hard”, and then one each for not talking to each parent.

    Definitely only had activities that were allowed during that time. Paint quite popular. Building cushion fort under my desk and “reading” books. Building marble runs and play dough/mars mud also popular. Water play over tub – see what sinks or floats. We had to ban “crash” though – involved ramming cars into the woodwork at such velocity quite a number are missing bumpers now.

  14. LooooooooooVE the attitude chart! Puhlease be my metroBham area BFF and share it with me please! My grumpy 4 year old needs this in her life!

  15. All we ever used from Handwriting Without Tears were the workbooks. Fro years. And it was just fine (and less $!)
    Also, we hated Abeka math…quickly switched to Saxon. I know there are a lot of opponents to Saxon, but I would pick and choose from it. My kids were very successful with it.

    Thanks for posting about your day! Makes me remember our days gone by. Mine ate high schoolers now & in school for 6A baseball. They still would prefer to homeschool. Sure wish the Tebow bill would pass here!

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