Your child is now ready to begin the first grade. If you began homeschooling him in Kindergarten, you probably found that teaching him the basic skills wasn’t as hard as you may have thought. Your first grader is just as excited about learning as your Kindergartener was, so continue to take advantage of as many hands-on learning opportunities that you can.
For a general idea of what your child needs to know, you can check with your state’s educational website for a list of standards covered in a traditional classroom. For first graders, this most likely includes skills such as:
• Alphabetizing a group of words by the first letter
• Recognizing capital and lower-case letters
• Distinguishing between long and short vowel sounds in one-syllable words
• Sounding out letters and letter combinations (blends and digraphs) to form words
• Recognizing common sight words
• Identifying national symbols and monuments such as the American flag, the bald eagle, the White House, the Washington Monument, and the Statue of Liberty
• Identifying physical features in the world such as deserts, mountains, oceans, and rivers
• Identifying man-made features in the world such as cities, schools, hospitals, and parks
• Counting to 100
• Identifying odd and even numbers through 100
• Adding and subtracting one- and two-digit numbers without regrouping
• Solving word problems at the appropriate grade level
There are many curriculum options available to you as you start the first grade year. You might choose a complete first grade curriculum; Alpha Omega Publishers, for example, offers workbooks for first grade math, penmanship, phonics and reading, spelling, and health. Or, you can put together your own curriculum using books from different publishers. Some resources you used with your Kindergartener can be used with your first grader as well, such as the Five in a Row series by Jane Claire Lambert, the early education books by Dr. Ruth Beechick, and the book What Your First Grader Needs to Know by E.D. Hirsch. You’ll also find that your library is a valuable resource for books covering science and history topics.
Another method of teaching that you might want to consider with your little one is called lapbooking. Lapbooking involves creating a number of mini-books which cover various points about a subject you’ve been studying. The mini-books, then, are compiled and arranged in a large folder, thus creating the lapbook, a book which covers your lap.
For example, if you wanted to do a unit study about bears with your child, you could include the information he learns in the lapbook. He could create a mini-book about polar bears and include a picture of a polar bear, a small map showing where they live, and a list of the things they like to eat. Then he could make another mini-book about black bears in a similar way, then another about grizzly bears, and yet another about panda bears. You can add brown bears and sun bears as well. All of these mini-books would be arranged in the folder, and the lapbook would be complete. Not only do you have a good example of the student’s work and what he’s learned, you also have a convenient tool for reviewing the information as well.
Lapbooks, also known as graphic organizers, fold books, flap books, shutterbooks, or project books, can be used by students any age, from preschool through adult. They can be designed in any way you wish — they are only limited by your imagination. You can purchase prepared lapbooking kits about covering certain topics from sites such as LampstandBookshelf.com and TapestryofGrace.com. Or, you can find free design ideas and templates online to create your own lapbooks with sites such as HomeschoolHelperOnline.com. You can even join a yahoo group for lapbooking, and lapbooking bloggers are more than happy to share their ideas.
Lapbooking is an ideal way to get your first grader started in school, as creating lapbooks involves plenty of hand-on activities. They’ll be coloring, writing, cutting, and gluing as they learn about the world around them. You can have your child put the lapbook together at the end of the study or as he’s learning the information. The wonderful thing about lapbooking is that there’s no wrong way to do it — you can create a lapbook in whatever way works best for you and your child.
There are so many options available to homeschooling parents, and the early years of schooling are some of the most enjoyable. Take the time to investigate the possibilities — look around online, ask other homeschooling parents, search for resources in your library. Decide what you’re going to teach this year, and then find out how you can make learning fun. And most importantly, enjoy this time with your first grader — the time flies by so fast!
Guest Blogger: Samantha Bell
Photo by sean dreilinger