The Quest for Curriculum

quest for curriculum

So the search is on. I am on a mission for the next two months to pin down the products I want to use to kick off our school year in September. I say kick off because we used a significant amount of our first grade curriculum by winter break last year. Now I have a better idea of the types of things I want to include, the things I can leave out, and what we will be able to add and vary throughout the year. For anyone considering homeschool or also searching for educational material for the upcoming school year, here are some of the choices I’ve got on my list, though I haven’t narrowed it down  to the finalists yet!

Language Arts:

All About Spelling – Last year we used level 2 so we’ll be moving on to level 3. This was one of our most enjoyable curriculum purchases. There are lots of little magnetic letters and word cards, but they make learning so tangible and interactive and easy to digest. Kids need to do more than listen to rules and read sight words and this set gave us lots of tools to work with. The pre-scripted teacher’s guide is also one of the easiest tools I had for first grade. All I had to do was pull it out, open it up, and we were ready for our lesson. We usually only needed about 20 minutes for a spelling lesson which is so doable any time of the day.

All About Reading – I’ve heard a lot of great things about the All About Reading program, and since I love the spelling side, I may try this out for my 4-year old.

Write Source – I like the way these are laid out to teach different writing traits and styles. I was going to purchase this last year but never got around to it. I hope to include it for our second grade studies.



Saxon Math by Houghton Mifflin – We used Saxon Math 1 for first grade and we purchased the manipulatives kit which we love and use often (read more about our math manipulatives here). I think we will end up using this program again but I’ve got a few others on my list that I may try in addition to this program.

Life of Fred – I’ve heard a lot of good things about this program and it takes a different approach to teaching math. Might be a fun twist to our traditional routine. Last year I tried to break our math studies up – using curriculum a few days while focusing on telling time, counting money, learning measurements, etc. – on other days. Life of Fred could be a fun alternative.

Math-U-See – Another program I have heard good things about. I haven’t done a lot of research into this one yet but I’ve got it on my short list.



Science Fusion –  This is the program we used last year and my son loved it. It comes with a work text that the student can write in plus online access to interactive online lessons, experiments, and additional printable worksheets and learning material. I liked the program but the only drawback was that I found it a bit difficult to navigate some of the online content and it took me a lot of time to get our lessons together because of this. Someone more savvy may find this program easier to use. We may go ahead an choose this program again for the simple fact that it was one of my sons favorite parts of school.

Houghton Mifflin Science – This is the other science program by Houghton Mifflin (also publishes Science Fusion) and we got the first grade set by mistake last year so I was able to see the difference between the two. This is more expensive but it has its benefits. For example, the printable materials and teacher resources come on a cd-rom that is much easier to navigate and you can quickly select and print the resources you want to use for the lessons. This is the same text that many schools use for their science curriculum and there is a homeschool version as well as a teacher’s version.

Apologia – This creation-based curriculum is on my short list. I like the areas of emphasis like botany, astronomy, and zoology.


Social Studies:

Harcourt Horizons – For first grade we did a little bit of everything for social studies. We didn’t have a specific curriculum to follow. I like the idea of having it all in one place when I want it, but being able to branch out when we are feeling adventurous. I’ve heard good things about this one so I may consider it for our 2nd grade studies.


What are your favorite curriculum programs to use? Do you buy specific and structured programs or do you use other resources? Please share your favorites (and your least favorites)!


Language Arts and Reading Review

language arts and reading review

We are trying a few new things for language arts here for the new year. We didn’t get a lot out of our language arts workbooks, so we are shaking it up a little. We are keeping what works, just adding a few new items to the menu. We started All About Spelling a few weeks before winter break and we really like the program. My son is able to learn and remember the “rules” without stress, and the lessons have multiple parts that only require a few minutes each, so it’s easy to transition from one part of the lesson to the next before he gets bored or loses focus. Click here for more information about the program and to read the original post.

This week I am going to start a new reading review activity. We’ve done this a few different ways already, but my son gets frustrated with writing for long periods of time. I’m trying to break up the writing with drawing, which he enjoys. Also, by using pictures instead of words I’ll see if he is able to summarize the overall concept with imagery and has a thorough understanding of what he’s reading.

I don’t have any fancy graphic design programs so I just use word or power point to create my documents, but I’ll share my efforts with you in case you’d like to use it at home too.

Here you go: Reading Review Activity Page

In addition to a few homemade activities, I purchased two new sets from Lakeshore. These fun boxes are meant to be used as centers in the classroom and there is enough material for several students to work at the same time. However, with only one current student and a preschooler, that leaves us open to having multiple centers throughout the day or using two or three different activities in a row.

language center

The Language Center comes with 4 different language skills flip books, 4 dry erase markers, and 12 write and wipe activity cards. With this box we’ll be focusing on learning parts of speech, dictionary usage, writing skills, building sentences, and so on.

informational text

The Reading Informational Text Center comes with 12 write and wipe activity cards, 8 different brochures, and 4 dry erase markers. The brochures touch on topics like the weather, food around the world, trees, and dolphins. With this box we’ll focus on learning how to identify the main idea and key details, as well as cause and effect, comparison, and so on.

language center work

I like the centers because while we are still reading and writing, the variety in the material and the tasks makes it more entertaining. And because some of the materials can be applied to other reading passages or texts,  some of it can be used beyond the set that it came with.

What do you do for reading review? Do you have fun activities that you incorporate into your day after they finish a book or a reading assignment?

All About Spelling

A few months ago I found a company online called All About Learning Press. I have an advanced reader and, after trying some of the basic Houghton Mifflin Language Arts Workbooks for first graders, I decided I needed something a little more engaging and challenging. While he is a great reader, he needs a little help with his spelling.

All About Learning Press offers programs for reading and spelling so I thought I would give the All About Spelling program a try first. It has gotten great reviews from users and I like that it has manipulatives for hands-on learning. My son retains an amazing proportion of the things he reads, but when it comes to teaching new things at the table he is much more focused when he has something to touch.

All About Spelling

The website suggests starting all learners off with Level 1, but after reviewing the sample content I knew it just wouldn’t be challenging enough for him. I ordered Level 2 as our starter set. We are missing the first 32 phonogram cards that are included in the Level 1 kit, but when we come to the reviews that discuss these first phonograms I simply practice the sounds with him without the cards.

We’ve been using All About Spelling for a week now with good response from my first grader. He doesn’t argue or whine when I tell him it’s time for spelling and he interacts with me positively through the whole lesson. We give this one a thumbs up. I like that the lessons are scripted so it’s easy for me to sit down and teach without having to do a lot of research beforehand. I can improvise now and then, but I really appreciate being able to use proven teaching methods without having to draft my own script and lesson plan every week. My 3-year old loves it too. I don’t do the lessons with her, but she plays with the magnetic tiles when we are done with our lessons and she enjoys trying to spell her own words.

All About Learning All About Spelling

Level 2 materials include the Teacher’s Manual and the Student Packet (with all the cards you’ll be using for your lessons). The Level 2 Basic Spelling Interactive Kit comes with letter tiles, magnets for the letter tiles, the phonogram sounds app, and dividers for the included cards. The Deluxe Package includes all items in the basic kit plus the index card box, a tote bag, and stickers. I do recommend the box for holding the cards – I ordered the basic kit, which doesn’t include the box for the cards , and I realized quickly how super helpful the box would be to keep all the cards in one place and to make it easier to navigate through them. They do sell the box separately, so I may order it for myself if I get tired of fumbling through my rubber-banded card stack. Most of our letter tiles are currently set up on our easel. The magnetic dry erase side allows us to set up the tiles for the lessons and we can easily bring it close to us during class time. The first time or two setting up the tiles can take a few extra minutes so I make sure our board is set up the night before – then I turn it facing the wall so my little one isn’t tempted to get into it before I teach the lesson.

The All About Spelling kits are affordable, too. I purchased the Level 2 kit for $39.95 and the Basic Interactive Kit for $22.85.  We are looking forward to purchasing one of the All About Reading programs next!


Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links. I love the product so when I saw they had an affiliate program, I signed up! I will never recommend products that I don’t honestly believe are worth your time or money.