1st Grade Curriculum Just Right, The Second Time Around

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Homeschooling 1st-grade as a Rookie.

As I talked about in my Making Homeschooling Kindergarten Easy, and How to choose the right curriculum posts, our first try at K and 1st-grade weren’t a home run. Sure my child learned but it wasn’t an enjoyable process for neither one of us.

Part of the reason was that I was a rookie who was trying to recreate a classroom environment at home, and that was just a terrible idea. We can then blame my curriculum pick, which was a disastrous pairing with my eldest’s child learning style.

Two years later when my second born was ready to start kindergarten, I knew exactly where I went wrong with his big brother.  And all the curriculum changes that needed to be made where now clear and I was ready to hit that Home Run we missed the first time around!

Yes, we were able to get it right this time by learning from our previous mistakes.🙌😊But how can a first timer manage to get 1st-grade right the first time around? Well, of course by learning from the ones who have done it before them and kindly posting here for others to use. 😉🤗

First grade is continuing to learn and in some ways completing the kindergarten year with the addition of a few (or more) subjects.

While in Kindergarten we focus only on the 3 core subjects of Phonics/Handwriting,/Math, in 1st-grade we can start adding a couple, a few or many more. How many or how few we will be adding, could depend on State requirements, the student, and how much time and energy we have in us to dedicate to each school day. Before I go into detail of what worked for us, let’s get an idea of what a 1st-grade curriculum should cover.

1st-Grade Core Subjects

Phonics, Handwriting, Math, Spelling, Language, and Writing.

  • Phonics.

In 1st grade, phonics learning will be picked up where left off at the end of Kindergarten and in most cases wrapped up by the end of this year. By no means, this will equal to a child being a fluent reader once they finish 1st grade.

Of course, there are always a few kids that fall out of that learning curve and might read beyond their grade level (my second born is already reading level 3 books when he hasn’t even learned all of his special sounds yet😱) but in general, kids will be fluent readers within their grade level. Kids will learn all or most of the sounds, special sounds, rules and rule-breakers of our crazy English language.😵

  • Handwriting.

1st-graders will continue to practice their handwriting this year to help them refine and shrink their letter sizes.  They start to write within smaller lines which at the end of the year should help them have a neater and smaller handwriting (unless that kid is my child who still insists to write monster size letters and words🐉😆).

  • Math.

This year kids will solidify and master their learning of addition and subtraction with the addition of beginning to learn some multiplication, how to tell time, money and some of the measuring units. Keep in mind what’s covered in math can widely vary depending on the curriculum and method being used (spiral or mastery).

  • Spelling.

This will be a brand new addition and the curriculum being used will determine how much or how little a child will learn. In 4 years I’ve used 3 different spelling curriculums (it’s not been fun) and my biggest advice is to stick to a curriculum that teaches the spelling rules and practices them. I found copy work not to be an effective method of learning how to spell unless accompanied by the rules behind it.

My drive to get my now 3rd grader to become not just a good, but an excellent speller, comes from knowing that people we send an email, report or text to, have the tendency to judge a person’s intelligence or level of education based upon what we write and how we write it. The person on the receiving end, usually assumes we are less intelligent or educated if our spelling isn’t perfect, and that is not always the case.

Some people can have various Degrees and just not be good spellers! My husband, for example, he’s a very smart guy. Although he studied and got his Bachelors and Masters degree, his spelling is still poor (sorry my love!😘). I’m sure many people at work have thought less of him because of his many misspelling, but the reality is most likely when he was a young student the problem was never properly addressed and corrected, and in public school, they usually push you along even if your spelling stinks.😲

  • Language (Grammar).

Please don’t panic thinking about teaching grammar to a child who doesn’t even know how to read or write yet, because the grammar taught during 1st-grade is very basic.

Kids will start to learn what a sentence is and looks like (a sentence needs to make sense, start with a capital and end with a period). They will be given sentences that are missing the beginning capitols and periods and rewrite them the correct way. They will also learn about question and exclamation marks, together with capitalizing a person’s first and last name.

As a summary, grammar in 1st grade will cover basic, but still important stuff.

  • Writing.

If you will be using a comprehensive curriculum (aka boxed curriculum), most likely in 1st-grade it will start teaching formal writing. If you are like me now and piecing together your own curriculum (highly recommended), you might be thinking that it’s a little too soon to start teaching formal writing when your child can’t even write a sentence yet. You are right it is early, and that’s why I encourage you to use a very gentle approach to writing if you choose to start teaching it in 1st grade.

If you push too hard too soon your child will resist and dredge learning how to write for years to come, having a long hard journey ahead of both of you. I made that mistake and from experience, I tell you to be cautious, pick a writing curriculum that uses a gentle and easy approach for the early years. I will talk about the one we use on a future post where I will review all our 1st-grade curriculum picks.

Optional subjects (unless required by your State and/or local school district):

 History, Geography, Health, Science, Critical Thinking Skills, STEM, Art.

  • History, Geography, Health, Science. 

All these subjects are in my opinion extras in relation to 1st-grade. If you find yourself overwhelmed being able to teach the core subjects I wouldn’t adventure adding any of these just yet.

My 1st time teaching 1st-grade I only added a very light History, Science and Health reader. The readers were very short and basic but I still found myself struggling to find time to read them. I ended up volunteering (aka “Voluntold”🤣) my husband to read them to our kids once a week.

This year, as my 2nd time around this block 😉, I’m more seasoned and decided to add them all. This will only come with time, so don’t make guilt pressure you into doing something you are not ready to do, even in big homeschool conventions they say until 3rd grade there is really no need to teach these subjects.

  • Critical Thinking Skills, STEM.

You might not want to hear this but I do believe Critical Thinking Skills and STEM should be added to your 1st-grade curriculum.

Let’s be realistic, in this day and age STEM skills are a must and the earlier you begin training their mind towards it, the better. Critical Thinking skills, in my opinion, go hand in hand with STEM but are also very important for the child’s cognitive and overall development. Kids that practice these skills do better in math, reading, and problem-solving.

If I were you, I would do some research on all the benefits of learning Critical Thinking Skills and I bet after doing so, you’ll be adding a workbook to your curriculum. 😊

  • Art.

From decorating your Halloween pumpkins or making your very own Christmas or Hanukkah decorations to Painting or drawing, art is really already instilled in ours and our kids’ life whether we consider ourselves the artsy type or not.

My first time teaching 1st-grade I bought the Abeka Art Projects1 book which was very cute and kids really enjoyed it, however, I never was able to finish them all. Art is really whatever you enjoy or think your child would enjoy doing, just remember to have fun!


List of our 1st-grade curriculum Picks.

Below you can see the subjects and books we use for our very own 1st grade. You can also find reviews of what we used in my post “1st grade: Abeka vs. Timberdoodle“. Keep in mind my now 1st grader has an older brother who is in 3rd grade and is naturally learning faster, and things I would have never even thought of attempting to teach my 1st born so early on.

If you have multiple kids you probably already know how the eldest child is paving the way for the younger ones, who then comes along and without even blinking are able to do all things that they had to work so hard for. 🤷‍♀️ This is the reason why you will find books that are really meant for later grades listed in our 1st-grade curriculum.

Get ideas or be inspired but don’t let my list overwhelm you, it is on here to help you find ideas not to dictate what you need to do. 😙

Our 1st-grade curriculum 2018/2019

Language Arts

  1. Essentials in Writing 1(click on the link to read my full review).
  2. Spelling You See B (book A), followed by All About Spelling 1|(click on the link to read my full review).
  3. Abeka Phonics 1 (click on the link to read my full review). (Letter & Sounds1, Language1, Writing w/Phonics1 manuscript)
  4. Abeka 1st-grade Readers
783010: Spelling You See Level B: Jack and Jill Universal Set Spelling You See Level B: Jack and Jill Universal Set

↑↑↑ We DID NOT use book#2 of this set but instead moved on to “All About Spelling 1”. Combining the 2 worked phenomenally for us.

297836: Abeka Grade 1 Homeschool Parent Language Art Kit (New Edition) Abeka Grade 1 Homeschool Parent Language Art Kit (New Edition)

↑↑↑ Here is a link to the full parent L.A. kit. We only use the Lessons Plan book, Reading 1 key & the Basic Phonics chart. We DO NOT use the Spelling and Creative writing part of this curriculum.

297828: Abeka Grade 1 Homeschool Child Language Arts Kit (Manuscript Edition) Abeka Grade 1 Homeschool Child Language Arts Kit (Manuscript Edition)

↑↑↑We DO NOT use the Spelling & Poetry 1 book of the child kit. We found everything else in the kit to be essentials for our L.A. course of studies. 

171816: Abeka Basic Phonics Sounds--CD Grades K4-2 Abeka Basic Phonics Sounds–CD Grades K4-2

↑↑↑ We found this CD to be fundamental to learning well the phonics sounds taught throughout the program.


  • Math-U-See(click on this link to read my full review)
503156: Math-U-See Alpha Universal Set Math-U-See Alpha Universal Set

History & Social Studies 

  • Geography Sharpening Skills 1(click on this link to read my full review)
  • My America My World (we combine History with all our kids and are currently doing Grade 3 history)
  • Health, Safety & Manners 3
197599: Abeka My America and My World--Grade 1 History/Geography Reader (5th Edition) Abeka My America and My World–Grade 1 History/Geography Reader (5th Edition)


  • Apologia (Astronomy) with Activity and Audiobook.
  • Dr. Bonifide 1
  • My Body by Patricia Carratello. *(great little book kids cut, color and paste on their own full-size body tracing.)

Links to all of our science curriculum picks.

Thinking Skills

  • Critical & Creative 1
  • Mini Luk Set A

Links to our “Critical & Creative 1” & “MiniLuk” set


  • Laser Maze Jr. ←(click on this link to read my full review)
  • Ozobot Evo


  • Draw-Write-Now books
  • Abeka Art Projects 1
  • Painting, Decorating, and various arts and crafts as desired.

Links to our 1st-grade Art picks. 

And now: Ready, Set, and ENJOY as you go!

1 Thessalonians 5:11

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing”.