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WUHS Top Picks: First and Second Grade

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This week I offer you the Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers’ Top Picks for 1st and 2nd grade.  In case you missed it, last week I offered my top picks for Kindergarten.  You may notice a few favorites popping up again, but I’ve added several that weren’t on my Kindergarten list.

Math.  Maybe I should stop right here and just say that Horizons is my top pick for math for K-6.  You’ll see me making an additional side note beginning in 3rd and 4th, but we’ve used all K-6 levels of Horizons math.  It’s a solid, slightly advanced program.  My only gripe with Horizons is that my kids are constantly “behind” because each book has 160 lessons, plus tests every 10 lessons.  So, if you’re not doing math every single day, you’re going to be behind.

However, as I mentioned last week, Horizons is advanced, so even if your child is finishing the 6th grade book in 7th or 8th grade, he’s still going to be in good shape for going into Pre-Algebra or Algebra.

Grammar.  I love, love, love First Language Lessons for 1st/2nd grade grammar!  The gentle approach, the memorization, and the short, mom-guided lessons make it a perfect introduction to grammar at this age.  To make it even better, Jolanthe, at Homeschool Creations, has created free, beautifully illustrated printables of the poems your kids will memorize in First Language Lessons, Volume 1.  I wish I’d had these when we went through FLL.

I am also a huge fan of all the Easy Grammar and Daily Grams products.  It didn’t take us the full two years to complete First Language Lessons, Volume 1 and I found Easy Grammar 2 to be the perfect follow-up to First Language Lessons.  It’s a daily guided review, so it’s intended for the parent to do with the child.  We did our Easy Grammar lessons on the dry erase board each day.  I feel that Easy Grammar 2 did a great job of reinforcing what the kids had learned in FLL and in introducing new topics in an easy-to-understand way.

Reading.  My picks for reading for 1st and 2nd grade are the same as K — Scaredy Cat Reading System (Level 2) and Rocket Phonics.  I am also a fan of the Explode the Code books.  I love these books because, for the most part, my kids can do them independently.  Explode the Code is great for reinforcing phonics-based reading instruction and I have often been amazed at how well the books mesh with — and reinforce — my pick for spelling.

Spelling.  Hands-down, All About Spelling is my pick for 1st/2nd grade and up!  We received it to review this year and I can’t tell you how much I wish I’d had this program years ago.  They have just released Level 6.  Additionally, they’ve just released two new books in their line of readers that correlate with the spelling program:  What Am I? and Queen Bee.

All About Spelling is a multi-sensory, mastery-based program based on the Orton-Gillingham principals.  For those who may not know, the Orton-Gillingham principals are highly regarded for helping dyslexic kids learn to read and spell.  Having one dyslexic child and another one who probably is, I was ecstatic to find All About Spelling and I’ve been impressed with how well it works.

History.  We love Story of the World.  I love that it reads like a story book and makes history interesting and easy for kids to understand.  I’ve often had people ask me if the Activity Guide is necessary.  In my opinion, yes.  The activity guide offers hands-on activities, comprehension and narration question, supplemental reading suggestions (both fiction and non-fiction), maps, and more.  It takes the planning out of teaching history.

Science.  For first and second grade, I’m still a big fan of fun, interest-led science.  We love using The Magic School Bus books as a jumping off point.  Some of The Magic Tree House books are suitable for science too (or make a fun supplement to history) and I love their non-fiction research guides.

Handwriting.  Even my kids will admit they enjoyed the A Reason for Handwriting series.  In this series, kids practice a Bible verse all week.  For the first three days, they’re practicing key words from the verse.  On Day 4, they practice the verse in its entirety.  Finally, they write the verse in their best handwriting on lined paper that has a picture to color.  They can then give the completed verse and picture to a friend or relative.  Grandparents love getting these, but it also makes a great way to share Jesus with those in our circle of influence.

What are some of your favorite choices for first and second grade?

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  1. I totally agree with several of your picks. I love All About Spelling, The Story of the World, Easy Grammar, and a few others. We used Living Learning Books for Science which comes in a loose leaf format and uses real books. We didn't do the pages in order, but skipped around and let it be interest led. I tried Horizons Math and didn't like it due to the teacher's manual not being as descriptive as I would like. I HATE math and wanted more instruction. We have been using Saxon Math for 3 years and love it.

  2. I've never heard of Living Learning Books. I'll have to check that out.

    Funny thing, we used Saxon for the first year or so that we homeschooled. To me, it's very similar to Horizons, except with a much more scripted teacher's manual, which I liked. It just had a few quirky things that got on my nerves, which is why we switched. It would be my second choice for math, though, if we weren't using Horizons — well, maybe third choice, but more on that next week. 😉

  3. Mine are very similar to yours, although I've been using Abeka for 1st and 2nd math. For Spelling, I've used Spelling Workout, and SpellQuizzer has been a wonderful addition to our repetoire as well.

  4. I have to agree with almost everything. I love the SOTW activity book! It makes it so easy to find hands-on activities. We use Saxon Math and Spelling Workout.

  5. Thanks for the input. I am researching 1st grade curriculum right now and have narrowed down my choices. I haven't heard of some you menitoned so I'll look into those, thanks again!

  6. Thank you so much for this awesome blog. As a homeschooling Mum in Australia I've found it very inspiring. xx

  7. I love FFl, too and am planning to use Easy grammar sometime next year (2nd grade). I'm a big fan of Math U See so far.

    The hand writing you shared looks interesting, I might be switching to that. We've been using a copybook, but each verse is only copied once in the book. I've been having her copy the same verse all week on separate paper, then do a dictation on Fridays.

    I hope to be doing Sonlight for History and Lit. next year.

  8. Love the ideas! I'm trying to figure out what to do for 1st grade next year and your post was very helpful!!! 🙂

  9. I loved that list. This year I've had a 1st & 2nd grader. We've used Apologia Astronomy for science this year. My kids have totally loved it. I have FLL. I think I need to look into SOTW. I see great reviews for it all over.

  10. We're just starting homeschool this year, but we've decided to use Math-U-See because it is so visual. Also, Apologia for science. I'm excited for both of those! The other classes we will be doing through k12's program. We'll see how it goes…great post!

  11. Hi Kris, thank you for sharing. Why do you use Easy Grammar together with First Language Lessons? I plan on using this for 2nd grade and wondering if the Easy Grammar is extra or a necessary addition. 

  12. Easy Grammar doesn't start until 2nd grade. Back when we used FLL, volumes one and two were in one book. We covered that book in one year and then moved on to Easy Grammar for 2nd grade because I preferred it over the rest of the FLL series.

  13. Just stopped in bc I have a K, 1st and 2nd grade kiddos (and three others who are younger…) I love several of your picks… hands down Real Science for Kids Pre-level books are amazing. We started with chemistry and my kids beg for it! I had been planning on Apologia, but right now we’re adoring this!

  14. Thank you for such a great list! I just started homeschool my 7 yrs old(first grade in Japan) and I am still stragling with curriculum. I guess I can forcus only L. A., math and Japanese at this point with your recommendations. Occasionally we do science. Since he has to learn two language from the beginning no matter what, I am super ultra slower pace and I tell myself that is fine. Homeschooling gives us choices and switching books, so until we find good ones for him, I keep looking. But your list is so great and helpful a lot. Thank you. I thought L.A. has to be all in one program, but I can pick anything I want to add for his level. Thanks to reminding me again.

    Do you have any ideas for social studies? I haven’t have one yet. Oh well!?

  15. My oldest daughter will be finishing up public school first grade then plan is to home school. However i am a bit confused b/c she did K and will have completed first grade thru public school do i need the letter of intent or not b/c she is 6.? In Pa? I am seeing hearing mixed things. Meanwhile i am currently looking quite seriously at ciriculum. What subjects are needed for a second grader? I have choosen quite a bit of my favorites thus far but what is neccessary and what is supplemental / optional? THANK YOU!!! Any insight welcomed.

    1. I would suggest you check http://www.hslda.org for a synopsis of the laws governing your state. I can only speak to what I know of the law in Georgia. In addition to answering your question about compulsory attendance, the legal synopsis for PA may give you some insight on what subjects you should include, as well, since some states include that information as part of their homeschool laws. For example, in Georgia, if a child has been enrolled in public school for more than 20 days, the parent must file a Declaration of Intent, even if the child falls below the compulsory age and we must include reading, language arts, math, science, and social studies as part of our homeschool curriculum. I have no idea about the laws in PA, though.

  16. I love your picks Kris! I’m coming to this page some years after the article has been posted. Many things are still relevant today. We do a lot of outdoor math, and the kids love it. When the weather is bad, the kids also play math games(https://www.mathblaster.com/parents/math-games or https://www.youcubed.org/category/teaching-ideas/math-apps/) on the computer. Of course I do make sure they spend limited time on the computer. In spite of its drawbacks, online games are good resources for poeple who have limited access to other resources. Thanks for the list!

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