Curriculum Choices -First Grade

As I’ve thought long and hard about our curriculum choices, and as I’ve enjoyed reading of how God leads other families to homeschool… {{Which, I want you to know that if you are not a homeschooling family- I completely respect and appreciate your decision! I strongly believe that homeschooling is NOT the right decision for every family for many different reasons. In fact, I have a whole list of them… one simply being that our public (& private & everything in between) schools NEED a light in the darkness! Homeschooling was a hard decision for our family, but one that God made clear to us as we sought Him. Yet, I also know that God very clearly could have led our family in a different direction as He has for so many of you! These homeschooling posts are not to discourage you, or try to “win you over” in any way! But, instead to encourage others trying to find their way in homeschooling.}} I’ve come to the realization that my story is a bit “backwards” from many. For, as a former teacher, I was ready to plan it all out myself… come up with the best of the best… and figure out how it would all work together. (See I actually LIKE doing those things. It’s my personality that loves structure and creativity all at the same time.) BUT, God in His goodness, instead of giving me what I wanted, led me to what I needed for our family… a curriculum that we truly LOVE. For, as I thought of what I truly wanted for my children as we homeschool them, I realized that I could teach reading, writing, and arithmetic for hours. I could plan it all out, leaving little time for my other precious babes. My children could end up to be the smartest people in the world, BUT if they do not know Christ- none of it really matters. And, so, I am thankful for this curriculum that is centered on Christ, and on leading our children to Him. And, I am amazed at God’s guidance, so that I am able to spend more time with our family, seeking to reach their hearts along the way, and to bring glory to our God.

Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory
And, so (after my lengthy introduction) I am excited to share, that my sweet Kayla (who turned six in May) will get to be using Heart of Dakota’sBeyond Little Hearts for His Glory for First Grade!! Her big sisters loved going through this guide last year. And, after having such a wonderful time using “Beyond” with Alyssa & Elliana, I am even more excited for all that Kayla will get to accomplish this year. Beyond” teaches so many skills, is so very fun, & is completely centered on Christ!

Beyond basket
Here’s what we’ll be doing this year with *Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory*…

*History… Each unit (there are 34 five-day units) is centered around stories from early American history. They are covered in chronological order from the years 1565-1865 & emphasize God’s plan in history. I’m really excited for Kayla to be using American Pioneers & Patriots, Stories of the Pilgrims, and Boys & Girls of Colonial Days by Christian Liberty Press. These books are wonderful! And, I love how Day 5 of each unit focuses on an example of godly character traits that corresponds with the history stories… Bible will be a huge part of our school-year! :) {{All *starred* items are also linked to the history!}}

American Pioneers & Patriots Stories of the Pilgrims Boys and Girls of Colonial Days

*Poetry & Rhymes- 34 classic poems (with many famous poets represented) will be introduced. These poems are written right into the guide & highlight the history theme. They will also be used for Copywork (which I’m excited to see how Kayla will do, for when she takes her time, she has such neat handwriting)!

*Bible Study & Music- Each unit a new Bible verse will be introduced (along with fun activities… many of which help learn gross motor skills… to help memorize these verses). Often music form Steve Green’s Hide ‘Em in Your Heart Volume 2 CD will correspond with the verse(s). Bible study questions will also be used to help instill Biblical values in my sweet first grader. Love, love, love this music!!! :)

Hide 'em in Your Heart
*Devotional- Once a week, we will get to read from Morning Bells by Frances Ridley Havergal. This is a short & sweet book that emphasizes basic Biblical lessons through a Bible verse, a short narrative, & a quote or hymn. I’m looking forward to going through this book during our “Special Time” each week… this will give me an opportunity to really talk with Kayla about these important topics (& spend some good quality time –apart from “school”- with her)! Last year, this little book brought some great conversations with our older girls. It is a bit difficult to read, as the wording is different than our “modern-day” language, but it is full of precious truths.

Morning Bells
*Rotating Activities- Art, Geography, History, Timeline, and Science activities have been beautifully written into the guides (rotating- to be done about once a week). These activities require thinking skills & creativity to learn through hands on activities & learning. Each activity reinforces the historical theme and really helps make the history stories come alive! So fun! :)
ART- Kayla LOVES art!! I know she is going to love this opportunity to be creative once again!! She’ll get to practice basic art skills, while creating something to remember her history lessons.
-GEOGRAPHY- I’m excited for Kayla to be able to learn some basic geography concepts about the world around us! I love how this is worked right into the history.
-HISTORY- These are short and engaging activities that bring life to the history stories. Kayla will get to learn through play and hands-on activities. 
-TIMELINE- She will get to make a basic timeline of the major events that we will be studying this year. {I love how she gets to make her own… as I’ve noticed much more learning takes place when it’s her own work- rather than if it was a “premade” timeline!}
SCIENCE- Easy, fun, discovery activities are included 2 days out of each unit, with text connections to God’s Wonderful Works- by Christian Liberty Press. We are looking forward to the hands-on activities focused on life science, earth science and physical science. (This was a favorite last year, & is just the right amount to get done in this busy house!)

God's Wonderful Works
~Language Arts…
Spelling lists are provided right in the Appendix of “Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory”! And 4 days out of each unit include spelling activities to guide students to spell correctly! At the end of last year, Kayla started joining in on some of the spelling lists/activities with her older sisters, and just LOVED it… I’m so glad she has the opportunity to learn spelling in an easy, fun way!

~Grammar, Mechanics & Usage- Short lessons focusing on basic grammar, mechanics & usage will be done 1 day of each unit. The lessons are written right into the guide & are mostly done orally. This introduces many basic language skills in a non-threatening way. This short/sweet approach to grammar has been PERFECT for our family. :)

~Copywork- Written language practice is provided daily using either the poetry or from the related language lesson covered in that unit. Kayla will write from a correctly written model as she practices her handwriting along with other language skills! It will be fun to see how she does without an actual “workbook”. :)

~Phonics/Reading- Kayla has finished up “The Reading Lesson” (which we loved and highly recommend), is progressing really well in reading, and is ready to start The Emerging Readers Set by Heart of Dakota. This set is written into the appendix of the Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory guide, & is a collection of 14 books that increase in difficulty throughout the year. Questions based on Blooms Taxonomy are included, so that children are learning to comprehend what they are reading! This set of books has a big place in my heart, as I can remember Alyssa and Elliana reading and enjoying each one. {{Because Phonics is such a personal choice, Heart of Dakota has made the plans so that you can use ANY phonics program you would like… but we have loved their recommendations thus far!}}
*Her first book in the set… The Early Readers Bible by Zonderkidz. She is SO, SO, SO excited, and I love how her first book contains stories right from the Bible!! :)

Early Readers Bible(Doesn’t she look adorable in her new glasses!? She struggled at first, saying things like “the floor is scary!” but they really help her to see, and she is beautiful- with or without glasses!)

~Storytime- Kayla gets to join in with her sisters for storytime each day. :) Heart of Dakota has put together wonderful selections of literature to be read aloud each day… with a book from each of 9 different genres. There are 3 different storytime packages to choose from, or you can choose your own literature to go along with the reading activities. We were able to purchase most of the books from all 3 packages, & then I let the girls choose which books we should read for our school-time. I think all of the books they chose were from the “Girl Interest” package! :) Perfect for my little girls! I know we are really going to enjoy this time reading together! Through the reading activities, we will be studying different types of literature, practicing narration, analyzing story elements, & relating to Godly character traits.
-The 9 books chosen: Biography- Phillis Wheatley: Young Revolutionary Poet, by Kathryn Kilby Borland… Adventure- Baby Island, by Carol Ryrie Brink and Helen Sewell… Historical Fiction- Understood Betsy, by Dorothy Canfield Fisher… Fantasy- Stuart Little, by E.B. White… Mystery- Footprints in the Barn by Stephen B. Castleberry… Nonfiction- If Your Name Was Changed at Ellis Island, by Ellen Levine… Humor- Emily’s Runaway Imagination, by Beverly Cleary… Realistic Fiction- A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett… Folk Tales- The Ordinary Princess, by M. M. Kaye.

Storytime books(Don’t they look perfect for 3 little girls and their Mama!?)

~Math- This is another area within the guide that you can choose, but once again we went with Heart of Dakota’s recommendation- Singapore Math- Primary Mathematics 1A &1B as this goes with wonderful hands-on math activities that are written in the guide (they are super fun- with lots of yummy snacks). I have heard excellent things about many other math programs, but Singapore math has been working extremely well for us, and we are very pleased with it. I really like how they teach understanding the math concepts, and not simply memorizing facts

math math

All of these wonderful activities should take about 2-2 1/2 hours each day! Which ends up being just the right amount of time for “formal schooling” each day. Kayla can hardly wait for the school-year to begin!! :)

*If you’d like, you can read about Alyssa and Elliana’s second grade curriculum here!!
**I’ll share some ideas for the littler ones soon… some preschool ideas I have roaming around in my head for Annabella (who’ll be 3 next month) and Isaiah (my 4 year-old)… as well as what to do with these precious little ones (& their one-year old sister) while trying to homeschool the “big kids.” :)
***Oh, and if you’re looking for ideas for your kindergartener, feel free to take a peek at what Kayla was up to in kindergarten last year!

Do you have any questions? I’d love to help you out if you need help deciding on what to do about schooling your children!

We’re looking forward to a great year!

Not Back to School Blog Hop


  1. Thanks for sharing your curriculum. My daughter turned 4 recently and we will be starting Kindergarten next year. I am so excited to homeschool, and have been a little confused about all of the choices. There so many, and I see that a lot of families mix up their curriculums.

    • Karen, You are right… SO many choices to choose from!!! It is very overwhelming. And, yes, many families do a variety of different curriculum. We’re blessed to use all of the curriculum that “Heart of Dakota” has to offer, but there are really so many different ways to homeschool, and most are excellent choices. Please let me know if you have any questions of if I can help in any way! :) Jessica

  2. I know what you mean about homeschooling being a difficult decision. I’m a former teacher as well and never thought I’d homeschool, but here we are and I wouldn’t have it any other way! I love that Christ is at the center of my children’s learning and that their hearts are being trained as well as their minds.

    We are also a HOD family and have used all the guides up to Preparing Hearts so far (Preparing was awesome btw!!). We have loved the journey and are looking forward to this next school year when we will be using 3 guides for the first time! My 4 year old will be doing Little Hands to Heaven (with his 2 year old sister tagging along), my 7 year old will be doing Beyond Little Hearts, and my 10 year old will be doing Creation to Christ. It’s going to be an exciting year!

    • Hi Jenae! What a true blessing to meet another HOD family! :) Your words sound so much like my own- that you never thought you would homeschool, but now you wouldn’t have it any other way. What a great God to lead us all to the place where He wants us. (whether that’s homeschooling or not) I look forward to hearing more about your year! :) Jessica

  3. I’ve not heard of this curriculum but it looks fantastic! We used similar books in our My Father’s World curriculum last year. We also use Singapore:) Blessings on the start of a new year!

    • Thanks, Christina! We really do like “Heart of Dakota”, but I know “My Father’s World” is very well written also! :) Blessings, Jessica

  4. What great choices!! I am really excited to get ready for this year. Right now we are planning on about 2-2.5 hrs for Kindergarten, and my Bella will jump in on Bible and Craft time :) Always enjoy seeing what you are up to!

    • Thanks, Aurie! I’m excited for your family as well! I just love kindergarten!! :) I look forward to hearing how your year is going! Jessica

  5. Serita Watkins says:

    I enjoy reading your blog as your sweet family is just a bit ahead of mine in the HOD journey! (due to moves and a baby last summer and one coming this Fall, we are only halfway finished with Beyond at this point) :) I noticed that you have the textbooks for Singapore 1 and was wondering if you found them to be helpful in explaining the concepts the “Singapore” way. As we are getting ready to start 1B, I am seeing that we need review in a few areas, but my pregnant brain is having a hard time coming up with other ways to explain/review problem areas.

    • Hi Serita! How nice to meet another HOD family! Congratulations on all your sweet babies!! I know those little ones can put a whole new twist (all be it a precious twist) on things. How fun that you are using Beyond too. :)

      I got the Singapore textbooks 1A and 1B last year, and we rarely used them, but I could see how they would be helpful. I’m hoping to incorporate them a little bit more this year. Really they give more picture examples that you can go over. (I was planning to have my older girls look through them throughout the summer, but we never got to that.) So, all that to say… they are definitely not necessary, but I liked them enough to get the 2A and 2B textbooks for my older girls this year. Since you’re looking for a way to explain/review- I think they could be really helpful. ;)
      Many blessings, Jessica

  6. Serita Watkins says:

    Thank you for that explanation! We too are loving our journey through HOD and it has been fun to see the pictures of your girls with their new books. My kiddos get excited knowing that we will be doing those next! :) I am also looking forward to seeing what you decide to do with your 3 and 4 year olds since I also am in the same situation with my 3 and 4 year olds. They are enjoying LHTH, but I am unsure of them being on the younger end when we hit the other guides…still debating how we will handle that and wanting to keep them together as much as possible. Know that you are blessed and God is in complete control of all that is going on and is working all things for His glory AND our good. Keep looking to Him in everything…I know how crazy times can feel ;)
    In Him,

    • Hi Serita! I SO appreciate your encouragement! Thank you!!
      I’m still working on what I’ll be doing with my preschoolers. I’ve got LHTH on loan to my sister-in-law, so I’m working on putting something together myself. We’ll see how that goes. :)
      Hope you’re enjoying your weekend! Jessica

  7. Amen! If they don’t know Christ nothing else matters!!

    • So true, Kelly! I’ve had to really take time to realize that my children knowing Christ truly is the most important thing!! Jessica

  8. Christie says:

    That is an absolutely adorable photo of your precious daughter in her glasses. She is striking.

    • Oh Christie, Thank you for your kind words about my sweet Kayla. I think she is gorgeous too! She’s such a precious girl! Jessica

  9. Hi Jessica,

    I always love your updates on homeschooling! We are finally getting into a routine using HOD’s LHFHG with our oldest who will be 6 in October. I had my heart set on MFW last year until I began reading your blog posts on HOD. I really love the open and go format of HOD, and it is such a sweet and gentle program.

    I do have some homeschooling questions for you. I love the CM approach to homeschooling. And I love the idea that young children should be outside as much as possible exploring nature. However, this is so difficult around schooling, cooking, cleaning, washing clothes and nap/quiet time. I feel so bad that my children aren’t outside more! How do you find a balance with this? Do you have set times that everyone is outside no matter what?

    And as for your ways of occupying young children during school, do you ever have issues with the oldest children wanting to do what the youngest children are doing instead (such as playing with play-doh)? I do use a quiet time thanks to your wonderful tips, but I know as school time increases in the later years that it is going to be impossible to have quiet time for 3-4 hours. LOL!

    And do you struggle with your children having bad attitudes with certain subjects? I’ve always loved to learn, so I don’t understand the poor attitude with my oldest sometimes. I wonder then if maybe I’m not meant to homeschool.

    Thanks again for your wonderful posts!!!

    • Hi Jennifer! I always love hearing from you! :)
      Usually during our school year, everyone goes outside after lunch until rest time, and then after rest-time our kids often go out again. We have a wonderful neighborhood and a partially fenced in backyard, so that we feel comfortable enough to send the oldest three (aged 6 & 7) outside without us… I prefer for them to be in the backyard, but we do let them ride their bikes along the sidewalk in front of our house. We also let our (4 year-old) boy go outside without an adult, as long as he stays in the backyard, and as long as at least one of his older sisters is with him. (Sometimes we’ll even let our almost three-year old be in the backyard with an older sibling.) This way I get some meal prep, cleaning, etc. done while they are outside. We also try to go for a walk, or just outside to play together most evenings when the weather is nice. But, as much as I enjoy and appreciate having my kids be in nature and learn from God’s amazing creation- when they were younger, we just didn’t get to it as much. In fact there were days in a row (nice days) when we didn’t step foot outside. And that was just how it was. Now I’m thankful we’re able to get outside more, but know it’s a struggle at times when our kids are little.

      And, oh yes, quiet time for 3 to 4 hours is just a bit too long!!! :) Sometimes the oldest have wanted to do what the youngest is doing, but that has been quite rare. Usually I try to find things for the little ones to do that include something that the older ones are using for school. (If they’re painting, then I’d have the little ones paint… if they’re using play doh, the little ones would use play doh too… if they did an experiment with water… the little ones would get to play with water, etc.) I do really try to talk up “getting to do school” so that it seems like (and therefore becomes) just as fun.

      And yes, sometimes my children struggle with bad attitudes, as do I at times. Often with my girls it’s because they want everything to be perfect, and if it isn’t working out for them the way they hoped, they get frustrated easily… or they’re tired… or just plain grumpy. I do my best to talk about how we can honor God by having a cheerful heart and working our best for Him. But, I know how trying those days are when bad attitudes abound. Please don’t think they are a reflection of your teaching -they’re not!! Instead, try to use those bad attitudes for a springboard toward guiding your sweet girls in grace. You can do it! God has given you an incredible responsibility, but He’s also given you the wisdom and strength to raise and teach your girls with His help! :) :)
      I look forward to talking to you more soon. Jessica

      • Thanks Jessica! Your words are always written so beautifully! And that makes me feel better that I’m not the only one struggling with getting my kids outside every day. My oldest does get to play outside by herself after quiet time every day, but she is very trustworthy, and we also have a nice and quiet neighborhood. But, as you mentioned, with the youngest, that just doesn’t work without me right by her side. So thank you for your honesty and encouraging words!

        And, yes, I guess we all have to work on a cheerful heart! :) I think as school becomes more and more of a routine that her attitude will change for the better because she’ll just come to expect it every single day. Right now, we are still enjoying those hot summer days with friends who start back to school in September. Though the public school system in our area actually started today. I felt such a peace today knowing that I didn’t have to send her off on a school bus this morning! And I thought I wouldn’t cry on her first day of Kindergarten. We had already started the Kindergarten curriculum, but it really hit me this weekend that my oldest was officially “Kindergarten” age! Those tears shed were tears of joy!

        And thank you for your sweet comment on my blog!

  10. I just found your blog through a google search and am SO glad I found it. I’ve been stressing out over what to use for my first grader and was having a hard time piecing things together. I love a system that is all written out for me! At least for the first year of schooling at home. Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Thanks, Tyra. We’ve loved “Heart of Dakota” in so many ways. :)
      Please feel free to ask any questions, and I’ll do my best to answer.
      Have a great day.