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The Best-Laid (Curriculum) Plans: Year 1

After a year of planning and evaluating various options for Year 1, it’s finally done – our super-schmancy, fine-and-dandy Complete Jewish Homeschool Curriculum!  Sort of.  It’s an ambitious list, and I’m scared I won’t be able to do it.

Points to keep in mind:

  1. I’m flexible.  If something doesn’t work, I drop it – period.  Maybe pick up something else, or maybe drop the subject if it’s not a crucial one.  I am very open to this, though I think everything I’ve chosen for the year is do-able.
  2. It LOOKS ambitious, but most of it is just extensions of what we are already doing.  Nothing here will be a big surprise if you’ve been reading this blog all along.
  3. Most lessons are VERY short!  Depending on the lesson itself and Naomi Rivka’s co-operation, an average lesson is about 10-20 minutes.  Some subjects in some weeks will really involve ZERO additional minutes; they’re just books included in our regular family reading schedule.  A typical lesson in First Language Lessons takes less than 5 minutes at this level.  Math is usually something like 5 minutes of skip counting drill plus 15 minutes.  If we start at 9-something, our school day will likely be finished by noon (though we are probably more likely to start around 10 and finish by 1).
  4. Most lessons are fun!  Most of these subjects are already ones Naomi asks for, at least part of the time, if not every day.  As a grammar-stage learner, she loves discovering the world’s “hidden secrets” – stuff like the names of the continents, rules for identifying geometric shapes, parts of a flower.  I see this every day and love “indulging” her by sharing these secrets.

I plan to update this list if there’s anything I’ve forgotten – or if something I’ve planned doesn’t work out for us.  I also plan to add links to curriculum wherever possible.

So here, without further [as they say, and it drives me crazy] adieu... The List:

Year One Curriculum

Term 1:  June – Aug 2011 – Composer:  Mozart, Artists:  Van Gogh, Cassatt, Mondrian

Term 2:  Sept – Nov 2011 – Composer:  Mendelssohn, Artists:  Picasso, Monet, Homer

Term 3:  Dec – Feb 2012 – Composer:  Bach, Artists:  Remington, O’Keeffe, Hokusai

Term 4:  March – May 2012 – Composers:  Bartok, Hindemith, Artists:  Matisse, Degas, Kahlo

* For artist/composer information, scroll to the bottom of this list.

Weekly schedule:

·         Limudei Kodesh – 4x/week

o   Tefillah:  daily davening, plus occasional copywork & translating

o   Reading:  Kriyah v’Od, Part 2

o   Begin Chumash reading & translating/understanding

o   Dinim – Shabbos, Kashrus, Yamim Tovim, other mitzvos / middos?

o   Weekly Parsha – copywork, reading, 1x/week narration

·         Math – 4x/week

o   JUMP Math, Books 1.1 & 1.2

o   Weekly “random” math with dice, Cuisenaire rods (Miquon Orange/Red) and other hands-on materials

·         Language Arts – 3x/week

o   First Language Lessons, Books 1 & 2

o   Handwriting Without Tears

o   Finish Explode the Code 2, continue into Spelling Workout A

o   Nursery Rhymes – memorization & fun w/Literature Pockets

o   Reading from BOB Books, Set 4 / Dick & Jane, then into McGuffey Readers

o   Keep reading our regular chapter books several times a week AT LEAST! (see list here)

·         History – 3x/week

o   Story of the World, Book 1

o   Readings and activities from Story of the World Activity Book

o   Readings from Fifty Famous Stories, Famous Men Greek/Rome

o   Activities from History Pockets

·         Geography – 1x/week

o   Weekly readings and activities from Expedition Earth

o   Various songs, mapwork, etc.

·         Science – 2x/week

o   Elemental Science

o   Weekly Readings

o   1x/week narration

o   1x/month (AT LEAST) nature study plus narration

·         Music – throughout the week

o   Listen to music by term’s composer in car, at home, etc.

o   Supplement with bios from Classics for Kids and other sites

o   1x/term composer biography & narration

·         Art – 1x/week

o   Every other week, Meet the Masters artist bio, information

o   Every other week, Draw – Write – Now lessons – every week if there’s time

o   1x/month Meet the Masters practical project

·         Physical Education – 2x/week AT LEAST

o   Continue with swimming lessons & weekly dance classes

·         Social – whenever possible!

o   Weekly homeschool drop-in, shul program, and MORE

* How I chose our artists and composers:

  1. The composers here ROUGHLY follow the Ambleside schedule.  I want to do four terms per year, though, and Ambleside provides only three, so I have picked up a “make-up” composer – for this year, it’s Bach.  Well worth learning about, I figure.
  2. For artists, Ambleside tries to pair the artist to the period of the composer, leading to a pretty obscure list, with few good “beginner” artists (for 2010/2011 the artists were Durer, Caravaggio and Delacroix).  Having failed a few times at doing art in a really compelling way, I recently bought the Meet the Masters program for 50% off through homeschool buyers co-op.  This takes all the thought and most of the prepwork out of it.  The package I bought covers 20 artists – more than enough for one per month – in a well-planned order.

So… your thoughts?  Link up your own curriculum ideas if you’re already planning your coming year!


  1. How about Jewish Prayers as part of your Hebrew curriculum?

  2. You are right, of course; I was planning on davening, of course, but now it's formally on the schedule! AT least, as formal as things get around here...

  3. Why not align the artists and composers a little more? Eg. cover Monet & impressionists with Debussy & Ravel.

    Bach with Caravaggio, Rembrandt etc OR rather than pair them chronologically, do it by aspects of style, so take Bach's love of patterns and order and match it with modern artists of a similar vision.

    I think it's great that you're covering the arts, but maybe a little more thought needs to go into the set-up so that it doesn't just seem like a throw away focus.

  4. Your curriculum looks great. We are still fine tuning ours. We are pretty well set for our core secular subject and I am hoping to finalize our Limudei Kodesh at the conference on Sunday.

  5. Oh and I meant to ask - how did you choose your composers and artists?

  6. Added a note at the bottom with more info on composers and artists!!! Yay - Sunday! I guess I should say I am keeping myself a bit flexible in case I see something there that knocks my socks off. :-))

  7. Can you please tell us about the conference on Sunday? You can post it here or on the Yahoo Homeschool group. Also, can I please send my daughter to you for schooling?

  8. Do you have any suggestions for kindergarten? :) I am hoping not to go with a boxed curriculum this coming up year.

  9. @cad - more info here

    @Elizabeth - You are asking me??? Are you kidding? You are always so together and organized when it comes to curriculum! Ordinarily, I'd suggest hands-off plus living books for curriculum, but I know your dd needs more than that. Oh! I would REALLY recommend Cuisenaire rods for math, along with the Primary level Idea Book. It's not a formal curriculum, just has ideas to let you explore math in a fun and very laid-back way. If you want something more formal, I really, REALLY like the math we are using and I'm planning a big post where I present it as a fabulous alternative for hs'ers because it is SO easy to teach. I am excited about the Geography that I chose and it would go well into a kindy curriculum as well bc it's also very laid-back. You'd think I'm a laid-back person, but really I'm not. Just lazy, perhaps... :-)))

  10. @Anonymous - "so that it doesn't just seem like a throw away focus" is a bit harsh. I assure you, I have put a ton of thought. Admittedly, these are not my top subjects. Sorry if you think I'm wasting my and my kids time even touching on art if I'm not an expert.

    Not all of us know that Monet is an impressionist and so were Debussy and Ravel. (OK, I don't!) I know this is why Ambleside does the pairings it does, but as I said, I have found those pairings - ahem - unwieldy.

    Perhaps it wouldn't take much work to uncover a "matchy" composer for each of the Meet the Masters artists. Matching "by aspects of style" would be even harder - ie impossible with my current knowledge set.

    What I hope is that, despite my ignorance, the children (and I) will acquire a basic love and appreciation for each of these separate fields.

    I also - and I forget where I read this - must trust that my children are intelligent enough to make some of the connections for themselves, ie not need everything fed to them a la unit studies, where you must not see or do anything unrelated to whatever subject we are currently immersed in. :-)))

    Thanks for stopping by!

  11. Hey, sorry! I didn't at all mean you to take offense. I was just wanting to help out because I have an arts background, and I figured you probably don't, so I thought you might like some help in planning it out.

    You're absolutely right that kids don't need to be TAUGHT a lot of stuff about the arts. I would even go as far to say that if you don't have a reasonable background in teaching arts, I would just let them experience it without any commentary at all. Learning history about composer for example, (which is what a lot of teachers fall back on, when they don't know how to teach about the art itself) is, IMO often worse than just letting the kids enjoy it for themselves.

    When your kids can read music things get really fun - for example you can teach maths together with Bach, and a lot of 'classical' literary technique, (eg. rhetoric) is enhanced beautifully by teaching Mozart/Haydn Sonata forms.

    Good luck!


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