Today I wanted to take a second to give you a closer look at Oak Meadow’s First Grade program. I call this a “Mini-Review” because I have not been using it 100 percent as written with Mr. Man this year because he just wasn’t as ready for organized schooling as I had anticipated he would be when I purchased the level. Typically, when I write a review, I’ve used the whole shebang, as written. This time, since I didn’t start out using it with the intention to review it, I’ve poured over the books, and made it work for his needs.
Overall, Oak Meadow 1 is kind of the perfect curriculum for a child like Mr. Man who really needed a gentle introduction to formal schooling. I was able to use the syllabus as a guide, and never actually have the book at the table to intimidate him. Instead, each week I would read over the outline for the upcoming week’s lesson, make notes of the activities I wanted to cover with him, internalize the stories so I could tell them while cuddling on the couch, and just go on with life. It really worked well for us!
I couldn’t just keep my thoughts to myself, since I was (again) so impressed with Oak Meadow’s curriculum. Here are the nuts and bolts of how this level works, and what it covers:
The Syllabus is broken down into an introduction to the year, introductions to each trimester, 36 weekly lessons, and a section with songs, verses and fingerplay poems to use throughout the year.
The introduction explains how you can incorporate a morning circle/morning meeting routine into your home which sets the tone for the day and helps you gain focus in the mornings. For us, Circle Time is the perfect time to get all the kids together, and start the day on a happy foot. We always sing a song or two, dance the wiggles out, talk about the weather and our plans for the day, discuss important topics, and just have a good time.
It also discusses the importance of imitation to a child’s development and gives some ideas for giving a first grade child age appropriate chores and responsibilities to do along side you. Ideas for creative play are included, and they even have recipes for things like homemade modeling clay. One of the most important topics covered in the introduction is how you can use the bedtime ritual to build up your child and support their learning.
In language arts, reading instruction starts with the very basics, by reviewing uppercase letters, lower case letters, and the sounds they make. Letters are taught through the use of stories that teach the shape and sound of the letter in a very creative way. Rhyming words, phonics games, letter formation and handwriting
The 4 processes in math (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) are introduced with a story about four gnomes. The gnomes help the child remember what each symbol does, and attaches the complex process to a tangible example. (For example, the gnome who represents subtraction is always loosing things!). Your child will be counting objects with you, and doing addition, subtraction, multiplication and division orally throughout the day. As a parent, you are encouraged to use everyday situations to teach these concepts. For example, at snack time, your child can count the crackers and divide them evenly with his siblings.
Social Studies starts with making a calendar with all the important events to your family on it. Your child will begin noticing cycles and seasons, as well as concepts like weeks and months. You’ll note things like moon cycles, when leaves begin to change color, when birds begin to migrate, and other little things that your child notices. Your child will also start some basic map work at the end of the trimester, and map their room and their home.
Science begins with nature walks, and creating a “nature table” in your home with found treasures and other objects to represent the current season. This trimester covers:
- The moon and its phases
- Seeds and plants,
- Animal tracks
- What living things need
- North, South, East and West
- Interactions in nature
- Animal adaptations
The second trimester takes kids from being able to recognize letters and the sounds they make, to teaching them to read with word families. 38 word families are taught within the 12 week trimester.
For Math, students move on from telling math stories, to writing problems down. The concept of the equals sign is taught through a story about a king who always makes sure his subjects are given an equal share. Odd and Even numbers are taught, as well as ordinal numbers, and skip counting by 2, 5 and 10.
Social Studies is all about Mapping. They start by mapping their neighborhood, and trying out giving directions based on a map. You’ll also look at town maps, state maps, road marks, and geographic features. You’ll look at the country as a whole, and talk about the climate. Then, you’ll look at the globe and talk about what life is like in different parts of the world. The trimester ends with stories from the time of Pocahontas, Christopher Columbus, Abraham Lincoln, Johnny Appleseed, and Clara Barton
Science is based on winter time. You will make snowflakes with your child and learn about snow, learn about deciduous and evergreen trees, and see how animals prepare for winter time.
Science this trimester also covers:
- The Artic and Antarctic Region
- Diurnal and Nocturnal Animals,
- Solid, Liquid, and Gas,
- Sea Life,
- Life Cycle of a Tomato Plant,
- The scientific method
We are just starting the third trimester with Mr. Man at the beginning of March. I think this trimester is going to be my favorite, for a few reasons. For language arts, we’ll work on reading by making our own little books. The introduction discusses how a child’s own handwriting is familiar and comforting to them, so practicing reading things they have written themselves is a good idea. Mr. Man has a huge amount of pride in the words he writes and he’s always making me little notes, so I really think he will enjoy making his own little readers. Reading instruction is focused on blends, and continues practicing word families and patterns.
For math, the vertical format is introduced using a story of a tree. I just love the little stories that make complex ideas simple and relatable. In a nutshell, the story goes that a tree has branches, and roots. If the people in the story break a branch from the tree, a root breaks also. If a branch grows, a root grows also. The syllabus then shows how to use this story to teach a child to add and subtract vertically. This trimester we’ll start with two digit addition and subtraction (without re-grouping). Drawing geometric shapes, money, and measurement concepts are also introduced this trimester.
Social studies is centered on civics, and getting to know the people who live and work in your community. The concept of hard work is taught with a story about George Washington, the idea of “playing fair” is taught with a fairy tale, the importance of rules by learning about an imaginary kingdom where all the rules were forgotten. They’ll also learn about taking responsibility for their actions, telling the truth, helping others, having compassion, and diversity. I love the focus on people’s gifts and the good things we do as a community. The focus of the semester is really on “finding the good” and celebrating it.
Science in the third trimester covers:
- The weather
- Life in a pond
- Frogs and beavers
- Life in a forest,
- Birds and bird nests
- Thunder and lightening
- Sounds in nature
- Budding trees
- Bees and pollination
Art, Music and Crafts
This year is full of fun, age appropriate activities. Here are a list of some of the things your child will enjoy this year:
- Beginning Recorder
- Make a Potholder
- Native American teepee
- Circle weaving
- Lemon pin cushion
- Flower Pressing
- Flower printing
- Finger knitting
- Make a bird feeder
- Make a Diorama
Physical Education and Health
This level also uses the Growing, Growing Strong book that the third grade level uses. You simply pick a subject to cover and work through the written lessons.
One of the best things about the first grade level are the thoughtful physical exercises scheduled into the program. These skills are explicitly taught: Exercise and hand-eye coordination, throwing and catching, jumping rope, kicking a ball, eye movement, fine motor exercises, strength and flexibility, crawling, animal walking, hopping, skipping, galloping, sliding, relay races (and more!).
My Thoughts: A Rhythm to the Year
This year has been nature centered, gentle, and fun which was exactly what I wanted for Mr. Man. Being outside, and experiencing nature is something that speaks to his heart. Setting up a nature table, learning about the changing of the seasons has been tons of fun. For first grade, I personally really want my children to have a gently, nature centered year. Oak Meadow, even used as a guide like I have this year, helps get us outside and noticing the beauty all around us.
Oak Meadow as a curriculum is really a recipe for a healthy, balanced home- one where learning and living go hand in hand. Learning how to create a rhythm to our days is one of the best things I’ve learned from our year with Oak Meadow. Instead of being a family who “does school” at home, we’ve become a family who’s home encourages learning. There isn’t a clear line showing when learning starts and stops. The “school day” is shorter and less stressful because I have learned how to weave stories and skills into day to day activities. We have a routine of telling stories at bedtime, or bath time, or while walking to the park. These stories are the basis of the rest of the school day.
It’s really a freeing thing, which still sounds silly coming out of my mouth in reference to a boxed curriculum. Oak Meadow, in my opinion is the anti-box box. It’s just wonderful, and absolutely gets my stamp of approval.
Oak Meadow currently has a sale running offering 15% off. (Through 1/14/2014). They do tend to also have a sale in May, but I can’t promise that will always happen. 🙂
A Note: I purchased the complete Oak Meadow 1 Curriculum used off of a friend after we were given a chance to review Oak Meadow 3. While writing this review, I contacted Oak Meadow to see if there were any major differences between the copyright I had (2005) and the newest version, and was offered a used 2010 Syllabus to compare differences. If at all possible, I would recommend purchasing the newer version, as Oak Meadow did a beautiful job updating it with an easy to use layout. The 2010 version is spiral bound while previous versions are not, it contains more color, and is better organized with a clear breakdown of activities. Both editions contain very similar content, but I much prefer the newer edition. The contents of the syllabus mentioned in this post are from the newest 2010 version of the curriculum, although past mentions of the OM1 program on this blog may be in reference to content found in the 2005 version. See the Oak Meadow Website for a sample lesson.
*Notice of Material Connection- I purchased this program on my own dime, and reviewed it just because I love it. I’m a big Oak Meadow fan. They did send me a used syllabus to facilitate comparing the used copy I have to their current copyright. All opinions are my own.*