How to homeschool First Grade and Second Grade or 6 to 8 year olds


When it comes to Homeschool and Learning, True Jedis advocates for Mindful Homeschooling and we focus on the following:

  • Lots of Play
  • Free Thinking
  • Project Based Learning
  • Age Appropriate Learning
  • Real-Life Useful Skills

If you take every single item in this guide and apply to your homeschool life during one year, you will find that kids learn First and Second grade between 7. 5 and 8.5.

It’s true that by the time your child is 8.5 years old, he will not know a lot of the same things a Second Grader at school knows, but they will know other, hopefully more useful things that will give them an edge once they are older and ready to take on more interesting and ambitious learning. 

You will also find that your 5 and 6 year old does not know anything a Kindergartner knows. 

While kindergarten seems like a very long day loaded with meaningless content for a 5 year old like reading, writing, book reports, geography, napping, etc. First Grade seems very lacking and unchallenging. Kindergarten is not required and it would be beneficial to skip it and focused on spending as much time as needed playing. Developing social skills at this age is crucial for their future, I don’t mean their future as adults, I mean their future as kids who know how to get along with other kids, how to listen, how to compromise or find solutions that are win win. Have enough time to get acquainted with their emotions and learn to communicate them. 

What skills should a first grader have?

6-7 Year Olds

For this age just about every part of life (with the exception of going to sleep) is or can be play: Build stuff, Make stuff, Draw, Learn to make paper airplanes, make grocery lists and write some words however they come out, simple addition and subtraction using their fingers.

Spend time on fun facts about stuff like how the heart and the lungs work. 

Gardening,  shoveling, making fire, building forts…

Most homeschool classes at Science Centers, Libraries, Art Centers…start at 6 years old. Consider classes such as: Art, Dance, a foreign language.

Play card games, board games, games that require observation. Please see our post on Great Games for 6 Year Olds. 

6 year olds can practice shopping and reading the prices.

They can measure a space with their steps, they can estimate many things like how much salt a dish will need, how long a piece of string they’ll need to tie the doorknob to their bed, there will be a lot of hands-on trial and error in order to get to more accurate estimations. This is also called the scientific method.

They can learn the numbers from 0 – 30. They can learn some additions. They can tell what is half and they can be introduced to reading time on a clock.

You don’t need to drill your child with workbooks full of addition and subtraction pages. You can make them some pages as you go based on what you think they are ready for and what you know they know and can benefit from practicing on paper. If they are ready…if they are adding with their fingers, and making some simple calculations in their head and with their fingers, then the paper ones will be very easy and fun for them. 

Please note that such pen and paper exercises will not instill a love for Math, they are more for practicing, recognizing and writing numbers.

See Best Math and How to Help your Child Learn It

Currency denominations:

How many quarters make a $1? This is tangible. Take a bunch of quarters and make sets of two. Tell her two quarters make .50 c, and two .50 cents make $1.

Explain that 100 cents makes $1.

Explain quarters. 4 quarters make $1.

The above takes time, don’t expect your child to take it all in at once. Dish it out in small morsels that he can really savor.

Reading and Grammar

What is an adjective, what is a noun, what is a verb. Focus on one at a time, until they heard it several times and they ask you what is that? What is an “adjective”? Say it in grammar terms “an adjective modifies the pronoun”. What is a “noun”? Say a pronoun is something, a thing like -table, an adjective is “big” or “white” it’s what changes the table. “The pronoun”. Keep it light. Just leave it a that and move on. When they are 8 they will be able to fully understand and identify on the fly. Keep reading below for Grammar games.

6 to 7 year olds don’t have a real need for reading. They can do all the things they need to do, play all the age appropriate games, including card games and strategy games, play with other kids, plan things, build things, follow the instructions to build LEGOs, even go shopping and recognize the prices. 

Far more important is to read interesting books to them. Find out what your child likes and read to her. Adventures, funny stories, and some history appropriate for kids this age.

Showing them the letters and the letter sounds can be easy and fun, and gives kids a foundation for taking on more reading when they are ready. In fact, a lot of preschools teach this and kids learn it pretty effortlessly as long as it is made fun. 

Are kids that learn to read at 5 years old more successful than those who learn latter?

We are not sure if teaching kids to read in the early years is damaging, there has not been any research studies on this that I am aware of, but research tells us that kids that learn to read at 5 years old don’t become better readers than kids who start at age 7 or 8. 

Read here.

We also have a ton of evidence that children who don’t go to school will want to read between 8 years old and 11 years old on average. By the teen years there will be no difference in the reading between a child who started reading at 5 or who started reading at 9. 

While children are willing to interpret situations, scenes, book illustrations, and are allowed to focus on drawing, painting and practice writing before reading, they are developing creative thinking, analytical thinking and reading comprehension skills.

So that said, when kids are 6 years old I would continue the same focus on play, social play and adding a little arithmetic and interesting science. See Science Guide for 5 – 8 year olds.

At 6, I would introduce also more project-based learning and doing lot’s of crafts and art projects.

Read our Project-based Homeschooling with a ton of project ideas.

At the end of the year, make a roadmap for what next year will look like based on what you have observed that they are ready for and how the content can be best presented to the individual needs of each child.  How to Homeschool -Seasons has lot’s of ideas and suggestions for how to organize your homeschool year.

For First to Second Grade, or 7 to 8 year olds

If your child doesn’t  want to learn to read at 7 he’s probably just not ready. 

Depending on the child, he could:

Learn a Second Language

I put a lot of emphasis on second and third languages in this website because:

1. The younger we are when we learn a language the easier it is to learn.

2. Learning a foreign language for a young kid is almost second nature, specially if they are very young so this is one of the first subjects that can be introduced and learned. If you haven’t introduced a second language yet, don’t wait any longer because the window starts to close right about now.

3. Kids don’t need to know how to read and write to learn a foreign language, they just retain the words and vocabulary as long as it is taught through play and a lot of movement.

Reading

If your child is ready to read you can start with basic readers, flashcards and short books that contain the words they already know and some new words. An 8 year old who has found a reason to learn to read or really likes it, can be at second grade level of reading in a matter of months.

Grammar Games

They already know what a “word” is, start introducing the word “sentence” more and more such as: “can you repeat that sentence, will you read this sentence, I didn’t get to finish my sentence…”

Singular and plural. Work your way to mentioning these more often.

Pronoun and personal pronouns.

Pavement Game

Write pronouns and personal pronouns on the driveway of sidewalk with chalk. You call out skip on a pronoun or a personal pronoun, and when they are still on one leg standing on the type of word, they have to make a sentence with that pronoun or personal pronoun. Add verbs and adjectives as they get good at the pronoun/personal pronoun game. Once you have added pronouns, verbs, articles, adjectives, the game gets more challenging as kids have to skip to make a sentence. Sometimes a crazy sentence.

Grammar Card Game

On flash cards, write 10 adjectives, 10 present tense verbs with regular verbs and irregular verbs (for example: walk, play, eat, break, take, go, shake, feel, make, choose) , 10 nouns. Then write the Present, the Past, and the Progressive tense. Total 60 Cards. It’s kind of like Go Fish. This is a card game where you want to make sets of three cards. In the beginning you can make sets of 3 Progressives, 3 Presents, 3 Past tenses (they don’t have to be of the same verb). 3 Adjectives, 3 Nouns or 1 Presnt, 1 Past, and 1 Progressive and 1 Adjective 1 Noun, 1 Verb. The player who can gather four sets first wins.

Player 1: Do you have any past tenses?

The player who has been asked has more than one Past tense, she will relinquish all the Past tenses she has. if not: “No, Go Fish.” and Player 1 must take a card from the stack.

Etc.

The players might decide to change the rules to make the game more challenging once they got the hang of the game. Such as: making sets with the same verb.

You can modify this game to contain the whole list of irregular games and no adjectives and nouns. You can modify to be nouns, adjectives, adverbs, etc. Or Personal pronouns, verb persons, etc.

Kids often ask: What does (a word) mean? I often ask, “In what context?” They don’t know what that means, so I explained. Now, whenever I ask “In what context?” or “What is the context?” I can answer their question more accurately.

They can learn which one is the future tense, the past, the past perfect and the progressive tense -Same process as above. These is basic grammar and you don’t need to sit at the desk identifying verbs, nouns, adjectives, etc for 20 minutes everyday.

You just need to introduce them one at a time in conversation or light instruction so kids get the point that these are basic important things in their language to be acquainted with.

If they are around good grammar they will use good grammar. Encourage your kids to read and write a lot.

They already know and do a lot of things that at school they would have spent days if not weeks on “lessons” to learn things like identifying opposites. They learned most irregular verbs they use on their day to day, though they may still say “hided” instead of “hid” and a few other irregular verbs turned regular. They already know to use the conditional form, and the past perfect conditional like “I would have done…”

Writing

Use writing practice to practice the present continuous of each verb. Also words that are far from phonetic such as: sight, night, bright, right, know, knight, knee, break, make, take…The shapes: square, triangle, rhomboid, rectangle, circle. Write out the numbers.

Encourage them to write on the journal every night. Write down for them on a few pages.

– Something that was great

– Something I would change or improve

Do this together at bed time and help them if they ask questions or need help spelling. In time they may add other things that happened that day.

Encourage them to keep an agenda where they write down what they will do during the week. That way they look forward to some events, are informed and helps manage expectations.

Math Practice and Real life Math

To count into the hundreds. Count by 10s, 5s, and 2s. To recognize the numbers up to 100. To recognize all the hundreds. Memorize simple sums, Big sums, and two digit subtraction. 

Count money. Figure out change. Conceptualize multiplication, and then learn multiplication.

Solve problems that relate precisely to real life events such as: “The toy I want costs $10, I had $17 but I bought 4 things at the dollar store and I gave my friend enough to by 4 things also. That is $8 plus tax. So I have about $8 left. I need $3 more dollars to buy my toy.

Organize a yard sale. Give change and do simple change calculations.

They can learn to measure and figure out what half of that measurement should be.

The concept of multiplication and able to multiply.

Estimate how much fabric they might need for a project.

They can learn fractions.

Telling time starts to sink in.

I like to use a math book for the grade level but not a book that I have to teach. I wanted to make sure she asked me or her dad for help if she didn’t understand something but otherwise do it by herself. We use a Daily Math Practice book that allows our child to take charge of her own learning but also learn new concepts with our help. For that reason we wanted to make sure that the book we chose was not too ambitious, but also not too easy.

Second Grade Daily Math Practice worked out great because it’s structured in a very nice and easy to follow format. It also mixes things up quite a bit so kids don’t get tired of practicing the same skill for big chunks of time. It focuses a lot on word problems and introduces the concept of multiplication in a fun and gentle way.

Geography and Social Studies

A fun way to learn geography is through the culture, music, art and science of different areas of the world.

Find out what your child loves. If she likes Art read about different famous artists or other artists that were not so famous but should have win notoriety. Kids love to hear about the “underdog”. Read about different personalities, or historical characters. Talk about their family heritage, the part of the world or the area in the United States, what makes that area unique and how that played a role on their family ancestors.

See our free Natural Science Guide for 5 – 8 Year Olds

Art:

Kids use Art to learn. I can’t explain it any better, it’s as simple as that. If you can understand that kids learn through play, please understand that 5 – 8 year olds also learn through drawing, painting, modeling. Give them pencils and markers. Allow them to just sit and lose themselves in the drawing process, in the colors, in the details, the story-telling.

Please see my post How To Homeschool Through Art for some insight into what kind of art activities you can insert in homeschool as well as some age appropriate Art learning.

Project-Based Learning

Through Project-Based Learning 7 – 8 year olds learn: Engineering concepts, trial an error learning, math (arithmetic, measuring, fractions, geometry, word problems), innovation, leadership skills, and learning autonomy.

Project-based Homeschooling: Stages and Organization and 43 Project Ideas by age level to get a sense of how to organize it, what learning to target, definitinos, and project ideas, and articles containing lot’s of hands on activities.

Evaluating situations and decisions

Pros and Cons: Teach your children to evaluate things based on the pros and cons. For example “Should I get my ears pierced?” Help her make a list of pros and ask her how important those “pros” are (she might say very important, medium, not very important). Then evaluate the cons.

Do this with any relevant opportunity:

Should we eat out tonight? What is better to have your own room or to share with your sibling? Etc.

Once you have identified the pros and cons and weighted-in their importance, ask how do you feel about the decision? What do you want to do?

Listening Skills

This is a good skill to practice which will give them a huge advantage as kids and also when they get older. Listening is a real skill. It is difficult to separate your ego and own agenda when listening, and requires practice.

Encourage your child to listen to a friend or adult and ask questions about what they are saying. Recap what they think they understood. Encourage to clarify. Ask for details about what this person thinks about what they are a talking about. They make mention some way they feel about it.

This skill is also important when it comes to saying No. Saying no can be a skill in and of itself.f There are kids that will push back at home, say No! to mom or dad on a regular basis, and we give them credit for being willful and strong-headed (though annoying) but when it comes to peer pressure or a dominant kid getting them to do something they don’t want to do, they will not say No to that dominant kid. They need to learn to say No, and not just at home.

Suggested Classes

Music or learning to play an instrument, Theater or Musical Theater, a foreign language, a sport, Ceramics.

HOMESCHOOL FIRST TO SECOND GRADE – GETTING ORGANIZED

You could start establishing a routine to devote a day or two per week on things like reading, arithmetic, some science… Most lessons take way less time to learn at home, such as reading, grammar, math, geography, history, etc.

You may find that it in order to get enough reading, writing, and arithmetic to get your 8 year old to a Second  Grade Level, you are not able to pack geography, grammar and history into the day. Sometimes kids are very willing to seat and listen and do “homeschool” activities for a couple of hours, sometimes just 20 minutes is like torture. Find ways to insert those subjects into the rest of the day like reading a biography or a real life story at bed time. Or discuss grammar in the car. Quiz them about Natural History when you are commenting on the weather or the season. Leave the reading for the car trip to and from places.

Remember that homschooling does not have to happen around the dining room table.

…don’t lose sight of the PLAY and SOCIAL factor. Kids that go to school are at 2nd grade at this age, that doesn’t mean that they don’t need to spend most of their waking time playing. They do. In fact now more than ever kids start to really trust their physical skills so they require a lot of time at the park playing, climbing, swinging, doing monkey bars, climbing trees, chasing, coming up with games to play with other kids, pretend playing, and playing other more structured games like card games, chess, or any game that requires strategy is great. See Great Games For 6 Year Olds.

Allocate time for classes, field trips, and sports outside the house.  If you can’t afford private organizations for Art classes, Sport activities etc. Look for the ones offered at your local Art Center, Community Centers, The Library, Public pool swim classes, free museum days, free cultural events, Culture Passes, etc.

This is a good time to introduce a special notebook with which to use to write, draw, color, keep mementos, photos, cards. Make calculations, designs for whatever project needs to be built, notes, lists, sketches, plans, mementos, etc.

I like the medium to large notebooks with large coils that allow the notebook to expand in thickness. See Intentional Learning -Supplies. The notebooks I like are pricey but they will last for years and the plastic hardcovers make them very durable. I like that they come with different types of pages that make it more fun.

See Intentional Learning Supplies for a short list of must haves and my favorite Planner For Mom.

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