Advice - Grade One

Dear Homeschooling Parent,

First Grade is the springtime of your child’s education, with a chance to draw out a love of learning like the sun draws daffodils from the thawing ground.

Your role as parent is to see your child as a unique, beautiful, unrepeatable being and to draw out their divine purpose and destiny. First Grade is the “official” beginning of that process. But it actually began much earlier with attention to the atmosphere of the home, good books, time outdoors, learning to listen and see, and more.

Our Grade One Teaching Guide helps you navigate these early days with your child. The disciplines of attention, recall, character, and joyful learning are addressed, as well as helping your child learn to read well, narrate well, and listen well. Colonial America is the area of study for American history. We spend the year in World History with Ancient Civilizations, a topic of fascination to most children.

A unique feature of Living Books Curriculum is using living books within the national guidelines for science learning. For science we use the four strands of scientific inquiry—life, physical, earth, and health—one strand for each of the four terms.

It is recommended to teach your child to read beginning in First Grade rather than earlier. Research shows a child’s ability to near-focus (read print) doesn’t develop fully until age 6, or sometimes much later. A child may learn to read and later tire and grow resistant to reading if it is taught too early.

Learning to read is the beginning of learning itself. Without a good foundation, all the great books or curriculum are of little use. I found teaching my child to read was a special privilege because the whole world of books opened to them. For a parent to teach this most important of skills requires the right touch. Unfortunately most reading programs focus on decoding words (aka phonics). Decoding words is surely key. But decoding is not the same as reading well, reading with enjoyment, or reading because you want to. That skill is best taught through the use of words in context—better known as stories.

LBC has brought back the Free and Treadwell Literature-Reading series, which uses an excellent phonics program along with well-written, beloved folktales. The sample provided in the link above has a preface that shows you the rationale and the richness of the reading program. Our mothers report that their children even ask for The Primer outside of school time.

Other distinctive traits of a CM curriculum are Picture Study, Nature Study and Composer Study. Also included are Storytelling, Poetry, and Geography. Additionally, Dictation and Recitation form part of the memory and copywork for your child.

Age 6 is also when narration begins. Narration is one of the foundation stones of learning. A narration student of Miss Mason’s we delighted in teaching said afterwards, “We read, we narrate, we know.” To understand narration better, see, “Telling Back: The Art of Narration.”

What should First Grade be like?

There is an old saying, “Begin as you mean to go on.” This is perfect for First Grade because the form and style is much like the upper grades. It is the books that change in each grade, not the method . Charlotte Mason put it this way:

The fundamental idea is, that children are persons and are therefore moved by the same springs of conduct as their elders. Among these is the Desire of Knowledge, knowledge-hunger being natural to everybody. Histories, Geography, the thoughts of other people, (in other words), the humanities is proper for us all, and are the objects of the natural desire of knowledge. So too, are Science, for we all live in the world; and Art, for we all require beauty, and are eager to know how to discriminate; social science, Ethics, for we are aware of the need to learn about the conduct of life; and Religion, for …we all ‘want God.’—Charlotte Mason, A Philosophy of Education, p. 4

What is this method and how do you do it in your homeschool day? Here is a snapshot of the method which will help you begin to see the possibilities for your homeschool: Seven Keys and Six Tools.

If you are new to Charlotte Mason education, and your child’s early years didn’t hold all the things you had hoped for, no worries. Truly! You can begin now. Children are wonderfully resilient and they know the genuine article (living books) when it is given them, just like the daffodil knows the sun. Have a look at my article on “Planning a CM Day.

Grade One Living Books Curriculum Exclusives

Health Science

You will really appreciate this complete health science curriculum, “Growing Strong and Healthy.” Topics range from “What are germs?” to “Why do we need sleep?” As a mother, I often wished I had this simple easy-to-use book to answer my child’s questions.

Literature-Phonics Reading Program

Reading-Literature Teacher’s Guide challenges the notion that learning to read is a matter of word repetition and phonic drill. Margaret Free and Harriett Treadwell saw literature as the ideal form for teaching reading because stories and poems capture the child’s interest, making learning an easy road. This guide is designed to accompany The Primer, First Reader and Second Reader and provides a simple, lesson-by-lesson plan for teaching beginning reading. The authors believed that if you give children something worth reading and use it as a vehicle for learning to read, they will be life-long readers.


Aesop’s Fables with Scripture References, Sheila Carroll, ed.  LBC Aesop’s Fables with Scripture References is unique in editions of the fables. We painstakingly added the Scripture references for each moral. It is a republication of the 1912 edition, with illustrations by the incomparable artist Arthur Rackham.


A Child’s Garden of Verses, Myrtle Sheldon’s stunning illustrations are the backdrop to this edition of Robert Louis Stevenson’s wonder-filled poetry for children. First published in 1885 and continuously in print since then, Stevenson’s poems takes us sailing into the land of make-believe where a bed is a ship, a meadow a sea, and a swing can touch the clouds.


Italics: Beautiful handwriting for children is a penmanship book by Penny Gardner and published by LBC which follows Charlotte Mason’s guidelines for learning to write.

Planning for Learning

LBC created a 36-week schedule divided into four terms. Each term is eight weeks of instruction, with the ninth as a “flex” week. The flex week permits the student to complete unfinished work, the teaching parent to assess learning through end-of-term narration questions, and also allows time for field trips. You can begin and end each term as best fits your schedule. Here is a sample from the Grade One Week-by-Week Planner.

End-of-Term Narration Questions

“End-of-term narrations” for each subject are provided for you in order to assess your child’s learning. These follow Charlotte Mason’s guidelines and provide you with documentation of work.

Narration Notebooks™

LBC provides you with a template for transcribing your child’s narrations. Children are often delighted by the results, as they end up with their own book once the narrations are complete.

Often Asked Questions

What are the books and subjects covered in Grade One?

Why do you use storytelling in your curriculum?

What if I want to teach multiple children with this teaching guide?

When should I begin narration?

What is a living book?

Living Books Curriculum uses books that are (for the most part) considered “living” according to Charlotte Mason’s guidelines. The books must “warm the imagination, nurture thinking, and communicate knowledge mind-to-mind”. Children require books that are living in order to develop to their fullest capacity. The high quality of thought expressed in great literature breeds like thought in the child. When the books are many, varied, and living, the child is able to adopt the ideas in them just as a plant takes nutrients from the soil.

“For this reason we owe it to every child to put him (or her) in communication with great minds that he may get at great thoughts…and the only vital method of education appears to be that children should read worthy books, many worthy books.” A Philosophy of Education, p. 12.


Here to help

We’re here to help. Living Books Curriculum fully supports our curriculum though email and a Facebook Community. We invite you to join the growing community of parents using this wonderful way to home educate. Questions? Email me at

All the best,


P.S. 100% of the proceeds of your purchase help us help children in Africa to receive a living education. Jim and Sheila Carroll’s non-profit, Worldwide Educational Resources, has seven schools at this time, educating nearly 750 students. The Carroll’s non-profit was founded in 2000. Learn more.