2019-2020 Kindergarten and 2nd Grade Wrap-Up + Curriculum Review

Today’s post is a wrap-up of our 2019-2020 school year including our curriculum.  These types of posts are always my favorites to read on other homeschool blogs and I hope this is helpful to someone!

NYC has different age/ grade cut-off dates than most other places.  The year you turn 6 is your 1st grade year.  This year Ethan turned 7 in the late fall and Lillian turned 5 at the end of the summer.

I’ve broken down our Kindergarten and 2nd grade curriculum choices into the subjects required in NYC.  Kindergarten is not mandated in NYC so my daughter was not an officially registered homeschool student.  She will be next year for her 1st grade year.

I hope that this post illustrates that everything counts!  Homeschooling is a lifestyle which encompasses more than your curriculum choices.  I love choosing curriculum but it is just one part of a life full of learning and fun.


Kindergarten:  Lillian did not use a formal math curriculum.  She worked with our Montessori Materials, some printables and self-chose work during her school time.  She enjoyed the teen hanging bead frame, the hundreds board, the beads paired with count and clip cards, the game Roll and Record and some holiday themed worksheets from the Moffat Girls at Teachers Pay Teachers.  Math was not her favorite subject and I definitely did not push it (I firmly believe all academic work can wait until after a child turns 6).  One morning recently when she woke up, she asked me, “Do you want to see what I wrote in my notebook last night?”  She proceeded to show me how she wrote out all of her doubles facts (1+1 =2, 2+2=4, etc).  I had NO idea she even knew about doubles facts or how to write an equation.  She said she had been watching Ethan and she learned these things herself!  It was really amazing.  She let me know she is ready for more math work, all in her own time.

2nd Grade:  Master Books Math:  Math Lessons for a Living Education Level 2.  This is a religious curriculum and we are a secular homeschool.  But, it is very easy to simply overlook the small portions of the Math stories that did not apply to us.  We both loved this program.  The format was a story to read aloud and then problems to solve – always a good mix of review and practice with new concepts.  The pace felt gentle but never boring.  It was very “open and go” with absolutely no prep for the parent.  I felt it was very thorough and this level covered addition and subtraction (single digit, double digit and regrouping), word problems, measurement, simple fractions, money, time and bar and line graphs.  I am thinking about using Level 1 for Lillian next year.

Ethan also completed a Kumon math book on counting money and another on telling time for extra practice.  I will definitely use those books again with Lillian.

Ethan also enjoyed working with our Montessori materials – the stamp game for static and dynamic addition, the multiplication bead board and the bead chains.


Both kids loved the Skip Counting Songs on Spotify from Heidi Butkus and the math gamesSum Swamp and Dino Math Tracks.


Kindergarten:  We used a textbook that I had previously used with Ethan called, Phonics Pathways:  Clear Steps to Easy Reading and Perfect Spelling by Dolores C. Hiskes and Montessori’s Pink Series Language Program.  We will continue working with both of these in 1st grade. We also used BOB books.

2nd Grade:  We used the next level of the same program, Reading Pathways:  Simple Exercises to Improve Reading Fluency by Dolores C. Hiskes.  This book focused on reading accuracy and fluency.  I loved the format of a daily pyramid starting with one word and then phrases and lastly sentences.  As the amount of text increases on each line it builds eye span, strength and tracking, fluency and confidence.  Each pyramid has a different phonics focus and the book culminates in reading multisyllable words.  This is another very open and go curriculum.

Both:  Reading Eggs is an online phonics program that is a monthly subscription.  It is full of lessons and games and is a great supplement to your at-home phonics program.


Both kids also read independently each day and read aloud to me each day.


For Read Alouds, we typically read 2 picture books every day and 1-2 poems (not including bedtime books).  We loved reading poetry together over Poetry Tea Time!

Here are the chapter books I read aloud to both kids this year as part of our homeschool:

  • All of a Kind Family, All of a Kind Family Uptown and Ella All of a Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
  • Bunnicula by Deborah Howe
  • Catwings by Ursula K Le Guin
  • The Matchlock Gun by Walter D. Edmonds
  • The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner



Kindergarten and 2nd Grade:  We used Handwriting Without Tears – both for Kindergarten and 2nd Grade.  This is the same program I used when I was a NYCDOE teacher.  I am very familiar with it and both kids really, really like it.  We have the full kit – teachers guide, wooden pieces, foam mats and chalk boards.  It is amazing to look at the progress they both made in Handwriting this year.


Each child also wrote their own original stories often!  Lillian would either dictate hers for me to write or enjoy writing pages on her own.


Kindergarten and 2nd Grade:  We used Spelling You See – Level B.  This program develops visual memory to learn common spelling patterns. I felt this program was effective, age appropriate and both Ethan and Lillian loved the nursery rhyme format.  It was very age appropriate for Ethan and a little bit of a reach for Lillian.  We will also continue with this program next year!  Something that I did not realize is that you can use this program as a handwriting program as well.  At times I felt it was too much writing for young children between the two programs.



Kindergarten and 2nd Grade:  We used Story of the World:  Volume 1.  We love this program!  I also purchased the Activity Guide and we enjoy doing the activities that go along with each story.  I love that history is presented in chronological order and also that if we stick with it, we will re-visit this time period in the next 3 year cycle.  We always do History together.



Kindergarten and 2nd Grade:  We used Beautiful Feet Books:  Around the World with Picture Books.  To be honest, this was the hardest to keep up with. The program is lovely and the books are beautiful but if we skipped something, it was usually this.  We will try to finish it this summer.  Story of the World, our history program, contains geography work (maps, bodies of water, continents, cardinal directions) so I do feel like we still covered quite a bit of Geography.



Kindergarten and 2nd grade:  Science is another subject we always do together.  I did not purchase a formal science curriculum this year.  We completed a Timeline of Science Sticker Book which was a great way to look at the progress of scientific advancements.  Also:

  • Weekly Forest School – Homeschool Program with Brooklyn Nature Days
  • We planted a garden
  • We used an InsectLore kit to watch caterpillars transform into butterflies
  • We kept nature journals
  • We watched videos on YouTube – Science Max
  • Ethan took weekly classes at Brooklyn Robot Foundry 
  • Ethan got a microscope for his birthday and loved learning how to prepare slides and study specimens.

Health Education

Kindergarten and 2nd Grade:  Both kids learned to prepare healthy recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  We do not use a formal health curriculum.  We talk often about making healthy choices and what we can do to keep our bodies healthy.


Kindergarten and 2nd Grade:  For the first half of the year we read through the Usborne Book of Famous Composers and listened to the corresponding classical music.  We studied the Nutcracker and The Magic Flute and saw a kid’s version of each performed live!  During our quarantine, both kids loved taking piano lessons online from Hoffman Academy.

Visual Arts

I did not purchase a formal art curriculum.  We had a subscription to Artventure which was great for drawing lessons.  We used Usborne cards for studying famous paintings as well as several Usborne art history books.  We visited the Met Museum and completed many seasonal arts and crafts projects.  Both kids loved selling their artwork at our annual Wild + Free Homeschool Handcraft Fair in December.

Physical Education

Kindergarten and 2nd Grade:  Our PE consisted of hikes with forest school and weekend family hikes, weekly bike rides, outdoor play with Wild + Free, swim lessons, Tae Kwon Do lessons and ice skating lessons.

Bilingual Education

Kindergarten and 2nd Grade:  This year one of the moms in our Wild + Free group provided weekly French lessons to any children who were interested.  They were fantastic and we are so grateful!  My kids learned the days of the week, colors, names of food, how to count and vocabulary for weather.

Field Trips

This year we visited:

  • The Met
  • The NY Hall of Science
  • Intrepid Museum (they run a wonderful homeschool day program!)
  • Puppetworks
  • The Little Orchestra Society
  • Radio City Music Hall
  • American Museum of Natural History
  • Prospect Park Zoo
  • Sweet Briar Nature Center
  • Tea Town Nature Preserve
  • The Nature Place (we learned how to tap trees and make maple syrup!)
  • Theodore Roosevelt Bird Sanctuary
  • Blydenburgh Park (we built our own small boats and set them sailing!)
  • Sunken Meadow State Park
  • Planting Fields Arboretum
  • Lewins Farm


Kindergarten and 2nd Grade:  Both kids kept a gratitude journal and took 1 class each with Outschool.

As part of our Wild + Free group we enjoyed weekly free play with friends in nature, weekly time for nature journaling, monthly book clubs and a winter handcraft fair.

Both kids enjoyed ice skating lessons at Lakeside, playdates with homeschool friends, using apps with Osmo and Cosmic Kids Yoga.   Ethan loved his boat building class with Koko NYC and Lillian loved her ballet, jazz and tap classes with a local dance studio.

And that’s a wrap on our homeschool year!  It was a crazy year for everyone but writing out this post helped me focus on the good and all the academic progress the kids made!

I will write a post soon with our curriculum choices for this upcoming year.

Online Learning Tools that we Have Loved for Quarantine Schooling

We are pretty low-tech in our homeschool.  But when quarantine schooling met a string of bad weather, there were suddenly a lot more hours in every day.  At least it seemed that way!  Here are some websites and apps we have been using and enjoying.

Reading Eggs

Reading Eggs is a great app for phonics and math.  There are two levels of phonics learning – one for 5-7 year olds and one for ages 7-13.  While I don’t think you can rely on this website/app as your sole phonics program it’s a great supplement.  And my kids love it!

We’ve also found 3 channels we love on YouTube!

Science Max

“Have you ever done a science experiment and wondered what it would be like if you did it big?  Science Max has!  Both kids love these videos that show amazing science experiments and they have learned a lot from watching.

Hoffman Academy

Mr. Hoffman offers free piano lessons to kids of all ages.  Both of my kids were complete beginners.  My in-laws have a piano and they have both talked about wanting to learn to play.  So it was the perfect time to try out free online lessons!  They were highly motivated to start and Mr. Hoffman’s lessons are really, really well done.  Each lesson builds on the last and the challenge/ difficulty level seems great.  Just enough challenge without being too frustrating.  Ethan, age 7, was able to complete Unit 1 all on his own.  Now that we are in Unit 2, he likes me to be near him when he watches his lesson and practices so it requires a bit more time and attention from me.  I’m not a piano teacher, or really musically inclined at all, but I can still help him at this point.

Cosmic Kids Yoga

I’m pretty sure you’ve probably heard of this one.  We love the Yoga and Mindfulness videos from Jamie!  I can’t believe this is a free resource.  Great way to get your kids moving when they have to be indoors.  There is so much content on her channel and lots of videos are based on favorite kids movies and characters.

Is there any new technology you have tried during your lockdown?



What We are Reading Wednesday: Homeschool Workbooks

Earlier in the week I mentioned we have been using more workbooks during quarantine schooling then we usually use.  Below is what we have been using and some affiliate links to the check out some of the workbooks on Amazon.

Gratitude Journals

The kids and I all have a simple notebook where we write down one thing we are grateful for each day.  We have been doing this all year and it was easy and important to continue.  I love this for creating a grateful attitude, positive mindset, handwriting and invented spelling practice!

We also were using these before the lockdown began.  But with so much time on our hands my son was able to complete them quickly!  I love Kumon books for extra practice on key skills and will use these in the future with my daughter as well.

Master Books

I used this book as a compliment to our Montessori Math Materials this year.  During the lockdown, this was the only math material we used.  I think it’s a great curriculum.  It moves slowly but not too slowly, has just the right amount of practice and teaches developmentally appropriate skills.

Disclaimer:  these books have religious content.  We are a secular family/ homeschool so I simply omit any parts of the story that I need to.  The math content is great which is why I like using this book.  I plan to use the Level 1 book for my daughter next year.

Handwritng Without Tears

This was also our handwriting curriculum pre-lockdown.  But with lots of extra time, both kids progressed through their levels quickly!  I used this program as an NYCDOE teacher and like using it in our homeschool as well. It is cheaper to purchase this curriculum directly from the company.



Ethan loved completing this sticker timeline of scientific inventions!

All Subjects

Both of my kids love Star Wars and they love these Star Wars workbooks!  This is our 2nd year having these for various kinds of extra practice.


Fun Type Workbooks!

In March and April when the weather was cold, gray and wet, these books were great to have on hand.


From Homeschooling to Quarantine Schooling

As a follow-up to my recent post about more families choosing to homeschool this upcoming fall I was thinking about what a change that would be for so many.  I was wondering what I could write that could be helpful.  First, I thought I would share what a change coronavirus brought upon our homeschool.  Because even for us homeschoolers, quarantine schooling is very, very different.  

Here is an honest look into our “homeschool” during Coronavirus Lockdown in NY.  Please keep in mind that we are at the epicenter of the outbreak and things might not have felt as severe or life-changing where you live.

On one hand, I did feel uniquely positioned to make a change from homeschooling to quarantine schooling.  I certainly felt at an advantage over parents whose children were now home suddenly from “real” school.  Many people have said, “this must be so easy for you!”  The truth is it’s not.  It’s disruptive and different, just in a another way.

We live in NYC and life as we know it was shut down on March 16.  I had actually become a little nervous earlier than that so my kids had already been kept home from some activities since two weeks earlier.

But the lockdown meant an official end to our Wild + Free meetups, field trips and book clubs.  An end to my daughter’s dance class and weekly Friday playdates.  An end to my son’s robot class and boat building class.  No more swim lessons or forest school.  As you can see, homeschoolers are actually not “home” all that much.

Beyond outside activities, what it also ended initially was my bandwidth for creativity and magic in our homeschool.  The stress of our new normal, watching the infections rise and death toll climb.  The very personal and sad loss of a beloved family member.  The initial need to be watching the news constantly (the adults, not with the kids).  The fear of going to the grocery store.  The worry of food shortages.  The stress was very real.

In search of family support, more space and better stocked grocery stores, we decided to head out to my in-laws on March 13.  They had invited us to stay with them.  My husband thought it would be for the weekend.  I thought it would be for two weeks.  We are on Day 93. 

In terms of homeschooling, I knew it would be helpful to set up a rhythm for our days while we were here.  Children love predictability and take comfort in knowing what to expect.  I decided we would have “homeschool time” every day from 9ish-12ish.  This would not only give us plenty of time to get our work done, but also give the other adults in the house a few hours of uninterrupted peace.  Then the kids could have plenty of free time in the afternoons.

Now, what do we do with all that school time?  I only brought a few books and a bunch of workbooks with us (I did not bring most of our Montessori learning materials because they are big and take up a lot of space). So, we write in our gratitude journals, work in our handwriting and math workbooks, do our phonics lessons, read books aloud (everyone takes a turn), create things with cardboard, crayons and tape, listen to music and work on projects from our Story of the World curriculum.  We love this curriculum – great stories to read aloud and an activity book that you can photocopy with pictures to color, maps to label, word searches and more.  The kids are also taking free online piano lessons during this time.  They also love using an online phonics program called Reading Eggs.  Often, the kids will take breaks and play with the toys in my in-laws basement (many are their dad’s old toys!).

As you can see we kept things very simple.  In the beginning, this helped me feel like we were still accomplishing things even though my focus was elsewhere – mainly stressing out about coronavirus. But, on a positive note, without any outside activities – we have had a LOT of dedicated academic time.  Much more than usual.  By keeping things simple and with so much time, the kids have been flying through our curriculum!

As this lockdown continues, my mindset is changing.  Previously, I was in the mindset of, put your nose to the grindstone and just get by.  Lately, we’ve been more apt to work on creative projects.  A friend of my father-in-law has also started giving the kids Tae-Kwon-Do lessons via Zoom!  And we’ve been able to get out of the house and spend time outdoors at state parks and beaches.  While we are out of the city, we are really trying to take advantage of our close proximity to gorgeous nature!

With their free time in the afternoon, during the colder months we focused on indoor art projects.  They tried oil pastels and enjoyed old favorites like air dry clay, watercolor paints, water beads and sticker mosaics.  We’ve learned how to make bread from scratch and strangely really, really like doing that.  The kids are spending TONS of time outside now.  But for March and April, the weather was really crummy.  So we enjoyed TONS of Disney+.

The craziest part of all of this is that after all of this change, my kids are fine.  They have each other.  They have always been best friends and they play together ALL DAY LONG.  Of course they miss their friends, classes and home.  But they have been such troopers and quickly adjusted to their new normal.  

I think being with loving family members is the main reason for their resilience. My kid’s grandparents love spending time with them and enjoy playing with them.  They are truly wonderful.  Quarantining as a larger family unit has been a very special experience.  It certainly would have been very different (i.e., sad and lonely) if we had just been the 4 of us in our small apartment.  With more hands there is more attention, more patience and more love!  

 We are SO fortunate to have such a wonderful relationship with my husband’s parents.  I’m sure this could not be the situation for everyone.  We are extremely, extremely grateful.  My mom even drove to visit us from NJ twice.  And let me tell you, 5 adults:2 children is the perfect ratio!

I think that while our quarantine schooling did keep us on track with our academic goals, more important lessons happened from spending so much time with family.  I’m so happy my kids could have so much time with their grandparents.  How cool is it that my kids had the example of their grandpa reading the newspaper – the real newspaper, not internet news – every single morning?  For me, personally, I’m so grateful to have learned so much from my mother-in-law about how to take care of your home and family like a boss!

I hope we can all look back on this time together as a gift.  The gift of time together that no one was ever expecting.

Quarantine Schooling is very different than Homeschooling.  So if you are planning to homeschool this fall, consider that it might look different than it could if there were no corona.  I am wondering what will be open?  What will I be comfortable with?  How busy do we really want to be with outside activities?

We will be heading back to Brooklyn soon so things will change again for us.  Good thing children are so adaptable!  And I guess so is our homeschool.