Intro to 1GRD

LAST RODEO NOTE: My youngest is in 1GRD 2020-2021. There will likely be no further updates to these pages unless Jesus sends you someone who wants to take on that responsibility for me. Like this year, I haven’t even made a Liturgical Calendar schedule. Even if I get around to it, next year will be the LAST year likely.

Classical Education is a totally different educational worldview. Truth, goodness, and beauty are facets of the same diamond; they condition us to love all that is wise and good, to love God.  Ugliness (like some modern art, music, and historical facts), however influential and “important” to the world, is irrelevant and counter-productive to Classical Education’s aims.

Many “Classical Curriculum” providers use classical education methods to fill the child’s mind with exhaustive “important, influential” ugly material. The children can parrot reams of misery. Good for them. MoDG preserves your child’s innocence about the ugliness of the world. It encourages you to form him in goodness, truth, and beauty. Once properly formed, he will have the right natural reaction to the ugliness of the world. And, he can memorize all those exhaustive ugly facts and artists in a weekend.

After taking the Primary Stage course from the school (highly recommended) I have added in my personal understanding of the “goals” for each subject in italics and parentheses.

For actionable Do-Aheads for 1GRD, CLICK HERE.  


  • LOTS of crafts.  Lots of drawing.  Aesop’s and the saints and the poetry is 33 drawings. (Helps the child with pencil skills but is primarily a beginning form of retelling.)
  • Also, the list of crafts doesn’t seem to be that much, but The Stations of the Cross kit is ALL 14 stations! We’ve never done it. (Doing something with ordered instructions is the goal. Replace crafts at will, as long as there are ordered instructions.)
  • There are more “Child Sized Masterpieces” this year or you can use the First Grade Art book, which I much prefer. The cards are just too cumbersome.

Just remember that the point is for the child to really concentrate on the pictures and examine them at length.  Our curriculum calls it “close observation.”  Charlotte Mason calls it “really looking.” Whatever you call it, the names of the artists are much less important than the ability and facility with close observation.  That, and we want beauty to “do its work” on the child’s heart.

“We cannot measure the influence that one or another artist has upon the child’s sense of beauty, upon his power of seeing, as in a picture, the common sights of life; he is enriched more than we know in having really looked at even a single picture” (Mason, Vol. 1, p. 309).


  • The Language Arts focus this year is “Beginning, Middle, End.”  You mostly use it in religion this year. See the Do-Aheads for this grade level for more information about that.
  • This year you finish 100EZ and start reading practice in earnest. (We are 0 for 5 on this text btw. Dyslexia is a b….bad thing.)
  • Handwriting is 3 days a week. The old syllabi use Picard’s series. The new ones use “Writing Our Catholic Faith.” The Catholic version isn’t in color. The secular version is identical in the skills practice, but it’s in color. The sentences aren’t as cute, though. Regardless, the rumor is that Laura only added a handwriting book because parents wanted it. If you like a different series, say Handwriting Without Tears, just divide the book by 32 weeks and go for it.

LAST RODEO NOTE: We are 0 for 4 so far on the language arts goals in the early grades. 3GRD is when we finally get to “copying.” And I’m a professional children’s writer and still don’t know the meaning of “Beginning, Middle, End.” Getting in the important details of a retelling is a struggle all the way through for us.


  • Music is where you find the Latin this year.  (Vocal training is especially helpful in teaching order and sequence of mind.  Also, this music is some of our greatest hymns in English and Latin.)   Used to we did the Jemison 36 hymns. We used youtube if I didn’t already know the tune. Now there’s a second choice: soundcloud links paired with a school hymnal. I have old choir books here, so I don’t need the book, but we really dig the new hymn selections. (FYI, the “music” in the suggested schedule is not this 30-second daily hymn practice, it’s unassigned classical music appreciation.)
  • LATE in the year (Week 28), you will use the 4 music picture books with accompanying CD’s on Mondays and Thursdays. The Suggested Schedule puts this in the evening. (Music moves the heart.  When you’re upset, it can calm you.  Affection for truly beautiful, emotion-ordering music is important.  A child that doesn’t love helpful music will inevitably love only ugly music.) Only Peter and the Wolf has that old “beep–turn the page” interactivity. For the others, the CD is just music. We almost NEVER get to these.


  • Abeka 1 or Saxon 1. If you did the “Golden Step Ahead” MoDG plans last year that did not use Abeka K, this will be a shock.  This book assumes a lot happened last year. The “speed drills” aren’t for LEARNING the facts; they’re for speeding up the already-learned facts.
  • Facts drills aren’t scheduled, but they are necessary. Abeka worksheets in 2GRD-3GRD will take a really long time if the memory work isn’t done.


  • More Robert Louis Stevenson. (Again this exercises his memory, but more importantly, like music, poetry moves the heart. “Bed in Summer” is much more moving than the statement.  “Going to bed when it’s light out side is really hard.”)
  • These poems show up for review every year, at least through at least 7GRD. Unlike many other memory facts, these poems are never lost and become part of your family language.


Read Aloud has it’s own lists in the syllabus. There is no specific ORDER to the selections or requirement to complete the list. And it’s clear from school resources that the Berquist parents just divided the kids into “bigs and littles” for bedtime reading, and didn’t rigidly stratify by year. (Filling the child’s mind with stories of heroic virtue.  If you want a really good quick and dirty explanation of the how and why of virtue literacy, read the intro to Book of Virtues, and read the intro to each section in the Book of Virtues, and the paragraphs just preceding each selection.  It’s a QUICK classical worldview orientation. Plenty of Aristotle.)

*LAST RODEO NOTE: Many of the books on these lists are out of print. But DO NOT kill yourself trying to find them. The old versions aren’t THAT amazing. There are plenty of substitutes with same words and better illustrations. I spent tons of time and money hunting down every single one and ended up not loving them. 


  • The First Communion Catechism catechism covers the same basic material as Part I:Creed of the No. 1 catechism next year.  It’s the little kid version, though.  Also, it touches on bits of Part II and III from the No. 1 catechism.  Commandments, Sacraments & Prayer.
  • Also, we do a bunch of saints.  This is a heavy year for blank book entries.


  • This year you are supposed to be taking the kids out for regular nature experiences and doing simple experiments. It’s not in the syllabi, however…
  • They are in the brand new book! If you, like me, are juggling too many other things to make up your own walk and experiment ideas, get this book.


The new syllabi use First Grade Map Skills. It meets state standards, if you need that. Otherwise, it’s just a paragraph a week about a continent or state symbol. Used to, Laura discouraged officially teaching science or social studies this early; her grown kids have made different choices. Additionally, Laura recommends moving from Known to Unknown. These books also run afoul of that principle. But it’s certainly not going to HURT anyone to use them. Do what you like.