Common Sense Press First Grade Language Arts Program Review

Posted on Posted in Homeschool

There are so many curriculums out there that it’s not only hard to choose, but it can be quite overwhelming.  You want to get just the right one.  You know that once you start a program, you will do it for at least a year even if it’s bad.  And if it was bad, then you have to start all over with your research.

No one wants to get the wrong curriculum for their family.  No one wants to start all over.

I hope this review will leave you with a definite impression of the Common Sense Press First Grade Language Arts program that it is either perfect for you and your child, or it is not.

Academic Focus

The first grade program is also known as the Blue Box Kit.  It focuses on phonics, higher-order reasoning, reading, spelling, grammar, vocabulary, and handwriting.  For this reason, when using this program, you eliminate the need for separate spelling, vocabulary, and handwriting courses unless you feel your child needs extra attention to one of these areas.  It is my opinion that it is absolutely comprehensive.

My child worked on pretty much every area, every day, and in a fun way.

Included in the Blue Box Kit

  • Student Activity Book
  • Teacher/Parent Lesson Plan Book
  • Make Sound picture cards
  • Consonant and Vowel cards
  • Game cards
  • 28 readers (12 short vowel readers, 6 bridge readers, and 10 long vowel readers)

Curriculum Set-Up

The Teacher’s kit is laid out in 36 lessons which are all 5 days long.  This is set up perfectly for a 180 day school year.  For those who are doing year-round schooling (as we have done in the past), this could easily be divided into 4 day weeks.

There is an initial assessment, and then 4 sections each followed by its own assessment.

Part 1 is Readiness and consists of 2 lessons.

Part 2 is Short Vowels and consists of 17 lessons.

Part 3 is Consonant Blends and Short Vowels, which consists of 5 lessons.

Part 4 is Long Vowels and consists of 12 lessons.

What Daily Work Looks Like

The teacher’s manual has a numerical list of what to have the child do.  Activities include reading to your child, having him retell the story back (or read as he is able), and doing activities that solidify the lesson.

The work usually starts with the parent/teacher working directly with the child, and progresses to something the child can do more on his own, and then finishing with independent work.

Depending on how fast your child likes to finish his handwriting, spelling, and reinforcement activity, lessons should take ½ to 1 hour to complete.

What An Assessment Looks Like

All 5 assessments have generally the same format.  I have found that I needed someone to completely occupy all my little ones (either daddy or older children) for the assessments.

Assessments are 1 on 1 with the child, and he must be able to clearly hear every word/sound you say.  Background noise could (and most likely will) affect his performance.  If you don’t have a way to make your home quiet or get a babysitter for 20 minutes, I highly suggest you do assessments during nap-time.

While this may panic you at first, realize there are only 5 assessments.  You could alternately just keep your child up for 20 minutes 5 times in the next year after the little children go to bed.  It’s not so bad.  They are quick.

Perfect For Classroom Use

As I read the instructor’s manual for the first time, it became obvious to me that this is not just homeschool curriculum.  Classroom instructions are given should this be taught in a private school.

I say private school, because it is very obviously Christian oriented.

Many group activities are given as suggestions.

I do believe doing 1 on 1 assessments would take a long time to get through.

Perfect For Homeschool Use

Although group activities are given, they are easily adapted to a parent-student activity if teaching an only child, or can be adapted for activities to do with other children (mostly of near the same age).

Most of the learn-by-practice (acting out) activities my first grader does with younger children.

The books that are used for curriculum are used over and over so that my child can easily use his reading time to read his books to younger children while I step away to work with older children.

Everything I have come across in this curriculum (although I have a couple weeks left), can be done at home.  Nothing needs to be done in a classroom setting.  There are even field trip suggestions that go perfectly with lessons.

I Love This Curriculum For Multiple-Grade Homeschooling

I mentioned before how the books are tailored to be read by the student, and how mine uses this time to read to younger children (which frees me up to work with older ones).

I also mentioned that the learning-by-practice exercises he does with younger children too.

The activities and reading can all be done in a way that encourages group work if other children are available.  Those of us with older students understand how valuable this is not only as a way for the younger children to be included (and safely occupied), but also for us as a parent to work with older children.

Most day’s work ends with some sort of art/project or reading.  I have a habit of moving to another child as he finishes his work.

Let’s talk about the independent work/art projects.  Many art projects I have in the past tried to do with my children have meant that I had to be right there helping.  These projects and independent work are set up to give the child independence.  You may in the beginning have to assist with scissor work if your child is uncomfortable with them, but as s/he gets better, projects are done with minimal assistance if you need to work with another child.

The best part?  Many other of our subjects are “book” work.  Although it is work every day, this program is not “book work.”


No review would be honest and complete without listing downfalls and hesitations, and I want to be perfectly honest with you.

I had hesitations when starting this program.  I didn’t know if it would be right for this child.

As many of you who have homeschooled your own child through preschool and kintergarden know, children who enter first grade with previous schooling already read a bit.  The particular child whom I did this program with had been reading his own ESV bible every night before starting first grade.

So…I had a hesitation with any curriculum that looked “easy.”  I thought perhaps I should start with the 2nd grade (Red Kit) curriculum—and I almost did.  But I realized two things.  First, every 1st grade curriculum I was going to look at probably started off pretty easy too.  Second, this is homeschool.  I don’t have to limit his activities to only those too easy to him, nor do I have to work through it super slowly just to stay “on schedule.”  There is nothing wrong with moving fast, and in a couple weeks, we will start the Red Kit.  That’s the beauty of homeschool.

And I think this would have been the same situation no matter what program I used.

Reusable Resources

Everything in this kit with the exception of the Student Manual can be used again.  I will have at least 3 more children that will use this curriculum, and I will only have to purchase the Student Pack again.  Those of you who purchase curriculum for multiple children every year will appreciate that.


Most language arts and reading programs use children’s books.  I love how this program lists the books you will need separately.  You have the option to purchase them or get them from the library.  They are all popular books that you should be able to find at your library.

Complete review of the Common Sense Press Blue Box (1st grade) Language Arts program. Includes all materials, daily work, assessments, and how it fits in with homeschooling multiple grade levels of children at the same time.

Overall, I am happy that I started this student on the Common Sense Press Blue Book Kit, and I look forward to starting the Red Book Kit in a couple weeks.


For More Information

For more information, click the Learning Language Arts Through Literature Kit Grade 1 (affiliate) link.  It also lists the correlating reading books that you should be able to easily find at your library, or purchase for you own home.  I personally purchased all but 2 of them, even though they are all available at my local library (which is tiny).


Are there other homeschool curriculum you would like to see detailed reviews of?  Let me know.


2 thoughts on “Common Sense Press First Grade Language Arts Program Review

  1. I’ll be looking for a first grade lesson plan soon enough. That is great that it can be reused for younger children. That is always a bonus.

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