When it comes to favorite curriculum choices, mine are always changing! Aren’t yours? I tend to make occasional posts, once a year or so, about what we are using currently. This year is a little bit different because I have the privilege and honor of being on The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew, so I’ve had the opportunity to use quite a few new products that I’d not have seen otherwise. I can’t wait to share with you some of our new favorites, as well as reveal some standards that have remained.
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First, to know whether or not you’ll even care what I think about homeschooling, let alone value my opinion on favorite curriculum choices, please allow me to tell you just a bit about our homeschool. I have 5 children, all but one of the youngest are boys. We’ve been homeschooling since I pulled my oldest out of school in 2006; that’s a full 8 years now. We are specifically Christian, with classical goals but a mostly relaxed/Charlotte Mason approach, and definitely eclectic. I think the phrase coined recently was “Relaxed Learning Charlotte Mason Bunny Trail Crew Schooling,” but I used to call us “purposefully Christian and classically eclectic.”
I’ve always homeschooled on a very, extremely small budget. Many years we spend no money at all. That was true for our first year, and then I spent $10 on an English program because my son had exhausted my resources. We are frugal out of necessity, and I have a tendency to tweak any and all curricula. It’s just my style! I’m a planner, an organizer, but I have a tough time with doing and implementing. I’m not big on teacher intensive programs. Our favorite curriculum choices are all much less set in stone than at this time last year. The Crew has introduced me to many new vendors and curricula that I wouldn’t have otherwise known about, let alone tried. I can’t wait to share those with you! But, of course, I’m still holding on to a few old staples that I still love, use, and plan to return to after any pending reviews. (Or at least after we finish the review item!)
My students are: Christian, 15, finishing his freshman year, with special considerations and accelerated giftings. Drew, 11, starting middle school, strong-willed child and unconventional learner, visual. Brandon will be 10 this summer, seems to possibly have some learning difficulties. We think he’s an auditory learner but I have concerns for him about that; he’s emotional, love language is gifts, very connected with the Lord, eager to learn and eager to help. The twins are just 3; Caleb and Lynndi will turn 4 in September. They are just starting this school journey. Caleb seems to be quite capable with numbers, and Lynndi loves colors and shapes. They both love to read.
When I first started this post, I started talking about our favorite curriculum choices based on subjects. Then I realized that many of our favorite curriculum choices actually cover more than one subject, and that my opinion on several subjects changes depending on the level. So, I decided to change tactics and talk about our choices for each student. If you’d like to see some of our past choices by subject, you can check out the posts I’ve done like this in previous years. My post from last year was done in the fall. The year prior to that, I think I honed in on another Crew hop and decided to post a curriculum list, even though I’d done a similar post a few months prior to that. Also, don’t forget to check out my week-long series from earlier this year on Homeschooling Essentials.
Favorite Curriculum for High School
My oldest son, Christian, is 15. He’s why we started homeschooling; he attended the public school for three years, preK through first grade. He was way ahead academically, and they wouldn’t meet him there; he was also way behind socially, and again, they wouldn’t meet him there. It was after we’d been homeschooling for about a year that we discovered that he deals with high functioning autism. He’s a great kid, smart, and many times you wouldn’t know anything; you might find him quirky, but unless you were around to see him trigger you probably wouldn’t recognize his difficulties. He’s why I’ve learned to meet my kids where they are. Many of the favorite curriculum choices listed in this post are based on experience with him.
For Bible, Christian has mostly just been reading several chapters daily in addition to Switched On Schoolhouse. We have enjoyed using a few new things, such as the Mere Christianity study guide I reviewed this year, and we are always supplementing. Christian has enjoyed doing Studying God’s Wordbooks E-F-G-H in the past, but has moved past that and we are currently on the search for a favorite curriculum for Bible studies. We may go back to The Homeschool Adventure Co. (makers of the study guide I mentioned) for more resources.
For English, Christian has used and enjoyed Rod & Staff – by far my favorite curriculum for grammar – for several years, but has moved beyond grammar at this point. He’s a grammar whiz – see my supplementing link above. We are focusing on writing this year and are currently enjoying the student writing intensive from IEW. I plan to bring you a review on that soon, on my own, not through the Crew. This one is slow moving for us, but it seems to be an excellent program. He has used and enjoyed English from the Roots Up for vocabulary and Latin/Greek studies, and we will pursue the second volume for this fall.
Math right now is a little hit-and-miss, and we are thankful for the CTCmath review this year. He’s enjoying it, it’s not teacher intensive in any sense of the word, and I’m happy to have access to instruction that we haven’t yet obtained. We’ve always loved and used Math-U-See and will probably try to get back to that at some point, though we now have a few homeschool, public school, and college texts in the cabinet.
For reading and literature, we are using a variety of lists, mostly focusing on the Illuminations list and study guides put out by Bright Ideas Press. Literature mostly focuses around our history topics, but we are also utilizing awards lists and great books lists to round out his accelerated abilities. This is also where we have obtained his geography studies, utilizing The Ultimate Geography and Timeline Guide by Maggie Hogan.
History and Science are mostly done using Switched On Schoolhouse right now, though he also participates in whatever the younger boys are doing, especially when it comes to projects, crafts, fun things, map work, and timelines. I’m having him conduct a review and activity course for ancient history and the first half of the middle ages. We’ve always used and loved The Mystery of History.
For Government, we have enjoyed using A Noble Experiment, published by Zeezok. It’s a DVD instructional course, complete with a teacher resource CD-ROM and a student workbook. He does it mostly on his own, and we discuss what he has done. He was young for the program when he started, so we put it aside for a while, and now that he is of appropriate age he’s having to do some review. But, he should have this finished by the end of the summer. It’s an excellent Christian worldview company, and though the instructor is a little dry, he does a great job of discussing God’s hand and design in our country. I highly recommend this one!
Lastly, we are trying to incorporate more of the arts into our homeschool this year. For music, we have mostly been enjoying praise and worship. Christian has taught himself piano and drums, and we may move into some type of family worship group soon. I hope to personally instruct him in some theory and technique this summer so that the can try out for a local community band. We really enjoyed being on the ARTistic Pursuits review this year; we’ll complete that book and will likely look back to this company for our future art needs.
Favorite Curriculum for Middle School
My second son, Drew, will be 11 years old before the end of the month. He’s my challenging child, strong-willed if you’d like to phrase it that way. I’m glad I learned with my oldest how to meet my kids where they are, because this boy takes lots of meeting him there. He also takes much discipline, and probably will not be the typical college-bound student. He’s smart, but books and sitting down have very little to do with it. He’s a doer, a visual learner. My favorite curriculum choices have often been challenged because he’s a different sort of student than any of his siblings, especially from his older brother.
We are currently doing a review for a Bible curriculum for the Crew. We like the program, but I’m not sure that it fits my personal goals for our Bible class; it’s more worldview and/or apologetics, though some of the earlier books in the series might be different. I don’t think it will end up on my favorite curriculum list. We have used AWANA in the past, and are on a one-to-two-year Bible reading plan, but are still on the search for the perfect Bible curriculum. Next year, starting in 7th grade, we will likely stick with using Switched On Schoolhouse for Bible.
Language Arts is a headache of a subject for this boy. He’s a logically minded visual learner, and has almost no interest at all in the English language. We are continuing to use Rod & Staff grammar for him, but for a student who should be entering the 6th grade this fall, he’s a bit behind to still only be in book 3. We are looking forward to some upcoming Crew reviews, and are taking a more subtle approach to grammar through unit studies. He’s enjoying Spelling You See (from the makers of Math-U-See) and I feel like that covers both spelling and writing.
For reading and literature, we are mostly following Illuminations reading lists and study guides to go alongside our history. This year we’ve been studying the middle ages, and I posted a book list a while back for that. We are about halfway through that list. He’s one that if he is interested in reading a certain book, I usually let him do that, so we have taken quite a few detours in addition to our usually slow history progression. I’m super excited to be reviewing some Progeny Press study guides right now, and can’t wait to share those with you! For us, literature and history are almost always strongly tied together, except that I do require a certain amount of reading each day. If we don’t fulfill that with our literature selections, the kids have free reading time of any approved (by me) book. We will be moving to a points system soon, so look for a post about that!
For Math, between CTCmath.com and Math-U-See, we are doing pretty well. I can’t wait to talk about the Learning Wrap-Ups we are reviewing as well! They make for great time fillers, a day off of the regular curriculum, and even some fun games and exercises to go along with it. Math-U-See is definitely our standard favorite curriculum, but I’m super happy to be taking a few detours and small breaks with some fantastic supplements. It’s definitely a program which benefits from doing so here and there.
For science, we are using a variety of favorite curriculum choices including a core from Christian Kids Explore Earth & Space. Following the classical and CM models, earth & space science is what goes along with the middle ages history study. But, we are seriously lacking in the science department and move too slowly with history to keep a steady sequence like that. So, between CKE lessons the boys are watching videos and doing experiments from SuperchargedScience and from DVD series like Amazing Science and Curiosity Quest. I really feel like being on the Crew has allowed us to round out their science education this year!
For the arts, we are trying something new starting this summer. We’ll be using a book called How to Teach Art to Children in addition to our literature, history, and occasional science art-type projects. We haven’t ever done a systematic study of art before, and I feel that we need to do something that is pretty basic and covers the “how-to” in addition to the big, fun stuff. Every few months we will stop to complete a unit in the ARTistic Pursuits book we reviewed, granting my high school student a credit without making it too much at once for my middle students.
As for music, I’ve already mentioned that are looking towards forming a family worship team. Drew is interested in learning to play the violin, and he received one for Christmas. There are lessons at SchoolhouseTeachers.com that he is supposed to be doing; it hasn’t been made a priority, and it’s hard to get started on this without direction, so music will be a focus for us this summer.
Favorite Curriculum for Elementary School
My middle son, Brandon, is 9 1/2 – he’ll be 10 at the end of the summer. He’s shaping up to be a little bit of a different learner. I suspect some learning difficulties with him, and we are having to repeat and take a different approach in many of his subjects. He’s smart and he wants to learn, he’s actually a very eager worker and very willing to help and obey (usually); it’s just harder for him. He’s easily frustrated and takes after me, being emotional; his love language is gifts, and he’s an auditory learner… we think. He’s creative and musical, and we are still figuring his styles and difficulties out. As we move forward with him, I’m getting excited, because I know that he is so much like me that any favorite curriculum choices I could get excited about using, he’ll love too!
Because Brandon is so close in age to Drew (only 14 months younger), much of what they do they do together. Brandon is a very immature student, though, and I’m realizing that we’ve moved too quickly for him in several subjects. We are doing some remediation, and the gap is beginning to widen between these students.
We are currently using Logic of English, which I have just reviewed. I like this program and think it’s great for the remediation he needs, but it’s kind of tedious and very teacher intensive for my tastes. I hope to be through it by the end of the summer so that we can move forward with Brandon at close to grade level with spelling and grammar. I will likely continue to have him work on phonics and vocabulary with workbooks, probably of the Spectrum variety. My usual language arts favorite curriculum choices aren’t working for him, so we’ll be looking for a new favorite curriculum for special education.
We have just started a review – in fact the hard copy materials haven’t yet arrived – for a company that does language arts unit studies as well as science units. I can’t wait to get hold of these and share them with you! I really think they will be right up Brandon’s alley and I’m looking forward to trying out the unit study approach with him. (Drew will also benefit from this approach, especially when it comes to not having to study grammar directly.) So that you can check it out for yourself, sneak preview style, the name of the company is Moving Beyond the Page.
Brandon is also still enjoying use of the Science4Us website we reviewed this year. It’s a little difficult for the younger ones to do without guidance (motor skills, point and click type considerations), and a little too young for Drew (he breezes through it with no thought at all), but it’s right up Brandon’s alley! I probably won’t pay to renew that subscription, but I’m glad he’s got it for now and I might consider it again after the twins can get use from it.
He’ll also be using the SchoolhouseTechers.com website for guitar lessons and from a DVD we own, and I’m hoping to get him on an upcoming musical review as well. I think he would benefit from learning to play the piano and getting his theory from that, while at the same time participating in our family worship team by learning one song at a time on the guitar. Once he has more theory down from his piano studies, he should easily be able to carry that over to his guitar. Also, his use of the KinderBach website will help some, but it’s a little young for him and he tends to become disinterested.
Favorite Curriculum for Preschool
Then there are the twins. We haven’t done much formal schooling with them yet, but are starting to do so this summer. I’m hoping to start including them in some preschool or K-4 activities starting this fall, mostly to give them something to do (besides make messes) while their brothers need me. I’m looking forward to starting with them, using some favorite curriculum resources and many different supplementary options.
For the younger kids, I take a different approach. Most of the resources I have and use are no longer available for sale. (Thanks, Grandma!!!) We use the Complete Curriculum books you can find at Sam’s, and I like the Everything for Early Learning books from American Education Publishing. We use Kindle apps, websites, and a whole myriad of things.
One of my favorite curriculum websites for the younger kids is Hubbard’s Cupboard. If you haven’t seen this website, you need to take some time and look at it! It’s completely free, and it reminds me of such programs as Little Hands to Heaven. I like to use the “TWO’s” curriculum for preschool, because it covers basic things like numbers, colors, poetry, Bible stories (starting with creation), shapes, and more. It just gives me a heading to teach them the things they like learning at this age.
This year, I was blessed to be able to pick up a book called Slow and Steady, Get Me Ready at a garage sale. This is a great book for little bitty ones, and has suggested weekly activities through the age of four, right up to the 5th birthday. It’s a suggested resource on the Hubbard’s Cupboard site, and I’ll look forward to doing several activities a week with the twins.
I can’t wait to rant and rave about the Learning Palette we’re using with the twins! The wrap-ups and the Palette include topics for math and for language arts, but math is where we’re getting the most use out of them right now. I can’t wait to bring you this review!
Something that is new to us that we will be trying starting this summer is Toddler/Preschool Busy Bags. Have you ever heard about them? Basically, it’s an isolated activity intended to both keep the kiddos busy for a while as well as improve specific skills such as fine motor, sorting, academic concepts such as counting and one-to-one correspondence, and more. We have a few of these made up already, and look for a post about them later this year!
Also, if you aren’t already aware, we are doing some fun printables here at home. I’m making them myself, based on the many resources I have here at the house and on the fact that no one resource has enough of the pages I like to satisfy two students. So, I’m making my own, and I’m sharing them with you!
That’s quite a list! I hope you’ve enjoyed perusing our favorite curriculum choices. Maybe it is less overwhelming for you, my readers, if you have students in only one of the age groups. Our homeschool is growing, and with 5 students to teach – all with different personalities and styles – it’s definitely challenging my teaching skills. It’s high time to combine more when we can, but I’m finding a trend towards more individualized subjects that are far less teacher intensive with the older ones, so that I can concentrate on spending time with the younger kids and those who need specific help for a specific subject.
The Crew is doing a Round-Up of favorite curriculum choices this coming week, so be sure to check that out through the graphic link below. It will work starting Wednesday, May 21.