Curriculum. This is where I think we lose people in homeschooling. Any bit of research on the subject and you’ll leave feeling completely overwhelmed with all the options and the opinions from passionate, well-meaning people. At least, that’s how I felt. But stop. Breathe. Take a step back. You are the parent. You know your child best. You are perfectly equipped to meet their needs. You can always switch gears if something isn’t working.
I also don’t want to sit here at my computer in an Atlanta Starbucks and pretend I am an expert on the subject of teaching at home. I’m honestly scared out of my mind, but yet I know I’m doing the right thing for this season of life. For those who’ve asked, I used a hybrid type model last year. (I sent the girls twice a week to a wonderful, hands-on, small preschool and taught K-5 at home the other two days.) I was homeschooled K-12 growing up, so I do have some first-hand experience on how it feels to be the student. But that sums up my “experience”, so far.
Thankfully, I have some very knowledgeable friends who have walked me through the process of planning my school year and helped me choose curriculum. I honestly can’t say enough how grateful I am for these women. Every recommendation I’m making below has been a collective decision. I so hope it helps those of you who have asked what we’re using and/or encourages someone who isn’t sure about this whole homeschooling thing and wants to learn more.
I was first introduced to the Handwriting Without Tears curriculum at the girls’ preschool last fall. I sent 4-yr-old Shiloh pleading, “Pleeeeeeease teach her to write her name. Because I can’t get her to!” Wouldn’t you know, she did? Like a breeze. We use the printing books, the small chalkboard and chalk, and next year I would love to get the big wooden pieces for Keller. He loves anything hands-on!
Science (K-3, Kindergarten, and 1st Grade)
I wanted a curriculum that could be done with all 3 of my kids at the same time, had easy experiments using supplies around the house, and taught creation. My friend (who is a teacher turned homeschool mama) highly recommended Apologia books. We picked out Zoology 2: Exploring Creation with Swimming Creatures and the Junior Notebook Journal that goes with it. The textbook is purposefully written above their grade levels with the intent they will retain the things that interest them. I ask them to repeat back to me what we’ve read in their own words, we review some of the key terms, and then we draw/paint in our nature journals or complete the assignment in their science journal. We do science 3 – 4 days a week. At first, I thought it was waaaay too challenging, even for me. But this is actually their favorite subject (along with art) and they are retaining so much more than I thought they would. Eg: Shiloh talks about the Strawberry Sponge filter feeder as lunchtime conversation.
History (K-3, Kindergarten, and 1st Grade)
We use History For Little Pilgrims by Christian Liberty Press and it is turning out to be the perfect book for us this year. I was really worried about finding something to do with all three of my little ones since everyone on blogs seemed dissatisfied with the History options out there. This book is an easy read-aloud with key terms highlighted and review questions at the end of each chapter. It broadly covers God’s timeline of the world and I really love that you see the thread of His plan woven throughout. I like the idea of filling in History with discussions of other cultures (I have plans to focus on a country a month, go to the library, and make crafts) and we have this AMAZING maps book for kids.
We use Bob Jones for both K-5 and 1st Grade and can I just say? I love their approach. I used it last year for K-5 in conjunction with Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons and thought it rounded out our Reading and English perfectly. Bob Jones curriculum is extremely kid-friendly with colorful illustrations and my kids love love love it. I also use a Spelling work text by Bob Jones
I can’t say it enough. Go get yourself a copy of Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons. It is ooooooold school with black and white illustrations, but by golly the book works like a charm for all learning styles (I know this because my mom has taught all 12 of the 14 of us kids how to read with it since the 80′s). I’ve had a lot of people email me asking questions about this book and my advice is to not overthink it, stay consistent, (so so key!) and stick with it. 15 minutes a day and I promise it is the most rewarding thing to see your children’s eyes opened to words all around them. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.
I am using Abeka for K-5 and Saxon for 1st grade. I bought some of the hands-on learning materials that went with the Saxon curriculum because I think Saxon is BORING and could use a pick-me-up. (Emma somehow loves it and puts me to shame. ;)) They have an entire kit with geometric shapes and number sheets, but I thought it was a bit overpriced and I’m making a few of the charts myself. If you buy nothing else, get these math link cubes. I swear Keller plays with them for hours.
I want to write a whole post with a complete list of supplies, because we’re huuuuge art people over here. But for now, I’ll recommend this book we got, The Art Book for Children.
We tried to go a more difficult route last year with an expensive, yet very thorough, audio program. I think Steven was the only one who really learned anything! This year, I picked up these inexpensive Drive and Learn French CD’s looking for something more catchy and musical. It follows a young man going throughout his day in France and you learn the basics with the first CD, such as the basic pleasantries, numbers, time, and how to order in a restaurant. It has turned out to be my absolute favorite and with all the driving between states this summer it has been great to have something educational, but fun, to pass the time.
My computer is about to run out of battery and the kids are asking for coffee (JUST kidding), so it’s over and out for now.