The first question just about everybody asks me when I tell them I homeschool is…
“What curriculum do you use?”
I’m never irritated or annoyed because I did the same thing when I first started home educating. Basically, I was saying, “I have NO idea what I am doing, and I need somebody to give me the silver bullet that is going to make this crazy new adventure turn out well!!!!” in other words…
Bad news…there is no silver bullet. You have to find what works for you and your kiddos. But I am always happy to share what I’m using in hopes that it will help others think through what they want to do before they flush…uh, I mean spend all their money trying different curriculums. So, to answer your question, here is what I do:
Short answer: I use good books. I am a reader. I want my kids to be readers. Readers are thinkers. I use good books.
Long answer because I am aware that the short answer is not good enough for most of us:
Arithmetic: Teaching Textbooks. We have also used Math U See, which was great and here’s why…
Why? Because we love the manipulatives. One of the frustrating aspects of public school math was that my daughter was having to draw her little squares to do the math problems. So, as she was adding 387 to 254, she would mis-draw and therefore mis-count and then we were both in tears (and of course all of this was after she had already put in 7 hours at school!)
So far: We used it for 5 years and all enjoyed it! However…life changed and I have recently started using Teaching Textbooks which is online. It has been amazing! It lectures each lesson, scores the students work, shows them what they did wrong on missed problems, and THEN (I know - how could there be more?) it records all of the scores for every lesson, quiz and test! I love it - especially as we get into the higher education levels. The only downside is it starts at 3rd grade, so I’m continuing to use what I have on hand for my 1st grader and then let her do math games on the computer to supplement (because, of course, if big sisters are doing math on the computer she must do it, too.) Both of these Math Curriculums are a great choice depending on what your time and math abilities allow. Both of those are limited for me, so Teaching Textbooks has been the way to go for us.
Language Arts: Learning Language Arts Through Literature
Why? Because I LOVE good literature!!! And I don’t want to have to buy a writing curriculum, grammar curriculum, spelling curriculum and literature curriculum separately (because, hello! I have to feed these children and put clothes on them as well so I can’t spend ALL of my money on curriculum!). These books have all of the necessary aspects of language arts as well as narration and discussion points that guide you through talking about ideas, beliefs and concepts being taught throughout literature. Also, it has wonderful books at its core! For example, right now my 3 oldest are reading The Courage of Sarah Noble, Ben and Me, and Big Red. So their writing, spelling, grammar and topics of discussion are coming from these great books and/or other passages of great literature (i.e. The Gettysburg Address, Alice in Wonderland and so many more…). Though this curriculum starts at 1st grade, I’ve not started my 1st grader in this curriculum just yet. She is still developing confidence as a reader so her LA curriculum is Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons and lots of reading books with Momma. I plan to start her in January.
So far: We just love it and it serves our language needs well.
Social Studies: Story of the World and Around the World by Beautiful Feet Books
Why? Because once again, I LOVE good literature! I have found that when I present facts to my kids in a story format, they remember them so much better than just doing a fill in the blank method. We create time lines as we go along and I find so many historical storybooks at the library to go along with the time period and/or country that we are learning about. My favorite thing about studying the history of the world and the different cultures is that it helps my kids understand that the world did not start with America, but rather that America came to be after many other kingdoms and nations were established and had fallen and influenced much of who we are as nation today. It right-sizes things for all of us. and makes American history and government much richer and easier to understand.
So far: My oldest has gone all the way through the 4 volumes of Story of the World and has a fairly decent grasp (now in 7th grade) of the history of the world starting in the ancients to today. As for the younger grades, I just let them enjoy the stories! They are filing all of that info away and I trust that when the time comes, they will be well-informed on historical and political events.
The Around the World with Beautiful Feet Books is exactly that - beautiful. While it is based on short story picture books, these books are so beautifully written and illustrated that children of all ages enjoy them - as do adults! These stories not only communicate what has happened in the history of the world, but they also bring great understanding to the different cultures of the world. As we study each country, and the history as well as culture of that country, we learn about government, art, music, social dynamics, animals and plants of that country (so fun to sneak science in when my kids aren’t looking!), as well as ways it ties in to our current life. For example, we recently finished the Thailand lesson. In this lesson, we learned about the lotus flower, ate Thai food (a recipe for a dish from that country is included in every lesson - how cool is that?!) and after reading The Lotus Seed by Sherry Garland had conversation about the Vietnam war (which the book talks about very subtly and appropriately for little ones) which led to discussion about my own father’s time spent in Vietnam during the war and what that was like for him. And all of this is laid out for me, I didn’t have to scramble around pulling the lesson together. I look forward to our studies in Europe and how those will tie in to the World Wars and the great-grandfathers of our family that fought in those. I also recently did DNA testing that shows where our ancestors hail from and can’t wait to dive into those areas of the world with my girls. There’s no limit on where in the world you can take your kids with a well written book and a little knowledge of your own family history to tie it all together. We are currently in India and I happened to find a video of Sir Michael Cain reading Rudyard Kipling’s IF. Not only did make my heart happy to hear good ol’ Alfred reading poetry (those of you who are fans of Batman know how delightful this promises to be) but, I am always relieved when someone else reads good literature to my children. Sir Michael also talked a bit after about how his father read this poem to him as a boy and the impact this piece had on his understanding of what it means to be a man. So rich, and so fun!
Science: Living Science with Sabbath Mood Homeschool
Why? Because kids are naturally curious and ask better questions than most fill in the blank textbooks could ever hope to. We go outside and explore with nature journals, sketching what we see, writing down observations and questions that come to mind. Then we take it home and research (like scientists do). We search online, we check out books at the library, we have a collection of field guides and several beautifully written nature books that also contain lovely drawings for reference. Sabbath Mood provides direction and order for studying science and the living books that help provide knowledge and understanding of what we are learning.
So far: We enjoy learning about the world this way. We are currently studying Astronomy and can I tell you how amazing it was to lay down in the backyard a few nights ago and listen to my six-year-old point out Scorpio and then explain that Orion wasn’t there because it’s summer and Scorpio and Orion don’t get along on account of Scorpio stinging Orion long ago , so we won’t see Orion until winter (and here we have some historical lore sneaking into science as a payback for science being so sneaky earlier).
The Arts: We study the arts along with history. The Beautiful Feet Books include art and music as we study the different cultures. Also, most of our literature read alouds coincide with our history study. So for example, as we were learning about the Civil War, we studied artists and composers from that time period, and I read aloud from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott which is set during the Civil War.
Why? This allows us to have discussions on how art and music have influenced and been influenced by the events of history and culture and also to observe the evolution of the arts throughout centuries. There are great FREE resources on YouTube that teach about different artists and musicians. One of our favorites is FREE SCHOOL. You can also find instructional art and music videos on YouTube and Pinterest that teach actual techniques. Also, don’t forget about your local library! I always try to pick up some books from the kids section about art, music, famous inventions and whatever else my kids are showing an interest in!
So far: We draw, paint, learn art and music history, take music lessons and just have lots of fun with all of it by allowing our passions and inspirations to guide us along the way.
Not every curriculum or method works for every family - this is what is working for ours and I hope this helps you think about what your goals for home educating are and how to structure your curriculum and methods accordingly. I would love to know what you are using and why! Sharing is caring so share in the comments below!