As promised last week, I want to share with you how we went about choosing our curriculum. I was actually an education major in college and grad school and taught junior high English (and about 47 other things!) for three years. My husband, Gerald, is a college professor, so between the two of us, we had pretty specific ideas about what we wanted to teach.
I'll warn you right now that unless you are a curriculum junkie like me, you may want to stop reading. (Although I hope you won't!) This is a rather long post because, well, I have chosen to use a LOT of curriculum! But lest you fear that there will be lots of boring descriptions to follow, let me assure you that I will just tell you what I chose and why I like it. You can look up the details for yourself later if you want. Oh - and I added a lot of pictures, too! So here we go!
(One more thing - I have not been paid by anyone to promote their curriculum. These choices are purely my own and have resulted from a great deal of research and prayer. Should said companies want to throw a little something my way, they are more than welcome to contact me! Just saying...)
I tackled grammar and math first as these were the two subjects that would be taught individually - and because well, as a former English teacher (and more importantly, a former poor math student), I felt they were the most important. For years, I had heard wonderful things about Abeka. I knew it was good stuff. However, I had several veteran homeschoolers warn me that it could be extremely rigid and overwhelming. I kept this in the back of my mind.
I studied and studied and couldn't decide. In fact, I literally had a panic attack at our local homeschool curriculum fair! Despite all the research and planning I had already done, seeing all those options in one place was a little more than this rookie homeschool mom could handle! I literally had to go outside and sit down. I closed my eyes, breathed deeply, and prayed that God would guide me as I made my decisions, and that he would give me peace once those decisions were made. I took a few deep breaths and headed back in.
I had just about decided that as good as Abeka math was, the amount of work was not what I wanted for the kids. There is a fine line between mastery and well, way too much mastery. I decided to go with Horizons Math by Alpha Omega. Still not completely convinced I was doing the right thing, I sat down to begin the ordering process. The lady sitting next to me was ordering as well and she had heard my questions and concerns. She asked my name. I told her and she said, "I know we've never met, but I'm Mallory Baker. We're Facebook friends!" Turns out, she is in the co-op we are joining. She assured me that this curriculum was solid and it eased my nerves a great deal. Math down, grammar to go.
I was still pondering what to do about grammar when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned to see my good friend, Tina Foster! I told her that I was overwhelmed and she took the time to talk to me, asking me questions about what I wanted in a grammar curriculum. She has been homeschooling for many years, and I value her opinion. After talking with me and walking around looking at different options, she said that she thought I should go with Abeka grammar. It seemed to be what I wanted. So I pulled out the checkbook and ordered grammar, penmanship, literature and spelling from the Abeka representative. My job was done. Or so I thought.
When my Abeka curriculum arrived and I laid it all out on the dining room table, I was amazed. Between the grammar, penmanship, spelling and all the readers, my (large) table was completely covered! I left it there and came in and out for a couple of days, just staring at it. This was not what I wanted. I know that Abeka is quality stuff and it has worked beautifully for lots of families for a long time. But not us. I packed it up and sent it all back. Back to the drawing board... (Sigh...no, HEAVING sigh.) (By the way, Abeka promptly and graciously refunded my money.)
I remembered seeing Horizons' penmanship books, and liked that they used scripture as the text.
Great. Check it off. My kids have always done very well in spelling. Not natural born spellers, but give them a list and a few days, and they'll get it done! They used to do spelling on the way to school each morning with their daddy. He created the "say it, spell it, say it" method and they both regularly made 100's on their spelling tests. (OK - maybe he stole the idea from spelling bees, but it worked for the kids!) They both have great vocabularies already, so I really just wanted a "list of lists" to work from. Enter Natural Speller.
That left grammar and literature. I happened to be talking to Melinda Roth, one of my old high school friends who is now homeschooling. She said that she had used Easy Grammar and liked it. I took a look and so did I! No frills, just solid grammar instruction. And with the Daily Grams book there is plenty of review without banging you over the head with it. Whew. I was nearly done!
I had prayed that God would help me make the right decisions about curriculum and then be at peace with those decisions. He did all that and more by putting these ladies in my path as I struggled with myriad choices!
I then spent a good amount of time putting together grade appropriate reading lists for each child. We will study a different type of literature each month. Each child will read an appropriate title and share a little of what they learned. I also found a couple of workbooks to use as a supplement to teach more about literary elements like plot, characters, theme, etc.
I planned on having the kids work together on the other subjects, so I looked for curriculum that was adaptable for different aged children. I chose to go with The Story of the World for history. I even invested in the CD. I can say that we are very happy with this material! The kids still like to color, so they work on coloring the accompanying worksheets while we listen to our history "story". We have one or two "Read Alongs" (depending on length) each week to complement our history lesson, and we wrap up each chapter with an art project or recipe to drive home what we have learned that week. I highly suggest this curriculum! It is written by a historian and literature professor (who herself was homeschooled). You can find it all on her website here.
I had initially chosen God's Design by Answers in Genesis as our science curriculum, but changed after a friend's 11 year old daughter raved about Apologia's Young Explorer series. I figured that a kid's recommendation carried more weight than that of a website! I gave the kids the option of which topic to begin with and they chose Zoology 1 - Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day. I have to be honest and say that we have not quite found our groove with this material yet. The text itself is great, and we have enjoyed several of the "Try This" experiments, but we have not figured how to make the notebooking journals work for us. My kids don't enjoy the cutting and pasting of the little booklets, and Brack is still a little young for all the journaling. (Plus Jewell has realized that Brack's notebook has lots of coloring pages and that his crossword puzzles have 5 or 6 clues to fill in while hers have closer to 25!) So I have been looking through both of their journals to find appropriate activities that we can do together. But overall, we like this series. You can see all they have to offer on their website.
I love to study geography, but this doesn't mean I'm good at it! Often I find myself jumping on my iPad to find out the location of a place that's in the news. After our last trip to Disneyworld (and my family's refusal to go country to country in Epcot!), I found a list of the recognized countries in the world and began to read about them on Wikipedia. (I know it's not source-worthy, but it is a great quick reference!) So that being said - I want my kids to be able to at least find their way around an atlas!
I had the pleasure of attending a lecture by the late Debbie Strayer the day before she passed away. Her enthusiasm was so inspiring! While the complete Trail Guide to Learning curriculum was not was I needed for my family, I was impressed by her company's Trail Guide to World Geography. This is a fantastic curriculum that works for all ages. It is chock full of activities and you can choose as much or as little as you'd like. We spend about 5 minutes each day working on what I call the "daily trails" and then have a full geography lesson on Thursday. To accompany our study, I picked up Geography Through Art, and Eat Your Way Around the World. These books provide us with lots of fun activities! These books and so much more can be found on the website for Geography Matters.
I have found a creative writing curriculum that I really like and have started the kids on their respective levels. WriteShop is a fun program that has guided writing lessons to teach kids how to be good writers. It offers three options for completion. We have chosen to do one level per year, so we are spending two weeks (eight lessons) on each chapter. This is something that is very parent intensive, so don't consider this if you are looking for something that your child can do on his own. It only takes us about 10-15 minutes per day, and the kids say this is one of their favorite subjects! (How's that for consumer satisfaction?!) For more info, click here.
We are currently using Route 66: A Trip Through the 66 Books of the Bible right now, but I have already ordered Bible Study Guide for All Ages for us to use once we finish our Bible road trip! You can find their wonderful materials here.
For foreign language we are using Latin - It's Not So Tough and Hey Andrew, Teach me Some Greek. I know what you're thinking. Overkill on the old-timey languages, right? Well - I've always wanted to study Lain because it's so - well, classic! And my husband wanted them to do Greek so they could use it in their study of the NT. So we compromised...they're learning both! Well, kinda. Level One in both series is basically an introduction to the alphabet. (Not rocket science...YET!)
To tie it all together, we are studying one or two root words a week from English from the Roots Up. Learn a few Greek and Latin roots and you can figure out the meaning of just about anything!
We are also learning a little Spanish using the website www.spanishtown.com. I printed the lessons and put them in page protectors to make our "textbook". Gerald took two years of French (oo la la!) in junior high and still remembers a good bit of it. (He quoted a few lines of a poem today at lunch - something dark about night spirits. I'll take his word for it!) Anyway - we decided to choose Spanish for our modern language. We figured we could practice on the waiters at our favorite Mexican restaurant!
I've found some wonderful resources for art and music over at Confessions of a Homeschooler.
Here are a few other things I've thrown in, just for good measure...
So that's about it! Don't say I didn't warn you!
Now don't freak out. (Mimi and Moppie [the grandmothers] - I'm talking to you here!) We don't work from sun up to sundown. I don't shackle my kids to the table and force them to work until they drop from exhaustion! I learned during my brief stint as a teacher that kids will rise to the challenge.
Next week, I'll share our daily schedule so you'll see that we can and do get it all done and in a pretty efficient manner, if I do say so myself!