Well, this is the time of year when most homeschooling families start to decide what worked this past year and what we need to change. Our family works on a bit of a different schedule than most (one of the great things about homeschooling is that we have the option to run on whatever schedule we want), and we just took a couple weeks off while I took a little maternity leave. So, here’s what curriculum we’re currently using with all of the kids…well, all of the kids who are old enough to “do school” anyway.
Bear is working on many different grade levels in various subjects. But, since she is currently 8 years old, we usually just say she is in the second grade. It makes less confusion for most people we talk to!
- Reading – We don’t have any specific reading program. Bear reads pretty much anything she can get her hands on. We are currently using the books from Catholic Heritage Curricula‘s Reading Comprehension program. Right now she is reading the Father Brown Reader. She reads a chapter, then narrates back what she reads. Once or twice a week, I have her write down her narration. We also use Beautiful Stories From Shakespeare, which is in the public domain. We follow the same procedure for that book as we do for the Father Brown Reader. She also narrates her history reading selections each week.
- Memorization – We use The Harp and Laurel Wreath, and How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare for our memory selections.
- Grammar – We just recently started using Fix It! Grammar (we’re starting with Book 1: The Nose Tree) from the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW). I am very happy with it so far. It is all review at the moment, but I wanted to start at the beginning of the series for continuity’s sake. Bear has really been enjoying it as well. The lessons are pretty short, so she really likes that. Plus, she waits with anticipation to find out what will happen in the story next week. Fix It! Grammar consists of a sentence each day to fix. The students are presented with a set of grammar rules each week. They must then fix a sentence each day. Each week they must remember to continue fixing the previous weeks’ rules as well as the rule for that week. A vocabulary word is presented with each day’s sentence as well. The student must look up and write the definition each day. So, by the end of the week, the student has learned four new vocabulary words.
- Writing – We also recently began using Fables, Myths, and Fairy Tales Writing Lessons from IEW. We are both enjoying this curriculum as well so far. We are only in Unit 1, but it really touches on some skills that were seriously lacking previously in Bear’s schooling.
- Spelling – We are using the free curriculum from K12 Reader. I’m thinking we may go back to the My Catholic Speller series from Catholic Heritage Curricula next year. There’s nothing wrong with the material from K12 Reader, and I certainly like the price! But, I don’t feel like it gives us any cohesiveness.
- Math – Ah, the bain of our existence! I have yet to find a curriculum that I really like or that Bear enjoys. We’ve tried a few things, like Math Mammoth and Life of Fred. The Life of Fred story just didn’t really engage Bear. Math Mammoth seems fairly complete, but it was essentially just worksheet after worksheet. We’re currently using the first book in the Strayer Upton Practical Arithmetics series. It’s a good, solid foundation in basic arithmetic, with lots of practice problems. But, it doesn’t provide me with much assistance for explaining mathematical concepts (which would be nice, since math is not one of my gifts). I’m still not completely happy with it, but for some reason, we keep coming back to it. Someday, we’ll find the math program that is right for us. Right now, however, we are really enjoying Times Tales. Bear had been struggling to memorize all of her multiplication facts. But, since we started using this program a week ago, she seems to finally be getting them down!
- Science – We found Mr. Q Classic Science, Life Science curriculum. He gives the Life Science away as a free download on his website. We are really enjoying it so far. The text is interspersed with funny little comments, that Bear enjoys reading. The content seems pretty solid. The elementary series also contains Earth Science, Chemistry, and Physical Science. Each of the other books in the series are $50 each for a PDF download. It’s a little pricey, but he usually offers the titles for half price every January.
- History – We are currently working through (slowly) The Old World and America by Philip J. Furlong. We also use Catholic Schoolhouse to add a little more detail for each time period. I spend a lot of time pulling resources together for history. We use a lot of library books and books from the public domain that I can download. My husband likes to see a history quiz with short answer questions every week, so we use the discussion questions from The Old World and America quite a bit. Bear narrates the reading selection every day, and at least once a week, she writes it out. It really helps the information to sink in!
- Religion – We’ve been using the Religion for Young Catholics curriculum series from Seton. Bear likes it. I like it alright, but some days it feels like she is just reading a page and filling in some blanks. I’m not sure she’s really internalizing the information that is being presented. I think we may try to go back to the Faith and Life series next year.
- Spanish – We’ve been working through Learn Spanish With Grace. Bear enjoys all of the songs. I’m not sure she’s really internalizing a lot of the Spanish, but it’s a nice, gentle introduction. When we’re done with this curriculum, I think we’re going to find something a little more intensive. I have my eye on a couple of different programs, so I’ll have to make a choice soon.
- Music – Bear is learning to play the piano. I am using the Bastien Piano Basics series. I learned piano using this series many years ago. So, I’m familiar with the curriculum. I can use my old books, which have notes from my piano teacher. We’re still in the first level.
Lizard is also working on a couple of different grade levels, but, we generally say she’s in Kindergarten.
- Reading – We are currently using Bigger Stories for Little Folks from Catholic Heritage Curricula. Bear went through this series, too when she was first learning to read. The youngest son in the book, Greg, keeps the reader quite entertained with his antics. The stories are precious, and have our Faith woven into them as well. It’s great for reading practice. That said, it doesn’t really contain enough phonics practice for my taste, even though the description of the curriculum claims to have phonics tied into the lessons. We add a phonics curriculum as well.
- Phonics – We just finished Phonics for Young Catholics 1 curriculum from Seton. We are taking a break from that series to have a little light-hearted fun with Explode the Code.
- Spelling – Again, we are using the curriculum from K12 Reader, but planning on moving back to the My Catholic Speller series next year
- Math – We are working through a workbook that we received free from my aunt, who is a former elementary school teacher. It came with a teacher’s manual, which is nice to have on hand in case I need to think of a different way to explain a concept. It’s called Mathematics Today, but I’m guessing it’s probably out of print!
- Handwriting – We are using Seton’s Handwriting for Young Catholics 1. We both like this program, so I think we’ll probably be using it for quite some time to come.
Monkey is just starting out with his schooling. Right now, we’re focusing on the basics. He’s busy learning his alphabet sounds, and learning how to count and recognize his numbers.
- Phonics – Sound City Phonics is a great beginning phonics curriculum. The best part is that it’s free! You can go to the website, and download all the materials you need and print it out as you need it. Each letter sound is introduced with a funny story that Monkey really enjoys. It really helps him to remember the sound each letter makes.
- Math – Right now, we’re not doing anything formal. I print out number recognition sheets from various places around the internet for us to do together. We also use counters, or buttons, or animal crackers to practice counting, and to play around with the concept of addition and subtraction.
So, what curriculum do you use and really enjoy? If you haven’t decided yet what you’re going to use for next year, here’s a few charts I use to help me weigh all the pros and cons (and budget) for each curriculum item I consider. Try them out…they’re free! See how it works for you!