This is my fifth year as a home educator. To be honest, it’s only the second year I feel like I remotely know what I’m doing.
I guess you could say I’ve made enough mistakes at this point to know what works… and what doesn’t. So much of what we do as educators, whether in a traditional setting through paid employment or at home with our own children, comes through trial-and-error. I’d say that’s true of parenting, too.
One of the biggest challenges I’ve found as a homeschooler is having the confidence to try something, even if it doesn’t work. Taking that leap of faith to find that book, resource, or curriculum that clicks. That works.
The next hardest thing to finding the right curriculum is finding the courage to stick with it.
If I could give one piece of advice to any homeschooling mama, it would be: Trust those beautiful mama instincts. If you’ve found something that works, don’t give into the temptation to try something just because it’s new and good or because anybody (even me) loves it. It may be good, but you’ve already invested in your own “good,” and that’s plenty good enough.
I have curriculum choices that work for our family. I’m sure there are about a zillion other equally wonderful option out there, but I know enough by now to say, “Enough!” (If it ain’t broke, I don’t fix it.)
So, in a spirit of sister-sharing, I’m listing all our resources for this year, below. I’ve included a brief summary of each resource, a link to purchasing options, and a snippet explaining why we chose it for our family, to help you in making your own informed decisions for your family.
I do not receive sponsorships at Baking Humble Pie. All of these recommendations come straight from my heart, from one homeschooling mama to another. Take them with a grain of salt. (And a heaping spoonful of sugar.) From my home(school) to yours.
SUGAR’S CURRICULUM (age 8)
A solid mastery-based curriculum that makes perfect sequential sense and takes a comprehensive approach to one primary “topic” a year. (Gamma focuses on multiplication.) Its especially good for visual and kinesthetic learners, and auditory learners can benefit from the DVD lessons (as can busy mamas). We love this curriculum!
I took Latin in high school, but this is the first year I’ll be teaching it. So excited! (By the way, for those with older kids, I loved going through the Ecce Romani series as a high schooler.)
As a side note: I know some families who begin foreign language (and especially Latin) earlier, but my husband and I really wanted to wait until third grade, when we felt like our student really had the basics of reading and writing under her belt. With other students, we might even begin later, if we feel like they are not yet strong readers and writers.
I feel very comfortable teaching Language Arts, and Sugar picks up a lot of it naturally (she is an avid reader). We do lots of reading and book projects, so a simple, stream-lined approach to grammar and spelling works for us. This is not what I would give to someone who struggles in this subject area, except perhaps as a supplement.
Language Arts (self-written curriculum; see Grammar, above)
I believe strongly that writing is not something you master for the heck of it. It is something you must learn in order to communicate effectively. Nowadays, most of our reading and writing is done in typeface, but there are still times and places where a handwritten message, memo, etc. is necessary, and I want my children to have a firm grasp on the skills they will need to communicate effectively in whichever format applies.
As mentioned above, effective communication (in most cases) these days, requires a computer. This curriculum is new to us, but I’m excited to see how Sugar takes to it. Keyboarding is a skill that I believe should be mastered by middle school so it is second nature. So we’re starting a bit early, in third grade, due to her personal interest and excitement for it.
Since we are studying Ancient History this year (see “SUBJECTS WE DO TOGETHER,” below), I wanted to focus on the Geography of the Holy Land. We will also be emphasizing the Old Testament in our family devotions throughout the year.
Lego Robotics (co-op)
Beginning Drawing (co-op)
Sugar is also beginning piano lessons and studying sheet music in that capacity. She learns the flute in a more Suzuki-style method in that she copies the teacher, my husband, rather than reading sheet music. Sugar suffers from asthma and the pentatonic flute, which is wooden and played more like a recorder or a clarinet, is a wonderful instrument to help her with breath support and, musically, really helps her to feel the tones she is shaping in a way that piano does not. It’s something we hope to share with each of our children in turn, not an instrument for mastery, but as a beautiful way to explore music.
HUCKLEBERRY’S CURRICULUM (age 6)
See Math-U-See Gamma, above. The Alpha curriculum focuses on addition. Huckleberry is already half-way through it, so we will likely be continuing on into the Beta book, as well, which focuses on subtraction, or what he at this stage refers to as “minus-ing”
Reading came naturally to Sugar, who began at age three and mastered it at the age of four. Huckleberry is more “on par” for his age, meaning he can at this age parse some phonics but still struggles with fluent reading of unfamiliar material. All About Reading is a great curriculum that appeals to many different learning styles. It’s simple enough not to be overwhelming and diverse enough to be engaging for an antsy six-year-old boy. We’re looking forward to diving in!
Important skills, but also a really fun tool in the link there. I don’t take a “classroom in the home” approach in schooling, but I do try to incorporate some of my more favorite things from my own private- and public-school education. The daily calendar and weather was something I remember fondly from kindergarten. (I also make waffles and scrambled eggs with a side of buttered corn and beans once a week for lunch, because it was seriously THE BEST cafeteria food when I was a kid!)
See Handwriting in Sugar’s Curriculum, above.
Huckleberry LOVES flashcards! It’s been a great incentive for helping him memorize addition facts. As we move forward in the Alpha curriculum, he will be learning to tell Time on a clock and how to add money with decimals, and I anticipate these being great for the days he just doesn’t want to do his worksheets. (We all have those days, you know?)
Huckleberry is a Pacific Northwest boy to the core. He’s never happier than when he’s out on a drizzly day, poking through some muddy pit or scaling a tree. This is a great opportunity for him to revel in all that stuff, without me having to drag the littles along–and he gets to learn about local flora and fauna and survival skills (like lighting a fire without matches) while he’s at it! If you live in the Seattle area, I can’t recommend this program enough.
Chess Club (co-op)
LEGO Robotics (co-op)
SPICE’S CURRICULUM (age 3)
Circle Time (self-written curriculum)
This is something I started doing a couple years ago when Huckleberry was pre-school aged, and Sugar (at age 8) still enjoys it, too! We basically sing songs, recite nursery rhymes or simple poetry, I tell a story (usually with some props, like our wooden farm animals), and do rhythm and movement games and fingerplays. All that fun stuff that people in traditional preschools enjoy: who says you can’t have it at home?
We sing the song, too.
So far, Spice seems to be a very hands-on learner. She has been learning her colors mostly through coloring, but she LOVES to play with these, and I think they will help her continue to cement the concepts.
Counting and working with numbers (in real life)
I’m not sure why, but my kids have all been a little behind the curve on hand strength. But hand strength is essential, not only for writing, but for my sports and other skills, like piano playing. Because of this, I’ve started using theraputty with my preschoolers, which is firmer than Play-Doh but just as fun! You start with the “easiest” one and then work up until they can mold the “harder” putty.
Construction Site, Jr. (co-op)
SUBJECTS WE DO TOGETHER
Ancient History– Story of the World, Vol. 1 (we go through a 3-year cycle in lower grades)
Our family has gone through Story of the World volumes 1-3 and absolutely love them! (Volume 4 covers modern history, which is a little above even my 8-year-old intellectually, so we’re saving that until she’s 12.) We listen to the disc in the car on our drive to co-op, which is just long enough for a full chapter, and discuss it on our drive home. With my under-8 crew, that’s enough.
This year, Sugar will be going a little deeper, doing hands-on projects with me, doing more in-depth geography, and studying for and testing her knowledge by using simple quizzes, published by the same author. We also choose many of our family read-alouds based of the topics we are covering in history.
We LOVE hands-on science experiments, but I HATE preparing for them. This curriculum pretty much lays it all out. The experiments are simple, short, and really explain the concepts well. (My husband, who is a scientist approves heartily!) My favorite part, as a teacher, is the comprehensive checklist of supplies, which lets me know how many I will need and what week I’ll need them. I have stocked my house with everything I will need for the year, and I didn’t have to go digging through the book to do it. Now, a few minutes of prep the night before, and we’ll be good to go!
Piano (private lessons)
Catechism– Baltimore Catechism 1
We covered much of this last year in preparation for Sugar’s First Communion, but we’ll be reviewing and covering the rest this year.
Read Alouds (daily)