Just this school year I feel I've worked out the kinks when it comes to curriculum for Elementary ages.
It only took me five years of lots of trial and error, research, reviews, talking to other mamas, buying, ordering, trips to consignment sales and homeschool stores. It's been quite the process.
Rule 1: what works for me and my children may not work for you.
Rule 2: try to figure out your child's learning style BEFORE spending hundreds on a curriculum they'll end up hating. Go here for a short quiz to find your child's learning style.
Rule 3: think outside the box.
When I say think outside the box, what I mean is take that traditional school experience that you carry with you all of the time in terms of the word "school"...got it?...now toss it in a pit and light it on fire.
Let it burn.
If homeschooling was supposed to look like public/traditional school, then why bother homeschooling?!
You have the opportunity to give your child a catered-to, rich, conclusive education enhanced by the vast experiences that come from home life.
Traditional school (i.e. Public education, charter schools [most of them], and Private schools) was founded with the hopes of offering free education to all. And while education is very important in society, the way we go about educating is even more so. Check out this piece on the in's and out's about our current educational model.
The "free" public school system really costs almost $10,000 of our tax dollars per U.S. student, per year. That's more than most private school's charge for a years worth of education. I'm not sure just where all of that money is going to, but our educational system is a mess and we have too many underpaid teachers to charge that much per student.
Now, before y'all blast me over traditional schooling, I'm not against it. There are awesome teachers out there, classrooms that move a lot and have hands on learning. There are entire schools that have broken out of the mold that our current model suggests. These are the rare exception, unfortunately.
With five children, I save the state about $50,000 a year, spend $1,000 in that year for our homeschooling materials, curriculum, co-op fees, extracurriculars, and field trips, but receive zero tax breaks for doing so.
There's a mystery I cannot grasp my head around.
But, it's worth it. Highly so. And with that said, let me break down for you my favorite curriculums (so far) for Elementary aged children. [I cannot speak for any middle or high school curriculum...yet, anyway].
My heart beats for Heart of Dakota brand curriculum.
This award-winning curriculum is perfect for children close in age. Up to three grades apart can use the same core book.
The way it works is each day has lesson plans laid out for you in each subject: history, science, bible, math, English, art/music/poetry, reading, and handwriting.
Heres a sample page:
I use this book, which has lessons for 33 weeks and can be spread out to be completed in two years, instead of one, as my foundation. It's my base. It's my GO-TO for ideas. It's my springboard. It's my teacher assistant. It's glorious because it's done all of the work for me.
As a group we do history and science together. Yes, I teach my fourth grader and Kindergartener and preschoolers the same history and science lessons. BUT they don't all have to do the same activities or assignments within that lesson. That's where Heart of Dakota gives you freedom to pick and choose what you want to do for each child.
Heart of Dakota suggests many different supplemental texts for each subject. Like they recommend Singapore math and give the assignment for that day. But I never use Singapore math, and so while I may do the suggested math activity in the math box, I assign the children their own math assignments from the curriculum we've chosen specifically for their learning styles.
The whole left side of every daily plan is solely history based. This curriculum doesn't skimp on the history. No sir. It's the core of what we do. Then the right side is called Learning the Basics and always includes English, science, math, and reading activities.
For Kindergarten/First Grades I use Explode the Code set of books. We just start as little Kinders and begin with Get Ready for the Code and go all the way thru to level 8 of Explode the Code.
They also offer an online version, as of recently that I have yet to try. Just go to www.explodethecode.com
For reading, I love 100 Easy Lessons so much. In 100 lessons, your child can go from not reading at all to second grade level by the end of the program. Love it. It's been used three times with my oldest three and works very well.
Teaching your child how to read takes a spoon full of sugar and big spoonful of patience. But boy is it fulfilling. I dare you not to cry when your little one reads her first book thru knowing that YOU taught them how. It's awesome sauce!
For reading beyond the 100 Lessons book, I highly highly highly highly highly recommend Life of Fred Eden Series. I know, you're sick of hearing about Fred. Then maybe you should just buy Fred and see for yourself what all the fuss is about. These reading books (not math books) are HILARIOUS and perfect for emerging readers. The artwork is colorful and odd and so fun. We can't get enough of this 18 book set.
Grades 2 and up I love Rod and Staff English.
Sometimes, the best books are black and white, boring, and to the point. I've tried other English/Phonics programs and they had lovely colorful, bright pages and worksheets. But my children always got distracted by the colors and fun-ness of the pages that they didn't complete their work diligently.
Horizons is one of those curriculums that I spent a lot of money on five years ago, and my child was just sitting down doing colorful worksheets all day long. It didn't work for us. If you're the type that enjoys colorful worksheet type instruction, then Horizons is for you.
For Kindergarteners, I really don't force the issue. I make a lot of practical math applications thru daily life. We practice writing numbers, basic addition, maybe a hint of subtraction, counting, and comparisons. I'm really lax, overall, with my K's. Play school is still most of their learning, along with lots of reading, and some pre-writing/writing exercises. So I don't use a formal math curriculum with this age group.
First grades and up use Life of Fred. Um, it's amazing. Like times infinity my favorite part of homeschooling besides teaching history. I absolutely LOVE Fred, and my second grade son is obsessed with math now because of him. Just buy all the Fred stuff because you won't regret a dime of it.
Starting in third grade, and because I had yet to learn about Fred, I started with Teaching Textbooks. It's an amazing, amazing computer based math curriculum that keeps grades and records for you. I love it so much and my fourth grader does so well with it I didn't have the heart to switch him to Fred. It's completely different than Fred, but it's equally as loved. Well, almost.
I do a lot of science experiments. We also follow Heart of Dakotas science suggestions as much as possible, too.
Elementary aged students LOVE The Magic School Bus science kits. Holy cow do we love these. The only one that was a little bit sketchy was the dinosaur one, but it gave a great opportunity to teach about what evolutionists do believe and how to counter that with the Truth of Creation. These are affordable, hands on kits that are easy for parents and children to do together.
For a textbook based approach, Apologia anything is awesome. This year, our co-op (I'll explain a co-op in the next post) is doing Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day. It's such a great science curriculum that's Creation based and very thorough.
For K/1st, History for Little Pilgrims is awesome! If you buy the packet, it comes with a teachers guide and a coloring book.
The possibilities for teaching history are somewhat endless. Charlie Brown even has a series of historical figures cartoons that are hilarious and very educational. Those can be found on Amazon Prime on your smart tv. There's YouTube videos, documentaries, Civil War Reenactments (if you live in the south), museums, field trips, biographies, and experiences that will offer your child a very rich understanding of times past.
After much trial and error. Okay, more error than trial, I finally found a spelling curriculum that I like. It's called Spelling By Sound and Structure, also by Rod and Staff.
Whew! I'm tired.
I hope this is helpful for y'all.
There are large curriculum bundles for homeschoolers that you can just buy and go for it. But, I've chosen a different way because I seriously want my children to have the best homeschooling experience I can give them. I've done the big, expensive packets and I haven't liked that as much as I do in having a foundation piece and then building my own HOMEschool with my favorite materials.
You may choose a different way, and guess what?! THAT's OKAY!!!!! It's beautiful that we have the freedom to pick and choose and learn from what worked and what didn't from other homeschool parents.
Stay tuned for tomorrow's post all about logistics/getting started and I may just add on a final post for all of this homeschool lingo.
Please share this post. And for all of you homeschoolers, cause I know you're out there, share below what YOUR favorites are!!
I love you. Please share. It took forever to write. Like five hours forever.