Any homeschooling parent knows the thrill (or dread) of choosing curriculum.
Some of us feel like a kid making a Christmas list, spending hours pouring over the hundreds of choices. Others of us approach the task with terror as if the wrong curriculum will somehow land our precious ones in jail.
Choosing curriculum can be overwhelming to say the least.
For me, there used to be an underlying pressure to choose the “best” curriculum similar to researching and picking the safest car or best vacuum. (<== OCD much?) I may have traded a few months of my life researching curriculum when we first started homeschooling 6 years ago. It seemed like, if I just read every. single. review. and every thread on every homeschooling message board on the entire internet I would find that perfect curriculum and my kids would be on their way to Harvard before their 13th birthdays.
But you know what I’ve learned?
Curriculum does’t really matter all that much.
Yeah, curriculum really doesn’t’ matter all that much.
Seriously. Homeschooling is about so much more than stuffing our kids with “the right” facts and formulas and meeting “standards”. Who cares if my kid goes to an Ivy League or any school for that matter if he (or me) is a punk or unhappy or sees learning as a chore.
Homeschooling is about developing character.
Homeschooling is about connecting and growing relationships with family and the community.
Homeschooling is about really getting to know your kids…the lovely and not so lovely parts.
Homeschooling about finding and nourishing strengths and addressing weaknesses.
Homeschooling is about learning to love learning.
Homeschooling is about cultivating curiosity.
Homeschooling is about learning to be a self motivated learner instead of spoon-fed.
Homeschooling is about meeting the needs of your child and your family.
Homeschooling is about so much more than curriculum.
That said, one of the questions I get asked most often is, “What curriculum do you use?”
So here it goes… Remember this is what worked for our family in each particular season of life.
Our Homeschool and Roadschool Curriculum List
(The older grade is followed by the younger grade. If only one publisher is listed it means I used it for both boys. For math and grammar I often used the same publisher but different grade levels, i.e. Level 1 and Level 4, but I only listed the one publisher.)
Year 1 – Grades 4 and 1
After months of research, we decided we wanted to follow the Classical model of eduction. In the beginning, we were going to follow the classical model of education to a T. It would only be a few short years until my kids were reading the Odyssey in Latin. Reality check! It didn’t take long for me to realize that wasn’t going to happen. For the most part, we have stuck with the history cycle and somewhat with the stages of learning but realized we couldn’t, or rather didn’t want to, “do it all”.
Like falling in love, our first year of homeschooling was a mix giddy excitement and weighing self-doubt.
Tapestry of Grace
Grammar (Thing 1 only)
Spelling (Thing 1 only)
I cannot remember what we used this year!
Phonics (Thing 2 only)
(To this day, teaching Thing 2 to read has been of my most satisfying and rewarding experiences. I’ll never forget those mornings snuggled together on the couch listening to him slowly sound out words and watching the joy on his face when he would get them on his own. He still loves to read and we can’t keep his Kindle filled!)
We also joined a homeschool co-op this year and took a mix of classes to compliment what we were learning at home.
Year 2 – Grades 5 and 2
Our second year of homeschooling, we enrolled the boys in a new a hybrid classical school. It was a fantastic year blending the best of both worlds. The boys were home with us four days a week and went to school three days a week. They got the benefits of a classroom setting, like positive peer pressure (and a teacher who could keep up with Latin) and I got a break. Since I didn’t need to create schedules, choose curriculum, and find social opportunities our homeschool days were even more relaxed. The one thing I would have changed about this year was math. At the time, the school used Saxton which turned out to be a poor fit for both boys. Not only was it boring but it was less advanced than their previous curriculum. When we went back to homeschooling the following year we had to go back a year in Singapore.
Year 3 – Grades 6 and 3
Year 3 was our first year of roadschooling. Like watching a 3D movie for the first time, this was the year where learning came to life as we visited battlefields, swam with manatees, explored cities, experienced caves, imagined life as an American colonial , hiked mountains, stayed on a farm, canoed with alligators, and experienced more in one year than many people experience in a lifetime.
We started with the curriculum below but after about six months gave “unschooling” a try before going back to a more scheduled approach. I’m glad we tried unschooling but it didn’t work for us at that point in our lives or perhaps I just didn’t give it time. Another post all together. After our failed unschooling attempt, I added an additional writing program because I wasn’t thrilled with Sonlight or Rod and Staff’s writing components.
I should add that although we do subjects like spelling and grammar, I consider them “throw away” subjects. (Don’t hate, you grammar Nazis.) We do enough to understand the concepts but we don’t waste time with unnecessary drilling and extra practice. We would rather the boys spend the time reading or exploring.
This year we also abandoned book science and took a hands on approach by taking advantage of our travels to national parks and museums. The boys earned over 50 Junior Ranger badges that year. It was also an amazing year for history as we read books like Johnny Tremain, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, and Moccasin Trail and then visited the places in the stories.
National Park Tour, Junior Ranger Programs, and many museums
Handwriting without Tears (Thing 2 only)
Institute for Excellence in Writing
Year 4 – Grades 7 and 4
Our second year of roadschooling was similar to our first year as we continued to explore the United States with the exception of Thing 1’s work. His work was more challenging than the previous year and we began to do some testing. I did not do standardized testing but subject testing so he would learn test taking skills should he need them later down the road.
After many years of Singapore math I realized I couldn’t keep up with Thing 1 so began the search for a new math curriculum that required less parental involvement. We tried the Art of Problem Solving which would be amazing for the right kind of kid. It was a horrible fit for us. After a few more weeks of research, I narrowed math down to Math-U-See, Teaching Textbooks, and Life of Fred. Thing 1 looked them over and chose which one he wanted to study. He chose Life of Fred and after two years I can’t say enough good things about it. (The Kahn Academy was used as a supplemental resource for extra practice when needed and not as a stand-alone program.)
We decided to start Latin this year but abandoned it about 6 months later.
A huge highlight of the year was four months in snowboard school at Breckinridge Ski Resort where the boys went from falling down the mountain to riding black diamonds.
Kahn Academy (Thing 1 and 2)
Institute of Excellence in Writing
Handwriting without Tears (Thing 2)
Year 5 – Grades 8 and 5
The focus for our third year of roadschooling was preparing Thing 1 for high school level work and continue to make learning as fun as possible for Thing 2. Of course, as we traveled we continued to learn through experiences.
The highlight of our travels this year was visiting our 49th state, Alaska! During the long drive through Canada and Alaska, we listened to many audiobooks like Call of the Wild, White Fang, Hatchet, and Jason’s Gold as we drove through and visited many of the places in the stories. Thing 2 also developed a fascination with gold panning so he spent many hours reading about gold panning and then gave it a try himself near Girdwood and Chicken, Alaska. Roadschooling at its best!!!
A Variety of Historical Fiction
(I picked books based on the time period we were studying or the places we visited.)
Kahn (Thing 1 and 2)
Phonetic Zoo by Institute for Excellence in Writing (Thing 2 only)
Year 6 – Grades 9 and 6
I can’t believe I’m a mother of a high schooler and we’ve been on this homeschooling journey for six years!
Our fourth year of roadschooling has been a big year for Thing 1. Per his request he wanted a challenging curriculum because wanted to make sure he is “keeping up with school kids”. It has been a struggle for me because, frankly, I see much (not all) of traditional school as a lot of nonsense and wasted time. While we’ve kept up with the core subjects, we’ve allowed plenty of room for freedom to explore, create, and have avoided traditional textbooks and boring assignments. Brent and I have encouraged the boys to think out of box and question the status quo.
However, Thing 1 is getting older and we wanted to respect his desire for a more traditional course of study. He has expressed that he wants to go to college and hopefully receive some scholarship money. That means “the game” of test scores and graduation requirements needs to be played to a certain extent. We know there are untraditional ways to gain entrance into college and receive scholarships but we do want to keep as many paths open as possible for him.
Reluctantly, we arranged his course of study to meet traditional future college entrance requirements and enrolled him in a virtual school for a few classes. It was tough transition. First, it was our first experience with the Common Core math standards. As you know, I question any sort of blanket “standards” and the status quo. However, after a year I think the new standards are beneficial in helping kids gain a true understanding of math instead of relying on memorizing formulas. The virtual school math has also been very challenging because, although he has a teacher he “can” go to with questions, he has been responsible for learning the concepts himself and he has had to be accountable to someone other than me. A good thing! For the most part, it has been a valuable experience as he has learned the hard way to manage his time and seek out resources on his own to help him understand concepts. (Unfortunately, his algebra teacher were less than helpful.)
As for Thing 2, the goal has continued to be keep learning as fun and interesting as possible. He reads, reads, and reads. He isn’t crazy about math but I’ve insisted that he keep up with “requirements” because math is one subject that is hard to catch up should we decide to stop homeschooling. He, too, enrolled in a virtual school math class and also received an A both semesters. The biggest change for him was more independent learning. The previous 5 years I was more hands on but with Thing 3 in the picture it became increasingly difficult. Thing 2 really stepped up and took initiative to complete assignments on his own.
My Father’s World Ancient History and Literature
Florida Virtual School – Honors Algebra and 6th grade math
Tried Florida Virtual School but switched to Apologia Biology
Finished the Apologia Elementary Series
(Thing 2 read every book over the years except Chemistry.)
Rod and Staff (Thing 2 only)
Intro to Technology
Florida Virtual School (Thing 1)
Honors Web Design
Florida Virtual School (Thing 1)
Florida Virtual School (Thing 2)
So there it is…our curriculum choices over the last 6 years.
How I miss our early years of cuddling on the couch while reading stories about pharaohs and pioneers. Even though I tried to be intentional and savor the moments with them, it has all gone by too fast. I wouldn’t trade our early years of homeschooling or the adventures of road schooling for anything. The only thing I would do differently is start homeschooling sooner and not worry so much about picking “the right” curriculum in the beginning because homeschooling is about so much more!
Love and Laughter,
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