Over the years, our style and routine for homeschooling has changed. In some subjects we have swerved in different directions to only find ourselves returning to our tried and true. At other times, we swerve away and find the new territory ventured into is a much better fit and brings a new enthusiasm to our schooling.
We are now approaching the end of our 2013-2014 academic year and our 8th year of homeschooling. Here are a few of our favorite things (can’t you just hear Julie Andrews in the background…)
Reading and Literature:
During the elementary years after the kids can read, our preference is Bob Jones Reading Curriculum. We find the reading passages to be appropriate for the level of book and the accompanying workbooks help the student to explore literary concepts (such as story sequence, reading comprehension, conflict, and character development) as well as spend some time on reinforcing phonetics at the younger grade levels.
As our children reached middle school and high school, we took a much more classic literature approach. We would select books and create reading lists of great literature that would correspond with their history and make it come alive. At times, these lists and the literature study guides were built into their history curriculum. When this was not the case, we really enjoyed using the literature guides from Progeny Press.
The Progeny Press studies incorporate vocabulary studies, reading comprehension studies, literary concept analysis, and then deeper analysis that helps the student to explore the developments in the story and how they relate to the student’s own value system and Biblical principles. We enjoyed being a part of a review last year for both a middle school and high school level study guide from Progeny Press. For more of our thoughts, you can find that review here. We are also in the process of reviewing their interactive study guides for the elementary graded study on the Door in the Wall and a high school level study on The Last of the Mohicans. Stay tuned for those reviews that will be coming out in just a few weeks.
Grammar, Spelling, and Writing
Our hands down all time favorite spelling curriculum is All About Spelling. It is a solid curriculum that spans grades 1-7. The creators of this great program have done a remarkable job of incorporating all learning styles into this curriculum from colored magnetic tiles that you literally move to verbal teaching and then the incorporation of dictation to bring it all together. Even our child with some learning challenges in the language arts area has thrived using All About Spelling.
In the early years, we tend to gravitate to the Grammar & Writing curriculum from Bob Jones. In alternating chapters, the students are exposed to instruction in sentence structure and also different types of writing. As our students progressed, we found ourselves transitioning to the Easy Grammar System for grammar study and then using a separate program for writing skills. For the upper elementary and middle school grades, our family loves the creative and visual approach to writing incorporated into the WriteShop materials. As our students move into the high school grades, they have really done well in solidifying essay writing skills using the Essentials in Writing Program as well as materials from Writing with Sharon Watson. Our sophmore this year has really enjoyed using her course
I can’t wait to see how the novel she has been working on turns out at the end of this course.
Math has been our challenge area. We have tried lots of different curriculum as well as supplemental programs over the years. Most math curriculum can be broken into two approaches: a mastery approach and the spiral approach. For mastery approach math curriculum where the students spends a complete chapter learning repetitiously about the same general concept, our family gravitates to the math resources from Bob Jones. For our students that don’t need the redundancy of a mastery approach, Saxon’s math curriculum is our choice on the spiral approach to learning. This allows for new and varied concepts to be introduced each day with cumulative review from throughout the book being incorporated into the daily assignments. I will caution that it is my understanding that the Saxon math curriculum may be moving to Common Core Standards for education, which our family would not promote. For this reason, we highly recommend looking for 2nd and 3rd edition Saxon materials.
Some of our favorite math add-ons over the years have been the books in the Life of Fred series as well as math reinforcement from CTC Math. We recently reviewed the CTC Math program and our review can be found here.
Our family loves science and getting our hands right into the middle of it. During the elementary grades, we fluctuate between using Bob Jones and The Young Explorer’s Series from Apologia. In our family these different resources achieve the same goal, but in a different way. The Bob Jones materials are more of what I would consider to be a survey course in that each chapter focuses on a different aspect of science. There may be a chapter on the weather, one on how things grow, another on rocks, and yet another on force and physical mechanics. This is much more of a textbook/workbook format with optional tests. Experiments are incorporated into the study materials. The Young Explorer’s Series focuses on a single general topic in each book that you will focus on for a full academic year. Instead of recording what the student learns in a workbook, the student keeps a nature journal. This series lends itself much more toward a Charlotte Mason approach to homeschooling. Both are great resources. Our family tends to alternate depending largely in part on the writing intensiveness of whatever we have chosen to do in history for the year. We did have the opportunity to review the Young Explorer’s Series Zoology 2 book last year and have continued using it with our boys this year. Here is a link to our review and another to a post we did earlier this year on the importance of science experiments that started with something we were learning about in this curriculum as well.
At the high school level, we are devoted Apologia fans. The course material is extensive enough to be used in preparing for either CLEP exams or AP exams. It utilizes an independent learning style which allows our self directed learners the ability to work at their own pace rather than being tied to Mom’s schedule. A large part of our moving to Apologia as the primary focus of our high school science learning is the reasonable cost associated with purchasing the materials needed for the labs in these books. We love the combination of academically challenging material, affordable labs, and a self-directed approach to learning.
Our family is made up of lovers of history. We have used many resources over the years. Here are just a few of our favorites and why.
- My all time favorite history curriculum are those published by Notgrass. The curriculum packages from this company are solid in their information, are presented from a Christian worldview, incorporate classic literature, and also utilize primary source documents. Our boys and I had the opportunity to review the America the Beautiful curriculum set last year. The review can be found here. Our oldest used the high school level Exploring America set this year and will be using both the Government and Economics courses next year to finish out her high school experience.
- When our focus for history was on a more Classical Approach, our family thoroughly enjoyed the Mystery of History materials. This series begins with a study of ancient civilizations in Volume 1 and then moves on to the Middle Ages in Volume 2, and the Renaissance and Reformation in Volume 3. Modern History will be covered in Volume 4 which should be released in the near future. When using these materials, we would read the selections each day together and have time for discussion. There was then a series of projects and assignments that the students could explore at their own educational levels so that there was truly something for everyone.
- Another tool we have used in our study of history is that of lapbooks. Our children have learned an extensive amount from these resources and review what they have learned each time that they open their folders to add in new things for that day. Because their lapbooks are their creation, they love looking at them and sharing them with others. Our favorite source for lapbook and unit study materials is In the Hands of a Child.
In the past, our family has done very little in the way of dedicated art study. It is something that I always have slated, but never seem to get around to. I am not a particularly artistic person and have not had training. There is also something about pulling out all those supplies. In the last year, we have had a chance to review two art curriculum packages, which has actually inspired us to do more art on a regular basis. See the Light is a video driven curriculum that combines art history, art technique and step by step instructions in completing your own projects. Our family thoroughly enjoyed this series and had some family night fun with art. See our review here.
The other company we have enjoyed learning art with is ARTistic Pursuits. Last year, we had the opportunity to review their High School Drawing 1 curriculum and this year we reviewed their new Sculpture Curriculum. The ARTistic Pursuits curriculum is a written guide to art technique incorporating projects as well as some art history.
There are so many great curriculum options on the market today. This has been a review of our families favorites. We hope that it may help to give you things to consider if you are new on your homeschool journey, trying to get out of a rut, or just need to try something different for a child that just thinks a bit different. This post ended up being much longer than I anticipated, but I guess that is what happens after homeschooling for 8 years with 4 children that just seem to learn different from one another.
To read other posts from families from the TOS Review Crew that are participating in this Round Up on Our Favorite Curriculum, visit here.