I had the chance to share over at Raising Arrows last week, the mental grid I use when choosing curriculum. The process of making a list and writing down what worked and what didn’t forces me to slow down and really think. The end goal is to discover why some practices and curricula were more successful than others, then use the information to make good choices for the following year. (I highly recommend this process of writing down what worked, didn’t and why for both those who process verbally and those who are visual list people. I happen to be both!)
Want to take a sneak peek at what we used last year and if it worked or not. Please take my personal anecdotes with a grain of salt. Different curricula work for different families. In my review of the year I was encouraged that there were more things that worked. We had a couple of rough terms, but all in all it was a great year!
Veritas History Online-Everyone likes Veritas at my house. The online version is very well done. I love history, and I am pretty sure that it is a subject I could teach it well without the annual cost. The cost savings tempts me to change from using Veritas. However, like I said, everyone in my house loves this. They voluntarily do their history without complaint. That is worth a million dollars. We’ve had some really great discussions on the back side of the lessons and have used the historical fiction they suggest as read alouds. This was our second year with Veritas and we’ve already signed up for a third year. (I always take advantage of their sale. Veritas is discounted through this referral link until June 6!)
Teaching Textbooks-My oldest son seamlessly switched this year from Math U-See to TT and really enjoyed it. He will use this again next year. I didn’t purchase the workbook so he had to copy each problem down from the computer onto scratch paper. It took him a really long time to do some of the lessons. He asked for the workbook next year, and I think that it will be worth it.
Math U See-My first grader used MUS and will continue on into the second grade book. I so glad this tried and true math program worked for him.
Life of Fred-We read Life of Fred in our morning time. I must confess that I didn’t really get into it, but the kids really did. They kept asking for me to read it. I have access to the entire series through our public library. Since it is free and they enjoy it, I will keep reading it.
Spelling Workout-My first grade and third grader really liked Spelling Workout last year. They were able to work independently, and I thought it was great for their vocabulary too.
Abeka Language– I grew up using Abeka at the Christian school I attended in middle school so it feels comfortable to me. It is so thorough that I know I have covered everything there is to know about grammar. However, I am going out on a limb next year, and trying something new. (What a tease!)
God’s Design Science-I finally found a science. Did you hear me? I FOUND A SCIENCE! It has been quite the search. The lessons are short and well written. The pictures are colorful. It was written for multilevel learning. (I got it on sale!) I chose corresponding memory work from my memory cards. This was my huge “happy” this year.
Handwriting without Tears-I really like this for beginner letter makers. I strayed from it one year and switched back mid-year. Double bonus, these are supplied by our HSAP program at no cost to me.
A Reason for Handwriting-The older kids used this to practice their cursive, and enjoyed the short lessons and copy work. I don’t think that we will need it next year because of the language that we are going to switch to will have some copy work built in. (The suspense is killing you isn’t it.)
My Father’s World-My first grader used this because I had it around from my oldest son. It has a gentle phonics built into it and was a good fit for him since he was a natural reader. (NOTE: This didn’t work at all to teach my dyslexic son to read.) I love the Bible reader that accompanies with this curriculum.
Free-Write Friday-This is not a curriculum but a concept from the book The Writer’s Jungle. Very roughly, we sit down together and write whatever comes to mind until the timer goes off. (I do it too!) The kids can choose to share or not when the timer goes off. They wrote everything from short stories, to recipes (I would never eat), to rules for their room! My first grader would count the days until Free-Write Friday. SCORE!
Horizon Math-Math with my daughter is a long story. It has nothing to do with capabilities and everything to do with attitude. Her favorite year was when I went through my drawer of random workbooks and tore out pages that corresponded with what she needed to learn, put it in a 3-ring binder and called it her own personal math book full of short lessons of great variety. (Sweet child of mine, mama doesn’t want to make a math curriculum. For the love of numbers, just learn to appreciate a math mama can purchase!)
We chose Horizon because it was colorful-a very academic reason, I know. There were two math workbooks which turned out to be a ton of math for her. She got halfway through the second workbook. Since it takes a spiral approach to math there is a lot of review built into it. I am satisfied that she isn’t missing anything in the second half of the second book. Next year will be the year of long division. I have no reason to believe that it will be pretty no matter what book we use. (Hmm, I wonder where she gets her sour attitude.)
All About Spelling-This nearly killed our homeschool this winter. When I realized “I don’t hate homeschooling I just hate spelling!” I knew it was time to switch this program mid-year. It felt cumbersome. Looking back I think logistics were a bigger problem than the curriculum. My while board was HUGE and awkward at the table. It took too long to set up. We did this in the afternoon since the littles would interrupt all our little tile rearranging. I am a morning person through and through so the afternoon was not a good time for me. I tried teaching two kids at once, and someone was always not paying attention. I know this is a good program so I did not sell it. I am just setting it aside for now, and I may come back to it.
Switched on Schoolhouse: Science-This was the other colossal failure. At the beginning of the year I was feeling really guilty that I hadn’t done enough science with my oldest. (Note to self: guilt rarely inspires good choices.) I chose this general science on the computer that I did not have to physically teach. It sounded like a dream. This is a good broad curriculum that isn’t a good match for dyslexics. By mid-year my son was convinced that he was terrible at science and that he hated it. I felt awful because neither is true.
Gonna’ Give it a Shot
Bravewriter’s Language Arts program, Arrow– This is the big shift that I am making in our language curriculum this year. I snagged a great deal on a bundle through the Homeschool Buyer’s Coop. I am excited about a literature based approach to language for my 2nd, 4th, and 6th graders. I imagine that there will be a learning curve to figure out how to fit this for our family.
Squilt-I am so excited to study classical music during our morning time. I think we are going to love it. (Click here to visit Homegrown Learners. For more info on Squilt)
IEW Writing-I have taken Charlotte Mason’s advice with writing, and I have not pushed the kids on this. Each of the kids has written a few short stories, plays or reports on their own accord over the years and I have seized those opportunities to help them learn how to write. My hypothesis is that they like it because I didn’t force it. I am excited to take a couple of terms to gently explore how we can become better writers.
All About Reading-Even I laugh out loud writing this, after I dreaded All About Spelling, but I see a few of the same dyslexic tendencies in my Kindergartner that I saw with my oldest son. I am going with a phonics program that will support her and will take into consideration some of the things that I did that made All About Spelling harder than it needed to be.
First Language Lessons 2- While this is designed as 2nd grade material we are going to do these lessons together in morning time. I hopeful that the combination of FLL and Bravewriter’s Arrow will be a great combination.
Sequential Spelling-This will be for my dyslexic son. There is a computer option for this, but I found the workbook used so we will try that first.
As I was writing this out I realized how our homeschool has changed the last few years. I read through what I wrote and the words “learning together” was repeated throughout. (I then edited out some of them to keep it from being so repetitive. Your welcome.) I have always thought of learning together as a matter of efficiency. As our morning time has evolved I have realized that it is attractive to me more because it is an enjoyable way to learn not just for the sake of being efficient.