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Many of us have already begun planning for the next school (or maybe a few of you are already done!). We don’t follow a typical public school schedule. Instead, we have found that year-round schooling gives us the freedom we were looking for in our weeks and months throughout the year.
Early on I learned that homeschooling differently-wired kids meant we were really on our own when it came to figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Our curriculum choices don’t follow any particular homeschool philosophy or style. You just cannot put outside-the-box kids into a box as much as you might try (did you read my post “5 Reasons Why a “Charlotte Mason” Style Homeschool Wasn’t Right For Us”?). So let’s just say my style and my children’s learning style is eclectic. You will see a little bit of every style here.
Officially my son, will be going into grade 3. Academically he’s all over the map and yet I’ve chosen not to skip grades with my children for a couple of reasons. Number one my son is a perfectionist. This can work for him and against him all in the same breath. Starting a subject below what I know he is capable of seems to give him the confidence he needs to eventually tackle the more challenging topics.
Secondly, even though he learns at an accelerated rate I realized early on he enjoyed studying the basics, even when he could easily complete an algebra problem in his head. I want to ensure he has a good foundation and for us, that means starting at the beginning and allowing him to move through subjects and levels at whatever rate works for him.
A few more things I figured out in my short three years of homeschooling. There is no such thing as the perfect curriculum. What is right for me may not be right for you and your child. I will be sharing many of the books we refer to and use as guides but just because they are listed here does not mean we will read or complete each one cover to cover.
There will always be “better” curriculum out there, especially after you have already chosen your books for the year. (I cannot be the only one who experiences “FOMO” during planning season.) Sometimes it is best to put your blinders on and walk on in confidence with the guides you have already chosen for your homeschool.
“It doesn’t really matter how far in the book we get. What matters is what happens in the mind and heart of our student, and for that matter – in ourselves. You know this. I know this. But we’ve got to start living it. We are all spinning our wheels because we’re frantically trying to “get through” published curriculum as if turning the last page in the book by the beginning of summer vacation will somehow mean that our children learned something. Truth is, they do learn something from that. But it’s not at all the message we want them to internalize. We are teaching people, not books. We need to understand the limitations of curriculum. We need to stop trying to make it something that it’s not, expecting it to yield what it was never intended to deliver.”-Sarah Mackenzie, Teaching From Rest
Grade 3 (age 8)
Math has been a tricky subject to pin down in our home. When he completed his Grade 2 math books we took a break. I left multiple math books around, like Basher Math and Algebra, Life of Fred, Bedtime math, and of course Lego. I was amazed at how much of his reading and our daily activities actually included math! Just because we had taken a break from curriculum didn’t mean the learning stopped! I share this only to encourage you. When you feel like a break from structured curriculum is needed, take a break… without the guilt! You’ll be amazed at how much learning continues to take place even if you need to “unschool” for a time.
After our much-needed break, we began using Math Mammoth and we plan to stick with it for a couple of reasons. Number one, it’s straightforward. There doesn’t seem to be any of the unnecessary busy work and extra steps that my son dislikes. We can include manipulatives when it suits us or he can complete the lesson on his own. Secondly, you cannot really beat the price of the PDF version. Expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better just as inexpensive doesn’t mean it lacks quality. For us, this means my son can go at the pace he wants and we just print the next lesson as we go even if he chooses to complete more than one grade per year. I also love that it meets AND exceeds the common core standards of the public school system. Because of this, it is important to take the placement test before beginning. The Grade 3 curriculum we use matches up with many of the topics covered in some Grade 4 math books. Below is just a few of the resources we will be using throughout the year for math.
If it would have been possible to have an all in one language arts curriculum I would have chosen to go that route. I had to remind myself that I am teaching my child not the curriculum and for us, that means boxed curriculum is not going to work. He is years ahead in reading, comprehension, and vocabulary while at grade level when it comes to grammar, spelling, and handwriting.
Grammar Galaxy is the only book out of this selection that I have used before. My son recently completed Grammar Galaxy Nebula and he will be starting Protostar in a couple of weeks. We decided to stick with Grammar Galaxy because as the old saying goes “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” We have tried multiple language arts curriculum and this one seems to solve many of the problems we had with the others. Problems like too much writing, copywork, and busy work. Last year we used only Nebula and a handwriting program. The minimal writing required in Grammar Galaxy allowed my son to go back to writing stories on his own again. After ditching the last LA curriculum we began using Grammar Galaxy and soon after I began to find my son back at the table making up comic books, writing short stories, and even letters to me. Something he had lost enjoyment in doing on his own after all the forced writing activities in the other curriculum. This is reason enough for me to continue with Grammar Galaxy.
As he is getting older and ready for more challenging work I have added spelling and vocabulary workbooks to the mix which we will be part of our new schedule. We are also going back to “Handwriting Without Tears: Cursive” to work on one of his goals this year which is to correct letter reversals.
The “extras” for language arts this year are Writing Rhetoric, Word Roots Beginning, and the Fallacy Detective. My son is currently interested in Latin and Greek roots so along with other books he chose the workbook Word Roots Beginning from the CriticalThinkingCo. to do “just for fun” this year. I was going to wait to begin Writing Rhetoric next year but once again my choices each year often come down to following my son’s lead and he specifically asked to learn how to write short stories this year.
The Fallacy Detective is often used with middle school-aged kids. I decided to go through it together with my son this year because of the sheer volume of books, documentaries, and posts he reads on his own that are definitely not limited to elementary level topics. Learning critical thinking, logic, and reasoning skills, is so incredibly important in this age of information. Critical thinking (and common sense for that matter) I believe is sorely lacking in most schools but true education requires these skills.
Education is not the learning of facts but the training of the mind to think.-Albert Einstein
- Grammar Galaxy
- Wordly Wise
- Writing Rhetoric
- Handwriting Without Tears
- Word Roots Beginning
- The Fallacy Detective
History and Geography
I decided to give Story of the World a try this year. I cannot say too much about this curriculum as we haven’t started it yet. I will say it has amazing reviews and I am excited to begin reading it with the kids. We will be including many other beautiful history and “around the world” books in our read-aloud list throughout the year and I’ve shared just a few of them below.
- Story of the World
- Uncle Josh’s Outline Maps
- Timelines of World History
- The Usborne Book of Greek Myths
- The Big Book of Canada
- The Story of Canada
- Illustrated Family Bible
- The Silk Roads: A New History of the World
- 80 Tales Around the World
- Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time
- A Children’s History of Art
“Build your kids’ lives on a story-solid foundation and you’ll give them armor to shield themselves from the world’s cynicism. You’ll give them confidence to persevere in the face of life’s conflicts. You’ll give them a reservoir of compassion that spills over into a lifetime of love in action.”-Jamie C. Martin, Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time
Science is my sons favorite topic to study. It’s a subject that is continuously on the go in our home.
We decided to stick with Elemental Science for a couple of reasons. I’ll admit it is not the prettiest science curriculum. The artwork causes my son to stop and question what it’s actually supposed to be and I have stumbled across various spelling and grammar mistakes. That said, for the price it has worked well for us because we only use it as an outline. I buy the teachers manual and notebooking pages as a PDF and print off pages as we need them based on interests.
The majority of our science curriculum is pieced together through books, videos, and experiments covering whatever topic we’re studying while using Elemental Science as our outline. So far we have used Chemistry for the Grammar Stage and Biology for the Grammar Stage. This year my son asked to go back and study Astronomy and Earth Science. Below are just a few of the books we’ll be using, adding more throughout the year.
- Elemental Science
- The Kingfisher Encyclopedia of Science
- The New Astronomy Book
- Exploring the World of Astronomy
- Basher Science
Kindergarten (age 5)
My youngest is the complete opposite of my eight-year-old, so once again I find myself starting from scratch. What I have learned so far is he needs to move. During our daily read-aloud, he is often on the couch beside me doing headstands or jumping on our little indoor trampoline. Lots of activities, art, music, and outdoor time is an absolute must. Actual “school work” will be kept at a minimum and I’ll simply be following his lead with a few goals in mind.
“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”-Henry David Thoreau
Our core curriculum for reading this year will be All About Reading. We have already been using the pre-reading program from All About Reading. It was mostly review but I found it beneficial nonetheless. Plus my youngest absolutely loves the puppet that came with the program, Ziggy Zebra, and all of the hands-on letter activities. We will start Level 1 in the fall which I am confident he is more than ready for after the pre-reading level.
ABC, See, Hear, Do is a very simple, inexpensive, fun, and active reading program that we started when my son was four. He still loves pulling them out and doing the actions for each letter. Reading Eggs is a fairly new addition to our day. I wasn’t sure what I thought about him using the tablet for a reading program. To him the app is simply a fun game but I quickly realized he is actually learning to read on his own through this app. It has been well worth the price we paid for the subscription and I would recommend it to anyone who has a beginning reader in their home or even an older struggling reader.
I have used Math Lessons for a Living Education from Master Books with my oldest in the past. It was not a good fit but like I said my oldest and youngest boys are complete opposite. What works for one often does not work for the other. The little stories before each lesson in this math, my oldest hated, begging to just get on with actual math, while my youngest would always ask for “just one more story please!”
I have decided to only use this program for Kindergarten starting with Level 1. It is not common core aligned so the Level 1 (Grade 1) material is closer to what would be considered Kindergarten level, some work would even be considered Pre-K. This is perfect for us because I wanted a gentle start to math and something my child would enjoy. We will be moving on to a new math curriculum at the end of the year.
Life of Fred is used as a read-aloud because my son loves the stories! He gets out the books just so we can read them together. I had originally bought them for my oldest but once again through trial and error we realized Life of Fred wasn’t a good fit either, but for my youngest, story-loving son, these books are perfect.
Math Seeds is simply a bonus addition to the Reading Eggs app we recently discovered and once again I was surprised at just how much my son is learning through this “game”.
Reading, playing, and just living life. Learning is so much more than whatever curriculum we’re using. The curriculum takes up such a small part of our day (often no more than two hours at the most four days a week). It is important, valuable, and necessary in this season of childhood but certainly not the most important. Instead, relationships and real-life experience take precedent in our home over anything else. This is the freedom, the beauty, the challenge, and calling of homeschooling.
“The Extras” is a really misleading title for this section. I could add in lists of games, books, “field-trips”, extra-curricular events, and all the interest-led activities we do but those change frequently and are really just part of our day that make-up far more time than the curriculum ever will. Building a relationship, a friendship, with my children is not “extra”. Something to add to my schedule when I have time. Time together as a family and as siblings to grow and learn together needs to be a priority.
Life skills such as time management, chores, problem-solving, grocery shopping, meal prep, home maintenance, and even learning how to properly clean a toilet (you’re welcome future daughter-in-law) are anything but extra. Serving others, saying sorry, choosing kindness, dealing with emotions, and communicating clearly are all skills that will help our children meet their full potential, the curriculum we choose is just the cherry on top.
Homeschooling gives us the gift of time we wouldn’t otherwise have with our children. We aren’t left with only evenings and weekends or “eighteen summers”. I would hate to look back and see that my well-laid plans, curriculum, and schedule used up all that precious time. Below I have shared just a few of the books that have helped, and continue to help keep me focused in this season of homeschooling and parenthood. I hope they will encourage you too.
- Teaching From Rest: Sarah Mackenzie
- Homeschool Bravely: Jamie Erickson
- The Brave Learner, Finding Everyday Magic in Homeschool, Learning, and Life: Julie Bogart
- The Read-Aloud Family: Sarah Mackenzie
“We Should number our days not so we live fearfully but in order to live more faithfully. We count our days so we can make them count.”Karen Ehman & Ruth Schwenk
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be on Instagram sharing pictures and little videos of each of the books I’ve shared here. My son even said he MIGHT be up for sharing his own take on homeschooling and the books he uses. Crossing my fingers for that one. I’ll also be talking about our schedule and how we plan our unconventional school days. So if you want to know more or have any questions visit me over on Instagram or comment below!