our curriculum picks

Another school year is winding down for us.  It’s that time of year that we look at our budget and needs.  It’s time to pick out our curriculum!

Many hours scouring the internet and making plans have been had this week.  There are so many options that it’s always overwhelming to me.  I tend to look at a few things when I buy curriculum.

1.  Price.  We simply can’t afford to spend more than $500.00 for ALL the kids combined.  This may seem like a lot of money, but many popular curriculum like Abeka, Calvert, Alpha Omega and Sonlight can be much more than this per grade.  Honestly, if money was no object I would go for Sonlight or Switched on Schoolhouse, past grade 3.  Money is an object here though.

2.  Multi-level options.  This makes is easier for me, and everyone else seems to like being in-sync.  We normally do these subjects first then split up for individual work.  We do history and science together now.  Next school year we’re adding Spanish, Spelling and Bible.  More on this below.

3.  Ease of use.  Self explanatory.  I teach four grades.  If each grade is complicated and requires lots of my time, we’ll never get through the day.  I look for books that are self-teaching.  This way, they can read the lesson, and I help re-enforce.

4.  Short but rich lessons.  I’m not of fan of dry long explanations.  The kids aren’t either.  Short certainly doesn’t mean that it’s not enough.

Please note:  Our new Workbox System helps us stay organized and get done with school by lunch time.  That’s right.  Lunchtime.  We generally start around 9AM.  Instrument practice is separate.  Very rarely, the older two take until 1PM. So don’t pass out when you read our list.  I don’t lock them up all day :)

With all that said here’s our list divided by grade:

Isabel (6th grade)

Math- Teaching Textbooks grade 6.  CD program grades as they go,  with video links and workbooks.  I bought mine off Ebay and saved $50.

English- Rod and Staff English 6– Can seem a tiny dry, but they are short lessons and extremely thorough.  You can      reproduce the worksheets and tests, or buy a new set for the next kid for $6.

Music- Clarinet lessons at a local school.  Sports and Music programs are free to homeschoolers in our state.

Sites we plan to use as tools:  Khan Academy, Dance Mat Typing, and Free Rice.  These are all free.

Andre (4th Grade)

Math- Switched on Schoolhouse grade 4.  I would’ve gone with Teaching Textbooks, but I found a better deal with SOS.

English- Growing in Grammar (already had), Winning in Writing (also had).  If we didn’t have these I would’ve gone with Rod and Staff 4.  We love JacKris, but I’m moving away from consumables past grade 3.

Music-  Guitar with Little Kids Rock (free You Tube Series).  Already have a guitar, and he always asks to play.

Sites for tools:  Khan Academy, Dance Mat Typing and Free Rice.

Olivia (Grade 2)

Math- Sylvan Super Math 3/1 Workbook grade 2.  These are fun and colorful and they are a great price.  I saw them at Costco and thumbed through them. $12

Language/Math- Daily Learning Drills grade 2.  I saw these in person too.  They are huge 412 page books and cover all subjects.  They cost around $10.

Reading- Bob Books sets 3&4, Continue working through the free sight word sets at 1+1+1=1.

Music- Piano using the free Hoffman Academy videos.  It does ask that you buy the PDF downloads for $20.  We have a  keyboard already.

Sites for tools:  Starfall (my favorite for little ones), Dance Mat Typing.

Josephine (Grade 1)

Math- Sylvan Super Math 3/1 Workbook grade 1.

Language/Math- Daily Learning Drills grade 1.

Reading- Bob Books sets 1&2 plus Sight Words set.  Sight Word sets from 1+1+1=1, Bible Reader from My Father’s World (We’ve had this for years).

Sites for tools: Starfall, Dance Tap Typing.

Desmond (Pre-K)

I’m way relaxed with this level.  Play is best and best received, but he needs a little something to fight wigglies while the others get through their work.

He listens and colors while we read science and math.  He does puzzles, busy bags, and watches learning shows like Super Why, Wild Kratts, and Word World.

I did buy him a few things so he felt like he was starting school too.

Daily Learning Drills grade K

Leap Frog Learning DVD set

Bible- Seeds Family Worship printables.  These are verse coloring pages to go with a CD of music we have.  They are free.

Sites for tools:  Starfall.

All Grades Together 

History- Mystery of History Volume 1.  We LOVE this.  Short lessons and activities that we ACTUALLY do!  They are easy  and fun.  We used this for our current year.  Really this book could take years to go through if you extend every lesson to  a week.

Science-  Apologia Science Zoology 2.  This is Marine Biology.  The kids really wanted to do this one.  We did Astronomy this year.  We are almost done and we all LOVE it.  We don’t buy the journals.  We do just fine with a composition book.

Spanish- Spanish 1 (K-5) and Spanish 1 (6-8).  Haven’t received these yet.  We also have a Drive and Learn CD set that we’re going to actually use. LOL.

Bible- Apologia: Who Is God?  This is a study book.  There are journals to buy separately.  We are going to buy the journals for the older two and the coloring books for the next two.

A couple more things to mention in this super long post: I supplement.  I find free games and worksheets if a kid is struggling.  We always have a book we’re reading as a family.  Either Nick or I are reading to them.  We go to the library weekly.  They pick books that interest them.  I make the older read a chapter book.  Normally I choose these so I know they’re reading great literature. They daily reading to themselves for 30 mins.  When they finish a book they write a report.  They journal for 15 mins a day.  I randomly ask them to write reports and do research.

I’m always on the look-out for teaching moments.  All those questions they ask, I try not to fluff off.  I look it up for them or hand them a book with the answers.  I’m not perfect at this, but I really try to seize those moments.

Even the TV they watch needs to feel like they’re learning something.  Not always, but mostly they watch enriching shows.  I loath Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, and Nick.  There are VERY few shows they can watch on these channels.  I make them play outside.  This is great for all people in my opinion.  Nature and Vit D does everyone good.

Occasionally they each get App time on my phone.  These are always learning games that are free.

Lastly, we farm.  Lots of chores, knowledge and lessons that go along with that whole operation.

What are your favorite learning tools or curriculum?  Please share for others to see.  Do you have any questions?  Please ask.  I love to see what others are doing and I love helping out newbies.

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