Tuesday, July 31

These are a few of my favorite things


Today's homeschooling entry is all about curriculum, or as I like to call them: piles of beautiful chaos. Once upon a time, homeschooling was a fringe movement and there are all of 2 publishers from which to choose. That was only a decade or so before I began homeschooling, but things quickly changed through the years. By the time I began teaching, publishers had jumped on the bandwagon and the most difficult challenge to homeschooling these days is narrowing down the options. There are so many different methods out there and a million books catering to each method.

There is just no way to cover even just the books my family has loved through the years, but I'll try and share our absolute favorites.

For the younger years, when you're beginning to introduce reading and math, I strongly recommend reading The Three R's by Ruth Beechick. It gives simple and easy methods to teach the basic skills of phonics, arithmetic, and writing. It also introduces a philosophy consistent with Classical and Charlotte Mason methods. It is an excellent resource for a strong start. But you should know that a strong start looks much more gentle than you might think.

When it's time to sit down and teach them to read, I have never seen anything as easy to use as The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading by Jessie Wise. There are accessories you can purchase to go with it, such as a magnet board with letter tiles and an audio CD, but I haven't found any need for them. It is an easy 5-10 minutes on the couch each day. Very easy. Very fun. In no time, my students were confidently reading. The book recommends reviewing full lessons, but I never did that. I might point to a word from a past lesson and make sure they still "got" it, but otherwise, we just did the next thing each day. Some days, we did several lessons all together because they were fast and easy and the girls were begging for more.

Prior to my recent discovery of Professor B, I have always been a staunch supporter of Singapore Math, combined with Rod and Staff Math for the early years that need more drill. I have heard that Right Start is another excellent program, but it isn't one I've ever used before. I came really close to purchasing it based on friends' recommendations which is why I mention it.

While the Professor B is an incredible program, I'd still want to combine it with written work as well, which is why I'm not dropping our Singapore or Rod and Staff work. We still spend less than 20 minutes a day on math and it might take us longer than one year to finish a year's worth of math, but it's also entirely possible we'll finish 2 years of math in one year. We go at their pace and it's amazing how quickly they learn when they can confidently build on their knowledge each day. I've seen kids ahead and behind and they all seemed to balance out to the same level by 4th grade. This is an area where I've had many moms come to me for advice and then walk away with a smirk after hearing my "take it easy" advice. But I'm telling you with experience, pushing math to the point of frustration before the age of 7 is completely pointless. I'm a gentle learning Mama, but my 6th grader is acing Algebra right now. I promise it works!

When it comes to teaching penmanship, spelling, and writing skills I love Kathy Jo DeVore's book Language Lessons Through Literature. It is only $9.99 as an ebook download and you wouldn't believe all of the beautiful stuff crammed in here. I reviewed it previously and I still love it just as much. It is easily finished in 20 minutes and it is an beautiful introduction to grammar, penmanship, and good literature. I recommend this for grades 1 and 2.

Many of my friends use First Language Lessons, which used to combine grades 1 and 2, but after using it with two of my children, I realized that none of the lessons seemed to stick with them. Also, when they began formal grammar lessons in 3rd grade, the book taught them everything they needed to know anyway, so Kathy Jo's book is my top recommendations for grammar, penmanship, copywork, narration, and literature before 3rd grade.

I am a huge fan of Rod and Staff's grammar series. Book 3 introduces the basics of grammar and I cannot imagine a need for formal grammar lessons prior to this other than the need to say, "My 5 year old knows the difference between nouns, pronouns, verbs, and adjectives." If you know anyone who says that, please stay away from them. They aren't good for you. Or for their children. I may or may not have been one of those moms at one point. I admit to nothing. But if I had been, I assure you I was not good for anyone, including my children. All of the books in this grammar series give everything you could ever need to learn about grammar and then some.

There are 135 lessons in the grammar book, giving you 27 weeks of lessons if you are doing a lesson per day. We did not. I sometimes did as little as one lesson per week. When they were learning new concepts, I only assigned a few problems per day and we didn't move on until I was certain they understood. For both of my boys, I took 2 years to go through book 3 and then skipped book 4 to go into book 5. It reviews everything found in book 4, so I didn't feel we were really missing anything. These books offer a section for students to read, an Oral Drill to do with the teacher, and then Written Practice for students to work through alone. Once in book 5, I had my boys bring the book to me for an Oral Drill after they had finished reading the lesson. If they got everything in the Oral Drill correctly, we nearly always skipped the Written Practice and called it done for the day. There is nearly always a Review and Practice section which I either assign or drill orally. I see no need to give boring lessons that they've already mastered.

For several subjects, I depend on Classical Academic Press.  We use them for Logic, for Latin, for Bible, and for Poetry.  After going through 3 years of Classical Academic Press's Latin, we move on to Visual Latin. Not because CAP wasn't awesome, but because my boys were ready for a change. Classical Academic Press is a very impressive company that just doesn't know how to create a dud. They are strong supporters of families growing in wisdom and knowledge.

For science, my favorite resources come from Apologia. The younger years, we spend in their Exploring Creation books. These are so good that my then-11 year old son asked me to help him find their book on the human body. He was planning to purchase it on his own for "fun" reading! I happily bought that book for him.

And in middle school, we move on with their General Science textbook. I've heard online friends discussing this program and some opted for Bob Jones science because they felt Apologia wasn't quite rigorous enough. Now, I'm generally the one saying, "Whatever fits your family. Mama's instincts are usually right. Blah, blah, blah." But this is one statement that makes me raise an eyebrow and say, "Seriously?" We're talking about middle school science and it is more rigorous than my high school science books. I love science and I take it seriously. I generally lean toward the more rigorous, fully believing that kids like a challenge and will meet the expectations you set for them. You could find a more rigorous textbook, but I cannot fathom a reason why. I also can't imagine it producing a student who ever wanted to study science again. Now, I'm sure Bob Jones is a superb program and my beef isn't with them. It's with those who knock Apologia, which is a solid program for lack of rigor. I don't see it. And why you needed to hear me rant about it, I couldn't tell you. But there you go.

The science I fail at is Nature Study. Charlotte Mason was a big believer in nature study and I agree in theory, but my sorry rear fails to agree in practice. I purchased this book used and will be implementing it this year. It is strongly recommended in CM circles and there is even a blog that holds your hand through it.  However, this isn't the first year I've had access to all of the above and it's not the first year I've determined to use them. We'll see. If you're interested, you can also find this book in ebook format for free online. Here is a link to a large, but excellent PDF version of the book.

History is a subject that is always a hodge-podge, but always a foundation subject for us. We've paired together many different books in the past, but we've stuck to the basics of the trivium and we've enjoyed the ride. History is something we spend about an hour a day reading together on the couch. We have spines, but they change. I've never been completely happy with just one. The real backbone of or history studies are the books that we read to go with the spine lessons. For spines, we pair together

We don't use all of them in one year, but always 2 or 3. Not because I think it's at all necessary, but because it's our favorite subject. But truly, the basis of our history is in the literature. Our lit choices come from accidental favorites we've run across at the library, friends' favorites, reading lists from Sonlight, Tanglewood, My Father's World, and Living Books Curriculum. I could do a dozen posts on our favorite history literature. 

Other than that, I have about 100 more favorites, but come on, you're not seriously still reading this are you? Well, just in case, here are a few more awesome extras:
CurrClick (careful when you sign up to NOT accept emails from their sponsors, just them)

So, how about your favorites? Because I'm a curriculum-junkie and I need you to feed my illness.


Stefanie said...

Our list is long and chaotic too. lol Wouldn't have it any other way.

Sarah @ My Joy-Filled Life said...

If you are interested in connecting with other Apologia users, I'd love for you to check out the Apologia link up that I host here:



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