Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Homeschooling Curriculum Help?

Shannon is hosting a backwards edition of what-works-for-me Wednesday, where you can ask for advice/ or suggestions instead of giving them. Yeah! I need some advice.

David and I are really praying and considering homeschooling our boys, K4 and grades 2 and 6 —beginning this fall.

Can anybody recommend a curriculum, either as a whole or as a subject, that you are crazy about that doesn’t make you crazy?

Secondly, if you could give one tip for “survival” what would that be?


Liz said...

My tip for survival is to RELAX! I can't say that strongly enough. As a new homeschooler you are entering unchartered waters and that can be uncomfortable but it won't be long until you are able to fall back on what works for you and your kids. Everybody has a curriculum that they would recommend but I would check out the Cathy Duffy Curriculum Manual. She has an elementary edition and a highschool edition, not sure about a middle edition. Her book gives an overview of most of the curriculums out there. It is from a christian perspective and she tries to tell you very unbiased there strengths and weaknesses. Hope that helps.

JoAnn said...

My tip is that as a new homeschooler coming out of public schooling take it very easy and light the first year....kind of a de-schooling. Give your kids a chance to transition out of school but doing mostly fun learning, projects (science or art), and field trips. Unit studies are great for this. Lapbooks can be fun as well.

I try to incorporate a lot of fun things into our schooling and will be blogging about them on my new blog that is dedicated to homeschooling. So, if you want some ideas of how to keep it fun, you might visit my homeschooling blog from time to time between now and then. There isn't much on there yet but I'll be adding to it daily.

Tracy said...

I have just begun homeschooling my 4th grader as of the New Year. Yes, that would be a whole 2 days!! Despite being a very conscientious and hard worker, and the time we all were putting in after school, he was in danger of falling through the cracks in our resource-challenged rural district. It is an opportunity I had been considering and waiting for since kindergarten as problems were evident early on, but given that up until this fall, he SO loved school, we sort of allowed him to direct this decision process.
Anyways, we are currently flying by the seat of our pants and expect to continue doing so in these first months, and I appreciate the comment above about transitioning or 'de-schooling'.
The decision, now that it has become a reality, is a HUGE relief. I fully expect that my son in kindergarten will finish up the year and that will be it for school for him. I'm not sure that 3 year old will set foot in school...

BJ said...

Research. There is tons of curriculum out there. Ask questions. We've all been beginners. Quite frankly, though this is my third year of "officially" homeschooling, I'm completely still in learning mode.
Involve the kids in curriculum choices. Show them options (once you know). My personal faves are Math U See, School of Tomorrow English and Word Building, Considering God's Creation, Galloping the Globe, How Great Thou Art, but I'm open to changing those in the future. I hope this helps. God bless you as you make this huge decision.

Laura said...

I love Sonlight curriculum, but I use it as my baseline for what to study and read. They have great books that teach history and Bible.
Spelling Power is a great tool also for 3rd grade and up. My advice would be to simply be relaxed and know that your biggest curriculum is life...the things you teach your children about loving the Father throughout everyday life.

dorcas said...

I obviously know nothing, but thought I'd add my 2 cents worth by saying that I know you'll be a great teacher since you love to learn as well. See, I could obviously not be a home school mom since I can't even write a sentence without it running on and on ~ LOL! I'll catch up with you soon. Maybe tonight. Not sure what we will be doing.

Becky said...

My Father's World is a great Christian curriculum that I have used for 2 years now.

Christine said...

This is my fifth year of homeschooling. We have used just about a gaZILLION different approaches and types of curriculum. However, we have recently settled into Sonlight.

I did NOT pay what it costs if you go to their website. Most of the expense is from books that you can find used, for free at PaperBack Swap, or at the library. I had to spend a great deal of time working on gathering my items, but I saved hundreds (repeat: HUNDREDS) of dollars.

I have not checked it out yet (will be doing that in the coming months), but have had this site recommended to me, to help save even more in the coming years: www.amblesideonline.org

We basically do the reading for Sonlight. we don't use their questions - I just sit with my kids and we all talk about what we read. If there's a question I can't answer, I have my laptop right there (like the day our book kept talking about when llamas hum ... and we were like, "What?" ... and a quick YouTube search showed us some humming llamas!).

I use Handwriting Without Tears, just about ten minutes a day. It is VERY inexpensive and is just a simple and fun way to reinforce handwriting.

I use a different math program than Sonlight suggests. We use LifePacs, and are about to use Teaching Textbooks when the kids hit 5th grade.

I will warn you: you can go to a store that supplies curriculum, or a homeschool fair, and see just about everything that is available to you. However, it's like going into a shoe store on 75% off day. You may end up buying way too much that you really don't need, just because it looks so appealing. It is fun to check everything out, but we (homeschoolers) love reading and we love education, and we DROOL over anything in the form of a book! So, prepare yourself to stand strong! ha!

You will have the most difficult time doing what everyone else has suggested, and just relaxing and deschooling. It's weird to think that it would be tough, but you'll occasionally question how well you are doing as their teacher, and be tempted to start checking off lists and filling in blanks and giving yourself some black-and-white "guide" to their education.

When you fall into that rut, you tend to miss the fact that learning never stops, and when you are with your kids all day, you are reinforcing everything - all the time - just through life. Take a deep breath, be confident that you are doing great, and go cuddle on the couch with your kids and a great book!

Kristin said...

I'm sure you'll get a lot of opinions on this one. I use the Abeka DVD Academy. I call it a homeschool cop out though, b/c really I'm not the teacher I'm the monitor. But, it works for us. It's probably one of the most expensive homeschool options, but when you've been paying for private school it's CHEAP! Each child has a different "station" on our main floor where they keep their workbooks, and their DVD player. When it's time to start the day they push play and a real teacher teaches them and a classroom filled w/ kids in their grade. After doing it a while I know what to skip and what to rewind. Go to www.abekaacademy.org to get a sample DVD.

Laura said...

My tip for survival is 'do what is best for your kids, not what others tell you'. I have a 1st grader and a pre-k that I home school. It has been tough finding the 'right' curriculum for my 1st grader. I had to learn the hard way that what works for someone else doesn't work for me.

Both boys use Rod & Staff. I like it because the reader is bible stories. It is wonderful.

We use math-u-see for math; Considering God's creation for science; The story of the world for history.

There are lots of curriculum out there that have unit studies so that you don't have to buy different stuff.

I also like Abeka and my friend enjoys Alpha Omaga life pac series.

You can find them used on the internet or Christian book has some good prices.

Rainbow Resources also has a big catalog or on the internet as well that you can find lots of good stuff.

I know this is long, but I hope it's useful.

Many Blessings

Milehimama said...

My tip is TRUST YOURSELF and do what fits your family. Don't feel that any homeschool advice or curriculum is written in stone.

That said, I have 2nd grade, 1st grade, Kindergarten and PreK. I love Montessori for the littles. We use The Story of the World for Social studies. My spellers come from another publisher, our math is Miquon Math (Saxon just didn't work for us). Mix it up and use what works. YOU are the principal, you don't have to limit yourself to one publisher if you don't want to!

I love unit studies, too, BTW., so I use Story of the World as an outline for a sequence of unit studies.

Stretch Mark Mama said...

I enjoy Sonlight for the books I read to the kids. Math-U-See is Awesome! Have heard good things about Sequential Spelling. Handwriting without tears is great too.

Valerie said...

When I first expressed an interest in homeschooling to a homeschooling friend, she handed me a curriculum catalog that looked like the yellow pages. Of a very large city. I promptly handed it back and ran to the nearest elementary to enroll my daughter. I afterward sucked it up and braved a huge, overcrowded curriculum fair and visited several friends to see how they did it and came away more confused than ever. I was a public school teacher, but I was scared, confused, and completely overwhelmed by all the choices.

We're on year #3 and curriculum choice #3. We've done a mix of private school/basic curriculum, then A Beka DVD, and now traditional A Beka. I love the fact that the A Beka stuff is a complete curriculum as I have no real interest in researching all the different curriculums in different subjects. Some of my friends *live* for that; I just don't and I've stopped beating myself up over it. The A Beka stuff is very structured, fast-paced, and works perfectly for my daughters and I right now. We do add in a lot of outside activities, field trips, and other fun stuff to break up the strict academics of A Beka.

Th important thing is that I'm enjoying it, my daughters are enjoying it, and they're learning so much more than they would in a traditional school setting.

Julie said...

I agree with "relax". I can tell you right now that you will be doing a much better job than you think you are. The bonds you are forming in your family will alone make the journey worth it.

I like Konos for the younger kids. It is also easy to adjust for different grade levels and you can do a lot together.

My son loved Math-U-See. My daughter likes Right Start math.

Have fun!

Fiddledeedee (It Coulda' Been Worse) said...

If you can go to a Homeschool convention, GO. And attend as many seminars as you can. After my first one, I felt completely empowered. The exhibit hall can be overwhelming.

Read Cathy Duffy's "100 Top Homeschool Curriculum Picks" first. GREAT information.

Good luck!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

God bless your journey! I don't have any curriculum suggestions, just remember the "wrong" curriculum choice will not ruin your kid. If something isn't working, switch to something that's a better fit. Try to hang out with several different hs families to see all the ways it can be done. Read and ask questions and don't worry about getting everything right from the get-go.

Oh, and if possible, examine in-person (not on-line) any curriculum before you buy.

Tara said...

Amy, just doing some ridiculously late-night surfing. Crazy! Visited your blog and saw your post. I have 2 cents to add, for what it's worth. Best "advice" is definitely be flexible. You will have to make many adjustments until you find what fits you and your kids best. You and David would be awesome homeschoolers, though!
This year, I decided to do the "cop-out" schooling too: Abeka DVD, since we have a new baby, etc. etc. etc. My kids HATE IT, and we will not continue with it. Many people LOVE it, as you can see. We will most likely revert to a curriculum you can look over at www.k12.com
This is a VERY rich curriculum, strong in science, language arts and CLASSIC literature, and History, especially. It is designed to foster a love for LEARNING in kids. We have used it in the past, and will be returning to it next year. Please note, this is not a Christian curriculum, but it is not anti-Christian either. Our take on that is that it is our job as parents anyway to instill biblical training. You can quickly become overwhelmed to the point of craziness when it comes to curriculum shopping. And I was shocked to find out what a "second language" there is to homeschoolers. They have all this lingo and info, and stuff! Try to just follow the path that best fits your own family, and RELAX!
Enough bloviating from me now. Happy New Year!

Amy said...

I am completely blown away that most of you who don't know me at all took time out of your own busy schedules to answer my plea. Btw, no less thankful for the responses of my "real life" friends!!

I am printing all of your responses and reading and re-reading each one...and then giving them to my husband--who would prefer a literature based program. However, what will work for my oldest son, I don't think would appeal as much to my middle son.

I wish I had asked how many of you have sons and how different your approach is for homeschooling boys.

I am terrified to go to curriculum convention. I am so scared right now that I think that would send me over the edge! :-)

I am not sure how many of you will come back here so I'll be trying to visit each of your blogs to say thank-you for your advice.

Tara said...

One more thing, as I just remembered something. Especially with your comment on preferring something literature based. You should pick up a book called, "The Well Trained Mind" by Susan Wise Bauer. This is the classical approach to education...so rich...and very literature based. Sounds like something you all would do marvelously with.

CresceNet said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
julie f said...

Amy -
Just thought I would add my 2 cents worth....we have been doing the K12 cirriculum that Tara referred to for 5 years. We love it and in our state, it is the curriculum for our state's on-line charter school, so all of the materials are provided (even ISP reinbursement). It is a very rich study and the history is amazing. You may want to check with your state to see if it is a charter school in Georgia. We are subjected to state testing, but I rather like that. I was a First Grade teacher and really like the accountablity that comes with being in the charter school (attendance, progress ect.)In addition, I really did not trust myself in picking and choosing curriculum for fear there would be holes in their learning, but I know many people love to do that and it seems to work when you have children with different needs.

We now have 3 in school...K, 2nd and 4th. Life is full but good..."sweet chaos"!

Best wishes for your journey!

Lisa said...

When we homeschooled we used MathUSee for all 4 of our kids math. It is a great program and I have only good things to say about it. For our two older kids we used Switched on Schoolhouse for all the other subjects and they really liked it. Good Luck!

Anonymous said...

I was homeschooled for the second half of my school years, and I LOVED IT! We have a large family; so I had plenty of "schoolmates" and we always drew in more children. I'd say that is the biggest concern the children may have - is having regular playmates. Making ways to stay in touch with best friends, and meeting more homeschool families regularly will help with that.

We just started this year and do Sonlight now that I'm the mommy. www.sonlight.com It truly is the way I wish I'd been taught (per their motto). Sonlight wasn't around when I was growing up. From what I hear, the preschool and Kindergarten years are not quite the same as future years, but as I look ahead at the wonderful rich "living" books, I can't wait to read them to and with the children! www.amblesideonline.com has a free program that tells you which books to get. It reminds me a little of Sonlight too. They both have a lot of Charlotte Mason style learning.

Anonymous said...

P.S. I just saw your comment that your husband wants literature based, and that is Sonlight. It is very heavy on reading, but the books are so delightful! You can view the book lists on their site or request a catalog. Check out their 27 reasons NOT to use Sonlight too in case that list applies to you. I have 2 boys and grew up with lots of brothers. I really agree with the Charlotte Mason idea that children need time outdoors. I'd say especially boys need time to play and (physically) work hard using up all that wonderful energy. Sometimes they even need to play in the rain.

Anonymous said...

The program we used most growing up was Abeka, and I didn't like that program much, but that was a long time ago. I am not a textbook kind of person. So I prefer reading a novel that makes me feel like I'm there. We also used the Pace ACE program in the beginning, and that was very easy to do self-teaching but WAY too easy; so we switched to Abeka. I did like the workbook style of Pace, and I liked the way the stories were written, but it was just too easy. Maybe they've changed.

Anonymous said...

Amy, One of these days I will respond but I haven't had time yet! : )