Since one of the first questions I’m asked when someone finds out we homeschool is, “What homeschool curriculum do you use?” I thought I’d post what we are currently using in our homeschool. This year we have 3rd and 5th graders.
LANGUAGE ARTS CURRICULUM:
- Latina Christian I: We use this for Latin, which I’m using in place of an overall English grammar curriculum. Each lesson covers one Latin saying (E pluribus unum, Mea culpa, Ora et labora, etc.), ten Latin vocabulary words, and a verb conjugation or noun declension. We also discuss the English derivatives of the Latin vocabulary words. This is working very well as our English substitution since Latin word endings are based on their use in the sentence (in other words, you have to know if the word is a direct object, possessive, subject, etc. before you choose the correct ending for the Latin word). This Latin course serves as both English grammar and vocabulary! Jerah has even discovered other English words (besides the derivatives we discussed in the lesson) that she notices are derived from some of the Latin vocabulary we’ve studied (for example, she noticed that “applaud” is derived from the Latin word laudo, which means “I praise”). We work on Latin on Mondays (introducing the new lesson), and then the kids study the words Tuesday and Wednesday, do the workbook page on Thursday, and then take a quiz over the lesson on Friday. This is our first year to use this curriculum, and we are currently on lesson 7 of 25 lessons.
- Better Sentence Structure Through Diagraming (book 1): This we use for diagraming practice. I know that some people (my husband included) simply cringe at the though of diagraming sentences; but diagraming is what made me finally understand English grammar, so I’m introducing to my kids to help in their understanding. And they’re both “getting it!” There are only 13 lessons in this book, each of which has 4 exercises. Book One covers diagraming subjects through objective complements, but Book Two (which we will NOT be doing this year) goes well beyond that, including diagraming gerunds and infinitives. The kids do one diagraming exercise two times a week. This is our first year to use this curriculum.
- Wordly Wise 3000: This is a fantastic vocabulary curriculum, covering 1st grade through 12th. It is not a “memorize the definition approach” at all. Instead, it approaches the word from all angles, allowing the student to understand the full sense of its meaning. This is one curriculum that we will be using through all 12 years. The kids work on one exercise four times a week (it usually takes them about 5 minutes a day). We also use the vocabulary lists for spelling tests. This is our third year to use Wordly Wise.
- Institute for Excellence in Writing: We use IEW’s Student Writing Intensive: Group A DVD set for writing (we’ve borrowed it from a fellow homeschooler), which we work on twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This is a great writing curriculum, although there are a few things I change in the way we implement it. This is our first year to use the curriculum.
- Penmanship: This is hit and miss. Lately I’ve been having them write out the alphabet in cursive using a cursive chart. I’m looking into getting a daily cursive practice book so that they can be more focused in their practice.
- Independent Reading:The kids are required to read 30-40 pages in a book of “their choice” (in other words, they choose a book, and I approve it; but I am not terribly strict on their choices). Here is a sampling of some of the books they have read over the last three years of homeschooling:
- A Series of Unfortunate Events, by Lemony Snicket (Jerah finished the entire series this year)
- The Kingdom Series, by Chuck Black (Jaden’s read books one through three. This series is an allegory of Genesis through Revelation set in medieval times. Jaden LOVES this series.)
- Snow Treasure, by Marie McSwigan (Jaden)
- The Bandit of Ashley Downs: George Muller, by Dave & Neta Jackson (Jaden)
- The American Girl Series (Jerah read every book in this series in the 1st grade)
- My Name is Not Angelica, by Scott O’Dell (Jerah)
- Eragon, by Christopher Paolini (Jaden)
- King of the Wind: the Story of the Godolphin Arabian, by Marguerite Henry (Jerah)
- The Mayflower Adventure (The American Adventure Series) (Jerah)
- Steal Away Home, by Lois Ruby (Jerah)
- My Side of the Mountain and On the Far Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George (Jaden)
- Caddie Woodlawn, by Carol Ryrie Brink (Jerah)
- The Winter Hero, by James Lincoln Collier & Christopher Collier (Jaden)
- Peter Pan, by J.M. Barrie (Jerah)
- The Seven Sleepers Series, by Gilbert Morris (This was one of Jaden’s favorite series.)
- Gentle Annie, by Mary Francis Shura (Jerah)
- Heidi and Heidi Grows Up, by Johanna Spyri (Jerah)
- Gentle Ben, by Walt Morey (Jaden and Jerah)
- Old Yeller, by Fred Gipson (Jaden—Jerah does NOT want to read this book because she knows the dog dies at the end!)
- Far North, by Will Hobbs (Jaden)
- The Journal of Finn Reardon (Dear America series) (Jaden)
- Shannon: A Chinatown Adventure, by Katrhleen V. Kudlinski (Jerah)
- Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle
- Magic Tree House series (Jerah’s read many of these)
- The Fledgling, by Jan Langton
- All the children’s books by Roald Dahl (Jerah went on a Roald Dahl kick and read every one of them last year)
- The Chronicles of Narnia series, by C.S. Lewis (Jaden read these in third grade, but I’m currently reading them aloud to all three kids)
- Reading aloud(meaning Jeff or I read aloud to them): This is the first thing to get cut when we run out of time. But it is also one of the things the kids enjoy the most. Here are a few of the books we’ve read aloud over the last three years:
- The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkein
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
- Swiss Family Robinson, by Johann Wyss
- Railway Children, by Edith Nesbit
- The Chronicles of Narnia (so far we’ve read Magician’s Nephew, Lion, and Horse and His Boy)
- The Magical Land of Noom, by Johnny Gruelle (this is a book I remember reading when I was a child)
MATH CURRICULUM: Up until this week, we used Saxon Math (Jerah finished Saxon Math 3 and half of Saxon 54; Jaden finished Saxon 54 and 65), but we are now in the process of switching to a new curriculum. The kids were starting to dread math because Saxon is so work-intensive (busy-work, most of the time). I also found that I was teaching the lessons in my own way because I didn’t like the way Saxon presented the concept.
- Math-U-See: This is a manipulative based K-High School curriculum (through Pre-Cal/Trig). Joely is going to start in the Primer, Jerah is beginning Delta, and Jaden is going to be watching the Zeta DVD (not doing any worksheets, as this will be mainly a review). Jaden will start Pre-Algebra sometime next year after he finished the Key To… books I’ve described below.
- “Key To…” series: This is a fantastic self-paced workbook series covering measurement, decimals, geometry, percents, fractions, and algebra. Each themed series has 3-10 packets that introduce the subject sequentially. Jaden completed book 1 in fractions, percents, and decimals in 3rd grade. In preparation for Pre-Algebra, he’s going to finish the percents and fractions series this year. We have used this intermittently for 2 1/2 years.
SCIENCE CURRICULUM: We are currently reading through the Usborne Science Encyclopedia. We’ve talked about elements, radioactivity, newtons, and lots of other cool stuff. We do science Tuesdays, Thursday and Fridays, alternating between reading a section and then visiting the online links related to the subject we’re studying. The kids ADORE science. This is the first year we’ve used this book.
- Story of the World series: This is our second year using this curriculum, and we absolutely love it. It tells the history of the world in a narrative format which totally engages the kids’ imagination. Last year we read Volume 1, covering Ancient times up to the fall of Rome. This year we’re reading Volume 2, the Middle Ages. We will read Volume 3 and 4 over the next two years, and then start over at Volume 1 for Joely when she hits 3rd grade.
- Kingfisher History Encyclopedia: We read this along with Story of the World. Each chapter in Story of the World is cross-referenced in Kingfisher, so we get to read a little more about each period of history and see fascinating illustrations. This is our first year to use this with Story of the World.
- Geography Bowl (by Abeka): I picked up this little booklet at the homeschool store this summer. It contains over 600 geography-related questions and answers divided into categories such as Cities of the World; People of the World; Mountains, Deserts, Water; Europe and Asia; and “State” the Facts (U.S. facts). I give the kids about 18 questions a week to learn. They enjoy competing with each other in an impromptu “quiz bowl,” where the loser has to unload the dishwasher (actually, only the winner really enjoys the competition at its end). They’re also required to know where each country is located that is mentioned in any of the questions. We have a large world map on the wall in our hallway so they refer to it often throughout the week. This is our first year using the Geography Bowl book.
- Geography A–Z: I downloaded these worksheets from Education World. Each worksheet has seven geography questions, with all answers beginning with a certain letter of the alphabet. The kids complete one sheet a week (they’re on letter “I” this week). This is the first year we’ve used this.
- Where in the World is Mrs. Waffenschmidt: Ever heard of “Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?” This is similar, except the kids read a paragraph from Mrs. Waffenschmidt describing where she is in the world. The kids then have to use clues from the paragraph to find the point of interest and its location she is describing. They usually use the internet to do this (Wikipedia is fast becoming their favorite online site for Waffenschmidt answers). The kids complete one Waffenschmidt assignment per week. I also got these from Education World. This is the first year we’ve used this.
After 6-7 weeks, I test the kids on the material. For the Geography Bowl, I simply ask them the questions (or a reworded version of the question). There’s a map portion where they have to identify the countries on an outline map. The written part of the test is for Geography A-Z and Waffenschmidt. For A-Z, I simply write the question (and I give them the first letter of the answer like it appeared on the worksheet), and they have to write the correct answer. For Waffenschmidt, I write down the point of interest that Waffenschmidt talked about on each worksheet, and they have to tell me as many details about it as they can remember. We’ve only done one big geography test this year, and both did rather well overall.
CRITICAL THINKING CURRICULUM:
- Building Thinking Skills (Level 1 & 2) (by the Critical Thinking Company): The kids do one small section in this book twice a week. This is the first year we've done this.
- The Fallacy Detective: The book has 36 short lessons. We read one a week.
- Reading Everyday Survival Skills, by Dr. Ray Broekel: We picked this up at the homeschool store (it's fairly old). The kids complete one page twice a week.
- Heaven for Kids, by Randy Alcorn: We're reading (and enjoying!) about 15 pages a week and then meeting with another homeschool family to discuss it once a week. This will only end up being about a 13-week study. When we're done, we're done, and we probably won't be replacing it with another curriculum.
- Bible Drill: My son participates in a Bible Drill class at church.
KEYBOARDING CURRICULUM: We used to use a typing program called Typing Tutor 12, and it worked very well; but unfortunately, due to some kind of glitch in the cd-rom [or our computer], it wouldn't proceed past a certain lesson. So we picked up some new typing software, Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing 17, at Half-Price Books. The added benefit of this new software is that it works on our Mac! And the kids like the layout of the lessons better than the old software; there's a lot more variety. The kids work on it for 10 minutes four times a week.
MUSIC CURRICULUM: The kids are “supposed to” practice 30 minutes each day on their respective instruments. Jaden plays guitar and Jerah plays piano. The actually only practice 15-20 minutes, but they’re progressing satisfactorily.
PHYSICAL EDUCATION: We don’t have an organized curriculum or schedule for this other than meeting with our local homeschool group every other week for an hour and a half of physical exercise. Jeff has recently started walking 30 minutes a day so we have joined him a couple of times; but I don’t expect we’ll be joining him on a daily basis.
ART CURRICULUM: We don’t actually schedule any art time into our day on a regular basis. I DO have a great drawing curriculum that we worked on a little bit last year called Mark Kistler’s Draw Squad, but we just haven’t made time in our schedule to add it in this year.
LESSON PLANNING SOFTWARE: I use HomeschoolTracker PLUS to help generate “to do lists” for the kids each week. After I enter all the lesson plans for the year (like how many pages they need to complete each day in each subject), it takes just a couple clicks to generate a daily task list for each child. I’ll even be able to use HomeschoolTracker through high school to generate transcripts. It’s been a great help this year. This is the first year we have used it (and I wonder why I didn’t get it earlier!).
EXTRA CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES:
- Jerah participates in a 4-H photography class once a month, and all three kids attend 4-H entomology every other week.
- Occasionally we go to the nursing home with Jeff to help lead a 30-minute hymn sing-along with the residents. I play piano, Jeff plays guitar, and the kids help pass out candy to the residents when its over.
- We also attend a local homeschool group every Wednesday. I organized this group with a few other moms last January, and now we have around twenty families involved. The kids get together to "socialize" each week.