I get asked often enough that I think I should have a page of what curriculum I use for homeschooling. So here is what we use and why we use it. There are links throughout this post on the different programs I am and have used, as well as other things that influenced my decision. Just hover over them and you will see them. Items in italics are current update.
Max, 14 at the end of September, likes to study on his own in his room often on his bed. Nathaniel, 9, has a hard time focusing on school, much like his brother at this age. He does is school jumping all around.
We have stopped using the workbox system. It worked well but we really don’t have room for it now.
Math – Math has been our weak point for years. He does well for a while and then doesn’t. Right now we have just restarted with a new program, Math U See. It teaches in a different way and can progress with Max through calculus so that is good in my book. I have also got the starter or Primer version for Nathaniel. He is flying through his program. It uses rods and other things as we get higher in the program. There are also songs. We used to use Miquon Math (the page looks blank but scroll down) for Max. This is an unbelievably cheap math program. I personally had seen it and thought “that could never work” and dismissed it. Then after trying both Singapore Standards, and Shiller Math (which I still think is a great program, it just didn’t work for Max), I saw this for sale used. It was $20 and I thought, “what do I have to loose?”. It has been working remarkably well and I am sure we will finish it this year. He started it at the end of May. Not exactly sure where we will go from here but I will probably be looking at Beast Academy. The reason why it works I think is because it has enough practice without being over done. It also uses simple rods to teach math. These can be used to teach counting, fractions, addition, multiplication and division. We have also used Abeka, and now we are using Oak Meadow. Max started Oak Meadow in 7th grade, and Nathaniel in 3rd grade.
Reading – All About Reading – We had tried Learning Language Arts Through Literature and it didn’t work well. He didn’t really learn how to read and it was a mess. When I heard about this program and realized how he learned best, I thought I would give it a try. It has been wonderful. He went from HATING reading to now we can’t get him to stop reading. This in turn, gets him questioning everything and you can see what a boost this has been in his education. Max is about to go into the 4th level and will finish the program by the end of the year. After this he will just be reading books and working on comprehension. The program works by using tiles to get children to look at the parts of the word. They learn the sounds, then the sounds make words and so on. Critics of the program say that they don’t teach the way other systems do so you can’t pick up a beginning reader book and have your child read it while going through the program. However they say that a child will be able to read at a high school level when finished with the 4th level. They may not understand at that level, but they can read it. Max learned to read with this. Nathaniel learned to read with Abeka.
Spelling – All About Spelling – The only spelling program Max had prior to this was the Learning Language Arts Through Literature that I mentioned prior. This is a mastery based system that uses the same tiles as the reading program. I will admit that I pushed Max through it too fast and we have had to go back quite a bit to play catch up now. This is okay though since we are homeschooling. It really is a great program if you don’t move a child up to the next level before they are ready. This is why this is a separate program. Children learn how to read something well before they often learn how to spell it, especially in English. Max got to level 2 before we gave up. We have also used Spelling U See and Abeka. Eventually Max outgrew spelling and I haven’t figured out how to fix that with him. Nathaniel used Spelling U See, Abeka, and is now using Evan Moor Spelling (4th grade). I really don’t have an answer here. Spelling is a hard subject depending on your child.
Latin – Song School Latin – I wanted Max to learn latin as I think it would help him with both his english knowledge as well as help him if he decides to learn another language later on. I am not expecting him to become a pastor or a priest but knowledge of Latin can help in with whatever he studies, especially sciences. We had tried Memoria Press Prima Latina. He HATED that program. It was somewhat dry and half way through it I could tell he was getting little from it. Again going back to how he learns, I went to Song School Latin thinking that the songs in it, would help him. What I didn’t expect is that the video that accompanies it would become a favorite of both Max and Nathaniel. There is this silly animation in the video with Franklin and Simeon and both my boys look forward to seeing what they are doing. Max is not currently doing Latin.
Grammar – Well Ordered Language – This is our first year and first program for grammar for Max. We have been doing this program for a while and I am learning things in it. So it is a good program from what I can see so far. What I like about the program is there are songs to teach the parts of grammar. So instead of just memorizing facts, they are sung. This makes learning fun, and with a kinetic learner I need that! We stopped using this program when we went to Abeka. Abeka was okay with grammar but not a perfect fit. Currently the boys are using Evan Moore Daily Language Review as well as Oak Meadow.
Writing – Writing and Rhetoric – Max is finally at a point where his handwriting is strong enough that I thought I could start adding this into it. We were having issues in spelling and I was thinking that some of his problem was he wasn’t applying his newly learned words in a meaningful way. This should help that. I like that this program doesn’t just tells a child to write, but uses good examples of writing to show a child how to write effectively. There are critical thinking skills taught here as well. The audio component reads the stories the way they are meant to be read, teaching effective speaking techniques as well. I think it is a good program and Max is getting something from it. We just finished with book 2. We have now stopped this program when we went to Abeka. Now this is part of Oak Meadow.
Penmanship – Zaner Bloser – There was handwriting in Learning Language Lessons Through Literure but they were not great. We went to A Reason For Handwriting and then to Handwriting Without Tears and Max did VERY well with it. I know it taught him how to print. However once it was time for him to learn cursive, I didn’t like the cursive that Handwriting Without Tears teaches. It isn’t anything like any original source material that he would read, looks like. So I went on a LONG and grueling search for what I wanted him to learn. My criteria was this: 1) I wanted the cursive to help him read original source material like our Constitution or other historical documents. 2) It needed to help him read family historical documents. We have some that date to 1895. 3) Since my son is learning German, it had to go along with what they learn in Germany, as well as what historical documents in Germany look like. 4) The program needed to be graphically fun to keep Max’s attention. I think I found it with Zaner Bloser. It looks the closest to Palmer that was taught in schools for years and years and is a good compromise from Spencerian script that is very floral for lack of a better term. Max just finished with level 3. Max and Nathaniel are both using this now with Max doing level 6 and Nathaniel on level 4. I was really happy with Zaner Blosser.
Vocabulary – I have now went to a new program. It is learning 1 word a day and testing at the end of the week. We are using Word A Day. It is working well and is a program Max can do independently. We were using Word Wisdom however this wasn’t a program that could be used completely independent and had too many worksheets for Max. We wanted him to do something as Max, as he increased his ability to read, I realized he needed something to help him with all the vocabulary words he was learning that he had NO idea what they meant. So I got this for him. However he has quickly went through much of the book and is farther along then I would expect. I thought we would have the 3rd grade book for most of this year but he is about 2/3’s through it right now. I like that the program teaches research skills and also talks about latin. Both are reinforcing other subjects. When we went to Abeka, we dropped all other programs. Now that we are in Oak Meadow, we are using Wordly Wise for Max and his vocabulary. Nathaniel is not using anything.
Art – Artistic Pursuits – This I started with him a while ago. I wanted Max to have a well rounded education and so to me that included art. We have enjoyed the program. It teaches great masters and methods for different ways to do art. We are a bit behind in this subject, mainly because like the public school system, art isn’t a priority. I hope to fix that this year though. We stopped this when we went to Abeka. Currently Nathaniel is doing art in Oak Meadow. Max is not currently doing art.
History – History Odyssey – This is a program I found when I first started doing individual pieces curriculum. Meaning when I didn’t just buy a box that had everything in it I needed for that year. It is a great program that teaches in fun and engaging ways. Max has learned a lot from it but even more surprising Tony has learned some from it as well. He teaches the lessons to Max on the weekends. They are currently in book 3 and will likely be in book 4 (grammar stage) by the end of the year. Tony has been heavily supplementing and they are slowing down so other subjects can catch up to the same stage as this one. We stopped this when we went to Abeka. Then we picked it up a bit to supplement, and now we are not using it again with either child.
Science – Elemental Science – We had a bit of a struggle with finding science for Max. We initially tried Singapore Science. However that was too much book work and felt forced with a homeschool situation. Then we tried REAL Science Odyssey, but that had experiments that failed more often then not for us. We later found out that there was a science kit that we could have got for it, but we decided to go a different way. We have enjoyed Elemental Science. It seems to have worked well for Max and he is learning more. We like the lap book component to it. We are currently in Chemistry for grammar stage after completing biology last year. Tony also does science with Max on the weekends.
We are about to add some more stuff to the mix. It is on order but we have yet to try it. We stopped all things when we went to Abeka. Now we are using Oak Meadow for science.
Bible – God’s Great Covenant – We are starting with Old Testament book 1. For years I felt unqualified to do anything having to do with the bible. I felt that since I didn’t officially become a christian till I was an adult, that I didn’t know enough to teach anything. Recently my feelings have changed and I feel like I am doing a disservice to Max by not teaching him something. So I am. God’s Great Covenant teaches things that will be cross purposing with other subjects. All of Classical Academic Press stuff plays well with one another. So if you are learning one thing in one subject, you are also learning a bit about another subject as well. I really like that and I think that will be a great thing about this program. This is a lighter program so it shouldn’t feel like I was adding much to his existing workload. The only thing I am a little worried about it is that it talks about the Westminster Shorter Catechism in the teacher guide and we are Lutheran and use the Catechism that Martin Luther wrote. However I don’t think there are many differences and those that are different we can skip over or teach what Lutheran’s believe. 🙂 We are no longer doing bible as a school subject.
ON HOLD FOR NOW – Recorder – Nine-Note Recorder – I thought it was time that Max learns to play something. A piano isn’t in our budget nor do I think it would fit into our house. Even an upright one takes up quite a bit of space. We have considered getting him a keyboard that could be put away, but it is still a sizable investment. So we went looking for cheaper alternatives. Tony was in marching band in high school and college. We still have his clarinet. So for him he would like to see Max learn the Recorder. I was leaning more to a string instrument, however recorder won as it was by far the cheapest instrument you can purchase… that does anything. All told we will be spending $16 on this subject initially. So it is very affordable. Nine-Note Recorder is highly recommended by people. That is honestly the reason why I went with it. There are you-tube videos of how to play a recorder so if for some reason we don’t like it, we can use that. Nathaniel has recorder in his curriculum with Oak Meadow but has been slow going.
Outside the house activities: In addition to this Max and Nathaniel are also doing swimming at the YMCA once a week, and doing a “Saturday school” of German once a week. His German school is for 2.5 hours. With this school he can learn to be fluent in German to the point where, provided he does well in his other subjects, he can go to Germany to study in college. Germany doesn’t allow for homeschooling so we will have to do something like send him to community college for a year to get around that. The swim class is for 45 minutes for Max and 30 minutes for Nathaniel. They started this 3 years ago and are doing very well with it. I have him do swim year round, despite it being cold and snowy here in the winter.
Nathaniel also does T-ball in the spring. The boys are down to just German because of Covid. We are thinking of doing swimming again or maybe something else.
Planner -I used to use this planner made from this woman’s 7 step planner. I think I read through that about 10 times before I was able to completely figure out how I wanted my planner to be. This is my planner:
I learned a lot from making this planner. I love my planner and I don’t think I will change it much next year. I think I will make another post of what I have learned about this though.
Now I use Homeschool Tracker. This allows me to print off daily task lists for Max and hand him a packet of work I expect him to do everyday. This has been helpful when have upside down days for whatever reason. Also it makes it so if Tony needs to help out when he gets home he can. Everything is all together in one spot! So far this is working great for us.
I am now using the Oak Meadow planner and using the same for the children.
My printer – A homeschooler is attached to their printer. It would be rather hard for me to do what I do without the copier and the ability to print things out. I have a Brother MFC-J5720DW printer/copier. This thing is great! It has a flatbed scanner so I can copy books. It has a document feeder so I can copy both sides of a page in ONE step! It prints in color. It prints on both sides. It prints on everything from envelopes and other small paper to 11 by 17 paper! It also plays well with AirPrint and Apple devices. It also has a feature where you don’t have to scan something to your computer if you need it on your phone. I can scan it to a cloud (where it will be kept for 12 hours) and retrieve it via a QR code and a passcode (that they change and give me). I just can’t say enough about how great this printer is! It doesn’t even burn through ink that fast!
In Covid we had to get a new printer. We are now using the Epson EcoTank printer. So far, it has been great.
Box curriculum: We have used two boxed curriculum now. Abeka and Oak Meadow.
Abeka – We went to this when we had a placement that was special needs. I thought that the video lessons would help free up time that was spending on Max so I could focus more on Nathaniel as he was starting Kindergarden. I quickly went all in though and both boys were doing video lessons. Things were okay for a bit. Max did 4th grade with the videos, and Nathaniel did Kindergarden videos. Then we went onto the the next year and things went badly. The boys were overwhelmed by the perfect classes in the videos. They couldn’t say things that fast and that was frustrating to them. Also the videos didn’t grab them. For 6th and 2nd grade, I decided I would be doing all the teaching. This is when Covid struck. All was well for a bit but then we had full on mutiny! The boys were overwhelmed by the paperwork involved. There were pages and pages of work. Seriously, that is all it was!! Also, as Max got older, important historical figures were being replaced with missionaries! He didn’t learn important people in history because of this (we did supplement). It is expensive to change things up, but neither boy was learning well and so something had to change.
Oak Meadow – I was very cautious after what had happened with Abeka. I didn’t want to go from the pot into the fire! Oak Meadow isn’t perfect, and I didn’t go into it thinking it was. But by boys were exhausted by Abeka so we needed to find something that wouldn’t be hours of working on worksheets (tests all the time for Max) so this was it. The boys started in 3rd and 7th grade and are currently in 4th and 8th grades. Oak Meadow is by weeks. There are 36 weeks of lessons every year. This isn’t 100% hard and fast either. There are review weeks and Max, being in 8th grade, is now using Saxon Algebra 1/2, which is only 30 weeks. However they are learning to think. I am making sure nothing falls through the cracks either. That is why we are supplementing. Nathaniel is doing many Evan Moore books: Higher Order Thinking, Daily Math Review, Daily Language Review, and Building Spelling Skills. He is also doing Zaner Blosser 4th grade cursive. Both boys are currently going through Evan Moore Europe. Max is also doing Daily Language Review, Zaner Blosser 6th grade, and Wordly Wise 3000. German is also important and I am working through the book German For Everyone Junior with both boys till German starts up again.
Let me know in comments if you have any questions. I will try to keep this updated as we change things. One thing I think I have learned through the years, once you get it figured out, watch out, things will shift again!!