Since I get plenty of questions on our homeschool curriculum, I’m sharing a handy list in one place, with explanations on why we use what we do. This curriculum is for my three youngest children: 8yo daughter, 11yo son, and 14yo son.
This year marks my 20th year of homeschooling, so I’ve narrowed down what works for us. I’ve also learned over the years what’s important, what’s not, and how to streamline.
Our school year isn’t a typical one. We school year-round, and start and finish curriculum at different times throughout the year. I also don’t worry too much about grade level, except where it’s important for co-op class or other outside activity. We take breaks as needed, such as holiday breaks, vacation time for my husband, or beautiful weather breaks. (We are in Texas, with no specific school year regulations.)
So let’s begin:
We have loved and used Math-U-See for over 10 years. I have taught every level from Alpha through Pre-Algebra, plus Geometry and Stewardship. My youngest three children have always only used MUS.
I love it because it is truly visual and hands-on. Steve Demme, the creator and video instructor, believes that math instruction is most effective when it is both, and I agree.
The program is three-part: video instruction, hands-on manipulatives, and workbooks. We use all three exactly the way the program is designed. Whether adding or dividing, the unit blocks have made such a difference in how I teach math and also in the way that my children understand it. I could not believe how easy it was to explain long division with the MUS method!
We also make liberal use of the online helps, such as extra worksheets for more practice, or the online facts drills. As I said, we use the DVD video instruction, but there is also a streaming option on their website.
I was not a good math student myself, and I have always feared and loathed math. But I have found myself teaching algebra and geometry with this program. The video instruction and the teacher guides are so helpful and make it easy for even me to teach!
I do sit down and watch each video lesson (weekly) with my kids, and follow along in the instructor guide. Since I’m not a math person, it helps me to get prepared in case my kids have questions on their work book or need help.
As with any curriculum, I love it when the creators have a biblical worldview, and that can definitely said about Steve Demme. You can listen to his Building Faith Families podcast here.
If you’re looking for a new math curriculum, I highly suggest you explore the MUS website and watch their sample videos. If there is a homeschool convention near you, look for Demme Learning and Math-U-See on their vendor list and workshop schedule.
I began using copywork late in my homeschooling journey, but — oh my goodness! — I cannot stress the benefits strongly enough! I use it for all ages and many subjects. It reinforces proper spelling, word usage, sentence structure, neat handwriting, and vocabulary. You can read my full post about it here. We do a bit of copywork 2-3 days each week, including scripture, catechism, famous quotes, and literature passages.
This is so important, but it sometimes gets overdone. I know that’s a bit of a contrasting statement, but it’s true. So I use Easy Grammar and I don’t use it to death. By that, I mean that I don’t use it every year. I think it’s important to know and understand the parts of speech and of sentence structure, but it can get so boring. An Easy Grammar course every other grade or year seems to work great, with continuous copywork all the time. I don’t even begin using this program until my kids are around 10-12. I have found that they just don’t need it early and they don’t need it every year. (My two grown daughters are proof of this; they are like Grammar Nazis and they did not have continuous grammar instruction. What they did have was constant usage, which is a world of difference.) We spend about 20 minutes 2-3 days per week on Grammar, and both of my boys (age 11 and 14) do the same level.
I always only recommend Institute for Excellence in Writing. It is truly excellent. I have seen the work of students who grew up in this program compared to those who didn’t and the difference is marked. We usually start in the middle school years and don’t do it every year. In fact, I like to alternate Grammar and Writing years for my kids. I have found that Easy Grammar and IEW complement each other nicely. The basic writing program, Writing with Structure and Style, is my favorite. I start my kids at Level B and combine ages (anywhere from age 10 on up). You can read my full review of IEW programs here.
I believe that a foundation in Latin is vital to an excellent English language education. Our language is Latin and Greek based, and the study of both languages is immensely helpful to building and using an advanced vocabulary. We use Prima Latina and Latina Christiana from Memoria Press. As with my other LA curricula, I usually introduce this in Middle School.
We do Latin lessons 2 days per week, with extra practice 2 more days per week. Aside from the workbook pages, my students copy and memorize each week’s latin/English vocabulary list. We go over the English words that are derived from their new Latin words each week, write them down, and use them in sentences. My boys do the same level together.
Reading great books is a very important part of an excellent Language Arts education. Reading different genres, different authors, reading advanced works, listening to books read by Mom or with audiobooks — these all help to stretch the mind, introduce new vocabulary, provide excellent examples of writing and thought, and give students great models for their future writing and speaking.
If you have a child who can’t yet read, or who doesn’t like to read, don’t fret! Read to them. Read books they choose. Read books they’ve never heard of. Read books above their level. I know 4 and 5 year-olds that have sat through the Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings. Let them ask you questions. Read fiction, historic fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Let them hear all types of writing. Let them listen to audiobooks while they draw or color or build Legos or use modeling clay. Even pre-readers or reluctant readers can “read” many great books and gain the same benefits as readers.
History (and geography and literature and science and everything else)
I’ve written a lot about how we do this, so I’ll just give you the short version here. I began using Sonlight many years ago, and still highly recommend it. I basically copy this method in my own way. I combined it with The Well-Trained Mind, somewhat. It’s the whole-book method, and it’s such a rich way to learn history.
It involves following a chronological timeline of world history, potentially cycling through all of world history three times from Kindergarten through 12th grade (roughly). “History” is a generic term for what we do, because it involves mapping everything we read (geography), learning about the culture of the time period (art and music), reading the great works of –or about– that time (literature), and the scientists with their discoveries and inventions of the period (science).
All of this is done in a group setting with all of my children, no matter their age. I tend to tailor it to the oldest or middle-to-oldest, but include books or projects for all levels. You can read more about how I combine ages here.
I currently use a combination of Story of the World Volume IV and Mystery of History Volume IV. In addition to these two guides (and their accompanying activity guides) we read a lot of books together. I always have one read-aloud going, and also assign books to individual kids on the current topic and on their level. We also make liberal use of websites, YouTube videos, printable notebooking pages found online, and movies. (See our 19th Century example here.) We are working our way through the 20th century and plan to finish up by summer.
Our home library provides the bulk of this learning. You can check out my Instagram for photos of this library, section-by-section.
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I love libraries and book stores and book stacks and book shelves. I love it when people share their book stacks and book shelves. I zoom in and read all the titles. So since a broken floor board in our library led to a revamping of bookcases and books, I thought I’d share what we have in our library. Now you can look and zoom and get a few ideas for your wishlist! This view is one of three chronological history book cases. I’ll share closes-ups this week, section-by-section. Can’t wait! #bookstagram #bookstagrammer #booknerd #booklover #homelibrary #homelibraryinspiration #worldhistorybooks #bookshelves #onmybookshelf #homeschool #homeschooling #homeschoolingideas #homeschoolbooks #homeschoolblog
My kids are taking an outside science class this school year. My boys are both in Apologia General Science and my 9yo daughter is in a younger version of the same thing. The class is taught by a science-teacher-turned-homeschool-mom, and it’s so much more fun than I could be! She loves science and has a knack for making it make sense for the students.
I love the Apologia curriculum and the deep creation science aspects of it. I love that my kids learn scripture alongside scientific theories, laws, and discoveries.
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My daughter loved making a human solar system in her science class last week. She and her friends each held a ball representing a planet and spaced themselves the correct distance apart. But even more, there were reminded of the fact that random chance does not hold the sun, moon, earth, and other planets in exactly the right spot to prevent catastrophe. They learn from Genesis and Job that God is sovereign and good and omnipresent, and that He creates every last star and put it precisely where it should be. Learning about the universe without any mention of its Creator is only half an education. #homeschool #homeschoolclasses #creationscience #apologia #apologiascience #homeschoolscience #christianeducation #christianhomeschooling #christianapologetics
As I mentioned above in the history section, we also study scientific exploration and the people behind them as we work our way through the history timeline. Knowing the times and culture that these famous people lived in provides a much deeper understanding and appreciation for their writings, discoveries, and contribution to science.
Related Post: Biblical Apologetics for Children
Throughout everything we cover, a biblical worldview is very important. It affects how we view current events, history, science, and even literature. Whether we’re learning about scientists who believed the earth was flat (or round) or communism, a biblical worldview influences our thinking. (Read How to Discuss Current Events with Your Kids.)
There are some great programs that homeschoolers can use for this, but we don’t currently use one. We depend on a systematic study of the Bible through reading, catechism, and church attendance. I recommend the book Expository Parenting for more on this.
Related Post: Instilling a Biblical Worldview in Your Children
This is a pretty basic list that doesn’t change much. Like I said, I’ve settled on my favorites and what works for us. The only changes are advancing levels or new books to read.
In addition, we belong to a homeschool co-op that meets weekly for 10 weeks in Spring and again in the Fall. My kids take a mix of academic classes and fun extra-curriculars.
Questions? If you want to know more about what we use or how we do it, comment below!