My inbox has been filling up with questions about homeschooling lately, so it must be that time of year to start thinking about curriculum for the fall!
Just Starting Out?
If you are thinking about homeschooling or just getting your feet wet, I highly recommend two lovely books:
Teaching in Your Tiara: A Homeschooling Book for the Rest of Us by Rebecca Frech
Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakeable Peace by Sarah Mackenzie
And now for…
Our Curriculum Plans for 2015
Our homeschooling method is VERY laid back. We’re of the opinion that young children love to learn and our job is to nurture and guide their natural curiosity and thirst for knowledge. So we do very little structured school time at this point because “school” is woven into the rest of our lives.
We go to the library once a week to get new books and read them aloud. We leave them out for perusing all over the house–so I guess that’s technically “school” but our kids don’t know that. They just think it’s cool to go to the library.
As our kids get older, I know the structured school time will increase so I want to enjoy these days when school feels a lot like play, but we have added a little curriculum in.
Singapore Math (1A and 1B)
This is the first year we’ve done any math curriculum. Benjamin is a rising first grader, so it seemed like a good time to start some basic concepts. A couple of months ago I ordered the first grade math textbook and workbook (1A) from Singapore math. I’m a fan. Benjamin is more than halfway through so we’ll probably order the 1B workbook soon. I found the textbook to be really unnecessary since it’s primarily addition and subtraction and although I’m not the world’s best mathematician, I got that covered.
And we supplement the Singapore with Life of Fred.
The main order of business is to read aloud ALL THE TIME. I really love the Catholic preschool curriculum Twenty-Six Letters to Heaven by Sarah Park because the picture book lists in it are worth the price of purchase. I go to this book first when I’m ordering books from the library.
I don’t think anyone’s ever too old for GOOD picture books, but a couple of years ago we added chapter books to the mix, particularly for bedtime reads.
We’re currently reading Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia to the “big kids.” These are a few of the titles we’ve read to them in the past or plan to read in the future:
- The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
- Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
- The Little House Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
- Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater
- Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne
- Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald
- The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
- Redwall by Brian Jacques
- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
- Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
- The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
- The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
- The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
If you’re interested, you can read about our favorite authors and favorite picture books.
In addition to reading to the kids, we have our rising 1st grader read aloud to us and to his sisters. He loves to do this without being asked which is a blessing. To teach him to read we used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons by Siegfried Engelmann.
Send letters for handwriting and spelling practice. Like other six-year-old boys, Benjamin isn’t a huge fan of sitting down and practicing his writing skills. But he does like sending letters to pen pals because mailboxes are apparently magic. So instead of pushing it, I’m just letting him write out grocery lists, letters, and cards and assisting him when he needs help spelling something. Eventually, we’ll do handwriting practice but I don’t care to fight that battle….yet.
Story of the World audiobooks — We listened to Ancient World this year and we’ll tackle Medieval next year. You can also get Story of the World as a print book. We’re actually listening to Ancient world AGAIN because the kids loved it so much and we’ll probably tackle medieval world this summer. Other Catholic families gave me a heads up that there’s a few points in the medieval book that misrepresent Catholicism and will probably require a pause and explanation so…passing that heads up to you. I’m a little hesitant to begin medieval because I LOVE the Middle Ages so much (that’s what I studied in college) and I get nervous that people will mess it up. So, fingers crossed.
Speaking of audiobooks, I am a huge fan of listening to audiobooks whenever we’re in the car. The library has a great selection and then I feel like we’re doing something lovely when we’re in the car (and there’s less sibling bickering when there’s something great to listen to). Lately we’ve enjoyed the Tale of Despereaux.
We’re planning to take a road trip this summer and camp at some National Parks (more on that another day) so we’ll study some American geography over the summer.
We’re moving to a farm for a year so I kinda think we’ll have science covered.
Building a Culture of Life:
We also got started with Life is Precious: A Culture of Life Unit Study for Elementary Students. It’s a a four-week unit study which instructs children (in grades K-2) about the beauty of every human life from creation forward, while still respecting their innocence created by the American Life League. And it incorporates some of our favorite picture books like Angel in the Waters and Horton Hears a Who.
I thought it might also be helpful to share what I didn’t end up loving. I tried to use Five in a Row by Jane Lambert but it stressed me out and just felt kind of…..forced. I’d rather just read picture books with my kids and have organic conversations with them about what we’re reading. I can see certain personalities really digging it and most homeschooling families I know love it, but it wasn’t for me.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase a title linked in this post, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a portion of the sale. Thanks for supporting Carrots!
Tsh Oxenreider says
Love this, Haley! I love that you’re keeping the early years really simple—that’s what I advise all just-starting-out homeschoolers to do (not that I’m that much farther down, but you know what I mean…). I tried to do too much at first, and it wiped me out.
And I agree about FIAR, too. I did it with my first-born a little during her preschool years (see my first paragraph, above), but it felt a bit overkill. I gleaned a few good ideas from it, but overall, most of it was instinctual to me.
Abbey @ Surviving Our Blessings says
Love that y’all liked Life of Fred! It’s a big hit here. As for Five in a Row, I liked the stuff in Before Five in a Row a bit better. I still favor natural, organic conversation about what we read, and we incorporate whatever books we lug home from the library, of course…but I did get a few good activities and discover a few great older books from the lists in the Before Five in a Row book. 🙂 Yay for farm science! And Sam would love to exchange letters with Benjamin, he says. We take a similar approach to writing. 🙂 Y’all are going to have a great year!
Haley, you or some of your readers may be interested in this Vocations curriculum I helped write for the Congregation of Holy Cross. It is geared for K-8 with focus on saints and models of faith who lived out various vocations. It’s free here: http://vocation.nd.edu/get-connected/vocations-curriculum/
I also love the Nashville Dominican Sisters’ Virtue Curriculum, Virtues in Practice, also free online: http://nashvilledominican.org/Apostolate/Evangelization_and_Catechesis
I agree with all your loves (and not loves). The math I ended up sticking with (kids 4-20 now) is Math-U-See. LOVE!!! There’s also some pre-reading required for middle ages. Like Martin Luthor hero stuff. But even with skipping thise chunks, I felt it was still the best history. We actually did the series twice, with all the activities and supplementation the second time thru. Also love Veritas press for reading comp as they get older
Interesting about Veritas press– I heard it was very anti Catholic?
I enjoy nerding out over homeschool plans. So, this is fun for me! 🙂 I need to read Sarah Mackenzie’s book (I liked Rebecca’s! That would be a good reread.) I’ve never heard of Twenty-six Letters to Heaven, and I’ll have a four year old, come July, so, yeah, I should purchase this. 😉 I also am very curious about the Culture of Life book. We’ve read the two picture books it mentions, but I wonder how they set it all up. We go into Medieval next year, too! Thanks for the (educational) fun. 🙂
Hi Haley! Thanks for sharing all your tips in the upcoming days. We’re making a 400-mile move this month with a 4-year-old and a 16-month-old, AND one on the way! We’ve just ordered PK/K curriculum because our daughter has started asking for more “school-like” work instead of our preschool stuff, which basically consists of seeing how long it takes before we’ve checked out every picture book in the library. She’s started reading, but we won’t be doing any math yet – the big carrot is that we’re going from an apartment to a rented house, and she’s been promised we can set up school in our new dining room!
Hi Haley, sounds like you are doing a great job of educating your children.
I have a tip about camping with little ones, it’s called Panama Jack After Burn Relief. It was so good for any kind of sunburn, bug bites, scratches, anything painful. I don’t usually recommend products, but this one was worth it’s weight in gold on our camping trips.
Traveling Grace on all your adventures!
Thanks so much for sharing Haley! I just wanted to recommended the Singapore Home Instructor’s Guide. My child doesn’t love worksheets/workbooks but he’ll do the Signapore workbook after we’ve done some of the other suggestions in the Home Instructor’s Guide, which are things like card games and manipulative activities.
Random Commenter says
Ditto regarding the Home Instructor’s Guide. We’re only almost through 1A, so I knew it would be simple stuff and figured the guide might be a waste of money. But it’s saved me lots of time. I needed some extra practice activities (not more worksheets) once we hit place value. I could have come up with all the activities, but not needing to “reinvent the wheel” has been very helpful! The activities and explanations from the guide are also the parts that my daughter (3yo) loves to sit in on.
Every time I see you talk about Letters to Heaven I wish there was one about Bible characters too. And the more I think about the more I think I’m just going to end up writing one myself and then I get antsy. And put it on the back burner. Some day maybe.
I really appreciate this. We are starting PreK homeschooling in the fall and she likes doing school work so I need some kind of plan. Our library is lacking seriously in quality books. Which is a bummer. I’m glad my mom was a reading teacher and we have TONS at the house. I also like that you keep it chill with other little people in the house. That’s the most worrisome part for me – what do I do with the other little people?
Thanks for your insight!
So fun to see other people using many of the books we have loved: Teach Your Child to Read, Singapore, Story of the World, and we did like 5 in a Row with the addition of lapbooks for my daughter. I don’t know if my son will want to do that when he starts in the fall though! 🙂 We’re actually going to try Beyond Five in a Row for my older girls this coming year (5th & 3rd grades). I have the instructors guide already and it looks promising. It searches out the science and history in assigned novels or biographies for the kids to look up more information about. I loved planning all that out with only one kiddo, but as we’ve added to our little school, I’m thankful to let someone else help me out a bit more this year, since we’ll have three schooling and a toddler.
We are still searching for the ‘perfect’ science curriculum. I liked lowest level of Noeo for chemistry, but I’ve found the second level of physics to go back and forth between redundant and over their heads. You’ll definitely get a great year of biology next year!
Best wishes for a joyous school year (and easy move)!
Lindsay H. says
Oh my gosh I love this! My little guy is only 5 months old haha but I just can’t wait to learn along with him! Definitely bookmarking this as a reference. We aren’t for sure going to homeschool…my husband is a bit more hesitant and we do have a very sweet little Catholic school right down the road which we have both worked at and love the environment so it’s a hard call. But I will def implement some of this as I want to leave things around the house for my guy to discover and explore! If you haven’t read The Little Way of Homeschooling you should!! It draws from St Therese and other saints to look at the “unschooling” style of teaching in the home. It’s so wonderful and inspiring.
The Little Way of Homeschooling was a game-changer for my mom. She still has 2 at home (middle and high school). When she read it, she had been homeschooling for more than a decade, but felt like no one understood her style, which leans heavily toward unschooling. This book introduced her to many others who educate their children this way and gave her a new sense of confidence. It also led her to the Catholic unschoolers’ group on fb – a huge source of support for her. She also loves life of Fred. Math has always been a struggle in our house, and this series seems to ease much of that tension.
Lindsay, you’re so cute 🙂 I love how excited you are to share life’s adventures with your little one. I come from a family who originally attended Catholic school and sort of crash landed into homeschooling. I encourage you to not to fret over whether you are providing the “perfect” schooling experience for your son. Traditional school is good. Homeschooling is good. Unschooling is good. As long as you provide an environment where learning is a natural part of daily life, all will be well.
Your curriculum sounds just like mine, when my kids were little! My youngest just finished the last set of Singapore elementary books and we’re just finishing up Book 4 in Story of the World. Hard to believe those books have stood the test of time through 4 boys! Another chapter book I highly recommend that wasn’t on your list is James and the Giant Peach – all my boys loved that one! And The Mouse and His Motorcycle (Beverly Cleary). When you get to grammar, I’ve had great success with Rod and Staff. And handwriting. Ugh. ALL mine hate it with a passion. We persevere, because I’m a firm believer in cursive (which is no longer taught in most public schools), but I might as well just stab their eyeballs out and be done with it!
I don’t have anything profound to comment on except that I squealed like a fangirl when I saw Tsh Oxenreider’s comment 🙂
Amy @ Motherhood and Miscellany says
I decided to give up on FIAR for next year too. I liked it, but it just wasn’t quite right. “kind of forced” is a good way to describe how I felt about it too. Sounds like you guys have a great year planned!!
Your “curriculum” is very similar to ours. Thanks so much for the chapter book list (I collect book lists). I’d add Caddie Woodlawn and Heidi. We have three girls. We live on a homestead and our science and theology is mostly covered by questions that come up through life. Life, death, and butchering goats. Also magic school bus. We just started Story of the World and I’m glad to hear you liked it as I am a bit nervous about the ancient unit, because I was an archaeologist is a former career. We’ve been using Singapore Math for a year and a bit for our incredibly math oriented oldest and we have really liked it as well, especially when paired with Life of Fred. Thanks for sharing.
Marlon Davis says
My favorite audio listening stories are the Classical Kids Series. Have you heart of them? Mr. Bach Comes to Call, Mozart’s Magical Fantasy and Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery are my favorites and my toddler is simply in love with them. I am Canadian and I believe they were made in Canada. Basically timeless. And they weave Christianity into the biographical parts of the Bach story and of course Vivaldi. Usually there is a child as the main character in each one.
First off, good luck with the move. What an exciting time for you family! Second, I just wanted to thank you for sharing your homeschool plans. We have unofficially homeschooled with heavy emphasis on interest-led learning up to this year and are officially starting school with our oldest two (K and 1st) this summer. I consider us to be more eclectic homeschoolers when it comes to curriculum so I love when others share what works for them. It helps to narrow down the list of what I consider. I am with you on Singapore Math. We tried 1A last year and are picking up again with 1B this year. We are also trying Story of the World, Real Science Odyssey’s Life Science, and the same reading book you mention. Those are the “biggies” with a few other things thrown in so maybe I can have a bathroom break to myself (ha!).
Melinda Loustalot says
Let me vouch for Sarah Park’s 26 Letters to Heaven. .she was writing it when her family was living in my town a few years ago and I was able to use some of her ideas from the book in a co-op where I was teaching some of our local homeschool kiddos. .she would be thrilled you’ve recommended it. .she is a precious person with a terrific family and we all miss them tons around here. .
Have you discovered the Little House audio books read by Cherry Jones? Sooooo good!
yes! Love that one!
I will be starting homeschool for the first time this Fall. I will have a Kindergartner, Preschooler, Toddler, and a Newborn, lol. We are totally laid back about it though. I will be using “Singapore Math” and “Teach Your Child to Read…” as well. I really enjoyed Laura Berquist’s book “Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum.” It’s very laid back for the early grades as well.
Hi Haley, I just came across this now as you reposted it…I also love the simple approach, and thought I would mention this resource for any readers wanting something super doable and fun… http://www.ohthatssimple.com/
(I’m the adult daughter of the author and I can testify to a fantastic homeschool experience using this approach :))
I love reading and sharing about homeschool everything! We are using Kolbe Academy this year for KG for my oldest. I was so apprehensive last year about teaching him how to read, but I used momstersraisingmonsters.com pre-k curriculum and he is reading like a pro! I love structure, and this pre-k curriculum held my hand all the way through. I highly recommend it for pre-k! I’m so excited to start Singapore KG math too, I used it from 3rd grade up with my brother, and love it!! I also use Dominican sisters free virtue program. http://www.nashvilledominican.org/apostolate/evangelization-and-catechesis/virtues-in-practice/ Just some of my current faves =D
Sorry, that’s http://www.momstersraisingmonsters.com/shop-2/ if anyone wants to check it out! Idk what happened with the original link.