I have had so many people ask me what curriculum we are using, and there is never an easy answer for that. My answer is usually, “Oh, a little of this and a little of that.” When we made the decision to home school our two children this school year, I began researching curriculum. I was overwhelmed in about five minutes. Wow! There is so much out there, and much of it is extremely expensive! It was hard to not get discouraged before I started.
Everyone has their own opinion of what curriculum you should use, how structured or unstructured your day should be, what your home school space should consist of, and the big debate of textbook vs. online curriculum. Ahhhhhhh!!! I had to take a timeout in my research because I was beginning to doubt our decision and my ability to teach my children. I decided to take a different approach. I knew there were certain things I wanted to include in our home school day, so I made a list. I am a “list person”. That’s how my brain works.
My list looked something like this:
- Bible Study/Quiet time
- Language Arts
- Social Studies/History
- Foreign Language
- Character Building
That’s where I started. That is a lot. There is absolutely no way I was going to cram all of those things into every day, especially because I also didn’t want to use textbooks. My kids are not a fan of textbooks/workbooks and we live in an RV, so we have limited storage space. At this point, I knew I wanted to find an online curriculum they could access from anywhere. We bought each of them an iPad with a Logitech keyboard. I also decided that each day of the week, I wanted to hit multiple subjects, but focus in on one main subject and one “extra” subject.
So, our week looks like this:
- Monday: Language Arts/Foreign Language
- Tuesday: Math/ Music
- Wednesday: Science/Health
- Thursday: Social Studies/Character Building
- Friday: Test day/Art
- Everyday: Bible study, Journal, Handwriting, Math app, Spelling/Vocabulary, Reading
The Core Stuff
After actually figuring out what I wanted them to learn, I decided to start with an online program called Time4Learning. It turned out to be a great starting place for both of my children, and for me. It included all of your core subjects (math, language arts, grammar, science, and social studies) and it kept track of their grades. It was about $35/month for my two children. Although we haven’t continued to use this program, I actually highly recommend it to someone starting out with home school, or just needing a change. It also would be great to use in those summer months for public school kids to bridge that gap. My favorite things about this curriculum is it gives you access to the grade level below and the grade level above where your student should be, so you can customize their learning experience. My daughter started out really struggling in math, so we dropped down to repeat some 5th grade math until she was ready to move on to 6th grade. She is now caught up and has surpassed where she should be. My son was way ahead of his first grade level in reading, so we were able to push him up to 2nd grade for that subject. Our biggest issue with www.time4learning.com was how much data we were using up streaming the videos since most of the time we are not on Wi-fi. Also, there a few of the activities that didn’t work well on an iPad. Other than that, it is full of bright colors, education, videos and is a great resource. My kids really enjoyed using it.
Math and Language Arts
Currently, for math and language arts, we are using an app called iTooch. There is an elementary app, middle school app, and an SAT prep app. (Wish I had known about that several years ago when my oldest was in high school!) The middle school app also includes Health and Music. The elementary app also includes Science and Health for older elementary kids. We LOVE iTooch! My 6th grader is learning things I learned in high school and excelling at them!
For science, we have done many different things. Sometimes our science day consists of a project-based study or a study of things around us. Science is everywhere. We did a field trip to the McDonald Observatory and attended the Star Party where we got to look through really large telescopes. That was a learning experience for all of us! Since we move around a lot, we like to learn about the land structures around us, animals we come across, etc. We also have gotten into a program called Supercharged Science. We did a free class a while back on Aviation, and the kids loved it! Aurora Lipper is the lady’s name who does the class. She has a huge resume of working for NASA, teaching at the college level, etc. She offers free classes from time to time on various different subjects. I highly recommend the free classes she offers at the very least, even if you don’t purchase her further curriculum. They are very interesting, especially for your older elementary-middle school age kids. We also use the Science Friendzy app, too.
One of the first things my daughter said to me when we told them we were going to home school was, “Cool! Can I learn to write in cursive?” I found that so funny, but she had never been taught to write in cursive. I guess in this day of trying to help kids excel on standardized tests, that just wasn’t a priority. I found her a workbook at Mardel Bookstore called “Contemporary Cursive” by Suzanne Lowe Wilke. What I like about this workbook is it starts out with basic letter formation, then it goes to writing number words, days of the week, months of the year, and other common words, then…there are writing assignments and copy work about American History, geography, and landmarks. I paid $12.99 for it at Mardel. I also found a FREE cursive writing resource at http://www.k5learning.com/cursive-writing-worksheets. You just print out the practice pages.
For social studies and history, I like to take a Calendar approach. For example, at www.kids.gov, you can print a calendar with all of the national holidays. I choose one or two of the holidays and focus on the history of why we celebrate it. For example, in January, we will be learning about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement, since his birthday is on January 18th. The kids.gov website is a great resource, but there are also quite a few apps we like to use. Friendzy is a great learning app for a lot of different subjects, but we especially like it for social studies. You go to the “Learning Center” first and learn through doing flashcards and play. Then, my kids love to do the “Single Friendzy” where they challenge other kids from around the world. It’s a lot of fun. We also like an app called Frontier Heroes. This app is a little more “game style”, but I’ve caught my kids playing on it even outside of school time. It teaches about Early America, The Colonies, The American Revolution, The Frontier, California Gold Rush, etc. There are more levels that unlock as they complete previous ones.
Spelling and Vocabulary
For Spelling and Vocabulary, we love www.spellingcity.com. There is also an app for that. I choose grade appropriate words for each child each week, input them, and assign their weekly work. It is a nice way to make spelling and vocabulary fun, it’s a great way to learn, and it keeps track of their grades. They offer a free trial, but we loved it so much, I went ahead and paid $29.99 for the annual Premium Membership.
I require my kids to read for at least 30 minutes a day. We utilize our local library when we are close to our home base, but when we are traveling, we have a Kindle Unlimited subscription, which allows them to “check out” books through the Kindle app and read them on their iPads. I pay $9.99 per month for this service and it is well worth the money. My kids have both become book worms since we began this venture. Now I have to set rules on when they can and can’t read, especially for my daughter, because she would read every minute she’s awake if she could! Ha!
For our Art Curriculum, I went with a program called “See the Light”. It is a very professionally made, video driven, Christian-based program. I love how she teaches art concepts and ties in Scripture with it. We all look forward to it every week. See the Light Art Class is a monthly subscription of $10/month for ten months.
Health and Music
As I mentioned earlier, our iTooch apps include a health section and a music section. There are a couple of other music apps we like. We found Learn Notes, Piano Star, and Kid Songs, and Christmas Piano in a bundle on the app store. They love playing with those and both kids are learning how music works and even how to play a couple of songs!
We are currently concentrating on Spanish for our foreign language. There are quite a few apps out there, and we have several of them, but I came across some great free resources at SAS Curriculum Pathways. There are flashcards and videos that are fun to watch. This month, we are concentrating on “the house” words. I am going to label everything up in our house to help all of us learn the words.
Last, but not least, it is really important to me for my children to learn positive character traits. I found a great resource at www.peekapak.com which focuses on a different character trait each month and provides a story and complete lesson plans.
This list is definitely not complete, and we add and take away from it as needed, but I hope this helps someone who is looking to home school, needs to shake up their existing home school or classroom, or just for extra practice at home to fill in some of those gaps during the year. This is by no means the only way or the right way for everyone to do home school, but it is working fabulously for us. We like a little structure, but love leaving a little bit of an opening for organic learning. There are so many things around us everyday that can be used as teachable moments. The trick is to not let those things pass us by. Kids are naturally curious. If they have a question about something, I try to answer it. If I don’t know the answer, we look it up online or find a book to learn more about it.
Please feel free to leave a comment or question. I am happy to share any information that might help you on your journey, and I’m always looking for new and exciting things to include in our day!