Homeschool Curricula and Tips



It's the nearing the end of another school year, and the teachers and homeschool parents are sighing in relief.  "Whew!"  (I don't have school-age kids anymore, but I remember it well.)  Kids are always learning though, aren't they?

As a former homeschool parent, I hope some of my experiences will help you.   I was very eclectic and used each curriculum as a guide, rather than following it strictly. Every child is different, and individual learning styles will vary.  Your own teaching style will develop over time!

(Sprinkled throughout the sections and at the bottom of the page, are links to some of my favorite materials that worked particularly well for us. Some of the links are affiliate links, so I'll receive a small commission if you purchase through the link, at no extra charge to you.)   I appreciate it very much!
   

Reading and Language Arts


The Explode the Code program for Phonics instruction was engaging and fun for my daughter and worked extremely well. She learned to read quickly with this curriculum.  It comes as a series of inexpensive workbooks, which can be used independently by the student, or together with you.  There are pictures and humor, and the program progresses smoothly. Once your child is reading fluently, there is no need to continue with the workbooks.  I highly recommend it!  It's now available as an online program as well.

Keeping kids engaged and enjoying the process is really important. I supplemented with reading games and activities. As a reading tutor, I now find lots of fun reading games at teacherspayteachers.com.

Reading daily is really important for all kids, and reading time often becomes a favorite part of the day. (My daughter devoured books and almost always begged for more reading time. My answer was always, "YES!"  Even my son loved to read to the cat!)

(And, please, don't feel guilty if your child doesn't like to read. I encouraged both of my kids equally. One liked to read, and one did not. Just never stop encouraging!)

Reading aloud to kids is also a  must, and reading aloud to them while they silently follow along is extremely beneficial.  After all, as they follow along, they are reading too.


Journaling is a big help in developing writing skills. (Plus, journaling is usually fun for kids and they will have their memories recorded on paper.) For the younger grades, you can buy composition books that have a blank space at the top of the page for a drawing, and lines at the bottom for writing.  Those are WONDERFUL.

My kids also loved to make little books. These can be made from anything--wallpaper samples, construction paper (or any scrapbook or handmade paper), coffee filters,etc.  Before my daughter was old enough to write, she loved to dictate the stories to me, and I would write them for her. Then she would draw the pictures..

For Grammar, we used a variety of different resources.

To supplement any grammar curriculum, I highly recommend Grammar Songs by Kathy Troxel via Audio Memory. We used to listen to this in the car a lot, and it was a fun and very effective way to remember grammar rules. (Audio Memory's motto is "You never forget what you sing!"  I've really found that to be true!) LOVE these.

Math


Math is best learned when practiced daily, and it's the only subject that I feel  is actually associated with grade levels, because it is so cumulatively learned.  In the early grades, we used many different types of Math activities and had so much fun with it.  (Hint: Multiplication and Division are VERY fun to learn with mini M&Ms. We're not big candy eaters, but used sparingly, this makes Math REALLY appealing.  Of course, any small manipulatives work for this and can be fun.) 

Horizons Math is excellent for the early elementary grades. It's colorful and clear.

I recommend Saxon  Math for upper elementary and middle school.  Kids don't always like the repetition that Saxon is famous for, but in my opinion,  it really cements the concepts.  We also found it worked well for independent work.

The Saxon instructions emphasize that every problem must be completed each day, but here's our secret, we usually did half of them (there are often two similar problems with each lesson), and my son still tested into the advanced math class when he attended school for a little while at a rigorous private school.  (And, honestly, math is not his strength.)

Science


From very early on, we always had interactive books and software devoted to different science topics--Human Body, Magnets, Planets, etc.

We used curricula from many sources for science, and my kids had some amazing classes found through local homeschool associations. Hands on science is the best! 

History and Social Studies


History comes to life with historical fiction.  This is where a literature based curriculum really shines. (Also, timelines are a BIG help with placing events relative to other events.)

Sonlight (a Christian, literature based curriculum) is wonderful for history and social studies.

And, finally, I published a "back to school" post a while back.  I'm reposting  the tips from it here, in case you haven't seen it, as it has some ideas you might find helpful.

Some school day tips I've learned (some the hard way!)


  • Include some protein in breakfast, not just a bowl of cereal or a waffle. (Cereal or waffles without a protein food will cause a mid-morning crash.)  

  • Keep books and school supplies in assigned places for each student . Sounds very commonsensical, but those books seem to land all over the house if you're not careful.   My daughter kept one of those wire storage cubes in the bottom of her closet, dedicated to her school books.  (By the way, commonsensical is really a word. But you probably already knew that.  I thought I made it up...)

  • Establish routines early on (but stay flexible!)  If you are homeschooling (even if you are an "unschooler"), have some form of structure in your days. Kids feel more secure, happy, and productive if they know what to expect than if you are always "flying by the seat of your pants." (By the way, do you know where that term came from?  In the early days of aviation, pilots didn't have electronic instruments and had to fly by the feel of the plane's direction and movement in their seats. I just learned that today...) 

  • It's especially important that Math and Spelling are practiced daily. 

  • Foreign languages are most easily learned when begun in early childhood.  You can find really fun foreign language CDs, music, and games.

  • Projects, creative presentations, posters, murals, and anything else that helps your kids learn by DOING are VERY important.  (When I think about my own school days, the material I remember best was learned in those ways.)

  • For homeschooling, textbooks can be used as guides and inspiration, rather than as the sole curriculum for subjects. You can supplement with other materials and activities that are a good fit for your child.  For instance,  my daughter has always loved to read, and her grasp of history grew by reading historical fiction. Had we used the textbooks only, history would not have come alive as well or appealed as much to her. 

A final tip (related to the last one) and should go without saying---Make sure your kids are reading every day.  A LOT.  

Some of you may be wondering where I've been...  We recently moved, and then some unexpected medical stuff happened (that was in addition to our usual medical stuff!)  I was on an especially long break.  So, I'm so happy to be back. There are a few changes in the works, as my blog emphasis will be shifting a bit.  There is a blog name change in the future and a little more emphasis on my artsy side!



15 comments

  1. I love your word. Commonsensical.

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  2. Ha! I love that word too. I keep saying it now. (I really did think I made it up, but no!)

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  3. Great tips!
    I need all the help I can get to get back in the swing of things :)

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  4. We are choosing to homeschool & I CANNOT wait!! Well, yes I can. It will be hard...means they are growing up!!

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  5. Great list! I totally agree that textbooks can be used as guides to learning. We do a lot of that here. I don't want them miss anything, but I also want to have fun learning! We often use the TB to map the requirements for the year, but we'll often supplement the material. :)

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  6. Christina--Thanks! Best wishes for a great year.
    Mrs. T--Yes, they grow up SO fast.
    Adrienne--Thanks! Sounds a lot like the way we do things here. Love the flexibility of homeschooling!

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  7. Anonymous4:17 PM

    Yes agree that home schooling is flexible. We are a bit rigid here by the way we do things but yes to not have to be anywhere on a day to day basis is wonderful and if we are having a "bad day" we can just chill out for a while :) Good luck everyone!

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  8. Thanks for visiting, Cassie! Yes, it took me quite some time to relax and enjoy the flexibility. Homeschooling is such a responsibility, but so worth it!

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  9. Great tips!! It's definitely a savings getting things at the store right now. Good time to stock up for other things, too! My son started 10th grade yesterday...where has the time gone? #HomeMattersParty

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  10. I like these tips. Like you I get excited over getting school supplies for next to nothing. My kids are ready for a new homeschool year. My son actually asked for some historical fiction books just yesterday, so he must have heard that tip somewhere else too.

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  11. Great tips for Homeschoolers. Thank you for sharing with us. #HomeMattersParty

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  12. Really great information! Thanks for sharing & co-hosting #HomeMattersParty

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  13. I am all about routine, organization, and composition books! Love them all. Thanks for sharing and co-hosting at #HomeMattersParty :)

    ~Lorelai
    Life With Lorelai

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  14. Great tips and ideas. I especially love the tip about protein-you are so right! I am so in love with all the school supplies right now. #HomeMattersParty

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  15. I haven't ever homeschooled, but I can tell these are great tips to keep organized and alert for learning. Happy to be cohosting the #HomeMattersParty with you this week!

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