Turning to homeschooling for the first time this upcoming school year? I would like to help give you a starting point in your search for curriculum by sharing what our family has been using for Kindergarten through 5th grade.
When possible I have provided the official link for the books (just click on the curriculum’s title at the beginning of each segment). This will give you the opportunity to read in further detail about the product and get a price point. You may choose to buy directly from the official retailers. Or you can buy used, which can save a lot of money. You can find used books on Facebook, as well as eBay. Rainbowresource.com, and AbeBooks.com are great sites to buy used. Sometimes curriculum can even be found on Amazon. Watch out for price hikes as some sellers will charge as much or even more than the new book from the official site. (Note: The Amazon links provided are to new products as used copies fluctuate in availability. However, from this link you can always click on more buying options to find used. As an Amazon Associate I may earn from qualifying purchases.)
Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons – I have used this with my first two children. There are lots of great things about this book. One being the use of arrows and teaching the child to hold the letters sound to the end of the arrow. Next it incorporates more letters on the arrow to read words. Another great feature is that the words start off really large and as one progresses the words gradually get smaller and the paragraphs longer. I also really like that starting with lesson 6 there is Sound Writing, which is exactly that, practicing to write the sound of a letter or two.
Jolly Phonics – I’m using this for the first time with my youngest and we love it! It’s a British curriculum set up to help the children step right into reading after learning only a few sounds. Jolly Stories let’s you follow a snake, bee and mouse around on their adventures. Each page pertains to a new sound. The pictures are full of objects that start or contain the sound being studied. But the thing I like best, is that for each sound there is a motion to remember the sound! For example, to remember the sound of A wiggle your fingers on your forearm as if they are ants and say a,a,a! There are a series of workbooks that coincide with Jolly Stories. I use two sets of them: Jolly Phonics Workbook and Jolly Phonics Activity Book.
Teaching Writing in Kindergarten – I have found this to be a great resource for teaching my children to gradually become self-sufficient writers. This book gives you guidelines, it is not a student book so you have to come up with the subjects to write about. However, I find this to be perfect for personalizing it to my child’s interests, field trips, and things she is learning about in other subjects. It is a lot more fun to write when it’s about something you like or something you are knowledgeable about.
Five in a Row (abbreviated as FIAR) – This is a great series to dive more deeply into the books we read with our children. Each volume suggests 15 – 20 children’s books, mainly picture books, that contain good moral values. FIAR takes each story and breaks it down into social studies, character, language arts, math, science, and art. The idea is to read the story five days in a row and on each day discuss a different subject and do the corresponding activities. Plus each story has a small disc to place on a world map, according to which country the story takes place. I usually borrow the suggested books from the library and I have bought our favorites 😊. There is however a Facebook group just for selling used versions of these books.
Math-U-See – I use this curriculum for all my children. Primer starts you off learning the basics of math with the help of blocks. The blocks are great to see what is occurring and they are used periodically throughout the elementary levels. Read about the other reasons I love this curriculum in the 1st – 5th Grade section below. Plus you can check out my post Let’s Talk Math.
Arts and Music
I do not follow any particular curriculum for art and music. I just gather ideas from library books and online. You will find some of the things we have created or listened to throughout my blog. A lot of times I will coordinate the art and music with a picture book or a FIAR book.
1st – 5th Grade
All About Spelling – I like this spelling program because it is broken down into simple rules, there’s lot’s of review, and best of all there are letter tiles. It’s a hands on approach that makes it a bit more fun for my kids. You use the letter tiles to spell out the words and then at the end of the week write on paper. (*Note there is All About Reading which corresponds with the spelling)
I use the Houghton Mifflin or MacMillan Mcgraw Hill reading books from public school. The school books are nice too because they offer writing prompts/techniques.
Houghton and Mifflin reading books for example https://www.abebooks.com/Houghton-Mifflin-Reading-Student-Anthology-Grade/30240566718/bd?cm_mmc=ggl-_-US_Shopp_Trade-_-used-_-naa&gclid=CjwKCAjw_-D3BRBIEiwAjVMy7PvxujFA7oxHGhnNVMLjUmbl7Nv6hkXXYL_f_KQ-06GOMAkbhv2OpxoCJ10QAvD_BwE
Who Was? is a wonderful nonfiction series about historical figures and places.
Animal Planet chapter books are nonfiction for the nature lover.
MathMath-U-See – I absolutely love this curriculum. Full disclosure, math is not my favorite subject, shhh🤫. Therefore, this curriculum is great, in my opinion, because it comes with a DVD containing 30 quick lessons. My kids actually like watching the videos even though there is no pizazz. Furthermore, I like the system. It’s about mastery of each subject before moving on. In comparison, the school system teaches using a spiral method (learn a little adding, subtracting, multiplying…then circle back and add to it). Math-U-See teaches adding and you work it until you master it and are adding into the thousands. Then you go on to master subtraction, etc… The official site offers a placement test so you know which level your child needs.
For further math ideas, check out my post Let’s Talk Math.
Life of Fred – this is a unique, fun way to learn math. Fred, an extremely young and bright professor, who takes you through his day and uses math along the way. The stories are fun and silly. My children happily answer any questions from Fred. It is a complete curriculum, however, I just use it as a fun side note in our studies.
First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind – My kids and I really enjoy these books. It makes grammar more fun. First Language vol. 1 & 2 have lots of fun poems to memorize as well as the parts of speech. There is a big focus on having the children answer in complete sentences while holding eye contact. I think this along with reciting the learned poems, help increase confidence. The lessons are short and easily fit into our day. This year, I look forward to using volume 3, which uses diagrams to break down the sentence structure.
Editor in Chief – This is a series of paragraphs that the student has to find grammatical errors. There is a review after every few lessons. This has been good practice for my children, as a similar set up is found in the CAT test that we take at the end of the year.
I have my children frequently write in journals using writing prompts I create specific to our learning or random from online. You will find writing prompt suggestions throughout our activities in my blog. At our house, we have a writing prompt jar where the children can draw a random prompt and then get to work writing in their journal.
To improve their writing skills, I use a combination of the things I’ve learned from IEW and from a class I took on teaching children how to improve their writing. IEW teaches children how to take notes then write using their own words. As the student progresses they will learn to use new words in place of redundant and overused words. Commonly overused words are banned, so the child must learn other words to replace them (ex. instead of “go” use: proceed, advance, progress…)
History Pockets – These are a great for hands on, coloring, cutting and pasting activities. These creative lessons cover specific time periods throughout history. Each lesson is a new pocket to store the lesson sheet plus all the crafts made. When completed, you have a nice portfolio-like book to look back on everything learned.
Story of the World – This curriculum by The Well-Trained Mind is new to us, but we instantly took right to it. History is written as a story, a very interesting story. We liked it so much I bought the audio books so we can listen to it anytime, anywhere. (Note: there are corresponding work books available)
We are kind of all over the place with science. We do a lot of STEM activities from online. A friend referred me to: https://www.teachengineering.org This site is free and it contains STEM activities for all grades. It provides a worksheet with the directions as well as questions for the students to answer.
We do some work with Apologia. I like these books as they have a notebook that can be purchased alongside the book. The notebooks are available for different grade levels. This allows everyone in the family, of different ages, to listen to the same lesson then write in a workbook of their own level.
Creating art is one of our favorite things to do. As of so far, I have not used any curriculum. We have done projects to learn the elements of art and certain techniques. Plus from time to time we will learn about an artist then try to use their technique to create a work of our own. Periodically we like to take a field trip to the art museum to see what we have learned in person. Our art museum provides free tours for children on many different subjects. Check out your local museum when it’s safe to do so. You can find some of our art classes here in my blog.
Tip: If you have two or more children, you will most likely be using the curriculum and workbooks again when the others come of age. Rather than buying a new workbook later, have your child put the workbook pages inside a page protector. Then use fine tip whiteboard markers to fill in the answers. When they are done, check it then wipe off. The original sheet is clean and can be saved to use again. Not only are you saving money but also trees🙂.
This is an overview of what we like to use in our homeschool. Of course there are many other options out there. To get an idea of other curriculum, I recommend checking out Cathy Duffy Reviews. https://cathyduffyreviews.com/# I’ve found some of my curriculum through Cathy Duffy Reviews and others through recommendations from other homeschoolers. I wish you all the luck in finding the curriculum that works best for your family.