Freshman Curriculum Choices

We school through the summer and take Thanksgiving through New Year’s off. We started our new school year about three weeks ago. AJ has officially started high school! Time has gone by so fast. I still remember making the decision to pull her out of public school like it was yesterday.  Picking out her high school courses wasn’t easy, but we are both happy with the final decisions. Here are the core subjects that she will be working on for her freshmen year.

Math

UnLock Math
She will be taking Geometry this year. A few years ago we were blessed with the chance to review Pre Algebra from UnLock Math, and it was amazing. When I found out that UnLock Math had a new Geometry program, I knew that I wanted to have AJ try it out. I was ecstatic when we were blessed with the opportunity to review it. My formal review will be in a few weeks, but we love it. Everything is explained in a step by step manner and there is plenty of review built in. She will be sticking with UnLock Math for the year.

In addition to UnLock math she will continue to work on Khan Academy for 15 minutes twice a week. UnLock Math is more than enough, but I want her to continue to work on skills other than geometry so that she doesn’t forget those algebraic skills. I figure mastering a few new skills a week will make Algebra 2 easier when she takes it next year.

History

This year she will be taking World Geography. We had planned on her taking this course last year, but she didn’t get very far. Instead of using just a textbook approach, she will be using an online course with the book as a supplement. She will be using the World Geography course from Easy Peasy High School. So far we both really like it. She is using the book we have to help her with map work and to do research.

English

This was the hardest subject to decide on. I decided I really wanted something that was put together for me. For middle school I made most of her book studies and pieced things together. It worked out and she learned quite a bit, but it was a lot of work for me. Reading novels is not something that AJ really enjoys. So I wanted a program that had her reading, but that didn’t require her to read so many books that she would feel overwhelmed. I had my options narrowed down to a few programs, and then we were given the chance to review Lightning Literature. It was one of the programs I wanted to try out! We have been using it for a few weeks now and will use it for the rest of the year. Our review will be posting in a few weeks.

 Lightning Literature and Composition Pack American: Mid to Late 19th Century
She will be using their American Literature: Mid – Late 19th Century. There are a few ways to use the program. I decided to have her use the course over an entire school year. She will read four books during that time; Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Red Badge of Courage, and The Call of the Wild. There are also short stories and poetry that she will be reading.

In addition to literature, she will also continue with Analytical Grammar. Even though Lightning Literature has writing assignments for each novel, short story, and poetry selection, there isn’t really writing instruction. Since writing is the subject she struggles with the most we decided she needed something that would provide more instruction. She did very well with IEW’s Writing Intensive level B so we decided to try out another one of their products – US History Based Writing Lessons. It has the instruction she needs but isn’t overwhelming so it can easily be added to her workload.

Vocabulary will be taken from her literature books and from her writing lessons.

Science

This year AJ will be taking two science courses. She would take more if I let her. AJ loves science and anything that has to do with animals. She will be taking Biology and Animal Science from SchoolhouseTeachers.com

Biology is offered at schoolhouseteachers.com!

Biology is a great introductory biology course. It has a lot of flexibility and lets you go as in-depth as you want with the course. There are optional microscope experiments and dissections that we will be doing to make sure AJ gets a lab science.

Animal Science is one of the many science courses available from Schoolhouseteachers.com

Animal Science can be either a half credit or full credit class depending on the activities you decide to complete. There are 27 weekly lessons that will teach your child all about animals.

Nature’s Beautiful Order
There are a few activities that I don’t plan to have AJ complete, but I wanted to make sure it was a full credit course. She has been working on Nature’s Beautiful Order from Memoria Press and between the two there will be more than enough work to award her a full credit of Animal Science. So far AJ loves this course.

Those are the core subjects that AJ is taking this year. She is also taking a few different electives that I will share later on this week. Have you decided what courses your child will be taking this year?

It’s Okay if Your Child is Average

Sometimes when people find out that AJ is homeschooled, they expect her to be brilliant. It is almost like there is a stereotype that homeschooled kids are either far behind their public schooled peers or that they are mini geniuses.  It is easy to get caught in a comparison trap, even if you are just comparing to an unrealistic ideal. In the beginning I would feel like I wasn’t doing enough with her because she was just average. She doesn’t know Latin and isn’t going to be on Jeopardy any time soon. She has subjects that she excels in and subjects that she struggles with.  But, that is okay!

Coming to peace with the fact that she doesn’t have to compare to anyone else has made our homeschooling journey go a lot smoother. Part of the reason I brought her home was to give her the best education possible. That means doing what is right for her, not what works for others.

As I prepared for her freshman year of high school I knew I needed to keep her strengths and weaknesses in mind. She struggles with writing and vocabulary so I knew that a College Prep English class was out of the question. She needed something that would push her and help her grow, but not set her up for failure. On the other hand, for math she needed something that moved quickly because she finds the subject easy.

As we picked courses for AJ one thing we kept in mind was her end goals. After high school she wants to become a veterinarian technician and then go to school to be come a veterinarian while working in the field. Of course we know that this dream can change, but it has been her goal for a while now. She will need a lot of math and science courses to fulfil her goal. Thankfully those are her two favorite subjects. She will need to be able to read and write well, but analyzing books and poetry probably isn’t something that she will find very useful.

It's Okay if Your Child is Average

Our plan is to expose her to the subjects her peers in public school take so that she knows the basics. She will write some essays and analyze a few books each year. But we plan to really dig deeper into the topics that she enjoys and the topics that will get her closer to her end goal of working with animals. Instead of pushing creative writing, which she really dislikes, we will work on reports and basic writing. Instead of using only fiction books for English, we will add in plenty of non fiction ones.

That is the beauty of homeschooling. You get to tailor your child’s education to their needs. Don’t stress out about what everyone else is doing. If you are raising the next Einstein, that is great. If your child is average and struggles with some things, that is okay too! As long as your child is growing and learning, that is what matters. Don’t get caught in a comparison trap.

I will be sharing our choices for the 2017 school year soon. I think AJ and I will both learn a lot.

Have you decided what courses your child will be studying next year?

Using Khan Academy for High School Math

We have had the opportunity to review quite a few math programs over the years. AJ loves math, but she hates to have to do pages of problems once she understands a concept. I don’t blame her. If she understands a concept, I would rather move on to something new. That lets us spend time on the things she may take a little longer to grasp and speed through the concepts she picks up easily.

We started out using CTC Math for Algebra 1. It worked well in the beginning. AJ liked the video lessons and the worksheets didn’t take her too long to do. As the year progressed and she was coming up on problems that took longer to do, those worksheets started taking way too long. AJ was frustrated and so was I. I couldn’t afford to purchase a new math program, so I decided to go back to a program we had used in the past, Khan Academy.

There were some changes from when AJ used it as a supplement a few years ago, but everything we liked about it was the same.

What We Like About Khan Academy

  • Short lessons. – AJ can watch a video lesson on a topic and then work a few problems. Depending on the type of problem, she has to get 3 to 5 questions correct in a row. So if she understands the concept she can prove it and be on her way. If she is having some trouble the program makes her practice longer. It even has her do similar problems to the ones she missed just changing little things to ensure she really knows the concept.Khan Academy - A great option for high school math!
  • Mastery Challenges. – Once you get the 3 to 5 problems correct in a row your status in a concept changes from not practiced to practiced. In order to master the concept you complete mastery challenges. The levels are: not practiced, practiced, level 1, level 2, and mastered. The mastery challenge can be on anything you have already learned, and if you miss the question then you go down a level. When you get a question correct you go up one or more levels. I like that old concepts are thrown in, this makes sure she really learned a concept, and that she didn’t just temporarily understand it. There have been a few times that she has had to remaster a concept because she forgot how to solve a problem.
  • Step by step hints.- When working on a new concept, you are forced to enter the correct answer. If you get the problem wrong you can not go to the next one until the correct answer is entered. If you need help you are given step by step hints to help you solve the problem. This is great because often you don’t know where you messed up on a problem, this lets you know so that you can fix it.Khan Academy - A great option for high school math!
  • Flexibility.- As her learning coach I can assign lessons for AJ to complete. She can also work on any topic in a specific mission. Or she can stick with one concept like functions until she masters it. This is great because if she is having trouble with functions she can leave it and work on something else for a few days and then come back.Khan Academy - A great option for high school math!
  • Badges and Patches. – You earn points for each activity you complete. Badges can be earned for having so many points, answering so many questions correctly, working so many days in a row, and other things. Challenge patches are earned every time you master a section of concepts, like third grade multiplication. Earning the badges and patches motivates AJ. She will some times say she needs to practice another concept so that she can earn a badge for the week.

How We Are Using Khan Academy for High School

My goal is for AJ to master concepts. Khan Academy is perfect for mastery! Our goal for Algebra was to have AJ complete both the Algebra Basics and the Algebra 1 missions in Khan Academy. I had her sign into her account each day and start by taking four mastery challenges (usually 6 questions each) and then practicing two concepts. I had her do so much because a lot was review. After about a week there were not as many mastery challenges available each day. At that point she would do the one or two available mastery challenges and then work on two or three new concepts. It took her about two months to master Algebra Basics.

When she got to Algebra 1 and the concepts became harder I decided to change things up. She still did any mastery challenges, but then she would work on new concepts for a half an hour. Some days she was able to speed through them and other days she would only get through one new concept. I make her watch the videos and take notes on any new concept that she isn’t able to figure out by herself. She has improved on her note taking and has a good set of notes for future math.

About a month ago I decided to have AJ go back and work on math from previous years. I had her work one day a week on lower level math to master it. There are a few areas that she struggles with, mainly word problems. Having her go back and master Early Math, Arithmetic, an pre algebra helped me to make sure that she didn’t have any gaps in her learning. Since then she decided that she wanted to get 100% mastery in kindergarten through 8th grade math. I figure the more she completes the better.

Khan Academy - A great option for high school math!

Right now she has completed 92% of Algebra 1. The only section she has left to complete is quadratic equations and functions. I am sure in the next few weeks she will be finished with Algebra 1. Once she masters all of the concepts I will be giving her an A. I feel that by mastering all of the concepts she will show that she really understands algebra. Since there is a lot of review with the mastery challenges, I know that she has seen a variety of  problems and has had plenty of review. I am also sent a weekly report with what she has worked on so I have proof that she has done the work even though there isn’t any worksheets or book work.

I feel Khan Academy is a great option for high school math. What are you using for math?

When You Can’t Have A Set Homeschool Schedule

Schooling when you can't have a homeschool schedule.

As everyone starts to think about the new school year, there will be plenty of beautiful posts about schedules that different families will be following. Some get up early and are able to finish school by noon. Some school from 9 to 2, and others school in the afternoon. The one thing I see among all of these schedules is a sense of consistency for the students. They know what subject will come next and they know about how long a school day will be. The idea is wonderful! But……. What can you do when you CAN’T have a set Homeschool schedule? In the past we couldn’t have a set schedule, because our days are centered around Grandma’s moods. We can’t even have a set bedtime and wake up schedule. Grandma is in the later stages of Alzheimer’s and has what they call Sundowners. Basically as the sun goes down her symptoms get worse. She often walks all night long waking everyone up by turning on lights, or trying to find a way to escape. Even on the days that we try to get to bed early she may decide that no one needs to sleep that night. I don’t function too well without sleep and I know that AJ will not have a successful day of school without sleep either. Top our sleepless nights off with the numerous appointments with kidney specialists, diabetic specialists, workers comp doctors, blood work, tests, and regular check-ups, and the thought of a schedule just goes out the window.

You never know what life is going to throw at you! AJ may spend a few days watching science and history videos, and working on simple things she can do by herself. She will still be learning, but we might not be moving forward with our curriculum plan. The truth is, school work still has to get done and if there isn’t some type of schedule we may be doing work for the same grade way too long. Some subjects may get pushed to the back burner and I end up feeling like we are behind all of the time. Last year I came up with a fairly simple solution, and it is working well for us.

Schedule your year by week numbers instead of dates.

As I was planning our school year I scheduled everything I wanted to get done, and scheduled it by week number. I tried to schedule as much as possible and include those subjects that usually get left behind when we get busy. In the past I would just drop the “fun stuff” when life got crazy, the problem with that is then school becomes dull and boring. We don’t do projects every week, but I found us skipping science experiments (that AJ loves) and putting off art. Instead of doing the fun literature studies, we would just read and answer questions. We were doing the book work but not the hands on learning, and it just wasn’t working for us. This year I have a list of things to complete each week. If we don’t get to the science experiment by the end of the week we just push it to the next week, but we finish everything on the list before we start the next week. Some days we school a lot longer than required to finish up, and other days we don’t get much accomplished. Knowing that we will get to the Egyptian Art project before we move on to our next history subject makes it easier to have a few days full of book work. Morale in our school days has gone up a lot and we are making more progress. When we finish the last week of school we are done for the year, even if that doesn’t happen until August. Numbering the weeks allows me the structure I need to make sure we cover what I think is necessary, and allows the flexibility needed for our unique situation. How do you schedule your school year?

5 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Homeschooling

We all decide to homeschool for a reason. Maybe that reason has to do with health issues or scheduling. It might be because of bullying or poor school choices in your area. And it could be a decision that you made long before your child was ready to start school. Whatever your reason, you have decided to take this unconventional path. There will be good days and bad, and some days you might question your decision.

When you start on your homeschooling journey it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. With so many different options, just picking curriculum can be daunting. I know when I was first looking into homeschooling I felt stressed. I wanted to make the “right” choices and do the best for AJ. If I could go back, the first thing I would do would be to relax. We are now in our sixth year of homeschooling and I have learned quite a bit along the way.

With the knowledge I have now, here are five things I would tell myself six years ago at the beginning of our homeschooling journey.

5 Tips For those who are starting to homeschool

1. You Don’t Have to Do it All!

Some homeschoolers are able to teach all of the core subjects along with art, logic, Latin, Spanish, and do huge hands on projects. That is great for them, but it isn’t for everyone. When you are starting out, focus on what you have to teach according to your state laws. Then if you have the time and desire add in an additional subject or two. If your third grader isn’t learning Latin, it isn’t the end of the world. Focus on your child and what is best for them. Give them a strong foundation in reading, writing, and math, and the rest will follow.

2. Ask Your Child for Input.

Giving your child options about their learning can change their entire attitude. If your child is not enjoying their current history study then give them a few options for what historical period they want to study next. I don’t give AJ final say, but I will ask her what topics she wants to study. In the beginning I made all of the decisions. Now I have a list of things I want her to study and give her the choice of what to learn about next.

3. Sometimes it is Worth the Money to Buy a Good Curriculum.

Writing has been a difficult subject since she was in public school. I tried a few free and cheep options to help her improve. We tried daily journal writing, but nothing seemed to help. She hated writing and it was a subject that brought constant tears. We were finally blessed to review IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing) and it has changed the way she views writing. I wish I had spent a little bit more money in the beginning. I can’t imagine how much better her writing would be by now if she would have been using it from the start.

4. Start Independent Work Early.

This was one of my biggest mistakes! Independent work is important. The child needs to be able to practice what they have learned on their own. Since it was just the two of us, I usually was close by to help AJ when she needed it. That made her very dependent on me. It got to the point where she wouldn’t do any work unless I was sitting right with her. I am glad we have moved passed that point, but if I could go back I would make her do at least two subjects by herself daily. They wouldn’t have to be major subjects. It could be writing spelling words or working on math problems. Copywork is another subject that can be easily done independently. Find something your child can practice on their own. It will help to build their confidence and improve their work ethic.

5. It is Okay to Make Mistakes.

Making mistakes is part of the learning process. Let kids know that they don’t have to be perfect, that they need to work hard and do their best. Sometimes failing a math lesson or a spelling test is a good thing. It lets them know they need to work harder. It may mean they need to approach a task from a different perspective and try new methods. This goes for parents too. You might make the wrong choice on curriculum or feel like you are not getting through to your child. It will be okay. Try something new the next day and learn together.

Homeschooling is a journey. You will have hard times, but there will be so many great times. You will get to see your child grow and learn. You will see them preserver through subjects that are difficult. The best part is you get to be with them as they discover the world and how it works.

What is something you would go back and tell yourself at the beginning of your homeschooling journey?

10 Unit Study Ideas for Fall

Whether you celebrate Halloween, despise the holiday, or fall somewhere in the middle, the fact is that decorations and costumes are in almost every store. Is there a way to use some of these seasonal items to liven up your child’s learning during the months of October and November? There sure is! Here are 10 different topics you can easily study and have fun with this fall.

Fall Unit Study Ideas

1. Bones.

Grab a plain skeleton and do a unit study on the human body. Depending on the age of your child, they can learn a few bones, or learn all of the bones in the human body. It is also a great time to talk about healthy eating and keeping our bones strong.

2. Spiders.

With a pack of spider rings and a package of spider webs, you can do so many things. Make a sensory bin with the spiderweb and fall items, use the spiders as counters for math, sort the spiders by color. Use the spiders to practice position words like: over, under, in, etc. For older students, you can find the mean, median, range, and mode of the spider colors, and even do graphing activities. This site has numerous spider activities to do with your little one. Round out your study by reading a fun book like Charlotte’s Web.

3. The Moon.

Autumn is a wonderful time to study the moon, and there are so many different activities. You can chart the phases of the moon each night, calculate your weight on the moon (you can use this website), make moon pies, and so much more. Here is what we did when we studied the moon.

4. Mummies.

You can learn all about Ancient Egypt and the science behind mummification. You can even mummify an apple. Find the directions here. Another fun activity is to take a roll of toilet paper and mummify yourself. There is so much to learn about Ancient Egypt, you can stop at just mummies, or take it further into a full on history study.

5. Frankenstein.

Not a good choice for the younger crowd, but if you have an older student it can be a fun study. There are numerous study guides available, and after you read the book, you can compare it to one of the films by the same name. (Use caution with picking the film.)

6. Owls.

They are often portrayed as spooky and scary, but owls can be a very fun subject to study. Add a hands-on element to your owl study and dissect an owl pellet. Students learn so much by hands on learning, and dissecting an owl pellet will be an unforgettable experience. We did it this year, see how it went .

7. Cats.

Another animal that is often made out to be scary or spooky is the cat (especially the black cat). Learn all about cats with a free lapbook from Homeschool Share.

8. Harvest.

You can learn about farming and harvesting. A great read aloud for a harvest study is Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It appeals to both boys and girls and gives a great look at how harvesting and farming were in the olden days.

9. Pumpkins.

Study the life cycle of the pumpkin from seed to plant, decorate pumpkins, make exploding pumpkins, even make homemade pumpkin pie. Here are 40 fun filled activities involving pumpkins.

10. Candy.

You can take a candy study in many different directions! Learn about it from a nutritional point of view, learn how candy is made, make your own candy, and so much more. No candy study would be complete though without reading Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or at least watching the movie.

There are many other topics to study during the fall, no matter what you decide to learn about, have fun!

Planning Your Homeschool Year

Post Contains Affiliate LinksThere isn’t a right or wrong way to make a plan for your homeschool. Everyone is different and as long as you follow any laws your state requires, there are quite a few ways to make your homeschool schedule. Every year I look at our schedule and tweak it based on how our life is and how AJ is doing with the topics she is working on. This year we are  trying a more structured schedule, but we have had several different types of plans in the past.

How to plan your homeschool year

Planning Your Homeschool Year

The first step you need to take when planning your homeschool year is to decide what you want or need to cover. Depending on your state laws you may need to cover certain subjects. If your state laws are lenient then you have a few more options. To figure out what to study you can use books like What Your 5th Grader Needs to Know as a guide. You can also look up standards for students in public school to use as a guideline. If you are using a set curriculum then you should have a good idea of what your child will be learning.

A lot of times you can simply move on to the next concept once your child master’s their current one. After your child masters multiplication the next logical step would be to start division. Once your child can write a paragraph then you can work on writing a story with more than one paragraph. Those type of skills are harder to schedule, because you don’t know when your child will be ready to move to the next concept. For subjects like Math and English I like to have a list of goals and make plans up a month or week at a time based on my child’s progress.

Homeschool Planning- Goals

Once you have a basic idea about what your child will be learning it is time to plan your year. Some people like to schedule out the entire year. Others make a list of goals and once their child has mastered a goal they move to the next item on the list. One thing that I liked to do when AJ was younger was to roughly plan out what we would be learning each month and then each month make more detailed schedules.

Here is an example of how I planned out our year of Earth Science.

  • August – Basics of Earth Science
  • September – Earth Structure, Age of Earth, Fossils
  • October –  Rocks, Gems
  • November – Earthquakes, Volcanoes, Mountains
  • December – Water Cycle, Fresh Water
  • January – Oceans
  • February – Earth’s Atmosphere
  • March – Weather
  • April –  Astronomy

Then each month I would make a more detailed list for the topics we would learn about the following month. Here is an example for what we would learn about in November.

  • Week 1 – Plate Tectonics & Continental Drift, Mountains
  • Week 2 – Earthquakes – locations, causes, earthquake preparedness
  • Week 3 – Volcanoes – Ring of Fire, Hawaii
  • Week 4 – Volcanoes – Destruction, lava, Model of Volcano

Then for each week I would find resources I wanted to use. I pulled together lessons form online, books, and activity kits.

Even if you aren’t detailed I feel it is best to have a set of goals for the year so you can stay on track.

A Month at a Time

Another thing we have tried over the years is having a monthly schedule. At the beginning of each month I would look at what we had left to cover for the year and I would make a list of lessons that AJ would need to do. Then we would go down the line and when she was done with the work for that month I would make a new list.

The only real difference between scheduling out the year more at the beginning of the year or throughout the year was time. I spent more time when I made a rough scheduled of my year at the beginning of the year, but I had less to do each month. The downside was that sometimes we would stay longer on a topic than I originally scheduled so then I would need to take time and rework the schedule.

Daily Schedules

We have had a few different daily schedules as well. We have tried block scheduling, a list schedule, and a normal schedule where she completes subject daily.

Block Scheduling

This is our favorite method. We complete a large amount of work in one or two subjects a day. This is how we catch up if we get behind, and how we work if we need to finish the school week quickly. It has some downsides because your child isn’t studying the topic as often. It doesn’t always work well with subjects like reading and math. But we have seen a lot of positive things from block scheduling. It lets is dive deep into learning and lets AJ spend a long time in one subject without worrying about the other subjects that she needs to get finished.

Here is a sample of what block scheduling looked like for us.

  • Monday- 5 Math lessons, spelling grammar
  • Tuesday – 3 Literature lessons, spelling
  • Wednesday – 5 History lessons, spelling, writing
  • Thursday – 5 Science lessons, spelling, writing (This was always her favorite day)
  • Friday – 2 Literature lesson, Art, grammar

Math has always been an easy subject for her, so doing 5 lessons in one day wasn’t hard for her. We did have to split up spelling, grammar, and writing because it was too much for her to do at one time. I think block scheduling can be very beneficial.

List Schedule

We have done a list schedule quite a few times. It is simple for me. I just write a list of all the work she needs to complete during the week and she completes the work in any order. Scheduling with a list helps her to learn time management. It also lets her feel like she has a say in her school day. We did have a few weeks where she did the “fun” subjects first and left the harder subjects for the last day. It was a learning experience and now when she has a list to work with she usually makes smart decisions.

We have also used a list when we have been very busy. At times we have had to do a little bit of school 7 days a week because of doctor appointments or other family situations. When that happens we just work on the list of assignments until all of her work is done then we go to the next week. It may take a little longer, but all of her work gets done.

Regular Schedule

Now that AJ is in middle school block schedules are not as easy. Now I schedule out 1 math, 1 literature, 5 history, 5 science, 5 Spanish, 3 grammar, 3 writing, and 3 Bible and 5 spelling lessons throughout the week. She doesn’t always finish her work on the correct day, but it is a work in progress.

There is no right or wrong way to homeschool. Find a schedule that works for your family and have fun learning together. This post is part of the Back to School Blog Hop. Check out what other members of the Review Crew have to say about planning!

5 Days of Homeschool 101


Picking Homeschool Curriculum

There are so many different curriculum options available that it can easily become overwhelming. Picking curriculum is one of the most important parts of homeschooling, but it doesn’t need to be overwhelming! It is easy to feel like you need to use the most expensive or the most popular product, but you don’t need to. Finding the curriculum that works the best for your family will make your days a lot smoother.

How to Pick Homeschool Curriculum

Most people will tell you to first look at your child’s learning style when you are picking curriculum. I completely disagree with that. Yes, your child’s learning style is important, but your teaching style is more important.

Find Your Teaching Style

The first thing you need to decide is what you want your school day to look like.

Do you see yourself reading lots of books and keeping worksheets and tests to a minimum? Do you picture a lot of workbooks and writing? How much technology do you want to include? Would an online program work for your family? Do you picture weekly or monthly themes where all of your child’s subjects will relate to one  topic? Are you comfortable with teaching all of the subjects that need to be covered? Does the thought of teaching of 7th grade math make you sweat? Are you religious, and if so, do you want curriculum based upon your beliefs, or would you prefer a secular curriculum? Are you crafty? Do you want to do time consuming projects like; building salt dough maps, making castles out of sugar cubes, or building a wigwam? Maybe you want to mix a variety of  different options.

You don’t need to know all of the answers right away, because most curriculum can be tweaked to fit your preferences. But you should be honest with yourself.  If you hate messes and don’t like projects sitting all over your house, then picking a history program with a lot of projects isn’t going to be a good fit for you.

If you are unsure about what you like, take this quiz and see which type of homeschooler you are most like.

Decide on a Budget

You can easily spend over $1000 per child on curriculum. Or you can use the library and internet and school for almost nothing. Either way will work, but most people fall somewhere in the middle. We have a tight budget so I can’t spend very much.  The most I have spent is about $175 and the least was under $50 for one child. When piking curriculum set a budget and stick to it. Drooling over an expensive program that you can’t afford is  just wasting your time.

When you are deciding on your budget there are a few things to think about.

  • Will it be better to buy materials or get them from the library? Think about possible late fees and the possibility that you might not get the books when you need them if someone else has checked them out.
  • Are e-books a better value? They may be, but think about the cost of ink and paper, and the time that you will need to spend printing things off.
  • Is there a subject that you don’t want to or can’t teach? It may be worth spending a larger amount on a good writing, math or science program if your child needs it. It might be worth it to spend a large portion of your budget on one subject and then find free or low cost items for others.
  • Don’t forget to include funds for things other than curriculum. You may want to join a co-op or have your child take a class some where. You should also think about field trips, extra curricular activities, and any online subscriptions. (Like Always Ice Cream, HelpTeaching.comSchoolhouseteachers.com,  SuperTeacherWorksheets.com, IXL.com or record keeping programs.)
  • How much free time will you have? There are thousands of free worksheets, unit studies, and curriculum ideas, videos, and lessons available online. It can take s a lot of time to find what you need.  Is your time and effort worth the savings?

These answers may change, but it is good to keep them in mind while picking curriculum.

Figure Out Your Child’s Learning Style

The next step in picking curriculum is to figure out your child’s learning style. Are they a visual learner who needs to see things? Do they learn best when they hear things? If so they are an auditory learner. Maybe they are a kinesthetic learner who learns by doing things. You can take a quiz to see which style fits your kids the best.

Check Your State Laws

Now that you have figured out your teaching style, set a budget, and learned your child’s learning style it is time to see what you need to teach. Each state is different. Some make you get curriculum approved or require you to teach specific subjects. You may need to teach a certain number of days or hours. Once you know what is required it is time to start looking at curriculum.

Pick an Area of Study

Now you need to decide if you want to go with an all inclusive curriculum, or if you will piece together the topics your child will study. If you decide to go with a program like Heart of Dakota or a program that is leveled by grade, then you simply  pick the level that matches your child’s age and ability level. If not, then you should pick a time period in history and a discipline of science that you want to teach.

Read Reviews

Once you know what you want to study and you have a basic idea of the type of curriculum that will work for you, it is time to look around. Use your searching tools and check online sites like Rainbow Resources  and Christian Book to see the type of products available. Narrow down the number of curriculum options that meet your needs to three or four items per subject. Write them down along with the prices from each site. Then comes the fun part of picking curriculum, reading reviews.

Just type in the name of the product followed by review into Google and you will find dozens of  reviews from homeschool bloggers. Read a few reviews for each item you are thinking about. Look for balanced reviews that tell the good and bad of each product and then decide if the pros and cons of the product will work well for your family. Remember just because it works or doesn’t work for one family doesn’t mean you will have the same result. But something that didn’t work for my child because she doesn’t enjoy programs with a lot of reading, may be the perfect fit for your child who loves to devour books.

The last step of picking curriculum is to order, download, print off, or pick up you products and get ready for a year of fun.  Remember if the curriculum that you buy doesn’t seem to work out perfectly, it is ok to make adjustments, tweak it, or change to something different. The longer you homeschool the easier it will be to find the best option for your family.

Our Curriculum Choices

If you need a little inspiration, here are our curriculum choices over the years.

This post is part of the Back to School Blog Hop! Stop by other blogs to see their advice on picking curriculum.

5 Days of Homeschool 101
 



8th Grade History and Geography

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I have already shared our 8th grade reading list and choices for English and Math and Science. Today I am sharing our 8th grade history and geography choices. One of our goals is to help AJ become more independent with some of her work. I want to be involved, but I also want her to improve on her note taking skills and time management. Our choices for history and geography should provide her with opportunities to build on those skills.

History and Geography choices for 8th grade.

History

We have had an odd journey with history. Before third grade she didn’t have any history in school. Since then we have covered the Renaissance, the Reformation, Early American History, Creation to Christ, and the Middle Ages. She has learned a lot about history in those last few years, but she hasn’t learned very much about anything that happened after the Civil War. Most of the programs that I looked into just didn’t seem to fit what I was looking for. This year I wanted something that would keep her interest, but I didn’t want something that would require her to do too many in-depth projects.

This year we will be using –

I have a lot of lapbooks from Hands of a Child. They are well made and really cover specific topics. The plan is to use the History from Easy Peasy as our base and then add in lapbooks and videos when needed. I think Modern History will be interesting to study with AJ. I know that I will tweak a few things, but I think it will be a year full of learning for both of us.

Current Events

Free Current Event Packet for Subscribers

One thing  I like about the history from Easy Peasy is that the student is instructed to read an article and write a current event about it almost every week. I wanted to make the current events more exciting for AJ so I created some fun pages for her to use.  If you subscribe to my newsletter you will be able to download a Current Event Pack at the beginning of August. If you haven’t subscribed yet, use the form in the side bar or the one at the end of this post.

Geography

Easy Peasy has both History and Geography courses, but I wanted something different.  When I was at the Good Will I found a high school geography book for $1. It was almost brand new and looked like a great book so I picked it up.

AJ will be using:

I scheduled out her entire year for the World Geography course. She has reading to do, videos to watch, maps to fill out, quizzes about her reading, tests on country locations, and a few country reports. I think it will require her to do a lot of work. The plan is to award her high school credit once she is finished with the course.

What will you be using for History and Geography this year? Enter your email below for access to the Current Event Printables and others.


8th Grade Math & Science

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Last week I shared our 8th grade English choices, today I will be sharing our choices for  math and science. AJ enjoys math and science most of the time. Since she was little she has enjoyed watching The Magic School Bus and reading nonfiction books. I think that my choices this year will let her enjoy both subjects and allow me to stick to my very tight budget.

Math and Science picks for 8th grade

Math

AJ is ready for Algebra this year! I didn’t know if she would be ready to take Algebra in 8th grade or if she would end up taking it in 9th grade. After looking at all of the concepts that we have covered over the years I was happy to see that she was ready for a higher level of math. I am not one that usually sticks to a math program, but I am determined to stick with two main programs that we were blessed to review this year.

I wanted a little bit of variety with a good amount of structure to our math plan. Right now I have her scheduled to work on lessons from CTC Math three days a week. The other two days a week she will work on Learn Bop. Between the two programs she will have plenty of practice and she should be able to master the different concepts. We will continue to play games like Sudoku (download a few for free) and Zoologic. We like to add games to our day whenever it is possible.

Science

Science was a hard decision for me this year. We have studied a lot of concepts over the last few years and almost every curriculum that I looked at had a lot of information that we already covered. I know that some things will be reviewed, but when you spend an entire year on Earth Science you don’t want to learn about volcanoes again two years later. The thought of making my own study seemed overwhelming this year. I haven’t felt well so I decided I needed something that was at least outlined for me. After looking at quite a few different options I decided on Easy Peasy Physics and Chemistry.

If you haven’t looked into Easy Peasy, you should check it out. It is free to use and gives you a 180 day schedule of assignments for your child to do. Science has videos, articles, games, and experiments. There are also notebooking pages and lapbooks for your child to make. We will probably skip a few things and we might follow a few rabbit trails and get off schedule. But I like that I have a strong foundation that I can have AJ follow on days that I can’t help her.

Some of the topics we will be studying are:

  • Elements of the Periodic Table
  • Atoms
  • Molecules
  • Sound
  • Acids and Bases
  • Mater
  • Forces
  • Motion
  • and more

Supplements

AJ loves science so I plan to let her do extra experiments on her own. We will also to borrow plenty of books and videos from the library to go with the concepts she is learning about.

Some of the resources we plan borrow from the library are:

Our plan is to really focus on English and Math this year so I think that Easy Peasy’s Science will be the perfect fit for AJ this year.  With a few extra books and videos I know she will have a year full of learning What are you using for math and science this year?