I love curriculum reviews, they’re so helpful. It’s my common practice to always search the Internet for reviews before paying the first dime on any of our homeschool materials. I hope our 2018 homeschool curriculum review helps you choose a path that’s right for your family.
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The wonderful thing about homeschooling is that you can always pick and choose what curriculum you use and how many subjects you want to teach your children. At the very beginning of our school year, I had neck surgery. So, I took it a little easier on myself this year and sought out curriculum materials that required less of me, and strictly taught only the basics. The boys did other learning activities, but they were learned by using more of an unschooling approach.
Language Arts Homeschool Curriculum Review
Growing with Grammar
We have used Growing with Grammar for two years now, through four different grades. I’m hooked. We purchase the complete set. It includes a student manual, workbook, test kit, and answer key. This curriculum provides easy-to-follow, bite-sized lessons, with great explanations, perfect for student-led learning. The only time I was needed was if my child didn’t understand (very few times), or when lessons needed to be checked or tests graded.
This isn’t a Bible-based curriculum, nor are there any religious references, so it could very easily be used by secular homeschoolers.
For my boys with attention issues, these lessons were fairly quick and generally took them no longer than 30 minutes each.
My children have a love/hate relationship with writing. They love to write stories and letters, but they don’t want to organize their thoughts to do so.
We’ve used writing curriculums and my kids HATED them. There were tears shed! Writing shouldn’t be that way.
This year I decided to wing it. I gave them a couple of writing prompts per month, and this year went exceptionally well. You can check out my Homeschool Language Arts Pinterest Board for ideas if you’re interested in taking this route with your child. Or, you could make up your own prompts.
In our home, we read aloud during homeschool time…sometimes, like when Mom’s had neck surgery. This school year we did more of that and it was very enjoyable.
I also allow my kids to choose their own books to read independently, and I choose classic books for them to read. I usually don’t have these chosen ahead of time. We sit together and talk about what they’d like to read, and I choose the classic book I feel is a good fit. This has worked thus far.
I’ve found the more my kiddos read, the better they can spell. So, yeah, we do a lot of reading and I have some pretty good spellers. And we skip over the “subject” of spelling. (Are you cringing? It’s ok, at first I thought we’d die without an actual spelling curriculum too, but here we are, still breathing.)
Math Homeschool Curriculum Review
Life of Fred
This curriculum has been a life-saver in our home. We were introduced to Fred five years ago when my oldest son was reduced to tears everyday, and so was I, while trying to learn/teach Singapore Math. Heaven hold me back, I was ready to hurt somebody over this curriculum. We left it in the dust and never looked back. We started with the first book, Life of Fred Apples.
My boys have begged to do Life of Fred Math! Yes, BEGGED. I highly recommend this curriculum. It’s also a student-led curriculum. If your child can read, they can do this one on their own. In my opinion, the only drawback is that the answers to the problems at the end of the lessons are on the very next page. Your child may need to be monitored or have you close to deter the urge to sneak a peek.
Khan Academy is another great resource for homeschooling families. And it’s FREE! We use this with Life of Fred. I’ve heard a little bit of a buzz about it being geared towards Common Core, but I haven’t run into that too much. In the end, if my kid doesn’t understand the way they teach a concept, I go over the lesson with them, teach them the way I was taught, and we go “old school” with paper and pencil and just figure it out.
Lessons are broken down by grade level, categories, and subcategories. There are video lessons, practice exercises, and quizzes over what’s been learned. Parents also receive an email about their child’s progress.
The Free Math Program
The Free Math Program is another free resource for grades 1 – 5. The math lessons are in worksheet form and are laid out much like your child would learn them in public school. The lessons are very short and at the top of the worksheet for each skill. There are plenty of practice problems for mastery. One downfall, very few grade keys. I have taught some lessons from this program that had keys, but from what I’ve found, most don’t. Luckily, most of the problems I could grade with a calculator or in my head.
Science Homeschool Curriculum Review
God’s Design for the Physical World
There are three books in this series – Machines and Motion, Inventions and Technology, and Heat and Energy. I’m sad to say, we only made it through Machines and Motion. My boys were not impressed and were quickly bored. We normally like this curriculum because the boys can work together at different grade levels, but we had a tough time understanding the concepts this time. However, that could be my fault.
I purchase our curriculum second-hand if at all possible. When I purchased this curriculum second-hand, I didn’t realize that it was an original version from 2005 and not an updated copy. The newer version could have more info in the lessons, or it could be easier to understand. I just don’t know, because I, being the frugal, money-saving mom that I am, didn’t opt to purchase the newer curriculum.
The boys began working on various lapbooks to complete their science curriculum for the school year. More about that later.
History Homeschool Curriculum Review
Story of the World
This was our third year with Story of the World. I’m fond of this curriculum because it’s another curriculum that can be easily taught across multiple grade levels. This year, we used Story of the World, Volume Three, Early Modern Times. Normally, we make it through the entire book during our school year, but this year that didn’t happen. We found some other projects to work on and a couple of lapbooks to do that looked a little more interesting and we left Story of the World behind for the 2017-2018 homeschool year.
My boys have discovered, this year, that they truly like to do lapbooks. When we abandoned God’s Design for the Physical World and left Story of the World behind, I decided lapbooks would be a fun alternative. Thankfully, I was right. We found many, many, interesting lapbooks at HomeschoolShare.com, as well as through Google search, and Teachers Pay Teachers. We worked on lapbooks about countries, sharks, deserts, rainforests, tigers, and rhinos. The boys had a blast and, honestly, I did too.
My oldest son showed an interest in coding just before Christmas. And wouldn’t you know it, Udemy had a coding course on sale offering a very large discount. So, being frugal, I bought it. He’s worked on that and learned a lot about something I know nothing about. He wants to be a video game designer, so I figured what better place to start. You do have to learn coding for that, and this was a cheap way for him to get the feel of a totally different way of thinking.
He didn’t finish the course, I knew he wouldn’t have enough time to. He’s still working with it and enjoying what he’s learning.
What About Next Year…
I’ll have another post for you later revealing our curriculum choices for next year, there will be changes, no doubt. I know that some materials will stay the same, some will be forgotten, and some will be added. And, I know, just as sure as I’m sitting here typing this, that I will give up on some curriculum partway through the school year. It happens to us every year.
We may go back to our usual pace next year, but then again, a slower pace has worked better for our family and has allowed more time for self-led learning. They’re learning things they’re eager to dive into and how to figure things out on their own, and that’s the goal for our homeschool. I hope it’s the goal for yours too.
Here’s some help, if you need it, on how to find The Perfect Homeschool Curriculum for your family.