Monday, January 12, 2009

Developing a Homeschool Curriculum

That new CPSIA law has been on my mind a lot lately and is struck me that I had counted on purchasing at least some of my curriculum secondhand and that I would really need to take homeschooling seriously this year. My previous excuse, “she is still too young for formal schooling” has passed somewhat, or will have passed by this fall. At least in my daughter’s case, she is ready for kindergarten. Now, before the delayed-start people jump down my throat, I assure you, I plan to take this very easy. Yes, I have developed a curriculum and I am planning purchases, but I will not force my daughter to do anything she is not ready to do. The thing is, in our house, I need something formal to sit down and “do.” This gives me guidance and the plan helps me realize that I’m getting everything covered that she would otherwise cover in public school kindergarten, minus the gay sex education and whatever other “playground lessons” she would learn. 

So over the last few days, I have been doing some more research into what I would like to buy and why, what the costs are, what the value of the products are (an expensive math text that I can reuse with each student is better than a middle priced consumable workbook), and so on. I have been looking into methods and curriculums and I have come to the conclusion that homeschooling is largely a trial and error type of thing. There is only so much reading about the curriculum and reading reviews will do. Eventually, you just have to pick one and start it. There are several different programs I love. I love the idea of classical education, particularly The Well Trained Mind. I have always liked this method, from the very beginning. Maybe it is because I latched on to it so early on that giving it up seems like a sacrifice too great to bear or maybe it is actually a good curriculum to follow. Next comes Sonlight. I adore Sonlight. They do all the work for you for planning and prepping and finding all the components of a great curriculum and they are already Biblically based, so unlike WTM, they do have a foundation set. Then there are the two runners up: Charlotte Mason and Tapestry of Grace. I like TOG because it combines a little of the Sonlight (pre-planned curriculum) with the WTM (classical education) plus they are also Biblically based and there is some comfort there. CM seems like a good alternative simply because I know of two different online curriculums that are free using this method. It does seem a little bit like classical education and I think I could get used to it, but it is not my first choice.

So, my "curriculum" for this summer, yes you read that right, is going to be Sonlight's P4/5 Core. I want to try to do this on my own, but Sonlight's book selection and early development handbooks seemed too good to be true, so I am going to try it out and see if it it just perfect for our family. If it is, then I will consider purchasing their Core K this fall. Otherwise, I have selected:

Reading: The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading and the Bob Book collection (along with plenty of library visits)
Read-Alouds: I have a very large list from several different sites and will just pull off from that list a week or two at a time. This is truly going to be the bulk of our homeschool time.
Writing: Zaner-Bloser. This font is just soo pretty, but if Jordyn can't handle it, then we'll switch to Handwriting Without Tears.
Math: Saxon K with manipulatives and these wooden pattern blocks. (Yes, this is an optional activity for my pressure here. REALLY.)
Science: Everybody Has a Body: Science from Head to Toe and Mudpies to Magnets. (I think Jordyn will like these, but again...they are completely optional)
Other/Character Development: Polished Cornerstones, a character development for young girls, and Hymns for a Kid's Heart (all four sets)

So there you have it! I also plan on getting out of the house weekly. Library trips are a good start and we'll search out other field trips as time and budget allow. I think this is a particularly good start for homeschooling and a good test for me to see how well I'll do with a multi-subject curriculum. I am looking forward to doing all of this and I know that Jordyn is too. If you have any recommendations or cautions, let me know...


Mary said...

I vote for Sonlight!! This is our first year using Sonlight, (7th grade) and we love it. It is more time-consuming than what the catalog says though, at least for us. I did not care for their Language Arts material, though. Boring with a capital B! My only issue is the cost!! We would have used it sooner, but it was just too expensive. I did get the book list and we read the books that our library had, but for curriculum we just learned through play. I never even bought curriculum till third grade.
I know this is way out of your daughter's grade level, but here's what we use now... Sonlight Core 6,
Saxon Mat 8/7, Bob Jones Language Arts 7 (very through!), Apologia Science, Bob Jones Bible Studies, La Clase Divertida (spanish) Level 2, art from the internet, and other fun stuff as we come across it. School takes us about 6-7 hours a day.

For kindergarten, homeschooling for the first year, I would shy away from boxed curriculum. Only because you just don't know what you and your daughter are going to do best with yet. I cannot tell you how many times I switched curriculum in mid-term, because I was sure I found something better. I did not discover until the 5th grae that my daughter learns best with literature. Even at 13 years old, she loves being read to, and reading to me.
If you go with a boxed curriculum, try to be sure it is something you can stick with for the full year, and take good care of the books, so you can resell them if you don't want to use them again!

Most of all HAVE FUN!

Kristi said...


I am confused about what "boxed curriculum" means. Is that what Sonlight is or is it any book/curriculum besides playing? I wanted to try the different curricula out because I did think that I would not know exactly how my daughter learns. I could easily sell the Saxon K program if we needed to find something else and the other stuff is all usable or cheap enough to throw out if it doesn't work out.

The biggest fear I have with Sonlight is getting stuck in a rut- that I won't have as much flexibility if I purchase from Sonlight. Somehow I feel like they have different standards than I do and perhaps those standards will change over the years, but I do still plan on teaching my children a classical Christian education. Sonlight isn't really classical, but it is literature, which is good. All in all, I am satisfied with taking it easy with the things I am planning on purchasing. Time will tell how they work out!

Mary said...

A boxed curriculum is anything that is mostly or all inclusive. It would contain all of your bsic subjects. And you're right Sonlight can easily get you in a rut. One of the things I like about them is they have a 4 day a week option. So we take Wednesdays off. It really helps to break up a long week. On two occasions, my daughter found the book she was reading just too dull, so we substituted, or skipped it altogether.
Do you know of any homeschool groups in your area? That would be a wealth of information for you. Maybe get in contact with others who are suing the books you are interested in, and look through them. Alos, a homeschool book fair usually sells new and used homeschool books, that's a great way to get some hands on time with the books you are interested in.

I maed your chili last night and it was a hit. The flavor was more authentic than my usual prepackaged seasoning mix, no suprise there! I made a few changes to go with what I had on hand. It was terrific!