Curriculum Journey

We began homeschooling in March 2011. Our kids, at the time, were in 3rd and 5th grades but each had repeated grades due to language barriers and culture shock as Russian adoptees coming into a family with native Texan parents residing in Denver, CO. My oldest son, sweetly referred to as the ‘biological’, kept asking if I were planning to teach the kids to speak English or Texan! Suffice it to say I had a difficult time deciding where to start in the vast array of home school curriculum choices. The younger kids are 16 months apart in age with the youngest (boy) testing above average and the older (girl) wanting to be set apart from her younger, annoying sibling. Eventually, we landed on year 3.5 of Ambleside Online. It was perfect. For us. At the time. We’ve since danced around and tried several other options.

Not long after starting, I integrated the Sonlight curriculum for ease of scheduling but we are exploring Tapestry of Grace for the 2013-14 school year. It’s still full of rich literature but seems to pursue the student as the independent, responsible learner; an aspect appealing to me as they prepare for high school curriculum in the next year. I’ll let you know our thoughts mid-way through. In math, we’ve used a myriad of options. Since our kids began home schooling as upper elementary students, I felt a need to reassure myself that they had a solid math foundation. So we went back to the beginning using Professor B. The first workbook was a complete review although we all learned some new techniques for solving simple math equations and then we progressed fairly quickly through the next two workbooks. Professor B’s curriculum ends with fractions/decimals launching the kids into Teaching Textbooks for Pre-Algebra supplementing with Life of Fred. Teaching Textbooks is computer based so we use “Fred” as an oral curriculum with whiteboard races for candy! This way I’m able to keep my finger on their math skills without teaching daily concepts. Now that they’re working Algebraic equations, we’re switching this fall to Math U See and Saxon. Yes, I’m a type A personality and believe math is the door to higher learning in college sciences so we are consistently doing math all year.

For me, the most important thing is to present my kids with rich literature, history, and science with a Biblical worldview. Most Christian home school curriculum offers wonderful novels that intertwine fictional characters into our non-fiction timeline. We’ve enjoyed thousands of words written by Newbery Medal authors. But there seem to be some gaps in most curriculum that leave us moms scratching our heads. To this point, I’ve compiled a list of books/supplements that we’ve especially loved:

SCIENCE

Storybook of Science – novel style walk through science. We love the way Uncle Paul talks to his nieces and nephews using Old English with wit and style

  • (This book is also available as a free .pdf download – google the title and you’ll find it. The site clearly states that I’m unable to post the link on the web)

Madame How and Lady Why -another science book that explores why things happen and how. Topics between Storybook of Science and this one relate well and line up nicely.

It Couldn’t Just Happen – approachable yet scientific basis for God’s awesome creation. I’d recommend this as a read aloud for secondary elementary students but perfect independent study for middle school students to generate great discussions.

SPIRITUAL GROWTH

Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door – my 7th grade daughter absolutely ate this book up. Great use of teen language to address big issues our teen generation faces today but so much cooler coming from Josh McDowell rather than boring old mom & dad. She read each chapter on her own and then we discussed the “Brain Food” at the end of each chapter.

Live Like a Jesus Freak – First of all, if you’ve never heard of the band ‘dcTalk’, then maybe you’ve heard of Toby Mac? He and two other amazing artists formed the group dcTalk and each have gone on to either solo careers or joined other groups. This book is based on their song by the same name and is geared more like a Bible study but not preachy and nagging. Space for application answers as well as an action plan to ‘Spend today as if it were your last’. Here’s the christian rock/rap video for fun:

HISTORICAL BIOGRAPHY

Poor Richard -wonderful account of Benjamin Franklin’s life rising from young a printing apprentice to political reformer. Franklin’s compiled thoughts later became his famous Poor Richard’s Almanac.

MATH

Professor B– can’t say enough about this method of teaching/learning math. Although my students were well into multiplication when I began schooling at home, I opted to begin with workbook 1 and I have not regretted that decision. We breezed through book 1 but it laid the firm foundation my kids were missing. We’ve since completed book 3 and I, the teacher, feel completely confident leading my kids through all of these concepts because the curriculum is so easy to follow. No prep needed!

Life of Fred – heard about this curriculum from another homeschool mom and my kids really like it. Fred is a character that goes through life, novel style, and encounters situations where he must use math operations to solve his questions or dilemmas. The author is funny. My kids laugh. I use this book as a review after we have learned the concepts from the traditional textbook style. I like the word problems and I like that my kids think math is funny! Interestingly enough, I ordered the calculus edition to send with my college boy. Thought it might come in handy! Don’t be turned off by the archaic website.

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