Our Journey Through Homeschooling (With Links to Curriculum Reviews)

by Brenda on September 22, 2017

*Note, I will link to my reviews as I post them with a note, “click on link to see my review.” Until a review is written, all links will be to either the product on Amazon¬†or on the manufacturer’s website.

My oldest is almost 16, and I have been homeschooling him officially since he was TWO! That’s 14 years of homeschooling. I suffer from a condition I call “Curriculum ADD.” ūüėČ In other words, I have always been in search for the *very best* curriculum for my kids. In my defense, I also have kiddos with learning disabilities, so there really¬†was¬†good reason to switch between some of the curricula–they just weren’t working. I also really like books. A lot….and there are so many good books out there!

On a positive note, trying out so many curricula puts me in a great position to write reviews of several different programs! I want to share what we have used over time, and I will link to my in-depth reviews of some of the curriculum as well.

I hope this post is helpful to those of you who don’t even know where to start when it comes to picking homeschool curriculum. There is A LOT out there, and it is so hard to decide! Read my reviews, as well as others online. I like reading Cathy Duffy’s reviews, you might also.

I mentioned that I homeschooled our oldest when he was two. That’s because my friend let me borrow the curriculum¬†Hands on Homeschooling.¬†I’ve linked to my review here, so that you can read more about it.

We also used Letter of the Week, which is fun, easy and¬†free!¬†Once I had letter pictures taped up on the wall of a hospital room, because our oldest was admitted¬†again, and by golly, this mama was still going to get some school done and not have him watch cartoons all day. ūüėČ

I used Bob Jones’ University Press Pathways to Preschool, which was fun, but it was really made for a bigger preschool class. By this time we had 3 preschool age boys, and we enjoyed using it. It required some expensive items (like a “Visual Pack”), which I didn’t realized when I first bought it. This is why I say it’s really made for a bigger class.

I guess the first official big homeschool curriculum I bought was¬†Tapestry of Grace.¬†I saw it at the Oregon Christian Homeschool Conference (put on by OCEAN Network) and liked the concept of going through history chronologically, and teaching all of my kids the same history and science subjects.¬†We’ve used 2 different Tapestry of Grace levels.¬†My kiddos have fond memories of our year (or two I think?! They were young, and we had a brand new baby–we went slow!) we spent on Year 1 of Tapestry of Grace and the projects we made.

After Tapestry of Grace, I put together my own curriculum a few times. This works ok if you’re really organized, but it doesn’t work well if you second-guess yourself on the hard days or when your child complains about what you designed. If you are not a seasoned homeschooler and you need to gain some confidence in your ability to homeschool, I suggest going with a well-established company with a tried-and-true curriculum (If you can afford it…that is the big ideal stopper, because curriculum packages are not cheap).

I looked at Sonlight several times and considered it, but at first I thought it was too expensive, and I was not sure it would work with multiple kids of different ages/grade levels. Instead, I went with Heart of Dakota. We’ve used 3 different levels of Heart of Dakota since then.

Eventually, I was able to buy Sonlight. I liked Sonlight, and have considered it again other years. This year I almost considered using Sonlight 100 with my boys and D/E with my girls (US History), before we decided to enroll in Classical Conversations.

I used Ambleside Online one year and have referred to their book list several times throughout the years.

Every year I go back to Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise’s The Well Trained Mind and re-read their suggestions for every grade and subject that applies to that year. This is a staple book for every homeschooler who believes in educating classically. (If you don’t know what that means, read the book to learn more).

I used Beautiful Feet Books last year to supplement some other materials (and classes my kids were taking outside of the home). Last year, two of my boys used the Medieval History Through Literature pack for 8th and 9th grade history/literature. I read the books from the Teaching Character Primary Resource Pack to my girls during grades 4 and 1. I enjoyed these guides, but I did not feel like the learning was as complete or well-rounded as with a curriculum like Sonlight. I wished, for high school literature/history, that more writing was assigned.

Out of all of the above, Sonlight is my favorite all-in-one curriculum. The books assigned are fun and I felt like the curriculum was easy to follow.

I enjoyed Tapestry of Grace the first year(s) that I used it (I think 2006-2008), but I struggled with the curriculum I purchased 2 years ago (2015) and didn’t end up using it because so many of the books were out of print or cost-prohibitive¬†(new and used on Amazon at expensive rates). I was super bummed, because Tapestry of Grace is a¬†fabulous¬†curriculum, and would continue to be my very favorite if it were kept updated.

We’ve used some¬†different math curricula! We ended up switching around between the different math curriculum because we have different styles of learners, I was given some curriculum to try, and also because the curriculum we were using assigned a certain math curriculum (Example: Heart of Dakota schedules Singapore Math). Here’s what we’ve used:

  • Math U See¬†This is a great curriculum, the closest to the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling (a gentle, hands on approach) of any math curricula I have seen).
  • Saxon Math¬†While Saxon is a staple for many homeschoolers, it is¬†not¬†a good fit if you have a child who needs to do a lot of erasing (as the paper is thin) and also has angry outbursts when the paper is ripped because of too much erasing. Ask me how I know! ūüėČ
  • Teaching Textbooks¬†This is good for online math learning, independent of mom. WOOT! It’s what we used before my husband took over math. Note that it is about 1 grade level behind other programs.
  • Singapore Math¬†I find Singapore to be pretty confusing and won’t be using it again. I know that many homeschoolers like it…I don’t…
  • Horizons Math¬†I personally like Horizons. I think it’s comparable to Saxon, but with thicker paper and color pages and Bible references.
  • Rod & Staff Mathematics for Christian Living¬†This required too much handwriting for one of my kids. Every problem has to be copied onto paper, there is no workbook.

My husband is our kids’ math teacher these days, and his official favorite curriculum is Math U See.

For phonics/teaching my kids to read, I have also used several resources! We have 2 Dyslexic kiddos who have needed a lot of help and teaching. Finding the *right* curriculum for them has been a challenge.

  • Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons¬†This worked for 2 of my kids who did not have learning disabilities. One picked up reading by maybe lesson 20! The other picked it up just by listening to his brother learn to read!! ūüôā
  • The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading¬†I like most books by Jessie Wise and I really respect her–but of the two books, I prefer¬†Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons¬†over¬†The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading.
  • Hooked on Phonics
  • Scaredy Cat Phonics
  • Letter Factory Videos
  • Spell to Write and Read¬†I know many people have had success with this program. I tried it when my boys were young and one was¬†really¬†struggling to read. This system was pretty complicated for me to follow, and I did not end up sticking with it.
  • All About¬†Spelling¬†This is my very favorite program for teaching phonograms and basic spelling/reading. A tutor we saw recommended the Barton program, but it is pretty expensive and requires training to use it.¬†All About Spelling was in my price range and it’s helped my kids tremendously.
  • Starfall.com
  • Explode the Code¬†These are great busy books for kids who are learning phonics, to reinforce the skills learned in All About Spelling or another program.
  • Bob Books
  • The Reading Lesson

For Grammar, we have used:

  • First Language Lessons¬†Which I¬†love.¬†I think I could teach English Grammar every single day using this curriculum, just give me a class of kids at this level. It is¬†fun!¬†Note: I like Grades 1 & 2 in this curriculum. The older grades get into diagramming sentences and move rather quickly. My kids were not ready for it at the time that we tried this–or at the pace that the book was going.
  • Rod and Staff Building Christian English¬†This was OK but the amount of exercises per day is¬†intense!¬†I would assign my kids every-other problem or less. There is no workbook, everything is copied from the book onto a piece of paper or into a composition book. This amount of writing was too much for one of my kiddos and made grammar impossible for him. I found¬†First Language Lessons¬†to be a much gentler approach to grammar.
  • Our Mother Tongue¬†We are new to this, it is a part of my daughter’s Classical Conversations Essentials curriculum. I will post more after we have more experience with it.

For Handwriting, we have used:

  • A Reason for Handwriting¬†¬†These are good books, however, the writing pages are long for little kids who may get overwhelmed. For some kids, I would only assign 1/2 a page per day. At the back of the book there are several blank lined pages for writing, and we have never used these…So that feels like a bit of a waste of money.
  • Handwriting without Tears¬† I think these books are probably my favorite, most straight-forward handwriting books.
  • Draw Write Now

For Spelling, we have used:

For Writing, we have used:

  • Writing with Ease¬†This is a fun book, if you read the chapter books that go along with each week’s lesson. You¬†could¬†come up with these kinds of exercises on your own (nicely write out a sentence from a book you’ve just read aloud and have your child copy it), without buying a book. With multiple kids, I thought it was especially easy to purchase the PDF of this book and print copies of the writing worksheet for each kid.
  • Daily 6 Trait Writing¬†These are good for independent work, and they teach basic writing skills, but I don’t think that they will produce *excellent* writers.
  • Write with the Best
  • Institute for Excellence in Writing¬†This is a very good program. Possibly the best writing program I have come across.
  • Lost Tools of Writing¬†New to us this year with Classical Conversations Challenge A and I. I will post more when I’ve seen my boys’ essays and the process they go through in this book to create them!.

For Science, we have used:

  • Apologia books The best Creation Science textbooks out there in my opinion. Stick with Apologia and you can’t go wrong.
  • The Burgess Bird Book for Children, along with other books about birds I¬†really¬†like this literature approach to Science.
  • Handbook of Nature Study
  • Various science experiment books like this one¬†as well as many biographies about scientists and other science-related books (like Magic School Bus books for the young kids)

For Bible, we have used:

For Character, we have used:

If I think of more curriculum, I will add it here! I hope this is helpful to those of ¬†you who don’t know what to choose! God bless you as you make curriculum decisions for your family!

Disclosure: This site contains affiliate links. If you click on the links and make a purchase, the writer of this website will earn a small percentage from your purchase, at no extra expense to you. 

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