Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Homeschool curriculum review

Someone had asked if I could share about the various curriculums we used this past year. We are really fortunate to be part of this homeschool program, because we have access to free curriculum.

We used the Saxon Math program for Kindergarten, which included manipulatives. No workbook or anything, just the teacher's guide which leads the child in activities that utilize the manipulatives (counting bears, dominos, tangrams, etc.) We learned about measuring and money, shapes, and playing cards. I skipped over lessons on things that Anna had already mastered (we have our own really cool set of tangrams and picture cards that I found at a thrift store for fifty cents last year, so we didn't do those pages, for example.)

I was mostly happy with this curriculum. As of the beginning of the year, handwriting was not one of Anna's strengths, so I'm glad I didn't choose a curriculum that required a bunch of writing. (Yes it would have given her practice, but I didn't want her math skills to be hampered by her handwriting skills.) Overall though, I don't think I would ever BUY Saxon for Kindergartners. It's expensive (oh, you didn't know I'm a CHEAP homeschooler?), and the skills are totally things you can do with your child WITHOUT the book...or manipulatives. Basically I think there is PLENTY of everyday type stuff you can use to "do math" with a 5-year-old...setting the table, for example: "How many napkins do we need? If two more people were to join us, how many would we need?" The game Uno is great too, as are other boardgames.

Okay, moving on. We used Zaner Bloser Handwriting for Kindergartners. This was something I found on my own, and ordered online. I LOVED it. The way they teach handwriting (lots of practice making the lines, etc.), and the illustrations (colorful and fun but not overwhelming), were wonderful. You could do one page per day and complete the book in a year, although we usually did two pages, and then skipped some days.

I will confess that at the beginning of the year, Anna HATED handwriting. She dreaded doing it...there were tears...declarations that she didn't like being homeschooled. This was a little discouraging, but my wise mama reminded me that if you're not particularly skilled at something yet, it's frustrating and cumbersome, and not fun at all. Kids' gross motor skills are still developing at this age, and it's just hard. SO I tried to be patient, and within a couple of months...Anna randomly announced that she LOVED handwriting. She started doing it happily, without complaint. And she improved soooooooooooooooooooooo much in a year! She is now our family's designated birthday card writer, she's written a couple of thank you notes, and really does enjoy writing. I'm proud of how far she's come, if you couldn't tell. :)

As for reading/phonics, I did check out Sing Spell Read Write (Kindergarten level) from the school (it was free, remember?)...but I didn't use it. :) Moving the car around the track, singing the songs, playing the games...yeah...that is just too complicated for me. :) Anna taught herself to read before the school year began, so that wasn't an issue. I know some people have a lot of fun with it, but it's just not my style.

(I've attempted using The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading with my sons, and while I think it's a good method for many, it just doesn't work well for them. So we've recently begun How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, and so far I'm super happy with it! My boys have fun doing the lessons, and it actually appears to be working. We're only on Lesson 7, so I'll let you know more when we're further along. We don't do the writing component, however--I like to teach writing seperate from reading, because of the motor skill stuff I mentioned earlier.)

For Bible this year, we went through a couple of children's Bibles. This was one of my favorite parts of the day, oftentimes, because my kids would ask amazing questions and we'd have deep discussions. The Jesus Storybook Bible and Elle Lindvall's children's Bible were the ones we used.

I also used First Catechism: Teaching Children Bible Truths. We'd sit around the breakfast table (where we did our Bible time) and go through the questions. We haven't finished it yet, but I hope to continue. It's a neat way to set a spiritual foundation for a child, and they enjoy the memorization. And there's something really funny about your four kids skipping through Costco reciting, "There is only one true God!" (I found this book on our church's bookshelf, for free.)

Well friends, I think that about sums it up. I'll also quickly share that I have really, really loved The Well-Trained Mind, as it has given me many practical ideas and helped shape much of my homeschool philosophy. At this point I think I'm a bit of a mix between that, Charlotte Mason's approach, and unschooling/delight directed learning.

Ruth Beechick's The Three R's is a great resource too, and I've also enjoyed looking through the Sonlight catalogue for book ideas.

The Bob Books are GREAT for helping kids with reading. I've found the sets to be available at Costco sometimes--you get around 18 small books for $10. These were the first books Anna read (it's been about two years now). is an excellent place to buy used or new books for a fraction of what you'd pay at a bookstore, or even Amazon sometimes.

And, finally, this post would just NOT be complete without me giving a shout-out to probably my all-time favorite resource EVER...the Denver ARC, our local thrift store. We have scored some wonderful literature for pennies. It's awesome. Roald Dahl, Little House On the Prairie, Greek myths, you name it. Love it. Really. Thrifting has become my favorite hobby, thanks to the ARC and their rockin' deals. (It just so happens that there is one a mere five minutes from my house. Bliss.)

Hopefully this was helpful, or at the very least, mildly tolerable. :) My personal view on homeschooling is, find what works for your child AND for you, and go with it. Everyone will have different methods they prefer, and what works for one person, may not work for your family. (I for example am SO not a hands-on-activities type of girl. Sorry kids!) Keep the focus on good books and look for learning opportunities in the everyday. Happy homeschooling!


The Fearnsides said...

Thank you Brianna! It's always so wonderful to hear from h.s. moms what worked and what didn't.

I looove "The Well Trained Mind" and find myself a mix of Classical, CM and unit studies.

Thrift stores rock!

Thanks again for your insights.


Janee said...

Thanks for sharing! We're still not certain what we're going to do about school but it's interesting to get your perspective.

Have you seen Songs for Saplings? It's the children's catechism set to music. We love it! You can check them out at

Shana said...

I can relate to not being "hands-on-activities" type. I dread when my kids ask to do things like play-doh.

Brianna Heldt said...

Shana HA! Me too!


Blog Template by