Sunday, August 30, 2020

Our Favorite Homeschool Curriculum Choices 2020

Even in the mess we're in, starting the new school year feels good. Our first week is always exciting, as we crack open new workbooks and use new supplies. Everything feels fresh and promising. This year the homeschooling ranks have swelled. Since we've been doing this for a while, I'm often asked about "the best" homeschool curriculum. My stock answer is "the best curriculum is the one that works for you and your kid!", but I know that is less than helpful for many new and sometimes reluctant homeschoolers. Fortunately, I've made enough choices I didn't like over the past five years that have made me very confident in my favorites today.

This year, the girls are in 3rd and 5th grade. I'm starting my 7th year of homeschooling, and by now, I can generally start the year and feel confident.

Some of these links are affiliate links. They will bring you to the same site you'd normally go to, with the same prices, but I'll receive a few pennies if you purchase coming from my site.


We are on our fourth year of using Lightning Literature, and I see absolutely no reason to switch. I'm a huge fan of this program. Grammar, comprehension, and writing skills are taught and developed using quality children's literature. In first and second grade, that means primarily picture books, but this year, in third and fifth, it's chapter books. Although we definitely like some books more than others, we have been happy with all the selections. 

We do supplement, and in some cases, replace, the writing portion of the curriculum with a different program. The writing piece is good, but Madison in particular needs a little more instruction and encouragement. This year we switched to WriteShop Junior. I can't sing the praises too strongly yet, but both girls have been very engaged so far. It's much more teacher intensive than the program we used last year, which was video based, but it's thorough and engaging, and very well laid out. The writing prompts are high interest, the lessons aren't long, and the support system through their social media group is fantastic.




We round out language arts with spelling and word study. I discovered Words Their Way when I was getting my master's degree in reading education, and I think it's a good way to get kids thinking about how words are related and understanding the patterns of spelling. 

Both girls also thrive on a traditional spelling program, so we're using Traditional Spelling for third grade, and Spelling Workout for Madison. We start the week with a focused list, spend a few days practicing with different strategies, and end with a test. If my kids "fail" the test, we practice the words and take it again. 


We're sticking with Math Mammoth. I've tried online programs, I've tested the waters with other workbook based programs, and we always come back to Math Mammoth. It's mastery based, which means each chapter focuses on one concept (fractions, division, regrouping, etc). Once we finish the chapter and take the test, we move on to the next. Obviously the old skills do come back, and there is a review of all the chapters covered so far at the end of each new chapter, but it's a method that works for us.

OMG, the common core question. Math Mammoth is technically "common core aligned".  This makes some people happy and others stabby. ALL this means is that it meets the National standards for each grade level. It has little to do with HOW the math is taught. What I like about Math Mammoth is that the concepts are taught with several different methods, and when it's time to apply the skills, the encouragement is to "pick your favorite". 


We use Scott Foresman science books. I find both the books and workbooks on Ebay or Amazon, and we've been using them for a few years now. Every chapter incorporates a reading skill, a math skill, an experiment, and an overview of a career in science that would use the concepts just covered. It's an overview program, so we deal with biology, chemistry, physics and astronomy every year, and each year builds on the previous year. It's easy to find videos to supplement where we need it.


After a year of using Scott Foresman for science, I did some research and added the social studies curriculum. The books cover history, geography, civics, economics, and culture. 


We supplement with Little Passports, which both girls LOVE. We're on the second year of what will be a two-year cycle. Reagan is doing the World Edition, and Madison is doing the US edition. I planned this ahead of time, so we have enough kits in reserve to open a new one every 2-3 weeks instead of once a month. This is probably the favorite item on the agenda every week.


We use Zaner-Bloser books for handwriting, and I think the program is great. Both girls are working almost entirely in cursive right now. I like how the program mixes things up between drills, longer copywork pieces, and writing their own pieces. 

We switched typing programs this year and are using The Good and the Beautiful. Rather than an online typing program that feels like a game, this is a very classic, simple program that reminds me of when I learned to type. Both girls are in level one this year, because I felt that they needed to go back and make sure that their fundamentals were strong.


We have a few extra pieces. We use Kumon workbooks for a little extra work in writing every week. I discovered this growth mindset journal from Lakeshore Learning, and it's been a nice start to the day. And we are slowly working our way through our accumulated Kiwi and Tinker crates while we wait for our art classes to start. Finally, although we haven't had flute instruction since April, I'm attempting to take the reins myself since our teacher is still unable to resume lessons. This is honestly the curriculum that terrifies me the most, which is ironic, since I was a music teacher. I know. But flute is not my instrument. We'll see how this goes.

It only took seven years, but I'm feeling so confident about our curriculum choices and I'm really ready to start the year!

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