“What curriculum do you use?” That’s one of the first questions you get as a homeschooler….well, after “Are you crazy?” and “How do you do it?” and “What about socialization?” (the answers…yes, probably…day by day…and, don’t even get me started on socialization.)
We have used three different core curriculums and are currently working with two. This year I am using Sonlight for my older two kids and K12 for Youngest. Last year, we used Winter Promise for the older two and K12 for Youngest, and in previous years we used K12 for all 3 kids with some other programs thrown in here and there.
Let me tell you a little about K12…it is a program available at a (substantial) cost to anyone in the US, but it is also available in some states as a free public school program. There are some great things about the program and some not-so-great things, but it is a wonderful way to get started if you are just embarking on the homeschool journey. It is not a Christian based program, but the program does take into account that many of the people who use it Christian homschoolers and I found that it is much more accommodating in that area than a traditional public school (you are allowed to opt out of certain lessons, and they include a unit on Bible stories that is optional as well). If you use it, you’ll want to add your own Bible study. But the program is very thorough, has many different types of lessons, is easy to use, and provides you with a ton of supplies at no cost (assuming you’re in a state that uses K12 as a public option). They also provide you with access to a certified teacher in case you have questions or need help at any point. In our experience, the teachers have been very helpful without being overbearing or intrusive, they are simply there for us to call on as little or as much as we need. In our state, children in second grade and beyond are required to do the state testing while using K12, since it’s technically a public school (and is payed for by our tax money). Classes are found online and in textbooks, and the program provides very clear directions for parents and many worksheets, lessons, supplies (microscopes, balances, rock collections, math manipulatives…even a computer in some cases) and books for students. It was a great way to start homeschooling and we enjoyed many things about K12. You can see some of the supplies that came with Youngest’s Kindergarten classes in this post.
Why did we decide to change curriculum for the older two? Several reasons. The main factor was that the kids were starting to get bored. K12 was great in many ways but after a few years, the kids were just not as excited about learning as they used to be. I wanted them to have more hands-on experience, to have more responsibility choosing the direction of their learning, and to read more good books, and I felt like we could accomplish that better by switching curriculum. We had used Sonlight before and enjoyed it, so I decided to look for a program that was more history and literature based. We ended up going with Winter Promise, Quest for the Ancient World. Winter Promise offers tons of great books, a good strong Christian perspective, and many ideas for in-depth projects and hands-on learning. It was also great because we were able to buy a program that allowed me to teach a 4th grader and a 7th grader using the same core, with different independent study materials for each grade. Youngest enjoyed listening to the books and doing the projects with us, too.
This year, we decided to go with Sonlight for the older two because Eldest is enrolled in a distance High School program, and Sonlight’s core curriculum transfers easily to credits in that program. I would probably have stayed with Winter Promise, but after looking at some long-term planning we decided to go with Sonlight this year for both older kids, then switch to Winter Promise for Middle Child and Youngest next year while Eldest continues with Sonlight. We have been able to stay with the same time-period in history with all 3 kids, and will continue to do that for the next few years so that group projects and read-aloud history books will apply to everyone’s studies.
We have kept Youngest with K12 because she is struggling with reading, and we feel that K12’s program is strong in the area of phonics and Language Arts in the lower grades. Also, because it is a public school it has been easier for us to tap into resources to help her…for example they offer an intensive phonics program for kids who struggle with reading that we could not afford if we were not enrolled. We’re working hard in the area of reading (I’ll probably post more on that another day) and the hope is that by next year, she’ll be ready to move on to an American History unit through Winter Promise with her older sister.
We also read many of the books used in Veritas Press, and have used Rosetta Stone for Latin and French, Power-glide for French, and Abeka and Apologia for science. Eldest is using Video Text Algebra for math (and I am enjoying finally understanding Algebra through learning with him!) and Middle Child is using Saxon math.
Well, there you have it. It’s very hard to put into one post what we use for school, and I’m afraid it’s also no. If you’ve got questions, feel free to ask in the comment box or email me! And if you’ve got curriculum ideas that have worked well for you, please do share them!