Lacy’s Picks- Our Homeschool Curriculum (2015-16)

Every year I get emails asking what curriculum we’re using. The truth is, finding the right homeschool curriculum is a lot like finding a perfect pair of jeans. It takes a lot of looking and trying on, and in the end, what’s a good fit for me isn’t necessarily a good fit for you. Regardless, after many years of homeschooling under my belt, I am ordering our curriculum with confidence this year- all of the curriculum I’m using is Lacy tested and approved. 😉

curriculum choices 2015-16

Before we move on, I want to insert here that for preschoolers I am a huge fan of Montessori style learning, and for Elementary students, I have become a huge fan of the Charlotte Mason style education. It’s a very gentle approach to learning, and our family loves it. I make no attempt to re-create a school at home. In fact, I almost think the term “home educators” would be better than “homeschoolers”, and I’m not a fan of textbooks or tests, so I avoid them when I can… although I have found that Math and Spelling really do seem to call for these things.

I have found over the years that it works much better for me to have curriculum that involves very little to no prep work at all. For all the time I spend prepping, hunting down books, printing, and searching on Pinterest for supplements… this is time that I am not spending schooling my children. And I simply can’t afford that time loss. This is why I highly prefer to buy mostly all inclusive curriculum at this point. I do still write my own Religion curriculum as I go- it’s my passion.

Subjects Covered Together

We always start the homeschool day together, and I combine as many subjects into this gathering time as possible. One of our big motivations for homeschooling is family togetherness, and I find that studying many subjects together (including Religion) creates togetherness and encourages discussion among the kids.

  • Science– Real Science 4 Kids, Geology. We did their Chemistry program last year and loved it. It’s very easy to get through over the year, and I love how visual it is. I find that these books really explain things in a way that is interesting to kids, and in a way that they can truly understand. We use the textbook, lab workbook, and teacher book. (For some curriculum we don’t get all the pieces, but for this one, we do.)
  • GrammarFirst Language Lessons For The Well Trained Mind Level 2. We did level 1 this past year, and I love the format. It’s mostly oral, and I like the mixture of poetry memory and stories as well.
  • HistoryA Child’s History Of The World plus narration, possibly some notebooking, and our Book of Centuries. A Child’s History of the World gets mixed reviews over the first few chapters, and many parents choose to start a few chapters in. Feel free to read the first several chapters to yourself first and choose what you’d like to read to your children.
  • Read Aloud books– we are looking to increase our read aloud time this year to 2 hours a day, and I have set up many guidelines for staying on track. We will be reading a mixture of chapter books and picture books on topics including nature study, Saint stories, poetry, virtue stories, History, Science, and plenty of stories that are just for fun. 🙂
  • Religion– Finishing up Tell Me About The Catholic Faith from last year. Also, Julian will be doing my First Communion Program, and the other kids will participate in this as well. This is a program that I wrote for Lydia during her FHC prep, and I will be repeating it with Julian. I will be publishing this in it’s completed form before next Fall, but if your child is making his or her First Communion this school year, it’s not ready for the public yet. If your child is making her or her First Communion next year, pencil me in. 😉

Charlotte Mason Co-op:

Each Wednesday, we meet with one other family (8 kids between the 2 of us) and have a Charlotte Mason co-op. We started this last year, and it was very successful, so we are not re-inventing the wheel this year. Here’s what we cover at co-op.

  • Charlotte Mason style picture studies and matching artist studies (3 artists per year)
  • Art production class to go along with current artist
  • Charlotte Mason style music studies along with matching composer studies (3 composers per year)
  • Composing, music reading, and music concepts
  • Hymn studies (6 per year)
  • Poetry teas

Being a part of this co-op insures that our fine arts do not fall between the cracks, and this enriches our homeschool so much! I have never regularly fit fine arts into our homeschool before designating one day of the week for it, and it has not a problem to get our book work done on the other 4 school days of the week.

Individual Subjects

Lydia- age 9, 4th grade:

  • MathTeaching Textbooks 5. I love Teaching Textbooks. I hear from a lot of parents that they don’t want their kids doing Math on the computer because they want them to do Math on paper. The reality is, for the most part, Lydia has to copy the problem on paper, work it, then input the answer. This actually makes for more Math writing than a workbook. Also, I find it very valuable that the computer instantly corrects the child so they don’t think they got it right and just move on, meaning we have to “unlearn” that behavior and re-learn the correct way. Plus, I was never good about checking the Math in a timely fashion when we used workbooks. This curriculum is totally worth the money also because it can be re-used kid after kid. We only get the discs, not the giant workbook that goes with it. I also love that Teaching Textbooks gives my kids a feel for actual quizzes and grades.
  • SpellingAll About Spelling. We have been using this program for years and love it. This is another curriculum where you can put multiple children through the same book, so again, worth the value. PS we don’t actually use the dry erase board or the letter tiles anymore- I found them cumbersome past a certain point. I still love the layout of the lessons, the way that it involves no prep, the way you move on only when the concept is mastered, and I love the flash cards. Also, I love how simply they lay out the spelling “rules” and how you get to throw the “rule breakers” in jail.
  • WritingIEW, All Things Fun & Fascinating. This is the only curriculum I am purchasing for the upcoming year that I haven’t tried before. I hear lots of good things about IEW, so I’m hoping to like it.
  • HandwritingA Reason For Handwriting, D. Lydia started cursive last year with this program, and it has gone very well. They love choosing their own border and making 1 beautiful Bible verse to display each week. I have found the teacher book completely unnecessary to this program, so I would suggest ordering only the workbooks.
  • PhonicsExplode the Code 7. This is Lydia’s first year in Explode the Code, but it helped so much with Julian last year that I’m putting everyone in it this year. I like these because the kids can do them independently, these books are very affordable, and the lessons are quick to complete.
  • Critical Thinking–  Think A Minutes Level A, Book 2. I have loved everything I have ever tried from the Critical Thinking Company. Although this book says grades 2-3, it’s a good fit for Lydia this year.

Julian- age 7, 2nd grade:

  • MathTeaching Textbooks 3. See my blurb about how much I love this program above (under Lydia’s Math.) I will insert here that the lowest grade they offer is 3rd grade, but I have my kids start it in 2nd. This isn’t because we’re over achievers, it’s because it really does seem to be more “on grade level” to stay 1 year ahead in Teaching Textbooks, and they seem ready for it at this time. PS. He is going straight into Lydia’s old discs with no new expense to me this year. Whoo hoo! 😉
  • SpellingAll About Spelling. Julian has been in All About Reading for the last few years, but I’m switching him over. I find it too redundant to do both at the same time, and have discovered that I like the All About Reading for younger kids because it comes with workbooks and cute readers. This seems like the right time to switch him over.
  • Writing– Journal entry each day. I might start him on something a little more structured at some point during the year, but he’s just not ready yet. For now, I’m just aiming to help him get some thoughts on paper.
  • HandwritingA Reason For Handwriting, B. Julian also loved this program last year. (read more under Lydia’s Handwriting.)
  • PhonicsExplode the Code 5. (read more under Lydia’s Phonics.)
  • Critical ThinkingMind Benders, K-2. I love the Critical Thinking Company, but there stuff is no joke. It’s very thinky, so I don’t push grade level on these at all.

Violet- age 5, Kindergarten:

  • MathCritical Thinking Company Mathematical Reasoning A. Violet isn’t yet old enough for Teaching Textbooks, and I’ve tried other computer Math programs in the past and hated them. And I mean like, breaking-down-and-buying-new-curriculum-in-weeks hate. That’s a strong hate. Anywho, I really like the Critical Thinking Company’s Math. It’s very visual and really well rounded.
  • ReadingAll About Reading 1. The best part is, I only have to replace the workbook to use this with Violet. She absolutely loved Pre All About Reading last year, so I’m expecting a smooth transition.
  • Extra Reading PracticeExplode The Code Book 1.
  • HandwritingA Reason For Handwriting, K. This will make her a part of what the big kids are doing, which she loves, and this Kindergarten book is well done. It also includes some pictures to color, and Violet loves to color.

Anabelle- age 3, Preschool:

  • Catholic ABC’s. I mean, what did you expect. 😉 I wrote it because it’s the approach I wanted to use with my own kiddos. Next year, when she is actually Pre-K, we will go through the letter of the week format again, kicking it up a notch the second time around. Find all of my preschool resources here.

catholic abc's resource page

Curriculum We Have Enjoyed In Past Years:

  • Adventures In America History Curriculum. Everything online said this was for Kindergartners, but I found that it worked very well for Lydia and Julian last year (3rd and 1st grades.) I totally recommend it.
  • 106 Days of Creation– Really fun Science curriculum for elementary kids that incorporates nature study.

One More Tip For Choosing Curriculum: If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it! There’s always some new shiny curriculum that the homeschool moms are going running towards at 100 miles an hour, but finding what works for you and your children is homeschool gold. 🙂

For further detailed reading about Homeschool curriculum reviews, I strongly suggest checking out Cathy Duffy’s site. I love how she ranks how much parent involvement and prep time is needed for each curriculum, and if the teacher book is needed, among other things. When I’m totally stuck on a curriculum choice, I start narrowing it down by what’s on her top 101 picks list.

How about you? What curriculum have you loved?

Disclaimer: I was not paid by any of these companies to promote these materials. All opinions are my own, and are hopefully helpful from one homeschool mom to another. Most of these links are affiliate links, which help support the cost of running this site. Thanks. 🙂

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Comments

  1. L,
    I’m a Catholic homeschool blogging momma, too. New to blogging… :). Your list is great. Two suggestions. For scheduling, you will need a great editable planner. Contact my girl over at homeschool creations. Maher download is great and you can use it forever for each kiddo…. Editable… And it even had daily chore lists, attendance, testing records, purchase lists, etc. cheap, also. She is an excellent resource. We worked together at IHM in Fredricksburg this year. Secondly, I have made this “mistake.” If you have not used IEW before you really!!! Need to use the SWI B before ou ever use theme stuff. They have to know what to do before they can do it in the theme books. That is application. Call Rainbow and talk to them. I had my youngest doing OEW B this year with my older ones. He was fine with support and you can download easier passages from the site for free. It lists them on the book site in IEW under the SWI B details. You can call too. We got this info from Pudewa who is a superhero in my house. We don’t do tv, but these DVDs (he teaches) are great! It is 100% format. Mechanics you will need to add something grammar. I used Kolbe’s Voyages from Seton for years. Now we use Growing with Grammar or Easy Grammar – one is instruction, one is more of an equation approach – find the prepositional phrase first. Both cheap. If I can help… Reach out. That is a lot to juggle wo a planner. A lot of things to get dropped. We live by our schedule. Well, my kids do. I have hands free to support, teach Cathecism, and do read aloud (see Sarah Mackensie’s read-aloud revival). We use their FB group a lot!! You will need to flush out the history. We have used C’s History for years and the workbook… Or notebooking pages. It needs more. I order a lot of Sonlight’s books (b and C cores use that text) via Thriftbooks or used stores to flush out the textbook. 1. Read aloud Hilyer. 2. They notebook as I read. 3. Follow up with living books (you Wouldn’t Want series is very visual, funny, and accurate. 4. Do a read-aloud from Sonlight’s list that is from the same time period. Or Book Shark – secular Sonlight :). May St. Joachim and St. Anne be with you in your hearts and guide you! PS. I tried the theme books years ago to save $ … Non of us knew what dress-ups, http://www.asia.com, etching. Meant. He has MANY tricks that are based on his method. Wo it… You are lost. I had to sell it thru catswap. Now I am buying it again… We have done Swi B and the continuation… They can do the theme books rather on their own. :). Pax, sam

  2. It’s such fun seeing what other homeschoolers are using! We, too, do Charlotte Mason homeschooling. I love her respect for children, her approach to history and science, and the way I can easily teach all my kids together for many subjects.

    I was very Montessori/Waldorfy with my preschoolers. I am starting my 12th (!!) year homeschooling this year and my youngest is 5 and just starting K, so I have 13 more years to go. We use many of the same curricula as you, though I have used just about every grammar curriculum under the sun and I’ve decided to return to Rod & Staff, the first ever grammar series I used. We love REAL science for elementary years, but the middle school program was not successful in my home so I’m trying Aurora Lipper’s Supercharged Science this year — very visual.

    • Good to know about the Science. I’ve never seen the middle school versions. I’m very happy with our curriculum choices this year. I cannot TELL you how many I have tried and hated- lol!

  3. Can you recommend a Charlotte Mason book or two. I’ve heard so many good things abut her approach but I do t know where to start. What should I read? Thank you so much for this list. This is our first year and we are very excited. Well first year of kindergarten, we used your curriculum las year and loved it.

  4. A chapter book I recommend is Bless This Mouse by Lois Lowry. It’s about mice that live in a Catholic church. My second graders loved it!

  5. Brenna G says:

    My oldest is making his First Communion this year. Too bad we will miss out on your new book!

    This will be our second year of doing Mother of Divine Grace. We enjoyed it last year.

  6. Hi All! I’m looking to create an interactive Mass notebook for my 2nd grade son. Before I put in all the work to create it, do you have a resource to recommend? Thanks!

    • I can’t think of anything like this. Although my First Communion curriculum (that’s not finished yet) will have a big Mass emphasis, it’s not ready yet. The Catholic Toolbox does have a lot of Mass resources, though. You might start there before you create everything from scratch. 🙂

    • Thatresourcesite.com has some good Mass lapbook type lessons. Also i have used Lindy Meyers Catholic Faith Folder lapbooks available at emmanuel books.

  7. Has anyone out there used Catholic Heritage Curriculum materials? I am tempted by the prospect of having an integrated curriculum all laid out for me, and, of course, all the materials would be Catholic. *However* I wonder how academically sound the materials are? I used CHC in the past for teaching reading to my then-kindergartner, and found the approach didn’t work for him. I also didn’t think the phonics was as good as it could have been…seems like All About Spelling does a more thorough job. Any insights would be helpful! I need to decide on materials for a 3rd grader and a 1st grader who is very advanced in reading and math for his age, but does not enjoy writing yet. Thank you all so much, your comments are much appreciated!!!

    • I have never used CHC materials myself, but I’ve liked everything I have seen at conferences and friend’s houses. I just love hand picking everything- I am really not a boxed-curriculum-kind-of-gal, but I know lots of homeschoolers that love how easy boxed curriculum is. Like I said, the pair of jeans thing- what’s right for one person might not be right for the other. PS. I absolutely love All About Spelling. And they don’t pay me to say that. 🙂

      • Thanks for your input. I certainly don’t mean to put CHC down! Their materials obviously have a lot of love and thought out into them. The jeans analogy is a very good one. I realized this past year that, like you, I need something that doesn’t require much, if any, prep time. And what with me working outside the home on top of everything else, simplicity is key to sanity!

  8. I love that you incorporate hymns into your home educating! I put together a weekly list of hymns that correspond to seasons and holidays here: http://www.celebratingholidays.com/?page_id=10756. I am adding history as well as lyric videos for each hymn to help my family sing along (since I am musically challenged). Also, I recently found a great site with Charlotte Mason style book lists for every grade: http://amblesideonline.org/AOstory.shtml

  9. Hi! I am searching for a more comprehensive catechism curriculum to do do at home with my 3-year-old. I looked up the TMACF on Amazon and noticed that they also have a TMACF for Small Children. My children are 3.5 and 1.5. Do you think it would be better to go with the “younger” one or purchase the regular edition?
    Thanks!

    • I have the one for little kids, but I personally liked the bigger one better. My personal style for preshcoolers is to just try to excite them about the Faith, involve them in fun activities, and instill an early love for Jesus like I lay out in Catholic ABC’s, so that’s my recommendation for preschoolers.

  10. Okay, so tell me more about this Explode the Code, because my 8 yo has really been struggling with learning to read and I’m open to options.

    • I like Explode the Code for extra practice with Phonics, but it’s definitely not a complete reading curriculum. Maybe try All About Reading? I love that program!

  11. FYI, there is a Catholic contigent of Charlotte Mason lovers, that has pulled from Ambleside. Search google for Mater Amabilis.

  12. Great suggestions ,Lacy ! You are doing a fabulous job with your kids and helping so many other moms as well. I am looking forward to seeing your First Communion Prep program. The Charlotte Mason co-op is a great idea-art and music have always been a struggle for me to fit in. I dont know why, since i love collecting resources for those parts of the curriculum. Guess i need to do that first this year!

  13. One more plug for thatresourcesite.com (no i am not affiliated with it, just use it a lot!) – they have some very nice Montessori printables for those of you who teach that way! God bless you all in your homeschooling!

  14. Your post here was an answer to prayer! What are your thoughts about Five in a Row and Story of the World?

    • I’ve never tried either one of them, but I highly suggest Cathy Duffy reviews for anything you’re considering. 🙂

      • Thank you! I was about to crumble the day I found this post of yours. Thank you for all the work you do and put into your site! This Catholic momma is so very grateful for you!

  15. Hi, I am using some of the CHC curriculum–we really love the Explore the Continents (despite being for 2nd grade–I am using it for 1st grade level–so may just do it again next year or move on to the Tour a Country). I am using the Bible stories for Religion; but I also have a different religion I am also doing (so I do not follow all of the CHC on religion). We are trying the MCP Math for 1st grade; so far it has been a little boring–so we are trying to skip ahead past the review stuff for my daughter. She’s probably going to finish this sooner and we might move on to 2nd grade math sooner. The Little Stories for Little Folks are nice; but not enough phonics for us; so I am doing some of the Little Angel Reader phonics/workbooks or may even add in some Seton Phonics (I had bought for K level–but will just finish for 1st grade). My son is K level; so kind of doing some of the same things but not as high level math, etc. I think CHC can be used how you want (I don’t follow the lesson plans per se–my daughter is behind on reading for instance but ahead on math)–I just use them for a guidelines. I have older lesson plans; so the old ones don’t have the newer Behold and See Science in it for instance. Overall, I like CHC and may just add in other things as needed for teaching. That’s what I love about homeschool. 🙂

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