Written by Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool and Steady Mom
A note from Jamie: Though I chose not to do a full curriculum fair this year, there are plenty of curriculum posts in the archives for those interested in scrolling through them as you make plans for the upcoming year. You can find them here–enjoy!
The first time I looked at the instructor’s guide of a popular curriculum, it made my head spin.
You mean we have to do all this? And in this order? And what if we need to miss a day or if the kids want to read more than the required number of pages? What if those comprehension questions are just downright boring?
Thankfully, I’ve come a long way since then. Now I understand that I can use resources in a way that fits our family, without feeling like a resource is using me.
Here are a few of the main resources we use often in our home and how I make them work for us.
Description: Oak Meadow carries creative, child-centered curriculum packages for grades PreK-12. This secular curriculum focuses on a holistic approach to education, one that supports a child’s natural development and adapts to a variety of learning styles. Each package has a syllabus that covers materials for the year in 36 weekly lessons.
What I like about Oak Meadow: I love the holistic approach to Oak Meadow, and the fact that they introduce academics slowly in the early years, emphasizing that head learning is only one part of a child’s development.
My favorite part of the curriculum, that we rarely miss or skip, are the stories included–a variety of fairy tales and nature stories for the elementary grades. I also love that all subjects, from reading to math, are covered in the one syllabus. That simplifies my life right there.
How I use this resource:
As some who values interest-led learning, I use Oak Meadow in a loose way. I flip through each week’s lesson plan to get an overview. I keep a lookout for natural opportunities to inspire my children with the material OM provides.
In math this trimester, one of the goals is counting to 100. In social studies, it’s becoming acquainted with maps. So I make a mental note to look for opportunities to count with the kids. I print off blank maps and ask the kids if they’d like to make maps.
Oak Meadow brings a lot of creativity to their lessons – the first grade includes knitting, watercolor painting, and recorder playing. My goal is to allow the kids exposure to these activities, but without necessarily “teaching” them myself. I had the perfect chance to do so by enrolling the kids in a Waldorf homeschooling arts class one day a week.
Life of Fred
Description: Life of Fred is a unique math curriculum that covers elementary math through calculus. (We have only used the first two books, so I can’t comment on the higher levels.) They deliver math through stories about a boy named Fred and how he learns to use math in his everyday life.
What I like about Life of Fred: Life of Fred really appealed to me because of the story concept, which I thought my kids would enjoy. I like the way the math is naturally integrated into Fred’s life, showing the importance of it in day-to-day living.
I’m not a huge fan of math workbooks and worksheets, so this really appealed to me. These hardcover books are sturdy and well-made. It’s easy to use them with multiple children.
How I use this resource:
I had heard such wonderful things about Life of Fred for high schoolers that I was thrilled when I heard the author had completed a series for elementary-aged kids. I bought the first two books, and I read them together with my children.
The chapters are laugh-out-loud funny and I often get asked to read “just one more.” Each section ends with a series of questions about the chapter, followed by the answers.
The author strongly recommends that the student answers these questions in writing. But you can probably guess what we do…or don’t do, in this case. Instead, I ask each child if they would like to answer a question. If they say yes, I read it aloud and let them answer or ask for help as they need it.
Stanley Schmidt, the author of Life of Fred, states that it can be used as a complete, stand-alone math curriculum. We’re not using it that way in our home at the moment, but I see it as wonderful exposure and a fun introductory math resource. I plan to add more to our collection when we’ve finished these.
Other Resources We Enjoy
Our 24 Family Ways: A Family Devotional Guide
This Christian resource, by Sally and Clay Clarkson, contains 24 biblical traits for families to learn in areas like generosity, service, faith, work, attitudes, and so on.
In our home we learn one new family way every two weeks, repeating it together in the mornings. My kids have especially enjoyed the coloring pages that accompany each principle.
Each year I comb through a variety of popular book lists to decide which titles I want to invest in that year for our home. For next year I’m using the lists from Sonlight Core C, Ambleside Online Year 2, and Simply Charlotte Mason Grade 2.
Books for Mama’s Inspiration
These are the permanent titles on my shelf I go back to for encouragement again and again.
- Educating the WholeHearted Child: Discipleship, Whole Books, and Real Life WholeHearted Christian Home Education for Ages 4-14 by Clay and Sally Clarkson
- Free-Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything by Laura Grace Weldon
- The Heart of Learning – An Oak Meadow selection of essays about K-3 learning by Lawrence Williams
- Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning by Oliver and Rachel DeMille
- A Little Way of Homeschooling: 13 Families Discover Catholic Unschooling by Suzie Andres
Is there a resource you’ve found that works well for your homeschool, even though you may adapt it to suit your own learning philosophy? Do you have experience with any of the resources I’ve mentioned here?
This post originally published on April 23, 2012.