Written by contributor Lora Lynn Fanning of Vitafamiliae
With six kids ages seven and under, it was important to me that the curriculum I chose did the heavy-lifting, and not the other way around. We’re mostly Classical style homeschoolers with a dash of Charlotte Mason, just for spice.
Here is what works for our gang (currently schooling twins going into 2nd grade and a rising 1st grader, plus doing preschool as the mood strikes).
Tapestry of Grace (TOG) – Despite the density of the curriculum, once you get the hang of it, planning is a breeze. I plan by the week, so that if one day goes awry (as they tend to do with my crew), it doesn’t put us behind. We just fit it in somewhere else.
I like that as we add in more school-age children, we can all stay on the same subject and adapt it for everyone’s learning level. TOG mixes the classical concepts with learning through literature, which is especially helpful at this young stage. No dry history textbooks for us! (My review)
I plan on continuing to use the Writing Aids program that coincides with TOG this year. Last year, I found it easy to give my kids writing assignments that directly related to the books and stories we covered that week. They were excited about pharaohs and mummies when we covered Egypt, so that’s what we wrote about. It is easy to encourage them to write when they are immersed and enamored with their subject matter.
We began using All About Spelling as a phonics program (there’s an All About Reading that is included when you purchase) when my original reading program only worked for one of my twins. You can read about our success story here. Now I’m converting the twins to using the program for spelling and will continue using it with my 1st grader to teach reading. It’s super easy to just open and go when it’s time for spelling. No preparation required.
As an aside, I downloaded some free samples of their new pre-reading program and my four-year-old adores them. She’s learned a lot, too. I’m not sure we’re going to make that investment for her yet, but I can attest to her excitement over Ziggy the Zebra’s antics.
This year I will add just a few short minutes of grammar to my second graders’ week. We’ll be doing the Easy Grammar Daily Guided Teaching and Review for Grade 2. The lessons are super short and will be easy to tack on to our writing lesson once or twice a week. We’ll hold off on really pushing grammar for another year. I want to be sure my kids have all of the fundamentals of reading and writing down first.
We’re A Reason for Handwriting family all the way. My kids do this mostly on their own. It’s their afternoon work while Mommy and the littles are napping.
Considering God’s Creation came across my path and it seemed like a good way to get the science lessons my boys crave without Mommy spending hours hunting pipe cleaners and bleach. Most of the hands-on stuff is paper related (sort of like lap-booking) and any real experiments don’t require explosives, beakers, or actual skill. Perfect for our already-combustible gang!
I started Math-U-See with my twins at the Primer stage. They’re almost halfway through the second grade level now. My five-year-old is almost done with the Primer and I’ve been so amused to see him pick things up even faster because he’s already watched his brothers learn the ideas.
We’ve made Math-U-See pretty low maintenance by only having one math lesson a week. The children are responsible for finishing their math pages and their test before the next weekly lesson. I have to check their work, but it only requires one morning of active teaching for me (and I let the video teacher do all the hard stuff!)
Plus, my preschoolers love to play with the manipulatives while I’m teaching. Win-win for everybody, right? (My initial review)
I’m going to hold off on starting my four-year-old on any real schooling this year (other than her regularly scheduled iPad time), but next year, I’ll do Five in a Row with my girls like I did with my boys. They’ll be 5, 3, and 2, so that’s a prime age to enjoy those books together.
To help me avoid being overwhelmed by too many options, I choose to focus on the geography in the books. By the time we finish, we’ll have done lots of cuddling, lots of reading, and we’ll recognize a few places on the map. Low maintenance, no fuss. (My review of Before Five in a Row)
Keeping the curriculum low-maintenance meant a lot of high-maintenance researching, planning, and thinking. But it was short-term effort for long-term ease of use. And with the list of needs in our home numbering into the thousands, that made it totally worthwhile.
What are your low-maintenance picks for curriculum?