Low-Maintenance Curriculum for a High-Maintenance Family (2011 Curriculum Fair)

Written by contributor Lora Lynn Fanning of Vitafamiliae

Ages of my children: 7, 7, 5, 4, 2, 1
Educational Philosophy Influences: Classical, Literature-based

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).

Core Curriculum

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.

Language Arts

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 optionsI 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?

About Lora

Lora Lynn Fanning blogged for 11 years about her family life with seven kids at Vitafamiliae. These days, she homeschools her growing brood, teaches writing both in person for co-ops and online for Brave Writer, and writes at her new site, LoraLynnFanning.com.


  1. Mine is similar to yours, but I use My Father’s World last year instead of TOG, but I really enjoy some of the other things you have!
    Martha Artyomenko’s latest post: Secrets of the heart by Jillian Kent

  2. Stefanie Colbert Stringfellow says:

    My low maintenance picks include:
    Cozy grammar, Story of the World History, and Teaching Textbooks math. Their third grade math is well suited for 2nd graders. I think you would really like Queen Homeschools Language Lessons and for a non consummable Emma Serls language lessons is a classic and wonderful too! Both are only 15 minutes a day. I am considering Right Start Math, a bit time consuming, but a good start in Math. I like Singapore Math too. Equally important is having a lot educational materials around that the kids can ‘check out’ and use. There are so many wonderful educational games that kids can enjoy!

  3. Looks like a well balance list. It is an intense season, with lots of young ones. But each of those little steps forward add up to lots of progress!

    Our curriculum choices are here:

  4. Thanks for sharing your curriculum choices. Those all sound excellent!

    We use Sonlight for our History, Geography, Bible, Reading, Language Arts, and Science. We use Singapore Math and Handwriting Without Tears as well. All these picks are working well for us right now, but I’m also trying to learn about other options in case we need to change things up at some point.

  5. Math-U-See is awesome! I’m starting it for this next year. My four nephews have done well with it. They range from 9th to 4th grade. My daughter is excited to start it. We were able to play around with the manipulatives, and she loved it! As far as the other classes go, I’m mixing the curriculum based on what I think would be more beneficial.

  6. Low maintenance pick for me has been Apologia’s series for the Elementary grades. Samuel has been working though Land Animals of the Sixth Day. He reads, takes notes, answers the questions in the Journal and then discusses with me what he has learned. I’m so grateful they have created the ready made journals. It has made science notebooking much less overwhelming for this non-notebooking Mom.
    Elle’s latest post: There is only so much

  7. The first low maintenance pick that comes to my mind is Teaching Textbooks math. I could do a commercial for it! Also, this isn’t a specific curriculum, but it has been quite helpful for us to often learn science and history together. I look forward to reading others’ picks. I’m always looking for ways to simplify!

  8. Six children under seven? If you’d like a complimentary set of Arithmetic Village books, please let me know, I’d be happy to send you some:)

  9. I am SO excited to hear you talk about Tapestry of Grace as suitable for a bunch of littles close together! (I have four, ages 9, 7, 7 & 4.) I’ve already ordered My Father’s World for the upcoming year, but have been drooling over ToG for a few years. It’s one of the things I’ve figured for a while we’d use eventually…I’m excited to think we might be able to start it sooner than I thought. Thank you!

    (And BTW, what a great pic of your six preciouses! What treasures you’re blessed with!)

  10. We are sticking with TOG this year too, and loving it! But my absolute FAVORITE find this year has been Real Science 4 Kids. I love that it is taught to age brackets (i.e. K-3rd, 4-6, etc.)! So it looks like we have all of our history, grammar, literature, and science as group ventures which makes Mommy really happy! The only loner subjects are math and phonics for those that are still learning to read.

    • I forgot to share my brood status: My kiddos will be 8,6,4,2, and new born in the fall! What an adventure we have ahead! 🙂

  11. I’m ALL about low maintenance! With six kids, I can’t get bogged down in teacher-intensive programs. In fact, I just started a weekly blog meme on my blog for moms to share their easy-on-mom resources called Grab & Go Thursday. It’s so helpful to find out which curricula can be implemented without so much work…just Grab & Go with it!

    I share my first favorite here:
    Melissa Morgner’s latest post: The mood at home makeover DaySpring giveaway

  12. Thanks for sharing your resource choices. It’s always fun to see what others are using. I was happy to see that most of your favorites are my favorites too 🙂

    I wrote a list of 101 activities parents can do with their preschool children. If you want a free download or want info on how to share that with your readers, just let me know.
    Heidi’s latest post: Homeschool Workbooks

  13. From what I read of your homeschool posts, our teaching styles are similar. I too used Easy Grammar for my second grader last year. I had high hopes and it failed miserably. It took far too much instruction on my part, was disjointed, and it simply did not work for my highly literate second grader. We ended up abandoning in half way through the year. I switched to First Language Lessons for the Well- Trained Mind. While I am not a classical educator, I love love this book. It takes five minutes. Seriously. It’s all oral, except for the occasional optional stuff. I usually read the scripted page to them while they are finishing breakfast or lunch. At first I felt really goofy reading a scripted instructional page, but it works, so I got over it. My toddler can rattle off the poems and parts of speech definitions. We do it all together even though they are all different grade levels, which is great. Can’t say enough about this book. Extremely low maintenance!!

  14. We loved “Considering God’s Creation” and I’m still using Math U See. I think it may be my favorite of any curriculum/subject we do. 🙂

  15. Lora, Just seeing your beautiful family made me smile awfully big!!!

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