Written by contributor Jessica Fisher of Life as Mom
Back in January, I realized that we were in the doldrums as far as school was concerned. I really wanted to put some wind back in our sails, so I spent some extended time researching different options and analyzing how our days were spent. I rediscovered a love for how we used to do things “back in the good old days.”
That is to say, I ditched what wasn’t working and started a reread of The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise. This was the foundational book for me over a dozen years ago when my firstborn was just a toddler. I read it from cover to cover several times, and my original edition is literally falling apart at the seams. Since then it’s been revised a few times, so I picked up a new copy and allowed it to realign my vision for our school.
Since I have SIX kids, it’s a lot of curriculum to plan for. Rather than tell you about every single resource we’re using, here’s a peek at our reading, writing and arithmetic:
Reading: Literature and History
Grades K-6, 9th grade
We started out the year using Tapestry of Grace, Year 1, a survey of the ancients. We’d covered this program four years ago when my kids were all grammar level students. I enjoyed it then. However, with kids in high school, middle school, and elementary levels, I had a chance this year to explore more of the suggested resources. While I loved the dialectic selections, this literature major found the high school resources to be BORING and inaccessible. No way was I going to make him read what I didn’t want to read myself.
I’m a book lover, after all.
This situation played a compelling role in our homeschool makeover. After rereading the update of The Well-Trained Mind, we’ve taken to choosing and reading ancient texts on our own, using The Well-Educated Mind, a companion text, as a guide for high school reading. My younger kids and I are working through the first volume of The Story of the World and its activity guide as well as the lower level recommendations from Tapestry of Grace.
Writing (aka Language Arts)
Writing is a vast and varied subject. I am a writer. I taught writing professionally before I had kids. At the same time, teaching my own children to communicate well on paper is a whole ‘nuther ball game.
I am not a workbook/boxed curriculum kind of girl. I believe in reading good books and enjoying the written word as the most effective means of learning to write well.
But there are some books and stuff that we use for language arts:
Work through Phonic Pathways, learn the 70 phonograms, practice basic penmanship, and read lots of good books.
Grades K, 2, 4, and 6: Saxon K, 2, 54, and 65
I started all my kids off in Saxon Math but along the way, we experimented with Teaching Textbooks, a computer-based curriculum. I loved that I no longer had to grade papers! We used that curriculum for several years before realizing that it had some gaps in its coverage.
It was a challenge to transition back to Saxon due to these gaps. We found the most successful thing to be using the Saxon tests as pretests. Since each test problem shows which chapter it covered, we could review those chapters if a child missed a problem. Then once we reviewed those lessons, we could retest or move on if there was no need for review.
Next year: We’ll be continuing on with Saxon for the time being.
High School: Chalkdust Algebra
This has proved to be a very challenging course. We’ve been working toward mastery instead of whipping through the book so it is taking longer to get through.
Next year: Neither one of us truly loves the program, so I’ll be looking for alternatives in the coming months.
These are some of our core subjects that we explore on a regular basis. We also include a regular science program as well as Latin or French for the older kids, and swimming lessons and/or hockey for all. The days are just packed!
But, I am so thankful to have great resources to draw from and the freedom to change our course if something doesn’t work.
Have you got a favorite resource for reading, writing or arithmetic?