The elusive best curriculum…we’re always on the hunt for it. But much like other homeschool myths—the perfect curriculum doesn’t exist. We have to find the best for our families—and my best might look really different than the best for the family down the street or the one on Instagram. It probably even looks different than what I was doing two years ago. I’ve been homeschooling thirteen years—and I’ve purchased a lot of curriculum. Sometimes I L.O.V.E.D. it, but other times I’ve shoved it to the back of my closet, where it occasionally falls out in a small avalanche of books and reminds me of the eighty bucks I wasted.
In all honesty, I have so much stuff—at this point, my goal is to make do with something I’ve already used with my older kids. While there my not be one perfect curriculum out there—there are many, many great ones. So tempting as it is to try the newest, trendiest curriculum—what I already own is probably going to get the job done and cost me nothing.
Here is what I’ve decided upon this year—most of it, I already owned. I did make a few additions (which I’m really excited about)…
Okay—here is where I splurged. And heck if you’re going to splurge, I say do it on a subject that’s critical!
I purchased Teaching Textbooks Pre-Algebra 2.0 for $180.94. As the proud owner of nearly every level of Saxon Math through Algebra 2, I had no intention of buying new math curriculum! I own and have used Saxon Algebra 1/2 (their version of Pre-Algebra)—with great success. Truly, I’m a HUGE advocate for Saxon Math—it has been the constant in our homeschool…But after repeatedly hearing rave reviews for Teaching Textbooks in my local homeschool Facebook group—I got an itch to change course for Audrey and try something new.
My sweet child doesn’t have the greatest relationship with math—we’ve taken it slow and gentle in our Saxon work, but I always get the feeling she is on shaky ground, never quite confident in her own ability and skills. She also loves working independently and getting her stuff done. Audrey gets up—makes herself homemade Vegan waffles and gets it on! Which works great for most subjects—in 8th grade they don’t need mom to teach much. But not math. Math is mommy intensive. So she would have to wait for me to get all my little people settled before I could carve out 30-45 minutes of daily math instruction.
After working through some of the sample lessons online, I was sold. Teaching Textbooks appears to be the perfect fit for her—she gets to sit down at the computer and get a beautifully organized math lecture, with visuals and questions to check her understanding built into the lesson. She isn’t waiting for me to change 16 diapers, turn on Elmo, make pancakes (frozen—let’s not get any crazy ideas), find the Elsa Barbie, mess with the dog—and then get started on Pre-Algebra.
And four weeks into it…she really likes it. I can see she is feeling confident and appreciates the independence. I’ve been very impressed with how thorough the teaching has been—plus I love how it keeps tracks of her grades for me. I can see what she got wrong, and we can talk about it (plus the program has explanations available for every problem). Also—can I just say—this curriculum arrived FAST…like next day fast (and I did not pay for speedy delivery)!
I will keep you posted on our experience—but for now, I am relishing in my extra time not teaching 8th grade math!!
“Hodge Podge,” A la…
August: Always and Forever, Lara Jean
September: Station Eleven
October: Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglas
November: A Wrinkle in Time
December: The Diary of Anne Frank
January: The Secret Life of Bees
February: The Westing Game
March: And Then There Were None
April: The Inquistor’s Tale
May: Fahrenheit 451
August: 2 Week Poetry Unit—Haiku and Free Choice
September: Autobiography and Biography
October: Fairy Tales
November: Taking Notes from Written Work and Using Notes to Write an Essay
December: Taking Notes from Oral Presentations
January: Literary Analysis
February: Literary Analysis
March: Literary Analysis
April: History Project Report
May: Essay with Thesis about Fahrenheit 451
As you can see, I’m really piecing together our language arts curriculum!
I own an old version of Fix It! Grammar from IEW—which teaches grammar through editing (the updated versions are available on the IEW website and look very user friendly). This approach has always felt more natural to me. It also includes vocabulary instruction. To add some variety in the mix, I’m utilizing a great little book, The Growing Vocabulary. It includes 100 short and sweet lessons—mostly focusing on vocab but also providing snippets of grammar instruction. Additionally, I’m going to have Audrey work through Greek and Latin root flashcards—English From the Roots Up. I bought them years ago at the recommendation of the Pioneer Woman—I found them while I was cleaning out my cabinets this summer (aka the week before school started—I did not prep all summer) and remembered how cool they are!
So many of my Instagram friends love Brave Writer (and the creator Julie Bogart)—so I had to see what all the love was about! Her website is awesome—lots of encouragement and free tools, along with online classes and products to purchase. I really appreciate her approach to homeschooling—her gentle, immersive style lines up with my own relaxed eclectic preferences. She has a fabulous booklist for the year and offers an online community for students to work through the selections—this is called Boomerang. Most of my literature selections are based on her book list. I plan on using her literature guides individually—Boomerang Single Issues (a digital product ranging in price from $9.95-$11.95). Excited to add her products to our homeschool—I’ll keep you posted on our experience!
Exploring Creation with General Science (Apologia Science Curriculum)
We are going old-school with science…Apologia science books are some of my favorite homeschool products. They are filled with interesting information, written to the student, and consistently point to God—the Amazing Creator! My older children used this book, and I’m sticking with it…
Tapestry of Grace—Year 3, Unit 3 and 4; Year 4, Unit 1 and 2
Tapestry of Grace (TOG) has been a part of our homeschool for many years. Along with Saxon Math and Apologia Science, TOG has been a homeschool staple for me. What has changed over the years is how I use it and to what extent I place its importance. There were some years where I felt like everything we did revolved around TOG, and I’m just not doing that anymore.
I never really cared for the writing assignments, the bible/religion lessons seemed a bit lacking and required beefing up, and the literature choices were not always my favorite…I felt like I was always supplementing or changing up these areas. However, as a classical curriculum, the beauty of TOG is that every single week, lessons are presented to all learning levels. Plus, everyone is studying the same sliver of history (perfect for large families). I also appreciate that once purchased, TOG can be used by my children many times over—all the way through high school, which is super cost effective for homeschoolers. Additionally, from a cost perspective, I love that TOG can be purchased unit by unit, and you can start anywhere in history—wherever your previous year or curriculum left off.
The strengths of TOG are its history and geography (at lease in my humble opinion for the grammar and dialectic levels—I’ve never used it with rhetoric students). Tapestry of Grace is presented in a four year rotation, spanning ancient history to the current day. I own each of the four years—so I’m not going to waste great history teaching and search for something new.
TOG at our house looks like this:
Audrey is assigned weekly history readings and takes notes. I own digital versions of the curriculum, so I print off the dialectic level questions for the week’s history. She answers the assigned questions, and we discuss them (along with all the notes she took) on Fridays. Some weeks include maps to fill out and supplemental projects.
TOG can be whatever you want to make it—for us, it’s a solid history curriculum.
Audrey has been studying French independently using the Duolingo app on her phone or iPad. She enjoys it, and I consider this elective an independent study.
Audrey’s second home is the ballet studio…(which makes my second home the car).
I also try to find artists and music relevant to the time period being studied in history. Last year I found an amazing website for classical music and composer study: Classics for Kids. It’s such a great FREE resource for elementary through middle school students! Your kids can listen to short lessons (about 5 minutes) and music from a huge library of composers and many different time periods.
Audrey enjoys using Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young and Live Original, by Sadie Robertson for daily personal prayer and bible study time. Tapestry of Grace also includes the study of church history and impactful Christians who have influenced their times and cultures—I include these studies with her history reading assignments.
I will shamelessly plug her adorable YouTube channel, Audrey Ann…She has learned so much working on it—technology skills, marketing, film editing, and photography to name a few. I love how God is using her to be a positive influence in the world. She easily earns an elective technology credit for the work she puts into her channel and brand.
The girl cooks. A lot. She became a vegan about a year ago—at first this really rocked my boat. I worried she would never eat again. Now we are all at least 50% vegan because Audrey is always making us delicious food…Yes—I’ll take another bean brownie please!
A Note on Delight Directed Learning:
As you probably noticed, almost all of Audrey’s elective courses are driven by her personal interests and passions! All the elective study areas are naturally part of her life. I love that her favorite activities can count towards learning time and school credits! When I realized this, a huge weight was lifted, and I had so much more peace about teaching middle school (and eventually high school). I have to credit Lee Binz, The Homescholar for explaining this concept with such clarity and grace. Her book, Delight Directed Learning, lays all the details out! If you are wondering how to homeschool your teen or feel overwhelmed—I truly encourage you to visit her website: The Homescholar. She has free resources and webinars to put your mind at ease!
Blessings in Your Learning Adventure!
So that about covers it—our best curriculum choices for the year! I’ll keep you updated as we explore the new curriculum and rediscover old favorites. Please feel free to ask questions about any resources we use—I’d love to connect with you! Also, I’d love to hear what’s on your list of “best curriculum!”
For more details about homeschooling your middle school child–check out my post! I share 5 things your middle school child can do in preparation for high school and 3 steps you can take to prepare for high school record keeping.
P.S. A favorite verse of mine when planning and praying over homeschooling…
“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” Proverbs 16:3
P.P.S. I just had to show you Audrey’s “locker!” She transformed our old t.v. armoire into her own learning space…