the Homeschool Curriculum Mountain: Finding, Using, and Reviewing

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by Laura

You guys get the drill. I didn’t want to homeschool, I decided to homeschool, I decorated our room super cute, and week one was a smash hit.  But, how in the world did I decide on the curriculum?  Who did I ask for help?  What do I think about it now? 

If you think I’ll tell you the 10 step process to find your perfect curriculum, I can’t do that.  I also won’t comment on the curriculum I didn’t choose.  There are LOTS of people out there who are like personal cheerleaders for certain curriculum so go find those guys!  What I can do is show you how I did it.  It wasn’t perfect, or pretty all the time, but maybe my journey can better yours.  

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Finding a curriculum is like finding your perfect foundation shade.  You have to have the right brand, and the right shade, and the right coverage, and make sure it doesn’t make your skin break out.  So, I’ll tell you how I ARRIVED at our decision-which I think is helpful, and I’ll tell you what we chose for your curiosity’s appeasement, but then we’ll all move on with our lives and eat scones for breakfast.  Right?    

What kind of a Homeschool Teacher am I? 

The most helpful question I asked myself was what is my goal this year in Homeschooling.  Then, I needed to decide what kind of a Homeschool Teacher I wanted to be to achieve that goal, and what environment my kid students work best in.  Did I want to be more strict or more flexible, lots of prep work or little, let the curriculum do the work or create some of my own? 

I set a goal to interview four different Homeschool Moms who had various goals and perspectives, use of public/private school.  These moms were a mix of those in the trenches, at the end of schooling, and had finished.  This was an invaluable part for me. I asked them why they homeschooled, what their philosophy was, and asked to see their curriculum.  I could see how and why their approach worked for their family, each was as unique as the family itself, and that was a great learning point for me: to know that my family’s homeschool journey would not be a carbon copy of anyone else’s nor did I need to think that our approach should be mimicked.  

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What sifted through was I wanted Eva to experience Kindergarten as I did, and learn as much or more than she would if she was in public school.  I wanted her to have some independent play-based learning, mixed with worksheets, and guided instruction from me.  I wanted to use curriculum that built on itself and linked the subjects together.  

As the teacher, I wanted a structure to keep me on task, with the ability to change up the order, lesson, or pace if need be.  I equally love organization and creativity so I wanted to be able to use my giftedness in those areas as well.  For Malachi, my goal is to introduce him to each letter, number, shape and color as well as some very early handwriting skills like straight lines, curves, and circles.  For our family, I wanted to integrate our learning throughout the day with field trips on Wednesday’s, food that pertains to our unit studies, scripture memory reinforcement during our nightly family worship time, and library trips for “go-along” books. 

Pre-School 

Finding Pre-School Curriculum

For Malachi: To back track a bit, I kind-a, sort-a, schooled Eva when she was 3 years old.  I found a bunch of printable stuff on a website and we did a 15 minute school time every day.  I really enjoyed the hands on and age appropriate activities, so when Malachi turned three, I decided not to stress myself out and just use the same thing.  I downloaded the material for free, and then I remembered.  THE PRINTING.  

malachi loves using the counting blocks for his number chart

Malachi loves using the counting blocks for his number chart

Using Pre-School Curriculum

For each letter there were 14ish pages to print. Don’t worry, I’m going to do the math for you.  That’s 364 pages, of which some cute little flashcards can be cut, to print at home costs ink and paper, to print at a Staples place would cost you: 116.00. We bought a laser printer because we knew our homeschooling was going to require a lot of, you know, printing, so our cost was less than that, but I’m not sure you want to put me on the world’s wisest most frugal person list.  Anyway, I still really like her stuff, but it is way too much to spend on a three year old.  

Reviewing Pre-School Curriculum

If I could give any recommendation for pre-school go to your nearest book store (not an amazon search) and browse, (actually open) their educational books.  There’s so many cute workbooks that you could do with them.  But please look inside and ask yourself if your individual 3, 4, 5 year old would be ready for that material.  Count the pages in each section to see if that is reasonable.  Some of those books are unnecessarily HUGE.  

Book based learning like Before Five in a Row would be so cute too.  Look at this Blueberries for Sal Pinterest board dedicated to BFIAR.  Again, that makes my heart go pitter pat, but it might make you hyperventilate.  

Kindergarten

Finding Kindergarten Curriculum 

How do you even start?!  People were suggesting Homeschool conferences where you can look at materials.  The only way you could drag me to one of those is if you feed me a Margarita for breakfast, held my hand the whole time, and promised me cheesecake afterwards. So, you could tell it was really going well.  I googled some curriculums, but that was still overwhelming.  So I started Facebook Messaging people, and they would say, “have you looked at MFW yet”?  WHAT???!!!  I had no clue you had to abbreviate all of your curriculum and come up with homeschool slang that was indecipherable to newbies.  So I waited until my homeschool mom interviews, because I needed someone to pat my hand and hold it and open up books in front of me and smile at me.   

That’s when I found Five in a Row.  And yes, people refer to it as FIAR, but, I’m not cool yet with the acronyms.   The minute I saw how it worked, saw that it could be simple or psycho, I was sold.  Five In A Row starts with a book that gets read each day over a week, (we do one book over two weeks), and you study concepts from the book in Five ways: Social Studies, Language Arts, Art, Math and Science.  

Using Kindergarten Curriculum

Here’s how that looks in real life.  We did the book Lentil for our first two weeks of school and on Monday we did Social Studies looking at Ohio and then Patriotism.  Tuesday is Language Arts for vocabulary, and the parts of a story.  Wednesday was Art: we drew with Charcoal using different techniques and the next week we drew pictures of our community.  Thursday we studied fractions in music, and then I made up math problems from the illustrations in the book.  Lastly, Friday we discovered our taste buds, and learned about acoustics.  

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The only thing about FIAR is that you have to create lesson plans, (they give you a template) based on your Homeschooling Goals.  There is a wonderful manual with ideas under each of the five sections, but you must choose what would work well for your child, choose how you would implement that, and if you need any materials, you will need to plan ahead and get those lined up for that week.  Not to mention you have to purchase or check out each book from the Library.  So there is definitely planning that goes into this curriculum, but I didn’t mind.  I found some wonderful Pinterest Boards and free printable and got that organized.  

I joined a Five In A Row Facebook group and that has been super helpful as well.  When you find a curriculum, go and find the bloggers, the forums, the pinterest pages, and the Facebook groups for them, it will be worth it.  

Now that Eva had some great book driven learning, it bothered me that Eva wouldn’t be getting handwriting, reading, math… so I started searching and again, CURRICULUM DIARRHEA.  

By chance I stumbled upon another homeschooling blog that had an entire Kindergarten Curriculum to print, I spent several days looking over it and decided that it would be good for the gaps I wanted to fill. Besides, I was running out of time to choose and was sick and tired of research.  THIS IS NOT THE WAY YOU WANT TO HANDLE THIS DECISION, OK? 

so much

Long story short, I am now printing thousands of pages from this curriculum, laminating, cutting, bagging, filing.  I chose this unwisely.  Costing a small fortune.  

Reviewing Kindergarten Curriculum

I puffy heart emoji Five In A Row.  I feel like it would be a perfect summer curriculum for anyone, non-homeschoolers too.  I love how everything we are learning gets hooked into the book and linked together.  I wish all of the curriculum was like that instead of the piece meal we are doing right now.  

I wish I wasn’t printing so much, and cutting, and laminating.  I am SO glad that I challenged myself to do three months of lesson planning before school started.  What on earth would we do if I hadn’t done that prep work.  

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I did add Bob Books, and the Kukmon Time Telling and Money Counting Material which I am very pleased with.  

For this year, we are sticking with what we’ve got.  We’re invested financially, we like it, and it works well for the students.  Next year, I will be very honed into what I am looking for and it will be quick for me to determine what curriculum meets our educational, and time needs.  

Is this interesting to you guys?  I think it’s fascinating how people can choose, review, switch, make better, and create their own schooling!  

Happy Weekend Friends! 

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