There are many different styles of homeschooling, thousands of opinions on what is best, and a myriad of curriculum programs and educational tools available. This can be a blessing because it makes it possible to find something that suits nearly any child's learning style and parent's preferences, but it can be an overwhelming challenge for some families to wade through it all and find the best fit for their family. To complicate matters, what works for one family or one child, might not work for another. So while someone might say they love a certain curriculum or homeschooling style, another person might say they hated it, or just couldn't make it work well for their situation. Nonetheless, it is quite natural to want to know works for other people and what they would recommend. Finding out what others use can be a good starting point for those new to homeschooling and yet also be interesting to experienced homeschool families that are just wondering what else is out there that they might enjoy.
For our family, homeschooling is an ever evolving and dynamic experience. We have tried a variety of methods, but have settled into an eclectic approach - using what works for our kids from different sources, styles, and curriculum. Sometimes we even throw in a period of unschooling or some project-based homeschooling as well! We try to keep things flexible, have an open mind, and go with the flow. (Which is easier said than done for this plan-ahead, prep, and research-loving mama!)
Here are some of the primary curriculum materials and educational tools that we are using this school year. It might seem like a lot, but we don't use all of it each day. Some things are supplemental, others were requested by our kids, and some are for specific projects or times of interest.
1) Our kindergartener currently uses RightStart Mathematics by Activities for Learning, Inc. She started Level A, Second Edition, and the associated RS2 math set (the manipulatives and games) in January. We are loving it! Her sister even joins in just for fun. One of my favorite things about the program is how little it requires Lil' Sis to complete worksheets, yet there is still a lot of learning happening. Of all the different math programs we've looked into or tried over the years, this one is certainly among the most - if not the most - hands on. We also enjoy the variety, the way it approaches a concept from more than one way of thinking/seeing, and the math games! While my oldest uses McRuffy right now, we will very likely be switching her over to RightStart next!
2) Our 3rd grader is finishing up McGruffy Color Math. This is another great program, but it does have it's flaws. Just today, we found that the teacher's manual had yet another editing error where the answer shown was incorrect. This is not the first time we found an error. We find typos and mistakes on the answer keys rather frequently. Luckily, the math is easy enough that I recognize the problem and know the right answer, but it's still frustrating to pay for a program and see it has so many details out of place. We do like the attractive, simple, quick, color worksheet pages.
3) Dreambox Learning is a useful online math software that we use as a supplement. It is also perfect to use in place of our normal math programs on rough days (such as when someone is sick), vacation, or when they need a different perspective or additional math practice. I am particularly fond of how it adapts to the child's skill level and tracks which standards have been met as they go.
4) Both kids had fun playing the Prodigy Math Game, but haven't been doing it as much lately. It's good mainly for extra practice. It really doesn't teach math, but simply provides a fun way to get in some repetition and review. It is somewhat similar to a Pokemon game, wherein the student collects critters and uses them to battle others, all the while answering math questions along the way in order to successfully strike their opponent.
5) Khan Academy is a favorite supplement that my husband does with the kids when they are struggling with a math concept or when they just want a challenge. We love that it's free!
1) Our kindergartener (Lil Sis) is going through level 1 of First Language Lessons. We have the older version of the book, which combines levels 1 & 2 (linked above), but they have a newer edition that has the levels in separate books too. She's done this with big sister awhile ago, but now we do it just for her to reinforce what she's learned in the past just by hanging around when Big Sis did it.
2) All About Reading is Lil' Sis' main reading program and we love it! The All About Learning Press company has been fantastic, in our experience. The books/curriculum are well written, beautifully illustrated, and quite clear and professional. It's simple, straight-forward, and takes things one step at a time. I did not care as much for the Pre-Reading program, but my kids had fun with the crafts and other families may love it for their preschooler. I think, for us, we were already a little past that which is taught in the majority of the Pre-Reading level, which is why it wasn't a good fit.
3) Big Sis uses All About Spelling and it works well for her. It's her least favorite subject, but it's effective, as long as we are consistent. If we fail to keep up with spelling regularly (a few times a week), we have to go back and review prior steps [lessons] and she back slides in her progress. However, as mentioned above, I think All About Learning Press is a great company with well-made products.
4) Reading Eggs is a supplemental reading tool we have on the iPad that the girls both ask to use/play on their own. It's great for extra practice. We didn't like it much on our first try a couple of years ago, but came back around to trying it again and it stuck this time. Reading Eggspress is the next level up and includes comprehension questions as well.
5) We also occasionally use Achieve3000 as a supplement. It's not a favorite of mine or my 3rd grader, but we do find it useful in preparation for the standardized test that she is required to take this year, in accordance with Hawaii homeschooling law.
6) Thanks to the kind folks at The Old Schoolhouse and the Schoolhouse Review Crew, we've been enjoying a membership to SchoolhouseTeachers.com. As part of that, we've been using the Daily Writing prompts from Sharon Watson a few days a week and my daughter really enjoys writing in her daily journal as a result. Of course, this is a supplement, but it helps us squeeze in a little more writing!
Keep an eye out for my next post about our curriculum choices and find out what else we use in our homeschool!
I'm a homeschooling mom of three, enjoying our time in Hawaii and hoping to share some of that experience with you, including ideas, reviews, resources, and information.