Friday, April 13, 2012

Basics of Curriculum Choice

When I started teaching 20 years ago, there wasn't much to choose from - Alpha Omega Lifepaces, Paces, Abeka,  Bob Jones, and a few other fat workbooks you could get at Walmart or the Dollar store.

But not anymore - there are hundreds of curriculums to choose from - many written by frustrated mom's looking for something that worked well with their own child.  Many small groups began to offer their curriculum more publicly - like Rod and Staff.  And then the computer age burst upon the scene.  Story was among the first groups to use the Alpha Omega Computer Switched on Schoolhouse.  She loved it!

One of my sister's uses a Charlotte Mason approach to school.  Another friend uses a Montessori approach.  There are online schools, computer curriculum, text books, and lifepacs.  There is life based learning approach (using life skills to teach other skills), Group based, Book based, Trivium based, and literally dozens of other approaches.  I'm sure I haven't a clue what they all are.  Just about the time I think I have heard of everything possible - somebody shows me a new one.   Some curriculum is short and sweet (2 or 3 problems and you move on) and others are full of drills and repetition.  On top of that you have right brained / left brained learners, and sensory, auditory, visual learning styles.  How's a Mother to choose???

Following are a list of some of my favorite curriculum.  It is by no means even half of what is out there ... but if you like some structure and tried and true - kids have graduated and done well - curriculum, most of these do fit the bill.  They might not work for you!   A good place to peruse through options .... is the CBD Homeschool Catalog.  They are viewable online or you can request a paper copy ...

Basic Curriculum:

1.  Alpha Omega -

You will find several options here.

Horizon is preschool thru 4th or 5th grade.  It teaches the basics of Phonics and Math as well as penmanship.  It can tend to be very intense.

Alpha Omega Lifepacs:  Each class 1st - 12th has 10 booklets called Lifepacs.  You can purchase tests to help fill in holes for an older child.  I used these in a Christian school and enjoyed them very much.  Kindergarten is only broken into 2 books for Phonics and for Math.

Switched on School house:  3rd - 12th Grade - all on your home computer.  You can also purchase the online school package - which gives your child an outside teacher to tutor and grade the work.

Weaver:  Group study curriculum, allows a parent to teach many ages/grades/levels at the same time.  Special age appropriate assignments can be assigned for individual work.

2   Rod and Staff:  These are Mennonite School curriculum.  They are deep, plain, and thorough - I found the 8th grade curriculum to be harder than many of the 12th grade texts.  My kids have LOVED their English.  They do NOT have an onlie presence, you have to call and order from them directly.   BUT  there are two locations that will process the order for you, they take the order, call it in for you and have it sent right to your door.   The costs are sometimes a tiny bit higher ... so a $100 order called in directly, might end up being $108 instead.   they teach with an Armminian Biblical view.

3.  All Through the Ages:  ....  Only for History, and maybe early science if you want to teach via biography's.   This book has revolutionized the way I teach History.  And we LOVE it!!!

4.  Abeka  ...  I've taught through many of the books when I taught in a Christian School.  The elementary books were ok, but I was not at all impressed with their Math and Science.  They may have rewritten the curriculum since then.

5.  Christian Liberty:   ...   I've liked what I have ordered from them.  But I've not ordered much.  They are full Calvinism.  But sometimes the books seem to be lacking in depth.  We have used the Penmanship, Spelling, and several other of their books.

6.  Saxon:  Not my style of teaching Math ... but for many, it is exactly what they need and love.

7.  Doorposts:  ...  Great for teaching Bible and Life Skills.  The books can be used over and over, and accommodate K - Adult.  Written by a Homeschool Mom.

8.  Love to Learn:  .... another Homeschool Mom, she features shorter curriculum and hands on tools and games.  Especially useful for Prek - Jr. High.  She's tested all of the products on her own children and grand children.  ....  And while you are there, look for the tab marked "Heart to Heart with Dianne" and read about their son Ammon's miracle over Christmas and his struggle with brain damage.

9.  For Science, we've fairly recently discovered Apologia.    I tried to wing it, but our library just wasn't cutting it for Jr. High and High School.  My sister started telling me about this curriculum, and we found the first editions on sale at 50 - 75% off, and were able to buy the High school books.  My girls LOVE them.

This barely scrapes the tip of what is out there.

Of course, there is always the Walmart / Sams  "Everything you Need to Know in the X Grade" books as well.  Some of those are very well written!

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