The first question homeschoolers usually ask each other upon meeting is, “What curriculum do you use?” At least that’s the question I get! For years I just homeschooled with random library books and counted things like playing in the sandbox as school. We were too poor to buy anything, even a textbook. But I’d occasionally find a partially used workbook at a yard sale for $1 and I’d buy it to supplement the free things we were doing. Then my in-laws gave us some curriculum and during years we had money I’d buy more levels of it. So in the end we do use some curriculum. But we also still make up a lot ourselves or get from the library.
For math we use Math-U-See. It was first given to us when my oldest were young so we’ve stuck with it. The kids are used to it and like it, but if we got rich and had a chance to try something new I’d love to just for a change.
Being poor, I couldn’t afford a whole book per student so I made each book last for 3 students. There are 3 practice pages and 3 review pages for each lesson so I only had them do 1. You can also print off worksheets on mathusee.com so sometimes I did that for extra practice. I feel I gypped my older kids a bit with math and wish I’d had more time to go over each lesson with each child to make sure they were truly understanding it. And seeing if they needed additional help/resources. I have regrets, but feel I did the best I could at the time with so many babies, little money, and the fact I didn’t love math. I poured more of my energy into the subjects I loved. But my 4 oldest children still got into a prestigious university so somehow they figured it out. And it’s not too late to do better with my 6 at home, which I aim to do.
How it works
For Math-U-See you buy the digital movie lesson and the student workbook to go with it. You can also buy the teacher manual with the answers and a test booklet but we haven’t used those very much. My children logon to their Demme learning account and watch the lesson they’re on. We really like Mr. Steve, the guy who teaches the digital lesson. He’s in a classroom so you hear the children’s answers. He’s been doing it a long time and they’re very well done. They have all levels from Primer (K) to Calculus. They’re usually 5-15 minutes long. Then the child does the problems in the workbook, usually a page a day. There are 6 pages per lesson but you don’t have to do all of them. It’s expected to do a lesson a week (therefore they’re only watching the movie once a week which I prefer over daily digital lessons.) However kids can move at their own pace and can do more or less than that. The kids have liked it and the consistency from kindergarten through high school of the same math teacher, same curriculum has been good for them.
Where to buy it
I buy it directly from mathusee.com. Or I often find the workbooks on facebook marketplace or ebay with only a lesson or two done. Just make sure it’s far less than the price on mathusee.com because there are often people trying to sell it for way more.
Science we have used mostly Apologia. This is the other curriculum given to us by my in-laws when they were done homeschooling. You buy one teacher textbook and a student workbook for each student. It’s expected to be taught to a group. There are 8 elementary books good for grades K-6: Astronomy, Botany, Zoology 1 (flying creatures), Zoology 2 (swimming creatures), Zoology 3 (land animals), Earth Science, Anatomy & Physiology, Chemistry & Physics. You can teach them in any order and do whichever ones you want.
For middle school there are 2 courses: General Science and Physical Science. Use in 7th grade and 8th grade respectively.
For high school there are 9 courses to choose from: Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Marine Biology, Advanced Biology (anatomy and physiology), Advanced Chemistry, Advanced Physics, Health & Nutrition, and Astronomy.
Where to buy it
I buy Apologia on Christianbook.com. It’s the cheapest around March but they often have good sales on it year round. I don’t get any commission for saying this, I’m just letting you know where to get it. They have a lot of sample/preview pages so you can get an idea of the book before you buy. The textbooks I already have, but I get the workbooks there. I haven’t gotten the supplies they also sell for the experiments as they’re just household items, but if you have extra money and want to, go ahead.
For Language arts I have frequently bought Learning Language Arts Through Literature. I love their curriculum and it is cheap compared to others ~$25 on christianbook.com. The books for Grades K-8 students write in but the high school years you use a separate sheet of paper. I feel that it is too repetitive year after year and can get boring if you did it every single year so we don’t. We’ll do it for a year or two and then skip a year or two and do it again. I feel like there isn’t a huge difference from year to year so it doesn’t matter if you buy up or down or at grade level. Look through the excerpt pages on christianbook.com and see which books they’ll be reading that year. I sometimes pick based off the books and think, “Sam would really enjoy these books this year.” So I choose that level. Generally, I buy up a grade level for my children because I think they’re on the easy side.
When we’re not using Learning Language Arts Through Literature I make up my own assignments for each child or as a group. I will have them do writing assignments for history and science. I pick out all the books they should read for the year and plan plenty of read aloud books too. And I plan spelling, vocabulary and grammar lessons.
A great spelling book is Natural Speller. It has spelling lists until grade 12 so you only pay one cheap price and it can last your child’s entire education. It provides lists for each grade. You can give your child all the words on the list or just the ones they don’t know yet. Then make up your own assignments. For example, Monday is write each word on their list 3 times. Tuesday is put them in alphabetical order. Wednesday is use each word in a sentence, using correct capitalization and punctuation. Thursday is a pre-test. If they get them all right they don’t have to do the test on Friday.
For vocabulary I like Wordly Wise 3000. I only buy the student book, not the test booklet or answer key, but I’m cheap. I only have kids do vocabulary every 3-4 weeks (we read a lot and score high on vocab tests) as it can be too monotonous to do every single week. Therefore you can have one book last a student 3-4 years or pass it down to the next child.
For grammar I have used Painless Grammar and Warriners English Grammar and Composition. In high school I used Warriners so I got a used copy for old times’ sake. Probably any grammar book is good. You only need to get one used one and then use it every few years. No need to get one for each grade level.
History is my favorite subject so I usually go all out with it. 🙂 Funny I say that because I don’t spend money on it, I just go all out with planning lessons. And it’s the first subject we do each morning while we’re all together after breakfast.
For US History I really love The History Of US. This set was given to me (the 1999 edition) but I love it so much it would be one curriculum I’d definitely be willing to spend $100 on. It is 10 books so I split it up into 2 years and did 5 books each year. You simply read the textbook to your children each day. We do history 3 days a week and I read 1-3 chapters a day. In the summer when I’m writing lesson plans I went through each book and decided how long to spend on each chapter and which chapters to clump together. For example, there are 2 chapters on baseball heroes of the 1920’s so we did both of those the same day. And there are 3 short chapters on FDR before he was president so we did those the same day. Then there was one long chapter of the history of Hawaii so we did it in one day and had a little luau for dinner.
That brings me to another point. With history you can incorporate a lot of other subjects: food, art, music, reading, writing assignments, even science.
We always eat historical foods whatever time period we’re studying. The day we studied FDR we ate hot dogs and grilled cheese sandwiches, his two favorite foods. The day we study a state being admitted to the union we eat their state food. During the 20th century we eat foods that were invented the year we’re studying. Like 1908 Toblerone was invented in Switzerland so I would buy one and share it with the kids as we’ve never had one before. Or Cheerios was first made in 1941 so we’d eat that for breakfast the day we’re studying 1941.
We also do art projects every Friday that follow the time period. Either paint/sketch/create like the artist we’re studying or just draw a picture of something we’re studying like the Wright’s first airplane. We’ve used clay to sculpt famous landmarks and all kinds of other art supplies like glitter, construction paper, cotton balls, rice, sand, and more. Art makes history come alive!
For music we study the composers and their music of the dates we’re studying.
Whatever time period we’re studying I get a lot of books from the library about it: chapter books and biographies for the older kids, historical fiction read aloud books, and picture books for me to read to the kids. Often when I ask the kids a historical question like what do you know about President Taft? They answer, “That he was stuck in the bath!” All because of the picture book “President Taft is Stuck in the Bath.”
Lastly, if we learn about a volcano erupting we may make one out of salt dough. And talk about how volcanoes form. That counts as science as well as art.
We have used “Story of the World” for World History. It reads like a story so children love to gather around and listen to it. There is an activities book that you can buy which has a lot of fun hands-on ideas to do. When I’m doing this curriculum I really enjoy it, but I prefer to buy a textbook and make up my own lessons that fit our family. Story of the World comprises 4 books. It is geared for younger children and you can do a book a year, making it really affordable. Or you can use it for older children, do it everyday, and do 2 books a year. That’s the beauty of homeschooling! Maybe you’re a history buff family and you want to do all 4 books in one semester! Go for it! It also encompasses other subjects into it so if you “only” did history, you’re actually getting a full course of subjects.
The only art curriculum I have ever purchased is Artistic Pursuits. There are 4 books, two for elementary school and two for middle school. Therefore you can do each elementary book over the course of 2 years to make them last 4 years (grades 2-5) and then do each middle school book in one year. Or stretch them out to be done in high school also.
In this curriculum there are short, 1 page lessons highlighting an artist and their time period and then you do the art. Artistic Pursuits can be found on Christianbook.com or Rainbow Resource Center for about $40 each. This is a curriculum that is easy to find used on ebay, homeschool facebook groups, even Walmart. You don’t write in it so you only need 1 book per family, or to buy the whole series once. Then repeat it with subsequent children or sell it.
I’ve actually only done this curriculum once. All the other years I come up with activities that go along with the history lesson. One year we did art every Friday and each Friday was a different child’s day to lead it. He got to choose the project and we all did it with him. Sometimes it was drawing a scene from the beloved Biscuit books. Other times it was doing a ripping collage, painting, or drawing a picture/card for someone. Lately my kids love drawing videos like artforkidshub on youtube.
Links to the Curriculum We Use For Homeschooling
I get a small commission if you buy from my Amazon links, but the other places I don’t receive any commission. I just want it to be easy for you to find the curriculum we use. You can also search for these at used homeschool curriculum sales and groups or ebay. Let me know if you have any questions!