homeschooling :: tips for choosing curriculum

Disclaimer:  Today I’ll be sharing at length about my curriculum choices.  Grab a cup of coffee and read along if you are interested.  I’ll be back with part 2 of this post Monday:  How I go about planning our days and attempting balance and a sense of calm.


I believe the last time I shared anything about our homeschooling journey was in October.  Clearly, it has taken up all kinds of time and energy, which is evidenced in my light blog posts.  I had half-intended to chronicle what it’s like to homeschool for those of you who may be considering taking on the task or are in the same boat as we are.  (We are only homeschooling our youngest son.  This is the first year and he is in 4th grade.)  Obviously, those regular posts have not happened.  “Life is life and life is life,” is my son’s maxim.  Deep thoughts for your Friday.

For the record, I would have to say the “experts” are right.  They say to plan on one month of de-schooling for every year your child was in a traditional school setting.  De-schooling, in this case, refers to the time period it takes for a child who has been removed from school to adjust to learning in an unstructured environment.  Youngest has always been able to get his work done.  I think the de-schooling period referred to here may have more to do with the adjustments I have had to make as a formerly unemployed stay-at-home-mom.


I have said all along that one of the hardest parts about taking on the task of homeschooling has been finding a curriculum that we are both suited to and that would allow me to navigate through the year with clarity and confidence.  We have been using Bob Jones for Spelling, Abeka for Language Arts, a Spectrum workbook for reading comprehension, and we breezed through a Spectrum 4th Grade workbook for Math.  Since we are considering sending our guy to the Christian school his older brother goes to next year, I asked for their year-end math test to see what holes I need to fill in or areas we need further review.  There were only a couple, so I’m going to have to make decisions about whether or not I will forge ahead with 5th grade Math in the next month or so.

Science and Social Studies have been a little more hodgepodge…until now.  We did Amanda Bennett’s unit study on Thanksgiving during the month of November.  It was a great resource for the period in history prior to the first Thanksgiving and really kept me accountable to covering the material daily.  If you are struggling to persevere in a subject, I recommend finding an online unit study that has been created with daily things to cover.  Bonus: You can’t beat the price!  As the weeks went on, I used her unit study a bit loosely and covered the same material in my own way so that my son didn’t get bored opening the computer to her links again and again.  We also did Amanda Bennett’s unit study on Benjamin Franklin.  Both studies included some great recommendations for living literature that we enjoyed together.  It may sound like a bit of a cop out, but we have really enjoyed books on CD.  My son is one of those boys who does not enjoy reading, but will read if he must, so listening to books read aloud keeps him engaged in valuable literature.  I’ve learned that he absorbs material best when he hears it and is allowed to picture it in his mind and then retell it (as many of us do).  That is one of the reasons I also love the Story of the World book/CD, read by the engaging and mesmerizing Jim Weiss.  It is such a fantastic resource for a chronological history of the world!  We listen to our CDs most often while driving in the car.  Two birds, one stone.

Currently we are engaged in Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes as we study the Revolutionary War.  Please allow me to back up a bit to that moment when I had a breakthrough and was finally able to narrow my focus and chart a clear course for the second half of our school year.


By the end of December, I was tired of feeling like I was merely enduring the task of homeschool.  One day, seemingly out of the blue (thank you God!), I made a decisive commitment to follow the KONOS curriculum for Science and Social Studies for the rest of the year.  I had already purchased the curricula and was referring to it on occasion and toying with the idea of just following the KONOS how-to-teach videos.  You can check it out at  We are following the Volume 2 videos online, which mainly cover history, but I have made a schedule to include KONOS Science alongside History.  Getting a plan on paper for the rest of the school year has been SUCH a relief!  It was a major breakthrough for me.

I won’t go into a lengthy explanation of what is provided on Homeschool Mentor here.  Visit the site.  If you need a spine to your curriculum plan or need help knowing HOW to teach, I highly recommend digging into this site.  KONOS values discovery learning that is based on training your children up in their character.  It’s a really unique approach to learning that is missing in so many traditional schools.

Since we are studying the Revolutionary War, I thought I would share a few additional sources I have used to assist what I’m following on the online videos put out by the writers of the KONOS curriculum.  I found this fun source for animated maps of the battles.  I have also used the DVD series The Revolution that was put out by the History Channel as a visual aid to the stories of battle and courage and the major players in the Revolutionary War.  (Prescreening first, of course.)  KONOS encourages us to have our kids act out the history in costume, which would nearly kill my son!  Instead, I’m having him use Playmobil guys we invested in long ago to create Smoovies of the battles.  Smoovies are stop motion animation videos created for the computer.  In my mind, these videos are made with elaborate settings full of detail.  I’m learning to let my son do his thing as he creates his own version of these movies.  ;)  The goal is simply to show me he is learning the material well enough to re-enact it.

As for Science, we are currently studying the systems of the body.  I have used the book Blood and Guts by Linda Allison and “Bill Nye, The Science Guy” videos.  I’m following the lesson plans provided in the KONOS curriculum, which take you through one system a week under the guise of talking about the character trait of cooperation.  It’s a relief to be able to cover these topics knowing I am more or less introducing vocabulary and facts about the body without the pressure of teaching a high level anatomy class!  They are also easy things to bring up in conversation here and there, further reinforcing knowledge.  (“What muscular movement is happening as you digest your lunch?  What kind of muscle is doing that work?”  See, easy peasy.)


I hope this helps anyone who may be struggling in their homeschooling experience or who may be curious about how it all looks.  I’d say we really turned a corner this month and I feel much more settled with what needs to get done to be prepared to do my job with excellency.  I’ll be back Monday with part 2:  How I go about scheduling our days and tips I am determined to follow for finding balance.

images via because you can’t have a lot of words without pretty pictures (and, apparently, a few hokey analogies to go along with!)


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