or What Works for Us...
Reading - Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Lessons, I found this on Amazon by typing in "teach your child to read". It had good reviews and it wasn't very expensive. It was my very first curriculum purchase :) It has worked out well so far. Sierra is reading on or above grade level and Kali is gaining fluency very quickly. Side note: Sierra only made it to lesson 50 before wanting to quit and just read books with my help. Kali made it to lesson 75. I have just started with Arwen and we are maybe on lesson 7. We also used Bob books and the Now I am Reading series. I think any inexpensive phonics curriculum would work fine. I have not found any need to spend a lot of money teaching phonics.
Handwriting - We have used Handwriting without Tears with moderate success. Sierra was queen of backwards letters and numbers. She is getting better, but still occasionally make backwards p's. We will probably use copywork for handwriting practice from now on. I am also interested to see if copywork is as helpful for spelling and grammar as I have heard. I bought the Startwrite CD that has different handwriting fonts, but it doesn't work on my computer, so I ended up returning it. I may try Fonts for Teachers. Then I can type up sentences in print and cursive and put them in a jar for the girls to pick one out of each day. I don't know if I will use HWT for Arwen. She has the Kindergarten book and actually asked for it yesterday. I also have the first grade book, so if she is interested we will use it. I also may get the third grade cursive books for Kali and Arwen when the time comes.
Composition - I haven't done anything formal, yet. Sierra writes her own stories sometimes, but I haven't given her any assignments. I plan to buy The Writer's Jungle next year when Sierra would be in the 5th grade. I would buy it sooner, but it is $97 - yikes.
Spelling - We borrowed Spelling Power and Sierra didn't like it, so I decided not to spend $65 on it... I spent $15 on Natural Speller instead. It is really just a bunch of word lists. I haven't found a really good way to do spelling. I don't think memorizing word lists works very well. We didn't do much spelling in 1st and 2nd grade. We used the Comprehensive Curriculum workbooks and they had a spelling section, but I am not sure how much they helped. In 2nd grade I also had Sierra use a website called Look Cover Write Check. A friend found an interesting spelling program called All about Spelling. It looks very interesting, but it is $30 a year and has 6 books. This year I am going to try Basic/Not Boring Spelling workbooks. I might also consider the Spelling Workout books. I didn't look too much into them for this past year because Sierra was sick to death of workbooks after 3 years of the Comprehensive Curriculum books. *** after looking at Spelling Workout, I decided to stick with the Basic/Not Boring workbooks.
Grammar - I like First Language Lessons for 1st and 2nd grade. Yes, it is repetitive, but it is a very gentle introduction to grammar. I think early grammar is a good idea, but I don't think it needs to be addressed in a formal textbook/workbook kind of way. The 3rd grade book by Jessie Wise comes out this summer. It looks really good and I plan to buy it for Kali when she reaches 3rd grade. Rod and Staff grammar worked really well for Sierra this year. After about week 3 we began doing the practice exercises out loud and it worked great. Sierra learned a lot and we didn't do a lot of written work, which she hates. Rod and Staff is very thorough and covers things not in other grammar curriculum, like homonyms, synonyms and antonyms, and letter writing. Since it is written for schools, it does repeat things, so I plan to buy the 4th, 6th and 8th grade books and use them each for 2 years. If I wanted something secular, I would use first Language Lessons for 1st - 3rd and then skip to Hake grammar's 5th grade level.
Math - Ah, Math. For 1st and 2nd grade with Sierra I used the math section of the Comprehensive Curriculum workbooks. We also did some hands on math activities and read math readers from the library. Then when 3rd grade came, I got nervous about the BIG test(testing is required in 3rd, 5th, 7th, etc. in CO) and thought I needed a "real" math curriculum. I didn't want to spend $100 on a math curriculum, so I bought Abeka. It is an organized colorful workbook and I knew from WTM that it has too much drill, so I would only make Sierra do a few problems in each section. Still, she was burned out on it in 2 months. Just seeing all the problems on the page overwhelmed her. So, after researching all the math curriculum I could find. I decided on Right Start. It's very hands on, lots of games and not a lot of worksheets and the lesson book was easy for me to understand how to teach each concept. Kali did not enjoy Right Start B that I borrowed from a friend, so I am going to try Singapore with her next year. Originally, I didn't like Singapore because I didn't understand the mental math, but Kali likes workbooks and Singapore is highly recommended, so I am going to try it. Who knows what will work for Arwen? I am also going to try a program called Systematic Math. It has a download for 1st -3rd grade for $15 that suggests games and activities instead of a formal curriculum.
History - I like Story of the World. We also get a lot of the recommended books from the library to go along with it. The only thing about Story of the World is that since it goes in order from the beginning, you don't get to American History until 3rd grade. Starting out with Sierra, I knew nothing about Ancient History. I didn't know anything about Story of the World at the time, so I used the What Your ____ Grader Needs to Know. It does both World History starting from the beginning and American History at each grade level. I let dh teach the Ancient History and I did the American History. I thought it was important that my child learn American History just like schooled kids, so they could join in the " great conversation". Of course, now I realize that there is no "great conversation" among elementary school kids, but still there are lots of times when colonial times, the American Revolution, Civil war or Pioneers do come up in books and television shows. But right now Story of the World is working really well for us, so we are going to stick with it and go in depth into American History when we get there.
Science - I have just been following the What Your___Grader Needs to Know recommendations. I do the same topics with both Sierra and Kali. The topics repeat, so I can cover the K and 1st grade stuff with Kali while adding in the 3rd grade stuff for Sierra. We get books from the library on each topic, do experiments occasionally, and get kits that go with topics if I can find good ones at a reasonable price. I am looking into get the Real Science 4 Kids series starting when Sierra is in the 6th grade. The have Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. From what I have heard they cover very advanced topics on a kids level. By that time Arwen will be 7 and the 3 girls could all learn together, each at their own level. Oh, and I would like to take regularly nature walks. Weekly would be great, but monthly is more realistic.
Music - We try to cover a few composers a year. We get books from the library like World's Greatest Composers by Venezia and CDs to listen to.
Art - We do the same thing that we do with composers. We try to learn about a few artists every year, gotta love the Venezia books and I also use Discovering Great Composers to get idea of how to do art like each of the artists we are studying. I am planning to buy Art Basics for Children this year to help the girls learn more art techniques. We are having art classes at our co-op in the Fall which is going to be nice, too, since I am totally clueless when is comes to technique.
Poetry - We usually spend one or two weeks per school year reading poems from a specific poet or learning about types of poetry and writing our own poetry. I also like to sneak poetry into our bedtime reading. I am hoping to start doing a regular(again, ideally weekly, but more likely monthly) teatime in which we read poetry.
Literature - We read most nights at bedtime. Sometimes picture books and sometimes chapter books. Our best literature times are in the car. When I read chapter books aloud at home, Arwen still interrupts too much to make it very enjoyable. This year we listened to Mary Poppins, The whole City of Ember series, A Cricket in Times Square, Tuck Everlasting, and we are now working on The Witch of Blackbird Pond.
Foreign Languages - We have very casually been working on Spanish and Sign Language by getting videos from the library occasionally. I would like to continue Sign Language with more videos and a co-op class. I plan to try out Rosetta Stone this year for Spanish through the Chattanooga Library. You can use their online services for $30 a year.
Latin - when I first read WTM, I thought the idea of teaching Latin was crazy, especially for elementary kids, but I have slowly come around to the idea of at least exposing my kids to Latin. Both Melissa Wiley and Julie Brennan (of Living Math) have their kids learn Latin. I have learned a lot from both of them and they both have very unschooly tendencies, so I figure if they think it is worth teaching, I should give it some consideration. I recently bought Minimus. It is a cartoon type book about a family in Britain during the Roman Empire. We did a few chapters in May when we were learning about the Roman Empire, but haven't looked at it since we have been in summer mode. I plan to pick it back up when we get more structured in the Fall. Once we finish Minimus, I am looking into getting either Latin is Not So Tough or Elementary Latin or both.
Even if we don't formally study Latin, I would like to spend some time learning about words that get their roots from Latin and Greek. I picked up English From the Roots up and Rummy Roots both used this year and hope to be able to squeeze it into our schedule. I plan to be pretty relaxed about it and use them at our own pace with no rush to get through them
Coming up: how I plan to fit this all in a reasonable schedule...