Homeschooling: Elementary Curriculum

What curriculum should I use? This seems to be among the biggest concerns of people who are considering homeschooling. I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all curriculum anywhere out there that would work for our family. For us, the beauty of homeschooling lies in the variety of sources to pull from and the freedom to change it up when something stops working or there is a shift in interests.

For elementary school, we did not even use a particular curriculum for any subject until our eldest was in third grade. When we started, we used to print out the Sunshine State Guidelines at the start of each year to give ourselves a rough idea of what their peers may cover over the course of the school year. We just talked, answered questions, and used sources from a variety of places from online teacher sites to books from the Goodwill bookstore based on their interests. Mainly we just talked, played and read.

As the kids got further along in elementary school, we added some other resources. Here are some of our favorites:

Math: We’ve used Singapore Math with all 3 older kids with great success. They also love the Murderous Maths series of books for pleasure reading. This is math learning in a story format with fun, comics and humor – a completely different approach from what I had as a child. It helps that their father has a degree in maths so their conversations are also a big part of learning. We happen to have a couple of very math-oriented children so our resources include anything from books like Math Jokes for Mathy Folks {Why was the math book depressed? Because it had so many problems!!} and DVDs like The Story of Math.They also have access to websites such as www.coolmath.com and www.khanacademy.com. I’m no expert but I think variety, humor and low-pressure exposure are key to math success. Not to mention real-life applications!

Language Arts: I believe grammar and spelling are important. I want my kids to be able to put together a complete and coherent sentence. I often let my 3rd grade son pick topics for compositions that interested him – and those mostly had to do with Lego. Or reptiles. It doesn’t matter so much to me what he writes about – it’s about learning to write in an engaging thoughtful way, whether it’s directions, fiction, poetry, interviews, research or prose. I find it’s much more successful and much less stressful if they just write about what they love. Mostly, I think reading is key.

We’ve used Razzle Dazzle Writing and Writing Superstars by Melissa Forney. I like these ebooks a lot because I can print out pages for multiple kids but also I like the style. This year for fourth grade, we have added several books from Critical Thinking including Word Roots and Editor-in-Chief. These have been a great addition to our resources.

History & Social Studies:

  • History of the World by Susan Wise
  • Horrible Histories / Horribly Famous

Science: We’ve done a variety of things for science including homeschool classes at MOSI in Tampa and homeschool classes at South FL Museum. The latter are far superior! The kids liked the classes at MOSI well enough but they always seemed to feature some sort of junk food and were a little too basic. The classes at SFM are phenomenal. My eldest said it best when she told me the reason she liked the classes so much was because the teacher, Mr. Jeff, talked to them like they were adults and didn’t talk down to them. That speaks volumes.

Furthermore, we’ve got a bunch of quality DVDs, mostly as gifts and many are available on netflix, such as: Blue Earth, Frozen Planet, Life, etc. These are wonderful for the whole family to watch and easy to tie into activities in other subjects, such as geography, writing, reading, science, art… I just found a Facebook group all about homeschooling with netflix so I look forward to getting more resources there.

Again, we love those horrible books: Horrible Science / Horrible Geography. 

They have access to websites such as www.thehappyscientist.com where they love to watch the videos and recreate the experiments.

Physical Education: Our kids have been enjoying karate classes for years. But more importantly, we just let them climb trees, ride their bikes, swim in the pool, and ripstik to their heart’s content.

Arts & Music: We love the schooltime performances at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. They offer quality programs for only $7 per person. The kids have been exposed to plays, musicals, dance, all sorts of wonderful productions AND learned the importance of respecting the artistic efforts of others. We’ve also enjoyed art classes, art summer camps for sculpture and glass work, and of course have arts and craft supplies at home they can dive into any time they like.

The kids all have weekly piano lessons. Neither parent can play an instrument so we feel this is a gift to them. It’s wonderful to hear their progress.

Computer Technology: We start with typing and my older kids loved the BBC Dance Mat typing program. They got to print certificates as they progressed and it has resulted in some solid typing skills that I have to admit put my own 4-finger typing habits to shame. The kids have some favorite websites they get to spend time on (besides www.lego.com).

We want them to be familiar with the technology that will play a huge role in their futures. They each have their own accounts on the computer, they each have an email address and limited online access. We send them emails with cool links or stories as we find them. They also dabble in some html computer programming under my husband’s guidance.

Extra Activities: The kids have participated in Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, Y-Guides and a variety of field trips with our local homeschoolers/unschoolers groups.

Leave a Reply