This past school year was the first year we began seriously using curriculum. Oh, we’ve dabbled here and there, using a few pages from this math curriculum and a chapter from that reading curriculum. We are relaxed homeschoolers or unschoolers, so, we mostly learn through hands on and experience, playing games, researching interests and learning as we live life, through cooking, field trips, grocery shopping, etc. This year the kids were enrolled in a more “schooly” charter school and the teachers wanted us to follow curriculum, so we gave it a shot, but I knew we would need to find relaxed homeschool curriculum that would work with our values and family dynamics.
Some curriculum is much too involved and if it takes a long time for me to prep and plan out a lesson before even getting the kids involved, I know I will never do it. With my work schedule, I need a relaxed homeschool curriculum where the kids are able to work independently as much as possible and when I am needed, things need to be as simple as possible for me to understand and teach. Having both kids working on the same things at the same time, even though they are different grade levels, is easiest for all of us. So, I was very choosy and looked at curriculum choices carefully before we began. Once we found a few that were really easy to implement and the kids could pretty much use them independently, the going was fairly easy.
It took a little getting used to, but the kids quickly did and, sooner than expected, they were doing their assignments each day without my even asking. We created a relaxed schedule where they were required to do a few pages from their math workbooks and reading workbooks each day before they could go off and do as they pleased. Other subjects we covered together.
These are the curriculum choices that we all liked, that worked best for us.
Relaxed Homeschool Curriculm Recommendations
Curriculum we liked this year:
Used for both a 1st grader and 4th grader. These can be used for any elementary age, just get the appropriate level for your child.
Explode the Code – We purchased books through our Charter School, but I recently found out about Explode the Code Online.
My kids enjoy these workbooks and I like the simplicity of the instructions and illustrations.
My kids have been playing Reading Eggs for a few years, they absolutely love it! The reading games are fun and engaging, with silly songs and characters. Each level they complete hatches an egg with a funny critter inside. They are always excited to complete a new level and see what the their new critter will be. They also earn golden eggs throughout the levels, which they can use to purchase goodies for their home and avatar.
Susan Barton Reading System, this one I sat and did with my child. It really made a huge difference in his reading confidence! We’ve come to the conclusion that he is dyslexic, and this worked really well for him. This is specifically designed reading curriculum for dyslexic students. We were given the curriculum through his charter school, but you can buy the Susan Barton Reading System online. I loved level one which was all about listening to sounds and developing phonemic awareness. Going back to the basics and making sure he was strong in this area helped him so much! I hadn’t realized he was not listening carefully and missing sounds.
He liked the blank color tiles he moved and touched to represent sounds he was hearing and through their videos, we quickly learned hand signals so he would know to repeat, spell, or sound out a word slowly, without my talking.. The hand signals are wonderful so as not to talk and interrupt my student’s thought process. In level 2 he moved on to letter tiles, and we continued with the hand signals. I like that there are no pictures, which tend to distract my child and then he’ll guess at words based on the pictures, rather than sounding them out. I can’t recommend this method enough for teaching reading to dyslexics.
Math U See – I love that there is a DVD lesson and then the kids can do their work independently. They like using the math manipulative blocks to visualize the math concepts and have a better understanding of it. Each chapter includes review, so they get plenty of practice and retain what they have learned. I asked my kids to complete the first section of each chapter in their workbooks. If they completed it without problem, they would do a review page in that chapter and then move on to the next chapter. If they struggled, I asked them to do a second or even third page of problems, over the next day or two until I felt they had a good understanding of the concept. There are not too many problems on each page, so it’s not overwhelming or tedious.
Math Seeds online math program through Reading Eggs.
We love Reading Eggs, and the online math games, Math Seeds, is just as much fun! My kids really like playing it, so they get some extra math practice whenever they want to play. I don’t require it, but it’s a fun way to strengthen math skills and enjoy math.
We all enjoy listening to the Story of the World Audio CD’s whenever we are traveling. We have sat in the car even after returning home because we wanted to hear the rest of the story. Often we will revisit a chapter because we’ve listened to many more chapters while we were out and about or traveling and are long past the chapter we wanted to do a history project on! In the past we attended a history club with a group of homeschoolers where they would do a project together, have a group discussion, look at other relevant books and props having to do with the chapter we had all read, and sometime dress up and/or act out skits based on what they are learning.
Since then, I have come up with my own projects, but this year our charter school supplied me with the Story of the World Activity Guide, which made it easy to have maps, coloring pages, and project ideas on hand. The less prep I have to do, the better.
Story of the World Activity Guide
The Story of the World is a great place to start for learning world history. For each chapter or set of chapters, we pick up relevant books from the library including facts about people and places, folk tales, art and make some favorite foods from cultures and places around the world.
There are multiple projects in each kit with easy to follow instructions. One kit comes every month, so this has lasted us more than a year. Each kit has most of the supplies, so this busy, working-homechooling mom didn’t have to search to come up with supplies!
For a family that had been pretty much unschooling, this was a big change. We started out doing too much and I knew all of us would soon be on burn out, so together we created a relaxed schedule that was do-able for all of us.
We also began a Math Journal, which was so well received we may be doing journals in multiple subjects next year or starting a writing journal at least. Check out tons of ideas for Math journals on my Pinterest Math Journal board. We did some lap books here and there, which I usually incorporated into our Wednesday project days. This really helped me make time for projects as I work a lot, so it’s hard to spontaneously do things that need any prep.
I am not great at following a schedule. If it’s too full, I’ll feel overwhelmed or stifled and stop looking at my schedule at all! Narrowing it down to just a few things we really want to get to each day, while leaving a lot of open room and having curriculum that was simple enough to follow and much the kids could do independently, left us all feeling accomplished and still free to pursue our own interests.
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