When people ask me “What curriculum do you use?” I never know quite how to answer.
We embrace a mostly Charlotte Mason mindset for our homeschool. (You can read all about that method here.) And as I’ve learned more about how to implement this in our home, I’ve found more and more resources I like at Ambleside Online. If I had to say which single “curriculum,” I use, that would be it.
But Ambleside Online, and other resources for Charlotte Mason education is about so much more than “curriculum.” I follow some of their suggestions, and supplement in other places with resources that fit our family. And of course we read LOTS and LOTS of books.
Thus, our “curriculum” for the year is an ever-evolving list of books, projects, activities, and conversations. But if I had label what we’re actually using, these are the things that would make the list. (And lots of these resources are things you could use even if you don’t homeschool!)
Bible and Theology
This year, for our religious studies, we’ll be focusing primarily on apologetics. We’ve begun having conversations about apologetics with our kids already, but we begin to work through apologetics ideas a bit more systematically this time. We’re using the Case Makers Academy books from J Warner Wallace and the associated free resources on his website. We’re about halfway through our first book right now, and my boys love it.
Brave Writer is one of my very favorite resources for Language Arts. Their Arrow Single Issues are a really fun way to explore literature, writing, and grammar through their actual context in good stories. I know for sure we’ll be reading Redwall, Caddie Woodlawn, and My Side of the Mountain, but I probably need to choose at least one more title. The good news is, there are many great books to choose from.
One of my favorite things about the Charlotte Mason method is her insistence on using living books – that is, books by a single author, that tell a story—instead of dry, committee-written text. After a few years of trial and error, we’ve found that what sparks curiosity and learning for us is a great picture book.
There are truly some amazing books out there for kids on just about any topic you can imagine. This summer, we spent almost a month deep-diving into books about the moon landing. We seriously read probably 20 picture books. We all (mom included!) learned so much.
So we will explore history mostly that way this year. I plan to focus primarily on 19th and 20th century American history, with a particular emphasis on things like the Underground Railroad, the Civil War, Westward Expansion, American pioneers, WW1, Industrialization, the Great Depression, and WW2.
We’re also going to add mapping to our study of the US, and we’ll be learning to draw it with this book, starting in a couple of weeks. We’ll see how it goes!
Another major Charlotte Mason principle is nature study. I’m not great a getting outside with my kids, but nature walks are a whole lot easier for me to pull off than science experiments.
Right now, we’re using a NaturExplorers guide from Cindy West on spiders, and following the activity suggestions. We’ve seen all kinds of spiders and webs this summer, once we started looking for them, and we’ve been recording our findings about spiders, and other interesting things we notice or learn in nature journals. We’ll keep studying spiders as long as it’s interesting, and then we’ll move on to something else.
We may use the schedule from Ambleside Online, or we may buy another guide. So far, the boys are most interested in science involving animals, and I’m happy to let them keep pursuing that as long as it captures their attention.
We also like using picture books to supplement in this area when we can’t go outside (it’s been a scorcher this summer in Tennessee). We recently discovered Jim Arnosky’s picture books, and we can easily spend half an hour pouring over his gorgeous animal illustrations.
Our favorite art resource is ChalkPastel.com. My kids can be a little bit perfectionistic, and tend to have meltdowns when they don’t do something right (gee, I wonder where they get that?), and “Nana” has been such a kind and gentle guide for them as they grow in confidence in their artistic abilities. We aim to do one painting a week, and so far, I just use the videos on their You Tube channel, but I’d like to buy this set at some point.
We also study music, through hymns, as already discussed, and through classical music appreciation. I’ve used SQUILT in the past, and have had some success with their resources, (we like these cards) but this year we bought the Peter and the Wolf album from Maestro Classics and had a blast learning the music and all about Prokofiev. I’ll probably buy the Nutcracker one for Christmas.
Finally, after we move to South Dakota, we are hoping to purchase a full keyboard, mostly for me, but also so that I can begin to teach the boys to read music and play the piano. I have not yet decided on a method for this, though, so I’m open to suggestions!
This is about the only area where we have a true curriculum. I’m using Singapore Math 3 with both boys this year. We’ve been using it since first grade with Caleb. Every year about March, I start wondering if the grass is greener in some other math book, and I always end up coming back to Singapore. I really like it, and it seems to work for my boys, at least for now.
My primary math goal for both boys this year is for them to get a solid grasp of the multiplication tables. So if we get decently far in the year, and that isn’t happening, I’ll probably buy Kate Snow’s Multiplication Facts That Stick. I bought her addition and subtraction guides to help Caleb a couple years ago and loved them.
I also want my boys to think math is interesting and fun, so I try to take time on a regular basis to throw in some “fun” math – we have especially enjoyed the Penrose books this year so far. We also play tons of board games as a family, and the boys enjoy the math-based video game, Prodigy.
So that’s what we’re using this year in our homeschool. Do you homeschool? What are you using this year?
Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. Thanks for supporting Faith Starts at Home!