Our Homeschool Curriculum Choices
Want a peek inside our homeschool curriculum choices for the year?
Every year we get questions from friends, family, and acquaintances about what homeschool programs we use. I know how helpful it can be when narrowing down curriculum to see what other families are doing, so I’ve pulled together our choices for the 2020-2021 school year for you.
We have been homeschooling since our oldest started in preschool, and this school year, our kids will be going into 3rd and 5th grade. It’s taken us some trial and error to find exactly what works for us, and we still make tweaks every year.
In the past, if something didn’t work, we would try to stick it out anyway, but that has often turned out to be disastrous for us. Now, if something is clearly the wrong fit, we move on. It’s just not ever worth the relationship with my kids to end up in a fight over school every single day. Especially when there are so many fantastic options out there.
I say all this to emphasize that if you try something, we (or anyone else) recommends, and it’s not working for you, don’t feel guilty for changing things up.
If something isn’t working, almost always, it’s not you or your child. It’s that the program wasn’t the right fit. There’s just no way that one program will work perfectly for everyone!
Okay, now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about our choices for the year!
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Our Unit Study Curriculum
Gather ‘Round Homeschool
Last year, we were introduced to Gather ‘Round Homeschool, a beautiful unit study style homeschool program. The curriculum is designed by Rebecca Spooner of Homeschool On. She had been frustrated by the fact that her vision of having her children all gathered around her eager to learn was disappearing, so she felt called to create her own program, and Gather’ Round was born!
The 2019-2020 homeschool year was the first year this program was available, and we gave it a try right off the bat. I was so excited for a program that took a lot of concepts from the Charlotte Mason method (copywork, dictation, living books, etc.) but put them into a more manageable system. It was exactly what I had been hoping for.
We made it through several of the units from Year 1, but not all. Last year, our kids also attended a full day co-op once a week as well as an outdoor school. So, we only were able to do this program the other 2-3 days a week (math and reading happen daily, regardless).
At the beginning of each day, we read the daily lesson together and do any additional research we decide to do. At the end of each lesson are recommended resources to continue learning. Some days we did none, and other days we would spend an hour learning more about the subject.
After reading the lesson together, the boys would break out to their own workbooks to complete their work. For the most part, they were able to do their work with minimal guidance from me. However, some lessons require more research and writing, and, for those, they would need a little more assistance from me.
All in all, we typically completed this program in 1 1/2-2 hrs per day, and it technically contains everything except for math. I will say that we knew our kids needed a little extra spelling and grammar practice, so we also added in Language Lessons for a Living Education a few times a week. This certainly isn’t required for every student, but it’s something that we needed a little extra practice on.
After completing several units, we absolutely loved how it changed the flow of our days. There is way less stress (totally up our alley 😉), and our kids were more engaged than they have been on any other curriculum we have tried.
However, because we jumped in during their very first year, there were some (minor) growing pains. Rebecca and her team were working incredibly hard to get these out every month last year so we could have access, which is a ton of work!
The minor issues we noticed were things like the first couple of units being a bit “lighter” in terms of content. That said, it could make that transition from summer to school a little easier. 😉 In addition, there were also quite a few typos in the first edition of most units. However, since then, they have gone through a couple of revisions and fixed any issues they were aware of (and you can even submit typos when you find them), and the updates look great!
Typos aren’t exclusive to this program for sure, I just want to give you the entire picture. I mean, I remember wrong answers in the math books when I was in school all the time! All in all, I’m really impressed with how they have been continually updating and revising the units, and I’m so excited to keep teaching with them this year.
Math Homeschool Curriculum
For math, we use two different online programs currently. In the past, we have tried several options: Math-U-See, Singapore Dimensions, The Charlotte Mason Elementary Arithmetic Series, etc. Honestly, they were all great programs, but none of them were the right fit for us.
Last year, we switched to Beast Academy for our complete math curriculum, and we love it! They have a print or online version (or you can do a blend of the two).
We opted for the online version, and it has been the perfect fit. There are online guide books where the kids learn their concepts in a comic-book style lesson from the “Beasts”. In addition, there are instructional videos, practice, and puzzles for the kids to work through. This program is complete, engaging, and very thorough. If you opt for the online option, you’ll also get detailed reports that tell you what your kids are working on and share their progress with you.
I will mention that this program (like Singapore) is quite advanced. The thinking skills and concepts that are introduced do not necessarily correlate to their grade level. We highly recommend that you take their placement tests to find out exactly where your child fits best before starting with this program. Otherwise, you may find that your kids will be overwhelmed. Our kids typically spend 30-45 minutes on Beast Academy each day.
ProTip: Check how much time they are spending in the Beast Builder, making changes to their avatar. I had to turn that feature off for a while when I realized one sneaky kiddo was wasting a lot of time on it. 🤪 Thankfully, they make it super easy to do.
In addition to Beast Academy, we use Reflex Math. It is an online program set up with fair-style games for the kids to play while they practice their fluency. It is designed for kids in grade 2 and up to improve fluency in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
We have noticed huge strides in their ability to answer math facts quickly since using this program. We typically use this 1-3 days a week for 10-15 minutes at a time.
All in all, we typically finish all of our core curricula in 2-3 hours. Of course, we also have our share of THOSE days too where it seems that no one wants to do school and it drags on…and on…and on…and… And, that’s totally normal! So, if you have those days, know you’re not alone. It happens to everyone. Veteran homeschoolers will attest to that. Thank goodness, it doesn’t happen every day!
In the afternoons, we do spend time on other learning activities, such as our supplemental materials, reading, and exercise. But, our “must do’s” each day are typically finished by lunch.
Supplemental Homeschool Materials
Everything we listed above is our core curriculum and is designed to be complete on it’s own. However, if your kids need extra practice in an area, or if they are interested in a particular subject, you may choose to add in a few other items. We’ve included the items we are using or considering for the year to give you some ideas.
Note: None of these are requirements if you choose to do Gather ‘Round as it is designed to be a complete program, except for math. These are just some ideas if you’re looking for a little more.
Language Lessons for a Living Education
One of our kids, in particular, needs a little extra practice with handwriting, spelling, and grammar practice. For this, we have chosen to use Language Lessons for a Living Education as an option in the past. Because we technically already have the basics covered, I just consider this extra practice, which means we don’t do it every day. And, we may skip lessons that they already know and understand. I aimed for 2-3 days a week last year, however, this year we’ve decided to go with something different.
Brave Writer is the other language program we are considering. It is created by Julie Bogart (the author of The Brave Learner) and the goal of the program is to move your children through the natural process of learning to write as they are ready, not necessarily just checking a box on the scope and sequence. We’ve done one unit so far and everyone loved it. It’s very well thought out and makes it easy to implement in a short lesson each day.
Typing.com is an online, free typing program that is easy to use. Our kids have really seemed to enjoy this one, and I can tell their typing skills are definitely improving. Plus, free is great! 🙃
Touch-Type, Read, and Spell (TTRS)
Although Typing.com has served us well, we got the opportunity try out Touch-type, Read and Spell for an excellent deal through a group buy for TTRS and we are going to give it a try.
It’s a program designed to teach typing, while improving reading and spelling, as well. The multi-sensory approach works well for kids, including those with dyslexia. So far, our kids are loving it, the lessons are short, easy to fit into our day, and their typing skills are improving. You can check it out here and use coupon code: 10PC for 10%.
History & Current Events
I’m really determined to ensure that we have an inclusive history program over the years, and we often add individual books to supplement, however, I’m currently looking into a few other history options. I have not used any of these yet and am in research mode myself, but they may be great options for you if you’re also looking to do the same.
Honest History Magazine
Honest History Magazine is a magazine that comes out with four issues a year, so this is just an occasional add on, but it is supposed to give a more well-rounded view of history.
The Week Junior Magazine
The Week Junior is a weekly magazine that keeps kids up to date with current events. At the time of publish, they have made their digital versions available for free, but you can also get a print version delivered to your mailbox weekly.
Additional History Curriculums
More Than Words
More Than Words is a Bible program created by Rebecca Spooner (the creator of Gather’ Round). It is designed to take about 20 minutes/day and looks to be more of a journal-style Bible study for kids. If we feel the need to supplement, this will likely be our choice.
We have intended to try teaching the boys Spanish for the last few years, and I’ve tried some book-based programs that just weren’t the right fit. We’ve learned a little, but not enough. We had looked into Rosetta Stone, but the cost is pretty high when you break it down for all of us to learn together. It would cost $800-1000 for us all to have our own log-in to practice independently. And, we may go that route if we have to.
BUT, in my research, I came across a program that looks awesome.
It’s called Talkbox.mom, and it looks simply amazing. Adelaide is the creator of this program, and it’s got a unique style, which we are loving!
Essentially, it is a subscription box model of learning with a companion app and phrasebook and teaches you a new language in different areas of your life so you can actually speak (not just learn to conjugate verbs).
You sign up for a box and choose the frequency you will receive them – we started with every two months. Each box has a different theme and contains three challenges. For instance, the first box is The Snacks and Kitchen Box, so you learn phrases and words that you would use in the kitchen. Then, you learn together with your family those words and phrases before moving on to your next box.
We have already learned more in the first few weeks of Talkbox than we learned with a full year in another program – but, most importantly, we’re actually speaking in Spanish! We have worked out a special discount for our readers with Talkbox.mom and we are excited to offer you $20 off your first box and phrasebook!
Click here to get your first box and use code: thestokefam20 at checkout! You can also get $5 off the phrasebook if you choose to use it alone with code: thestokefam5.
I just ordered the MELChemistry kit for the boys. It’s a monthly subscription box with 2-3 experiments that COMES WITH EVERYTHING. I really don’t mind science experiments, but running around like crazy trying to get every little item can get overwhelming. And, Tomer has been asking for more experiments, so I think this is a great way to do it!
Click here to learn more about MELScience and the options available.
Supplemental Online Classes
Outschool or Our Local Homeschool Resource Center
Sometimes our kids are really interested in coding, animals, or other subjects, so supplementing with an elective just for fun is a great fit. These options are also great when your kid needs a little more in-depth lesson, and you are short on time. There are so many creative options available on Outschool!
Most likely, our kids will pick a couple of classes that are purely electives, just to keep it fun and motivate them. Plus, sometimes, these allow for interaction with other kids, and in today’s world, even if that’s virtual, it’s huge.
Our Homeschool Schedule
We are somewhat flexible in our weeks. For instance, John is typically off Mondays, so if we want to explore somewhere when he is off, we may not do school that day. We may choose to do it on Sunday instead, or only do 4 days that week.
But, in general, our schedule will be 4-5 days a week with Gather’ Round, math, and Talkbox, and then we will rotate through the supplemental materials.
For the additional subjects, we will not do each one every single day. For instance, we will probably alternate Typing and Langauge Lessons every other day. Then, science experiments will only be 2-3 days a month. If we miss a day, no worries, we just pick up where we left off.
The best part about homeschooling is you aren’t stuck to a particular schedule. In fact, if you ask me about our schedule regularly, it will probably change. Because life changes.
And, that’s okay.
We have a general guideline or goal and we modify as we go. So, if you find yourself not sticking to a “schedule”, it’s normal for most homeschoolers. Promise.
If you’re interested in how we typically plan to schedule our individual days, check out this post on our homeschool routine.
And, if you’re looking for a way to keep it all organized, we’ve got you covered! I decided to create my own planner again this year, as I’ve done in the past.
But, since I know how much it can be to keep track of, I also made it available to you! 🎉
Final Thoughts on Our Homeschool Curriculum Choices
Although everyone’s homeschool typically looks a little bit different, I hope getting a peek inside ours has helped you as you make decisions about your own homeschool year.
Now, it’s your turn to share! Tell me in the comments what curriculum you’re considering (or using) for your homeschool year.
Related Posts About Homeschooling
- How to Start Homeschooling (Without Feeling Overwhelmed)
- The Homeschool Questions You Need to Know – Answered!
- Homeschool Schedule: Do You Really Need One?
- The Ultimate Guide to Free Homeschool Resources
- Veteran Homeschool Mom’s Share Their Best Advice