Thursday, July 31, 2008

Curriculum Overload

I feel like I should just take up residence at my local Homeschool Resource store. It seems I've been living among the stacks for the last couple of weeks. I think I decide on one curriculum brand, then when I go to look at it more closely, I see something I like better. I think I know what will benefit the kids, then I question my objectives. There are so many good options, and so many incredible approaches, that I'm having the hardest time making a decision.

I have decided that I won't be using LifePac, as I previously thought I would (with the exception of Bible. I may still go that route.). I think workbook after workbook would bore the kids. Instead, I'll be using a variety of products and educational approaches. Of course, nothing is final yet, but at this point, I think I've come pretty close to making a decision. (Note: my knowledge is still quite limited, but I've convinced myself I know what I'm talking about.)

For math, I believe we're going to use Rod & Staff Math, and that for a few reasons. In opposition to the spiraling approach found in Saxon and A Beka products, R&S relies on drills and facts, which was something that was sort of skipped over when I was in school. Being married to the human calculator is a bit intimidating when I still multiply on my fingers. Additionally, the cost of the Rod & Staff curriculum is very reasonable. The hardback Teacher's Edition costs less than the consumable student texts in other programs. Since we're just getting started and we're buying stuff for every subject, since we'll need textbooks for learning math at two different grade levels, and since our overall expenses are climbing, the cost-effectiveness of this program is very appealing. The customer reviews for Rod & Staff are very promising, and it appears to be just what we're looking for.

I feel most passionate about Language Arts, however, it's the subject causing me the most frustration. I've looked at The Shurley Method, and don't think it's for us. I've read a few books and websites about the Charlotte Mason method, and while I think it's a really interesting approach to learning, I think as a whole, it's a bit too liberal and unpredictable for our structured family. Part of me thinks we'd benefit by settling somewhere in the middle, perhaps by using Learning Language Arts Through Literature or Five in a Row. But then, when I think about all of the topics covered in one book, I wonder how my advanced readers would benefit. I think they wouldn't be as challenged as they should be. Instead, we'll likely pick a Grammar curriculum (like BJU) and a solid Phonics/Spelling program like Phonics Zoo or Explode the Code.

Since those are the two major subjects for their grade level, I feel like once I make a final decision, we're good. To supplement those subjects, we'll work a bit on History (A Beka) and Science (BJU). Bub expressed an interest in learning some French, so I have a Basic French text and some Teach Me French CDs. I have some really great stuff for Art, but for music, I'm stumped (other than enrolling them in private lessons). I nearly bought three years worth of God Made Music curriculum today, but decided since I don't know my do-re from my ti-do, I should wait.

Meanwhile, a friend in Oklahoma called ]today to say that she has everything I need for second and third grade, provided I come to the Tulsa area to pick it up. The kids and I were hoping to go up once more before we began schooling, so the timing could not be more ideal. Regardless of how much research I've done, what she gives us will play a part in the decisions we make. I'd love any thoughts, tips, or advice.


  • Karen

    I think the idea of "drills and facts" for learning math is great. For my son practice & repition is key & it will make the more advanced math easier if there is a really strong foundation in knowing how to compute.
    I think you will do an amazing job with what ever material you use.
    I too am married to a human calculator.

  • Christy

    I agree, drills and facts are a good foundation versus the traditional spiraling methods taught in school. Chelsea took Kumon Math one summer and benefitted greatly.

  • Tricia

    Here's a little advice from a mom who has been doing this for a while.

    Write down what you feel is MOST IMPORTANT to get every day.

    For me and my house it's Family Devotions, Math and Language Arts.

    With that knowledge, you can prioritize. If you're having a stressful day, you can put the science textbook away and go for a walk instead. If you're feeling overwhelmed, forget the music curriculum and put on a classical CD and draw with your kids.

    My point is, if you don't decide in advance what you feel you MUST get done every day, you'll feel like you must get it ALL done every day and that is a sure route to burn out.

    FWIW, I did not do any kind of formal science text at all until my kids were old enough for Apologia General Science, we just watched documentaries and looked at books and took a hands on science class here and there at our co op. They haven't suffered for it at all!

    You'll do fine!

  • SmockLady

    I adore Math-U-See for similar reasons you like R&S.
    Here is a link to many of my resources. We are very eclectic because what I like about one thing in one curriculum I find weak in another area.

  • MooBeeMa

    I love reading about how others choose their curriculum. Thanks for sharing your process!

  • Elizabeth

    I have a girlfriend who uses color the classics - She says that you listen to the music while coloring and learning about major composers and pieces. Just a thought. :-)

  • Linda

    You sound a lot like myself...I think I've got it all figured out, and then, not so much. There's soooo many curriculum choices to wade through that, honestly, it's overwhelming.

    I completely agree with what Tricia said about prioritizing what is most important to accomplish every day. And, I recommend that you try not to stress too much about what curriculum you choose for this year. This is a learning year -- learning what works for you, what works for each of your kids, what works for your family as a whole. Some things you'll love, some things you'll decide to modify.

    Enjoy the process. :)

  • Randi

    Just remember that nothing is set in stone ... you can change every year, you can change mid-year, you can make up your own. At your kids' ages, you won't miss anything huge ... you have time to get the kinks worked out. I know how you think and you'll be awesome at this ... you're organized and methodical and you'll do so well!

  • Melanie

    Oh my goodness! You have no clue how I laughed out loud reading this! I found your blog from Ainsley's at I am going to be starting to homeschool 3 out of 5 of my kids this year. And just when I think I have decided what I'm going to use, I switch. I have decided to go with LifePac for this year. I just couldn't take the indecisiveness anymore!

    I *think* that next year I might try Learning Language Arts through Literature. I like the idea behind it. I also like Singapore math. There is a lot of drills and facts with it too. You may want to look into it if you haven't already. I'm going to supplement this year with The Backyard Scientist also. I'm nervous and anxious about homeschooling all at the same time!

    Good luck!

  • Melanie

    I should add, that the reason I laughed was because I have been going through the same thing with finding something and then deciding against it. It's very frustrating!

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