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Curriculum: What We Use and Why

Updated: Jul 26, 2022

I adapted this post so that those who wanted a condensed version of the curriculum we use wouldn't have to read through our homeschool day and set up. As a note, we don't follow a formal one-stop shop curriculum. We are eclectic homeschoolers. But first let's talk about the big elephant in the room. What is a curriculum!? A curriculum is everything that you need to teach your child a particular subject. It includes the actual lesson plans, resources, assessments, and other academic content that you will need to teach. A regular curriculum for any subject area has:

  • Outcomes: What will students be able to do by the end of the course/year?

  • Essential Materials: What will you use to teach and what will students use to learn? This includes workbooks and teacher's guides.

  • Assessments: How will you know that you’re effectively teaching?

  • Standards Alignment: How well does it adhere to federal, state, and school standards?

  • Syllabus (i.e. calendar): What will you teach and when?

  • Final Project: What final accomplishment will your students use to prove what they’ve learned the topic?

OUR CURRICULUM Phonics and Reading: We use my own created curriculum that incorporates Open Court Reading phonics (K-2) and anthology stories as well as novel studies. I used OCR as a first and second grade public school teacher for years and I still love it. I believe in teaching phonics first when teaching children how to read and Open Court is a good program for that. I bought the anthologies, sound/spelling cards, readers and vocabulary cards from thriftbooks. I did not buy the teacher's guides, student workbooks or assessments. I created my own full "curriculum" based on the anthology stories and added my own schedule of skills, topics and assessments. I supplement with many types of literature such as BOB books, storybooks, Scholastic magazines, poetry and selected novels for Reading. Our novels span topics, genres, themes, cultures, etc. We typically read 1 themed story from our anthology, 1 scholastic news article or 1 chapter from our selected chapter book per week together and I then incorporate vocabulary, spelling, writing and grammar into that week. Spelling: We used 10 minute spelling workbooks for independent quick drill/weekly practice in the morning or homework from PreK-2nd grade. Since 2020, we've used Wordly Wise vocabulary and we all love it.

Writing: Kujichagulia Press Handwriting and Journaling books and Kamali Writing Prompts . In 2021-2022, we incorporate Writeshop after exhausting the aforementioned; and will continue with Writeshop. Grammar: We use Kamali Grammar and Editor in Chief. We love both. I use Kamali as my core and Editor in Chief for reinforcement of skills. It's a fun way to get them practicing what they've learned. Next year (2021-2022), we will continue to use the next series of Editor in Chief. We have completed all Kamali Grammar books. Math: We use Singapore Math and Kamali Math for reinforcement of certain skills. We've used Singapore Math since my oldest (now 10) was in first grade (so at least 4 years). We have tried Teaching Textbooks and Khan Academy as a supplemental visual/video resource but I still love the rigor of Singapore. We continue to use this curriculum.

Science: We used 180 days of Science workbook for a year but it is not really rich enough. It covers the skills needed for the grade at a minimal level so we would supplement with field trips. We also subscribed to Mystery Science and KiwiCrate. We used Carson Dellosa Human Body workbook this year. I like the Carson Dellosa books for upper elementary. They will begin using these next year as the disciplines (biology, chemistry, etc.) are taught individually. We also use and love the Max Axiom graphic novel series! We supplement with Outschool and Maroon Life Learning classes as well. For the 2021-2022 AY we used Pandia Press Biology and Life Science and loved it. We will be using the Physics and Astronomy books for the 2022-2023 AY. Geography: Road Trip USA and Expedition Earth (We love these homeschool resources by Confessions of a Homeschooler and use it EVERY year because my kids still think it's fun). We also use Rand McNally Geography workbooks every year. Social Studies/History: We used 180 Days of Social Studies for one half a year but my boys didn't find it interesting enough. Again, it was a barebones workbook to cover the skills needed for the grade. We use Mark Twain Media workbooks , 365 Days of Black History, Kamali Academy's 50 Afrikans You Should Know, and more African History books. We started Woke Homeschooling's Oh Freedom in 2021 and love it.

Art: The boys take art classes at a local art studio. When they were younger (PreK-1st grade) we would visit local art museums in the area. I focused on Art Appreciation and the Elements of Design.



I am not an art teacher but I love art and both are easy to implement in a homeschool. We would watch a video about a particular element. Then they'd bring along their sketchbooks to the museum and I would ask them probing questions to get them to explore, replicate and critique various pieces of art. We also have a collection of art books at home that we regularly thumb through and discuss.

Music: The boys take piano and drum lessons. We also have been doing SQUILT for years and they still enjoy it. SQUILT stands for super quiet uninterrupted listening time. We listen to different genres of music and talk about how it makes us feel. We also discuss tempo, rhythm, etc. You can find out more here.


 

FINAL THOUGHTS: As you can see, I like a core set/brand of books and I have stuck with those over time:


Math: Singapore Math

ELA: Editor in Chief, Wordly Wise, Kamali Grammar, Kujichagulia Press ELA books

Social Studies: Mark Twain Media, Rand McNally Geography, Oh Freedom

Science: Max Axiom, Maroon Life Learning online courses


I supplement because I don't feel that anyone publisher has everything we need. I have tried many different publishing companies as a homeschool mom and certified teacher. Some of my favorite supplemental materials are: Scholastic News TeachersPayTeachers Kids.Nationalgeographic.com Khan Academy Outschool KiwiCrate

Teaching Textbooks

Scripps Spelling Bee lists

SAT spelling lists

Kamali Youtube


 

Quick Curriculum Reviews: * I started using Time4Learning as a way to keep my boys on track as my job demand increased a few years back. As a technology trainer, I am constantly on the go and although I have some support, I found that the boys weren't always on track when I was away. Also, there were many times when the babysitter would struggle with a concept. Using time4learning was an easy way for the boys to get whole lessons completed or practice skills already taught. I like that you can pause, skip and even delete topics you don't want your child to complete. My boys like the videos and activities. I like that you can print worksheets for each lesson so you don't really need an extra workbook. My major concern was rigor and diverse content. *I LOVE Singapore Math. I like the sequence of skills taught as well as the complexity. We have been using these Math books for years (since around 2016). We simply follow the book's sequence. I usually introduce the topic with a video or real world activity i.e. introduce money while grocery shopping for the week. I use ALOT of manipulatives for my kinesthetic learners. It is a good curriculum for students who like Math, can work independently and grasp Math concepts easily. *I liked 180 Days series because it breaks topics and disciplines into easy to follow units and touches on a specific piece of the unit daily. However, it does not dive deep enough into topics so I had to supplement ALOT with textbooks, storybooks, magazine articles, videos, etc. I also like that the pages can be done independently because they don't dive deep. It is a great series to use for basic introduction or supplement. *I liked 10 minute spelling because it is a simple and fun way to engage students in spelling activities. I used it after a taught a particular spelling rule. Again, it can be done independently. They complete the corresponding pages and then work on other hands-on activities I may have created. My boys loved setting the timer and race to complete the pages before time is up. A great incentive. *I LOVE Kujichagulia Press AND 365 Black History workbooks (ALL of them) because they are afrocentric and have really good writing prompts and activities. My children like seeing people who look like them so this is big for me. We use the print handwriting book for k-2nd grade and cursive writing book for 3-6th grade. The cursive book has writing prompts. I use the same prompts for my 1st grader OR I may use other prompts like Kamali Academy or a prompt I created based on months/themes/stories. *I LOVE Kamali books also because they are afrocentric. They have really good structure, activities, topics and explanations for each skill. HOWEVER, they have more errors than I would like to have found in a grammar book (both primary and secondary). I found at least 10 in each. It is the core text I use for grammar but I correct the mistakes I find first or use them as teachable moments. The grammar books also have GREAT writing prompts in them. *I LOVE Editor-in-Chief books. They are a great tool for reinforcing concepts learned. Pages are broken into short activities in which students edit a story or piece of text.

We looked at Beast Academy because of the colorful visuals and interactive online components but my sons did not like it. The comic style textbooks were hard to follow especially for my ADHD son. While we liked the "fun" interactive style, the online classroom is divided into 3 parts; switching from the library (textbook) to the theatre was too distracting for him. He wants to just use it as review and I am thinking about it. Just know that there is ALOT of reading so if your child isn't a strong reader Beast Academy may not be the program for him/her. Check out our homeschool book list on Amazon. While this list is not all inclusive, as we buy many of our books from local book fairs and events, it shows most of the books we do have or use as reference materials. I also buy textbooks from Thriftbooks. *Our Favorite educational websites are listed on our app. Join us to see them all including our favorite YouTube channels.

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