The Homeschooling Journey: What has worked for us

Sunday, April 10, 2016

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Years ago I heard Steve Lambert, the publisher of Five in a Row, say that "Homeschooling is a marathon, not a sprint." {I would have to say parenting is the same deal.} For a person that likes to race through all her tasks, these were words I needed to hear. Raising kids is not something you do and then check off your list. It's a lifetime of teaching, helping, and guiding. It doesn't happen overnight. It takes patience and care...and a whole lot of guts!

Over the years, I have tried to remind myself that it is a marathon. I wouldn't be able to teach my boys all they needed to know in a short amount of time. It was going to be fine if they didn't get a concept the first time out. I didn't need to fret if we had a rough day, week, or YEAR. Over time, they would learn and grow. It wouldn't be perfection, but rather a gradual moving forward. These days I have one son in college and the other will be a sophomore in high school in the fall. What Steve mentioned all those years ago is true. It has been a marathon in which to finish you just have to stay to course. We have had successes and failures. I have had to learn that my boys don't learn in the same way. We have had to switch methods and curricula to fit their needs. It hasn't always been pretty, but we have flourished. I am so thankful that we have had the opportunity to grow and learn together...

So as I look back to what has worked, I thought I would compile a list of what we have used to help us along our journey. Not all programs and materials fit all families, but it is my hope that some of these suggestions may help you if you are in the "marathon of homeschooling."

By far, Five in a Row will always be the curriculum I look on in fondness. It is the one that created memories for us in those early years. If there was only one homeschool item I could recommend this would be it! Five in a Row takes  wonderful children's books like Mike Mulligan and His Steam ShovelHow to Make an Apple Pie and See the WorldCranberry Thanksgiving , and Truman's Aunt Farm and uses them to teach lessons for five days {Hence, Five in a Row}. Each day you do a different lesson in a different subject {Social studies/Geography, Applied Math, Science, Language Arts, and Art}. It's best for ages 4-8. All that really needs to be added to your day is math and phonic/reading instruction. I loved this curriculum so much that I have kept the books and the teaching manuals for them! Maybe I will get to use them with grandkids.

Language Arts

Explode the Code- We used books one through six to help the boys learn to read. I loved these books because they were straightforward and easy to implement. The only other thing we added was reading practice with mom.

{Reading Bob Books}

Bob Books are great for new readers! Both my boys read their first books with these. They are simple enough for young readers and yet entertaining!

Reading Rescue 1-2-3: Raise Your Child's Reading Level 2 Grades with This Easy 3-Step Program-One of my boys struggled with reading fluency early on. I read this book and followed the system. It greatly improved my son's reading! Today he is an avid reader! If you have a child that is struggling, this book is worth checking out.

Institute for Excellence in Writing- I LOVE this writing curriculum! We started using it when my oldest was in fourth grade. It has even taught me to be a better writer. By teaching kids ways to "dress-up" their writing, student learn how to vary their sentences. Another key element in this program is learning what information is important and how to take notes. We have used several of the theme-based writing books after teaching my boys the basics of the system.

Progeny Press-We have used these for some of the novels the boys read in junior high and high school. I love the Biblical perspective that is brought out especially if a book touches on hard subjects. However, we haven't used these for every novel. Take a look here at how I teach literature in high school.


Math-U-See- We used this curriculum in the elementary years. It is excellent for the simple fact that kids really get to focus on a concept and learn it well before moving on. We didn't, however, use it in the upper grades. While I think it gives a wonderful foundation for kids, we decided to go with something more rigorous in high school.

Teaching Textbooks- I used this with one of my boys during high school who struggled with math. The teaching is done on the computer {through a set of CD's}. I loved that the program did the grading for me! If you have a student that is struggling in the later years I would highly recommend Teaching Textbooks!

Saxon Math- Ok, I am about to be real...I HATE math. When I was in junior high and high school some of my math was done with Saxon. I detested it! But here's the thing...we are not all the same. Some people do well in math. They don't struggle with it like I did. They can handle a rigorous learning program. If that is the case for your child, then Saxon is the way to go! I have one son that has flourished and done well with Saxon. He has used the  DIVE teaching videos that go along with it, and it has worked for him. Be flexible if you have more than one child...what works for one may not work for another. Also, what didn't work for you in school may be the very thing your child needs!

Social Studies

Biblioplan- When the boys were younger we used this four year plan for history. We loved the literature selections that went with it! I loved that it gave you different options for the "spine" (the core text) that you would read along with the literature. You could choose from programs like Story of the World, The History of US, and Mystery of History.

Notgrass History-We have loved this program for high school. We have done World and American history, economics and government. All of them have been great and come from a Christian perspective. While they do incorporate literature and writing, we have only used them for the social studies aspect.


Apologia- When my boys got too old for Five in a Row, we moved on to Apologia science and have never left. In the early grades, there are the "Exploring Creation With..." books which cover different topics. We have also found the junior high and high school materials to be well worth it! We have used the lab kits that go with each book from Nature's Workshop Plus!

Foreign Languages

I am a certified Spanish teacher, and for years people have been asking me what language curricula I would recommend. We have used Muzzy and Rosetta Stone. While certain aspects of them have been excellent, we struggled with both. Learning another language works best if you have a teacher who knows the language. I know there are some online programs that have language teachers you can access or if you can find someone in your area to teach your kids the language of your choosing that is ideal. For years now, I have taught homeschoolers Spanish. I do have a blog on teaching Spanish. You can check it out here. If you are teaching your kids the basics of Spanish my blog might help give you some ideas.

In the future...

I only have a few more years of homeschooling to go. The marathon is almost over. Here are a few things I am looking at for my youngest as we near the finish line...

Philosophy Adventure-My son will be using this next year to go along with his World History. I have read through big portions of the curriculum and love it! Through looking at the lives of philosophers, students learn more about what it means to have a Biblical worldview. There are great writing exercises in it also! My son loves everything to do with social studies so this is going to be a great fit for him!

Lightning Literature-I am toying with the idea of using this program {only for the novels we choose} to do British Literature with my son next year. If you have an opinion on it please leave me a comment!!

So what has worked for you and your kids?

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