Saturday, August 29, 2015

Round up from the ground up

I just picked up a load of curriculum yesterday and I'm spending tonight prepping for the girl's new school year. Just when you thought you're over homeschooling, you get some fresh materials in the mail and it's like YEOWWW! I'm excited. Jenna did this post about curriculum and Dwija blogged about charts and Kate wrote about her favorite picture books and I thought to myself HEY! I like when people tell me what they like! So because my favorite pastime is projecting my feelings on to all of you (healthy healthy!), I thought I would provide you with a quick, off the top of my head, run-down of school-ish materials that I like (I promise I won't ramble!). IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER.

The Harp and Laurel Wreath

I do really love the *idea* of a classical education. Now, whether or not I implement it is a different story. But I do make my kids memorize poetry. And I do really like it. The Harp and Laurel Wreath is basically all you'll need forever for all the simple and sweet and serious and classic and wonderful things your child to might need memorize and know. From Happy Thought by Robert Louis Stevenson to Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray (I don't even know what this is but it's five pages long, so.... major!) well, it's all there one medium sized book.


I love learning through stories. D'Aulaires has the greatest set of biographical tales of historical figures that I've ever seen. And hear you me because I have seen like 2 or 3 other ones!! But seriously, these are so great. Fantastic storytelling and illustration and historical accuracy, even!

The Burgess Bird Book for Children

More on stories. We didn't get far into this last year but I hope to get back in it in the next few months. A whimsical little tale of a bird couple returning to their nest after winter migration (so, spring migration?). All you have to do is read a story about cute talking birds and suddenly you are learning. It's like magic! Flight patterns, weather, geography, seasons, nest construction, vocabulary! (a lot of things!)


This. Book. It's the tale of a little wooden canoe traveling from Canadian wilderness in late winter through the great lakes on an adventure to the Atlantic Ocean. And, like Burgess, you read this book and suddenly find yourself discovering how a lumber mill works or what weather patterns are like on Lake Michigan. It is packed with Science and Geography and History and Geology and if you only read this book for all those subjects I think you'd be doing just fine. I even cried at the end, so, bonus points! I think this book is worth reading every year, over and over. But I should probably get to all the other books the author has written first or at least simultaneously.

Handwriting Without Tears

These are just the sweetest little workbooks for beginning letter writing and beyond. All my kids have worked through them and I love them. Plus, could the name be any cuter??? That's really my most favorite part. I plan on starting the cursive book with Hero this year and I expect it to be quite tear free.

I have also really loved Explode the Code . In fact, I'm suddenly wondering why I didn't order them for this year and am now considering dumping the workbooks we were going to do and getting my Amazon on right now. Wow, maybe this post wasn't a good idea! I'm questioning everything!

National Audubon Society Field Guides

These are so great. We keep them around to use for quick references for things we want to know! Did your son just find a frog in an irrigation hole instead of playing soccer like he was supposed to? Did you just find that little frog swimming in your water bottle? Look it up in your field guide! Science, bb. (And after that, die at the realization that you almost drank frog water)

First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind
This has really got to be the best way to teach your kids about nouns and verbs and capitalization and vocabulary and grammar. This book is done in such a way that each lesson breezes by like a very casual, natural conversation about such things (AS ONE WOULD HAVE. Common nouns! My fav topic over a bag of Doritos!) There is also tons of variation in this book which I love. The kids never realize how much information they are repeating because the lessons vary from day to day so creatively.

Aaaaand that's all I got! Every year I sort of hodge-podge some new things together and I'm still not sold on everything we do (hence the hodge-podging). What do you love and adore and recommend? Should I go order Explode the Code instead of the Core Skillswhatever books that I already ordered?? Do I??

Other specific ?'s

* What are your fave early, early readers? We have Bob Books which are fine but it's not like I want to marry them or anything.

* What about things you didn't finish last year but you like?? Do you feel moderate amounts of stress because of this? As if these workbooks are actually real, alive things that will punish you if you don't finish them? Do you feel contractually obligated to finish them even though you are not? Do you feel like a super big dummy/failure because you didn't finish? (asking for a total loser friend, obviously)

* What do you do when your children are massively creative on their own time but when you ask them to illustrate a poem or something they suddenly revert to lamest, most unmotivated scribbler in the world-status? WHAT THEN?

Whew I AM PUMPED! Come at me, Monday.


  1. *Yes, go with Explode the Code.

    *I use Faith and Freedom readers for first grade but after that we just read from books on our shelves. Have you ever looked at the Flicka, Ricka and Dicka books? Very sweet.

    *I'm a finisher but I hate using "old stuff" in a "new year". Eventually I had to embrace my ocd-ness and started picking curriculum that I knew we could finish in a year (with the occasional corner cutting). But if you didn't finish something you shouldn't feel like you need to come back to it, unless you want to.

    *My children do that all. the. time. What I do totally depends on the age and child. Younger child? Make sure it's really an assignment they need to do. I mean, they're being creative at other times, so... Or do it with them, or help them get started. Insolent middle schooler? Very different story which may or may not involve wailing and gnashing of teeth. In general I try to remind myself that my children just need to learn a bit more discipline each year, not all at once. My 1st grader needs to do a few little things I ask them to do; my seventh grader much more. Baby steps, baby steps.

  2. I like the Primary Phonics series for early readers. All diff color books based on level, and there are a ton. They go up incrementally by new phonics patrern, so they can read pretty quickly but still have a long series to read through.

    I also get stressy to finish all the things I buy. Trying hard not to buy something unless it fits in well but also pushing to finish stuff for a real summer. So not really advice but solidarity. Also with the sudden lack of creativity. This yr I need to get some guidance about what to do out loud vs what to make them write because the mechanics of writing are for sure harder for my kids than the idea part. Hug all your homeschool books for me. Cant beat a brand new box of curriculum! Nerdy but true

  3. I love the start of the school year too, even though I've totally enjoyed a care free/unscheduled summer, getting the new books in the mail is really fun.

    I use Abeka phonics, language, cursive, science and math, I love how easy to teach they are, and I feel like they really cover everything.
    I use a mix of the Baltimore catechism/seaton/faith and life for my kids, depending what my friend has, since we are able to share some workbooks. This year it is Baltimore for the grade 3 kiddo.
    I use seaton readers and seaton church history (whoch we alll LOVE) , and we have a Canadian geography/civics class by Donna Wardnwhich is quite nice. We also do a little fun book called "maps and charts"
    For art and everything else we read what we like, so the Burgess books are in there (look up the "old mother west wind books" for your independent readers, they are THE BEST) and whatever kid friendly novel we consider a classic or has come reccomended by a friend.
    I want to do the spelling course that Catholic All Year reccomends, but I have to wait till someone in the states can bring it to me, shipping to Canada is ridiculous.

    Wow, that sounds like a lot. But it is really only the basics that we cover every day, language, phonics, math, the rest is a once a week kinda thing, mixed in with a lot of reading aloud.

    We got through most of our material last year, because I wasn't pregnant or caring for a new baby. Anything that wasn't finished and is important (as in the next book builds upon it) we will finish first. It use to bother me when we weren't done, bit it doesn't any more. I mean, that's why we homeschool, so that things can be at our own pace.

    1. I live in Canada and was able to get All About Spelling from a Canadian supplier:

      We tried it last year based on Kendra's recommendation and it was excellent.

  4. Thanks so much for this post! I pretty much eat up everyone's homeschool posts, as I'm still trying to find something I love and can do every year.

    Love Paddle to the Sea! And I, too, should probably look into some of those other books. Definitely going to look at Burgess.

    I'm looking forward to trying All About Spelling this year, based on Kendra's recommendation.

    I second the Primary Phonics readers and workbooks for little ones. There are a ton, and my young readers can read the directions and do the workbooks by themselves (and they are short and easy enough that they actually enjoy them). I started using these instead of Explode, as I felt like they got reading and workbook practice, without it feeling like busy work.

    Looking forward to trying some of your other recommendations! It's not too late to completely change what we're doing this year, right?

  5. I want to let you know that I just suggested you and your conversion story to Jennifer Fulwiler's radio show as a guest. For real! I didn't know your contact info but I left your web address on the form. If she contacts you then it's because of me or others who suggested it!! Ha!

  6. Yes! I love reading about curriculum. It's kind of like birth stories: when you're in the thick of it and it's on your mind you want to know ALL the how/why/where's of everyone! It's almost got me wanting to type out how we do school. I LOVE how we all do it just a little bit differently! And you've given me ideas for new books to check out from the library.

    Books I love and adore:
    A is for Altar, B is for Bible - we use it for copywork and art for my Kindergartener.
    All About Spelling! (why did I drag my feet on getting this for so long? Why?!?!)
    What Every Child Should Know Along the Way: Teaching practical life skills in every stage in life (it does exactly what the title says it does)

    And it's not a curriculum/book - but we've started having a morning meeting (prayer/poetry/hymns/plan for the day/ read aloud/ etc...) and it's my favorite part of each day.

    I ease into curriculum in the fall, so we don't even start some of our subjects until January. That means we have lots of books that we carry over from the previous year. Or if I hate something (Writing with Ease ...) I drop it.

    Hope you have a grace-filled first week of homeschool!

    1. Yes!! This is our first year with a morning meeting/circle time, and it has been such a great way to start the day! Hope we keep it rolling. And another huge yes to AAS. The best. A total, huge, much needed win for us.

  7. James is a TBurgess fanatic these days, and both the TB Bird Book for Children & TB Animal Book for Children are available on librivox. I also bought (I know, actual $$) the audubon society bird app and thought it was really worth the $1.99? Many, many recordings of bird calls = super fascinating for all the kids.

    I do like explode the code, but this the older grades have slightly confusing pictures. (Or maybe that's just me??) This year I might try the Little Angel readers/workbooks? I bought one and it seems really sweet. Still deciding.

  8. but this the older grades have slightly confusing pictures.
    Friv 2015
    Kizi 1

  9. I love all those books you mentioned, though I found I liked Living Memory by Andrew Campbell more than Harp and Laurel. It's much more comprehensive - -covers poetry, religion, hymns, literature, math, etc etc with more selections for each difficulty level. As for reading, we use the Code and the Bob books. I have Ordinary Parents' Guide....but find I keep not using it. One homeschooling "hack" that I found really useful last year is that I finally broke down and bought the audio versions of the Story of the World so that we can catch up when necessary while driving back and forth to soccer.

    1. We started listening to Story today and we're all enthralled (including moi)!

  10. My daughter is in kindergarten and we just started homeschooling for the first time. We are using Explode the code and handwriting without tears. She really likes both of those! I am also using hooked on phonics for when we are at home. Then we use the Bob books app for when we are out running errands and I know we wont get all of our "typical" stuff done at home.

  11. I love lists like these. Some of our best homeschooling finds have come from lists like these.

    I haven't seen it yet but the National Film Board of Canada has a film based on Paddle to the Sea. I believe you can download it for free at:

  12. Wow, all of your favorites are ours too!! For readers, we really like Rhonda's Readers.

  13. ugh now I'm super bummed we didn't talk about common nouns

  14. Based on your experience, are the Handwriting without Tears workbooks enough on their own? Or is the whole expensive kit worth it/needed?

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