Friday, March 20, 2015

How I Choose Curriculum....

Earlier in the week, I shared Our Homeschool Journey.  Today, I want to share how I choose curriculum.  I mentioned previously, that I studied the local parochial school's books.  I also studied their scope & sequence as well as that of our local public school.  You see, I thought I was only in this for the short term.  I anticipated homeschooling Angel through middle school and then sending her back to public high school so I was very concerned with teaching her "the right scope & sequence".

I was initially given some older edition A Beka textbooks.  They looked consistent with my idea of education at that time, so we went with A Beka math, language arts, and health/science.  I created unit studies for history aligning with what our area schools were studying, which happened to be ancient history in 6th grade.  We spent several days a week at the public library, since we didn't have a home computer or internet access at that time.  Fortunately, it only took a short amount of time to see, it was a very inefficient system. 

As I started networking with other homeschoolers and researching various homeschool methods, I began to realize creating school at home was not really homeschooling.  I vowed to switch up some things for 7th grade.  It was an election year, so we studied American Government using a variety of materials.  I switched to Apologia Science and Bob Jones Language Arts.  Our approach was fairly traditional, but felt a little less restrictive.

However, after a year of BJU K5 Beginnings with RileyAnn, I knew it was still not working.  It drove me nuts that A Beka and Bob Jones were so classroom oriented.  I was tweaking like crazy to make it work for our one room, one student per grade, schoolhouse.  There were also many unnecessary bells and whistles which cost a lot of money for those traditional programs. 

At that point, I learned about Sonlight.  Angel had an insatiable desire to read real books and two years into homeschooling, I was beginning to gain a bit more confidence.  I felt it was time to take a new approach.  In 8th grade, Angel completed Sonlight American History In Depth, Core 100 and I used Introduction to World Cultures with RileyAnn.  The girls loved it!...and so did I.  They became excited about school and learned so much.

However, my paradigm shift really didn't come until the summer before Angel started high school.  We decided we actually liked homeschooling and that it would be in her best interest to continue. Once we determined she was not going back to public school, I felt like this huge weight had been lifted and I was free.  Free to choose my own scope & sequence based upon what God was calling us to do.  It was very liberating! 

This was the point I began studying Charlotte Mason's methods.  I was sparked by the idea of using living books as the primary means of learning.  I saw it in action while using Sonlight and I wanted more.  Enter a third student with learning differences and the deal was sealed.  A Charlotte Mason education was best suited for our family with multiple learning types, including auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. 

Fast forward to now, with a homeschool graduate and as I finish up my 8th year of homeschooling, I choose curriculum differently than when I first started.   I have come to realize that it isn't so much about which program you choose, but how you use that program.   I want to teach each child as a born person, not a scope & sequence.

I take a Christ centered approach, usually starting with a time period in history.  Then building around that with living books.  I believe history is "HIS Story" and therefore teach it chronologically from creation to modern, using God's Word as our spine.

From there, I take a look at each child's strengths and weaknesses, then I pull from many different publishers and homeschool suppliers.  I am no longer bound to one program for all subjects. I love having the flexibility to create and customize each of our children's education!

It is my intent to offer a broad and liberal education to our children, spreading a feast before them as we go.  Once the books and resources are chosen, I utilize Charlotte Mason's methods of short lessons to promote the habit of attention, copywork and narration as the means to thought and composition, and living books to promote truth, beauty, and goodness.  Every year I'm reaping more and more of the fruit of our labor and it tastes good!

 Sonlight Blog Party


  1. Melissa, I am enjoying your posts, that I found through Beautiful Feet. I am drawn to their history but don't know how to make it work. Maybe you can offer some wisdom? We have 4 children almost 3,5,8,11. Next yr we will be focusing on 6th,3rd and K. We left Heart of Dakota this year because it became too much for us. I've been studying CM way and have an interum plan for the last quarter. However, I am trying to figure out what sequence to follow and how to manage multiple grade with this curric. My other option is SCM which seems simpler to use at multiple ages. Do you have any suggestions? Did you combine grade levels with BF? Thanks!

  2. What time period do you intend to study? By the look of your group, I think I would split them. The 6th grader could work on a guide and the 3rd grader could work on a guide with the kindergartener tagging along, but I would caution you not to expect too much in the way of formal lessons from a 5 year old. Charlotte Mason didn't start formal lessons until age 6 or Year 1. I would stick to the primary guides for the 3rd grader and go ahead with an intermediate guide for the 6th grader.

    Up until now, I've always combined our 5th and 6th grader for pretty much everything, but language arts and math. However, my 5th grader's work is modified due to his dyslexia and my 6th grader works through additional independent reading. This fall, as we approach our second history rotation, I intend to separate them on all subjects....with the exception of circle time which may include things like bible study/devotional, memory work, Shakespeare/Plutarch, and a read aloud. With this said, they will still work on same time period, but with different books. I don't have it all figured out quite yet, but will post as soon as I do.

    Hope this helps...feel free to ask more questions if need be....or use the contact form on the right side bar for more correspondence.


  3. Hi Melissa,

    I've been following your blog for a long time now and I've always been impressed with your confidence to choose across the programs. You were able to choose the best from AO or Beautiful Feet, or whatever else seemed right to you. I've had a hard time doing that even though I've wanted to. Today I had the chance to check in on your blog via the computer and I found this post on your about me page. Usually I read on my mobile device so you don't see the top bar with the subjects at the top of the screen. This post was both fascinating, to see your growth, and validating, for me to gain the courage to work with the kids I have instead of the kids AO or SCM or ADE thinks I should have. The CM community really struggles with division sometimes, though the quest is good, but you've reminded me to study and learn and it'll work out. Thank you!

    1. Bev,

      Thank you for taking the time to poke around the blog. I am so glad you found encouragement! I have also felt the CM division you speak of and am deeply saddened by it. No matter, we must remain steadfast in our journey of "nourishing souls", as Andrew Kern says. It's so important to do a perspective check every now and again to be sure we are educating born persons and not just teaching a curriculum. A thorough study of Charlotte Mason's 20 Principles is very helpful in understanding the why behind the how and keeping one on the right track. May you be blessed in your endeavor, Melissa