I started back in 2005, she was 5 and could already read. I had been working with letters and numbers, shapes and colors since she was an only child. That particular phase of our lives didn’t last long since baby #2 came swiftly along 14 months after #1. We were a quiver full family, I had romantic visions of a one room school house of children ranging in age from infant to nearly adult. I would stand dutifully in front of my chalk board listening to lesson recitals and judging family science fairs. We would start each day with the pledge to the Christian and American flags. We would do circle time with the littles, the middles and bigs would help tutor the others and we would live homeschool happily ever after.
I had visions of school at home. That’s all I knew of at the time. I had never heard of Charlotte Mason, Unit Studies, Student directed learning and especially not unschooling! I had 2 catalogs. A Beka Book and Bob Jones. I would pour over those catalogs for hours on end, once even planning out the course of the 4 children we had at the time in entirety from Kindergarten to Graduation. I even planned which books were consumable and estimated the cost each year. It all made perfect sense in my mind.
God threw a monkey wrench in my perfectly laid out plan when he so wonderfully provided a full scholorship for Micaela (#1) to go to our church’s private school. We were excited for her, and much to our excitement they used A Beka! She completed Kindergarten and then we moved away, reigniting our desire to homeschool. When it came time to purchase books for 1st grade, we had hit hard times financially and could not afford the expense of my much dreamed after A Beka full grade curriculum. So we settled for a cheaper alternative, which turned out great, just required a little creativity on my part and some supplementary activities to really pull it all together.
Fast forward 8 years and 7 children (total). We have tried so many curricula, and even have found that my beloved A Beka isn’t a perfect match for our family. Oh, I love certain aspects of it, I still believe that it’s reading program can’t be topped. But we have, through much trial and error, and yes, a ton of wasted money, finally found what is working for us. (mostly!)
We have also long ago abandoned the school at home idea. We do have a school room, we have desks, we have book shelves, we have posters and charts on the walls. We even sit in there on most days, but we are far from structured. I like to call our lives organized chaos. There are days we don’t get through my “schedule”. Or whatever you call it. I mostly abandoned those a long time ago too. Now it’s a loose list of things I’d like to get done that day. Can you believe that I once scheduled every minute of my day. I didn’t last the day out with that piece of madness.
For us this is what we have found that works and will be sticking with for a while. Micaela is now in 10th grade so everything still seems trial and error, for example we tried 3 different Algebra I programs until we found one that kinda worked. But honestly, we mostly just ran through the concepts to make sure she got the gist of it and will be going with Teaching Textbooks for Geometry.
Christian Liberty Press Preschool and some basic WalMart workbooks. A lot of games and hands on crafts. And a note on this, I only spend about 30 minutes a day on “schoolwork” anything else needs to be games and crafty otherwise you are going to go nuts because their attention spans rival a flea at this age.
A Beka K4 Both Child and Parent Kits. Again, keep it short and simple. No longer than an hour, maybe an hour and a half broken up into morning and afternoon sessions.
A Beka K for Language Arts. I would use Rod and Staff Math Grade 1 (this starts at the beginning but will also have your child a year ahead in mathematics, which is good!) History and Science isn’t critical at this age so I would have them listen along with the older kids. Much can be learned in this manner.
1st, 2nd, and 3rd Grade
A Beka Language Arts Child and Parent Kits. Rod and Staff Mathematics. At this point I would have them becoming involved in the History and Science lessons, which I will list separately at the end.
4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th
We use the Grammar and the Literature books by A Beka. We use Spelling by Christian Liberty Press. Rod and Staff Math of Course. If you follow the pattern of starting R&S Math in Kindergarten you will complete their series by 7th grade as they only go up to 8th. You can either take a year off for a break before High School, or you can start on Algebra I which we are recommending Teaching Textbooks. We have not used it yet, but feel confident because of the myriad of good reviews.
This one is very personal as each student will be following a very different path. A few standard though, would be Apologia for Science and Teaching Textbooks for Mathematics. The rest will be a system of trial and error.
Science and History
We love Apologia, but we are also going to be trying out A Reason For Science this year. All the kids do this together, each one doing more difficult projects and being expected to retain more information as they get older.
Mystery of History is our all time favorite History book. The projects are easy yet fun and help the material stick with you. If you make it through every level you will have encompassed every History unit required for High School. (Be sure though that the high school level kids are actually doing higher level projects otherwise they are skating through.) This is a wonderful series for all ages and breaks down projects based on ability level.
Another note: Every book we use is Christian based. Science is Creation and Young Earth. Unfortunately there will be high school electives where that will not be possible, but do your research and make sure the content of all your curriculum lines up with your belief system.