Curriculum Choices 2013-2014

What we'll be doing this year school-wise...mostly for my own records but I know there are others out there interested in this sort of thing so feel free to read and then maybe we can do some nerdy curriculum chatting in the combox.  We started a few weeks ago unlike the rest of the schools around here in the hopes of being done when the beautiful spring weather hits come May and we are antsy to get outside.  It'll also give us the chance at having a full month off for the end of Advent and the Christmas season and several weeks off for Easter.  At least, that's the plan...

John Paul
(Grade 4ish - Age 9)

I learned a few years ago that I don't need the textbook to teach them (yet).  I enjoy math and so far it's come pretty naturally on both the teaching and learning ends so all we do are the workbooks and I can observe fairly well if they are understanding the concept or not.  I'm noticing that I may have to invest in the text next year as concepts get more complicated and my memory for the higher level work grows dimmer.  We'll see.  I really like Singapore and how they teach concepts as well as mental math.
*Wish List:  Life of Fred.  Where to start with that?

 First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind (Level 3)
I debated a lot about this and decided to go for it.  So far, it's very (too?) easy for John Paul but I like the format and how quick and painless it is.  I wasn't sure what level to get and the sample pages had things we hadn't covered in the back of level 3 so that's what I went with.  I sort of wish they could move a bit quicker in the beginning.  I have John Paul use a separate notebook to write in the workbook answers since workbook costs have started to quickly add up.  This way we can use it again.

 CHC My Catholic Speller Level C
Gets to the point.  I like that.  I could theoretically just print out my own lists and do the same thing but sometimes it's nice having that part done for you.  We didn't do spelling last year formally but I felt like I should revisit it this year just to make sure.  I'm hoping that he can participate in our local homeschool group's spelling bee this year.
(Can I give a shout out to how awesome it is that CHC prints many of their books with a spiral binding??  More places really need to do that.)

I don't have a formal writing plan this year (gasp!).  Last year we did IEW's Student Writing Intensive I and really liked it.  I'm not sure if I will end up putting something formal together or just sort of winging it and giving us a break.  It's a possibility.  Right now I'm confident the amount of reading (of well written books) both independent and aloud is giving him the best foundation for his own language skills.

 Finish up Latina Christiana I and possibly start II.
We got about 2/3 of the way through last year using the DVDs as well as the normal workbook work and drills before we took a break.  I intend to finish it and then perhaps start level II.  Unless someone has a Latin program that they love much more?  Suggestions?

 Chemistry 101 DVD series
I bit the bullet and bought it and I'm really excited about it.  It's done really really well.  I actually (thank you, God!) watched Ebay for a few weeks and finally a used copy popped up so even though it was still $40 I snagged it up because there aren't many used copies of this around.  An investment, right?  I don't trust myself (or really want) to teach chemistry but John Paul wants to learn it.  I'm fairly confident that he'll be able to get the concepts even though it's meant to be used as a high school level course.  If not, it'll be at least a good introduction and we can reuse it in later years.
This is the first year I really think formal science will actually happen.  Pretty much every year I buy or plan something thinking we will use it and then we don't.

 Story of the World Volume 3
The boys will be doing this together.  I've told you before how I love love love audio learning now?  (Jim Weiss, you really are my hero.) They'll be listening to this as they play Legos during their "free time" (hahahaha!) and (if I don't lazy out of it) I'll do some of the enrichment activities from the Activity Book during our formal history time as well as timeline work.  Timeline will be from ancient times on since I have neglected to do that each year even though I've wanted to and had lofty goals of doing so.  I finally gave in and hung the homemade timeline in our dining room and am using the cards from RC History.  (P.S.  I LOVE the idea behind that program.  Look into it if you're a Charlotte Masony type person who is organized enough to use the library a lot.  It's really good and well done but I get overwhelmed by the amount of books.)  I also got a used copy of the Story of the World book to supplement  in case John Paul wants to read as well.

 No formal handwriting anymore.  John Paul has great handwriting (ahem, when he wants to...and for some reason not with numbers?) so I just make sure that when he is writing something for another purpose he is doing it correctly and neatly.  I plan to use more sentence and verse writing as a discipline tool as well.

No formal religion.  (I know.  Don't worry.)  In his free time he reads the stories of the saints from our shelf in the library, he learns hymns and praise and worship songs on the piano, has read several versions of Children's Bibles at least a dozen times through (and knows the stories and people better than I do), and asks to go to Confession regularly.  As a family we attend Mass together at least once a week, pray formally and informally, learn new prayers together in Latin, discuss and more importantly, we live the teachings of our Faith every day, live the liturgical year, and try to live the works of mercy as a family.  I don't want to mess with that.  I will, however, be putting a greater emphasis on Scripture memorization this year.  I want those words of life stuck in that sweet heart of his.  In the high school years (and possibly sooner) I fully plan on doing much more formally in the way of apologetics, Catechism and Scripture study but the elementary level books just pale (in my not so humble opinion) to what we're already doing.

Memory Work
 I'm making sure this year that we do our memory work.  And after finishing Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child I am completely convinced that this is vitally important in my children having the education I long for them to have.  The education that I didn't.  Our memory work includes poems, Scripture, and Latin.  I'm still trying to figure out how to implement history and science in there.  I splurged on the Classically Catholic Memory Alpha set.  I'm not entirely sold on it yet but I do so like the concept and the books are very professionally done.  I will definitely use it somehow, though I'm realizing that I should have probably bought the Gamma set since that's the history we will be studying.  Hindsight.

Weekly Suzuki piano lessons and we love the An Introduction to the Classics series by the Vox Music Group.  (You can buy the set at the link or Amazon sells them individually...and they're cheap.)  Each individual CD features the biography of a composer as well as selections from that composer.  I actually learn a lot from them.

Nothing too formal, though I would love to find a great art appreciation program that isn't too parent intensive or expensive.  I'm lacking in this department.  We do have the Draw, Write, Now books that the boys will use from time to time that I really like and the boys do more than enough in the way of informal and seasonal crafting (painting, woodwork, beads, etc.) in their free time.

Phys. Ed.
Hahahahahahahaha...oh, sorry.  Yep, we got that covered, I think.

(Grade 1ish - Age 6)

Singapore Math 1B (Standards Edition)
Michael finished 1A this past spring so my goal is to finish 1B.  However, it is pretty realistic that he will finish this very early and we'll be on to 2A sometime over the winter.

First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind (Level 1)
So far this is perfect for him.  I love that it combines some dictation, narration, poetry, writing, and even art appreciation in with the grammar.  AND bonus, David is able to do it as well.  I'm hoping to keep that going for years to come.

CHC My Very First Catholic Speller

CHC Little Stories for Little Folks supplemented with early readers
We finished Teach Your Child to Read in the spring and we are making our way through the Little Stories.  He didn't like them months ago but now he really enjoys them.  We're also subbing in Frog and Toad books and Little Bear books as the mood strikes.

Latin - Nothing formal this year but we do some Latin prayers together as a family.  I'm hoping he'll be able to learn the Pater Noster and some basic vocabulary as well as some hymns.  We'll see.

Science - No formal science.  This is the one area I'm all about unschooling in the younger years.

Handwriting - Copywork as given on a whim by mom or through other subjects and/or as discipline but good handwriting is important to me so I'll make sure it gets done.

St. Joseph First Communion Catechism and The King of the Golden City
Michael will hopefully be making his First Reconciliation and First Holy Communion this year!

Music - The CDs mentioned above.  At some point he may start lessons as well this year but I want to make sure he's ready before committing the money.

History, Memory Work, Art - See John Paul

(Age 4)

David asks to do math so I give him random sorting and activities to do when he does.  He'd like to do the Singapore kindergarten book so I let him play around in Michael's old one.  (I do NOT like their kindergarten level, by the way.  It's oddly done and not worth the money for the concepts they are teaching.  Almost anyone can teach their toddler how to count and name shapes and match and it seems silly to use a book to do that.  But he asks because he wants to be like the big guys so I let him play with it.)  I did try to see if he could do the 1A but it was over his head.  I'm hoping that possibly one day I can catch him up to Michael.

We are slooooowly doing Teach Your Child to Read.  As in when the mood strikes and he wants to do it.  He's always loved to read and I would love for him to learn as soon as he is able but obviously I am not going to push him at this age.

First Language Lessons (see above)
I know it sounds ridiculous for a four year old to be doing formal grammar but he loves it so I'll do it.  The lessons are less than five minutes long (so far) and he'll mostly be doing the memory work.  He's already so proud to have one poem memorized as well as the definition of a noun. :)


Oh, Luke. Pretty much this year we're focusing on him learning how to not do things.  Oh and words, colors, know, toddlery things.

Linking up with Micaela for her curriculum sharing!

Oh, and this post contains Amazon affiliate links so if you click over and buy something through the link I get a few cents to help run this blog and maybe put some into the curriculum buying fund.  And that makes me happy.


  1. Oh goody! I love these posts! And I'm glad you saw Micaela's link-up - I was going to tell you =) I'm hoping to get mine up soon. This time of year is so exciting!

  2. I love these posts too! It is always nice to see how others do things! We also love audiobooks. Have you seen It is amazing. And if you ever wanted to get more Mason-y (lol) almost all the recommended books from Ambleside Online are found there as audio books for free! Also if you own a Kindle or Nook you can also download a bunch of them free.

    1. I've heard of it but you want to know something really lame and embarrassing? I still don't know how to do the whole MP3 thing. I buy CDs because the downloading and figuring out what device is supposed to work with what still scares me! How ridiculous is that? I really need to figure this out because yes, that sounds like an incredible resource! I'm still not sold on the electronic book thing. I think it's great for some things but I'm not sure I want the kids using that in place of real books yet. Oh my, I really am sounding like an old lady now, aren't I? Now excuse me while I go chase some kids off my lawn...

    2. Mary, another thing that you will probably want to do (or need to do) at some point is technology, because it is apparently one of your weak areas. I don't homeschool, and I have taught in public school, so—all right, obligatory pause while everybody rolls their eyes—I imagine that you will want to do this with other parents? As a co-op?

      Just saying something about technology to get the ball rolling. Feel free to throw rotten eggs and produce at me now. :-)

    3. No produce, don't worry ;) I'm not too worried about technology, to be honest. I figure it's something that's all around them and they will be exposed to it more than enough especially as they get older. Also, my husband knows a lot about that kind of stuff so I think we're okay. For now I'm more concerned with keeping it at bay as they are younger since I think it can be used as a crutch and a substitute for real learning. I just don't buy that small children NEED to be online or using the latest forms of technology since we've done just fine (better!) for hundreds of years without it and the children I see who are exposed to it aren't really doing much for the cause ;) I fully intend on them knowing how to search online (alone...we do a bit of it now together already) and navigate social media responsibly as they enter the teen years but for now I LOVE that they don't think about that stuff and are just busy being little boys building tree houses outside as I type. And tv is pretty much just a waste of time (and can get very dangerous) at this age in my opinion...unless I'm using it for teaching something. The mp3 thing, however, we MAY need some special ed for...for me :)

    4. This absolutely made me laugh! I also need some special ed in the mp3 department :)

      My husband is always emailing me free downloads from places like Catholic Lighthouse Media and then he gets home and asks if I downloaded them....I don't know why he keeps doing it--my answer is always the same, It just seems so complicated, I'd rather he just do it for me and then load it on to my (ridiculously old) ipod so I can just plug it in and not have to know how any of it works :) Thank you for making me feel a little less lame!

  3. Thanks for sharing! I hear a lot of people around here use Mother of Divine Grace. Have you ever used any of their materials? I was just wondering if you've had any experience with it, since I hear about it so often. God Bless!

    1. When I first started I looked into MODG a lot and even got some of their lesson plans and books. Then I realized as I started using the materials that I just didn't like some of it. I knew I wanted a different math and the Mommy, Renoir thing just seemed really dated to me. By the time I switched out the things I wanted to, I wasn't really at all doing MODG anymore. I think part of it, too, was that the list of books required as they get older looks really intimidating to me. I don't know why seeing things laid out like that turns me off so much but it does! It's not like I don't have a million books on our shelves already so it's not that I'm afraid to buy the books! Who knows. Anyway, I did use their book lists for suggestions (Teach Your Child to Read and the Golden Children's Bible to name a couple) and I know many of the veteran homeschoolers have successfully used MODG and loved it so you may, too!

    2. It intimidates me too. I'm really thinking I'm not called to it, as least for now. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on it.

  4. I have so many this to comment on! I agree with so many of the things you are saying! and I want to pick your brain about other things. But I'm headed to confession and Mass now. Will definitely come back tonight. Thanks for linking up, Mary.

  5. I love reading these posts too - I'm still trying to decide if we're going to start anything formal (or even semi-formal) with John Paul this year... He just turned 4, but he's SO ridiculously in love with anything and everything academic. I kind of feel like I could bribe him to do ANYTHING if I promised to teach him the parts of speech!

    1. That boy of yours is really gifted. I know some people would disagree but I say feed him what he wants! If he can do it and wants to do it, take full advantage now. That way if things do slow down either on his end or because of family situations (or fun things like vacations and taking time off just because!) then you have plenty of room to not worry or feel like he's behind. He is such an awesome kid!

  6. Hi Mary! Thanks for sharing all of your curriculum choices. I'd like to know more of your thoughts on SOTW. I heard they were pretty anti-catholic starting with the second and want to know how you deal with that. I like the idea of telling history as a story but have never taken the plunge due to that concern.

    1. You know, I read that a couple places but I haven't really found anything inherently anti-Catholic. I think the sections on the Crusades and the Counter Reformation are well done. I would say that the chapter about Martin Luther and the Reformation shows that the book has a Protestant leaning and leaves out some awfully problematic (and lesser known) ideas that Luther espoused. It does seem to soften Luther and fuzzify his ideas and make him into just a nice guy trying to right wrongs when there is much more to the story than that. But I don't think I would go so far as to say it's anti-Catholic. I think it's a great opportunity to show how even with the best books we always need to read things critically and in the light of faith. I plan (at some point) to make sure that the boys know that there is a lot more to the story and the problems with the way Luther addressed his issues with the Church and not have them listen to that chapter over and over. At least being aware of the Reformation and the split among Christians helps them understand why there is a different denomination church every few blocks while we're driving and why we go to the church that we do and believe that it is the one true Church. I think it's important to explain things like this and have open dialogue with them about that stuff as they are ready for it and it comes up. Hope that helps!

    2. Yes it does! Thank you so much Mary. :-).

  7. I love reading these. We do mostly MODG, but we do switch out a few subjects (math and science).

    I'm curious about Singapore. We had been using Math U See, but I thinking about switching to Math Mammoth, which I hear is similar to Singapore but not as expensive.

    And, I totally agree on memory is so important and it's something i was REALLY lacking on in my own public school education.

    1. I'm not familiar with Math Mammoth. Singapore does add up but I don't use the textbooks for the younger grades and once you have the Home Instructor's Guide (which to be honest, I BARELY used in the younger years except for answer keys!) you don't have to buy that again. My sister even has the kids do their work in a separate notebook so that she can reuse the workbooks which is smart. I have yet to do that! I ended up selling the textbooks on Ebay since we never used them.

      I know a lot of people do Math U See and love it. I didn't like the idea of having to buy the manipulatives and I like that Singapore seems to stress the mental math. That said, I do use my own version of manipulatives (Legos or beans) if I see the need but that's pretty rare. Singapore also received glowing reviews from someone I knew who was an engineer and for whom math was really important (it is to me, too) so that was probably the number one factor in my decision.

  8. I don't have anything profound to add to this discussion, but I just wanted to thank you for sharing! I've got a plan for some Kindergarten-lite for my about to turn five year old and I love to see what everyone else is doing and what is working for them--especially when it's working with a house full of boys!

  9. We use many of the same books.... My girls were dragging their feet when it came to the idea of going "back to school", but we got new desks yesterday and I think they will be ready before I am!

  10. Thanks for the tip on the classical biography audiobooks! We did some Singapore and switched to math mammoth because of price. We are enjoying it with Rays Arithmetic.


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