I get many questions – emails, private messages on the Facebook group – every week about which “program” or “curriculum” to use. Which one is best? Which one is the easiest to use? Apparently, not too many of these folks have read my book……
We don’t use any program or curriculum, at least not in its entirety. I’ve tried, I really have. There’s really only been a few that we’ve liked, that really worked, that were worth the money and time. Here they are:
*TruthQuest history guides – early and late, see here
*Mater Amabilis’s Modern History for Middle School
*Primary Language Lessons by Emma Serl
*Intermediate Language Lessons by Emma Serl
*Learning Language Arts Through Literature – After Five in a Row, before high school, can be used in place of ILL if you wish
*Excellence in Literature – Year 8 through 12
*Penny Gardner’s Italic’s: Beautiful Handwriting for Children
*CIMT’s Mathematics Enhancement Programme (Year 7 and up)
*Family Math books
*Murderous Maths books for boys
*Danica McKellar’s maths books for girls
*Harmony Fine Arts (for artist and composer study)
*Five in a Row (NOT Before FIAR, or Beyond FIAR, just the 4 volumes of FIAR)
*Castle Heights Press’s science lab books
*Uncle Eric’s civics and economics books – NOT the Bluestocking Guides, unless you simply use them for the suggested readings and films
*Notgrass’s Draw to Learn Bible series
That’s it, folks. That’s what we’ve tried that really and truly worked and was worth it to use. Now, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t pulled ideas, book suggestions, etc. from other sources. I have. I have my favorite resources, and I’ve had my failures, too. What began as a way to teach my kids inexpensively, because I had no choice, has become a way of teaching my kids using mostly Masonry – Charlotte Mason’s methods. Many of the products and programs available now didn’t even exist when we started 11 years ago. Some, like Ambleside Online and Mater Amabilis weren’t completed, or have made changes. Some, like Tanglewood Education and Shoelace Books, have pretty much become extinct. And that’s OK with me, because I’ve always been the one in charge of our homeschool.
I know WHY you want a program or a curriculum. You want it all laid out there for you, so you can just grab it and go. They’ve done the hard work – the planning, the prep – you just need to do the easy stuff and put it in practice. I understand that. It’s why I like TruthQuest and Five in a Row and Emma’s Serl’s language arts series. Some of you don’t feel confident enough to step out on your own. I understand that, too. It’s why I love CIMT’s MEP and Barb’s excellent Harmony Fine Arts programs. There’s no fault in that. We all like help when we need it. And it’s OK. Really. I’ll not throw anyone out of the hen house for using a product or program. I do, however, want to add a word of caution. First, let me tell you a story…..
When we were using Five in a Row in our early years, I didn’t really know a great deal about Masonry, or literature based learning. I chose FIAR partly because it was supposed to be good, supposed to be easy to use, and because when using it, I could rely on the local library for most of the titles and not have a great deal of expense. We made it our own almost from the start – doing things our own way. And everything was fine until the FIAR forums came along. When I began sharing HOW we were using it, some people became upset. As I learned more about Masonry, and developed my own way of using THEIR product, the “purists” found it unsettling. So, I gave up the forum and continued to use the product MY way. We also tried Mater Amabilis and Ambleside Online, too. Both of them are really good programs. They really are. But guess what? We made them our own, too, and some of the “purists” didn’t much care for that, either. THEY wanted THEIR program, and how THEY envisioned it to be used, to be in charge of our homeschool. I can’t do that. And neither should you.(Please note, for the record – I never once heard from any of the Advisory at AO, nor the gals that put together MA. I’m referring to other moms using the curricula. FIAR’s Steve Lambert DID contact me, and that was the end of that fun ride.)
When you follow someone else’s program, join their support groups, drink their Kool-Aid, you are giving up control. You are putting something above your children, above your homeschool. So many times I see moms desperately searching for a way to “make this work” or “fit” a child’s needs. They love the idea of the curriculum, but they can’t seem to make it work for them. And they cry out for help because they don’t realize that they don’t HAVE to make it fit. It’s not their child that’s causing the problem typically, it’s the chosen curriculum. I HATE elementary maths programs because they never seem to “fit”. I’ve never yet seen a kid and a maths program meet perfectly. There’s always some concept, or method, that leaves the kid baffled and in need of outside help. Always. Why? Because not every kid’s brain develops the necessary skills at just the right time to meet the requirements of the program. Thus the reason why I advocate using NO program for lower grades’ maths. NONE. If you HAVE to have SOMETHING to teach your kids maths in elementary school, buy Math on the Level. It’s well worth the price. The authors have basically put together a maths program to do what I did, what I advocate in Homeschooling on the Cheap. Makes me wonder if I should go ahead and write the Maths book I had planned….but I digress.
My point, dear Chicks, is that if you feel you MUST buy something, or use something that’s available for free online, don’t sell yourself to it so completely that you become its slave, and not its master. You must ask yourself, when you start having doubts or difficulties about what you are doing – “Who’s in charge here? Who’s running the show?” They’re YOUR children. It’s YOUR homeschool. If you’ve let it become Ambleside’s homeschool, or turned your children over completely to MathUSee with no alternative in sight, you need to break those chains, take back the reins, and step into your proper place again.You probably have everything (or can find it) you need to teach them, you just need the confidence to step out on your own. I’m even going to go so far as to say that you can’t let Charlotte Mason rule your school. She wasn’t perfect, and even regretted later in life some of the heavy emphasis she placed on character and habit training in the beginning. If SHE could admit that she should have made a change, then surely so can we…..
Keep calm, and homeschool on….. 8>