2023/2024 Curriculum Choices!

I am delighted to share the curriculum we've chosen for our upcoming school year, which we began this week! This year, we have a 5th grader, a 3rd grader, a 1st grader, and a preschooler.

A reminder: Choosing curriculum can be enjoyable and… daunting. While we should definitely do our research, I believe there comes a point when we need to make a decision and rest in it. The Lord called each of us to this journey and He will sustain us. He cares about our children’s growth and flourishing even more than we do!

That said, here are my non-negotiables when choosing curriculum: 

  • Our core curriculum needs to come from a Christian worldview (or at the very least, not contradict it). Knowing who is writing our curriculum and understanding their faith background is essential to me.
  • Our core curriculum needs to be literature-based and family-style. Literature-based is where our family thrives (give us all the books!), and family-style is the only sustainable option for us. We do core subjects together (Bible, history, read-alouds, nature study), then our children work through their own levels of math and language arts.
  • For these ages, we try to finish our formal work by lunch time. We begin our homeschool lessons at 8:30 or 9:00 am and end by noon. The afternoon is for rest time, time outdoors, some reading aloud, and "masterly inactivity" (i.e. purposeful free time for the kids). The bottom line: If the bulk of our work is taking us past lunch time, it's too much.
  • I need to be excited to teach it! This sounds obvious, but there have been some curriculums I've tried that I really wanted to like, but they just didn't click for me. If mom isn't enjoying the curriculum, it's likely the kids won't either.

Our family schools year-round and I record how many days we’ve homeschooled until we reach at least 180 days of schooling per year. This is not required in the state of Texas, but is helpful for me to keep track and see our progress. We typically do school 4 days a week and use Friday for field trips, catching up, or just spending time with each other. This has worked really well for us! We plan some vacation time ahead of time, and then there are other times I just know we need to take a day off… so we do! Having that flexibility has been a gift to all of us.

We do take much of December away from our normal curriculum to work through our Advent guide or Come to the Manger guide. We also divert from our normal curriculum on various holidays to work through our Brighter Day Press holiday guides. These all still count as “school” (and we usually add in math) as they all cover various subjects, even though we are taking a break from our normal curriculum for a few days.

This year’s curriculum choices

I can’t wait to share with you what we’ve chosen for this year. We are so excited for 1st, 3rd, and 5th grade!

What we’re planning to use for family subjects we do together:

  • The Kind Kingdom by The Peaceful Press - This is a 30-week Charlotte Mason-inspired guide to European history for elementary students. The curriculum includes Bible, history, poetry, hymns, mapwork, timeline work, science experiments, art, practical life skills, and more. We’ve used (and loved) The Playful Pioneers American history curriculum by The Peaceful Press, and I knew I wanted to use a curriculum this year that could be easily adapted to include each of my children. The curriculum comes with student sheets for multiple ages, so Bear (age 6) can use his own set, while Liam and Lanie will use their narration notebooks to interact with what they’re learning. (If you’re new to narration notebooking, here’s a helpful post.) The Kind Kingdom recommends  a number of picture books that I know all of my children will enjoy, and there are additional recommendations for chapter books that Liam and Lanie can read alongside the curriculum. You can see the book list and an overview of the curriculum here. This curriculum bundle is very affordable ($49) and comes as an instant download. I print and bind mine from home, but you could also do this at a local print shop or online homeschooling printing service. We just started using this curriculum this week and are all enjoying it! We may not get to every project and recipe that’s in the curriculum, but that’s ok! We are using it as a roadmap, and the planning that’s already done for me is very helpful. 
  • What sold me on choosing this curriculum is that we’ll read through The Chronicles of Narnia alongside medieval history this year. We have never read the entire series (only a few of the books), and I am thrilled to introduce these to my kids this year! We bought an illustrated set of books, and it’s beautiful. My kids really love seeing the color illustrations so they can better visualize what I’m reading about. 
  • In addition to the Morning Time subjects (Bible, hymn, prayer) included in The Kind Kingdom, we are also continuing with Scripture memory. We are using the Simply Charlotte Mason Scripture memory method, which is explained in more detail here. Before using this method, we had already memorized several longer passages together (Psalm 1, Psalm 23, Psalm 34, 1 Corinthians 13, and more), so I purchased a set of ESV memory verse cards to continue learning shorter verses together. We’ve loved it already!
  • For our Bible reading each day (we’re currently working through the book of John, chapter by chapter), I have this Hosanna Revival NLT Bible to read with our kids. It’s a journaling Bible with lines in the margins to record notes, so every day, I write down something that our kids gleaned from the reading or something they said (along with the date). Years from now, this family Bible will be such a treasure!

Homeschool planner I use:

  • I am using The Well Ordered Homeschool Planner for the second year this year and love the features, the quality, and the layout! (Use code BRIGHTERDAY for a discount!) The way I use it is to plan in reverse: I only write down what we’ve already completed. In other words, I use The Kind Kingdom parent guide to map out our days, then record what we’ve finished in this planner. This “planning in reverse” method has helped me to not always feel behind when we didn’t get to something… but to keep track of our progress and feel motivated by all we have accomplished!

Independent subjects for kids: I call these “independent,” but I am still very present for most of these subjects. I feel like a ping pong ball during much of our homeschool time, hopping from one child to the next, making sure all my children are getting what they need. It is a lot to manage multiple ages and various learning levels. But with a little planning and training, it’s totally possible.

For each child, I’ve created an independent work checklist (that they have input on and really love!). Here’s the editable Canva link, in case you’d like to personalize some checklists for your kids, too! I print six of these checklists for each child at one time and tuck the blank checklists in the back of their binders. Then after six weeks, if we need to change something on the checklist, we can. Otherwise, I just print more copies. We use binders with clipboards on them (we have this binder for Liam and this binder for Lanie) and label tabs inside by week (week 1, week 2, etc.). This way, I put all the work that I can behind each of those tabs, using a three-hole punch. This system has been a game changer for us! I’m not scrambling to figure out what the kids need to do next: it’s right there in their notebooks! And they can bring it in the car with them, outside, or wherever they’d like to work.

For the timed items on the list (like 15 minutes of reading), we love using these visual timers for each of our kids. These are the best timers I’ve found: they don’t tick and you can turn the beep at the end off or on (and it isn’t too loud or startling). All of our kids enjoy seeing how much time they need to put into various subjects, and it’s helping establish good habits and time management for them.

5th grade for Liam:

Liam has always been a voracious learner, and one I am always working to keep up with! In addition to what’s listed below, Liam reads for hours a day (without prompting from me). His current favorite author is Enid Blyton, who wrote over 700 books for children in her lifetime! The Kind Kingdom includes an extended reading list for 4th to 6th graders that is excellent, so we are using that list for his independent reading this year. Liam is our child that can never get enough of homeschooling. His passion for learning is inspiring!

  • Language arts (4x a week): Learning Language Arts through Literature by Common Sense Press (continuing the Tan book) - We started using this curriculum a few months ago and fell in love! It is open-and-go, has clear instructions for the teacher (I do recommend purchasing the teacher’s guide alongside the student guide), is thorough and comprehensive, and is so engaging. Our kids have practice with grammar, spelling, writing, reading comprehension, and more. This has been my all-time favorite language arts curriculum we’ve ever used, and I have a feeling we’ll continue with it for years down the road.
  • Math (4x a week): Beast Academy (online + workbooks), level 4 - Our older two recently switched our math lessons to Beast Academy, and it has been an amazing fit. We subscribe to the online program for both of our older kids and we also have the practice workbooks (but the lessons are all online). The kids do the online lessons and practice twice a week, and I receive emails about their progress. If I need to review a concept with them that they’re not quite understanding, the emails let me know. On the other two school days every week, they work through practice books. You can do this curriculum completely online or completely offline. We love the balance of doing a little bit of each! (PS -  If you sign up for the Beast Academy Online yearly subscription, you can use the coupon code 3MonthsFromInventiveShark36 and receive an extra three months for free!)
  • Writing (1-2x a week): Mail Monday + Learning Language Arts through Literature assignments. Mail Monday is simply writing a letter to a friend or family member every week. I’ve set up little baskets for each of our older kids that includes everything they need to complete this task independently: personalized cards, envelopes, stamps, an address book, and even a wax sealing kit (here’s the actual stamp) if they’d like to add a beautiful touch. They really look forward to doing this and each have several penpals that they keep up with. It’s also so fun and motivating for them to receive mail! There is also some creative writing and more formal writing that’s part of the Learning Language Arts through Literature program.

  • Nature science study (once a week): Weekly nature club + nature journaling with our brand new nature guide (coming July 5!). Our brand new family Nature curriculum will be available on July 5th and includes weekly lessons that coincide with nature walks, nature journaling prompts, recommended reading, and a Creator connection which weaves biblical theology into the study of nature. This is something we’ll do as a family, and the nature journaling activities will be done independently. I can’t wait to show you more! We will be meeting with our small nature club once a week to do the nature walks and teaching portion together, then finish the nature journaling extension at home throughout the week.
  • Foreign language (2x a week): Liam is continuing with Spanish, and working mostly independently through this book. I help as needed with pronunciation and check his work (I took Spanish in high school and college, so I feel proficient to do so at this point). Someday, we’ll dive further into language study… but I’m just glad he’s getting a good foundation and gaining vocabulary.

  • Extra-curricular (45 minutes daily): Piano + Ukulele. Liam takes weekly in-person piano lessons and practices for 45 minutes every day (using his visual timer). He also recently expressed interest in learning ukulele. We already had a soprano ukulele similar to this ukulele and I purchased these books: Ukulele Primer and 21 Easy Ukulele Hymns. The first book has links to online lessons, and he’s already learning a lot!

3rd grade for Lanie:

Lanie is 8 years old, very artistic, and has very different interests than Liam. While I read aloud, she draws or paints beautiful pictures. She loves Beast Academy math, art, and time outside. 

  • Language arts (4x a week): Learning Language Arts through Literature (continuing the Yellow book). Lanie says that this (and Beast Academy) are her two favorite parts of homeschool!
  • Math (4x a week): Beast Academy (online + workbooks), level 2
  • Writing (1-2x a week): Mail Monday + Learning Language Arts through Literature assignments
  • Nature study (once a week): Weekly nature club + nature journaling with our brand new nature guide
  • Extra-curricular (1x a week): Ballet + Hoffman Academy online piano lessons. Lanie takes ballet lessons once a week (and loves it!) and has recently expressed more interest in piano. She is now doing Hoffman Academy lessons a couple times a week and practicing for 15 minutes every day. I am so proud of her progress, and she is loving it! We purchased the Premium program because it includes so many helpful add-ons (like theory worksheets) that are not included in the free program. I put her worksheets in her independent binder so she does a little every couple days. 

1st grade for Bear:

At first, I couldn’t decide if Bear would be in kindergarten this year or 1st grade, based on his age. He turned 6 in June, so he’s a young 1st grader. But he’s already advanced past most kindergarten work. So we’re going with 1st grade for him, at least for now. The beauty of homeschool is that we can work at his pace.

  • Language arts (4x a week): We are working through a new-to-us phonics program called Happy Cheetah with Bear. Bear caught on with reading quickly when we first began, but has struggled a bit and does not always feel motivated to try harder words. I heard about this curriculum from a friend, and it has been a great fit for us. It’s very linear, moving from point A to point B, phonics-based, and includes practice in handwriting and spelling as well. Bear also enjoys doing a few pages from Explode the Code 1.5 every couple days. 
  • Handwriting (2x a week): Learning Without Tears beginning cursive. Bear is wanting to learn cursive like his older siblings, and because for many children cursive is even easier than print for many kids (and feels more natural), we’re going with it! He is doing a great job already. 
  • Math: We’re trying something different with Bear this year than we’ve ever used: Kate Snow’s Math with Confidence. We are loving this program so far! It is simple, affordable, impactful, manageable for me, and is laying a solid foundation. We’ve only been using it for a few weeks, so I’ll have a more thorough review at some point, but it’s been a wonderful addition to our homeschool already. 
  • Reading practice: For 15 minutes every day, Bear reads to me from readers. We’re currently working our way through the Frog and Toad collection. I read one page and he reads the next. It’s been great practice and he’s becoming a more confident reader!
  • Nature study (once a week): Weekly nature club + nature journaling with our brand new nature guide

Preschool for Beck (age 4):

We’ll continue what we’ve been doing: reading aloud three picture books every morning as a family, playing outside, doing puzzles, playing with play dough. During homeschool, Beck has become very content playing with Magna-Tiles or toy cars and coming in and out during lessons. We will not begin any formal academics this year. Just lots of play, not many screens, and enjoying childhood! 

I hope that is a helpful overview! This is our 6th year of homeschool, and if you’d like to see what we’ve used in the past, refer to this post: What I’ve Learned in 5 Years of Homeschooling. It explains all of our past curriculum choices and what I’ve liked (and haven’t). 

God bless you and your homeschool this year. I am cheering you on!

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