2023/2024 Curriculum Review

We're wrapping up our sixth official homeschool year as a family, and I want to share how things went. If you're curious what we used this past year, you can find everything in this post:

2023/2024 Curriculum Choices

And if you'd like to read about every curriculum we've used in our first five years, year by year, you can find that in this post:

Curriculum Choices for First Five Years of Homeschool

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 by 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.

This year’s curriculum choices

Here's what we used this year, and what we thought of it:

  • The Kind Kingdom by The Peaceful Press - We have used and loved curriculum by The Peaceful Press for years. We started our homeschool journey with The Peaceful Preschool, and used (and loved) The Playful Pioneers when our oldest two children were in Kindergarten and 2nd grade. We were excited to learn about medieval history with The Kind Kingdom, and we always love Jennifer Pepito's wonderful book choices! The best part of this curriculum for our family was reading through the Chronicles of Narnia together as a family. We enjoyed this so much! We especially loved this illustrated set of books. However, about halfway through the year, I was feeling overwhelmed by the hands-on "extras" (the projects and recipes) that the curriculum included. Yes, I could have just overlooked those. But I have a hard time picking and choosing what I want to do from a curriculum and leaving the rest off without feeling a little guilty. In previous seasons, we could spend more time doing hands-on activities. But with three students needing my help with their independent work, plus a preschooler, it felt like more than we could handle. In addition, I had a hard time following the events of medieval history without a "spine" or textbook-like resource to hold it all together. This is the purpose of creating a timeline as you go, but it still felt like we were missing how this time period connected. I blame this on us—we also had a lot going on in our life outside of homeschool—not on the curriculum. In fact, I'd still recommend it wholeheartedly! It's just proof that even the best curriculums aren't the best fit in certain seasons, even if they're well done. ADDED: For these reasons, we ended up switching gears and using Simply Charlotte Mason's "A Castle with Many Rooms" for our second semester. We would read a chapter every day or two, find a corresponding YouTube video, and I would add in the rest of the picture books from The Kind Kingdom that we hadn't yet read. It worked beautifully for us! To be honest, I wish we had done The Kind Kingdom a little earlier in our homeschool journey when I wasn't juggling as many students whose independent subjects were taking more time. I know we would have loved it.
  • We are using the Simply Charlotte Mason Scripture memory method, which is explained in more detail hereADDED: We have focused in the last few weeks on memorizing the Apostle's Creed, which is so foundational to our faith. 
  • 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). ADDED: After finishing the book of John, we used our own Morning Time Vol. 3 for the second time to add in a few of the "beauty" subjects like artist and composer study. This was the perfect thing to tie our mornings together!
  • ADDED: 
    • As part of our daily Morning Time, we added three more elements that were short but so impactful:
      • World Watch News: World Watch has become one of our favorite parts of homeschool! It's a 10-minute world news program by Christian journalists that keep us updated and engaged with what's going on beyond our four walls. It's technically designed for middle school and high school students, but nothing has been too intense or inappropriate for our kids (ages 5, 7, 9, and 11). We look forward to it every day. My favorite part is how it ends with the reminder, "Whatever the news, the purpose of the Lord will stand!" Amen!
      • Introduction to Sign Language with MasterBooks: Two of our kids have been interested in sign language, and this has been the perfect introductory course to work through together! This first class is primarily vocabulary, then you can move on to their Conversational Sign Language course (which we plan to do). We have all enjoyed this! While it says these courses are for fourth grade and up, our almost 7-year-old has done so well. 
      • Connoisseur Kids by Jennifer L. Scott: Working through this excellent resource was another favorite addition to our year. It teaches etiquette and manners in a fun and engaging way for kids. The author is a believer, and though it's not an explicitly Christian book, it is positive and joyful. I highly recommend reading through this and doing the simple activities as a family!

Independent subjects for kids: I call these “independent,” but I am still very present for most of these subjects. 

Here’s the editable Canva link to the independent checklists we use! I print six of these checklists for each child at one time and tuck the blank checklists in the back of their binders. 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:

  • Language arts (4x a week): Learning Language Arts through Literature by Common Sense Press: Liam finished the Tan Book this year and loved it! We will start the Green Book (technically 7th grade) in a few weeks. LLATL is my favorite language arts curriculum we have ever used. It does require some hands-on time from the teacher, but very minimal. I typically spend about 10 minutes getting our kids started on their lessons, then they're able to do the rest on their own. I love how the lessons are short but meaningful, they incorporate rich classic literature, and the methods are varied from day to day and week to week. Alongside narration notebooking once a week, reading aloud, and independent reading, it feels like they are getting plenty of language arts. Every level of LLATL incorporates different skills, so it would be impossible to list all of them here. But you can find a list of the scope and sequence of every year of Learning Language Arts through Literature in this post. Some have asked if LLATL feels "dated," and I get that because it's been around a long time! But for the most part, it doesn't feel dated at all to me. We have loved it and plan to continue using it with all of our kids. It's so nice to have one part of homeschool "figured out" and not wonder what we'll use from year to year. 
  • Math (4x a week): Beast Academy (online + workbooks): Liam has thrived with Beast Academy. He is almost finished with the whole program and we will likely move on to PreAlgebra 1 through Art of Problem Solving (the same company that created Beast Academy) because this way of learning is such a fit for Liam. For context, Liam (11) is quite academically gifted. I don't think Beast Academy is for all kids, and it's not even for all of our kids. It involves a lot of problem solving, higher level thinking, and is great for kids who love a challenge. I appreciated this thorough review of it here.
  • Writing (1-2x a week): Mail Monday + Learning Language Arts through Literature assignments. Liam has several penpals that he is faithful to write every week, and has been writing more through his LLATL curriculum. 
  • Nature science study (once a week): To be honest, we didn't do nearly enough of this! We did lots of nature walks, but not as much formal study as I had hoped. We are hoping to add a formal science for our next school year, as both of our older kids are asking for that. 
  • Foreign language (2x a week): We had planned for Liam to continue working independently through this book, but it ended up feeling a little dry after several months. So we ended up signing him up for a Rosetta Stone subscription, which was a wonderful option. We plan to continue this next year. 
  • 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 competed in several city-wide competitions and festivals this year and earned top spots in every one! We're so proud of his commitment to piano. Liam also learned how to play the ukulele. ADDED: Liam recently used his own money to purchase a mandolin that he is learning to play. In addition, he began weekly in-person viola lessons at a local music studio.
  • ADDED: For Liam, Lanie, and Bear, we added Typing lessons using Typing.com. We opted for the paid version because it's ad-free. Liam and Lanie worked through all of the lessons and now are typing so well! They also love to practice their typing skills using NitroType.com

3rd grade for Lanie:

  • Language arts (4x a week): Learning Language Arts through Literature (continuing the Yellow book). We have almost finished with the Yellow book, and I've ordered the Orange book for her next school year. She is thriving with this curriculum!
  • Math (4x a week): Beast Academy (online + workbooks), level 2 - We found that there was a steep learning curve in Beast Academy after a few months, and it was becoming too challenging with complex word problems. We ended up taking a break with Beast Academy for her and I bought her this 3rd grade BJU Math workbook to get some extra practice. It's been great for her! She does 2 to 3 pages a day and we check her work. It's pretty self-explanatory and independent, which is helpful. 
  • Writing (1-2x a week): Mail Monday + Learning Language Arts through Literature assignments. Lanie loves Mail Monday and has quite a few penpals that she writes to regularly. And receiving mail is one of her absolute favorite things! 
  • Extra-curricular (1x a week): Ballet + Hoffman Academy online piano lessons. Lanie ended up quitting ballet halfway through the year and picking up soccer with I-9 and loving it! We'll continue with soccer in the fall. She's also done really well with Hoffman Academy and is learning to read music. 

1st grade for Bear:

  • Language arts (4x a week): After using Happy Cheetah for the first semester, Bear caught on to reading and no longer wanted to practice phonics. He wanted to dive into real books! So we didn't finish the program, but enjoyed it while we used it.
  • Handwriting (2x a week): Learning Without Tears beginning cursive Bear has taken this very slowly, doing about one page every couple days. But his handwriting has greatly improved!
  • Math: We zoomed through level 1 of Kate Snow’s Math with Confidence. I liked it, and I think it's a solid program, but with the other needs of my kids, it still felt like a lot to handle. We tried Beast Academy with him for a few months and, at first, it really worked for him. But when it started to get more complex and abstract, I could tell he was frustrated. I just ordered a new math program for him that I will be sharing about in my next post.
  • Reading practice: Bear gained so much confidence as a reader, and much of that was due to his 15-minutes-a-day practice reading aloud. But also, Bear had the idea to listen to his Yoto audiobook player while reading. For example, he listened to the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory audiobook while reading a printed copy of the book. This helped his reading skills so much and he has really taken off!
  • ADDED:
    • Hoffman Academy - Bear has been taking Hoffman Academy lessons and is enjoying piano so much. 
    • Violin lessons - He also took interest in violin lessons, and since he wasn't doing any other official extracurriculars, we signed him up for in-person lessons. He has done so well!

Preschool for Beck (age 4/5):

We continued reading three picture books aloud every morning (here are some of our favorites!), playing outside, doing puzzles, playing with playdough or magna-tiles or toy cards. We did begin teaching him to read with simple reading lessons from Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. This is the book we used with Liam when he was about Beck's age. We are only doing lessons when he asks, which is about once a week. I know there are a wide variety of opinions about using this as a reading curriculum. It doesn't work for every child, but for some, it really does!

ADDED: I-9 Soccer. Beck played two seasons of soccer and was quite the soccer star! In each 7-game season, he scored over 40 goals. He absolutely loves soccer, and this is something we plan to continue for him.

What we did well, and what we will change: 

I sat down with our two oldest kids to ask, "What went well this year?" and "What could we do better?" Both of them said it went really well overall. They love homeschooling and look forward to it. I never have to beg them to do their work... it's part of their daily lives and they love to learn (I am so thankful for this!). Because of some pressing work deadlines I had this spring, Shawn took over the majority of the homeschooling for a season and did a fantastic job. (I think they actually prefer him reading aloud in his many wonderful accents.) Now, we are splitting up the homeschooling. We alternate days homeschooling while the other one works. This isn't for every family, but it has worked beautifully for us!

When I asked the kids what we could do better, both said we could do "science" better, mainly because we haven't made science a focus at all. I plan to incorporate a science curriculum when we start school again in the next few weeks. I'll let you know about my final choice for that soon!

I truly hope this post was helpful to you as you plan your upcoming school year!

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