Homeschooling: Core Curriculum

Yesterday I began my little back-to-school series with our Mission and Purpose, Dos and Don’ts. In case you missed it, I’m hosting a little link up, so feel free to click over there and see what lots of folks are doing, and/or link up your own homeschooling post.

Today we’re talking nuts and bolts. Yeehaw!

Homeschooling Curriculum

Curriculum Choices 2015-2016

There was a big shake-up with our charter school this year and curriculum I ordered in May is still getting sorted out, even though technically our school year begins this Thursday. (Deep breaths.) Because of that, (and because why bother homeschooling if I can’t make the major decisions myself) we’re going to start out slowly: brushing up on math facts, getting back into a daily routine, reading aloud a lot. After labor day, when (hopefully) all our materials are here and sorted, we’ll hit the books hard.

I think the easiest way to break this section down is by subject. Gianna and Aliya do many subjects together, and even though Ezekiel isn’t yet in kindergarten, he does most of Gabriel’s subjects with him, at least on the “input” end.


We’ve been with Singapore since the beginning.  At first, I loved them.  Then, I only just liked them.  Last year, I was ready to ditch them. Once I realized (duh) that I could tailor it to fit a certain girl’s learning style, I decided I liked it again.  It’s a rigorous program but not too much so, and my kids are way better at conceptualizing math than I was at their age.  I think we’re going to stick with it a little while longer.

(We actually use the Common Core version, although we used the Standards version up to last year.  I closely compared the two and found that there wasn’t much difference except a couple teaching techniques.  Since my kids have to take annual standardized tests for our charter school, I’ve made this single and solitary concession to Common Core standards, which by and large, I find to be lacking in all other areas except for math. </political rant>)

Gianna: Primary Mathematics 4, by Singapore Math

Aliya: Primary Mathematics 3, by Singapore Math

Gabriel: Earlybird Math B, by Singapore Math

We’ll also use Life of Fred when we need to take a breather.

I really need a good program for math facts.  Any suggestions?

Language Arts:


After 2 failed spelling programs last year, we finally found Spelling You See.  (Made by the same people as Math U See, but with a more appropriately spelled title.) Copywork and dictation, with some added learning techniques like shading vowel pairs and consonant pairs with different colored pencils, etc.  Plus, very little effort on my part!  #winning

Gianna: Spelling You See, Americana

Aliya: Spelling You See, Wild Tales

Gabriel: possibly Spelling You See, Listen and Write


I am more excited about BookShark than any other single piece of curriculum this year. I just. can’t. wait. to dive in to all these great books. We’re only doing history/literature rather than the whole grade-level package.

Gianna and Aliya, combined: BookShark grade 3, with advanced readers. The read-aloud list includes:

Swoon! Squee! All the hyperbolic reactions! I’ve waxed philosophical about why I love reading aloud to my big kids, and now I’ve got a curriculum that goes with it instead of competing for time. And that list^ doesn’t even touch the books they’ll read to themselves.

Gabriel: First we’ll finish Moving Beyond the Page, ages 4-5, which we did about half of last year. Then we’ll move on to Five in a Row, volume 2. (I should probably clarify that I do very little of the extra crafts/activities for either program. Mostly I read great books to my kids and we talk about them.)

Gabriel: phonics instruction will continue with a mishmash of what I’ve got laying around, but probably mostly CHC’s Little Stories for Little Folks.  My kids love those little booklets.


Last year we read Grammarland, which I still highly recommend.  We will probably re-read it along with these nice little workbooks from CHC.  This combination is how I’m reconciling my dislike of teaching grammar with my distaste for grammatical errors.  At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

Gianna: CHC’s Language of God, level C

Gianna: CHC’s Language of God, level B


I’m still conflicted about writing.  Last year we began Institute for Excellence in Writing. This year, I’m not sure if we’ll continue that or go a different direction. Do you have a writing program you love? It’s very important to me that my kids write well, but I’ve mostly focused on front-loading them with good reading material.  I suppose it’s time to get a little more practical in the writing department.

Let's take a break to stare at a gratuitous-baby-in-sink photo, mmmkay?

Let’s take a break to stare at a gratuitous-baby-in-sink photo, mmmkay?


I don’t have too much to say about science.  I hope that doesn’t make me a bad person.

Gianna and Aliya: Behold & See 3 (Intro to Science), and R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey Chemistry at our weekly co-op.

Gabriel and kind of Ezekiel: BookShark grade 1 science at weekly co-op


Continuing with the swooning above… this year I’m all about that history, that history, no treble. I do love how BookShark combines literature with history so we can all enjoy it!

Gianna and Aliya: U.S. History using the BookShark grade 3: Reading with History plus advanced readers

Gianna and Aliya: California History at our weekly co-op. If you’re a Californian and want in on a great outline for this subject, let me know.  I was the recipient of it and would be happy to share. It’s literature based as well. Hashtag GimmeAllTheBooks

Gabriel and Ezekiel: U.S. History using the D’Aulaire biographies (I wrote a little about them here.)


Our day always begins with faith formation, followed shortly thereafter by reading aloud.  Bible is twice/week (1 OT story, 1 NT story), 1 saint per week, and 1-2 days of Faith and Life. (The girls read and narrate, and the boys listen and we discuss. No writing for this subject.)

Gianna: Bible, 57 Saints, and Faith and Life 4 (Jesus Our Guide)

Aliya: Bible, 57 Saints, and Faith and Life 3 (Our Life with Jesus)

Gabriel and Ezekiel: Bible, saint stories, Faith and Life 1 (Our Heavenly Father)

Along these lines, does anyone have a good Bible recommendation for upper elementary?  Gianna is not thrilled with the one I got her last year .  Although I would *prefer* she begin reading the actual scriptures, I’ve decided it’s more important at this age to help her fall further in love with it. She’s a highly visual person, so good illustrations are important.


That’s quite enough of that now, don’t you think? Click back to Homeschooling Mission and Purpose to check out other links or add your own.


  1. I love that Book Shark book list! Johnny Tremain has always been a favorite of mine, my son read Toliver’s Secret Earlier this summer and said he really enjoyed it, and I’m hoping to get Carry On Mr. Bowditch read by Jim Weiss some time this year. (saving my pennies!) Thanks for sharing your picks for this year!

  2. For Gianna, have you seen The Action Bible?
    While we do read the real thing, we love this one so much we have it in English & Spanish. My 9 year old niece (who doesn’t regularly go to mass on Sundays 🙁 ) read it cover to cover in 2 weeks when she was staying with us. It’s written as a comic book and is very engaging.
    We just started Singapore 2 & K on Monday per your recommendations! I’m still intimidated, but we’re rolling with it…

  3. Hmm, as someone who works in the online charter school world and hears things about all the different school options available, and considering that I recently applied online to be a teacher at your charter school – I’m super curious as to this big shake-up thing. 🙂 I’ve sensed that something is up as a bunch of teachers have recently been switching schools, but I’m wondering what’s going on… just a change in the curriculum your funds can be used to purchase? Or something else?
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  4. This is my first year homeschooling (grade 1) and I was going to use IEW after hearing him speak at the Orange County homeschool conference in June. Curious what didn’t work for you?

  5. Love this post – and school year planning in general. The book list from book shark looks great, and we’ve only read about half the books. Until now. (dum dum dum)

  6. You asked for writing suggestions: We did this last year and were VERY happy with it! There is zero prep work! I was pleased with the quality of writing my son produced. It would work well with multiple kids ( if they are within a grade of one another)
    Our co-op is using IEW this fall – but we’ll go back to Writing & Rhetoric in the spring.