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  1. #1

    Default Curriculum Help for Anticipated New Homeschool

    We are almost certainly going to start homeschooling next fall. I posted some questions about making the jump generally here:

    In that post, I noted that my wife is not entirely on board and would really like to see a concrete plan before finally committing. Towards that end, I wanted try to firm up curriculum ideas and get some feedback from you all who have been there.

    I have a rising 6th grade son and a rising 3rd grade daughter. My daughter is in a public school Montessori program with an average at best teacher--generally at grade level. My son was in the same program, but had a terrible teacher for 2/3 grade and school became toxic--we switched to a private specialized school towards the end of 4th grade which is working much better, but we don't see it as serving his needs long term. With his prior school situation, he fell behind fairly significantly. At his current school, he has caught up somewhat (especially in reading/reading comp), but may still be a bit behind in other subjects, particularly writing. Both kids profess to hate math, but both have shown promise in the past (his current math teacher says it is a strength, even though he thinks it's a weakness). I think that the lack of structure, and actual instruction, provided in a large public school Montessori classroom with an average at best teacher has really not worked well for either of them. So with that, my curriculum thoughts:

    Language Arts:

    For writing, EIW seems like it might be the best fit, but I am also considering IEW. Both seem to provide the level of structure that I think is needed. I like the extra grammar practice in EIW and it seems perhaps a little more granular than IEW, though I could be wrong. Query what level my son should be in if he is behind in writing.

    I really like what I've seen of Mosdos for literature/reading. I would anticipate using the workbook, but not doing all of the exercises, particularly longer writing passages, at least until the latter part of the year after more of the writing curriculum has been worked through.

    For spelling--they are both atrocious spellers--I'm thinking of starting with AAS1 for both. They really have lacked instruction in this area, and I want to go back and fill in gaps.

    Math: I am thinking of using the first 2 volumes of Learn Math Fast to fill in any gaps for my son and to use as the "spine" for my daughter. For her, I have some Math Mammoth books from some summer work a couple of years ago for supplemental work and also Beast Academy 3A-D for supplemental work. For my son, after the review/filling in gaps, I'd really, really like to do AOPS Pre-Algebra. I am very math-oriented and love what I've seen of this program and think it could be very good on a number of levels for my son, but I could also just be projecting. He did get through most of BA3 the summer before 4th grade with success on most things other than the challenge problems.

    History/Science: Looking for ideas here. I would like to do these content subjects with both together. I am really looking for a very broad overview (like, all of world history, not just the ancients, broad). Their exposure in school has been very scattershot--a bit of geography here, the start of the American Revolution there, 3 consecutive years of the salmon life cycle (don't need to do that again!), and I'd like to give a big picture view over this next year. One idea was to use Hakim Story of Science as a spine, and supplementing with various youtube or other documentary videos for the cultural stuff, and maybe the teacher/student book for more hands-on? We are planning on doing a couple of international trips, so we will definitely have a focus on those locations in advance of our trips.

    Other Stuff

    My son needs handwriting help--part of his problem with writing is the physical act--and I was looking at Smithhand as an option. It purports to be a bit quicker and more natural than more traditional methods, but there's not a lot out there on it.

    Also thinking of IEW's Poetry Memorization and some of the products from Critical Thinking Company to help with memory and logic. My son may be doing some outside work on memory, executive function and OT and might skip this for him, but maybe good for my daughter.

    My son's messed around a bit on Duolingo, but I might have him choose a language (probably French of Spanish) and try to have be a bit more diligent. The goal is to get him back to the point of attending school, if not for 7th grade, then for 8th and 9th and it would be good to at least get him started as the schools he would be attending start foreign language in middle school.

    They both run XC and track and play basketball. My daughter does choir and girl scouts. Probably would be good to get my son doing something music oriented, but there's a lot on the plate already, and I have the feeling I'm already pushing it.

    Well, that's a lot. Too much?? I welcome any and all feedback. Thanks!

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  3. #2


    Whew. Yes. That might be too much. Or it might not... it does depend. I think the important thing is that you're in touch with the resources and you feel confident about what you want to try and aim for.

    I strongly suggest that you not buy everything you're talking about all at once. If you do that, I can almost guarantee that you'll have bought at least one big ticket item that either completely flops or doesn't even get touched. Instead, maybe think about starting slow. Add things in over the first couple of months. It's a marathon, not a sprint. See how each thing goes. Tweak. Settle with something for a week or two, then decide if you have enough space to add something else. You may still end up getting a dud and changing things up, but you're less likely to do that if you ease in.

    Specifically... for spelling, I'd skip AAS1 and start with AAS2 unless they're struggling with basic sounds and CVC type words. The review at the start of AAS2 is plenty for older students beginning, IMHO. There are other options for spelling, but AAS is good. You seem to be gravitating toward structured, scripted, rigorous programs, and it fits that bill well.

    For math... I think if you're hoping to start AoPS Pre-A with a behind 6th grader, you're really, really jumping the gun. I know you're talking about filling in the gaps first, but AoPS is a very challenging program. A 6th grader taking pre-algebra would be ahead. Heck, even a 7th grader taking pre-algebra would be slightly ahead. Less than half of American 8th graders complete Algebra I before high school. Just... give him time. If he breezes ahead and needs the challenge, then that's great! But I think if you're setting the goal of starting the very hardest math program that's already ahead of level for him next year, then you're setting yourself (and possibly him) up for failure. I also want to say that AoPS is a great program, but it's not right for all kids. If it's right for him, that's awesome! But there are many excellent options out there for high school level math. AoPS is not the only game in town. I would strongly suggest that you instead aim for, after filling in the gaps, doing Singapore or Math Mammoth or Math in Focus or MEP grade 6. All of them are also excellent and rigorous and structured like you want. All of them would lead into pre-algebra for 7th grade, which is still a basic honors track for kids who are a little ahead of their peers.

    For content subjects... I think doing Story of Science sounds like a good plan. You're purposefully going heavy on the 3 R's so you need to go a little light on content. Doing one program could be a way to do that. Read it aloud, do a few activities. Supplement with some books and documentaries. Let it be a loose overview. Alternately, you could use Story of the World as an overall overview - just read the whole thing aloud and skip doing much for it. Or listen to it on audio CD. Or, you could read aloud another overview spine line A Little History of the World or... I personally like Builders of the Old World, which would overview ancient and medieval history. And for science you could just watch all of Bill Nye or something. The amount of structured stuff you're putting in... you really need to go light for content. I would not try to do anything too work intensive. Just reading aloud and watching videos is really fine when you're talking about doing an intensive writing program, an intensive spelling program, an intensive lit program, and a year of catch up on math.
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  4. #3


    I agree with much of what Farrar had to say. I think you may be projecting a bit and going a little overboard in a desire to prove to your wife that this homeschool thing will work.

    Some of the best advice I was ever given as a new homeschool parent was, number 1, everyone has gaps, gaps are what make learning a lifelong endeavor. And number 2, teach the child in front of you, not the child you dream of teaching or who you were as a child.

    You don't need to fix everything now. That is a guaranteed way to burn out everyone. Pick one, MAYBE two problem areas and work on them. For your son, it sounds like writing might be the priority area to work on since his teacher says he is good at math but maybe not confident in himself. Work intensively on writing to begin with this year and work at level with math. Once he shows improvement in writing and is more comfortable, then start bumping up the intensity on the math. Every subject should not be on the very edge of their ability level or something that needs intense work. If it is, they will be exhausted and grouchy everyday and exhausted, grouchy kids are not pleasant people to be around.

    AOPS is an excellent and challenging math program but it sounds like your son lacks confidence in his abilities in math. There is no reason he needs to do pre-algebra in 6th grade so, personally, I would spend a lot of time in 6th grade building his confidence and polishing his math skills. A math-confident 7th or 8th grader will have a much better chance at actually enjoying AOPS for the challenge that it is than an math-insecure 6th grader. You need to consider your end goal here. Is your end goal to get him through as much math as possible as quickly as possible or do you want him to be confident and competent in math even if it's not his favorite subject?

    Don't try to do it all your first homeschool year. Start with what is most important to you and then expand from there. Almost everyone starts their first homeschool year with big ideas of it being one way and end the year completely differently than they imagined and that's OKAY! Having high expectations and lofty goals isn't a bad thing but making your nose bleed on the grinding stone to get it all done... that will cause issues. You are heading in the right direction, just pace yourself and I think you will do fine.
    Last edited by MapleHillAcademy; 05-04-2018 at 09:38 AM.

  5. #4


    Thanks. As I was writing it all down, I started to have my doubts on AOPS which you have confirmed. I値l shelve that for a later year, if I知 still working with him and math is going well. I値l see how the review materials go and evaluate what might work based on that experience.

    As for spelling, I think my daughter would benefit from starting at 1. My son mostly just lacks confidence. He asks me how to spell simple CVc words. I ask him to try and he almost always responds correctly, but quizzically. Like math, my thought was to start at the beginning to make sure there is a solid foundation on which to build.

    Thanks for additional ideas on science/history. The goal here is definitely to find something engaging and fun.

    I値l probably hold off on some of the extras until we get started as well.

    One other note. The plan would be primarily to have a 4 day week with weekends free and a field trip day, which might be hiking or museum or any number of other things, so I知 hoping it to not be too rigid.

    Thanks for the feedback.

  6. #5


    If that's the case, I would just go ahead and start AAS1 with both of them. I never figured out how to do AAS with two kids at once - it's way too individually paced. So just keep in mind they still have to do it individually. Even sorting the cards is a PITA with two kids, unfortunately. (It's a great program... but I did have my issues with it...)

    I wouldn't buy anything for history or science yet. I'd just plan on watching videos and/or reading aloud until you've settled into all the other stuff. I know you mentioned world history, but there are a lot more options out there for US history. You could have content time just be watching Bill Nye and Liberty's Kids for the first couple of months and then see where you stand. It really wouldn't hurt anyone a bit.
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Curriculum Help for Anticipated New Homeschool