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  1. #1
    Junior Member Newbie
    Join Date
    Sep 2018

    Default "Polished & Packaged" vs Eclectic

    Hi all,

    I've done an exhaustive amount of research in a short amount of time, as the decision to homeschool came on suddenly and close to the start of the school year (K5). What this really means is I've been frantically researching and feel like I've gained a lot of knowledge, but am still confused . It seems like a lot of secular homeschoolers go the eclectic route - but I'm not entirely certain if this is out of necessity or preference. Most of my searches for secular curriculums resulted in lists of books/sources picked from all over the spectrum per subject... nothing really jumped out that guided the progressive sequence of learning (which is something I'd love as a newbie). I'm by no means bashing that approach, but we're personally not experienced enough for me to feel comfortable picking out books from a blog list and validating the reviews.

    We've always been very engaged in our children's learning and have been essentially unschooling/interest-led learning all our time as parents, but with this being our 1st year, I really wanted something that had a sort of outlining structure... at the very least to act as a point-of-reference or teacher's course/handbook. In some ways we will be eclectic in that I plan to incorporate a number of kits, books, & learning materials that look promising. We will also continue to take inspiration from unschooling and find those learning moments whenever they arise and the kid shows interest... lots of free play & discovery time.

    With all that said, I feel like we made a major concession in our rush to find something "polished" and structured... we purchased The Good & The Beautiful, which is by no means secular. I think we can make it work for now, since our kids are not quite reading on their own yet and we can redact/manipulate where necessary. We chose it based on the numerous glowing reviews and samples that were provided. When looking at secular curriculums, we came across Oak Meadow - which was nice but seemed way behind for my 5yr old. I just recently stumbled upon Torchlight, so I'll be looking into that as well.

    So that leaves me with a thought & question... what are some curriculums I might've missed? For you eclectic homeschoolers... how did you get started on that path? How do you choose what materials to incorporate into the various subjects?


  2. T4L In Forum Jan20
  3. #2


    There are so many good secular programs, there is no real reason to go with something religious.
    You might look at BuildYourLibrary - the K spine takes you on an adventure around the world. It will cover your science, literature, and social studies... and its pretty easy to be self-paced, allowing for rabbit trails and personal interests.
    Homeschooling DS13, DS6.


    My spelling was fine, then my brain left me.

  4. #3
    Senior Member Enlightened Artmama's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2015


    We are eclectic because one level does not fit all subjects for our kiddo. In order to meet her where she is at and provide appropriate challenge we draw from all over the place. The levels in different subjects weren't quite as diverse when we 'officially' started Homeschooling - For K we used one of the School Zone Publishing Big Books as a spine. The library had free access to ABC Mouse and someone turned us on to Teach Your Monster to Read so we used those as a sort of guide too. Mostly we just did a lot of fun activities and read, read, read.

    Now she would be in 3rd and we base most things on wherever she left off last year and what she wants to learn about next. There are a many different class & field trip opportunities in NYC so sometimes those send us in an unexpected direction. We try to keep some touchstones in the schedule to provide structure - Spanish on Mondays, Girl Scouts on Thursday and so on. Since we have to report to the DOE quarterly we have a formal time to asses how things are going a few times a year. I feel that is a key reason we are eclectic too - feeling free to change directions any time we feel the need to without the stress of feeling as though we are off course... If yu are making the trail who is to say you are lost

  5. #4
    Junior Member Newbie
    Join Date
    Sep 2018


    Quote Originally Posted by alexsmom View Post
    Welcome! [...]
    You might look at BuildYourLibrary - the K spine takes you on an adventure around the world. It will cover your science, literature, and social studies... and its pretty easy to be self-paced, allowing for rabbit trails and personal interests.
    Thanks! I'll look into that one further - I had a quick peek at it before and there were some things about it that seemed neat, but I thought we would struggle with how it's put together. The sample on the site was a bit bare and had a bunch of URL links for content, some quite dated (HTTP, requiring flash plugin). I'm sure there's some quality content in there, but if it isn't a pleasure to navigate, it won't fly in our house.

    I do like the idea of a spine not being so rigid or overwhelming that it becomes all-consuming. Those rabbit trails, or "nerd safaris" as we call them, are quite prominent in our household. A question is met with a question, some googling happens, and off we go for potentially hours.

    Quote Originally Posted by Artmama View Post
    [...] I feel that is a key reason we are eclectic too - feeling free to change directions any time we feel the need to without the stress of feeling as though we are off course... If yu are making the trail who is to say you are lost
    I appreciate that sentiment. I imagine we'll eventually spend so much time pulling in additional content/resources, that it'll just make sense to do that from the outset of picking a curriculum.

    The struggle for me is reconciling my child's knowledge & interest in a subject with the content level of a specific book or resource. How do you really know what level (breadth & depth) something is without buying it? Maybe I just take solace in using something packaged because it feels like you're less likely to have gaps? I haven't really pegged it yet...

  6. #5


    I chose to go with Torchlight this year for my 5.5yo just because I have so much else going on in life right now that I wanted an easy button for lessons as I just don't feel like I have the time and energy to pull together my own lessons as I have in the past. So far we are loving it! You can see my initial review here and I plan to keep updating time permitting.

    I've always put together eclectic lessons on my own because I enjoy it but it does take a lot of time and research.

  7. #6


    It's been a while since my kids were that young, but initially we started as eclectic homeschoolers for two main reasons. First, like Artmama's kids, our kids were all over in terms of skills, so a grade level curriculum just didn't fit. Second, it was a financial decision. In the early years of our homeschooling, sometimes our only income was my extremely part time tutoring. I found free online sources, used books, and made extreme use the the library.

    And yes, it does take a lot of time and research. There were also occasions where we had to dump what we were doing because it simply didn't work.

    On the plus side, after homeschooling 11 years all the way through high school, I think the planning/researching part gets easier the more you do it.

    Finally, when they are so young (early elementary), I think you can't go wrong with lots of read aloud time, lots of books, fun math practice (think games and manipulatives, which can be home-made), and out-and-about exploring of your community--parks, fire station, shopping trips, volunteering.

    Sorry this doesn't answer your specific question about a pre-made curriculum. I just wanted to offer a different perspective.

    Homeschooled two kids for 11 years, now trying to pay it forward

    Daughter -- a University of Iowa graduate: BA in English with Creative Writing, BA in Journalism, and a minor in Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies

    Son -- a Purdue University senior majoring in Computer Science, minoring in math, geology, anthropology, and history

  8. #7


    I like BYL because of the flexibility, the robust reading list, and that I dont need to cull mindless worksheets, religious propeganda, or components I was doing independently (math, science, handwriting, and phonics). I google my own nerd safari resources, although it is nice when BYL has done a little of the legwork for me.

    We use a math book written by math people that suits my boy, handwriting approved by our OT, and phonics that doesnt require writing. (Our needs may be a little more extreme, but at the end of the day, theyre not more individual than your needs are.) We generally do a lesson from each every day, but using eclectic resources means it doesnt matter if we take a break working through one or more of them.... its not tied to an arbitrary schedule with other things.

    BYL or not, I think your family will be happiest buying components that suit you.
    Homeschooling DS13, DS6.


    My spelling was fine, then my brain left me.

  9. #8


    First breathe! This happened to us in the middle of the Kinder year. We did not plan it and had to make it up on the fly. First it's Kindergarten, so it doesn't have to be intense.

    We do not use an all in one, because our child is all over the map when it comes to abilities. And since we were new to it, I wanted to be able to adjust without a major investment. (There is so much trial and error.)

    If you are looking to see what traditional kindergartners learn, there is a list here:

    This will give you an idea of what is typically learned in K-8.

    When I found myself suddenly planning out Kinder after a miserable 5 weeks, this is what I did:

    -Picked up some art & school supplies like glue sticks, crayons, paper, construction paper and the like.

    -Purchased the Bob Books series to help with learning to read. (There are alternatives to these books, but this is what we used.)

    -Purchased some dollar store math workbooks

    -Found some PBS Kids shows for science and literacy activities. Sid the Science Kid, Wild Kratts, Super Why, Peg & Cat (The website has activities for parents/teachers to incorporate into lessons)

    -Brain Pop Jr. is a subscription service for videos and activities that reinforce what kids learn in primary grades K-2. They are short and fun. They were the foundation for lots of good conversations covering a wide variety of topics. The activities are only ok; I used them in conjunction with our other lessons.

    -Went to the library to pick up some books to reinforce the science and literacy activities. We read a lot of books. Talked about books.

    -Invested in board games. There are so many good ones that reinforce math, literacy and general learning. In fact, we ended up using games through 3 grade for most of our learning.

    -Subscribed to Cricket magazines: Ladybug and Click. These were great magazines that cover science and literature.

    -Plan fun activities to the zoo, parks, nature walks and other places in our community.

    We did this as I tried to figure out what I wanted to do in the future. So the only major purchases were the Bob Book sets, magazines, Brain Pop Jr. and board games. Some of these things I would have purchased anyway. We already subscribed to the magazines and we like games, so we already had a large collection.

    Good luck on your new and unexpected journey!
    A mama who teaches college writing, as well as help her 12-year-old in
    choosing his own life adventure. Using Global Village School to support our desire to develop a sense of social justice and global awareness.

  10. #9


    Also keep in mind that the current US Scope and Sequence is very focused on reading in Kindergarten which is developmentally not typical for many kids that are developmentally typical! Finland is #1 in the world for education and they don't start formal teaching until age 7. There is no problem with teaching reading in kindergarten, but I am just saying that if your kid doesn't get it, don't panic and keep learning fun and keep reading to them.

    Also I really like Moving Beyond the Page, but I only buy a few of the units at a time and get the books from the library, that keeps the cost down. We could never get through a whole year of MBTP, but what we have done is wonderful.
    DS16 with ASD, DD12 and DS10

  11. #10


    I think it's okay to want to start with a package... it's not my style, but I understand why some people want them.

    So... options for a truly secular packaged program for the early grades... For some of these, you need to add your own math...
    Oak Meadow (Waldorf influenced)
    Calvert (very schoolish)
    Moving Beyond the Page (book based unit studies)
    Build Your Library (very book oriented)
    Time 4 Learning (online)
    Torchlight (this is super new...)
    Five in a Row (book based, has a bible supplement, but no religion in the core program)
    Rainbow Resources (this is just an assemblage of programs, but they pick them out for you... RR is Christian, but they do seem to know what's secular and what's not)

    Options that are close to secular...
    Bookshark (don't trust the science, but the book choices are good)
    Well Trained Mind Press (this is just an assemblage of programs as well, and I would say they're secular, but there's a good bit of dispute about Story of the World and whether it's really secular - I would say not in the first volume, yes in the later ones)
    Timberdoodle (they do a secular package that isn't quite secular)

    No matter what, you're going to tweak it. You have to accept that out of the box. Also, you're MORE likely to need to tweak an all in one program because you can't individually pick and choose the best resources for each subject. It is not difficult to plan an eclectic program that still includes plenty of curricula. You make a list... Math, Reading, History, etc. etc. and you get a program for each thing. You will NOT have more gaps this way. I pinky swear. Every kid - in school and out - will have gaps. It's just a thing that happens. If you want to follow Common Core, you'll actually have more options that way than with all in one programs.

    In general, let go of any fears about kindy. You can't screw it up.
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"Polished & Packaged" vs Eclectic