1st - 5th Grade.
Let me say right up front that if you want even better suggestions than mine, check out the book The Well Trained Mind:A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer. Susan Wise Bauer is my hero! I met her at a homeschool convention when she was there teaching a class. In class I found her to be articulate and intelligent; when I met her downstairs in the area where you can purchase curriculum sitting by her books, she was friendly, courteous, and had a ready smile. What a great woman! It is how I want to be when I grow up.
Her ways make sense and are wonderful! My ways are good too, and work for our family well. That is what you must do! Make homeschooling work for you...you as the mom. It has to work for the children too, of course, but don't set yourself up to fail with a plan that you can never attain. Susan & Jessie's ways are wonderful, but for me, a mother of younger children, it didn't work as well for me as it did for them. Their way is very mommy-hands-on, having mom's help vital in the homeschool. My way is to set the kids up with their routine and have me around to answer questions. Do you see the difference? It is important to realize and do what you are best at and what you have time for.
Do yourself a favor and take a look at her book! Even if you don't use her programs 100%, you can incorporate a lot of things into your homeschool. Really, it is as good as I say!
Okay, now for my way.
Have a library in your home of classic books.
Whether your library has one bookshelf or several, keep the best books close at hand for your children. That way, when they are "bored" as all children get, you can tell them to go read a book, and you will have only the best to choose from. If you are unsure of titles or authors of good kids' books, take a look on the lists of Caldecott Award winning picture books and Newberry Award winning juvenile literature. The awards aren't always given to the books that I think are the best, but they are more often than not. Those are a good place to start. Also, pay attention to the author's name on the award winners and check out their other books as well. The links that I have provided are to the American Library Association's list of award winners. Another page that you might be interested in is this one; scroll to the bottom. It lists many other awards than just the Caldecott and Newberry.
I love the classics. I have 5 - 5 shelve bookshelves and 2 - 3 shelve bookshelves and a few boxes filled with good books. I feel that this is important. My daughter, Amber, has read nearly every book in our home. This is a huge task! I figure that the city library will have all of the Babysitter's Club and Goosebump series, so my kids can borrow theirs. I have limited space and want to make it count. If my kids want to buy those books with their own money and keep them in their own personal library, I have no problem with that though.
I do get the Illustrated Classics editions and other abridged works for my younger kids, but I love the originals best. The classics in their original, unabridged state still have the flavor of the author's writing. The abridged books have the story with simpler language. Sometimes just getting the story is as much as you can hope for, and I understand that, but I can't image Louisa May Alcott's works without her choice of words.
Remember that picture books are meant to be read to the child by a good reader. If you are looking for books that your child can read for themselves, start with easy readers. My favorite are: Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel, Amelia Bedelia books by Peggy Parish. And I love books by Syd Hoff. (All of the links I have provided in this paragraph are from amazon.com.) You can also just type in "I Can Read" in the search field at amazon.com and have myriads of wonderful book titles at your fingertips.
In my opinion, reading well is the best thing that a child can master. Once they can read the entire world is opened to them. And a love of reading will help them go far!
My favorite science curriculum for children is Holt Science. It is an easy to read book that is interesting and has great pictures. I bought all of my Holt Science books on eBay.
I have them read a section and answer the questions daily. I treat the Chapter Reviews as tests.
In addition to the daily assignments, I love using the Audubon Field Guides. I love having them in our personal library for my kids to look at and to use to figure out what a certain spider is, what type of a tree we have in our yard, what that black bird with red on its wings is, etc. They are wonderful! I also bought them on eBay.
I found this book awhile back at my library and decided that I *had* to have a copy too! A Guide to Weather written by William J. Burroughs, Bob Crowder, Ted Robertson, Eleanor Vallier-Talbot, and Richard Whitaker. It has answers to the "Why?" questions kids ask, though you will need to read it and put it in your own words for 1st - 5th graders. It will be a great tool for them on their own when they are in jr. high and older.
Here are some books for them that they will love and read! A New True Book series by Children's Press. There are several different books to choose from with this set. There are books about states, peoples, and science. I purchased all of mine from eBay.
Hands-on learning never goes out of style! Keep using zoos, museums, and other "field trips" throughout your child's learning experience!
Social Studies / History / Geography
I can't say enough about the books from Children's Press. They have wonderful pictures and easy to read, entertaining information. I purchased many of the books of the Enchantment of the World series. They are books about countries around the world. Though my copies may not be as up-to-date as I'd love, the information inside about the history and climate of the country will never go out of date. (There is a newer set available, they are just pricey.)
Another series by Children's Press is America the Beautiful. Written in the same style as Enchantment of the World, America the Beautiful has all 50 states plus territories of the United States in its series. Again, I purchased mine at eBay. Both sets are usually available at the library as well. Even my high schoolers get info for reports from these and the Enchantment of the World books.
The history books I use for this age are books by Genevieve Foster. George Washington's World, Abraham Lincoln's World, The World of Captain John Smith, Augustus Caesar's World, just to name a few. These books are delicious slices of history. In Abraham Lincoln's World you will read all about the life of Abraham Lincoln and some of his contemporaries: Napoleon, Henry Clay, Washington Irving, Sam Houston, Simon Bolivar, the burning of Moscow in September 1812 and much, much more.
As a disclaimer, I haven't been as great at teaching geography and social studies as I should be, but I do love having maps and a globe around! I have placemats with the US map and world map on it too (along with placemats of composers, the planets, multiplication, the periodic table, and many others. We actually use them to eat on and the kids read them like they would the cereal box.) I just haven't found a textbook that I really love. Many are fine, just not my favorite. I hope that you will be more successful than I.
I have a few favorites for math, and use each according to the learning style of the kid involved.
My all time favorite for kids ready to use textbooks is Macmillan Series M. Here is a picture of what they will look like, minus the spiral binding. Spiral binding is the teacher's edition: Try and get the correction book too, or you will be doing math alongside your child as you grade their paper.
For little ones not ready for a textbook, I suggest using McGraw-Hill's Spectrum Math. Here is a description at Barnes & Noble. In fact, I have always bought these workbooks at Barnes and Noble. I'm sure other's carry them, but Barnes and Noble has always had them when I need them. I really like their workbooks and use them through about the 3rd or 4th grade.
Another Math curriculum that is popular among homeschoolers is Saxon math. Saxon is different from other math curricula because it reviews a lot. It will introduce a new topic, but then in the practice set they do for homework, it incorporates review along with new information. Emily does really well with Saxon. LovetoLearn.net has all of the Saxon Homeschool Packets that includes the textbook, test booklet, and answers for the text practice problems and tests. Occasionally you can find used Saxon programs on eBay.
Language Skills / English / Writing / Reading
Even though they are reading for fun or as an assignment, you will want to make sure that they are understanding what they are reading. I love the World Book Reading Development Program. I have looked on Powells.com, eBay.com, and Amazon.com, and only Amazon has any at all. They are selling single books. I was lucky enough to find the boxed sets, one is Kit 1, the other is Kit 3. Each kit has 3 levels, and each level has 4 books. Within the book there are stories about 2-3 pages long, and then questions about the stories that equal 10 points total.
If you can't find the World Book series, try to find another reading comprehension program that you like. It really will help them in their reading skills.
I suggest copy writing for penmanship and for learning to write. It can be a simple sentence or a poem, depending on the age and ability level of the child. For a first grader, keep the sentence short and use words you'd like them to be able to sight read.
Have them write letters, stories, or reports. Have little children narrate while you write.
There are many writing programs available. Some people have an idea jar with ideas for writing: The funnest thing I ever did was...... My favorite family vacation was when we.......
The most important thing is that you get them to write.
I haven't ever had a formal spelling program, but I have liked the look of Zaner-Blozer though.
As far as a textbook teaching English skills, I like McDougal, Littell English or Building Christian English Series by Rod and Staff. Either are equally good, in my estimation.
Make a Schedule
A schedule will keep your family on track and help your kids know what to expect of their day.
An example of a schedule would be like this:
Each day I have my kids:
Do a page of math (about 25 questions)
Read a section in their history book
Do one section in science and answer the questions
Read a book that I assign for 20 minutes
Do one chapter in their Reading comprehension book & answer the questions
Do one section in their English text and answer the questions
And write something (this one falls by the wayside way too often!)
Another good thing that comes from writing out what you expect from your kids, you see what you are lacking. As I wrote my schedule I can see holes in my program that I'd like to fix:
I need to give them a list of spelling words to learn
I need to assign a geography lesson daily
I need to have them work on a writing assignment regularly.
Otherwise, I think what we are doing is substantial.
Those are my ideas for a homeschooling day. For those that homeschool, what do you do? What books do you use? What are you doing right now that you are excited about?
For those who have kids in public school, what do you think of the books that your kids are using in school? Are there any that you are excited about your kids using? Are there things they are doing in school that you think we would benefit by doing?
For those who are school teachers, what books, programs, or curricula do you think are worthwhile? What are you teaching that you are excited about?
I love to hear your suggestions and comments, so tell'em to me!