Home School Picks & Tips

Since I've been homeschooling, I have noticed a growing interest by many people. This page will be for those interested in curriculum picks, resources, and tips of the trade.  

Curriculum Picks

Elementary Subjects

If you are new at homeschooling and you want a math curriculum that covers everything, I recommend one of three of the following publishers:

1.)  BJU Press -- As math is very conceptual, it can be hard for children to visualize.  The Bob Jones University Press math curriculum is very good at setting a strong foundation.  It is very colorful with hands-on manipulatives.  They also introduce your child to different career paths with math backgrounds.  They offer a DVD program for parents.  They cover topics by chapter, i.e., chapter one may be on addition and chapter two may be on subtraction.  You will not see addition problems in the second chapter.  Some drawbacks you should know from the start is there is a lot of preparation on the parent's part.  They start out slow, and your child may become bored quickly.  More repetition is needed, because of this I would not recommend this curriculum past second grade.  Consumables are necessary for this curriculum to work.  Finally, this is a very expensive option.

2.) A Beka books -- This curriculum is popular among homeschoolers.  Students who use this curriculum test very well in standarized testing.  It is a preferred curriculum with evaluatorsThis curriculum is thorough, very colorful, fast-paced and contains plenty of review.  If your student catches on to math concepts quickly this may be your pick.  It does tend to teach by example without much explanation.  Again A Beka covers math concepts by topics and builds on them.  (Chapter one:  addition; chapter two:  subtraction, and so on.)  Consumables are available for this curriculum adding to the cost.  Many people use this curriculum all the way through high school.  This publisher offers DVDs to teach your child, but they are not as animated as the first publisher mentioned.  In fact, I'd say they are boring!
3.) Saxon Math  -- Definitely popular among homeschoolers as well, this curriculum is reasonably priced with consumables.  This curriculum uses manipulatives, which are found around the house.  You can add to your manipulatives by purchasing additional items.  Saxon is great at review.  Homeschoolers do well at testing with this curriculum, and most evaluators recognize this as a good curriculum.  Each lesson taught has practice problems just for that lesson and additional homework problems that accrue from the very first lesson.  Saxon is not colorful; however, it is visual, conceptual and thorough.  There is great explanations for each concept along with example problemsThis is not fast-paced, nor is it slow.  During the early years of math (grades 1-3), there is some parental preparation required.  However, from fourth grade up the preparation time is minimal.  Many homeschoolers use this curriculum through the high school years.  You can purchase additional helps for both teacher and student.  One of the helps you can purchase is the D.I.V.E. program which teaches Saxon Math from a CD with a teacher that explains each lesson's concepts.

I really enjoy using Institute for Excellence in Writing ("IEW").  I did not find this curriculum by myself.  It was recommended to me by a friend, which is the best kind of referral.  At first I was skeptical with this curriculum, because it is not your typical writing curriculum, but I found my children love it.  When my son was in sixth grade, I switched to IEW.  I was desperate for something that would work.  It was like pulling teeth to get him to write two sentences.  After using IEW for the first month my son wanted to write a second story.  I couldn't believe what I was hearing.  IEW uses a DVD teacher to model how the curriculum works and then gives plenty of practice repeating the process.  All my children like working with it, and I see wonderful results.  I can't ask for anything more.  The cost is reasonable. This also has made it possible to teach all four students writing at the same time.  In the elementary years I supplement this curriculum with a grammar curriculum like Easy Grammar.

Heritage Studies
In the elementary years history is simply for exposure.  It will be introduced over and over again.  Therefore, having a Biblical world view of history is important to me.  One of the best ways to teach it is to take field trips.  Of course, this could be expensive, but with a little bit of effort you may be able to find some deals.  One tip for Pennsylvanians is the Pennsylvania Heritage Foundation.  You can buy a family pass for a year which will allow you to visit 24-25 museums or trails throughout the state.  Making a photo journal of the field trips would certainly lend itself to a spectacular portfolio, fond memories and lots of learning.  This would also cover the Pennsylvania history requirement in that state.

Trustworthy curriculums to try would be the elementary Bob Jones University Press or A Beka books.  Alpha Omega is also a decent one to try.  I like to use the heritage study book and combine it with my writing curriculum instead of buying consumable tests.  When you have to write about something, you definitely have to know your subject.  Plus, evaluators just love seeing all the written papers in a portfolio. 

Look for additional tips in the near future.

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