Sunday, October 20, 2013

2013-2014 curriculum

Today I'm sharing what my girls are studying this school year. In keeping with the theme of this blog (and how I choose to live in general), we've not spent a dime more than is necessary. 

I'm going to let you in on a little secret: it doesn't take a boatload of money to properly educate children. If you've got the time and patience to research, a library card, computer access and a nearby thrift store with great books or a homeschool book store, you have all you need for an effective, low-cost curriculum.

If you're considering homeschool as an option, or if you're already teaching at home, be careful of the curriculum bandwagon that equates popularity with proficiency. It drives the cost of curriculum through the roof.

For example, there is a certain computer math curriculum that is all the rage right now.  It cost more than $100 for each grade level, so if you have two kids, you've spent over $200 smacks on math alone.

My problem: math hasn't changed. No matter how many bells and whistles you add to the mix, there is only one way to learn math: memorization of basic facts then learning the formulas. That's it. And you can learn that free online or with a library book or for next to nothing with a pre-owned or less than popular text. If you prefer to teach online or use a website to supplement, there is Kahn Academy, IXL, and a host of other sites to help. Just google.

Know that the cost of a text can have very little bearing on its effectiveness. Though we assume the opposite to be true, there are pricey books that are rubbish and inexpensive books that seem heaven-sent. Personally, I prefer older books, especially history books.

I've gotten the girls' input on occasion. I took Grace with me to our local homeschool bookstore to choose her science book.  I got Beth's o.k. on the free online psychology class after we both found the book she was using a bit boring. (Thank heavens it cost only $2.00).

Though I don't spend any more than I have to, I have decided that should I find a curriculum or text that cost megabucks, I would purchase it if it were the only thing I felt would work. So far that hasn't happened and I've got nearly twenty years under my belt.

Our homeschool days begin the same on Monday through Thursday:  half hour of Bible reading followed by current events. We attend a co-op on Fridays.

The Bible reading is personal. The girls aren't tested and I don't require scripture memorization. (We have an actual topical Bible study later in the week.) We do this because the girls need to read the Word on their own.  I know the Holy Spirit is leading this 'class'. On more than one occasion, we've been studying another subject altogether and one of the girls will mention a scripture or lesson she learned or that was illuminated during that private time.

This is our first year studying current events. Our young people have more knowledge at their fingertips now than at any time but that potential must be harnessed, otherwise peer and social network interaction will stuff them full of the latest boy band or video game.

I teach at our co-op and am still surprised when my students can name every member of One Direction or list the intricacies of Minecraft but can't name our Vice President. And these are juniors and seniors who'll soon navigate the world on their own. Frightening.

 We want our kids prepared spiritually, intellectually and socially.  We use CNN Student News for current events. It's today's news from around the world given in 10 minutes bites. Each broadcast has a lesson plan with vocabulary, study and discussion questions. We've had great discussions during this time, and they're occasionally assigned a research paper. Because we co-op on Fridays, we watch the Monday through Thursday reports. In order to test their long-term memory and their note-taking skills, each Monday starts with a test of the prior week's information before beginning that day's lesson. 

We DVR each program, but you can sign up at the website and watch it online as well.  Now my girls know Naill, Harry and the guys AND can explain the recent government shut-down.

The girls also study Latin together. We struggled through a popular Latin curriculum but it didn't work for us. We now use Visual Latin. The girls love it. The dvd program is a half hour lesson followed by five or six worksheets. We use the DVD on Tuesdays, then I make up follow up work on Thursdays.

Because Bethany is older, we've added  Hans Orberg's Lingva Latina to her study. Written entirely in Latin, it supplements Visual Latin's program nicely. In fact, Dwayne- the Visual Latin instructor, recommends it and gives a schedule that aligns the chapters of books. Beth is required to read a chapter or two daily while I check her via Google Translate.

Bethany's 11th grade curriculum:
Geometry (Harold Jacobs. Free- library)           
Biology  (Abeka.  $20 text & teacher's book, used)          
Psychology  (Free- online: Carnegie Mellon University)

Bethany also takes a few classes at the co-op: 
    Shakespeare (Free- library book & lecture)
    Economics  (Thomas Sowell. $25 new)

Bethany's total: $45

Grace's 7th grade curriculum:
Fundamentals of Math  (Bob Jones. $1)
Physical Science (Prentice Hall   $12.00)
Enjoyment of Music  (Forney and Machlis   $2.50)

Grace's co-op classes:
   Government (no book cost.Teacher worksheets) 
   Grammar  (Easy Grammar $10)
   Geography ($5 atlas. Teacher developed curriculum)
   Math Games  (no book cost. Reinforces facts)
   Worship band  (no cost. Gracie already owns violin)

Grace's total: $30.50
 Beth's total:    45.00
Visual Latin    40.00 (for 30 lessons)
Latin Reader     5.00

TOTAL:      $120.50

What I've paid for two students some homeschool moms spend on one subject for a single child. Again, if you can justify spending that kind of money, go for it. But if you're like most homeschool families, funds are tight as you've sacrificed an income (or least part of an income) so that the children could be taught at home.

Don't think your child's education will suffer because you lack deep pockets. If you take the time to research and plan, you can save money and brain cells when purchasing curriculum. Feel free to drop me a line if you have questions or need help.


  1. I love that you do "current events." When my kids are older, I will have to incorporate this same thing. I'm also impressed that they learn Latin. This post motivated me - thank you. XOXO

  2. Thanks, Meredith. I wished we'd started Latin earlier. Foreign language study frightened me, especially Latin. 'Visual Latin' is wonderful.