So Which Curriculum Do You Use? (And Why I Have A Hard Time Answering)

If I scroll back through my messenger feed I have a minimum of one or two friends PER MONTH ask me about which curriculum we’re using for homeschool and how we like it.

And I kind of panic every time.

I should have a good answer by now, but I don’t.

Here’s the thing.

I had YEARS – really-  YEARS to figure out the direction of our homeschool. And, in addition to all that time, I had zero pressure, because my husband was dead-set against homeschooling, so I got to do all my reading, dreaming, and scheming in the pressure-free zone of believing it was all a beautiful daydream.

So when a friend who is in the early stages of toying with the idea of pulling her kids from public school pops the question, I know that I won’t be able to really explain what we’re doing in a way that won’t be completely overwhelming.  In fact, when my husband finally gave me the green light to homeschool, I was overwhelmed despite having gathered the information gradually over years.

So where to begin?

First you have to know that we follow a Charlotte Mason inspired philosophy, which means we don’t do much that looks like it would in a conventional classroom.

If I had to sum up the Charlotte Mason way of doing things I’d say it’s all about good habits, living books, narration, and nature. You can read more about the guiding principals here. Or read her original six-volumes on education here.

There is very little written work (at this stage…it will come later) and not much in the way of worksheets or workbooks. It’s hard to teach math without workbooks, and we’re using a workbook for our initial cursive practice.

Essentially we’re reading great living books, enjoying great music and art, and doing life together. Throw in a little math and plenty of nature time and you’ve got the gist of our days.

But how?

As I said before it’s a lot to take in all at once. The quickest way I can think of for a beginner to get the “How and Why” of this method is to watch Homeschool Made Simple by Carole Joy Seid. You can watch a preview and get a copy Here.

I’d still highly recommend reading the original Charlotte Mason volumes, but I would have had a very hard time figuring out how our day should look without the DVD.

After I figured out how to lay out our day, I had to decide which books to use.  There is no one “right” set of books to provide a CM education, and there are a lot of companies who would love you to purchase the books they’ve selected for you, from them.  That is one great way to go. But it wasn’t going to work with our budget.  There are also several businesses and individuals who will customize a plan for you for a fee.  But again, I’m cheap.

When I first found Ambleside Online, I took one look and decided it was way too intensive. I spent several months scouring book lists, and trying to build my own curriculum.  Then I realized that is essentially what Ambleside has already done for you, for FREE.  And they’ve selected mostly books that are available as free e-texts. The few books that aren’t available free, or that just don’t work for your family can be subbed out for something you can get from the library or something that better fits your family’s values.

So I modeled our daily routine around Homeschool Made Simple, and plugged in the book list and resources available at Ambleside Online.   Then I just picked a math curriculum (well actually we’ve tried a few, but that’s another post) and at the end of the day I feel like we’ve got our bases covered and a lifestyle we enjoy.

And we’re flexible.

We’re only on our second year of this homeschool journey.  Right now I can’t imagine anything I’d like better than doing things the CM way.  But this isn’t about me. It’s about doing what works best (not to be confused with what is easiest or most enjoyable) for my kids. There are things about the method and curriculum that we’ve tweaked to fit our family better, and there are things that we will probably need to change to suit changing needs in the future.  The beauty is that there are no CM police.  If we decided to drop classical music, or drawing from our curriculum, no one is going to come and stamp a big red F on my homeschool records.  We may not be CM purists, but we can still graduate thoughtful, intelligent persons from our home.

So there you have it.   

I hope this has given you an idea of what we’re up to over here.

Overall I’d say we’re happy with our curriculum and method choices so far, (except my tween misses her PS friends terribly. We’re working to mitigate that.) and I would consider us successful academically speaking.

If you want to delve into more into what our day looks like check out the following articles or feel free to comment here or catch up with me on facebook.

Our Charlotte Mason Summer

Teaching Multiple Ages, One Room Schoolhouse Style


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