The Bell Family

Random ponderings on God, life, and the humor all around us

Homeschooling Questions


O.K. this is a use-and-abuse-my-oh-so-wise-and-more-experienced-homeschooling-friends post.  I have many questions, and I thought it would be easier to get to all of you here since many of you read our posts.  If you don’t homeschool or don’t plan to, this probably is not a post that would interest you at all.  🙂

I pretty much had all our curriculum picked for next year until I got wise counsel from a friend that it might be best to wait for a classical approach another year (starting 1st grade instead of kindergarten).  After doing some research, I completely agree that at least Liam will be benefited more if we wait.  So, that means we’re back to the drawing board, and now I’m not sure how to balance what he needs.

Science–do you really need it at the kindergarten level, or is it best to simply explore the world God gave us?

Math–I’m looking at Horizons, but I have also heard many good things about Math U See.  Does anyone have any insights here?  I like the order and repetition of Horizons, but I want some hands-on learning for my kiddos.

Critical Thinking–Just want some thoughts and explanations here of benefits/negatives to adding this in.  I did Sonlight’s workbooks last year but was disappointed that they didn’t really teach Liam how to do the activities.  Though he did improve throughout the year, the workbooks felt more like tests to me than instructions.  After some research, I’m really enjoying The Critical Thinking Co., but I don’t know if this is even good or what would be best to buy (I’m kind of having one of those “Let’s buy it all!” moments–praise God for a husband who is able to balance much better that me!).

As far as Sonlight K, I most likely don’t want to buy the whole curriculum, so what did you like/dislike the most about that program if you used it?  What about Readers 1?  Do you think the books are worth it or would I be better off checking out books from the library?  We are already using a phonics program we love, so I’m really just asking about readers here.

Co-ops–ahhh!  What do you do here?  Some of my children really excel in group settings, but one (and I mean one) of the reasons we are homeschooling is to be able to cater to each child’s needs.  Sometimes I feel like co-ops can look just like a typical school setting that just happens to consist of only homeschooled children.  I would love for a co-op to be 3-4 families that meet in the evenings so dads can be involved that only teach subjects that typically work in group settings (I’m thinking electives here [music, art, P.E.] instead of math or science, etc.).  Does that even exist, or would I need to create it?

What do you do over summer break?

People required to chime in to as many questions as possible–any homeschooling Sojourner who reads this, Kacie, Becky, Anna Lee, Vickie, and Christie.  If you don’t, I will circle “no” on the next “Will you be my friend?  Circle one” note you pass me.  🙂


9 thoughts on “Homeschooling Questions

  1. I don’t want you to circle no, so here goes. 🙂

    We’re going to use Horizons next year with Thomas. It looks to me like there are lots of hand-on activities using a variety of manipulatives.

    I really enjoyed using Critical Thinking Co. stuff with Thomas this year. I used the same books with Jonathan as well. I can show you the books we used when you come and visit in July- it seems like they changed some of the names of the books. As if this curriculum stuff wasn’t confusing enough! I never used the SL critical thinking books, but you’re not the only one I’ve heard who hasn’t been all that impressed. 🙂

    SL- As far as the readers go, we really didn’t like the I Can Read It! books. Jonathan hated them. I think they re-did them though. We have used books that we have had on hand for readers (generously given to us by grandparents) as well as lots of books from the library. The library usually makes this easy on us since they group them in a certain reader section.

    As far as the read-alouds go, we enjoyed almost all of them. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Dr. Doolittle got kind of long for me, but the kids liked them. I’m not a huge fan of Mother Goose but I know it’s important. The Family Under the Bridge was good, but difficult for little kids to understand at certain points. Mary on Horseback was good, but again presented some weighty subjects. The Hundred Dresses has lots of good lessons but the boys had a hard time getting over the “dresses” part. To them the whole premise was kind of girly but the books isn’t really about dresses in the long run. They loved My Fathers Dragon, Boxcar Children, the Dolphin books, Grandma’s Attic, the Apple and the Arrow. I loved Hero Tales and the Llama Who Had No Pajamas.

    Co-ops. The jury is still out with us. I like them, but I would much rather join one like what you’re describing- especially when there are babies involved and they seem to take place in the afternoon. Our involvement has been somewhat limited so we’ll have to do more investigating.

    Will you circle yes now? 🙂

  2. From my years of experience, we are finishing year number 11 of home schooling, I can now look back and say I took everything way too serious in the early grades. Kindergarten needs to be fun. Focus on Bible, reading, math, manners, increasing attention span, and boosting a love for learning. Multi-task with Arriana, let her participate in whatever you are doing with Liam. You’ll be amazed at how much she picks up, don’t worry about what she does not get, she’ll pick it up later.
    The most important thing is to not stress yourself or your kids.

    Math- I LOVE Saxon. Spiraling repetition and lots of math manipulatives K-3. Acting out addition with Teddy Bear counters…

    Reading- Whole books, read out loud to all the kids, let them sit where they can see the page as you read. Allison pretty much learned to read by doing this. I would still teach phonics because this will help them as they get to new words they have never seen before. Whole books are usually much more interesting than readers, which will foster a love for reading. I do like the Christian Liberty Press Nature Readers.

    Critical Thinking- I love Critical Thinking Press. In first grade I would get Building Thinking Skills I, and give Liam a page or two a day.

    Science- Explore creation and read books about nature. About the third or fourth grade I would start with Apologia. I love this science curriculum… it is well done, colorful and it is excellent college prep in the High School years.

    Co-ops??? We used Dorothy Sayers for K and 1st grade, and have co-oped every year since. Formal co-ops can be a lot of work, expense, and frustration, especially if families have different committement levels and you are the one in charge. The best situation for us has been co-oping with one other family. I could see it working with just 3-4, but you need to find people who have schedules that will work together, want the same classes, and are willing to put in their share of the work. You need to be very like minded and flexible. You need to make sure your coop doesn’t take away from your family time and increase your work load. If everyone is sharing the load, it should decrease everyone’s load. At Liam’s age a play group might be a better option… no prep work for you excepr baking some cookies!
    Call me if you have more questions, we could get together and talk, I would love to see the kids! Please ignore any typos… it is Saturday afterall! Love You, Christie

  3. Howdy!

    I’m new to this, but what we have is Saxon Math – Kindergarten, My Father’s World – Kindergarten (includes music, etc). Personally, I don’t like the MFW Math, which is why we chose Saxon. MFW also incorporates Science, but I do try to add more stuff on my own along the way. This goes with other subjects that I think they may find interesting. Nothing HUGE in the science department, but certainly hands on. For instance, today we will be making a nest. 🙂 Math-U-See was recommended to me, and looked good, but we had already purchased Saxon. In addition, if I think Jr. is a little ahead with some material, I use it as review and try to supplement with extra things – or other books (Kumon, etc).

    As for summer stuff… we started at an odd time – March 🙂 Trying to decide if this is truly the way to go or put him in school… please pray for us.

    Hope this helps a little. If you have any tips, please send them my way!

    Love ya!

  4. I don’t use the classical method but the kindergarten/1st grade curriculum that I’ve used with all the kids is Sing, Spell, Read and Write by Pearson Education. I’ve heard of this being used by those who do transition into more structured classical curriculum after, so I believe that it is compatible. We found it to be a great program (and more affordable than some other inclusive currulums.) For math, we’ve always used Math U See and, again, it works well for us. However, I don’t think it is the solve all as I’ve heard of others who didn’t have great success with it. I have never heard anything bad about Saxon, so you might want to talk to your friend above who uses it. Don’t have any input regarding co-ops as we don’t have any experience there. Grace to you as you work this out for your family!

  5. Okay….please don’t circle NO on my next note ( I may send you one just to make sure I get a YES) 🙂

    OK for science….we really LOVED the K science for Sonlight….a little pricey, but we are re-reading the books this summer because the kids learned so much. IT was an over-view of everything so it was great for K. (we did the 4 day)

    Critical thinking….we didn’t really do with a curr. 😦 Maybe I should think more into it. 🙂

    Sonlight K….We LOVED it. We did the 4 day so we didn’t have all the books that Kacie talked about. But we really loved so many…the 100 dresses and mary on horseback were good, but a little over their head at first. But we are re-reading them and the kids are excited. They will pick up more about them the second time. We didn’t like My Grandma’s attic or something like that. But we are going to re-try over the summer 🙂

    We loved the Readers 1. Isaac did GREAT wtih them. Grace will start them in the fall (she will be 5 then). We loved the I CAn Read it! (we have the newer ones!) Isaac is reading so great, and I give Sonlight a lot of the credit! 🙂

    Math….we LOVE math u see, but you need to know that there isn’t a lot of color etc. It is just math. BUt the way they teach it is so great. I understand math now! THe kids really get it and are applying it to everyday life!!!! It like they “get it”. 🙂

    We have joined a co-op. we are very excited!!! Ours is once a week and goes from 9:30-2 and is very organized. They don’t tell you what to teach at home (which we LOVE). It is fun stuff (P.E, woodworking, drama, music. etc.) or you can take more accademic classes like Biology etc. The price is very good for our family. 🙂

    HOpe that helps. 🙂 I am still so new to this, so I might not be much help.

  6. Oh good, I’m glad there’s another Christie, b/c I don’t have kids, therefore have never homeschooled, and I didn’t want you to check no when I asked you to be my friend.

  7. heart of dakota, seriously it is an open the book and go curriculum. it is simple and fun, perfect for kindergarten. i’m going on my 3rd year and feel like i am just getting the hang of it enough to do “ecclectic” style where we will be combining classical conversations, heart of dakota, time4learning, and math u see, but i could totally do just heart of dakota and get everything needed. the best part is that there is a curriculum that you can use for 2-5 year olds so you could incorporate the little ones and it is not very expensive, under 300 for everything i believe. my advice for kindergarten is have fun and don’t take yourself too seriously. things get easier to figure out. oh, also, sing spell read and write i have heard is great for teaching reading and we may try it. it is a little expensive though so you could go in on it with others if interested.

  8. Okay, so I haven’t even taken the time to read everyone’s post, but a few quick thoughts on our experience

    Kindergarten is just kindergarten – phonics and math are the main components you need. I liked having something else to do as it has given me a focus and center to make sure we are learning some extra things.

    We LOVE Math-U-See, it does have blocks for learning, but the goal is to teach them to truly UNDERSTAND math. the work themselves out of the manipulatives, but the blocks help them to grasp what they are doing. I have learned more about math just in the K and 1st programs than I knew before! We will continue with it.

    As for phonics, we’ve loved Sing, Spell, Read and Write, mostly because it gives me planned goals, activities, some tests, books, etc. without me having to plan it all out or teach TOO much. I got it because I felt like it would be a good one to use for two very different little boys and Justus has had great success with it. We are planning to do the 2nd grade level in the fall just to reinforce some of the topics and focus a little more on spelling.

    For Science, we have really enjoyed the approach taken in The Well-Trained Mind, though until they are writing well, it is hard to follow it too much. You take the Kingfisher First Encyclopedia for Animals, choose an animal, read about it, talk about it, look online or at the library for more, etc. – as much as they want. Sometimes we just read. Justus told me three things he learned, and his favorite thing about the animal, and then he would draw a picture, or copy my sentences. We also have TWTM suggested book for Human Body to do the same thing, as well as some books for gardening to talk about plant growth. Justus really enjoyed learning about animals and different habitats, etc.

    I didn’t care much for Developing the Early Learner either – like you said – too much like tests, versus actual learning. I’m sure Kacie wrote about what she has used. I’m considering some options for Ethan in the fall, wondering if I should do anything with Justus since he’ll be in 1st/2nd grade.

    I wouldn’t worry about co-ops and things yet. We won’t for a while, but we may join a local group in a year or so, just to meet some other families, take advantage of offerings, library resources, etc. And our local YMCA has programs for homeschoolers, so that’s nice.

    We plan to use Sonlight in the fall, and looking forward to it. It wasn’t our original plan, but it is a fit for what we need right now. I also love the Kumon books, I buy them for Ethan and he really enjoys them, and it gives me a structured table time activity that he can often do by himself.

    okay, I think that’s enough. Hope it helps some. 🙂 Good luck! It’s a tough journey sometimes, but so rewarding.

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