When looking for curriculum, you’ll want to consider your homeschool style. It may take a few years to settle down into the right fit for your family, andthat’s completely normal.
Not sure what your style is?
What’s your teaching style?
What are your goals?
How do your kids learn best?
What values do you want to instill in your children?
What’s your lifestyle? Do you prefer routine or flexibility?
Within each of these homeschool styles, you have the flexibility to be creative and make your own student-directed classes. Maybe your child is interested in becoming a veterinarian, but you can’t find a class for that…make your own! You’ll need approximately 140 hours of work, hands on and academic, to count it as a full year. Use this Create-Your-Own Class Planner to help you get started.
Focusing on the trivium, the three stages of learning: grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric, this is a Socratic method that includes public speaking, memorization, and a full school day. The trivium stages match up with elementary, middle, and secondary school. This is a rigorous approach to schooling, but produces results. Compass Classroom offers several great options for classical instruction, and you can try their sample resources for free.
Developed by a 19th century educator who believed in reading ‘living books’ rather than ‘twaddle,’ this approach involves living learning. It revolves around reading aloud together as a family, and following child interests. Nature walks, art museums, fine arts studies, and living books are all a part of this approach, and there is a focus on instill good character habits. One of our favorite Charlotte Mason providers is The Homeschool Garden. (See more information, or just try them free.)
This approach takes all of the subjects and integrates them in an in-depth study of a topic. For example, a unit study of Rome might include reading and writing about Rome, studying the history of Roman emperors, calculating timelines and marketplace purchases, creating artwork and projects from Ancient Roman times, and studying water (from the aqueducts built during this era). Field trips and hand-on projects are frequently utilized. Units may be literature-based, and this is a great style for teaching multiple grades together. Techie Homeschool Mom offers fantastic, online unit studies that also teach various technologies. Try one free!
Definitely for the Type B family, this is a child-centered approach to schooling. There are no formal lessons, or even formal curriculum, but the children follow their interests and learn from life experiences. Schedules are not utilized, and there is much flexibility and freedom, with a focus for teaching a love of learning and developing the ability to be self-educating. This does not mean that they don’t read, write, and do math, but that they follow their interests. Math might be adding up the tab at the restaurant, or figuring the tax.
Similar to unschooling, this is a child-centered approach that focuses on nature, arts, crafts, music, and movement. Much of schooling is done out in nature, and technology is not a big part of this curriculum.
The eclectic method is just a fancy way of saying ‘a combination of styles.’ This includes picking and choosing from the smorgasboard of different curriculum providers to meet your student’s various needs. Literary Adventures for Kids is a beautifully-eclectic, online language arts program that your kids are sure to love! Try their Psychology course for upper grades free here.
This is a fairly common style in the first few years of homeschooling, especially if you’ve pulled your children out of public school, to build confidence. Don’t forget to do a bit of de-schooling before starting the semester! Traditional schoolers focus on common standards and often complete a full day of classwork.
A lot of organizations don’t consider this to be “real” homeschooling since it’s being paid for and run by the government and someone else is doing all of the teaching. For a small percentage of people, though, whether it be because of job commitments, life ‘events,’ or something else that is preventing them from being able to sit down and dedicate themselves fully to educating their children, institutions such as K12 and Epic really are the best fit. It’s never my first recommendation, but still a valid option.
One of our favorite all-in-one resources for families is SchoolhouseTeachers. It includes all classes, for all grades…and it’s one price for the entire family, whether you have two children or twelve. There are many different learning styles to select from, so if you have one visual kid who needs a relaxed pace and one aural kid who needs a more stringent pace, there are classes that will fit them each. With over 475 classes available, plus extras for mom and dad, this is my favorite resource to offer new families who are wanting to dip their toe into homeschooling but aren’t sure how to begin!
Delight-directed homeschooling can be a remedy for mid-winter burnout, but it can also be an all-the-time homeschooling style. It is a method of education that allows your children to explore what they love and work at a flexible pace, ebbing and flowing with each new bunny trail.
To those thinking along the lines of traditional schooling (ie, government schools), it may seem that the student isn’t really learning anything, but not only will your student be learning…they’ll be learning far more than you could have imagined! It’s about depth…not breadth. The topics can vary through the year, jumping around, or they can stay fairly focused.
Delight-directed schooling is very similar to the unit study method, but tends to go even deeper than a typical unit study. Let your student be the guide!
Learning through Literature
Literature studies are so much more FUN! As an added bonus, because they incorporate knowledge through relating to a character and / or story, your students are apt to retain more once the year ends.
Novel studies can be used to cover concepts from language arts and history to science and math. It’s been our students’ preferred learning method for years, and we’ve created well over one hundred of them! Here are just a few of the odd topics that cropped up as a result of their delight-directed learning…
Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation & Albert Einstein
Some students learn better through audio, rather than reading. Audiobooks are a fantastic way to incorporate literature unit studies, without taxing struggling readers to frustration. Which is not to say that you shouldn’t keep working on reading, but sometimes a work-around is in order…
When students are REALLY into a topic, they’ll even begin to educate you. You never know what you’re going to be learning each day as a homeschooling parent! These bundles help dive into some very specific interests…
The classes at Sparks Academy utilize literature, videos, and student interaction to study science, language arts, history, geography, character, writing, and literary concepts. This online co-op includes weekly student interaction in the private classroom forum. Learn more here.
Save $10 on the Craftsman Crate subscription box. This is the box that teaches you real-world, hands-on craftsman skills and has inspired my boys in so many ways!
Writing is an integral part of the language arts classes taught at Sparks Academy. We offer four levels of instruction, each building upon the last, until students are ready to write in any form requested of them – whether at a career or college! But maybe you don’t want a full class….how can you make writing fun at home?
Literature Studies & Living Books
What are living books, and how can you use them to make your homeschool shine? Get all the tips & tricks in Using Living Books to Homeschool. Scroll down to snag pre-made bundles of novel studies!
Another fun option for teaching writing is through the language arts classes Sparks Academy! There are four levels offered currently, including High School 1, High School 2, High School 3, and Level 7. (The last one is for 7th/8th/9th grade, depending on your student’s skills.) This is an online co-op, with weekly student interaction in the private classroom forum. Learn more here.
Trying to recreate public school at home, right down to the textbooks, is something new homeschoolers often do (especially those pulling students out of school). Literature studies, however, are so much more FUN! As an added bonus, because they incorporate knowledge through relating to a character and / or story, your students are apt to retain more once the year ends.
Novel studies can be used to cover concepts from language arts and history to science and math. It’s been our students’ preferred learning method for years, and we’ve created well over one hundred of them! If you’re looking to teach World History through literature, here are 51 units to try….and don’t discount audiobooks, too! They’re a great addition to a busy homeschooling day!
If you’re more of a simply-Charlotte-Mason style family, check out the Homeschool Garden sessions. These easy to implement sessions are planned out and ready for you to place in your schedule wherever it fits best. I could spend several hours trying to dig up resources, but they have already done the work for me (and really, who has that kind of time anymore?). They have a variety of subject sessions, plus five different Advent studies, and you’re sure to find a few that intrigue your family. One of the best parts about these units is that everything is included – there are no other purchases required. See inside a sample session here.
Want to give it a go? Use code FRIENDSANDFAMILY to take 50% off any one session (not bundles) at The Homeschool Garden. Where it asks, be sure to tell them Yvie sent ya! 😊
You can find all of the above novel studies in the five unit bundles below! (Sample units are in blue.) Enjoy the journey, and remember….DO THE VOICES!!!
When you were a kid, did you learn more from textbooks or from reading books just for fun? I definitely learned a lot more from historical fiction than from any history textbook!
Trying to recreate public school at home, right down to the textbooks, is something new homeschoolers often do (especially those pulling students out of school). But, by using living books in your homeschool, coupled with family-style learning, it can be so much more FUN and rewarding. Plus, when you use living books in your homeschool, your students are apt to retain more once the year ends.
What is a Living Book?
Living books are reading material that pull you into a subject and get you emotionally involved with the characters (a la chapter books), so it’s easier to remember the events and facts. These books literally bring the event(s) they are talking about to life with storylines and imagination! When is the last time a textbook made you feel alive and invested in what was being studied? Probably never.
Allow the reader to visit another era and experience the culture or history. During the ‘Rona, one of the books we read together was Fever 1793. We like to take our read-alouds and turn them into learning units, like this one, to reinforce concepts learned in the story.
TIP: If you’re using read-alouds as a base for school, it’s helpful to read multiple books about the same event. Having different perspectives helps students to learn critical thinking skills.
Put the reader into the book. This allows your children to experience different cultures and places that they may not otherwise see. The more detailed the descriptions, the more vividly your child will relate, and it is through learning about and relating to other cultures that we break down barriers.
TIP: Cultural literacy is learning about other perspectives, including across genders, world regions, and historic eras. It is helpful if you have some background knowledge to incorporate the protagonist’s perspective — so if you are going to read a book set during the Civil War, do a bit of research on the Civil War before reading the novel. It will help bring the story to life!
Benefits of Family-Style Reading
Reading together as a family helps to encourage a lifelong love of reading and literature. Whether you begin when your child is a newborn or as a teen, there are so many positive effects!
Note to parent: If you do not start reading aloud until your child is a teen, there will be a transitional time as they become accustomed. Do not give up!
Tips for Using Living Books as Read-Alouds
1. Do the voices
Sure, you might feel goofy at first, but nothing gets children engaged in a story faster than having a different voice for each character! Through the years, we’ve had many a good laugh as mom tried to pull off several accents, with varying degrees of success. But you know what? They remember the stories!
2. Let them be active
Legos, play-do, and coloring books are great quiet activities to keep hands occupied while ears are listening. It never hurts to pause and ask a few questions, but you’ll probably find that they are more engaged than you think.
3. Read from many genres
Mix it up, with historical fiction from multiple eras, contemporary fiction, and the occasional non-fiction.
4. Keep a home library
Yard sales, Facebook groups, and consignment stores are a great place to scout used books. Even if your child is a toddler, when you find a classic piece for a few years down the road, go ahead and snag it. A good home library will encompass many different topics and genres, including both fiction and non-fiction books.
5. Read every day
Whether you read for five minutes or an hour, set aside some time each and every day to read. We get it…busy days mean shorter reading times. But it’s too easy to get out of the habit, so make it a priority! If necessary, use an audiobook to do the reading in the car.
6. Pass the book
If your children are old enough, take turns reading. Keep it age-level appropriate and for short lengths of time. When my children started reading aloud with the family, they read one paragraph at a time, then a page, and then a full chapter.
7. Read at level AND below level
As an adult, do you only read collegiate-level and above books? Neither do I. Sometimes it’s nice to settle in with a fun book, regardless of the target age range. For struggling readers, this can help them feel more successful, too, as they build those skills.
8. Use picture books.
In the non-fiction realm, picture books are an excellent way to help illustrate and explain difficult concepts… I’m looking at you, science! But also understand that not every book needs pictures. Not having pictures in a book allows children to stretch their imaginations and come up with those mental images.
Choosing Quality Books
As with everything in life, there is yin and yang. When choosing living books for read-alouds, or as a base for studies, keep in mind that not all books are “good” books. “Good” books…
Have realistic characters. They are flawed. They live in the real world. But they often learn to overcome their flaws during the story.
Teach a moral lesson. Whether through acceptance or overcoming, the protagonist learns some sort of character lesson in the story.
Are engaging. These are not dry reads, but intriguing plots full of details that will keep the reader hooked and involved.
Are not real world. In these books, everything is awesome. Or horrible. There are no real-life events. Or they are overly moralistic.
Are poorly written. With poor grammar and speech (we’re not talking about the use of dialects, which can add to the authenticity), these books do more harm than good for your student’s mastery of language arts.
Have poor characters. They are boring, self-absorbed, and do not learn anything through the story.
Using Living Books to Study Core Subjects
The language arts classes at Sparks Academy utilize five to six novels each year to teach history, geography, character, and literary concepts. Each of the four levels builds upon the last, until students are ready to write in any form requested of them – whether at a career or college! There are four levels offered currently, including High School 1, High School 2, High School 3, and Level 7. (The last one is for 7th/8th/9th grade, depending on your student’s skills.) This is an online co-op, with weekly student interaction in the private classroom forum. Learn more here.