You Need to Know What’s Actually Working in the Homeschool

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It’s vital that you know what’s actually working in your homeschool. After all, one of the frustrating parts of homeschooling is that a curriculum will be perfect for the first few weeks. You love it. It’s a honeymoon!

And then reality sets in. A couple of months down the road, you can’t stand the curriculum and are ready to chuck it out the door.

What happened?

The Curriculum Didn’t Work

Moves Too Fast or Too Slow

When a curriculum moves too fast, your kid is frustrated. They don’t get it. You’re left desperately searching for ways to explain the concepts, review learned concepts, and wondering why you’re a failure.

You’re not.

What happened was your child did just fine during the first few weeks of review. Then new concepts started coming. And they came too fast for your child to keep up.

It happens and you’re not a failure.

Then you have the times the curriculum moves too slowly. It’s just as frustrating in its own way. It’s like having a racing horse ready to gallop to the finish line and you’re stuck in a traffic jam.

Your kid is begging you to cut the filler and just get to the point!

Unfortunately, you never discover the bad pacing until you are several weeks into the curriculum. You can switch or you can adapt. Take your pick!

Kids Hate It

Other times you have a well-paced curriculum. It’s not too fast, it’s not too slow, it’s just right.

But the kids hate it.

They weep when you pull it off the shelf. They beg you to let them wash dishes, fold laundry, and take out the trash. Anything but use this curriculum!

This type of dislike doesn’t appear in a day or a week. It takes a month or two before you have weeping children begging you to take it away.

You Loathe It

Once in a while, you run into a curriculum that’s well-paced. The kids may not love it, but they tolerate it.

But you can’t stand it.

It sets your teeth on edge. It drives you batty. You’re ready to chuck it into the garbage.

Again you don’t discover this in the first few weeks of the honeymoon period all curricula have. It slowly develops over time.

Kids Aren’t Learning

I once found a lovely program that seemed perfect.

It was well-paced.

The kids loved it.

It was easy to use.

And the kids hadn’t learned anything when I quizzed them.

The kids simply didn’t learn unless I sat down, taught them, and created my own questions. I was creating my own curriculum almost from scratch!

It was nothing but busywork.

It’s a Bad Fit

What can I say? Sometimes you find the perfect curriculum. It’s moving at the right pace. The kids don’t complain, you enjoy it, and the children are learning the material.

But it’s a bad fit.

Sure it works when life is perfect. When you have time to spend 3 hours on Sunday planning, reviewing, and pulling together the different pieces.

But life isn’t perfect; it’s chaotic.

Most Sundays you don’t have 3 hours to spend planning, reviewing, and pulling it together.

Or it requires you and your children to spend 6 hours Monday through Friday working through the curriculum.

There’s no time left for field trips, sports, or play-dates with friends.

For that matter, there’s no time left for math!

The curriculum doesn’t fit your lifestyle.

What’s Working in My Homeschool

So what curricula have survived the honeymoon phase and become a staple working part of my homeschool?

Saxon Math

We use Saxon Math and have most of our homeschooling years. I switched my oldest into Saxon 1 when our other curriculum failed to teach math. It was like coming home; the math program of my dreams.

Every once in a while I’d read anti-Saxon posts on the internet, panic, and switch to another program.

And the tears would begin. So back to Saxon we’d go!

Even though I’m a math major, my teenagers hate asking me for help in math. They finally confessed I’m too enthusiastic about math. Is that even possible? So this year we picked up Art Reed’s DVD for the teens to use.

Art Reed taught Saxon Math in high school for years, so he knows the pitfalls. Periodically he inserts a comment into the lectures about a shortcut the kids are thinking about using and why it won’t work.

My son admitted it’s like Art Reed can read his mind. That’s exactly what he was thinking!

My 1st grader has just started her Saxon Math journey with Saxon Math 1. She adores the worksheets.

The kids are thriving and I’m happy.

Phonics Pathways & Pentime Penmanship

My little girl and I are still working our way through Phonics Pathways. She took off reading this past summer, and now we’re at the stage where Phonics Pathways is a little easier each day.

My plan is to finish the book no matter how well she’s reading since it covers all the phonetic rules.

Pentime Penmanship is my favorite handwriting program. It begins with 2 books in first grade, introduces cursive in 2nd, and continues through 8th grade. Kids get plenty of penmanship practice.

Tapestry of Grace

Tapestry of Grace has been an awesome fit for my family for years. The history assignments are interesting and flexible. The literature is well thought out. And the geography fits well with what we’re studying.

We’re in the middle of Year 3 which means we’re at the beginning of the Civil War. I always find it fascinating how many times various states threatened to secede from the Union before some finally did.

It’s easy to use. During the summer I print and file all the student activity pages, reading assignments, and map work. Monday mornings I pull out the appropriate pages, hand them out to the kids and send them on their way.

Fridays are for discussions. And discussions are much more enjoyable when we make cookies and hot chocolate to enjoy while we chat.

First Form Latin

My son is still thriving in First Form Latin.

The amount of memory work is manageable and the DVDs are fun to watch. Switching to First Form Latin this year was a success. Needless to say, we’ll be moving on to Second Form Latin next year.

My biggest mistake was not picking up my own workbook at the beginning of the year so I could study with him. I picked one up over Christmas.

Now I’m desperately trying to catch up!


My daughter adores Japanese with Rosetta Stone. It’s like a game to her. Can she figure out how to say the words correctly and get the green light?

I adore having a foreign language curriculum that needs so little from me.

This year I’ve been pleased with most of our curricula. Over the years I’ve slowly filled in the gaps trying one program and then another.

Once I find a program that fits the criteria of a good curriculum for the family, I don’t switch. Remember a good fit means:

  • It moves at the correct pace
  • You and the kids like it
  • It fits your lifestyle

What curriculum have you found which fits your family’s needs?

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  1. We are also using Phonics Pathways and I was wondering if you could tell me how you are planning to teach through the end of the book. I think as I looked through it she really didn’t give any instructions on how to utilize basically the 2nd half of the book where the rules are taught. Thank you!

    1. We simply read the pages together. For instance, one page has -j = -dge at the top. I’ll introduce the sound, explaining that -dge makes the j sound. Then my daughter reads the page. It’s simple but effective.

      My older kids read an entire page each day, but periodically tears would start and I’d move them about 30 pages back to easy material. I called it the 2 steps forward, 1 step back approach. However I’ve allowed my little girl to read as little as 1/3 of a page when the reading became difficult. We’ve been able to keep moving forward without the need to review. I think because we’d spend several days on difficult concepts rather than speeding through in a day. 🙂

  2. Thankk you for your helpful posts, as always. They are practical and to the point. And from a classical perspective!

    I also have a question about Phonics Pathways. Do you know how it compares with The ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading? That is what I am currently using with my almost five-year-old. It is very dry though so I supplement with a lot of activities and games from Pinterest.

    1. Here’s a post I wrote several years ago comparing the two. In summary OPGTR includes games, rhymes, and white board work. PP doesn’t. There are a few differences in the order phonic rules are present, but both books are excellent and will give you a strong reader upon completion. 🙂

    1. We’re using a variety this year: Holt Biology, Apologia Physical Science, Elemental Science Introduction to Science, and (per my K’s request) notebooking our way through animals. 🙂

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