Simple Homeschool for a Simpler Life: Part 2 – Our Curriculum
Over the past four years our homeschool daily schedule and curriculum choices have morphed and shifted quite a bit. Every family, child, and season is different.
Currently I homeschool a 3rd grader, 1st grader, and a pre-schooler who is old enough to do Kindergarten work. With the addition of a third child to our formal school, I was not able to use a single teacher’s guide with our original curriculum any more. (We had been using Heart of Dakota, which was a simple, low-key choice and I do recommend it).
Because I wanted to simplify things and make them more fluid with multiple learners, I chose to make a switch.
Here’s a breakdown of what is working for us presently.
My Simple Homeschool Curriculum Choices
In the past we’ve used devotionals for our morning Bible time, but recently we’ve switch to reading the Bible itself. I feel really, really good about that switch. Each morning after breakfast we read several verses (currently in Proverbs) and give each person a chance to share and talk about what they noticed or heard.
Because God’s word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12), and because will accomplish what God sends it out to do (Isaiah 55:10-12), there is really nothing more powerful nor effective than going straight to the source. I obviously see value in devotionals and believe they have a place. After all, I did write and publish one, but we also need to teach our children to feed themselves straight from the source.
Free! We have the You Version Bible app on our phones. We often choose to use this because we can read from a version on it labeled EASY. It is well translated/paraphrased into very accessible language with the help of this translation agency in London!
Of course, we could also use one of our many print Bibles!
Gather ‘Round Homeschool
We recently made the switch to Gather ‘Round Homeschool as our primary curriculum, and we are all loving it.
My 9-year-old daughter is thriving, calling it “one of the most fun things she’s ever done.” They daily jump the gun and try to get us started on it before I’m really ready. They are just so into it.
It is a wonderful option for those who want a simple curriculum that everybody can do together. It is a Christian-based curriculum, which is essential to me.
Gather ‘Round Homeschool is organized into unit studies. Each unit study has either a science or social studies theme. Each one costs $49 for the digital, print-yourself version and takes approximately one month to complete. Included with this are a teacher guide and student notebooks leveled from Pre-Reader to High School.
I anticipate completing around eight units in one school year next year, so that would make the cost $400 per year.
The idea with Gather ‘Round Homeschool is that families will repeat a certain unit again after four years. This is because everyone will need a refresher to better cement the thematic information, and students will be on a completely different level with completely different learning opportunities in their Student Notebooks. So in theory, the yearly cost could be averaged out to $200 if the units are used this way.
We are currently doing the Space unit. I gather everyone around and read through the teachers guide, which takes about 20-30 minutes. Then each child works through the activities in their Student Notebook. My oldest child does this independently, while my younger two require step by step help and reading of the instructions. After another hour we are done.
Gather ‘Round Homeschool includes seven different subjects. Just add Math and you’ve got a complete homeschool curriculum.
One and a half hours a day + a bit more for Math may not seem like enough “school” for you. However, that’s the beauty of homeschool. We get to bust out of the “7 hour school day” mold and trust the learning process. All the reading, artwork, cooking, gardening, pretend play, educational board games, journaling, lego building, hiking, adventuring, and exploring that naturally fill our children’s days are a critical part of their learning and formation as well. Their curiosity leads them to become well-rounded, healthy, wholesome little people. It’s an awesome process to watch unfold.
Early in my homeschooling journey, I was advised to choose one Math curriculum and stick with it. Because different Math curriculums sequence things differently, it can be a problem to switch between them.
I’m so glad I started with Math-U-See.
It is a concept-based Math curriculum that is challenging. It uses math manipulative to help kids visualize concepts. There are teaching videos included that I watch with my kids, followed by several days of practice and an assessment.
The first time you purchase Math-U-See, you will need the full kit including manipulative. This costs about $165. After that, you will need to buy the instructional “level up” set each year because you will reuse the same manipulative. This costs around $90. When your next child is ready for a particular level you have already purchased, you will only need to buy the student book, which is around $40. The Math-U-See copyright does not allow families to make copies of worksheets, so this cost is unavoidable if you want to use the system with integrity.
To keep my three kids moving up the ranks of Math-U-See costs about $150 per year.
With Gather ‘Round Homeschool, this brings our homeschool curriculum costs up to about $550 per year. That may see like a lot, but in reality, it is a small price to pay to give my kids the wonderful, freeing, simple, effective education these curriculums provides.
Our Math-U-See lessons take about 30 minutes to complete. Each child has their own practice worksheets to complete.
There are a few specific extras that our children participate in as well.
For us, we value private music lessons. So, when our kids start third grade, our goal is to start them in weekly lessons. For our daughter, this is piano. For our son, it will hopefully be guitar.
We also attend a local monthly homeschool meetup, weekly church programs including AWANA, Girl’s in Action, and Trail Life. All of this is mostly free to us. Our kids also participate in gymnastics along with Upward basketball, cheerleading and other sports which may feature a target quiver.
For us, having some outside help to develop our children according to their interests and in ways that our beyond our area of expertise has been a plus. It is also nice to provide them with outside friendships and social opportunities.
Simple Homeschool Conclusion
What works for my family may not work for yours. Some people have a different teaching style, and some kids have a different learning style. I encourage you to do your research and join some homeschool facebook groups to crowd source and learn more.
Read about why we homeschool and how it makes life simpler in Part 1 of this series here– How Homeschool Simplifies Life
I have been going back and forth for a few months on whether I want to do my own curriculum in the fall, go with Sonlight, or trying Gather Round homeschool. I had already decided on Math U see. You have convinced me to give it a shot. I only have one going into Kindergarten and one preschooler right now, but I want to be prepared going forward for when I do have multiples. Thanks for sharing!!
Hey Meghan! I think that’s a great plan! I love that Gather ‘Round is a very small commitment since we just buy one month at a time. There is a free two week trial of North American Birds that you might like to start with as well if you’re at all on the fence. I agree that it is nice to find something that will work long term rather than keep switching. I’m excited for you to start your homeschool journey. It is a blessing!
This is wonderful!! We just finished one of our kids’ storybook Bibles and I decided we need to just start reading the actual Bible now! My oldest is 9 1/2, so it’s probably time. I was thinking of going through Proverbs this summer. And I have been considering Gather ‘Round for this coming year! I’m glad you like it! You are pushing me more towards taking the plunge. I will had a Kindergartner this next year, so schooling 3 kids, I will need to get simpler!
Ashley, that is exactly how I felt! You will love doing Proverbs with your kids. It has been such a great place to start! I feel like we are on the exact same page with life. My oldest is 9 too and my third child officially starts Kinder in fall. I think you would love Gather ‘Round.