the books we love/ homeschool curricula

We are a book family.

Our shelves are lined with teaching books, picture books, chapter books, classic literature, poetry collections, homeschool curricula, and non-fiction of all types.  I should have known I would fall in love with Mr. Fantastic when he told me he liked Wuthering Heights in college, which was my favorite book for many years.

My children like books as presents better than anything else. Like us, they have discovered that beloved books are not just stories about characters, they are doors into the worlds of people you love. Rereading a favorite book to my children is one of my favorite things to do in the world. By sharing a book we share a friendship and a joy that is immeasurably valuable.

I am often asked what I like to read, which curricula we use for homeschooling, and for recommendations for books to give children.  I don't feel like a book expert, by any means. My degree is not in literature, and my book preferences are based more on personal preference than anything else. But since I am asked so often, I thought I would make a list for anyone that is interested. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but a mere scratch in the top layer of our love for books.

I have posted lists of books we love before. Those can be found here:

top ten favorite picture books

ten great non-fiction reads

ten ways to teach your children the Bible

what i'm reading: summer reading lists for the whole family

some books for your reading list

Here are some more of our favorites:

Picture Books:

Macawber by John Lithgow

Fancy Nancy by Jane O'Connor

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers

Talullah's Tutu by Marilyn Singer

Press Here by Herve Tullet

The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers

Not a Box by Antoinette Porter

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Early Readers:

BOB books

The Elephant and Piggie Books by Mo Willems

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lingren

The Amelia Bedelia Series by Peggy Parish

Mr. Putter and Tabby books by Cynthia Rylant

Chapter Books:

The Chronicles of Narnia Series by CS Lewis

Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter

All of A Kind Family by Sydney Taylor

The Little House Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald

The Boxcar Children Series by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Melendy Quartet Series by Elizabeth Enright

Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher

Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Weiss

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Giver by Lowis Lowry

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

The Mary Poppins Series by P.L. Travers

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Peterson

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

Devotionals/ Bibles for Kids:

The Jesus Storybook Bible

The Muffin Family Series

Tales of the Kingdom Trilogy

The Action Bible

Jesus Calling

Non-Fiction for Kids:

The Dangerous Book for Boys by Con Iggulden and Hal Iggulden

National Geographic: Ultimate Weird But True

George Washington  by Ingrid d'Ausleire

Our 50 States: A Family Adventure Across America by Lynne Cheney


Pío Peep: Traditional Spanish nursery Rhymes


Now We Are Six by AA Milne

Poetry for Young People: Emily Dickinson

Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom

Parenting Books:

Honey for a Child's Heart

Loving Our Kids on Purpose

Parenting with Love and Logic

Shepherding a Child's Heart

Homeschooling Curricula:

We have done lots of different curricula over the years. After six years of homeschooling, I have learned that there is no perfect curriculum for every family, and that it's okay to scrap what isn't working for you or for your kids. Generally, I prefer literature-based writing and history. I don't like curricula with lots of different parts and pieces (think counting blocks, several different books, flash cards, etc.) I do like curricula with workbooks my kids can write in and ones that are organized in weekly lessons so I don't have to reinvent the Aztec calendar in order to plan our year. Below is a list of what we have liked and what we use.

What we are using this year, 2015-2016:

The Story of the World: We are doing American History this year, so I am pulling lessons from volumes 2, 3, and 4. There are audio downloads available, which we will listen to during lunch (winning!!). We will incorporate autobiographies and picture books and historic fiction from the time period.

Singapore Math: For first grade, we will use level 1. I don't think Singapore is easy to teach, especially if you have several children in different levels.The lessons are laborious and complicated. It is not my favorite in that regard. But I do think it is superior at teaching problem solving and conceptual math understanding compared with most math curricula out there (we have used Abeka and Saxon also in the past).

Beast Academy: This is new for us this year. It came highly recommended by a friend. It is designed to teach lots of math problem solving, and it uses comic books to teach the lessons, which is brilliant.

Apologia Science: This is the science curriculum we will use. We are studying anatomy this year. it is easy to read and interesting for elementary school. There are also experiments and activities suggested in the chapters. We will also use other anatomy books to round out the curriculum.

Five in a Row: This is a literature-based curriculum. I use it for my preschoolers and kindergarteners, and we will use it for first grade this year, too. It takes classic children's books and gives multiple lessons in five different subjects, one to do each day of the week from the same children's book. It is a very fun, broad curriculum in its applications, and can be used for a few years before the lesson plans are all exhausted. You do have to find the children's books at the bookstore or the library yourself, though, which can sometimes be difficult because some of the books are out of print.

Writing with Ease: This is a golden star of curriculum in my opinion. We are using level 1 for first grade and level 4 for fourth grade this year. It's a literature-based curricula, that includes excerpts from classic books and walks you through a reading comprehension, dictation, and writing lesson. I particularly like that the younger children can listen and participate in the oral questions, and that the teacher and student pages are included in the same book.

Writing With Skill: This is new for us this year, too. I have several friends who have loved it. We will use level 1 for fifth and sixth grade. I wanted a literature-based curriculum with a simpler method (IEW was clunky for me), and this looks promising. Fingers crossed!

Shurley English: This is the grammar curriculum we use. I don't love it, but I am used to it, and I didn't want to change too many curricula this year. It is classical, but a little complex, I must admit. It involves memorization, a lot of writing of paragraphs and journaling, and sentence diagramming. We don't do the writing portions because we use a separate writing curriculum.

French: I use a combination of workbooks, audio CDs, youTube videos, and I make my own vocabulary cards.

What we have used in the past, and I would recommend:

IEW: This is the writing curriculum we used for several years. It is complicated, but it is good. It breaks writing down and simplifies it for the kids, and you can select a book with readings that go along with your history time period. IEW also makes it easy to grade by providing rubrics clearly defining the components that the child must include. I wouldn't start this before fifth grade (maybe fourth if your child is a very good writer).

Horizons: This is the math and grammar curriculum that I used for all my kindergarteners (I homeschooled all the boys through the end of kinder- no UMS school). It is bright and colorful, easy to follow, and worksheet-based. With younger children running around, I liked that it didn't require a lot of teacher interaction or a teaching script to follow. I plan to use it for preschool for the Lady.

All About Spelling: This spelling curriculum involves lots of manipulatives- letters on a magnetic board and flash cards. It is effective and thorough, teaching the rules of spelling and the rule breakers as well. But my kids are good spellers by nature, and so we scrapped it. Their phonics App I definitely love and have used.

Ordinary Parents Guide to Reading: This is a boring book (no pictures), but it is effective at teaching phonics and reading. You will need to make it fun for a kindergarten kiddo, though, by taking the words out of the book and putting them on cards or a white board.

1 comment:

  1. I have been using this post a lot. Thanks for putting it together Carrie.