Category: Curriculum

High School Electives We Love

I am currently busy planning for the twins senior year, (I am ignoring the sadder implications of this) and have been buying and planning for their electives.  Most of our main curriculum choices are set but I have been twiddling with the electives. I am not including foreign language, science, english, math, history or Bible in this post.  Since I am in electives mode, I thought I would share some of our favorites.

Freshman Year

Intermediate Music Theory – (1) My kids had 7 years of piano and/or guitar lessons but I wanted to make sure they had a thorough grounding in theory and I needed a good fine arts credit on their transcript.  I thought this was a great on-line class. It was small, but it gave my kids the training they needed while also providing them an opportunity to work with classroom deadlines, tests, homework and a teacher other than me. There is also a Beginner class but mine were past that with their previous music education.

Traditional Logic I – (1) We did the Logic from MFW in 7th and 8th grade and then choose to add a more formal Logic in 9th.  This was a little dry, but it gave my kids the background in Logic that I wanted.  We were reviewing these formal logic fallacies just this week to prepare for the SAT Writing Portion and doing some of the logic in math.  I like my kids to really be trained to think critically.

Sophomore Year

AP Psychology -(1)  Sonlight has really developed some great new electives, and this is no exception.  It taught everything needed for the AP exam (my kids both passed) but from a Christian perspective.  This was a doable first AP course but it did take a lot of time and energy on their part. (Remember Honors and AP courses are weighted differently.  An ‘A’ is worth 5 points not 4 etc)

Junior Year

Beginning Java  – (.5) – Collin was originally going to make this into AP Comp Sci A but the high school we take APs through wasn’t offering this test year so, we made it into a semester elective and will take the test next year.  CodeAcademy is a great tool.  We did pay the $20 a month from Aug – December in order for him to do all the lessons and projects and have help available.

Artistic Pursuits II – (1)  This is another elective through Sonlight.  Caileigh loves art and we wanted to give her the time and credit to pursue it.  She has previously gone through book 1 of the High School series but I didn’t give her high school credit for it.

Senior Year

I am still working on this next year but I have found this new elective –

AP Computer Science A – (1) – Sonlight just came out with this elective from CompuScholar that will teach Java and prep for the AP test.  It’s an online subscription, but it is considerably cheaper to add an extra student on after paying for the first. (Score! I have twins!) It is the same price through Sonlight or through CompuScholar, but I got it from Sonlight when their electives were on sale so it cost me $25 less than CompuScholar.  If you have bought previous Cores from Sonlight, Sonlight should also cost you less, but I would look at the deals.  They also have courses for elementary, middle school and other high school courses.

Curriculum I recommend – Elementary Math


**this page contains affiliate links – I am trying to get the page to pay for itself.**

We have used several great math programs. I have two main math curriculums going at one time per child which means we have gone through a lot of math.  Each child has a main or spine curriculum and then either a “Fun” math or a review math curriculum going on the side. In elementary, I never scheduled for math with both curriculum to be over 45-60 minutes. We also do math all year long with very little break so we do might do a different math for the summer. As I have twins who had a tendency to compare each other, there were also years that they did different math just to stop the comparisons. In other words, we have done a myriad of different maths but here are my favorites.

K and 1st – I actually loved the math in My Father’s World K and 1st as it is practical and hands on.  With Connor, I did traditional math far too early.  The twins ended up in the same place as Connor with a much better attitude and view of math than Connor did.  With the twins, we did MFW k and 1st math which is designed to go directly into Singapore 2a, and they memorized skip counting facts through 18, conquered basic addition and subtraction and learned basic time telling, patterns, calendar’s and had a wonderful time doing it.  The games and playing both grocery store and the “Sunshine Cafe” were great practice and great fun.  All three of mine would play these for hours using the directions in the TM and made wonderful progress in math.  I did put numbers amounts on all of Caileigh’s food in both her play grocery store and play kitchen and got them play money to pay.  I would advise everyone to skip formal curriculum and just play games and make math practical in those younger years.  I have done it both ways, and informal worked so much better.

Singapore Math US Edition – I absolutely love Singapore Math and have had success with all three of mine who were very different learners. For elementary, this was our spine, our main math.  Singapore really teaches kids to think mathematically and teaches several different ways to accomplish a problem.  It was really funny how the twins always chose a different way to do the same math problem. Connor really loved how it gave him the freedom to think of why the math worked the way it did verses just telling him the step by step how to.  I recommend starting with 1b in 2nd grade even if they test in higher as it gives them confidence and 1b introduces multiplication. Connor tested into Singapore later in Elementary and I started him half a book earlier than he tested into which worked well. Connor went up by 10 point in critical thinking the year we changed to Singapore.

A couple things about Singapore-

1. Get the US Edition –  it is NOT common core, it is the version Singapore itself uses with only the money changed. ( Seriously, Common Core wishes it were Singapore. Singapore Math has been around far longer than Common Core, so unless you specifically buy the CC version, and why would you, let’s strop this confusion here. )

2. You might need the Home Instructor’s Guide just to help you teach it.  I found the HIG necessary for 4a and above.

3. Remember the numbers are levels, not grades.  You do at least two levels a year but it maybe 1b/2a in a year or 2a/2b in a year depending on where the child is at.  This allows you to further fit the curriculum to your child’s needs.

Life of Fred – My kids love LOF math.  I used it as our “fun” math until middle school where it became a main math for the boys. I personally don’t find that the elementary curriculum has enough review and practice for elementary but for extra math, it was perfect.  It engaged all three of mine. Connor for the way it presented math, Caileigh for the story and Collin for the silliness.

Beast Academy– I think this could be either a main spine or fun math.  This is a rigorous curriculum designed for high level math thinkers but the fact that all the characters are monsters and the books are really colorful made it fun.  Caileigh did some as review as loved it.  My kids were older before they finished the series but it would have been something I used on a regular basis.

Abeka Speed Drills – Surprised to see this here, aren’t you? Sometimes, you just need your kids to drill in math.  For some kids, you also need a lot of review.  We used these throughout Elementary as a a daily speed drill and review.  Each day, they put on a timer and did the 6 or so problems of approximately whatever math grade year they were in.  It was easy for me to just give them and it was something they could do independently.  There were a few times that I got an Abeka math workbook to help cement some topics.  Caileigh needed this around 5th grade.  Abeka was colorful enough for her and very straightforward and had review.  It wasn’t her spine but it did help cement some of the ideas in Singapore for her during the summer.

Mathtacular by Sonlight – My kids loved these somewhat silly math videos/curriculum.  These were a life saver when I was sick or when they were sick and we couldn’t get to math.  My kids were entertained and learned or reviewed math.  They were also great for when the Grandparents were watching them during the school year.  These would also be a fun summer math to keep the kids learning and moving forward without a lot of hands on by Mom.  I do not think they are enough for a full curriculum but they are a great stand in.  They do have workbooks and the kids work through the math with the video.

More Curriculum Reviews Here –

Curriculum I Recommend – All in One Packages Elementary

Curriculum I Recommend – Foreign Language

Curriculum I Recommend – All in One Packages Elementary

It’s no secret that I have used an all in one curriculum for the majority of my homeschool years.  I have been often asked why I have as I am a curriculum junkie and love planning.  I was once asked by the author and designer of a curriculum why I would ever use one as I could just as easily put one together myself.  The answer is pretty simple, time and priorities.  I did write and put together a year of elementary for Connor and it took me 10-15 hours a week of curriculum design.  Chores didn’t get done, dinner was often cereal or pb&j’s and I didn’t get to do what I actually loved, teaching.  My priority was to teach my three kids and if I found a curriculum that matched about 80% of my goals, then I was happy.  Once I had a base, I could tweak it but it didn’t take me near the amount of time that writing from scratch would have.

My husband and I had three main goals in the education of our kids.

1. It had to have the Bible integrated.

2. It had to be engaging and needed to help our kids to love to learn.

3.  It needed to be academically rigorous.

After that, I wanted it to follow a Classical philosophy of education.  I wasn’t a strict Classical Educator, nor am I now, but I most closely identify with that philosophy of education.

At the time, there weren’t as many options that fit these goals as there are now, but I think I probably would choose the same now as I did then.

My Father’s World – We have loved My Father’s World and it has more than met all of our goals for our kid’s education, particularly in Elementary and Middle School.  I still think the Biblical foundation and the missions outreach focus is second to none.  It helped my kids to love God and to not merely be hearers of the Word but doers of the Word.  We also loved all the hands on projects, family meals and games that it brought into our lives.  It was thorough without being over kill and had a short enough day that I could add other things in if I wanted to, while still allowing my kids to explore, play and have a fun childhood.  My kids were reading by the time we hit MFW K and 1st but we did them all the same while adding in other reading because of the amazing Biblical foundation that they provided.  They were also a gentle, fun and engaging way to step into education.  We often ( me included) try to push our oldest kids too far, too fast and this ends in burned out 2nd and 3rd graders who hate school.  MFW taught me how to allow my kids to enjoy school and not to push them beyond what they can emotionally handle even if they can academically.  We loved the family learning cycle, and all the hands on projects/meals/festivals allowed us to learn as a family and made connections for my kids that just academics wouldn’t have. They remember Roman culture because we made the togas, ate the food and learned about the weapons. It is still my number one recommendation for Elementary.

However, there are others that have come out or been revamped since my kids were in Elementary that I would be remiss in not mentioning.

Sonlight – Had I just been educating Connor and not the twins, who were movers and shakers, I think we might have ended up with Sonlight.  Both Connor and I love to read and loved nothing better than a pile of books to read together.  Sonlight is a solid choice but it is not for kids who need to move, do a project or can’t sit still.  I do and have used Sonlight readers and Sonlight’s Summer Reading Packages through out the years.  They have also revamped some of their Cores to better combine kids and would be on my top list if I was choosing Elementary curriculum today.

Heart of Dakota – This curriculum wasn’t available when my kids were younger but had it been, I think it would have been a very strong contender.  The Bible is excellent, it has more of a personal relationship bent than MFW which isn’t bad, just different.  Much like a church that is more relationship oriented than missions oriented.  Both Biblical but with slightly different priorities.  You can combine children, although they follow the youngest child rather than the oldest as MFW does.  It is also far more Charlotte Mason than Classical.  This might have been a deal breaker for me, although the really pretty notebooking pages and TM might have swayed me.

I think any of these choices are good, solid, Biblical choices.  It may be more about the personality of both the teacher and the students as to what would be the best choice but I don’t think you could go wrong with any of them.

Curriculum I Recommend – Foreign Language

I get asked these questions so often that I decided it would be better just to write a series of posts about curriculum that I have actually used and recommend.  Just to be above board, there are affiliate links on these pages.  As many of you are, we are a one income family and it costs money to pay for this page and I need to at least try to recoup the costs.  Thus far, I haven’t even made enough to pay for the start up costs over a year ago, much to my husband’s chagrin.  So, if you are interested in the things I share, please use the links provided as it will help me to keep this blog going.

Spanish – 

Foreign Languages are the one subject that I have spent the most money on and have had the biggest fails.  I have bought more than one curriculum and found it did nothing for my kids.  We started our kids on Spanish while they were in pre-school and bought several programs designed to help them get an ear for the language.  Then in Elementary we bought several more for multiple years and faithfully did them daily.  While they taught my kids the vocabulary, none of them taught my kids to actually converse in Spanish until Homeschool Spanish Academy.

Homeschool Spanish Academy – I was introduced to HSA by a review on The Well Trained Mind Forum and since they offer a free introductory class and after 5 years of another program in which Connor still couldn’t carry on a conversation in Spanish, we tried it.  What’s to lose?  A free introductory class with a native Spanish speaker over the internet?  We didn’t even have to leave home or get out of our pj’s – perfect!  After one class, we were sold.  Connor had the same teacher for the majority of his classes over the next four years of high school whom he loved.  (No, I won’t tell you her name, because she is hard enough to book and the twins love her too.)  Connor went through all four levels of their rigorous high school curriculum and it allowed him to travel to Spain and be able to navigate the language and the city. It also allowed him to skip having to take a foreign language in College.  As a bonus, I love that the teachers get to know our kids.  They are engaged in our kid’s lives and get to know who are kids are, what they are interested in, and become a real part of their high school career.  This also allowed us to have an outside teacher who was able to give Connor an academic recommendation to both Colleges and Scholarships, which was huge.  I have only ever used their High School Program but had it been around when my kids were younger, I would have used it starting in Elementary.  I threw a lot of money at programs that didn’t work and Homeschool Spanish Academy would have been less money in the long run than buying the three other programs that I did try. One tip, if you have a teacher you love, book early.  I booked the twins classes at the end of May for the next school year.  All the teachers are equally good but if you find one that your child connects with, it’s worth trying to get that teacher.  We have had substitutes and they are all great teachers but my kids definitely connect with one over the others.

Click Here for Free HSA Intro Class

Latin – 

We have our kids start taking Latin in later Elementary and Middle School.  My husband took and spoke both Spanish and Latin and felt it was very helpful to him and studies show how much learning Latin can help Vocabulary, Critical Thinking and as a base for other Languages.  Here too, I have spent and gone through several curriculums to get it right.  Remember that Latin a dead language and a curriculum that doesn’t teach your child to conjugate and read the language isn’t going to work, which I learned after two different disastrous attempts.  What did work? Here’s my favorites.

Lively Latin – All three of mine really liked the Big Book of Latin 1 and 2.  We did the both of them over about 4 years, 3rd though 6th.  They were engaging, had fun history lessons, were anything but boring and gave my kids a firm basis in Latin and in Roman History.  They also liked the online games and classes available to them on the website. We did the books together as much as possible and the twins did fine hanging with Connor.  They do have CD’s of pronunciations, both Classical and Ecclesiastical depending on your preference. I bought the hard copies of the books because I really didn’t want to have to copy and prepare the books for all the kids.

First Form Latin – After we finished Lively Latin, we moved into First Form Latin from Memoria Press.  We watched the videos together, and did the workbooks during the week.  Latin isn’t always the most fun and I would say that this wasn’t necessarily fun but it still kept their attention and gave them a firm foundation in Latin.  I would say that the Instructional Videos are pretty important to have and go through.  This is a solid, efficient curriculum that will give them a full credit of Latin in high school.  If you had kids who were still interested in going further in Latin, then the series goes on to Second through Fourth Form Latin.  Our kids had a pretty firm foundation in it and we needed to focus more on Spanish as not all Colleges will accept Latin as a Foreign Language and we wanted the practicality of being able to speak another language.