How does anyone pick curriculum? There is a veritable treasure house of options out there. Here’s what I did.
I started homeschooling many years ago. Hmm. About 1993. Maybe that’s not as long ago as it feels!
We started with Kona. I loved the different options of related information. I liked that everything we were doing was on the same topic.
It worked great for unit studies. And at the time, I would let the boys pick what they wanted as their birthday party theme and then for the two months before their birthday, we would study their subject.
So we had two months of dinosaurs, with history, types, archaeological digs in sand boxes and things like that. Then we had a birthday party. We had a dinosaur pinata. We did archaeological digs in dinner trays with bird seed and the finds were twenty piece puzzles of dinosaurs. We made dinosaur masks and then we all wore them. We played games like “roll the dinosaur egg” using coconuts. It was fun.
Then we had weather for two months, reading Carl Sandburg’s poem on fog, identifying different types of clouds, and counting the number of days each month that it rained. For the birthday party we drew pictures and developed them in the sun. We had a sun pinata. We ran through water for a “rainy” day. It was fun.
But in the end, while that worked great for unit studies, when I was moving towards a party at the end for the boys’ birthdays, it wasn’t a good curriculum fit for us. There wasn’t enough reading and the math and science were very limited. It was wonderful for when they were four and five… But not when they were older.
Then we went to ABeka. I liked A Beka and we kept with it for several years. The math is solid. In recent years (2001 or 2002) we looked at going to Bob Jones math. But it was too easy compared to A Beka. The boys liked the idea of being able to move up two grades, but I wasn’t impressed with it. I would, however, recommend it if you have a child who is not up to where A Beka would have them, but they are sensitive to the grade level on their book.
Their science was decent. But then we had to supplement the science, because it wasn’t really enough. My boys were going through two curriculums of science for their grade each year. We did ACSI and Bob Jones along with A Beka science. I wasn’t impressed with any of them. A friend who is a science teacher and a homeschooler gave me a different science book published by Harcourt-Jovanich-Brace. It was excellent, what I was looking for all along, but more difficult than anything we had done before. Even though it was a lower grade level! We did it anyway, because it was good. Now my sons are using Bob Jones’ high school science. That is fairly good.
We never used the A Beka English, because their wasn’t enough writing and reading and I am an English teacher. So I made my own stuff up.
And I liked the A Beka history, up until the junior high ages. At that point it became very anti-Catholic and started making sweeping statements that just were not true. (Communism produced abortion. There had never been abortion before communism. Hello! What history warp did they hit?) We aren’t Catholic, but I don’t like hate-mongering. And the boys were annoyed by the misstatements. (I, however, was thrilled that they were able to recognize that it wasn’t true. I have seen many students who think that if it is printed in a book it is true.)
We used a different spelling book, from ACSI. I really liked the spelling book. But eventually you get too old for spelling.
After finishing the 8th grade A Beka math, my youngest son was not ready for algebra. So I went looking for a different approach to the math. I found Saxon Math, which had been recommended to me before. At the time I wasn’t comfortable with it. But this year I have found it to have several strengths which my son needs. So we’re doing Algebra 1/2, a ninth grade curriculum for those who aren’t ready for algebra. It matters to my son what grade his work is in. (And it matters to his brother who is a math wiz and occasionally picks on him about his work.)
So I’ve used Kona, ACSI, A Beka, Bob Jones, Saxon, and some non-homeschool curriculum, as well as devising my own curriculum.
I can say that all the ones I have seen or used have had worthwhile aspects. You just have to look at what there is, look at where your kids are, and try to match them up the best you can.