Our homeschool curriculum choices for the 2014-2015 school year.

Our homeschool curriculum choices for the 2014-2015 school year.

Our homeschool schedule and curriculum choices for 2014

I hardly every talk about homeschooling around here. If that floats your boat, this is for you. If it doesn’t, don’t worry—we’ll be back to our regular programming in a day or two.

I realized about five minutes ago that this is our fifth year homeschooling. Five years sounds legit to me, and makes me think I should have this home education thing halfway figured out by now. Not hardly.

This year we have a 6th grader (which terrifies me—it’s hard to screw up kindergarten, but middle school is the real deal), a 4th grader, a first/second grader (if she went to “real school” we’d actually have to decide, but she doesn’t, so we haven’t), and a four-year-old. We’re not doing any formal curriculum or schooling for the four-year-old (although I will say he’s much more enthusiastic about reading lessons than his seven-year-old sister).

We homeschool four days a week, taking Wednesdays off.

Our homeschool schedule and curriculum for 2013 | Modern Mrs Darcy

This year we’re trying something new: my oldest two kids are participating in a local cottage school, where they take English Lit and classical studies (think: history). If you’ve never heard of a “cottage school” before, just know that it’s like structured like college. Class meets once a week, and students go home with a boatload of homework to do between sessions. The goal is twofold: I want to take some of the homeschool work off my plate, and I want my kids to have external standards and accountability.

Here’s what we’re using at home.

Life of Fred


Halfway through the last school year, I felt like we’d hit a wall with the Rod and Staff math we were using for my older kids. They could do the work, but had a poor grasp of the underlying concepts. After doing some research, we switched them mid-year to Life of Fred. It was a good change, but about a month ago we realized they both needed lots of practice with grade school basics: the times tables, multiplication, division. We’re back to Rod and Staff for the time being.


All three kids are using different levels of Writing With Ease, although I’m not hitting it as heavy with the older two as I was last year, now that they’re in the cottage school. We chose to use the optional individual workbooks, but I do refer occasionally to the hardback overview. I love this curriculum.

I also want them to learn more explicit grammar, like how to identify parts of speech and diagram sentences, and I have this book sitting on my bookshelf for just that purpose. I just haven’t gotten to it yet! I’m hoping we will, and soon.

I’m also doing reading lessons with my seven-year-old (and my four-year-old, who begs to be included), using The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading. This book is in the running for the “best $20 I ever spent” prize.


The older kids are listening to the audiobook version of Story of the World. This year we’re on level two. Occasionally we’ll do an activity from the activity book, but mostly we just listen and discuss. My goal is for them to develop a feel for the timeline, not a nuanced understanding of world events—at least not yet.

Khan Academy in our homeschool


Last year we worked our way through the basic Latin curriculum Prima Latina. This year, we’re moving up a half-step to Latina Christiana. It’s quite similar, but more challenging.

The older three are still doing Rosetta Stone German. They need a little bit of help, but can do the program largely on their own. I was a German minor in college, and its gratifying—for all of us—to be able to (awkwardly) converse in German at the dinner table.


The older two are doing Ten Thumbs typing again this year. They can do this independently. Those two also enjoy typing up stories and newsletters of their own creation, which gives them plenty of additional self-directed practice.

Independent reading

This hardly seems worth mentioning, except that its an indispensable part of our daily routine. Everyone who can read (that’s 2 1/2 kids as of this moment) spends at least thirty minutes each day reading a challenging (relative to reading level) chapter book. Sometimes we pick unread books from our own shelves, but mostly these are library selections.

Fallen by the wayside

We used to do weekly spelling lists from Spelling Power, and honestly, I’d forgotten all about it until I sat down to put this post together.

I’d love to hear how many of you are homeschooling or afterschooling this year. Tell us all about it in comments.

(You can read previous homeschooling posts here.)

Tagged .


  1. Ellen says:

    I am homeschooling a first grader and kindergartner this year, and have a six-month old. So basically, lots of low-key fun stuff! The first grader is very into it, so we are doing a lot of art and journalling and Story of the World. I was homeschooled myself, and love seeing it come to life with my kids.

    Interesting about Life of Fred – I read (I believe on the website) that the author intended the Fred books to be used along with drill sheets of basic math facts (addition, multiplication, etc). Fred works with concepts, and drill is also necessary, in his opinion. We have done a bit of early Fred and supplemented with Calculadder, which I remember doing as a kid.

  2. Jenn says:

    We’re a homeschooling family also! I have 4– 11th grd, 8th grd, 6th grd & 2nd grd. I know what you mean about being scared when the oldest one hits middle school age:) But don’t worry, sounds like you’re doing great with your curriculum choices! The most important part of homeschooling is teaching your children how to learn (not just following directions, but becoming independent thinkers/analyzers!). Once you’ve done that, they can learn anytime, any place at any age:)
    Just a suggestion- I bounced from grammar book to grammar book until I found Analytical Grammar. We love it! And I love that it doesn’t have to be taught and retaught year after year. Thanks for sharing a glimpse into your homeschool world! I’m going to look into your typing curriculum:)

  3. Jamie says:

    I like that you included “afterschooling.” I will steal that phrase 🙂 We apparently (I rarely have ideas thoroughly thought through when I announce them) are going to study some orthodox Jewish traditions right now, especially the Sabbath meal. We have a family in our life to interview about this, plus, you know, Google.

  4. Steph says:

    I love that you say you have a 1st/2nd grader. We’re homeschooling our preschooler/kindergartner and I’m so glad we don’t actually have to decide what grade she’s in. She’s been begging to do school and is advanced but just turned 5 last week. Basically we’re doing a kindergarten/1st grade curriculum 2-3 days/week for an hour at most. Plus, of course, lots of reading together.

    What grade level do you put your daughter in for outside activities? We’re keeping ours in preschool at church because socially she’s right on track for her age and we figure we can always move her up later if need be.

    • Anne says:

      Thankfully, all our current activities are broken down by age, not grade. Otherwise I wouldn’t have a clue where to put her. I think she’d probably be better off going younger, but that’s hard to take back later.

  5. Sarah M says:

    We homeschool and this is our third year. I like Life of Fred for supplemental math–we just read one chapter a week and then I ask my kids the questions and they answer verbally–we don’t even get a sheet of paper out. It’s more to just hit math at a different angle.
    We just moved up to BC this month and the benefits for homeschoolers are amazing. I think we’re going to like it here. 😉
    Sarah M

    • Andrea says:

      Welcome to BC! As far as homeschooling, this province is the most progressive. It’s an oasis for homeschoolers. There’s all kinds of diverse options, the gov’t funds it a little bit and because of that, there is a province-wide, wonderful community of home learners.

      • Sarah M says:

        Thank you, Andrea for your kind comment
        I have told my family (I’ve also homeschooled in 2 different states, WA and NE) and friends that coming to BC has been like the ‘Disneyland’s fireworks’ of homeschooling. It’s incredible here!
        Sarah M

  6. This is the first year of the century that I haven’t homeschooled anyone – my last child started an arts charter school in August. Sigh. I miss it so much. Fifteen years of great, stimulating conversations, of learning new things together, of flexibility.

    I don’t know the math programs that you’re using, but I totally agree with the math basics. My kids really had a heads up when they started school because they’re comfortable with mental math, times tables, and story problems. We stuck with paper and pencil for math because I read so much about handwriting and retention of information.

    BTW, I never felt like I had it figured out even after a decade, but 3 of my kids are now honor roll students and another graduated college at 20 with a 3.8 GPA. On the other hand, epic fail on handwriting legibility. Ugh.

    You really don’t know how you did until you get to the other side. 🙂

  7. Michelle Waite says:

    We switched to Life of Fred in the last year. We love it. My 4th grader goes around asking to do extra lessons in the evening. I signed up for the Magic School Bus Science club, which sends a new set of experiments every month. The kids love and beg for those experiments too. I have my sixth grader write up full labs, if encourage my 4 th grader to follow the instructions.
    We do a Charlotte Mason, living books approach to homeschool, so my pile of books we are reading to study US history and anatomy is huge.
    We take Wednesdays off too. My husband works weekends, so we need a day to rest. I don’t really like doing it this way. It feels like we have two Mondays. His schedule will change in January. I hope it works better with homeschooling. This coming Wednesday, we are going to visit a Fort Clastsop to enhance our study of Lewis and Clark. That should be a good outing and we can hang out at the beach for a while.

  8. liz n. says:

    We didn’t homeschool, but for awhile lived in a school district that had a “no homework” policy and a curriculum I found lacking, so I did a LOT of supplementary work with my kids. I admire those of you who are able to homeschool so well!

  9. Janice says:

    I have not found any math program that “drills” to my satisfaction. So far, I am having my kids do what I did when I was a 3rd grader in the late 70’s. Lots of worksheets and just straight out writing the times tables as fast as they can. Every week we focus on the 3’s, 4’s, etc. as long as it takes. My now 5th grader seemed to do well with this scheme, so I am repeating it with my two 3rd graders. This is on top of our daily math lessons in our curriculum.

    And diagramming sentences is a favorite around here. Especially for my visual learners. I found a few worksheets on line to help and an old-school workbook put out by Christian Light Publications that I found at a Curriculum Fair. I guess I sound a little old-fashioned, but I think some basics are so important.

  10. Angela Mills says:

    This is our 7th year homeschooling. My oldest graduated last year and it’s just my sixth grader now. We’ve done almost everything you listed here, except Spanish instead of German 🙂

    This year we are doing the Prairie Primer and I love it!

  11. Heather says:

    We don’t homeschool, but these look like you’ve got it down pat. I do however, help my daughter with geometry – math was my first love and I give the boys extra practice with their Kindergarten homework, as I feel they may be a bit behind their peers, however, they are also younger as quite a few were held behind a year.

    • Anne says:

      Until this fall we were in a local group that did weekly science projects. This year for science we’re not doing anything very structured or frequent—just doing a lot of reading and the occasional experiment. Next year we’ll be doing lots of lab reports…

  12. Julie says:

    I love the looks of Ten Thumbs! Thank you for mentioning it. However, when I try to buy it, my browser says there is a problem with the site’s security and won’t allow me to purchase it. Just a head’s up…

    • Anne says:

      Huh. We’ve been using it for two years with no trouble. I wonder what the problem is? (I don’t know enough about that to even guess, sadly.)

  13. Anne says:

    Life of Fred Apples cracked my kid up! I wish I could interlibrary loan that series. I’ll probably buy Butterflies soon. We used it to supplement Right Start Math last year. I second Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Reading! I library loaned it to see if I liked it and just took note of the way she introduced the phonemes, and I should’ve just bought it. It was laid out similarly to First Language Lessons, which I am enjoying with my first grader. I am appreciating more and more good books that spell things out for the parent. Simple and easy to read. We are trying to do SOTW volume one as a family at night, which is kind of working out. I am loaning the literature titles from the activity guide, which we are enjoying. I want to do all of the fun activities but can’t. 🙁 We’ll have to pick and choose. Your comment on just having a general idea of the timeline of history is a good one. I haven’t taken on Latin or foreign language yet. Or typing. I do take dictation from him for stories sometimes, which is fun. I make up my own copy work/handwriting and sometimes use the first grade Handwriting Without Tears.

  14. Dana says:

    For math facts practice /drill I recommend Otter Creek math. I used it quite successfully when I taught multi-age classes. dads worksheets.com is also good.

  15. Anna says:

    I was homeschooled and now we’re homeschooling our preschooler. I love it! And we’ll be in the same “not sure what grade he’s in” boat. He’s extremely bright, but is a stroke survivor and non-verbal so we have some high/low issues (part of why homeschooling is perfect for him). I’m about to buy Jessie Wise’s reading book because I discovered randomly that he’s already sight-reading at three years old, and reading and phonics are helping his speech development so I want to go ahead and start even though I’m more of a minimally guided unschooler as far as preschool goes. I always love geeking out about homeschool curriculum and schedules so thanks for sharing!

  16. Betsy says:

    So glad to see this post, Ann. I’ve homeschooled 13 years now. I used many of your same resources–Story of the World and Latina Christiana–and my kids went to a cottage school for two years. Now my son is in his last year. It’s pretty intense. We live overseas so I don’t have access to co-op schools, but he’s taking one class on-line, doing quite a bit of college level work for several classes and applying to universities. Oh, I’ll be glad when this year is over, and I’ll only have one still in school! No regrets, but high school’s more intense than I thought it would be! 🙂

  17. Courtney says:

    We loosely started school with my four year old. He’s doing the Waterford program online through Utah Upstart – only 30-35 minutes a day, and then I supplement as he desires. He is dying to learn to read, so we are working towards that goal. We aren’t formally doing anything but the online thing, but we are informally talking math, and working with manipulatives as he desires. I don’t want to push him, so we do what he enjoys.

  18. RebeccaK says:

    For some reason I thought it was you who was doing some Beast Academy along with LoF? I was considering Beast for my 8yo dd but was wondering how it was working for you!

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