There's a bevy of them out there!
Aren't we blessed to have so many wonderful, Catholic curriculum providers for home educating?!
When I began homeschooling 4 years ago I was amazed and a bit overwhelmed by all the choices. Each provider offers curriculum that is well laid out and easy to follow and provides my family with a permeation of Catholicism that they were not getting in our parish school. When I opened my first box of curriculum and flipped through the pages I actually teared up thinking...this was how it was supposed to be! How sad that our Catholic schools use so many secular books when books like these exist....
Many times I have been asked what program my family uses. This post is aimed at answering those requests. This is our journey and how it's worked out for us...
Please note, though, that the beauty of homeschooling is that you can stop and say this curriculum isn't right for us...or for this particular child...and then you can try out another. What's right for us might not be right for you....this is just what we like.
Interestingly, and in concert with the above thoughts, we have tried a number of curriculums. WE HAVE LUVED EACH ONE. However, circumstances have steered us to a "fit" that suits us.
PRIOR TO YEAR ONE
I read every book I could on homeschooling before I started. All the Catholic ones I bought, and many secular ones I borrowed from the library. I remember that beside the reading chair I had a tower of books and I would pour over them night after night. I read a lot online too. Googling "Catholic Homeschooling" led me to many articles, sites and sources that all combined to help me garner courage and frame my understanding.
Favorite books? Look to my side bar, the right column, almost 3/4 of the page down and you'll see them.
YEAR ONE - CHC - Catholic Heritage Curriculum
My children were pretty young. My oldest son was in 6th grade, then my next son was in 4th, the 3rd son would be starting Kindergarten and our baby girl was just 1 year old! Buoyed with confidence from all the reading I had done and loving their "gentle" approach and heavy Catholicism, I chose CHC. I also liked that I would have great planners to follow for scheduling our day but didn't have to "report" to anyone and we could feel our way through this first year of home educating.
We sat around a round table in our dining room and each boy had a large plastic bucket that nearly resembled a picnic basket with handles and they could carry their books to their chair or where ever they were studying and after school it all slide into a cabinet, tucked away. They liked that! So did I.
We followed our wonderful CHC planners and after lunch, when the baby was down for a nap we did most of our more quiet work, like reading. We had the time to, in the last hour of the school day, read aloud to the boys for an hour. We cycled through many books quickly, discussing them. It was a wonderful, bonding time. We took nature walks too, drawing what we noticed. CHC's approach gave us the time to do all those wonderful things. (With the older boys taking on higher level work, I haven't found as much time for that sweetness with my littles. Smell the roses while you can. )
Throughout the liturgical year we read the suggested books from Catholic Mosaic, using their discussion guide to foster narration skills and class participation. We also loved A Year With God, from CHC. That's a book we'll use every year for as long as we homeschool. It is chock full of ideas.
For my Kindergarten son he learned to read with the CHC Little Stories for Little Folks Catholic Phonics readers and I still use them for my daughter, now in Kindergarten. I also appreciated the teacher's guide and MCP math book recommended. But the Phonics readers are what I would call my favorite from that year for that grade.
For my 4th grade son we luved the Rare Catholic Stories, My Catholic Speller and Language of God and Faith & Life series.
Inside the 4th grade planner was a wonderful science program on the human body, Temple of the Holy Spirit. It seems to be it's own book now. It was FUN!!! I will use that again next year as my 3rd son moves into 4th grade. For Math, we used Math-U-See and "Steve," the DVD teacher, became a part of our homeschool and day. The 4th grade history program was on our State and we quickly grew bored of that. We added the history reading from What Your 4th Grader Needs to Know by E. D. Hirsch.
My 6th grade son benefited from the 6th grade selections as well. We especially like the All Ye Lands history text and teacher's manual. The Teacher's manual prepared me for discussions and gave GREAT movie recommendations and links to go along with the reading. Superior!
The Stories of the Saints Reading Comprehension was also an excellent resource. Those two were certainly my favorites from 6th grade. We did not, unfortunately take to the unique Science program they offer in 6th grade and instead followed the free Mater Amabilis curriculum suggestions, which were great and I still use them with my younger children. Secrets of the Universe and notetaking on The Usborne Book of Scientists (From Archimedes to Einstein) proved to be great foundational books for subjects they'd revisit in greater depth in later grades.
With my oldest son heading towards those highschool years, having completed 6th grade and entering into middle school years, it got me thinking. Maybe I did want a curriculum provider that could provide us with a transcript for colleges? Maybe I did want to have a program with accreditation? Maybe it would be easier if we were all in that program and ramped up to it in 7th grade so that by 9th grade he (and I) would be comfortable with the turning work in requirements? If we didn't then we still had 8th grade to try something else out...before it "counted" college transcript wise. While these may not seem like CONS, they did cause us to seek something more traditional, with a safety net. So we looked outside of our beloved CHC which did not offer these things. (We do still use their spellers.)
YEAR TWO - OLVS, Our Lady of Victory
As we are a family in love with the Traditional Latin Mass, Our Lady of Victory appealed to us when we read, "...based completely on traditional Catholic teaching. The Papal Blessing of John Paul II hangs on the wall here in our offices as a "pledge of heavenly favors....From the beginning, OLVS stressed Religion as the common thread throughout the curriculum, with an accent on the history of the Church. " Read more HERE.
The program suited my need for organization. It is very well laid out and withstands the test of time. They are the oldest program, from 1977. (Seton homeschool began in 1980)
PROS - Loads of parental instruction and direction, helpful and detailed planners and answer keys to *everything* made me feel on top of my game. This traditional program was a bit more like Catholic school....memorize, take a weekly test. My children liked that rhythm and end of week goal and we quickly knew what was being retained by their test results. There were also quarterly checkpoints and exams and finals, so study was required and concepts were revisited. This was a no-nonsense program and soooo Catholic.
Some of our favorite resources from OLVS -
The Holy Sacrifice of The Mass, what a wonderful way to learn every facet of the Mass. Has certainly helped prepare our sons for serving at the altar, not to mention understanding the history of their faith.
The 5th and 7th grade literature selections were all wonderful, memorable reads. The Blood Red Crescent, The Blue Gonfalon, The Good Master, Stories of Don Bosco, Flame of White, The Gauntlet...these books were perfect for my sons.
There is no argument that Voyages in English is a gold-standard for grammar, as Our Pioneers and Patriots is for history. And at OLVS, a truly Catholic science textbook...Science and Living in God's World was surprisingly embraced by my sons. Surprisingly because our children are being barraged with glossy paper educational items, cut up like cartoons with colorful images to entertain them...that's what they are conditioned to need visually. And yet most upper level textbooks are dry, filled with words and serious presentations. So yes, I was surprised and relieved and thankful that my boys did just fine with the "less slick" and traditional presentation of these science books and were able to find information in it without some pop up bubble encapsulating it for them!
Every time I called into OLVS with a question, they were prompt, professional and helpful. They offer great flexibility, too. I still used Math -U-See for some of the children and Teaching Textbooks for another and although I was not technically enrolled, I received all the planners and test booklets and answers keys and organizational helpers from OLVS.
Alas, there were some CONS... OLVS is a long school year. As it is a traditional program it schedules 5 full school days. Whereas other homeschool programs keep the 5th day light for catch-up, field trips, sports, co-op classes or music lessons/appointments, OLVS filled the Friday planner up. When necessary, we were able to double up on assignments to finish the week before Friday so as to get a Friday off for joining our homeschool group at First Friday devotions. But, it added obstacles to our flexibility. CHC had been a 36 week school year, but OLVS was 38 weeks. I wonder if that precludes OLVS from a group of potential users who more accustomed to the 32-36 weeks of other programs?
So many in our homeschool group were using MODG. I had read and liked Laura Berquist's books and had heard her at the IHM conferences. Highschool was right around the corner now, as my oldest was then entering 8th grade. Investigating MODG further and hearing other's talk about their helpful consultant and the TA grading the papers and the tele-conference classes where homeschool students enjoy the company of others like them, I felt more drawn to these services. There were going to be subjects I'd need help with. There were 3 other students who needed me too. Help sounded too good to pass up.
Look for PART TWO tomorrow....