Our Curriculum and Planners

Because our children are still quite young, and because we use a very child-led approach to school, relatively little formal curriculum is required.  Still, we use a few programs to keep a bit of structure to our learning process.

Here's what we're using right now:

Handwriting Without Tears
This is the writing curriculum that our public school system uses, and we began using it while our oldest child was doing preschool so that it would align nicely when he started public school kindergarten. Now that we have moved away from that idea, we are quite happy continuing with the curriculum because of it's practical, multi-sensory approach to learning letters. The program encourages kids to build letters with wooden sticks, to use chalkboards with sponges and chalk, and finally to write in a workbook. We've found that our kids respond well to the multifaceted approach and it's friendly "feel."

Five in a Row
This is our "everything else" curriculum. I read about this program for almost a year on other blogs before buying it because I felt that I could piece together the rest of the homeschool curriculum from online sources and other books. I didn't want to buy anything if I could do it myself! However, I recently caved in and bought a used copy of the first book, for ages 4-8, after becoming frustrated with the amount of time required to piece it all together on my own. The FIAR approach seems to be a great fit for our family as it's very flexible. Each week one book is read once per day (thus the name, Five in a Row) and activities are completed to complement the book. Social studies extension activities happen on one day for example, math on another day. Each book can be "rowed" in any order, and families can choose how many of the activities per book to complete.

We started using this program at the recommendation of another homeschooling family. Through preschool I had used just the math lessons in our Five In A Row curriculum, plus whatever relavant workbooks or free printables I found. While this approach worked just fine for a while, I discovered during our oldest child's last year of preschool that he really liked math, and that he was "hungering" for more. He wanted to have a sense of accomplishment derived from working through a structured plan, so I bought the first Sinapore Math workbook. 

It's had exactly the impact I hoped: our son really enjoys working through his book, and being able to look back (in one place) at his progress. We don't use his workbook every day since we're still using a child-directed approach to schooling, but we explore it together when he expresses interest. We've also had a lot of success using hands-on approaches to further explore some of his math concepts.

The Muzzy program has been working for us because I didn't want to use a "stand and deliver" approach to learning foreign language in our home, but I wanted something more than just trying to remember to use French words for household items. The latter just didn't work for us: I kept realizing that I hadn't uttered a French word in days, and then I'd go overboard by barely speaking English to the kids. (None of us are bilingual- that approach didn't work for anyone.)

So I purchased the Muzzy curriculum a couple years ago, which includes movies which can be viewed in six languages, including English. They are simple stories designed to increase vocabulary awareness for kids. There is a small workbook that comes with the curriculum (which we don't use) and a computer game disc where kids can practice the vocabulary they learn in a more concrete way. 

I'll be honest here- this program is the best I've found for young kids, but it isn't everything that I've always wanted in a language curriculum. The computer component requires that children can read in English, for example, and I want to use the program with my children while they are younger than that. I have also found that the quality of the soundtrack isn't the best, making it hard for the children to hear and use the proper pronunciation of words. 

Overall, we use a Montessori approach. I say that with some hesitation because there are so many different iterations of the Montessori method since Maria Montessori never copyrighted her work. I consider our child-led, prepared environment approach to be basically Montessori with some traditional schooling thrown in. Simply put, I'm not a purist. We use bits of one approach and bits of another, and we commonly change our approaches as we see the need.

Check out these posts about how our homeschool works:

Here's a list of planners that we use during our school year to help stay organized:

From the 2012-2013 school year
Our daily schedule
Our Morning School routine
On the fly planner and documentation tool
Family Yearly Curriculum Planner (both blank, customizable and our family's as a sample)
Five In a Row Yearly Planner 

From the 2013-2014 school year
Post called "How We Plan Our Homeschool Year"
Our Weekly Homeschool Schedule


  1. I love your site and all of your advice.. thank you! I was looking at your Daily Schedule post from April 15, 2012 and it stops right after you begin to list the daily chores. Is there something wrong with my computer or is the post incomplete? I would love to see he rest of the post! Thanks!

    1. Hi Ashley,

      Thanks for the comment! I can see the entire post, and I haven't had any other folks telling me they can't see the full post. What type of device are you using to view the page? Can you refresh it? If it still doesn't work for you email me so I'll have your address and I can send you the rest of the post in the body of an email.



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