Hi, my name is Melissa. Pour yourself a cup of tea and stay a while. I'm completely devoted to my Savior, madly in love with my husband, and joyously raising my daughters. I'm so glad you stopped by and I hope you enjoy your time here!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Choosing Curriculum

It's that time of year! Everyone who is already homeschooling is deciding whether they should stick with the curriculum they have chosen and those who are considering homeschool for next year are feeling overwhelmed with their options. Feelings of excitement, worry, anxiety, and confusion abound!

We were blessed to find our core curriculum home from the beginning with Heart of Dakota. I didn't know much about homeschooling when I decided to look for a preschool program for my 2-year-old daughter and a quick search at Christianbook.com brought Little Hands to Heaven to the top of the list. I liked what I saw. My husband liked what he saw. I clicked a button, and we were on our way!

I have found out I am fairly unique to have discovered our curriculum home so early on in our journey. I didn't know to search for opinions about the curriculum. I had never heard of a forum before. So how did I know this was the direction to head?

1. Prayer - As with every major decision in our family we prayed about what to do with our oldest daughter. My husband and I both strongly felt preschool was not a direction we wanted to head. The reasons for this are best left for another time! However prayer was an integral part of the decision as well as whether to go with a formal curriculum or not. I knew little of what was expected to be taught in preschool, but I knew if I had a plan I could follow it.

Lesson: Seriously pray about your curriculum decisions. God cares about every aspect of our lives including, maybe even especially, about the education of our children. It is great to ask for advice from others, but seeking God's wisdom is best. 

2. It Had What I Wanted -  Since I was new to all of this I honestly didn't know what I was looking for, but when I saw what was included I realized this curriculum had a list of everything I would have wanted: Bible, letter recognition, interaction, music, math, activity, clear instructions for the teacher, and all in one place! I was also pleased with what I saw for older children as well, even though at the time we had no intention to homeschool for grade school. 

Lesson: Make a list of deal-breaker qualities you are looking for in a curriculum...the things which are so important to you that you cannot imagine teaching without them. For some this includes lots of hands-on material, for others it will mean computer based. The only thing I knew was it had to be Christ-centered. Also make a list of it-would-be-nice items.

3. It Fit Our Price Range - Compared to the other programs I saw at Christianbook.com this was very inexpensive. When I figured I would reuse it for any future kids, it seemed even more excellent. I budget $300 for the year because we have chosen a mostly non-consumable curriculum and I shop for used books to go along with our new guides. This is definitely on the low end of what many families spend and realistically I know it will increase as my daughters get older.

Lesson: Discuss with your spouse how much you can spend. This can keep your expectations within reality as well as keep you from overspending! 

4. We Tried It...And It Worked - I loved how things went for preschool with my daughter. Even now all three of my girls are enjoying school...and so am I! In the back of my mind...even though I didn't think I wanted to homeschool...I knew I'd come back to Heart of Dakota if homeschooling ever became our path. Once we did choose to homeschool most things went smoothly. The only areas I added to were those my daughter asked about at first. Then when it became clear my daughter needed rules for spelling and she was not doing well with the abstract thinking of our math program, I sought out something else did work - All About Spelling and Rod and Staff. I didn't throw the entire program out just because an area or two weren't working quite like they should.

Lesson: If it's working, stay with it. If not, figure out why so you know what you are looking for in a new curriculum. Don't simply change because you have heard about a new trendy curriculum or all of your friends are doing something different. Curriculum usually has individually specific scopes and sequences especially for history and science. Jumping around could potentially leave major gaps in your child's education. 

Also, give it a chance. Just because the first two or three weeks aren't what you imagined doesn't mean it is time to throw it out. It takes time to adjust to homeschooling and time to adjust to a new curriculum. Give yourself grace and time to make those adjustments and search out the reasons behind the days not going well. It may have nothing to do with the curriculum and have more to do with a rebellious child or disorganized day. 

5. Go Forward With Confidence - Nothing will ruin a curriculum faster than a teacher who cannot confidently teach it. I felt completely inadequate in the beginning, but I didn't let my daughter see those feelings. I needed her to feel confident in my ability to teach her because I wanted her to be confident she could learn. Sometimes I'm not completely sure about something...and I'll tell her this...but I try to exhibit confidence in my ability to find the answer. Scripted lessons have been a huge part of building my confidence in teaching. Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and All About Spelling are both scripted and I feel very confident in both of those areas now!

Lesson: Whatever your choice is, move forward with confidence in your choice and your ability to teach it...even if you have to fake it! Rest in the knowledge that you do have the ability to teach and you'll give your child confidence in what their ability to learn as well!


  1. Thanks for sharing. Sometimes I have to remember not to get sucked in by the grass is greener syndrome.

    1. That is SO easy, especially with all the blogs out there! I can get that way too, but usually only with math because that is the one area I feel most uncomfortable teaching.

  2. Hi! I am thankful I found your blog as I am starting homeschooling next year and was looking into Heart of Dakota curriculmn. Just wondering something as you mentioned some spelling, math, reading things... with me having a kindergartner and preschooler should I plan on supplementing the Heart of Dakota stuff with other things? I'm most anxious about teaching them to read so just not sure what I'll need to do that. The Lord's blessings on your family!

    1. Hi Lana :) I'm so glad you stopped by! Supplementing is completely up to each family and each family feels differently! I changed math programs because Singapore didn't work well for us. It's very conceptual and was difficult for me to teach and for my daughter to understand.

      For spelling we follow the HOD plan, but I add in All About Spelling because it provides rule structure and has been an excellent follow up to phonics. Here is a review I wrote about it last fall: http://gracefilledhomeschooling.blogspot.com/2012/09/all-about-spelling-reviewand-giveaway.html It is completely reusable and has been good for reading as well as spelling in our household!

      For phonics I already had Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons so I didn't purchase a new one. I haven't reviewed that on here yet, but I'll be starting with my third daughter in that this summer and will write a review then. I like it because it is completely scripted and that is what I needed. It isn't fancy, but it really does work. As long as you are phonic based any reading program would be good. My best advice is to stick with whatever you choose even if it feels like it isn't working or boring or whatever. Switching curriculum can be frustrating for your child. I really like the looks of All About Reading (http://allaboutlearningpress.net/go.php?id=565) but since what we used worked I'm not going to put more money into a new program.

      Feel free to ask me any other questions. You can send me a private message by clicking on the contact button as well! Enjoy the journey!

  3. How neat... just today someone gave me "Teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons". God definetly took care of our need for a phonics program. Thank you so much for your helpful advice!

  4. Thank you so much for this!! I just got my Little Hands to Heaven in the mail :-) My daughter will be 4 and I was looking to start her on some phonics to go along with just the letter sounds from LHTH. I have been leaning towards AAR preschool program. It looks like I could just extend that over and use the other levels with LHFHG as well. Do you think it is possible to use HOD for History, Bible, and Literature and supplement your own phonics, math, science? I think I will use one of their handwriting suggestions. Would that fit in with the guides? I'll have to search your blog and see if you have done other posts on Language arts :-) Thank you!!!

    1. I really, REALLY need to post about our Language Arts! Phonics, math, and handwriting are suggested, but not integrated with the history spines of HOD. We went with Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons because I already had it. I LOVE the looks of AAR and if I was starting over I'd probably go that route. We LOVE AAS. But, 100 Easy Lessons worked for us and I'm not planning to reinvent the wheel for my third!

      I do really like Rod and Staff in the later guides for grammar even though we do different phonics. I haven't seen a need to supplement for science unless your kids (or you!) just really want to do more. My oldest takes a science class so I don't do all of the science in the guides.

      Welcome to the HOD family!