The Curriculum Choice

April 17, 2009

Rod and Staff English

Filed under: classical, language arts, Uncategorized, Written by Korey — Korey @ 1:32 am

Rod and Staff English: Grades 3, 4, and 5

Grade 4 English

I am generally a devout Charlotte Mason homeschooler but I do wander off the path sometimes. When it comes to teaching grammar I tend to go the way of classical education. We have been using Rod and Staff English for 3 years now and it has been one of my tried and truly loved curriculums. We started using Rod and Staff when each of the children reached 3rd grade level.

Rod and Staff is a publisher that produces bible-based curriculum for christian schools and homeschoolers. They produce curriculum from preschool to high school levels. They provide full curriculum or you can purchase individual subjects. I have used their English and Math programs. For this review I will only go over their English curriculum.

In third grade the student will study sentence types and structure. There are different types of writing exercises throughout the book. Simple diagramming is taught at this level. There are five parts of speech taught: nouns, verbs, pronouns, adjectives, and adverbs. There are lessons that teach dictionary work, proofreading and communication skills. There are 125 lessons and 5 unit tests.In the fourth grade the student will learn seven parts of speech: nouns, verbs, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, and conjunctions. Diagramming is included in many of the lessons. There are lessons on capitalization, punctuation, synonyms, antonyms, and homonyms. A typical lesson has an oral drill, a written practice and a review. Composition skills are taught with various types of writing lessons. There are 127 lessons and tests for each chapter.In fifth grade the student will learn all eight parts of speech. The student will learn many new grammar terms. Diagramming is continued to be taught but at a higher lever of skill. There are composition skills taught including outlining, writing a report, writing a friendly letter, poetry skills, and writing stories. There are 119 lessons and tests for each chapter.

 What are the pros? Rod and Staff is an excellent and thorough grammar program. It is above grade level in my opinion. It is easy to teach, an open and go type program. The teacher manuals are easy to use. There is plenty of diagramming practice. It is a strong grammar program. It has a classical approach to teaching grammar.

What are the cons? If you don’t like diagramming or don’t feel it is important, you may not like how much diagramming is taught in many of the lessons. It is above grade level. If you have a student who struggles in grammar you may consider going a grade level down. If you don’t want a program that has any religious content, you may not like the bible references that are throughout the book.

If you are interested in finding more information regarding Rod and Staff curriculum, please click on the link below.
Written by Korey
The Curriculum Choice


April 16, 2009

Phonics Curricula Reviews

Filed under: Curriculum choices, language arts, phonics, Written by Brenda — Brenda @ 8:56 pm

Explode the Code

I have used a myriad of Phonics programs, but have found myself drawn back to ETC which is what I used for my first born when he was in K.  ETC and Get Ready, Get Set, and Go for the Code are simple enough that you can add in extra activities based on what your child needs.  I love using the Pocket Wall Chart for games!  These consumable workbooks are an inexpensive way to teach phonics.  I would recommend getting a little set of readers, like the Bob books as you begin these workbooks.

For more information go to the EPS website.

The Phonics Museum, by Veritas Press

I was a big advocate for The Phonics Museum when it first came out.  What I didn’t know at the time, that I know now is that my first son was a natural reader, so The Phonics Museum was easy for him.  When my second son came along, I started singing a different tune about the Phonics Museum.  If you do not have a natural reader (a child that doesn’t pick up reading quickly and effortlessly) then Phonics Museum may not be the best choice for you unless you are willing to supplement like I was forced to do.

First, I had to supplement the readers, because although the readers are pretty, historical and intriguing they are difficult to understand and do not make for a good introduction to reading.  I supplemented with Bob books and Now I’m Reading mini books.  There are 4 volumes.  Secondly, the teachers manual is written for a class room so I was modifying that to fit a home school. One thing I want to point out is that this whopping $190 curriculum has all the bells and whistles if you are willing to give it a try.  Finally, I had to supplement with Phonics Pathways because he was still struggling. It took us 2 years to complete the first grade year. It could have very well taken us 2 years to finish any complete phonics curriculum, but I truly believe it moved too fast for the average child.  We did, however, enjoy the songs and the tiles that you use to build words. These extras also took extra time. I would say phonics took us an hour a day.

Winter Promise – Language Arts Programs

wpfreesamplesFor my third son, I ditched the Phonics Museum because of all the tweaking I was doing and found Winter Promise which incorporates Explode the Code workbooks and other file folder games and mini books. I liked this approach and we used their Fast Track Phonics and First Grade Language Arts in one year plus a little through the summer. I like how Winter Promise uses different resources for a complete phonics program. Their daily schedule is easy to follow and they have created some really cute phonics cards that go with their program. Winter Promise is currently what I use for two of my children.  For more information on all their themed and subject programs go to

Written by Brenda

The Curriculum Choice

Just Write, a Creative Writing Program

Filed under: charlotte mason, language arts, Written by Korey — Korey @ 8:02 pm

Just Write Just Write, Book 2Write About Me, Grade 1

Just Write” is a writing program for the elementary years. There are four levels taught. Each level is taught over one year. It is a workbook type program. It is a creative writing program that is easy to teach program with very little preparation. This is one program my children have truly enjoyed. This program does not kill the joy of writing as some programs can do. For my own children it has ignited a love for writing. When I started homeschooling I had researched many writing programs to fit our style and needs. This program has been a great fit for us.
In the first level there are the two books to choose from. One is called “Write About Me” and the other is called “Write About My World“. The publisher sells this book for the first grade level. In my opinion, it is for an advance first grader who is able to read and write or it is for a second grader. This book helps the beginner writer to understand how take his thoughts and put them into writing. This was one of my absolute favorite curriculums I have used with my own children. It is a book that you will keep as a keepsake for many years. With my children, I had used the book “Write About Me“. The book consists of daily writing exercises that are fun and easy to do at this level. The children will write about their family, friends, past experiences, and even their dreams. The writing exercises are cleverly done so the child does not have to write a lot but just enough to enjoy the exercise. The children can add photos to the book with some of the writing exercises. I truly believe this book helped my own daughter to love to write.
The second year is called “Just Write 1“. This is when the child starts a more formal writing program. In the beginning, the lessons encourage the child to just write without worrying about all the rules. This may be hard for the classical minded homeschooler but if you stick with the program it works! In later lessons the child will learn about capitalization, punctuation, spelling, and paragraphs.  There are chapters that teach how to use creative words, descriptive passages, and comparisons. There are lessons on how to edit your writing and make a final copy.  The child learns how to brainstorm, create characters, and develop a story. 
The third year is called “Just Write 2“. This is for 3rd to 4th graders. With each year of “Just Write” the writing lessons are becoming more focused. In this year the student will begin with a review of basic grammar, punctuation and capitalization. From there the student will learn how to construct and write a good paragraph.  There are lessons using comparisons and overused words. Then the student starts leaning skills to write a story. They start with story planning, creating characters and creating a plot. The child learns how to write and use dialogue. There are lessons on writing from different points of view. The child continues to learn how to edit and make a final story.
The fourth year, “Just Write 3” is the final book in the series. It is for 4th to 5th graders.  In this final book the student continues to perfect the skills he learned in the previous books. Now the student is introduced to the four types of writing; narrative, descriptive, expository, and persuasive. The student develops his reasons for writing such as what is the purpose of his paper and who is the audience he is trying to reach. The student learns how to construct a multi-paragraph paper. The student is taught how to research a paper and gather information. My favorite part is the lessons on learning to write a persuasive paper. My son wrote a paper on why it is important to put your dog on a leash. It was a typical persuasive paper. Then my son had to write the same report but to a different audience. This time he wrote it as if his audience were dogs. His paper was hilarious and well written. This last book is a great stepping stone to higher level writing programs.
What are the pros? Many of the lessons are fun. It really helps to foster the love of writing yet it helps your student develop excellent writing skills. Even though this is a workbook program I think the Charlotte Mason homeschooler will love how it allows the child to write from his heart. They will love how the lessons are short and to the point. For the classical minded folks, I think it will please them since it teaches grammar and well structured papers. It is affordable, the workbooks are around $10-$12. The teacher manuals are small, simple to use, and are also very affordable. It is so easy to teach! There isn’t any preparation, just open and go.
What are the cons? It is a workbook and that can be a turn off for some people. My daughter hates workbook type of learning but she has never complained about doing her writing assignments in “Just Write“.
There are few cons for me to give because I have loved using this program for our family.
Written by Korey
Here is a link if you would like more information regarding this curriculum:
EPS books

The Curriculum Choice

April 12, 2009

Phonetic Zoo – spelling

Filed under: Curriculum choices, language arts, Written by Brenda — Brenda @ 10:30 pm

Phonetic Zoo, Excellence in Spelling

 This is another great program put forth by the Institute for Excellence in Writing. Phonetic Zoo has been wonderful tool for me as a mother to many to put my time in to the fun subjects, like history and science. Spelling can be mundane and boring for all people involved, but the Phonetic Zoo has made this an independent program for the student for grades 3rd and up. The animal theme concept is better for the younger children, but I hear no complaints from my oldest. When each lesson is mastered, you can choose to give them an animal card to collect or hang proudly on their wall.

The core of this program is the lesson cards. Each card has is a separate lesson with a rule, jingle or hint to help you remember the spelling rule. (I will say that some of these are confusing until you decipher them a little, but that can be a fun puzzle too). There are a list of 15 words, no matter what level you may be on (A, B or C). The levels get more difficult as they go up. The second component to this program are the CD’s. The CD has the voices of two alternate people giving the spelling quiz. This auditory component is priceless.

The first day you explain the rule, go over the words and make note of the part of the rule being explained. Older children do not need your help with this. The remainder of the lesson is completed by them. Then they listen to the CD and write the words down how they believe they are to be spelled. Then the next track on the CD helps them correct it. The next day they quiz themselves again, if they get 100% two days in a row then they move to the next lesson. They continue to take the quiz every day until they master the list 2 times in a row.

What I like about this program is that they give the rule, jingle or hint after every 3 words. This helps them memorize it. I also like that the CD’s are doing the quizzing and checking for me. This virtually makes this an independent program!

Here are the 2 things that I added to this program to make it work for me. For my student that doesn’t click really well with spelling, I have him choose an activity to help him remember his spelling words from a list like this:

  • Linking it together – wiring words on strips of construction paper and linking them
  • Colorful spelling – use different colored markers for each letter when spelling the words
  • Keeping in shape – write the words inside a simple shape, like a tree, over and over again
  • Ribbon spelling – use a ribbon to outline each spelling word in the air
  • Bend and shape – use pipe cleaners to make each letter of a word
  • By the color – write consonants in red and vowels in blue
  • Spell back – spell the words on a willing persons back
  • Poof its gone – write the words on a dry erase or chalk boards, then erase them with your fingers as you spell them again
  • Alphabet stamps – use rubber stamps to spell the words

I have also used the Spelling Power notebooks instead of a regular notebook. These are great in that on the backside of the quiz there is a part where they can write a sentence with the miss-spelled word and a little system to help them memorize the word, by covering it up and spelling it. Also the lines are on the page according to level, so you can get one with fatter lines for younger writers. For more information on the Phonetic Zoo click here.

Written by Brenda


The Curriculum Choice

April 8, 2009

Using Dictation as a Grammar Tool

Filed under: charlotte mason, language arts, Written by Brenda — Brenda @ 4:08 am
What is dictation?

Dictation is the practice of reading a passage to your child and having them dictate, or write it down.  You first read the whole passage, then you break it down into bite size chunks for them.  After they complete the passage you next check the spelling, punctuation and possibly correct the handwriting if needed.

How can I work dictation into our homeschool? Do I need a special book?

Here’s a few tips and suggestions for you. Pick a passage from a literature book that you are reading for history or for a family read-aloud. Read it out loud and have your child write what they hear. Then go over necessary spelling and grammatical mistakes. Then talk about the uniqueness of the sentence. There are sure to be some grammar pointers in there somewhere. Often, I get questions about punctuation marks (: or ; for instance) and anything I can’t explain, I simply look these up in a grammar reference.

Pick a poem that you are currently memorizing – or start memorizing one! Or, pick a well-loved poem and have them copy it first, this may take several days. Then one day dictate it and have them write it. Go over the poem as I mentioned above.

How about a hymn? Hymns have wonderful vocabulary. There are sure to be some words that you can look up (or have an older student look up on their own). And of course, Bible verses are great for dictation too. Especially ones that you are trying to commit to memory.

How about science? Is there something really neat that you read about in science that maybe sparked an interest in your child? Something from a living book or a science encyclopedia would work well.

For younger children, some good ideas are:

  • Days and months
  • Address
  • Short verse
  • Sentence from a beloved book
  • Names of family members
  • A poem (do a little every day)
Get creative! You don’t need a book telling you what to dictate. Make it a more natural fit with what you are already doing. It will enhance your studies and seal a grammar lesson in the mind of your child.

The Curriculum Choice

April 4, 2009

My Father’s World

My Favorite Curriculum

by Korey

When I began homeschooling 3 years ago, I was looking for the perfect curriculum for every subject. In my first year I was so full of new ideas and excitement. I wanted to try everything and boy, did I. I had a separate program for Bible, geography, history, art, art history, music, science,  math, grammar, spelling and and and……….. 

world_view_b2You get the point. I had a lot to cover in one year. It was a perfect recipe for disaster. Did I get it all covered? No way! I had visions of nature studies, studying historical art pieces, reading classic novels and beautifully written pieces of writing but instead I was frustrated that I couldn’t meet up to the standards I had set for myself.

So when the first year of homeschooling was under my belt, I had to rethink my way of homeschooling. As a homeschooling mom, you know what that means. It means hours of looking at catalogs, searching the web, talking to other homeschool moms and even calling many curriculum companies. I was trying to figure a way to get perfect curriculum in all subjects! As I was searching I remembered someone mentioning “My Fathers World”. I had looked at it before but it was one of those pre-package curriculums and that was not what I wanted. I wanted to put together my perfect plan of curriculum on my own BUT I kept going back to “My Fathers World”.  After hours and even weeks of deciding, I purchased this pre-package curriculum. Why would I do what I said I wouldn’t.  I discovered that My Father’s World was the closest thing I could find to my perfect curriculum all in one package. So let me explain why I love it.

First, I love the philosophy of this program and how they put the heart of child first.  That is what drew me to the program first. So let me go through the program and explain how it works. It combines the methods of Charlotte Mason and classical education.

My Father’s World has many one year unit study type programs starting with kindergarten and all way up to the high school years. We started with the Exploring Countries and Cultures program. This program is designed for 2nd-8th graders.

It is a multi-age unit study: The program is designed to be used with more than one child at a time. This is a big time saver! I teach all the subjects together except language arts and math.

Strong international focus: In Exploring Cultures and Countries you visit a country every two weeks. You learn about the country’s geography, ecology, and cultures. You spend time learning about the common religions in each of the countries you study.

Integrated Bible content: In Exploring Countries and Cultures you spend the year reading the book of Matthew and memorizing many verses from Matthew. You read about missionaries from the past and present. You learn what God is doing in other countries and you are shown how you can pray for each country specifically.  It teaches a wonderful biblical worldview.

Geography: You do plenty of map work each week and with that you learn plenty of mapskills. Older students can do research projects as they study each of the continents. You play games to learn the names of all the countries, oceans, capitols, and continents.  You make a passport and you place a flag sticker in your passport as you “travel” to each country. There are hands on activities such as cooking and flag making. You learn new geography terms every week which the student keeps in a journal.

Science : You spend the year studying habitats from all over the world. You spend time taking nature walks and keeping a nature journal.

Reading: There is plenty of living books provided with this program! My Father’s World does something called a reading basket. Everyday the children read books you have selected from the library or have purchased. The books are all related to what you are currently studying such as rain forests. You may have many subjects to chose from some fiction and non-fiction. There is a read alouds included in the program. The read alouds coincide with the country you are studying.  In ECC the read alouds are true stories of missionaries.

Art and Music The program has plenty of art projects based on the countries you are studying. There is also a CD with ethnic music from around the world.

Language Arts, Math and Foreign language : They suggest certain LA and Math programs but you can add whatever you choose.

Now let me tell you the pros of this program: I love how it combines the methods of Charlotte Mason and classical education. It is a perfect mix of both of these philosophies. I love the journaling and the nature studies. The teacher manual is a huge plus. It so well laid out. Each week is laid out on a grid and then additional informational is given for the planned activities. The TM tells you what needs to be photocopied for the week and what extra supplies are needed. The supplies are easy to find items. The TM gives a list of books you can check out at the library or purchase for your reading basket. The TM is so easy to use, generally this program is an open and go. The bible is my favorite portion of the program. I love the memory verses. Easy to do but challenging. I love how it tells you to pray specifically for each country. You learn what challenges missionaries face in the field. I love how you can combine your kids for so many subjects. It turns learning into a family time together.  I love the biblical worldview that is taught throughout the program. The crafts are easy to do and fun. I love how you can chose you own math and LA. The program is designed to be done 5 days a week and Friday is a light day. It can easily be turned into a 4 day week by combining Friday’s plans into other days of the week.

Now let me tell you the cons of this program: I felt the science to be a bit light for my taste. We did add more science to the program. My Father’s World is coming out with an updated version for ECC and it looks like they have added more to the science. You have to be okay with having everything all laid out for you. For me this was a plus since it is done so well. The music was not my favorite, a bit too kiddy for us. In the other programs of MFW the music is done more to my taste with classical music. We felt the read alouds to be a bit dry. We did add some of our own read alouds. If you don’t live near a library with a decent selection of books it would be hard to incorporate the reading basket idea.

My Father’s World is coming out with a new edition of Exploring Countries and Cultures. The science looks improved.  There is less photocopying, and there is a nice supplement you can order for 7-8th graders. 

We are in our second year of My Father’s World. We are presently using the Rome To Reformation program. We are loving this program just as much!  We plan to stay with My Father’s World for the long road maybe even all the way through!

The Curriculum Choice


Korey, is our, no twaddle (great books), Charlotte Mason devotee and she homeschools two precious children. Her first-born has already flown the nest, and is away at college. She is also a part-time nurse.  She loves science, spending time with her family and the splendor of the Lord.

April 3, 2009

Cycle of Sciences

Filed under: Science, Written by Brenda — Brenda @ 5:15 pm

4 Year Rotation of Science

1.) Life Science – animals, human beings and plants
2.) Earth science and astronomy
3.) Chemistry
4.) Physics
This has taken the guess work out of what our main science focus will be for a particular year. If you are worried about learning how you were taught in school, with small segments of different sciences each year, I want to share with you what I learned. You can not get very in-depth with a particular subject if you are skimming the surface each year. But, to do a thorough study, depending on the age of your child, you are able to dig deeper and understand more. Plus, the child has time to get into what you are studying. Often when you study something for a few weeks, they are just really understanding it when you are done and ready to move on. The tricky year for me is the life science year. So, to be honest with you I have gone into the summer on that year and into a portion of the next year. If you are still worried about them getting bored, or them not learning a wide array of topics for that year, there are plenty of other opportunities to use other fields of science as you are teaching to one specifically. For example while teaching chemistry I have been able to also talk about physics, biology and earth science as we went very thoroughly through the periodic table and learned what each element was found in.
I don’t worry about missing something because I know that after 4 years we would have (theoretically) touched on all the sciences. I have children that took an interest in marine biology and now I send them to a marine biology camp during the summer, another child interested in robotics has a robotics camp to look forward to in the future. I also have one interested in archaeology and they ALL like to dig, so we are going on a local dig soon and on our next family vacation we are stopping to dig at a real site in VA, all day with a scientist. We also have started nature journaling which requires us to be outdoors observing each week and this will be an ongoing life science study for many weeks to come. So there are other times to pursue other science interests if we cannot “get to it” during our school time. That’s what homeschooling is all about to me. It’s been a lifestyle change. We learn all the time, in everything we do. And while doing it, we enjoy each other’s company. If you are homeschooling for the long haul I would like to encourage you to keep some sort of cycle of the sciences. It lifts the burden of what to teach next and gives you the freedom to be creative within certain parameters.
Side note to moms not sure if you will homeschool next year: If you are not sure that you are able to homeschool for more then a year or two, I would stick with the traditional textbook style curriculum so that your child is not behind when they re-enter. That’s my opinion.

March 27, 2009

living books

Filed under: Curriculum choices, Literature, Living books, Written by Brenda — Brenda @ 8:12 pm

Living Books

We use living books for many subjects of our homeschool. I have found, over the years, that literature guides come in handy for me to be able to get the most out of a well-written book (especially if I haven’t read it yet). First of all, let me say that I do not use literature guides all year. Our history curriculum (Tapestry of Grace) keeps us reading a lot of great “living” books every week. I have been blessed to find literature guides for several of our recommended history books, so I save them for when it’s time. When I pick up these guides, I keep them on the shelf in hopes of using about 3 a year. Also, I have found that with having 5 children, and 3 that can read, it keeps them paying attention when we read round-robin style (taking turns). Of course the 7 yr. old doesn’t read as much as the 12 yr. old, but he pays attention waiting diligently for his turn. These books that I am recommending, we have at least 2 copies, sometimes 4, of the book. When we are studying a book together, I like to schedule in an hour of reading time several days a week for 3 weeks. We are often home on the weekends, so weekends are an option, if our school week is packed with other activities.

My favorite study guides are from the following places:

My favorite books, that we have used literature guides for, are here:

Click here to view books.

The Curriculum Choice


March 16, 2009

New to Homeschooling?

Filed under: Curriculum choices, Homeschool philosophies, Written by Brenda — Brenda @ 6:30 pm

little_logo7The Homeschool Diner’s click-o-matic guide to choosing a homeschool approach may be just what you need if you are not sure as to which direction you need to head in.  You can click here to get there!

The Click-O-Matic approach to looking at curriculum may help you find
just what you’ve been looking for!  If you see descriptions that match your
student — take a look at the approaches recommended for that  characteristic, and then
“Click” on the ones you’d like to read more about.

The Curriculum Choice

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February 6, 2009

The Curriculum Choice

Filed under: Curriculum choices, Written by Brenda — Brenda @ 3:22 am

Choosing the right curriculum is tricky.  Are you new to homeschooling or are you thinking about educating your children at home?  Or, are you searching to find that perfect fit to add to your school?  I’m compiling a list of homeschool reviews that should help you find the right fit for your ecclectic homeschool. Visit often, as new reviews will be posted weekly.  In the future there will be reviews from various moms using different philosophies.  For now, the reviews all compliment a Classical or Charlotte Mason designed home school.  I only write reviews on curriculum that we have personally used for atleast 6 months.  I’m working my way through our current curriculum and I will go back and review things we have used in the past.  I am dedicated to being honest so that you will be able to find the best fit for your family’s needs.


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