Questions answered and the best-laid plans of mice and men…

I have been planning out a post in my head for the past week about how I am an over-planner (actually, a planning-nazi) and how I have already seen one of my homeschooling plans kind of blow up. Before we even started this year I already had a plan (actually, three) to get my oldest son from fourth grade through high school. Unfortunately, all of them included Truthquest for history right now through lower middle school and he has decided he doesn’t like it. So we switched to Mystery of History and it seems to be working much better. I think he is just used to the whole “text book” style of learning and using living and Great books was a big jump right now. So we’ve pushed those ideas back for a while (which means I made a new plan with Truthquest as a possible HS history path, making four plans o.O).

I’ve also been kicking around an idea for a post about the curriculum we are using this year, and how and why we chose it as a way for people to find out more about us and how we think. Then I answered a question in an online homeschool group I’m a part of and realized that the answer was pretty much those two post I had been crafting in my head crammed together. So I thought I would just present it.

A recap of the question: “This will be our 1st full year homeschooling as we started in March. I have a 9th grade son and 8th grade daughter. I’m feeling a little overwhelmed by all the different curriculum and I know I will be using different ones for different subjects. I would love to hear from any of you about what you found fun for each subject to hold interest. “Also, a huge question I have is, since my kids are so close in grade would any of you do the exact same curriculum as far as level goes for both of them? I would love it if they were on the same things.”

And here is my answer:

The first thing I would do is check my state’s requirements for graduation and make sure whatever plan I crafted covered them. Then I would find a book that helped me with homeschooling in general before I jumped into specific curriculum. I found Cathy Duffy’s book 101 Top Pick for Homeschool Curriculum really helped me. The first third of the book makes you stop and think about what you are doing and why. It walks you through crafting a philosophy of education; it gives you an overview of learning styles and teaching styles so you can identify how you and your kids teach/learn. It also gives you an overview about different education systems like Classical, Charlotte Mason, Unit Studies, Unschooling, etc so you’ll know what people are talking about when you see these terms, you can see how they work and what appeals to you and your kids. Once you have this information the curriculum reviews will mean mush more to you. Plus, if you find you are really attracted to a system then you can find out about them in much more depth by reading books about just those systems (like The Well Trained Mind for Classical or Charlotte Mason’s writings about her system). Her website also has reviews for things not in her Top 101. And also has really informative reviews of curriculum.

If your kids are close in learning level I don’t see any reason you can’t teach them together. It will be easier for you to just teach it once and it will give them someone else to talk to about assignments and to ask for help understanding a concept.

As far as my suggestions, my kids are much younger than yours but I can tell you what we like using and what we have looked at for the future.

Science: Apologia. We have really liked what we have used so far and plan to continue using it through HS. Really good, fun course, conversationally written and God centered.

Math: We are using Singapore right now and supplementing with Life of Fred. We intend to switch to Life of Fred completely or use The Art of Problem Solving in middle or high school.

Composition: Wordsmith of The Lively Art of Writing. Dr. James Stobaugh’s Skills for Rhetoric also looks intriguing. I like the look of some of his other curriculum as well. You can look at Abeka’s Handbook of Grammar and Composition if none of those do anything for you, or if your kids need more grammar work. You can also use Our Mother Tongue if they require more grammar instruction.

History/Literature: A lot of programs put these two together so I’m doing them together here. We aren’t in highschool yet but these are the curriculum that have turned our heads and are on our list right now.

*Notgrass’ Exploring History series. I really enjoy the conservative and biblical worldview presented in this series. And we plan to use his Exploring Government and Exploring Economics as electives even if we pass on the rest of the history offerings.

*Dr. Stobaugh’s Masterbook History & Lit series. The two match up and work together. The literature series looks more rigorous than the history but together they look like a good program. And it is very affordable at $200 for three year’s worth of history and literature, including the teacher manual for all.

*Truthquest. I tried this with my fourth grader and he just wasn’t ready for it but it looks like an amazing HS level program. I am definitely holding on to my materials in case we decide to use them for that level. The commentary is great, teaching you to evaluate every event you study based on how the participants viewed God and then how that view of God affected their view of man and thus their actions. It seems very well done and the time we spent with it, even though we put it down for now, has definitely moved it up on my list. I would add the Take a Stand essay series to this to round it out.

*Omnibus. This is what we have been aiming for. Here is a summary that explains it better than I could: “This one-of-a-kind program was created by hiring numerous experts to organize and lead you through the study of the great works from antiquity, teaching with the emphasis on ideas, not simply information. Omnibus I is, in essence, a collection of study and discussion guides (with daily lesson plans), offering commentary on the books, as well as each book’s historical context and the ideas it considers, always comparing those ideas with biblical truth. This well-thought-out, manageable tool, with daily lesson plans, will make teaching and interacting with the greatest works of Western Civilization both enjoyable and profitable.” This program is very challenging but in a good way. My son likes the looks of it and has set it as a goal for himself so I’ll do everything I can to help him.

One possible downside is that it is very involved for the parent. For that matter, so is Truthquest. Both of these programs involve a lot of discussion with your students over what they are reading and how the biblical standards they are learning apply to, or contrast with, what they are reading. You will actually get more out of it if you read the same books they are so you can discuss them more fully. Truthquest is probably what we will end up doing if we decide to pass on Omnibus but I’ve got the other two still in the back of my head so something about them is attractive enough for me not to discard them completely. If you want a more student lead approach to history then the first two (Masterbooks and Notgrass) that I mentioned would be better for you.

Foreign Language: This really depends on what you’ve done before and what you are looking for. We are using Latina Christania right now and plan to continue on through First – Fourth Form so we can be ready for the Henle series in HS. First form would be a good place to start for a HS student with no previous Latin study. We are also looking at Powerglide for a second, modern foreign language.

Electives: I mentioned the Notgrass Exploring Economics and Government. Dave Ramsey has an excellent personal finance program for teens. We plan to use the James Madison Critical Thinking Course for Logic. Artistic Pursuits is an Art program we are really looking at and liking the looks of. has a lot of courses for learning technology and different computer programs like the Adobe Creative Suite and Final Cut Pro. The easypeasy HS section has a lot of links for online computer science classes that are free. Lifepac also has quite a selection of electives to choose from like Bible, Accounting, Civics, Consumer Math, Home Economics (Family & Consumer Science is what they call it), Art, etc.

I know that was very wordy but I hope it helped. I know there are a LOT of choices out there but that is a very good thing. It means that you can absolutely find something that is right for your family!

As I mentioned in my answer, we are using Apologia for science this year. We are doing the Swimming Animals study. I also mentioned we are using Singapore for math (Primary Mathematics), Mystery of History (for history, of course), and Latina Christiana for Latin. We are also using Abeka God’s Gift of Language A for grammar this year. He does grammar three days a week and we add some spelling and vocabulary on the other two days (Spelling Power and Vocabulary Power – both 6th grade). He also has vocabulary that he picks up from science and Latin, as well as the reading I assign (a mix of age appropriate Literature and fun books). I plan to add Wordsmith Apprentice for composition over the next couple of years. Right now I am just happy to get him to write and I gently correct grammatical errors but don’t focus on style or form. We count all of the hands-on projects that he does in history and science as art and his swimming and karate as physical education, but that is all we really have going on right now.

This post has gotten really long so I’ll stop rambling. I hope this was both illuminating and elucidating. I would love to hear feedback either way. Also, I’m going to include links for all of the curriculum that I discussed below for anyone that might be interested:


Life of Fred:

Art of Problem Solving:


The Lively Art of Writing:



Masterbooks: History – Literature – (the publisher website isn’t very informative) where to buy –


Omnibus: (you can read most of all of these book on google books) Official site –


Dave Ramsey:

Jame Madison:

Artistic Pursuits:




One thought on “Questions answered and the best-laid plans of mice and men…

  1. Very impressive. I do wish I had had the benefit of such schooling… When I was but a lad, home schooling would have sounded quite foreign to either of my parents. Such things were unheard of by all but a few forward-looking individuals. In fact I remember Ben Franklin proposing such an idea to me one afternoon. Of course I was much too young to appreciate it; and hence, I told him to go fly a kite.

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