So, we've been homeschooling for a couple of years now and so far I've taken the unschooling approach. BUT, it's not really working for me. I find myself becoming lax when it comes to teaching. I need some sort of curriculum. Something low cost and something secular. Does anyone have any suggestions for me?? Any help would be greatly appreciated!
Moving from unschooling to something more structured.......
I know there is a book on homeschooling for free that's available through Barnes/Noble. I'm struggling to remember the name right now. I will try to seek the title out.
We get a lot of mileage out of workbooks from our local teaching store, too. Rainbow Resources has a lot of variety, too. Good luck!
I'm not sure of the ages of your children, but Miquion math is low cost and we liked it for the most part. (I would recommend using some flash cards with it, in a fun way.) There is another thread on here now about a living math site with books you can get from the library.
For spelling, you can get one book that is supposed to have rules/lists for every age, so it's supposedly the only book you will ever need. One is called "Natural Speller" and I know there is at least one more.
For history, you can get one book to use as your 'spine' and then use the library after that. A lot of people like "A Child's History of the World" from Sonlight for a spine. We like Kingfisher's History of the World.
For English, there is a Charlotte Mason style book called "Simply Grammar" that covers a lot for a lot of ages. I think that one may mention God.
For just about anything, you can get a good catalog, like Sonlight or something, and order the books from the library. (Maybe that's cheating?)
I am not sure if all of these are 100% secular... I think A Child's History of the World seems to talk about all religions as real, including the Greek gods if I remember right.
Or maybe you are looking for a single boxed curriculum all together and this isn't helping at all. =)
Personally, I love Rod & Staff and it is very inexpensive, but not at all secular.
I have been in your exact position, and I know for us I wanted something more structured and yet still fun. One thing we use and love is Story of the World. We are using book 1 and the activity guide, on the ancient world. My dd LOVES it. She'd probably be shocked to realize it's "school". lol It's history in storybook form, very interesting and engaging.
We have a minimal amount of structure in our homeschool, just enough that I don't feel like we are unschoolers (although dh would disagree on that one lol). What I do is History Pockets for the girls, along with Sonlight. Yes, Sonlight is expensive, but you can get just the guide and use the library. I'm not really a big fan of the history spine book for core 1 (A Child's History of the World) but it is pretty good I guess. It is actually a book from Calvert's 4th grade history program (I think that's the grade, but it IS a Calvert book). You could do a darn good job of teaching history with not much more than History Pockets though, and you can get the eBook format for $14.99 (I downloaded it onto both our computers and burned a backup copy just in case, I'm really cheap when it comes to this stuff). We're doing the ancient civilizations one now, and just finished the "What Is History" pocket today. It was a lot of fun for them, we spent a bit of time the past few weeks talking about what history is and the different stuff that's included in that particular pocket before we sat down today and did all the busywork for the pocket. Tomorrow we start in ancient Mesopotamia, and we're going to do the pocket stuff as we study it in our Sonlight core.
As far as math goes, there is a set of books I found at the library called "XXX Made Easy" that cover addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, etc. One topic per book. And the web site for the publisher has free worksheets you can download and print off to go with them to make a full curriculum from those books. I'd suggest those books, they are very straightforward and well laid-out. Or if you can afford to spend a bit, Math-U-See is good. I'm doing Primer now with my 5yo preschooler, and plan to buy Alpha and Beta both for my 2nd grader (so she can work her pace) this week. Its a bit expensive, but there's a yahoo group where you can buy it used for less if you would prefer that route.
I have not found one supplier that covers all subjects that I want to use.. I pick and choose materials from different companies. I can list some things that have worked well for us.
Language Arts - Evan Moor Language Fundamentals, Vocabulary Fundamentals, and Basic Phonics; Flash Forward Reading from Barnes and Noble; Spelling Workout (for word practice, not spelling); Spectrum Writing; Remedia Publications (search titles on sentences or paragraphs); Scholastic Daily Word Ladders; First Strokes Handwriting; Click'n Spell; Type to Learn (look for discount on these last two at HS Buyers Coop). For our 5 yo, I will use Spectrum Phonics and the pre-Explode the Code books. The Letter Factory DVDs are also great.
Math - I have tried Singapore, MCP, and Spectrum workbooks; I like the Spectrum math books the best - in fact I love them.
Science - My Pals Are Here textbooks and "homework" from Singaporemath.com (Marshall Cavendish); Magic School Bus books; Bill Nye DVDs; Charlie's Playhouse evolution timeline play mat
History/Social Studies - Story of the World and the test questions (I use for discussion, not tests); History Odyssey; Knowledge Quest maps; Schlessinger DVDs. I tried to do history without SOTW because at first I really didn't like it and our son wouldn't listen to me read anything without pictures; but I could never get history going and now that he is old enough to enjoy listening to me read, SOTW is working great for both history and geography. SOTW and the Knowledge Quest maps can be adapted to secular history studies - to me that means explaining the source of the information when the book is covering Old Testament material.
I have a 5 and 7.5 year old. Here's what we're doing:
Math- Math Mammoth. There's a coop through Homeschool Buyers Coop that's going on til 3/31. I'd suggest the light blue series. Regardless of what you'd purchase, it would wind up being a bundle of grades (so for light blue, it's grades 1-6.) It's currently at 40% (which is $78.60 for the pdf option or you could get the CD option for $79.80 off but if they hit 250 orders, it'll drop to 50% (so it would be $64 or $66.50 respectively + $3.50 shipping fee.)
History- we have History Odyssey from Pandia. But I also learned of Bringing Up Learners Mosaic curriculum. Both have a Story of the World layout. I purchased HO as a download, but BUL's curriculum is free. Dd started with HO last fall, but then we slacked off around the holidays. By the time we restarted, ds wanted to join us. BUL lends itself more easily to Big Bang and Evolution while HO just kind of glosses over it, IMO.
Science- I picked up a few Intellego unit studies for k-2 from CurrClick during a Winter Sale. We've been doing weather and the monkeys have been enjoying it. We also have natural habitats and astronomy. Elemental Science looked good, but I heard it's neutral on evolution - neither denying nor addressing it. Which is a bummer because I like the look of their stuff and the price works for us. Real Science Odyssey is suppose to be good too, but is more costly.
Grammar- only with the 7.5. I picked up some Voyages in English via HSBC.
Handwriting- Zane-Bloser. I picked up a K and 2C workbook from their shop. We just started this, but I really like. I didn't purchase the TM, but I don't feel like we're lacking.
Phonics- ClickN Read via HSBC. As it's a transferrable lifetime subscription we started with our 7.5yo and transferred it to the 5 yo in the last 6 months
Spelling- ClickN Spell via HSBC. Well, it just made life easier as the kids already liked ClickN Read. Our 7.5 yo need more spelling work, so I also picked up How To Teach Spelling and a How to Spell 2 workbook from Amazon. We just received this and are planning to start next week.
Spanish- The monkeys wanted to learn Spanish, so we're using the video series SALSA. I following the directions for viewing from http://www.freelyeducate.com/2011/01/free-spanish-lessons-for-elementary-students-k-2nd.html. There's also a link to a curriculum guide that I use. We also watch Pocoyo clips in Spanish on youtube.
Latin- We're just plain getting a kick out of Song School Latin. I'm hoping SSL2 is done by the time we finish this, as we've just started. You only need the workbook. Since I'm using it with 2 kids, I photocopy work pages at my work.
Obviously these choices are not for everyone, but it works for us. The monkeys also have judo and ballet, but that is also by their choice. So I count that toward PE. What I definitely want to cover is the basics of reading, writing, and math for now. Science and History are borderline fun, borderline we should start introducing. Handwriting is a pet project of mine (as in I feel it's important) and our additional language choices are electives. Dh would also like to start some art and since we have Meet the Masters for ages 5-7, he'll probably start that soon.
Awesome! Thanks for all the ideas. I've looked into Calvert, but it's so expensive! And k12, but they don't have a free program in our area and really, I'd like more freedom, if that makes sense. I still want to stick to what they want to learn, but I want more of a guide for me. Dd is doing great, her reading skills are awesome, her math skills great, but her spelling and writing need work. Ds, I haven't even started with. He's so easily frustrated and then he calls himself stupid or hits himself when he can't get something (which is a whole other thread). But, this has given me a lot to look at. Thank you so much!