2020 Curriculum Update: What’s Working & What’s Not

It’s October of 2020 and we are three and a half months into our third grade and first grade homeschool year. I feel we have really hit a good rhythm. Typically we do school four days a week and Fridays are for outings, playing catch up, or adding in a lesson if there are things we are really enjoying (typically history, reading aloud, or science). We’ve also been using our materials long enough for me to feel comfortable giving some proper feedback on our third and first grade curriculum picks.

While I love reading what people choose, I’m always more interested in hearing how it actually ends up working out because any homeschooling parent will tell you, there is a lot of trial and error and pivoting involved, no matter how long you’ve been at it. So, let’s dive in- what’s working and what’s not!

Want to hear more about how we homeschool? I was a guest on the “Today We Tried” podcast recently and had the best time talking with Christy! You can click here to listen on Apple podcasts.

Let’s start with the good stuff- what’s working for us!

The Good and the Beautiful Language Arts– After using TGATB for Hailey a couple years ago, I was worried it would still be rather dry. However, my desire for an open and go curriculum won out and we chose it. I’ve been very pleased with it so far! They’ve made some alterations to liven lessons up a little bit, whether it’s hopping around on index cards with spelling words or balancing books on our heads in between sentence diagramming. Level 1 has a lot of games that Kaitlyn has really enjoyed, and overall I feel we are getting a thorough guide through language arts.

The only negative is that I feel I need to supplement with more writing, but plan to integrate more of the BraveWriter program after Christmas so I’m not currently too worried about it, and journal entries and random writing assignments seem to be filling the gaps just fine.

Math– Singapore Primary, Horizons Math workbooks, Math board games, and To Do Math. We’re using it all! We’ve gotten into a rhythm of David being the main teacher for the Singapore curriculum lessons, which means they get new lessons in that about 2 days a week. The other days I work with them using the Horizons workbooks. I like their worksheets because they are colorful and have multiple skills of each worksheet so things don’t get too dull. Singapore, from our experience, is more challenging than the Horizon curriculum so it works well for us to challenge them with a new lesson, then also use the Horizons workbooks for reinforcement, review, and understanding different wording/presentation of problems. I’m really pleased at how both girls have been advancing with math this year.

Beautiful Feet History– Because of delays in shipping, we just received our bundle a few weeks ago, so we are still new to the Early American History Unit. Still, I can say with certainty, that we love this literary-based curriculum. We used Beautiful Feet for geography as well and their unique approach to teaching through picture books and literature works so well for my crew. The lessons are clearly laid out and in sensible chunks. We often do history at lunch time and reading the story and discussing the questions is always a good time. In fact, the girls usually whine and ask for another lesson. It’s that good.

Outsourcing arts – I am not naturally gifted in arts, crafts, or music. And while we are big fans of Art Hub for Kids, I’ve found that outsourcing in this area works well for us. We have an incredibly talented art teacher in our neighborhood and the girls have a private 90 minute class with her every other week. I recently also signed them up for voice and piano classes. Since no other children joined, it’s also a private lesson, with just the two of them. I feel I lucked out! It’s 90 minutes long as well, which gives me time to grab a coffee and answer some DMs on Instagram while they have their lesson. The look of pride they get on their faces from learning about music is priceless to me!

Planning in reverseI went into detail on this simple concept in this post, but when I say it’s changed the energy of our homeschool for the better, I mean. I find myself reading extra chapters and looking for extra educational opportunities so I can write them on our daily list. I am more clearly seeing the value of what we are learning outside of the workbooks and just wish I would have come across this concept sooner.

I feel really good about what is currently working for us, but I’d be remiss if I stopped there. So let’s chat about what isn’t working out as well as I’d hoped. Despite my best efforts, there is always something that doesn’t work out the way I had planned. 

Singapore Science – What a disappointment this turned out to be. It’s not that it’s terrible or has any stand out negative points, but it’s dry, hands-off, and feels like it belongs in a classroom. We did not get very far into it before I saw the kids’ (and my!) eyes glaze over and I kicked it to the curb. Science is Hailey’s favorite subject and I wasn’t going to smother that flame with some lackluster curriculum. 

We’ve been bridging the gap by using Mystery Science. The mini-lessons are excellent for when I’m making breakfast or lunch. The girls find them fascinating (as do I!) and they’re super well done. We’ve done a couple of the full lessons, but I’m not great about looking ahead and getting supplies. I might try to get better at that while I search for a new curriculum.

On that note, any science recommendations? I had someone suggest Blossom and Root (you can buy just the science) and after a quick peek, I’m intrigued! I am going to look into that a little more and hopefully make a decision in the next week or two so I can get my little science lovers 

The One and Only Ivan – I was so excited to have this as our read aloud, but in the most unpopular opinion of the year, my girls were not fans. I understood both sides. On one hand, the writing is beautiful. Simple, but almost poetic at times. However, the girls felt it moved slowly and they prefer more action and adventure. So for the first time ever, we called it quits about halfway through. I just didn’t see the point of spending another couple hours of precious reading time on a story neither one was enjoying. I planned for us to still watch the movie, but at this point they say they aren’t interested. Ha! Well, we will see, but I just figured I’d share in case any other slam dunk/supposed to be the best books ever didn’t work out for you or your family. You aren’t alone!

What’s working and not working for you this year?

Have you ever had a book or movie or show that everyone raved about but you just couldn’t get into?




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