How to Choose Curriculum

One school year ends and another one begins. It seems as though the time is too short and there is always something else to do besides check out all the curriculum options for the upcoming year. It can seem overwhelming at times and I wanted to write this to help make the process easier. I have a few questions that can help with making decisions in helping to sort through all the great resources that are available. If you would like to investigate any of the curriculum further there are links to each of them throughout the post. Just click on the underlined curriculum to see in greater detail.

  • Does this curriculum fit the learning approach of my student?  Here are some questions to help determine curriculum choices.
  • Overall, does your child like to do worksheets/ workbooks or likes to write? ABeka, Bob Jones, and Rod and Staff  are all good choices.



  • Does your daughter or son like stories that are read-aloud to them? (Sonlight, history- both Story of the World, and Mystery of History are good choices.)imgres-1.jpg
  • Does you student enjoy memorizing? (Classical Conversations) While your child would benefit greatly from attending  a Classical Conversations campus, if you are not able to do so, you can still purchase their curriculum.


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I know this is a lot of information, so feel free to write a comment or contact me; I’d love to help you.

~ Lisa


Free Informal Assessments



Sometimes a homeschool teacher just wants to know how the pupil is doing with reading comprehension or mathematics skills. While I am a huge proponent of portfolio reviews/ written narratives, I do understand. 🙂 The following are resources for you from Homeschool Giveaways to have an idea of where your daughter/son is in relation to skills. These are not nationally norm referenced tests and cannot be used as a means of assessment to fulfill the homeschooling requirement of Ohio.

State Testing


EdInformatics provides a list of states with assessments and benchmark tests available online (keep in mind that different states have different standards)


Internet4Classrooms has a simple way to find an assessment to meet your needs. When you arrive on the page linked here, you will be asked for information but most is optional. You simply click on the grade level or subject you are interested in testing. There is a wide variety of tests available here for printing as well.

Academic Benchmarks

Academic Benchmarks will give you the state guidelines for different grade levels.

Secondary and College Testing

Test Prep and Test Practice

If you want to give your child a preview of the SAT visit Test Prep Preview or Test Prep Practice. Both websites offer free testing samples which include the GRE, Vocational Exams, Law School LSAT, and many more.

Curriculum Placement Tests

Taking Curriculum Placement Tests is another way to find any gaps in your homeschool academics (these are what I typically use). Several curriculum companies offer free diagnostic and testing tools for your use. Even if you have to register to take the test, you are not obligated to buy the curriculum at all.


Sonlight provides Horizons Math readiness tests.  You will also find tests for Teaching Textbooks, Singapore Math, and Saxon. Once you have your student take the test, look at the results to see where gaps.

Alpha Omega Homeschool

Alpha Omega Homeschool  provides tests for grades 3 and up.  You will have to register but you are under no obligation to purchase anything.

Math Mammoth

Math Mammoth tests are intended to assess end of year mastery.   The tests group the questions by topic, so it is easy to find any gaps in understanding. Let us know in the comments if there are any other assessment testing resources that you like!


10 Big Math Ideas


Math is more than memorizing  facts. Children need to interact with the concepts and ideas that are behind the facts. Here are  10″Big Ideas” to help your daughter or son learn, understand, and enjoy math.

  1. Introduce the concept through experimenting and physical activity. For instance, if you are going to talk about adding, why not start by playing a quick game of counting how many shots can make into the waste basket in 5 minutes with your son. Add up the baskets  and for the sake of an examples you made 6 baskets and he made 11. Altogether there were 17 baskets made. (How many more are needed to get to 20? and the math continues!)
  2. Create math problems that are personal. Let’s say that your daughter wants to buy a Lego set that costs $16.00. Have her figure out how much will she need to earn if she has saved $3.75?
  3. Act out math scenarios. How about setting up a grocery store that has things that can be “purchased”? Use old cereal boxes, empty yogurt cups, etc., mark the prices that you determine and have your child  go shopping. Addition and subtraction can be used for this activity. You can have your shopper go through and pick out what he wants and add up the total. Another time you can give your daughter a set amount and she must stay within that amount to purchase the groceries. If you don’t have time or the inclination to create a store, then use the grocery ads and go shopping that way!
  4. Use as many manipulatives or physical examples when possible. Counters are a much needed aid when students are first beginning to learn the idea that a number stands for a unit.They are also helpful in teaching about sets, addition, multiplication, subtraction, and division. Help your student “see” concepts through illustrations and online videos if reinforcement is still needed.
  5. Talk about math! Have your child explain the answer that they calculated. For instance, 2+2=4. How does she know that? Can she show you how she determined that to be the answer? Sometimes the way a student arrives at an answer in a surprising manner.
  6. Think of different ways to arrive at the number you have chosen. For instance the number is 12. You can have your son think of three different ways to add numbers to have the sum of 12. (9+3, 6+6, 10+2 are just a few examples). You can also do this with all other mathematical operations.
  7.  Use math in a purposeful activity. Baking is a wonderful, practical way of showing fractions in action. If you are working on adding or dividing fractions you can double or halve a recipe. Creating an art project or building something is also a terrific way of “seeing” fractions. This is how I visualized fractions when I was first learning the concept.
  8. Play board games. If your child is learning to count, then rolling a dice (or two) helps reinforce counting. Hi-Ho Cherry-O  is great for children to see the one-to-one correspondence between objects and numbers as they count out the cherries (as well as adding and subtracting). Monopoly, Life, and Masterpiece are all good games for learning about money.
  9. Make math fun! If you are working on graphs, create a questionnaire to ask friends and family and graph the results. Ideas for questions to ask could be: favorite color, favorite food, favorite sport, etc. You can also buy a bag of M&M’s and graph (and count) the colors. You can also use this for an addition or subtraction activity and sets. Oh, the possibilities!
  10. Math takes time! Don’t get discouraged if your child is not catching on to math quickly. Math requires concrete and abstract thinking. Sometimes we are quick to rush through concepts because of the curriculum, but if your student is not ready, do not barge ahead until the concept is learned and understood. Math requires a solid foundation to advance. Do not worry! The understanding will happen, just be patient and keep reviewing. 🙂

~ Lisa


5 Benefits of Memorizing Poetry


Have you ever memorized poetry? No? How many lyrics to songs do you know? These are poems, just set to music. 🙂 So, what purpose is there in having your child memorize poetry? Here are 5 reasons to consider.

  1. Poetry establishes rhythmic patterns, which in turn lead to teaching balance and symmetry. Have you ever listened to part of a poem that rhymes, been given the next line, only to have found yourself anticipating what the last word will be to rhyme with the line beforehand? For instance: Humpty Dumpty sat on a Wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great _____. Oh, yes! You knew it was going to be fall. 🙂


2. Memorizing creates opportunity for your brain to be speedy, quick and oh, so agile! When your brain is required to learn pieces of information, less time is needed later for it to be required to learn something new. Knowing multiplication facts, your address, telephone number and directions are examples of automatic recall because they were committed to memory.


3. “Educators have found that students who were required to memorize from an early age often go on to have more capacity to focus on educational tasks as high school and college students.” Who, as a homeschool educator, would not want that for their child? source:


4. Memorizing poetry introduces vocabulary to students. For instance, would your junior high student know the meaning of this line from Hamlet? “Brevity is the soul of wit.”I would venture to say, no since brevity is the key thought in this line. As a language arts activity, have your student define unknown words before memorizing so the meaning of the poem is understood.


5. History can be incorporated when memorizing poetry. I have introduced some lines of poetry earlier that have a story behind them. For instance, what was the meaning of Humpty Dumpty? Was he really an egg? You can CLICK HERE to read about several explanations for the origin of this rhyme.  As your student memorizes poems, have them learn something additionally about the piece such as a fact about the author, when it was written, etc.


Here are two poems and a saying to help your student begin with memorization. Spread the memorizing out over the course of the month if necessary. These can also be used for copywork and dictation that I have created for this month. March Copywork

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1 Key to Teaching Teenage Sons

imagesWhat is one of the keys to helping teenage boys learn? Movement! Boys, no matter what age, need to be active. Some, more than others. Their natural inclination is to be moving and doing. One time I had about all I could take from my early teenage son and his inability to focus. I thought I was failing as a homeschool teacher; having him sit in a chair was like asking a frog to stop jumping.

I called a friend who was the mother of six boys, ranging in ages from 19-8 and told her the difficulty I was having. She invited me to come and see how she taught her active teens. The day that I went to visit changed my way of thinking of teaching my sons. Five of her young men were there and the house was bustling with activity. Not the kind of atmosphere that I was used to when we were in school.

Her two younger sons were sitting at their large kitchen table working on math problems, while her three teenage sons were all working on school in very different ways than what I was accustomed to seeing. One of her teen sons walked around the house while he was reading his textbook, another was listening to music on his headphones and reading a textbook, yet another teenager who had special needs was watching a documentary on animals, pacing the floor in the other room with the television turned up loudly enough that all of us could hear it.  The two boys at the table worked for ten minutes and were dismissed for a short break to go outside and run around or shoot hoops.

My first thought was, “How could she, how could they, get anything accomplished?” Surprisingly, as I spoke to each of them later, each of the boys could tell me what they had learned that morning. Incidentally, the teenager who read while walking around also explained that he learned his multiplication tables while hanging upside down on the swing set.

Did I rush right home, let the boys listen to music, and walk around the house while reading their Algebra? No, because that was not comfortable for my teaching style, but I did have my extremely active 13 year old son run a determined set of laps around the house or shoot some basketball or play with a hacky sack when I saw him beginning to get jumpy, and it really helped! He was able to come back and focus for longer periods of time instead of me telling him to sit up, pay attention, badger him about doing his math problems, etc. No longer when I announced we were going to do math, did he fall out of his chair because I let him do his work on the living room floor (as long as he stayed focused and his handwriting was legible). As both boys grew older, they listened to music with headphones while working on things that didn’t require so much concentration (as long as they could tell me what thy had learned).

You know the level of concentration your son needs to accomplish a task, so don’t abandon everything you are doing. But, if you have a fidgety son who is having trouble staying focused, how about shorter lessons with breaks, a short physical activity,  or doing schoolwork somewhere besides at a desk, such as the floor or the couch?