Curriculum Reviews

I love recommending curriculum that is suited to a particular learning style or educational need. We haven’t necessarily used everything I recommend here because it might not have been a right fit for my own children, but through my experiences as a children’s librarian, I’m accustomed to finding just the right thing for any child and I try to only highlight the best I can find here. If I’ve recommended it, I’ve had my hands on it and studied it from many perspectives. I hope these links help! Just click on the blue title to read other reviews of each product on Amazon.

Due to both our curious and our eclectic nature, our family has tried several different math programs and/or curriculums, but only a few have really lit our fires! One of my top picks for the late-elementary, early-middle school grades is the “Key to …” Series. There are several titles in this series, but what I love is that they provide the opportunity for my children to really master the most important concepts that they’ll need as they move into the higher grades. We love that these workbooks are thin, so the kids don’t feel overwhelmed by the feeling that they aren’t getting anywhere like they do with a thicker workbook. They feel a sense of accomplishment every time they’ve finished one book and can move on to the next. And they’re REALLY mastering these concepts! Each book builds on the last and are sequenced perfectly. They’re not fancy or colorful, but they have a great balance of white space. There aren’t too many problems, just enough to provide adequate practice without, again, overwhelming the kids with too much busywork. These have been the biggest hit with me, the mom, this year because I finally feel like we’re making progress on learning the core concepts. (Of course, if you have little ones, these aren’t for you yet, but I’ll provide links to some curriculum for the littles, too!) Here are a few links, although there are other titles as well. We have Fractions, Percents, Decimals, and the first few Geometry. We’ll order the next few books in the Geometry set once we finish these.
Key to Fractions Books 1-4 WITH Answer Keys

Key to Percents Books 1-3 plus Answers and Notes

Key to Decimals Books 1-3 plus Answer Key

Key to Geometry – Books 1 thru 8

 Another series we’ve loved that’s not a typical curriculum is Life of Fred.

Life of Fred 4-Book Elementary Set # 1 : Apples, Butterflies, Cats, Dogs

The Life of Fred Elementary Series includes the following 10 titles (although this link only links to the first 4): Apples, Butterflies, Cats, Dogs, Edgewood, Farming, Goldfish, Honey, Ice Cream, and Jelly Beans. These quirky stories blend math concepts with somewhat random science, history, geography, grammar, art, music, and spelling facts. Although they are random, they’re presented in a way that makes them easy to remember, and they’re repeated throughout the book, and throughout the series, helping the child to recall the facts they learned earlier. This series also includes character development stories through a character named CC Coalback and his sister (criminals). When we were using this series, the kids would beg to start with this each day. We often would read some of it in the morning, then more at night before bed. The exercises are very brief, and it’s up to the parent’s discretion whether their children need more supplemented with it or not. Free, online worksheets are plentiful with a simple Google or Pinterest search using the terms for whatever skill the child is learning at the time. While reading Life of Fred, we added astronomy and constellations, alliteration, and several other subjects that were introduced in the stories. It was easy to find library books about those subjects and say, “Remember when Fred talked about this?” In our house, we like to use these books especially during less structured school times, like summer and other breaks when wee have less time for seat work/written work. We rarely give up reading together time, and this draws in academic facts while entertaining them with stories. (Hint: I would give each child a fresh notebook to use just with Life of Fred. *Wish I had known that before we ever started. We always used scrap paper, then threw them away and now I wish I had all that work in a notebook!) The above link goes to the whole Elementary Series, but you can buy these individually as well. “Apples” starts with VERY simple math, but includes other fun facts that my kids didn’t know yet, so we enjoyed it anyway, regardless of the easy math in it. You can go to the individual titles through the link above.

Victory Drill Book

The Victory Drill Book is a lovely, simple, hardbound book that will last not only through many children in one family, but quite possibly through your grandchildren, too. This “drill book” contains lists of words that a child reads through in order to develop fluency. The lists follow the phonetic and spelling rules and progress from simple to difficult. Some parents and teachers turn the reading of the words into games or challenges for their students. There is also a Teacher’s Guide for Victory Drill Book Reading Program available.

Illustrated Stories from Shakespeare

The Usborne Illustrated Stories from Shakespeare book is a beautiful thick, hardbound tome! I purchased a copy of it at a homeschool curriculum sale and couldn’t be happier! The illustrations are rich and colorful, with period appropriate clothing and scenery. Each story (Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, Hamlet, plus a biography called The Life and Times of William Shakespeare) begins with a paragraph telling a tiny tidbit about the meaning of the play, and sometimes includes the setting. Then it has 2 pages with a illustration of each main character, their name and a brief description (for example, “A noblewoman, sister of ____, mourning for ____.”) The stories are then written at an easy-to-understand level, with large, clear print. The titles and contents pages have a more calligraphic script, bringing even more beauty to these pages. I didn’t flinch at the price for this book because it’s worth every cent! (It has an attached ribbon to mark your page as well!) This book will stay in our family for many years and will be read more than once, I’m sure!


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