Curriculum planning for the upcoming school year

I have a love/hate relationship with curriculum and lesson planning.  On the one hand, I love paging through new curriculum.  I love looking at samples online.  I peruse the various homeschooling forums to read people’s opinions.  I read reviews on Amazon.  I sometimes borrow materials from other moms so that I can give it a really good look over.

On the other hand though, curriculum planning makes me absolutely crazy as there are so many choices; I often have difficulty making up my mind about what to choose.  And even when I find one I really, really like, we sometimes just can’t afford it.  Or, I find something that would really work well for me as mom/teacher but may not necessarily work out so well for my son’s learning style. 

Last year was one of our toughest homeschooling years so far (7+ years now and counting).  The year was fraught with health issues, family issues, a huge, midyear change in my work schedule, a teen with a super busy schedule, etc.  Some days I look back and feel disappointed that we didn’t get more done.  Other days I look back at the past year and realize that we really managed to get a lot done despite all of the ups and downs the last year brought, and that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself.  

Regardless, because of the challenges of this past school year, I am particularly trying to find something for this year that will be a little easier on me this time around, just in case life should intrude.   🙂  Usually I pull together my own materials from all different kinds of resources, but it does take quite a bit of planning ahead which I didn’t always have time for this year.  This year I am looking to see if I can find something that is planned out already that might work for us.  

Earlier this summer, I took a good hard look at Sonlight.  It is a very popular out-of-the-box type curriculum that I have heard a lot of good things about. I find the history readers very appealing.  I read a few from the list for American history this summer and thought they would appeal to my fourth grader.  The instructor’s guides look like they would help keep me on task, even when things on the home front are stressful or busy.  The science seems to include lots of experiments and activities which my son would definitely enjoy.  Unfortunately, Sonlight is pretty expensive.  I have heard that the resale value is good, but it would still be quite a bit to put down for one child for one year of homeschooling.  Perhaps I would feel a little differently if I had two kids close in age who could benefit from doing some if it together or if Tobin wasn’t our last child to homeschool.  

After I moved on from looking at Sonlight, I went back to look again at Moving Beyond the Page.  We tried one unit of Moving Beyond the Page last year.  I had purchased the unit for the novel Tornado by Betsy Byars.  Tobin did enjoy the novel, and he did enjoy some of the activities that came in the unit.  He also felt there was too much writing involved, but then he feels that way about just about everything we try.  We have not tried any of Moving Beyond the Page’s social studies or science units, so I can’t say for certain how those ones would go over.  We may still give one of them a try.  One advantage I can see for using Moving Beyond the Page is that you can purchase each unit separately, so I could spread the cost of the curriculum across the whole school year.  

More recently I have been looking at Time4Learning.  My older son, Stephen, used Time4Learning early on in our homeschooling career, but he quickly moved on from it as he thought it was too easy.  I had not really given it a close look in quite a while.  On Monday I bit the bullet and subscribed to a month of it for Tobin so that we could try it out.  So far he seems to like it all right.  He really enjoys the math and language arts portions, but he gets a little distracted when he works on the science and social studies sections as there are pages to click through for reading, and although he can read higher than grade level, he seems to have trouble focusing when reading longer passages.  I am a little concerned that the science and social studies won’t go as in depth as I would like it, but I plan to continue a little longer to see if I am correct or not.  

There are several things I do like about Time4Learning so far though.  I like that it is $19.99 per month, and that I can cancel at any time.  The parent forums seem to be a great place for finding quick answers when you are having issues.  I also like that their website seems pretty easy for a child to navigate.  We did our second day’s worth of lessons yesterday, and Tobin had no problem logging on and finding where he left off in his lessons.  He is pretty computer savvy anyway, so I don’t foresee him having any problems doing schoolwork on the computer.  

I will update when we have some more experience with Time4Learning under our belts.  

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