I have tried using a curriculum with my early students but I have never found one that we have stuck with. I always wind up supplementing to the point that the supplements replace the main lessons. I have always believed that you don't have to have a set curriculum to teach basics like phonics, money, colors, shapes, and time. But almost every year I succumb to the inner voice that tells me that I must have an actual textbook to make sure I'm covering everything. I buy the book and then it goes unused for most of the school year.
No More Guilt
My children learn all year but it's from materials that I put together from the library and from various free resources on the internet. I feel weird admitting that as big as I am on not paying for homeschool materials, I keep falling into the trap and doing it. Well, no more.
Free is for Me
I am not purchasing a single book or program for my 3, 4, or 5 year old children this year. Instead, I am focusing on the three R's: reading, writing, [a]rithmetic. I am making a list of what each one needs to learn and we will go down that list and take as much or as little time needed for each child to master that skill. And then I will use free resources to help the children learn what they need to know.
3 Year Old
- reading - learning letters, phonics
- writing - not yet
- math - counting, recognizing numbers
- reading - fluency using reading primers (specifically the McGuffey Primer)and beginner reader books from the library
- writing - learning to write with penmanship worksheets
- math - counting by 2's, odd numbers, 5's, 10's
- reading - fluency by using the Day by Day with Sam and May primer
- writing - writing legibly
- math - money, telling time
I taught my oldest (now 11) this way and it worked just fine. But as I had more children I kept feeling like I needed to set up our home more like a traditional school so that everyone would learn to the best of their ability. But I'm over that now. So far, three children have learned how to read just fine without the purchase of a phonics program. And I have 2 children so far who can write just fine despite me never purchasing a book to teach handwriting. And by the end of this year I'll have a third child who will be able to write just fine as well.
Do Whatever Works for Your Family
Now, I definitely believe in the power of textbooks for middle school and beyond. But the little ones, uh-uh.
I'm only speaking for myself here. I'm not knocking buying materials for homeschool. I'm for doing whatever works for your family; and, I'm for not feeling weird or wrong because the way my family homeschools isn't the way that other people do it.
8/8/10 Update: I'm adding the links for the free resources that I'm using for future reference.