Our homeschool curriculum

This month I am participating in iHomeschoolNetwork‘s Not Back to School Blog Hop. Each week in August I will share a different area of homeschooling. This week is Curriculum week.

There are 3 children homeschooling with me, ages 6, 4 and 18 months. This is our third year homeschooling and it has been one of the best things I have ever done. It has helped cement our relationships, organized our life at home, made my stay-home mom experience meaningful and enjoyable – what more can I say!

I should point out though that this year, we decided to send our eldest to a preschool which teaches all its subjects in Malay (a second language for us, first language being English) because the plan is for all our children to attend national school. We feel this would be best in the multi-racial context of Malaysia – all its complexities considered. However, I would consider any time learning with mom as homeschooling, so Puppy is homeschooled outside formal school hours.

This is our curriculum at the moment.

1. Bible
We use various Bibles – the adult version (one-on-one reading with our 6yo) and the Word and Song Bible (reading aloud with all 3 kids at bedtime). Over the past two and a half years we have completed a few children’s Bible story books – the Beginner’s Bible, the Family Time Bible, the Egermeier Bible, the Action Bible (cartoon version). I find doing a wide variety of children’s Bibles helps reinforce learning. We use the adult version to memorize. Having a memory verse chart (marking the dates we memorize, and which verse is memorized) has been very useful and makes it fun for the kids. They also like counting their stickers and it’s been a nice counting activity going past 100! Bible reading happens in the afternoon before the boys’ nap time, and also at night just before bed so we get to combine reading adult and children versions.

2. Language Studies
Our language studies are in two parts – reading aloud and learning to read.

(a) Reading Aloud. This helps to build vocabulary by listening to the language and is great for learning all kinds of subjects like Science, World Culture, Art and History using living books. We love books from Sonlight (using all the ones P4/P5 and Core B this year). Time permitting, we also use the Ladybird Peter & Jane series and other random ones the kids pick off the shelves.

(b) Learning to Read. We love Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar. JP is a fantastic, multi-sensory phonics program used in the UK and Australia. The teacher’s handbook makes it great for home use too. Two years ago I attended a training program so I could learn to teach it even better – no regrets. When my eldest was 4yo, she learned to read words she’d never seen before after just 2 months on the program. When she was 5, we moved on to Jolly Grammar 1. This year we are doing JG 2. She can now spell pretty well (simply by figuring out the sounds in words, not using memorization) and can read independently too – books at 8-10yo level. The Boxcar Children are one of her favourites so I’ve been purchasing a lot of used ones in the series. Our 4yo has finished learning all the JP sounds and we’re doing a lot of blending and tricky words these days.

3. Writing
We’ve done Handwriting Without Tears, a fun handwriting program written by physiotherapists for preschoolers’ physical and other multi-sensory needs in mind. It was fun for my eldest when she was 4yo. My 4yo now seems to get along fine without it and anyway I’m not encouraging him to write too much at this age. Air writing, crafts to strengthen the fingers, and a bit of colouring are enough right now without unduly stressing his little hands.

4. Math
We started with Singapore Math kindergarten level books in 2010 and I find they provide an excellent foundation. They systematically introduce and reinforce math concepts using a Concrete-Pictorial-Abstract approach and my kids learn well with spiral progression so … thumbs up so far! My 4yo is loves using Pattern Blocks and sometimes plays with his 6yo sister’s Base Ten kit. Both also watch MathTacular and it’s always a spectacular hit.

Pattern blocks – so cool for learning shapes and basic math concepts
Base Ten – a hit from Day 1

5. Malay and Chinese language
Right now it’s reading aloud from local story books, listening to music CDs and some singing. Some of the Chinese books have accompanying CDs.

6. Sensory, Living Skills
We love Montessori, I’ve spent many worthwhile hours researching and making up games. Simply helping out with everyday matters in the kitchen, laundry, cleaning – all that also counts as school. Our 18mo is passing me stuff, learning to put away things where they belong and using a damp cloth to wipe surfaces.

But of course boys can learn to make gingerbread men …
… and decorate sweet things

7. History, Geography, World Cultures
These lessons come from our Sonlight reading aloud (stories from Japan, Morocco, China, etc). Sometimes we do home projects that relate to it (eg cooking Indian food if we read a story from India). There is a big world map in front of our worktable and it is well used.

I love that we can learn history so effectively from reading true to life stories rather than boring textbooks. We have explored the World Wars and refugee issues, the latter being especially helpful since our children know some refugee children personally. Currently we are exploring beliefs and world religions.

8. Science
We love Usborne books, the Berenstein Bears science book and do home projects as often as I can manage. Right now we’re studying magnets and I thought it would be fun to include a game related to that at our 4yo’s birthday party last month, which we did – fishing for treats.

9. Physical Education
The great outdoors are great for working out those little wiggles and really develops both the physical and intellectual! After 1 hour outside every morning (house yard or park), the boys are more than ready to sit down for 1.5 hours of school. 1 hour again in the evening (house yard, swimming, park) for the boys and girl. Simple resources – scooter, ride-on toys, bicycles, ball games, hopscotch. We use coloured cones for navigating around with, chalk to draw a traveling course on the ground, hoola hoops to jump into and out, plus my laptop sometimes for accompanying music! Two weeks ago we started on Homeschool Family Fitness and are now trying to do sit ups and push ups everyday, recorded on a chart for each child – excluding our 18mo, but he tries his best nevertheless!

10. Nutrition
Just watching and helping me everyday in the kitchen – learning the names of veggies, nutritional value of foods.  No resources to buy except the food we eat! Our 18mo is learning to peel a hard-boiled egg, the 4yo and 6yo are learning how to fry eggs, how many minutes makes a hard-boiled egg, what goes into pasta sauce, what are good and bad foods, which foods require refridgeration, why we want to avoid processed foods … so many things.

11. Music
(a) There’s lots of variety to just listen to on AccuRadio.
(b) We’re memorizing the Bible using the Word and Song Bible book and CD series (of all the other Bible music CDs we have, the kids love this the best of all and have memorized a lot from it) …
(c) And sing lots of Jolly Songs (learning and reinforcing sounds of the alphabet, from Jolly Phonics). In the past we did some Jolly Music (good for classroom learning but also adaptable for home use) our schedule this year has been too tight to follow through.
(d) We also use various instruments (maracas, bells, xylophone, other home-made instruments). Our 4y0 is playing on a junior drum kit (home lessons from Sweet Man because he’s not ready for formal lessons yet) and our 6yo is playing the piano (home lessons from me) doing Bach and Mozart right now.                                                                  (e) Recently we started listening to Leonard Bernstein and it’s such fun, the kids are picking up a lot.

12. Art
This year we are using more of ARTistic Pursuits and it’s been great. Wonderful lessons, a genuinely artistic way of approaching art.

13. Nature Study
We live in the city, so regular park visits are great for us. (Here’s an old post on what can happen in just one morning.)

Digging in the mud yields interesting finds

It’s a lot to pack into our schedule, some days we do more, some days less. My first year of homeschooling was a steep learning curve and although it’s tapering off a little, I know I have so much further to go as a teaching mom. At the same time, I’m learning to be flexible and just enjoy the ride!

Upcoming posts:                                                                                                                                      Our school room. (What should I do, photograph our whole house?)
Fun ways to learn writing the alphabet (Part 2).

(Note: I do not have any financial interest in any of the products described above. We just use them and like them.)


  • Kiddothings
    August 10, 2012 7:38 am

    What great insight Mama J! I’ve always wondered what homeschooling moms do with their kids. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • Mama J
    August 10, 2012 5:48 pm

    You’re welcome, G. Thanks for that review on Buddy & Vernon’s Adventures on your blog. It looks like a cool pick up to add to our existing curriculum, the only thing would be planning on how to fit it in.

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  • Shir
    August 27, 2012 10:27 am

    Thanks for this most inspiring and helpful post! I started Jolly Phonics with R a few weeks ago and he loves it so far especially the songs. He gets so excited when he recognises the first few letters (s,a,t,i…). He also loves the Sonlight books and asks for them every day. No regrets getting them! I would like to teach him Mandarin too but am a clumsy speaker myself. Are you planning to do a structured Mandarin homeshooling programme or know of any good ones?

  • Mama J
    September 17, 2012 11:30 pm

    Hello you! So nice to hear R’s enjoying school. Unfortunately I am totally useless at Mandarin so my mom teaches the kids Mandarin once a week by following a series of reading books (purchased from MPH) and some basic writing. That’s about as structured as it gets. It would be better if they could have lessons from her more often but mom can only afford to visit and teach once a week. The older two can read at a basic level and I’m sure they would do better if they had more frequent lessons but we can’t really expect more. Also, there are days when I struggle to fit existing subjects in (Core plus electives) and to try adding more emphasis on a 3rd language (English and Malay taking a higher priority over Mandarin) would be almost impossible I feel! The solution Sweet Man and I are planning on as far as Mandarin is concerned is to encourage all our kids to live for a while in China when they’re older (6 months or so, maybe even a year out from school before uni?), volunteering for a non-profit organisation and learning Mandarin the best way possible – total immersion! We can’t provide them with such immersion and they don’t have any Mandarin speaking friends to connect with regularly either, so spending time in China seems the best bet. I feel comforted knowing that many adults have learned Mandarin effectively this way, that language acquisition is possible at any time if one is truly determined to do it.

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