I Am Giving Home Schooling Some Thought...

Updated on May 09, 2009
E.P. asks from Palo Alto, CA
22 answers

I haven't made a decision yet, but I might homeschool my children starting this coming school year. I would like to know which curricula do you think is the best and why? How easy/hard is it to home school, and why do you do it?

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C.B.

answers from San Francisco on

Just a note, and you probably want to get this confirmed, but I believe California requires a teaching credential for adult to home school.

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E.D.

answers from San Francisco on

I started homeschooling my children when they were in the 4th grade, because the town we lived in wanted to put 4th graders in the middle school and I didn't believe that was beneficial to the children. I was a bit apprehensive, but I did it. I went with an Independant Study to begin with, which was nice, the kids met with a teacher once a week, got assignments and turned the work in the next week. I felt that worked for the elementary grades. The curriculum was my choice as a teacher/parent, so I chose subjects that not only covered the California requirements but also my children's interests, like Piano and Latin. I also tried the vidio/DVD learning(Abeka) for one year,(They watch a vidio/DVD every day for school in each subject) That worked well, but it was expensive, about $1,000 per student. They also offered limited language at the time my kids were in it,(we wanted German and Latin, they only had Spanish and French) so we only did that one year. Curriculum for that was good, we had to take the bible class, and it did conflict just a bit with our beliefs, so we improvised.
We then found Pathways Charter School, for the High School years, that was great. The facilitator can come to your house or you can meet at the Pathways center(I think most charter schools are like this) They offered classes at the center to strengthen your home educating, and gives the student lab time in certain subjects. They also offered a graduation ceremony and yearbook. Our curriculum was free and we had a certain amount of money per year to use for books or classes(like piano or dance.) Annual testing is done, so you know where your child stands, it also lets you know what their strengths and weaknesses are. They had a huge curriculum library to choose from. My kids like it alot.....That does matter.
I also was part of a homeschool group that met once a week for classes and social interaction for the kids and parents. This offers PE, lab sciences and field trips as well. I have heard of families using the California Virtual Academy wihich is an online computer learning program, but I don't know much about it. They have info online(obviously)if you want more information. I do know they give each child a computer and printer and online services.

I know this is a very personal decision for you, I chose to go through a program instead of doing it alone as a registered private school, because I wanted accurate records kept for my children. They are both in college now and I am thankful that they had all the proper paperwork and testing to be accepted into any college of their choice. They are are very well rounded individuals, and I feel are far better socially because they experienced things differently during school. As far as how hard was it......well, Organization and time management is important. We had a schedule that worked. If you are interested in more about the hows, e-mail me, I would love to share what I have learned. Another thing that I loved was the ability to travel without the school hassles. We took a trip to Europe for a month, saw the things the kids were learning, and lived history. The kids did homework while riding a boat down the Rhine River. It was amazing....A regular school would never have allowed it, but the Independant Study gave us work to do while there and covered things about where we were traveling. Read about the Anne Frank house and then go to it!

I highly reccommend it.
One more note...In High School, your children can take courses at the junior colleges and get three high school units for evey college unit taken and they get college education for high sbchool....It was a great way to do high school. And the charter school paid for it.
I hope this helps with your decision, It helps to be informed. Our school days were so much shorter than when they were in school. The homework was done as school work, so you don't have kids up until midnight doing it. Really only about 3 to4 hours a day is devoted to the fundamental educating part of School. And....the library becomes a very vital part of your kids education.
Power to you ....Sorry for the long response.

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N.M.

answers from San Francisco on

First, you don't need to have a teaching credential to be a homeschool parent, unless you choose the option of being your child's private tutor. Here is a link to information about the legal requirements:
http://homeschool-regulations.suite101.com/article.cfm/ho...

I'm not sure how old your children are, but I homeschooled my son for K and 1st (he's at a Christian school for 2nd now), and I'm currently homeschooling my daughter for Kindergarten and will likely continue for 1st next year. For K, there are no legal requirements since school is not mandatory until 1st grade, but you still have to be on the ball so your child doesn't fall behind.

I was unhappy with the curriculum I chose for my son's first grade, and a homeschooling friend of mine was unhappy about her (different company, different grade) curriculum also, both of us for the same reason.... We had gotten complete sets from one company for all the subjects in our grade. Then as the year progressed found that our children were working at different levels in the different subjects, so it was hard to keep pace with the curriculum. He'd be bored with the books from one subject (too easy), and frustrated with the books from another (too hard).

I found it was better to not be so tied to one company, but to pick and choose according to subject and level to better meet our needs. Next year for my daughter's first grade I'm looking into buying the California Virtual Academy's curriculum (www.k12.com) because since it's online, it's supposed to level itself to your student's level. It's possible to purchase the curriculum for yourself without being enrolled in California Virtual Academy. Though I've heard good things about it, the attendance requirements didn't fit our schedule.

The hardest thing for me is to keep a schedule and routine about homeschooling. There are so many other things going on (errands, meetings, appointments, chores, playdates...) that it's easy to let school time slip away, and before we know it, we haven't had "school" all week. I don't mind so much with Kindergarten, but for 1st grade there is soooo much more to learn. The best thing is the flexibility we have in our schedule if we need it, and also the flexibility to study things that take our interest and not just what's in the text book.

My main reason for homeschooling (besides the flexibility) at this age is that, as a former teacher, I know how the classroom teacher's attention is divided among so many students with different needs. In the early grades the emphasis is on learning to read, learning to write, and understanding numbers. I knew my kids would learn that well with one-on-one instruction. A child may be at a traditional school for 6+ hours a day, but that doesn't mean they are getting all that time with the teacher. We can get just as much learning in a shorter time at home.

Now that my son is at the "big" school, I see advantages to that too. He's learning to handle responsibility of reporting to a not-his-mom teacher, how to get along in a larger community, how to make new friends, how to deal with "less well behaved" kids (yes, there are even some of those at a Christian school). It's been a good experience too.

There are pros and cons to each of the different types of schools. And some students' personalities and learning styles do better with one over another. And I've even heard of some programs where the children are in school two days a week and home 3 days (a compromise). Best wishes with whatever you choose.

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G.B.

answers from San Francisco on

Hi E.,

Eight years ago I decided to try my hand at homeschooling my first born. Here she is now in 7th grade!It has flown. It has truly been a blessing and a privledge to school my three kids at home.

I have never met one parent who has regretted homeschooling their child. The gift of 'YOU' is the best gift that you can give them. No one will ever be able to give them the superior care, love, and much needed guidance that you will. You will have a close bond with your kids that will bless your household, not only now, but when they are teens as well.

For k/1st grade you don't need a huge investment of time or curricula.
I've used lots of different curriculum over the years and I've narrowed it down to a few basic gems that I love.
*Spell To Write and Read (SWR)by Wanda Sanseri
*Cursive First by Lynn F.
*The "English" series by Rod and Staff Publishers
*Chalkdust Math (for 5th and up)

The first three are relatively inexpensive. You can use all of them repeatedly for each child as they are non consumable.

SWR is a one time, 2-book and flash card purchase (about $90.00 dollars or so) that will take them all the way through to high school in reading and spelling. An additional $6.00 dollars is spent every school year for a new spelling log. SWR will produce an excellent reader and speller. In fact my sister is a Dyslexia tutor, who spent almost a thousand dollars on her program. We compared our programs and my program covers everything hers does, it just says it differently and is more freindly for a parent to teach.

Cursive First is a must. Really. Cursive was the first writing form in the turn-of-the-century schools, not manuscript/block letters. Children as young as six can turn out beautiful cursive penmanship. I would have never guessed it, had I not seen it with my own eyes with my second and third child. Knowing cursive from the start frees the child up in third grade to pursue other things, rather than penmanship practice. Plus, the brain automatically wants to revert to whatever it learned first. that's why many of us who were taught block lettering first mix cursive with block letters or capitals with lower case.
Cursive First was written to GO ALONG WITH SWR. It can be used alone but it has SWR components in it.

Rod and Staff covers every element for classic English. Delightfully, it also covers such things as phone manners, care of school books, how to write and layout a formal, friendly, and thank you letter, how to address an envelope, poetry, making introductions with people, describing orally, etc.(These are examples from the third and 4th grade books.)

I stumbled through many math curricula with my first born. My advice is to find a good one and then try to stay with it. Many love Abeka. My daughter who is not 'math brained' found it too accelerated for her comfort. Math U See is what we used.It has a DVD to teach it. Be careful with this curriculum however, because it doesn't use enough symantecs (math language) which can haunt you later on down the road. (College instructors say 50% of kids who fail their college math classes do so because they don't understand symantecs). Chalkdust is written by a college math proffessor and is DVD driven. However, It doesn't start until 5th grade and it is about $250.oo for one year's books. The Chalkdust website does have reccommendations for elementary curricula but I've never tried it. Saxon math uses good symantecs and some claim it is a good curricula, others say the lesson instructions are hard to comprehend. You can buy a DVD for Saxon that teaches it to the child, I think it is called WAVE.

The top four programs i listed will give you SUPERIOR results with time tested CLASSIC teaching methods that were established decades ago and worked. The progressive movement swept through the schools sometime in the (60's?)and many of these teaching methods/programs were put aside for the new experimental curriculum that they hoped would give wonderful results. Fast forward decades later, and our schools and children are in trouble. The progressive programs failed and it's time to get back to our roots and the curriculum that worked.

I don't start formal english with Rod and Staff books until 2nd grade.(You want to make sure penmanship has been established.) If you want an english program for grades k/1, you could use First Language Lessons- by S. Bauer. All the lessons are verbal and about 5-15 minutes in length.

Make sure you buy the teacher's manual with the student books. All the answer keys are in the teacher's book. I never buy test booklets. If you need to test you can do outside testing later, but I wouldn't test until 4th grade. Science for my k/1 was making a nature journal and finding bugs to log into it. Take photos of the bug/animal (or draw it in) and write a short entry about the specimen. Keep lots of bugs in jars for studying. We had a pet praying mantis, crickets, katydids, spiders, and silk worms. We fed them, watched them grow, and they even layed eggs/hatched larva. Keep an ant farm and a butterfly habitat. Go to the Library often and get cool books on nature. Apologia has a wonderful set of elementary science books from a Christian perspective. I get mine for about $28.00 dollars used, through Amazon, half.com, or Alabris.com.

History - we use Story of the World. We read one story and do one or two of the chapter activities a week. I do love the program, especially the activity guides that go with it. They are FUN. The one negative thing is it's secular. It would have been nice to have it come from a Christian perspective. Otherwise it is a top notch program, highly rated by history buffs. Start with Ancient History- Book 1, and take all the kids through it at the same time.

Don't get too crazy with it all. Don't stress.Take every day, one day at a time. Find a support group in your local area by contacting the largest churches.... also go to http://www.californiahomeschool.net , http://www.Cheaofca.org or http://www.hsc.org. Get plugged in somewhere.If you find you'd rather become your own school rather than be under a public charter (which is by the way, still a public school)the CA Homeschool Network site will explain how to file your online paperwork in October(it's very easy)then sign up with the Homeschool legal defense association (your personal lawyer in a rare case anyone gives you a hard time) http://www.hslda.org
Good books are Mary Prides Complete Guide to Homeschooling and 101 Top Curriculum Picks by Kathy Duffy. Also visit your local teacher's store.If you need store locations in the SF bay area, shoot me a reply.

Good luck and God bless you for your servant heart,

Gail

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E.M.

answers from San Francisco on

There's so much to choose from, and the truth is that ultimately you'll probably draw from many different sources, and even make things up yourself.

A visit to Hickman Charter School in Berkeley might be helpful. They are a public charter school for home schooling families. They have advisors there who help parents choose curriculum and activities for their kids. They have a huge library of resources that you can look through for inspiration.

The one thing they didn't have that we really liked was Oak Meadow, but you can see samples of that curriculum on line. Just google Oak Meadow.

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J.G.

answers from San Francisco on

You do not need a teaching credential to teach your children at home.

The other respondents were speaking of 'homeschool charters' which are through the public school system. Your children would go to a mixed aged class of other homeschooled children 1-2 days a week, and you would be responsible for the other days. There are many advantages to the charter like a lending library of books and other teaching tools, field trips, and having a teacher to support you. Also, during the high school years, the kids are able to participate in all the sports and other activities.

However, if you are wanting to homeschool based on your faith, you may want to just go ahead and file with the state as a private school. It is definitely more challenging to go this route because it would be up to you to plan everything (curriculum, field trips, social gatherings), but I know lots of families in my area (Santa Cruz) that do this, and it is very do-able. I would recommend finding a veteran homeschooling mama to talk with and see what a 'normal' day is like. Ask around at your church.

Here are a couple of links that are very informative.

http://www.homefires.com/
http://hsc.org/

There is a group in my area called Coast and Valley Christian Homeschoolers. They have a Yahoo group that you could check out...I know some of the families have lived in other parts of the bay area, so there might be someone who could lead you in the right direction connecting you with other homeschoolers in your area.

I homeschool because I want to be with my kids as they discover and learn, and it's fun! Also, I want them to know we're always learning...it's not something that happens M-F from 8-3.

Hope this helps! Blessings upon you...J.

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M.A.

answers from Fresno on

What a great mom you must be to even consider taking on teaching your kids at home. :) I've been homeschooling my three kids since 2000. I teach my 13-year-old son, and my 8 and 5-year-old daughters. We have been members of the California Virtual Academy (CAVA) since my son entered the first grade. CAVA is a public charter school, is free, and the curriculum is very challenging. I would highly recommend learning more about this option, especially if you're just starting out. I attempted to go-it alone for my son's kindergarten year, and it was very time consuming trying to put together lessons and make sure that I was teaching kindergarten standards. I was beyond thrilled when I found CAVA, and have really loved it ever since.

You can learn more about CAVA at: http://www.k12.com/cava/
I hope I've been of some help. Good luck in your search. Peace. :)

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T.S.

answers from Sacramento on

As someone who was homeschooled, the best advise I can give you is to make sure whatever you end up deciding on, make sure that you instil some kind of structure and Testings. I was schooled in a very relaxed setting.. do work whenever you want,don't worry about test ect. This left me very uncertain about my actual intelgence. Only now as an adult have I discovered that I am smart and can accomplish those things that were never requried of me. It truly stunted me. But homeschooling done well can rear brilliant kids able to go at their own pace, Challenged- not frustrated.

Just my two cents from a different perspective

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A.R.

answers from Sacramento on

Hi E.,

It looks like you have received a lot of responses! I am actually a teacher for California Virtual Academies which is a homeschool/online program. At one time I was not a fan of homeschooling for various reasons, but when I found this program I was pretty impressed! I used to teach in a Christian school, but was looking for something that would let me still teach and work with kids and allow me more time with my own son. I love this program because it allows parent the freedom to teach their own children, but gives you the support of a credentialed teacher. I would encourage you to look into it. It really is a great program. Check out the website: caliva.org or send me an email at [email protected]____.com if you would like some more information.

~A.

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C.C.

answers from Sacramento on

My late husband had a daughter than home schooled her kids. The drawback that I saw to that was the kids had no life, no social life and had no clue how to interact with other kids. Eventually they went to high school and it was a disaster because of the lack of social skills as well as other things. Some of the kids thought that public school was a waste of time because you had to be there all day vs a few hours at home school. One of the gals ran away with some guy she met. Another gal ended up with this loser dude because it was a way to get out of the house.

I'm just giving you the other side.

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T.K.

answers from San Francisco on

Happy to hear you are considering homeschooling! We just began this year with our son. He went to a private school for three years and if we could afford it he would still be there, but rather then set him back by sending him to our assigned school we decided to homeschool and let me tell you we love it!! No rushed mornings..instead home cooked healthy meals all day and sometimes lunch with Dad! Park dates, field trips, art classes and much more. I found that the Core Knowledge books (What Your First Grader Needs to Know and so on for 2nd - H.S.) are great for getting the idea of what he needs to now and at what pace. I bought the next year up for advanced lessons and many of the teacher stores offer great manipulatives for hands on learning. We just finished learning about habitats, oceans and our precious earth followed by a field trip to the Academy of Science in Golden Gate park! So far we have made many new friends, joined a few homeschool groups and I have been amazed at how much online curriculum there is for free! We are going to join Ocean Grove Charter next year to help out with funding for more out of home classes for homeschoolers and I look forward to a long career with my children as their teacher! This Bay Area offers so much in the way of resources so I don't feel isolated at all! My son even brags to friends that he gets to have pajama days now and then because he learns at home...plus no homework! :) Enjoy your journey and I wish you the best of luck with your decision! You can e-mail me anytime for tips or just to ask questions and I can put you in touch with some more experienced homeschoolers as well!

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B.B.

answers from Sacramento on

I am an education specialist with South Sutter Charter School (there are also other charter schools) www.sscs.cc. I would advise looking at the website and deciding if the Charter School is the right fit for you. If you do decide to go with a Charter school, you will work with an education specialist who will help you with decide on which curriculum will work best for you and your children. Good Luck!

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D.G.

answers from San Francisco on

E.

We are looking to homeschool next year too. My son has been in a Christian school since Kindergarten but we know we can not put 3 kids in private school so we decided to make a break next year for 4th grade. I have decided to use Abeka (out of Pensacola,FL) because it is what we use at school already. We plan on using the Video program, this past summer we attempted to homeschool the first 2 weeks of the school year and with me having a one year old and a two year old it was too difficult. With the video I know he will be taught and I can supplement what he needs. You can go to the Abeka website and see a sample of their video homeschool. Also on their website you can find a display in your area where Abeka comes out and sets up material so you can look at all the books for each grade.

It is my understanding if you use a Charter or anything through a public school then you have to use material that is approved by them, and you may not use anything that is Christian. We don't want our son in the public school because we are against alot of what is taught, with Abeka they do bring Christ into all of the subjects.

What area are you in? It would be great to know another family that is starting to homeschool next year too.

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H.M.

answers from Sacramento on

E.,
I work for a school district and what our district does is meet with you and your child once a week, give them the same curriculum that our schools are using along with an assingment for the week. You go home, teach your child and then bring it back at your next appt. They administor all the tests and make sure your child is still on track, and it's free. There are other companies out there that will do it also, but with state law requireing you have a teaching crediental in order to home school this is a way around it.
Good luck, 2 of my sister-in-laws homeschool and love it.

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D.Z.

answers from Yuba City on

E.-

First of all, in contrast to what Heather posted, you do not have to have teaching credentials by law to homeschool, that is certainly not true. Activist judges tried to impose such, but quickly rescinded it.

I decided to homeschool mine, this was our first year, our daughter is in 6th grade and took to it extremely well. She is a very social person, but with dance classes, church, volunteering & friends, we have absolutely no social issues as some would have you believe and we get to pick her friends without appearing to. So much in traditional school, public or private, the kids just don't need to deal with.

Next I'm trying to also do our Kindergartener, that is a little trickier just because of also having 3 other small children (3 & 16 month twins). The timing & discipline to get on task daily is my personal issue, but we're still working it all out. If you are an organized person or organizationally challenged (like I tend to be), getting a good school to partner with and a helpful teacher/guide is instrumental. They can help you with picking curriculum, and we changed curriculum 1/3 through the year because I was not satisfied with one of the subjects, after that, my 6th grader excelled in that subject.

It gives you much freedom. If my daughter gets all her goals accomplished by 12 noon, she's free to finish chores early & have time for what she wants. If we go somewhere, we take it with us and adjust the schedule as needed. We love it.

Take care & be encouraged! It can be a great experience for all of you.

D.

D.

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J.M.

answers from San Francisco on

Hi E.,

I'm a public school teacher...with that said:

my community has a home school network. I know the parents meet once a week at the park for a home-school support meeting. If your community has such a group, they might be a great resource for you. Meet them and their kids...

Charter and magnet schools are also interesting alternative settings for kids.

Good luck.

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S.S.

answers from Sacramento on

If you live in the Roseville, Rocklin, Lincoln area, there is a homeschool called Horizon or Verizon located in Lincoln. There is a curriculum and students come into the site 2 or 3 times a week for a couple of hours. You could check with your public school district or your county to see what homeschool programs there are in your area.

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K.G.

answers from San Francisco on

I am going to start next year. My girls will be in 6th grade. I have two more who will start K in 2 1/2 years. We are going to use this program http://www.aceministries.com/default.aspx
I did this during my Highschool years and it was wonderful.

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P.M.

answers from Bakersfield on

HI, i hear k-12 virtual academy is good. make sure you are qualified and have a good social circle,etc...too

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R.B.

answers from San Francisco on

Check with your school district to see if there's a home school charter school. That way you'd have the support of the local schools with curriculum, books, teachers, counselors. Often your child can take a class at the junior high or high school level that is hard to recreate through home schooling (like discussion groups) and the transition back into public school is easier should you ever decide to do that.

In Fremont, COIL (Center for Independent Learning) if the home school charter school affiliated with FUSD (Fremont Unified School District), the public schools.

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H.F.

answers from San Francisco on

E. -

There are so many choices when it comes to curriculum. It would depend on you and your child. Here are some things to think about. How much time do I have to prepare lessons? How much prep work am I willing to do? Do I need a step by step plan or am I comfortable creating my own? What subjects do I feel strong in? What subjects do I need strong resources in? HOw many kids do I need to teach and can I group lessons together for them? How does your child learn? DO they like to read independantly? Do they need hands-on? Are they a visual learner? When I started homeschooling I had three kids A kindergartner, a 4 year old who wouldn't be left out and a young toddler. We chose Sonlight www.sonlight.com for our main curriculum and both my kindergartner and 4 year old did most of it together. For science we did lots of nautre based activities and checked out many books and videos from the library. We used MathUSee for math but I quickly tired of it. I am not a visual learner and I didn't enjoy the manipulatives. My kids liked it okay but the next year we tried Horizons math which had too much repititon for us and we finally settled on Singapore Math which both the kids and I really like. My favorite phonics instruction is The ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading. In the beginning I would accept that you might not like everything you pick at first. I would look online for reviews and pay close attention to why people liked or didn't like something. Our family loves to read so while someone may dislike something because so much reading is involved that would be a plus for us. I am not arts and crafty and hate making visual aides so something that requires that of me would be a major negative for me but not someone else.
Go to your library and do a search on homeschooling (you might have to do a key word search instead of a subject search) and borrow what ever books they have to read up and see what they have. Also google homeschooling and your local city or county to find a local support group. Some are great and some are mediocre but you will find what local resources are availbale to you.
We have supplemented our homeschooling with classes at the local community center and some classes throughout our county just for homeschoolers.
FInally I must say that we are not currently homeschooling. My school age kids started at the public school in January because our toddler has some extensive health issues that were taking up a huge amount of my time and we had a baby in March. The two together made me very unavailbale to my older kids. We will most likely bring them back home int he fall. The kids did not have any trouble at all transitioning into the public school.

H.

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A.P.

answers from Sacramento on

Hi E.,
There are so many answers to this question. What works for one child, isn't the right fit for another. Right now, I use Sonlight. Check out their website and they can send a catalog. www.sonlight.com. You will find a lot of support and help at your local homeschool group. Google it and you should find out. You can send me an email and I can give you more info. We do mix and match curriculum. Some people use charters that fund your non christian materials. (I am part of a charter) Good luck!

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