I Love This Time of Year

This is my second year of homeschooling. Well, except for Madison’s third grade, which I hardly count because I only taught that one year and Caleb was just a wee guy.

Don’t tell him I ever called him a wee guy, k? Thanks.

I have already decided, though. This time before the school year starts? This is the BEST time to be a homeschooling parent.

This is the most optimistic time of the school year. It’s a time for planning and buying curriculum. There is excitement for new books with stiff binding and the smell of freshly printed ink.

The most helpful thing for me during this buying frenzy is reviews written by other homeschoolers. I am by no means what people in the Homeschool world would call an “expert”, but I have figured out what works for us and what doesn’t.

At least, I have a better idea this fall than I did last fall. I’m sure I’ll be PERFECT next year.


Anyway, if you’re interested in knowing what we’re going to be using this year, and what we used LAST year- and why we aren’t using it any more, than just click below the fold to read on.

If you’re not interested, hold on a few minutes. I have this hilarious picture of my dog that I’m sure you’ll get a kick out of.

 Language Arts

Last year we used Learning Language Arts Through Literature and this year we’re going to use… Learning Language Arts Through Literature! With a few changes…

Hey, my Mommom always told me, “ya stick with what works.” Good advice, I say.

And LLATL does work. Mostly.

The Pros! The Cons!

LLATL is a reading based program that’s designed to teach your kids all they need to know in a L.Arts curriculum. The shtick with these guys? Each lesson is taught by focusing on a single source of literature.

For my two book worms, it’s a fantastic concept. Rather than write up a description, here’s a review from Lamp Post Publishing. And here are some reviews from other homeschoolers. Lastly, here is the cheepest place to buy it. (You can also usually get a slightly beat-up copy of the texts through eBay for less than 10 bucks if you’re willing to take the chance)

Madison loves this book because she doesn’t like transitions. She hates skipping around from book to book to learn grammar, vocabulary, spelling, reading comprehension, essay structure, poetic verse… all that stuff that you usually have to piece-meal together to make a solid curriculum. This curriculum gets rid of the need for that. It’s also made learning poetry fun, and if you’ve seen her facebook wall lately, you’ll know that she’s taken to writing her own poems in her spare time.

Caleb is not a fan of this curriculum, though not because it’s not interesting. My punk is just not a fan of writing. It takes too long, and he’d rather be outside on his bike or chasing the dog with the gardening hose. In that regard, this is exactly what he needs. Writing is not a major strength of his unless he takes the time to slow down and work at it patiently. So though he might not particularly like doing it, it is helping him.

There are some weaknesses I’ve discovered with LLATL, however, and I’m going to have to use some supplementary curriculum this coming year to fix that. First off, LLATL doesn’t really teach grammar. It mostly trusts that children will get the hang of things by mimicking the writing of great authors. For Madison this works just fine. Caleb will need things spelled out a little more clearly for him, however, and for that reason I’m turning to one of my favorite authors of all time, Susan Wise Bauer. She’s got a new writing program coming out in the next couple of months called The Complete Writer: Writing With Skill. (note: link goes to the instructor’s text, I haven’t found the student’s text yet.) For budget-sake, I plan on holding off on ordering this until it comes out in print. BUT! You can download and/ or preview the first 7 chapters of the book here for free. The pdf convinced me that this is a program worth getting. (and a preview of the instructor text is here.)

But, oh, my dear internet. That is not all.

Oh yes.

I have made a discovery. An earth-shattering, poll flipping, tax-breaks-for-everyone discovery.

Something so strange and wonderful that my two children begged. BEGGED! To be able to learn from a certain grammar curriculum.

And here’s why.

Folks, meet Marie Rackham.

Madison says it’s like being taught language from Mrs Potts.

(the video is mostly an introduction, for a preview of one of the lessons, go here. I dare you to try to look away. You can’t. Mrs Rackham is pretty much made of charm.)

These videos left me perplexed and bemused and bewildered. I had initially thought to get a hold of the basic set for Caleb, but when I showed the videos to Madison, (who also could not look away) she asked me if she could do the lessons with him.

My girl asked me if she could do extra grammar lessons. With her brother. I am a proud Mama.

Marie’s program is called Cozy Grammar (OF COURSE IT IS.), and I got the ok from the Hunk to buy it. Which brings me to the only down side I can so far see with this program. It is expensive. $90 per course. Although they are currently having a sale, it’s still pricey for a supplemental curriculum. I’ve tried looking for used copies anywhere, but they get snatched up pretty fast on all of the 2nd hand forums, and I haven’t had much luck in being the first to email a seller. I think it’s worth it to keep searching however. (speaking of, if you have a set you would like to pass on to me, give me a shout! Or an email. That works too.)

So that’s what our LArts look like this year. To sum up:

This looks like a good place to stop. I’ll write about the other subjects (Math, Algebra, History, Science) soonish.




  1. Andrea. With a K. But it's silent.

    August 6, 2011 at 12:12 am

    I can’t homeschool because I would eat my young. But I’m very interested/active in supplementing what my kiddo learns during his six-hour playdate every day. So I’m taking notes.

    In case I’ve never mentioned it before, y’all are welcome to live next door to us. If, you know, you get sick of hanging out beautiful places and want to experience suburbia at its finest. After all, Michael turned out OK… never mind. 😉

    • julie

      August 7, 2011 at 12:24 am

      You are too funny, Andrea with the silent K. You know, we would love to have you guys over some time! And we are ALWAYS looking for excuses to visit Chicagoland. We definitely need to coordinate a playdate of our own at some point. 😉

      And I know lots of people who supplement traditional school with homeschool materials… you can always dip your toes in! See if ya like it!

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