(This post contains affiliate links. Affiliate links may earn me a commission at no additional cost to you. All companies listed here are ones that I have either used previously or will be using this year. For more information on affiliate links see my Disclosures.)
August is here and if you are homeschooling this fall it’s time to get serious about planning for the upcoming year. Today I want to tell you all about my favorite curriculum companies, places to purchase supplies, and introduce you to three brand new companies I am working with this year that I am super excited about!
Whether you are a veteran homeschooler, or still unsure if you are ready to begin, read on for some honest reviews about the companies we have worked with and a see how I go about choosing new companies when I need to.
My Tried and True Curriculum Companies
I do not use a one-size fits all approach to our curriculum choices. Rather, I use a mix of companies that allow me to customize the kid’s education to better fit them. Yes, this method may take longer to purchase, and can require a little more prep work, but I truly believe this is the best way for us to homeschool.
As a result, I have a now have a list of companies and products that I can tell you about. All of the companies listed in this section are ones whose curriculums we have used in our homeschool. Some of them we will continue to use this year, and others we are moving away from, but each of these companies offer great choices.
Alpha Omega Publications This company has been around for a long time and it was one of the first companies I purchased boxed curriculum from. Our favorite program they offer is LifePac. LifePac gives you a 10-unit program that is student led and focuses on mastery of a subject before moving on to the next subject. We have used LifePac for Math, History, and Language Arts. This year we are only using them for math for our second grader (I’ll explain why later in this post!). He loves the little characters in the books that go along with him as he is learning skills such as skip-counting, telling time, and multi-digit addition. I love that it uses repetition to teach skills and has a great amount of instruction. The teacher’s guide offers tips to teach, correct answers, and alternate tests if needed. LifePac is a great program if you are looking for something you can just take out of the box and begin using. The one downfall to LifePac is they are consumable materials, so you do need to purchase a new copy for each of your children.
Apologia I came across my first Apologia book at a yard sale, and haven’t looked back since! They are our go-to company for science and all the kids love their “Exploring Creation” series. Both the elementary and middle school level books are written to allow the student to primarily learn independently. The elementary series books are smaller and run about 28 weeks, while the middle school books are larger and cover about 36 weeks. Included in this science program is everything you need from topics to study and learn about, to vocabulary words and study questions, as well as experiments relevant to the material being learned. You can fully cover science using just the text books, but we love to include the notebook journals as well. The journals allow for review questions, study guides, and lab reports and are a great way to track learning and progress.
Bright Ideas Press This company is known for its array of digital curriculum, and I am slowly learning to see the value of digital products. We use Bright Ideas Press for our History program. The Mystery of History is an engaging program that covers both Biblical and secular world history chronologically. The program is broken up into four books and can be used for multiple children and grades. Included in the book you have lessons, age/grade appropriate activities, review activities and weekly quizzes. The author works well to tell history as a story rather than a bunch of boring facts and show how events unfold and are relevant to other events. The kids and I loved this program this past year and are very much looking forward to starting Volume 2 this year.
Common Sense Media For the last two years we have used Common Sense Media for our Language Arts program. Learning Language Arts Through Literature exposes your children to passages from quality literature and works to teach grammar, spelling, and mechanics around these passages. Included in each year/level are book projects as well as sections on items such as poetry, research papers, and essays. While I really enjoy this program the kids were looking for something more interactive so we are making a switch to something new this year. (Spoiler alert: it’s listed later in this post!)
Every homeschooling parent needs a great spot to get their school supplies. We use everything around here from lined and printer paper to pens and pencils, binders of various sizes, markers, construction paper, highlighters…. the list goes on and on. I think you get the point. The sheer volume of it all can be overwhelming. Thankfully, I have a couple of go-to stores to get my supplies quickly and at a great price point!
Amazon What can I say – I LOVE Amazon! Seriously! Our Prime account has been a lifesaver. We ordered the majority of our supplies last year through Amazon and two days later we had them. No dealing with the store, or taking all four kids shopping. I was able to order printer paper, 3-ring binders, even index cards and wait for them to arrive.
It’s not just school supplies that we use Amazon for. We have a Prime account, and while we enjoy the unlimited 2-day shipping on most items, we also stream TV and use Prime Music.
And then, of course, there is the Kindle, which we have several of. Now don’t get me wrong, I love books. Good old fashioned book with pages and covers, but e-readers are an amazing way to have oodles of books at your finger tips and not take up every nook and cranny of your house. Kindle offers tons of free and inexpensive books and allows us to try out new books and authors that we may not otherwise try out.
Walmart King of the super store is Walmart. Whether I am placing an online order to take advantage of free shipping or running into my local store, Walmart is always a great place for school supplies. And this time of year prices are about as low as they are going to get. And where else are you going to be able to run in for school supplies, household items, and food all in one place?
Venturing Into Uncharted Waters With A Few New Companies
As I have said before, I am always on the look out for companies that offer curriculum options that will be the best fit or us. And while there is no perfect curriculum, there are tons of great options available.
Every year I order what I think will be the best based on learning styles, our goals, and the objectives of the materials. Some years we purchase the next set from the same company, but other years we make changes. These changes aren’t necessarily because the curriculum is not good, but simply because we are looking for a better fit.
This year we are trying out three new options – which is slightly terrifying! But these are all companies that I have been looking at for a long time and come highly recommended from other homeschool blogger and other homeschool families.
Brave Writer Brave Writer is replacing Learning Language Arts Through Literature this year for my two oldest kids. Like I said, I really like LLATL, but the kids wanted something new and more interactive. I first heard of Brave Write through Hip Homeschooling (one of my favorite homeschool blogs!) and her excitement about the product is contagious! Brave Writer is all about teaching Language Arts through writing and allowing your children to find and develop their own writing voice. I am super excited to start this program with the older kids!
Grammar Galaxy Have you ever wanted to save the universe from bad grammar (see what I did there?)? Well, that’s what this program is all about. Geared towards lower to middle elementary level students, Grammar Galaxy teaching Language Arts skills in a fun, engaging, and exciting way. My 2nd grader is so excited about starting this journey and I am too. Mission Manuals have been downloaded, and printing will commence here soon. (If you prefer print copies those can be ordered as well!)
Teaching Textbooks As my kids advance in math the amount of help they require from me also increases. While I am able to help them, I found this past year I did not always have adequate time. So as much as we all enjoy LifePac I set out to find a curriculum that was both a workbook based and digital based product. Something that would give them a verbal lesson as well as a visual one. What I found was Teaching Textbooks, a company I first heard about a few years ago but passed on due to the price tag. Now while the price is still higher than what we were using, I found the value to be higher as well. After lots of research, reviews, and even sitting through sample lessons and placement tests, we ordered this curriculum and are all excited to see if it lives up to the hype.
The Waiting Game
Now, we wait. The curriculum has been chosen, orders have been placed, and tracking has begun. This is an exciting time of the year for our home as we wait and hope that the choices we made were the right one. Even when simply ordering the next grade level higher of something we are familiar with we have no guarantees that it will work as well. The one thing I have learned is that I need to be flexible and willing to make changes that are right for the kids. Even if that means saying goodbye to a curriculum that I really like, even if that means paying a little more for a curriculum that we want to, and even if that means venturing into the world of digital curriculum for the first time.
Change is a fact, and learning to roll with it has not been easy. But that’s the thing about homeschooling – it’s not just about teaching the kids, but learning right along with them.