Preschool Through Grade 8

102 Top Pick for homeschool curriculumIndicates that the item is a Top Pick. The full review is available in 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.

Christian Light publishes a curriculum, much of which is similar in concept to Alpha Omega's LIFEPAC curriculum. Originally an adaptation of that curriculum, Christian Light has gone on to create much of their own original material. Christian Light's Mennonite beliefs (Anabaptist doctrine) are reflected throughout much of their curriculum.

First graders begin with ten "Learning to Read" Lightunits. After completing these, they are ready to move into five basic strands of Lightunits: Bible, language arts, math, science, and social studies. The math courses are particularly popular among homeschoolers, and you can read my review by clicking here.

In addition, Christian Light publishes some textbooks designed primarily to meet the needs of Mennonite students but of interest to many other home schoolers: God's Marvelous Gifts (fifth grade science), Living Together on God's Earth, Into All the World, North America is the Lord's, and God's World - His Story (social studies texts for grades 3-6). An elementary-level Canadian social study unit is available, and Canadian studies are also covered in a set of four special Lightunits used typically at seventh grade level.

Christian Light has its own hardcover texts with matching Lightunits for high school literature, as well as for a number of other courses.

Christian Light also incorporates materials from other publishers into some of their courses at the upper levels, primarily for high school electives. Elective courses include keyboarding, accounting, practical record keeping, computer literacy, electricity, agriculture, woodworking, art, home economics, Spanish, consumer math, practical math, Greek, carpentry, home repair and maintenance, small engines, basic automotive service and systems, and Christian ethics. Christian Light also carries a broad line of supplementary books and resources. Christian Light curriculum is available by grade level, subject, or individual unit. They also offer school services through Homeschool Plus.

See my original review in 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.

NOTE: Complete Curriculum has discontinued their Complete Curriculum membership option. They now offer texts only for immediate download. The arrangement of their bundles has also changed.

Complete Curriculum has got to be one of the most inexpensive online curriculum providers available. They have digital-text courses for math, language arts, science, and social studies for preK through twelfth grade, although some of their courses for grades 11 and 12 are not yet available.

Course content is aligned with the national standards. The outlook is secular throughout all courses. Consequently, hot topics such as evolution, the age of the earth, and others (found especially in science and history texts) are treated from a secular perspective. While students do learn vocabulary, concepts, and skills, courses stress critical thinking rather than rote learning.

Most courses have 180 lessons for the school year. (Some science and social studies courses have fewer.) The publisher says that lessons for each subject should take one to one and a half hours a day to complete, but many lessons I reviewed would not take that much time. The customer who alerted me to this curriculum told me that for kindergarten and first grade they usually completed all four subjects within about one and a half hours per day.

Lessons are laid out in a consistent fashion in the online teacher's manuals for every subject. For each lesson, the teacher's manual lists:

  • The lesson objective
  • Key vocabulary words—might be used for spelling and /or vocabulary or to help students comprehend what they will read
  • Materials needed
  • Literary selections when appropriate—some of which are printed directly in the student manual
  • An "engaging" question which the teacher uses to begin the lesson
  • Supplemental engagement activities that appear for some lessons
  • Extensions that appear for some lessons—these might be used with accelerated or lagging students
  • Technology resources—for some lessons, suggestions are given for utilizing technology, especially websites that contribute to the lesson
  • Additional Notes to the Teacher—outline or summarize the lesson
  • Advance Preparation or Homework Required—gives the teacher a heads up when extra time will be required.
  • Lesson Wrap-Ups—only in K-2 Math

For each course there is a student manual as well as a teacher's manual. These are downloaded as PDF files through Educents. You will certainly want to print out some or all of the student manual pages since many serve as worksheets. Lessons are presented in full color with plenty of illustrations....The teacher's manual for each course includes the student manual pages with answers for all worksheets, exercises, and assessments.

Choose the Ultimate K-5 Homeschool Digital Textbook Bundle  that includes 48 books for only $94, the Ultimate 6th to 8th Grade Homeschool Digital Textbook Bundle with 24 books for $80, or the Ultimate High School Homeschool Digital Textbook Bundle with 26 books for $90. Or select a grade level package that contains eight digital books—textbooks for language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies plus teacher editions of each of the four texts—for only $37.40. You can also order individual course for only $11.01.

You may install texts on a personal computing device or a server for one classroom. 

Some additional resources are needed from time to time....Science lessons require resources for experiments and activities. Math might require pennies or other manipulatives in the early grades.

Even though students can enter some answers into the computer, this is not a computer-based curriculum like Switched on Schoolhouse where students type in all responses which are then graded by the software. Some worksheets will need to be printed out in advance.

Students create notebooks for some subjects such as spelling and writing as well as a Grammar Ring and a Vocabulary Ring where they collect rules and definitions they have written on index cards. High school students learn note taking skills and apply them across the curriculum. Students learn to integrate knowledge and skills through projects such as creating brochures, PowerPoint™ presentations, and research reports.

Language arts courses integrate all age-appropriate language arts skills—reading, literature, spelling, vocabulary, grammar, handwriting, and composition. It is expected that children have some familiarity with the alphabet prior to kindergarten; they should recognize at least some of the letters. Kindergarten teaches sounds and letters, beginning reading, writing, spelling, and printing along with other facets of language arts typically taught in kindergarten. Reading instruction is phonics-based, but it includes the introduction of many sight words....Language arts lessons often revolve around the literary selections. Students begin to create a journal in first grade. They continue to learn all forms of composition, applying those skills within language arts and across the curriculum.

Math follows a standard scope and sequence at each grade level. Simple manipulatives and visual illustrations are used to teach concepts in the early grades....Cumulative reviews help students retain skills learned in previous lessons. For high school, Algebra I, Algebra II, and Geometry are available, and other courses are still in the works.

The science program is inquiry-based. Lessons begin by raising questions while students do observations and experiments. Students record and analyze data according to the scientific method even in kindergarten, albeit at a very simple level....

Social studies courses cover history, geography, civics/government, and economics, with emphasis varying from grade to grade. All of these texts reflect a typical secular outlook as you might find in other texts used in government schools....Throughout the social studies courses there are frequently challenging questions to consider, and students are often directed to read or research topics and present contrasting views. This is especially true for junior and senior high courses.

The quality of the writing in the social studies courses varies from text to text. Some texts seem to be collections of information while others have more of a story-telling feel—probably the result of different authors.

Complete Curriculum does not oversee student work or issue diplomas or report cards. However, for families looking for an inexpensive, secular curriculum, this is a real bargain.

Homeschool Complete began with their Kindergarten Complete program and is gradually expanding to other grade levels. As of Spring 2016, First Grade Complete Semester One and Reading Complete Levels A, B, and C have been added, with First Grade Semester Two coming soon. I have only reviewed Kindergarten Complete thus far.

Kindergarten Complete is a comprehensive, traditional kindergarten program designed especially for Christian homeschoolers. The program is divided into two semesters. Each semester has its own three-ring binder teacher’s manual that includes one set of student workbook pages.

While this is a complete program, you will need to obtain a number of children’s storybooks to use with every unit. Book lists are divided into the required books and extras that all relate to the themes used for each unit. The program is presented in multi-lesson units, most of which take four days to present. The program schedules lessons for four days per week to allow a flexible fifth day. Many themes follow the calendar with units on Fall, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Winter, Martin Luther King Jr., Valentine’s Day, George Washington, St. Patrick’s Day, Spring, Easter, and Summer. Interspersed are units on topics such as Me and My Family, Farm Animals, Shapes and Patterning, Fire Safety, Health and Nutrition, Behavior, Creation, Transportation, Ducks, Plants, Solar System, and Senses.

The program covers a broad range of knowledge and skills under language arts, math, social studies, science, physical development and fitness, fine arts, character development, and Bible. While this is a Christian program with a Bible verse for each unit, Bible stories and other explicitly Christian content appear sporadically. For example, the story of Joshua and the Battle of Jericho is used in the unit on Shapes and Patterns, Lesson 17. (In case you are wondering about the connection, the comprehension questions include two on patterns: “What pattern did the Israelites follow when they walked?” and “How did their pattern change on the seventh day?”) Similarly, Bible stories show up from time to time within other units. Units on Christmas, Easter, and Creation are thoroughly based on Christian content.

Kindergarten Complete is a multi-sensory program. Lessons seem very much like those children would experience in a Christian kindergarten classroom setting, including hands on activities. Teacher’s manuals suggest two and a half to three hours of class time per day. At first, lesson plans include suggested dialogue for the parent to show how lessons should be presented. While all lessons are explained step by step, scripting is only included when it might be helpful.

Lessons begin with “Calendar Time.” While Calendar Time includes reading and working with the calendar each day, it also includes recitation of pledges (to the American flag, Christian flag, and the Bible), counting, singing a song or reciting a poem or rhyme, and reading a story of the child’s choosing.

Math is taught with interactive activities that often include flashcards. You can create your own flashcards from templates in the teacher’s manual, or you can purchase sets of flashcards. Occasionally, some sort of math manipulative might be used (e.g., blocks, crackers, marbles). Math lessons are often reinforced with a worksheet.

For language arts you will read the storybook for the lesson or read a poem or story from the teacher’s manual. A series of questions for the read-aloud is posed in the teacher’s manuals. You might also work on letters and their sounds, sight words, handwriting, narration, or other activities. Occasionally, students might illustrate a story. Note that while the program teaches phonics, it does not present an intensive phonics approach, but rather a mixture of sight words and phonics.

Art, music, and physical education rotate through the lesson plans with games and activities. Each daily lesson plan concludes with one or two suggested “Enrichment” activities. These might be stories, games, crafts, experiments, or practical life activities. For example, Lesson 41 suggests creating a Pilgrim village out of blocks Legos, paper, or other materials, and allowing the child to act out the story of the Pilgrims and the Indians. Lesson 50 suggests practicing tying shoes and stringing popcorn for the Christmas tree.

Attractively designed worksheets (from either the teacher’s manual or the student workbook) are typical of what you find in other workbooks with some requiring writing or coloring and others to be cut and pasted.

The entire program is well laid out in a professional fashion. Lesson plans are easy to follow, with pertinent student worksheets inserted where they will be used. You are given permission to copy the worksheets and other consumable pages for an additional student in your family, or you can purchase a stand-alone student workbook if you don’t want to photocopy pages. Note that there are two separate loose-leaf student workbooks, one for each semester.

Lesson preparation and presentation time is required. You’ll need to gather storybooks and activity supplies in advance. Lists of required books and resources are included with each lesson as well as in a comprehensive list in the appendix. Bible verses for each unit are on the introductory page for each unit as well as in a comprehensive list in the appendix. Activity resources that are needed include basic school and art supplies as well as items such as clothespins, duct tape, yarn, scrap material, Goldfish crackers, cooking ingredients (for a few recipes), pebbles, sand, and plastic animals. You will want to start gathering these items in advance since there are quite a few of them.

Kindergarten Complete was written by Debra Arbuthnot, a credentialed teacher with many years of classroom teaching experience as well homeschooling experience. Kindergarten Complete takes advantage of homeschoolers’ ability to interact closely with their children with lots of discussion plus hands-on activities. Yet it retains much of the structure of a classroom experience. Most programs of this sort have multiple teacher's guides and student books, and it can be very cumbersome to juggle all of the resources. Kindergarten Complete makes it easy with just one binder at a time for all of your subject areas, and no flipping back and forth through the binder.

The Core Knowledge Foundation offers free curriculum online. Resources are presented in different sections on their site. The Core Knowledge Language Arts (CKLA) curriculum is available for preschool through third grade, while Core Knowledge Classic Lesson Plans (CKLP) are available for preschool through eighth grade. While Core Knowledge resources were written for classroom situations, most activities can be easily adapted for homeschooling. Core Knowledge products and the lesson plans created by other contributors are secular in outlook. However, I have found the Core Knowledge community to be generally supportive of Judeo-Christian values, and their lesson plans and resources are likely to work for both secular and Christian home educators.

The Core Knowledge Language Arts (CKLA)

CKLA teaches phonics, reading, vocabulary, handwriting, spelling, and the writing process with a complete curriculum. While you can purchase print versions of all of the course components, they are quite expensive. Realistically, homeschoolers will download free versions of the resources to read or print. (Make sure you've got a reasonably speedy internet connection since many of these are large files.)

At each level, lessons are divided into two strands: listening and learning in one strand, and skills in another. Preschool adds another strand, "Starting the Day." CKLA uses a unit study approach to some extent, presenting material in "domains." Domains are topical areas from social studies, science, and literature within which reading comprehension and vocabulary are taught. For example, the domains for first grade are fables and stories, the human body, different lands/similar stories, early world civilizations, early American civilizations, astronomy, the history of the earth, animals and habitats, fairy tales, a new nation, and frontier explorers. You can see how this might provide your complete coverage of history and some coverage of science at these early grade levels.

While supplemental books, videos, and other resources are recommended, the core lesson material is supplied in the curriculum. Lesson plans show you exactly when to use flip books, anthologies, readers, and other resources, even providing thumbnail pictures of the images from flip books within the lesson plans. Plans include guided conversations with questions and suggested answers. Questions challenge students at various levels of thinking from simple comprehension up through higher levels (e.g. inference, evaluation) as is appropriate at each grade level. Hands-on activities are included for many lessons.

Kindergarten begins a complete, phonics-based reading program that continues through subsequent grade levels. There are teacher guides, student workbooks, readers, "flip books," assessments, and other components for the various levels as you find in typical complete course packages. Flip books and readers are heavily illustrated with high-quality art work, and they are in full-color. There are also Assessment and Remediation Guides and ancillary items such as posters, letter cards, Blending Picture Cards, and a Vowel Flip Book. There are even resources and teaching suggestions for advanced learners as well as those who need extra assistance!

Lessons need to be taught from the teacher's guides since they are very interactive with lots of discussion and activity. Student complete worksheets, and student readers are introduced the second semester of kindergarten. (You might want to print out the teacher's guides and student worksheets, but display the full color readers and flip books on your computer or other device.)

It will probably take a little time at first to sort out the components. Some components, such as the cards, might not be as nice when created from your printouts as they would be if purchased ready-made. Still, once you've printed out what you need, the lessons themselves are laid out for you in detail so that you will not need to spend a lot of time on preparation

CKLA resources are all relatively new, so the recommended supplemental resources should generally be available. CKLA resources are aligned closely with the Common Core. You can examine samples from both strands at www.coreknowledge.org/ckla.

CKLA is so fully-developed and ready to use that it's surprising that all of this is available for free.

Core Knowledge Classic Lesson Plans (CKLP)

While CKLP includes lesson plans for a number of subjects for preschool through eighth grade, the history/geography lesson plans for kindergarten through eighth grade are what I think will really interest home educators. These lesson plans reflect Core Knowledge's recommendations of topics to be covered at each level.

Lesson plans have been created by various contributors rather than by the Core Knowledge Foundation, so they vary from one another. Some lesson plans were written to meet particular state standards, so you will need to check each lesson plan to ensure it covers topics you want to teach. Also, lesson plans have been written over a number of years, so resource books recommended to be used with the plans are sometimes out of print. Unfortunately, some lesson plans are very dependent upon the Pearson Learning Core Knowledge History and Geography series, an outstanding series which was in print for only a short while. Core Knowledge does not endorse or take responsibility for the lesson plans even though they are made available through their website.

You can find the lesson plans by beginning at this page, then clicking on the grade level you want. While the CKLA lessons incorporate reading on topics from science and social studies under "domains" or topics, the CKLP lesson plans focus primarily on history and geography while only sometimes branching out into other areas of the curriculum. Each year, students cover topics from both World and U.S. History as well as some geography.

Each lesson plan should take a few weeks to complete, so you will be using quite a few of them for a complete school year. For example, at fourth grade level, lesson plans are presented under 11 headings: Geography, Europe in the Middle Ages, Spread of Islam and "Holy Wars," Early and Medieval African Kingdoms, China: Dynasties and Conquerers, Home Sweet Home (state history study that can be used for any state), American Revolution, Making a Constitutional Government, Early Presidents and Politics, Reformers (battles for women's rights in the 1800-1900s), and Amercan Symbols and Figures. While some topics have only one lesson plan, most have at least four or five. Some of the lesson plans overlap in content, so you will not use them all.

Lesson plans incorporate historical fiction, biographies, and other resource books, often including What Your First Grader Needs to Know and other books from that series written by Core Knowledge founder E.D. Hirsch Jr. Some lessons use videos. Most lesson plans incorporate some sort of hands-on activity. Timelines are a common feature, but some plans include more arts-and-crafts projects. All lesson plans appear to have printable worksheets at the back of the printable book.

Every lesson plan that I looked at was very thoroughly developed with instructions, background information, step-by-step procedures, lists of required resources, bibliographies, and student pages. Every lesson plan is dependent on the use of some other resource books, so that is a key thing to examine up front before deciding to use a lesson plan; make sure you can access the books you need or find reasonable substitutes.

The lesson plans will certainly require quite a bit of preparation work, first in sorting through and choosing which ones to use, and secondly, in gathering resources and preparing and presenting the lessons. Nevertheless, the lesson plans are top-notch and provide great course material for those willing to expend the effort.

Landmark offers a complete curriculum for grades K-12. Students can enroll in the complete program or purchase individual courses, all at very affordable prices.

LFBC believes that it is parents' responsibility to pass on knowledge, wisdom, and values to their children, so the curriculum is strongly oriented toward inculcating a Judeo-Christian value system. Most people would describe the philosophy as very conservative. History shuns modern social studies, choosing to concentrate on history and geography.

English takes a back-to-basics approach with phonics, reading (using McGuffey Readers), parts of speech, diagramming, and plenty of writing. Science is Bible based, teaching the creation science viewpoint. Bible courses use the KJV. The courses are uneven in quality, both graphically and in content, but they are gradually being revised and improved. The curriculum is very academic through the elementary grades.

The scope and sequence varies somewhat from other Christian publishers. For example, high school science includes four courses: Physical Science, Biology, Health and Dynamic Biblical Living, and Scientific Creationism. Neither chemistry nor physics is offered. Math courses offered for high school are two years of Algebra, Geometry, and Business Math. Electives are Penmanship, Home Economics, Shop, Personal Development, Spanish I, and Principles of Music, with more being created.

Generally, the curriculum is designed like Alpha Omega's LIFEPAC and School of Tomorrow's PACE curricula. Most LFBC courses work well for independent study, although there are only one or two large books per course.

LFBC allows parents to purchase materials to use as they wish, but they encourage home schooling families to work under the auspices of some oversight organization for accountability.

See reviews of selected LFBC products:

Landmark's Freedom Baptist Curriculum: Bible
Landmark's Freedom Baptist Curriculum Literature Courses
LFBC Champion Baptist Kindergarten Program
Landmark's Freedom Baptist Curriculum's Algebra I and II
Penmanship (LFBC)
English 3 (LFBC)
Landmark's Freedom United States Government
U.S. History course (LFBC)
Great American Heroes
Culture Wars/Current Issues, course H155

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Featured Preschool Through Grade 8 Resource

Time4Learning

Time4Learning is a website for homeschoolers for PreK through high school that covers math, language arts, social studies, and science. It is built around CompassLearning Odyssey®, an online, interactive educational system that has been in existence for many years and was acquired by Edgenuity in 2016. CompassLearning Odyssey/Edgenuity is used by many traditional schools, and it was previously available to homeschoolers through ChildU. While CompassLearning Odyssey/Edgenuity is used by schools through other interfaces, Time4Learning provides the interface that works for homeschoolers.

Read full review for Time4Learning

Note: Publishers, authors, and service providers never pay to be reviewed. They do provide free review copies or online access to programs for review purposes.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services that believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 "Guidelines Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."