Catholic Heritage Curricula (CHC) has created complete grade level programs for grades PreK through eight. (They also have a unique approach to high school based upon their guidebook High School of Your Dreams.)
CHC’s programs use many resources that they publish themselves along with other Catholic and secular resources. The large majority of their resources are Catholic. While many of the resources are traditional texts and workbooks, the overall educational approach of the program is a mixture of traditional, classical, Charlotte Mason, and Montessori, although Montessori methods are most evident at the preschool level.
Each grade level program has a set of core materials and a CHC Daily Lesson Plans book. The Daily Lesson Plans books each come as pre-punched pages for you to insert into your own binder. Lesson plans explain the curriculum and provide easy-to-read charts with detailed, daily lesson plans. In the lesson plans for PreK through fourth grade, CHC has chosen to schedule only four days per week, allowing the fifth day to serve as a flexible day for field trips, time-consuming projects, or other activities of your choosing. Lesson plan pages have extra space for your notes, read-aloud titles, Wednesday Flex-day activities, etc. Appendices include coloring pages, achievement record and certificate pages, and supplemental activity pages that vary from year to year.
Core materials include resources for religion, math, phonics/reading/literature, grammar and composition, history, geography, science, and health. Handwriting instruction is included in core resources for kindergarten and first grade. CHC recommends elective resources for handwriting beyond first grade. They also recommend other elective resources for art, music, character building, and other subject areas up through fourth grade. Assignments in these electives are show in the lesson plans. For fifth grade and above, they recommend a number of electives, but these are not scheduled into the lesson plans. Grades five through seven include space for scheduling in activities toward badges in the Pilgrims of the Holy Family program which is similar to Boy Scout and Girl Scout programs.
CHC encourages families to teach children together whenever possible, but this isn’t a unit study approach. You might be able to have children close in age working in some subjects together, but children will generally be each doing their own coursework. This is the biggest drawback with using grade level courses if you have very many children.
CHC courses are authentically Catholic. Through the different resources, children learn about all aspects of the Catholic faith. For example, the liturgical year is emphasized in the first few years, and second through fourth grade courses encourage continued celebration of the liturgical year with optional enrichment activities.
Resources included in CHC courses are almost all current and up-to-date rather than reprints of old books. Many of these require no separate teacher’s guide. You can read my reviews of some of the individual resources by clicking on links within this review. Most families will appreciate that the cost is surprisingly low for complete programs.
Among CHC resources used are Little Stories for Little Folks for phonics and reading, Language of God, Behold and See Science, and My Catholic Speller. Resources from other publishers used at a number of grade levels include the Who Am I? series for teaching religion to young children, the Faith and Life series, MCP Mathematics, Saxon Math, and history and geography books from Catholic Textbook Project. In addition to the Faith and Life series, a number of other resources are used or recommended for teaching religion—resources such as The New Catholic Picture Bible, Drawing Closer to Jesus and Mary (drawing, tracing, and coloring), Making Music Praying Twice, and “I Believe”: Living the Apostles’ Creed.
Reading skills are taught with dedicated resources at each level up through eighth grade. However, you need to use additional read aloud books with younger children and independent reading books with older children so that they become familiar with the many genres of literature.
Note: The MCP Math Mathematics series used in the primary grades lags behind most others, reflecting a scope and sequence from many years ago. The scope and sequences of most math programs are now more advanced than MCP’s. On the other hand, MCP does a good job and is very easy to use. If you have a child who is ready to work at higher levels of math, you can shift to a higher level in the MCP Mathematics series. If you have a child who is especially good at math, you might consider using something like Primary Mathematics (Singapore Math) instead.
Following is more detailed information on each level.
Daily Lesson Plans: Preschool-Kindergarten combines separate sets of lesson plans for both levels in one binder. While you can separate these sections into separate binders, other resources in the package are used for both levels.
Preschool teaches numbers 1 through 10 and introduces the letters of the alphabet and their sounds. It teaches only short-vowel sounds this year. Children learn to read and write numbers, but they work on tracing letters rather than writing them.
Monthly themes are included in the preschool level, but they are not a dominant component. A monthly planning page helps parents tune into a theme such as “I am happy when I obey.” The planning pages lists virtues and attitudes that parents will want to help develop. There’s also a coloring page for each theme.
“Celebrate the Liturgical Year” is the theme across both preschool and kindergarten programs. Thirty-two pages at the back of the book suggest a wide variety of activities such as creating a home altar, Catholic games to play, creating saint costumes, and creating Easter cards. Websites and other resources with additional ideas for celebrating the liturgical year are recommended on pages 22 and 96. CHC also recommends that use their Art Masterpieces: A Liturgical Collection to teach art appreciation from a Catholic perspective while also supporting the theme. Making Music Praying Twice can add a musical component to your lessons that can be used over a number of years, up through about third grade.
Seasonal lessons are built into the lesson plans for both liturgical celebrations and observances such as Advent, Lent, The Feast of the Annunciation, and Pentecost. You should adjust the timing of these lessons to align with the actual calendar.
You can incorporate more of a Montessori approach by using ideas from the optional book, Montessori on a Shoestring. That book shows you how to create Montessori-type learning materials at a fraction of the cost of purchasing them.
The kindergarten program teaches letter, sounds, and beginning reading, but it saves long-vowel words for next year. In math, children learn to write and count numbers up to 31. They also learn math skills such as addition, subtraction, working with coins, measurement, and telling time.
Little Folks’ Number Practice introduces numbers and numbers concepts, adding elements of the Catholic Faith. Simultaneously, this course uses MCP Mathematics K. You can easily add games and activities with CHC’s optional Catholic Math Activities ebook.
Since plenty of read-aloud time is recommended, page 94 lists some great read-alouds to get you started. Physical education suggestions are included on page 97.
Don’t miss the liturgical year activity suggestions that follow after the lesson plans.
Little Stories for Little Folks, which was used in kindergarten, continues to serve as the core phonics instruction, supplemented with beginning readers. Spelling and grammar are introduced with My Very First Catholic Speller. Catholic Heritage Handwriting 1 reinforces phonics while teaching printing. Math is taught from MCP Mathematics A. Science study begins with Behold and See 1: On the Farm. Social studies instruction begins in an unusual fashion with the optional Building Good Character: God Made Me to be Part of a Family. This book includes a chore chart and helps to develop positive behavior. It includes instruction on virtues such as courtesy, respect, and charity as well as on church manners. Even though this isn’t your typical first grade social studies content, it actually makes a great deal of sense since developing Godly character is foundational to everything else.
A few short poems to memorize are included in the Daily Lesson Plans book. I don’t see any recommendations for physical education, but space is included for you to note P.E. activities on daily lesson plans.
I recommend that you seriously consider adding the optional Art With a Purpose, Artpac 1 if you have time for it.
Second grade continues to develop reading proficiency and comprehension with CHC readers and independent reading. My Catholic Speller Level A reinforces phonics while advancing spelling skills. Language of God Level A begins more comprehensive instruction in grammar. Creative Communications is recommended, but it is not included within the lesson plans. I highly recommend that you try to add this if you can since it offers inspiring creative and practical writing opportunities that you can use whenever you like.
Social Studies shifts to more traditional content with Explore the Continents. I recommend that you add the optional Map Skills B workbook (Continental Press).
Faith and Life 2 covers many topics, but special emphasis is given to preparation to receive the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. Don’t miss the list of recommended websites for “Hands-On Ideas for Sacramental Preparation” on p. 28. Other core resources are MCP Mathematics B and Behold and See Science 2.
At the back of the Daily Lesson Plans book are a number of coloring page with different images of Our Blessed Mother.
Continuing with many of the same series used in second grade, children work on reading comprehension, phonics reinforcement, spelling, grammar and composition, math, and religion. You might want to enhance language arts by using the optional Guide to Creative Book Reports.
Science this year includes health. For social studies, children are introduced to world cultures and geography with Tour a Country. Along with reading and other activities in this 164-page book, children will create travel brochures for eight countries they “visit.” A world map is required along with this course. You might want to add Map Skills C as well.
This level introduces “Independent Study Charts” so that children can begin to take responsibility for completing their own assignments. Charts found in the appendix are relatively simple and should be quick to create since the core resources to be used are already listed within boxes on the charts. You have only to add specific pages or assignments from those resources. Children can check off as they complete each assignment. An optional chore chart form is also included in the appendix.
Increased skills in reading comprehension are developed this year with Rare Catholic Stories, The Father Brown Reader, and study guides for both books. Vocabulary and spelling are taught together in My Catholic Speller Level C. Word lists at this level are in both manuscript and cursive.
Grammar and composition are taught in Language of God, Level C. You might add the Guide to Creative Book Reports that was an optional item for third grade as well.
The key resource for social studies is Our United States of America: Catholic Social Studies text and student workbook set. You might add Map Skills D as a supplement. Don’t miss page 23 where you will find an extensive list of weblinks and resources that support and enhance study of U.S. history.
Math switches to Saxon 5/4 this year.
Behold and See 4: Human Anatomy and Health has lots of hands-on activity, including a human body project that should be great fun.
Independent Study Charts are placed before the lesson plans in Daily Lesson Plans: Fourth Grade. Don’t miss these pages since they are designed to help students become independent learners.
Fifth grade continues with most of the same series used in fourth grade. However, reading comprehension skills are developed with Reading Comprehension: Stories of the Saints, Volume I and The King of the Golden City.
History and Geography uses Catholic Textbook Project’s From Sea to Shining Sea text and teacher’s manual. Daily Lesson Plans: Fifth Grade includes a supplemental guide for From Sea to Shining Sea in the appendix. This guide includes specific ideas for crafts, dress-up, map work, food, movies, drama, online field trips, research, music, and memorization. These are linked to each week’s lessons and should be used to enhance this traditional-style textbook.
Reading biographies of the saints is promoted at this level. The guide suggests choosing one saint biography each month for your child to read. Biographies from the Vision Book Series are recommended as especially appropriate for this level. After completing each book, students should fill out one of the “Saints & Heroes” forms found in the appendix.
Sixth grade resources are very similar to those for fifth grade, although health is not included this year. Behold and See 6 covers physical science, ecology, and astronomy. There are lots of experiments to be done with this course, but they use mostly easy-to-obtain items.
The Catholic Textbook Project book for this year is All Ye Lands: Origins of World Cultures. A hands-on supplemental guide is again included in the lesson plans book.
Seventh grade continues with Language of God, My Catholic Speller Level F, Saxon Math 8/7, Faith and Life 7, and Light to the Nations Part I (Catholic Textbook Project). There is no hands-on guide for Light to the Nations.
Reading comprehension is taught with Reading Comprehension: Stories of the Saints Volume III, but activities for this book go far beyond reading comprehension questions. Student will need to do extensive writing, including five-paragraph essays. Essay-writing guidelines are included in the Daily Lesson Plans book.
For science, students will study Life Science: Catholic Heritage Edition. This challenging science course includes formal labs and optional microscope work. It also requires students to write two research papers which might earn credit for work in language arts as well as science.
While students study religion in Faith and Life, the Daily Lesson Plans: Seventh Grade includes a 60-page workbook, The Virtue Tree by Sandra Garant. This is an introspective character-building course that should help students develop more Christ-like virtues. A parent book, Growing in the Virtues of Jesus, is included among the core components, and parents are expected to interact with their students as they work through this course. Yet another resource is used for religion, “I Believe”: Living the Apostles’ Creed.
While eighth grade continues with Reading Comprehension: Stories of the Saints Volume IV for reading comprehension, Language of God Level G, Faith and Life 8, and Light to the Nations Part II, it also introduces some entirely new resources.
Saxon’s Algebra 1 is the recommended text, but students who struggled through Saxon Math 8/7 might instead use Saxon Algebra ½. For literature, students will study Secret Code of Poetry.
Science uses Conceptual Physical Science. It balances this secular text with Creator and Creation, a small book that deals with evolution and science from a Catholic perspective. (Note that this book supports theistic evolution, so some parents will find it’s explanations debatable.) Daily Lesson Plans: Eighth Grade includes “From the Catholic Perspective,” an extremely helpful science supplement with readings and assignments to help students sort through some of the controversial issues such as whether or not science and religion are enemies and the “Galileo controversy.”
Eighth graders will also complete a number of “Faith in Action” volunteer service proejcts over the course of the year. Suggestions for projects and record-keeping forms are in the lesson plan book.
The last ten weeks of the course help students to prepare for high school with the new CHC resource, High School of Your Dreams.