Homeschool Complete publishes complete grade-level courses for kindergarten through fifth grade. Eventually, there will also be a course for grade six. Homeschool Complete also publishes Reading Complete: Levels A, B, C, D, and E (already included within the complete grade-level courses) plus individual unit studies. I have reviewed courses for kindergarten through second grade plus part of fifth grade.
Homeschool Complete courses are written by Debra Arbuthnot, a credentialed teacher with many years of classroom teaching experience as well as homeschooling experience. These courses take advantage of homeschoolers’ ability to interact closely with their children by including lots of discussion and hands-on activities. Yet they retain much of the structure of a classroom experience.
Homeschool Complete grade-level programs are comprehensive and thorough. All levels cover language arts, mathematics, social studies, science, physical development, fitness, fine arts, character development, and Bible. As you would expect, the emphasis shifts in different subject areas with Kindergarten Complete laying the groundwork with extensive instruction in reading and phonics.
The approach is an eclectic mixture of traditional, real-books, and multi-sensory learning approaches. While this is a Christian program with a Bible verse for each unit, Bible stories and other explicitly Christian content appear sporadically. For example, in Kindergarten Complete, the story of Joshua and the Battle of Jericho is used in Lesson 17 of the unit on shapes and patterns. (In case you are wondering about the connection, the comprehension questions include two about 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 kindergarten units. In Kindergarten Complete, units on Christmas, Easter, and Creation are thoroughly based on Christian content, but the other grade-level programs have less Christian content, and it appears more sporadically.
The program for each grade level is divided into two semesters. Each semester has its own three-ring binder teacher’s manual that includes one set of student workbook pages. Each week is a unit with its own theme, and within each unit are four lessons to be completed over four days, allowing a flexible fifth day.
While this is a complete program, you will need to obtain a number of children’s storybooks and classic literary works to use with every unit. Booklists are divided between required books and the optional extras that all relate to themes used for each unit. In Kindergarten Complete, 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. Topics range just as widely in the other grade levels. For example, some of the thematic topics in First Grade Complete are Manners, Animals, Graphing, Benjamin Franklin, and Weather, while Second Grade Complete themes include Johnny Appleseed, Colonies, Endangered Species, Eyes, Magnets, and Missionaries.
The courses gradually shift toward spending more time on social studies and science. For third grade through fifth grade, social studies remains a broad subject area that might cover topics that fall under citizenship and economics, although a lot of attention is given to American history. Science at every level touches on many different topics, and the number of topics expands significantly for grades four and five.
Teacher’s manuals for kindergarten through second grade suggest two and a half to three hours of class time per day. Oher levels will almost certyainly take three hours or more per day. Daily lesson plans have parents teach many subjects each day using a combination of direct instruction, discussion, worksheets, hands-on activities, read-aloud books, and independent work. In many ways, lessons seem very much like those children would experience in a high-quality, Christian, classroom setting. Lessons are laid out in order so that parents just follow through the teacher's manual in a step-by-step fashion. At first, lesson plans include suggested dialogue for the parent to show how lessons should be presented. While all lessons include lists of everything that needs to be done, scripting is only included when it might be helpful.
Daily lessons for kindergarten through second grade 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. Since this repeats every day, lesson plans generally say, "Continue routine activities," adding notes only about read-aloud books or anything that varies from the routine.
Math is taught with interactive activities that often include flashcards up through fourth grade. Four to seven sets of flashcards come with the Complete Full Year Bundle for each grade up through third grade. Fourth grade drops down to two sets of math flashcards. Occasionally, math manipulatives you can find around the house might be used (e.g., blocks, crackers, marbles), but math manipulatives are sometimes included in the complete bundles. For example, the first- and second-grade complete bundles include place value charts and Base Ten manipulatives. Fifth graders still have some hands-on math activities using resources such as Cuisenaire® Rods, pattern blocks, dice, and games.
For language arts up through second grade, 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. Note that some hands-on resources—items like spelling squares, word-bingo games, and memory games—are included in the grade-level bundles.
Grammar and composition are taught each year at increasing levels of difficulty. Sentence diagramming is introduced in fourth grade.
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 for kindergarten 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.
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. The attractively-designed worksheets are typical of what you find in other workbooks. Some worksheets require writing or coloring while others are for cut-and-paste activities. You are given permission to copy the worksheets and other consumable pages for an additional student in your family. If you don’t want to photocopy pages, you can purchase a stand-alone student workbook. Note that there are two separate loose-leaf student workbooks for each year, one for each semester.
Lesson preparation and presentation time is required. You’ll need to gather books and activity resources in advance since there are quite a few of them. Lists of required books and resources are included with each lesson 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, scrap material, Goldfish crackers, cooking ingredients (for a few recipes), pebbles, sand, and plastic animals.
You can purchase each grade level of Homeschool Complete one semester at a time or both semesters together. You can also choose either a Complete Full Year Bundle or a Complete Deluxe Bundle for each grade level. Complete Full Year Bundles include the teacher's manuals, student workbook pages for both semesters, and sets of flashcards, plus other items such as those I've mentioned above. Complete Deluxe Bundles add a spiral-bound planner plus extra flashcards and at least one more game. The fourth-grade bundle includes a microscope plus many of the items already listed. The fifth-grade bundle includes math manipulatives, a protractor, a ruler, math games, science flashcards, a magnet set, an eyedropper, and test tubes.
Most programs of this sort have multiple teacher's guides and student books for each subject, and it can be very cumbersome to juggle all of the resources. Homeschool Complete courses 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.