I was recently asked to recommend some curriculum that I have liked to use with my children. There is SO much great homeschooling material available today, that it can be very overwhelming to know what to choose, especially if you are just starting out.
I have to admit that it has a lot to do with your homeschooling approach as well. There are many people that feel more comfortable with the traditional textbook approach. I have personally never favored this approach, although I realize that it works just fine for many families. I use a more Charlotte Mason approach with my children, incorporating living books. So instead of reading about a character in history in a textbook and aswering a few questions about him or her, we read a biography or autobiography about that person, which brings that character to life and explains in more detail the character's time period etc. Children (and adults!) are more likely to remember details from a story well told, than from an often dry and dull textbook that is merely recording a few facts.
The following are some of the curriculum choices we have used that have worked especially well for a large family, although they would work fine even if you have a few children you are schooling...
Spelling: Spelling Power: this is a more expensive book, but it covers all the grades, so it is the only spelling book you will have to purchase. I keep sticky tabs where all the children are. One thing I really like about it is that words are continually re-tested over the different levels. Most curriculums test words one time only...
Handwriting: we use Handwriting Without Tears for our boys and Getty Dubay for our girls. I think the Getty Dubay, which is italic handwriting, is beautiful for girls, but I certainly don't expect my boys to write in italic!
Grammar: we use Easy Grammar starting in about second grade or so. This program has worked great for my children. They do one page a day, and it uses a lot of repitition to enforce grammar rules. It truly is "easy" to do, and very teacher friendly with no preparation needed. (I have not found it necessary to purchase teacher manuals either, which saves money).
Phonics: Explode the Code is by far our favorite phonics program. All of my children have loved these easy and fun workbooks. They have silly black and white sketches that really engage children. Some children will need more phonics help to go along with these workbooks, but it is a great starting tool.
Math: Teaching Textbooks has been a life saver for me as a homeschooling mom. Before we started doing TT, I was always behind grading everyone's math. And to be honest, I didn't enjoy having to grade all those pages everyday! Teaching Textbooks is a math program done on the computer. The younger grades are interactive- your child enters his/her answer and the computer tells him or her whether they got it correct. They have 2 tries to get the correct answer and can choose a hint if they need a little extra assistance. If they get the answer correct, there is a little character (they can choose one of many) that cheers them on! Each new lesson starts with a lecture explaining the concept in detail. It is rare that I get called into the room to have to re-explain something! Right now, TT starts with Math 3 and I have found that it can easily be done by a second grader. We use Horizon math workbooks for Kindergarten and first grade. My highschool students have done well with the higher math versions, and alas, I don't have to teach Algebra anymore! :)
Latin: We really like Prima Latina, an introduction to Christian Latin, which is followed by Latina Christiana. Although you can purchase just the recording CD for pronunciation, I highly recommend investing in the DVDs. I think it helps children to focus when they are actually are looking at a teacher. We watch the DVD lecture on Monday, do a workbook page on both Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by watching the same lecture again on Thursday, with some review each day. Again, very teacher friendly with no Latin experience needed to teach...
Other languages: We have used Rosetta Stone for both Spanish and Dutch instruction. Rosetta Stone is very interactive, is computer based with beautiful pictures, but is very pricey. Although I believe it does a great job teaching everyday vocabulary, I think that if you really want to speak the language well, you will need to add to this program.
Science: We really like the Apologia science series. It uses a Charlotte Mason approach with lots of notebooking activities for the younger grades. I have found that even the elementary grade books are packed with information that is meaty enough for older students- I'm learning a lot! The experiments are fairly easy to do using things that are easy to find or otherwise can be ordered ahead.
Unit Study/History & Geography: Over the years we have used Story of the World books (by Susan Wise Bauer) and Activity Book, which can easily be worked into more of a unit study going at your own pace. We also have used Diana Waring's History Revealed (Answers In Genesis) series with great success. This curriculum has sections for all different age groups and also incorporates ideas to meet different learning styles. We are currently using Galloping The Globe (Geography Matters) as a unit study of the continents/countries of the world. Although it is geared for K through 4th grade, I am tailoring it to include a 7th grader as well without difficulty. (More posts on this unit study to come!)
Although we have used many other books and curriculum over the years, these have been our favorites and have worked well for teaching many children at once.