Curriculum We Loved and Curriculum We Hated This Year

And curriculum that’s just okay…

Over the summer, I shared our curriculum choices for our 2016/2017 homeschool year. Since we’re over halfway through our school year, I thought that now would be a good time to give you an update on how those choices fared.

The truth is, there are some resources we’ve loved this year, some that did the trick without too much excitement, and some that we…well…hated. I know that “hate” is a strong word, but anything that is going to make learning feel like a dreaded chore has earned that position, in my book.  

Since I view curriculum as a dispensible tool and not the be all and end all of my children’s education, I do not hesitate to drop anything that isn’t working, and, unfortunately, quite a few choices I made didn’t turn out to be the right fit.

You live and you learn, right?

Before I get started, though, I want you to keep in mind that just because we disliked a certain curriculum doesn’t mean it’s a bad curriculum. It simply didn’t work for our family. You might love it. On the opposite end, you might hate something that I’m going gaga over. This is one area where things really are relative.

Now that we’ve got that cleared up…

Curriculum We Loved, Curriculum We Hated, and Curriculum That’s Been “Okay”



Here’s what we are loving this year:


curriculum we loved


This is my all-time favorite unit study curriculum. There are three volumes- we finished Volume 1 and are now on Volume 2. Each volume contains enough units to easily last 2 1/2 years- about 5 years if you alternate days like we do– and is also appropriate for kids in grades K through 8th grades, although I only use it with my 9, 11, and 12 year olds. The topics are so thorough and well thought out, the book lists are suberb, and the activity suggestions are ingenious. I can’t say enough good things about this curriculum.


Life of Fred Math

This is truly the perfect math resource for kids who don’t like math or, at the very least, don’t take well to drill and kill. My kids love the literature-based aspect of it since we’re a family who loves books, and they love the fact that there aren’t loads of problems to repetitively do every. single. day. As a mom, I love that, although these are math books, they include so much information in all subject areas. Just the other day at a doctor’s appointment, the doctor used the word “syncope,” and I excitedly whispered to my husband that I knew what that word meant because it was in Life of Fred. (He rolled his eyes. Men. Sometimes they just don’t get it.)

Right now, we’ve got kids using Life of Fred:


No-Nonsense Algebra

Unlike most of my other kids, my second oldest son hates reading, so LOF simply won’t work for him. He also likes everything straight and to the point. This curriculum is the perfect fit for him. It contains straightforward, non-confusing explanations and examples, free online videos, and a small review in each day’s assignment so that none of the past concepts are forgotten as time goes on.

I’ve always enjoyed algebra, but I’ve never been able to get the hang of graphing linear equations and such.

Guess what? I get it now because this book is so easy to understand!

One thing we’ve tweaked is that I only assign half of the problems each day because my son gets stressed out easily. It works out well because if he gets it right away, we move on to the next lesson the next day. If he has trouble, we do the other half the following day, and it gives him an extra day to learn the concept. Win-win!


Living Books and Notebooking

You just can’t go wrong with this combination, and I honestly believe this is the most effective and pleasant way to learn.


Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons

Best. reading. curriculum. ever. And I’ve used a lot. After spending years using other phonics workbooks that made me feel better but did nothing to help the kids, I am so happy to have found this.


Liberty Mathematics

We’ve been using this curriculum for K, 1st, and 2nd grade math since 2009, and I’ve found it to be a great starting point for learning basic math skills. This one is a keeper.


Here’s what we ditched:

curriculum we hated


A Beka Consumer Mathematics

The reason we chose consumer math for my 17 year old this year is because we wanted her to be prepared for the “real world.” I was going to simply let her learn this through life, but when a friend gave me this book, I was ecstatic. Unfortunately, it wasn’t what we had hoped. It honestly wastes too much time on things people never do in real life, like calculating the rate of inflation- who does that?! In the end, we ditched it because we found it to be a waste of time.


Contemporary Chemistry

I was so excited to find this. I assumed that since the word “practical” was in the subheading, it would be exactly that. Unfortunately, my daughter, the “textbook queen,” thought it was boring and confusing. She finished enough for a half credit and stopped using it. Since she didn’t even have to take a science course this year because she already has enough science credits for graduation, I didn’t have a problem with that. I’m just impressed that she wanted to try it in the first place.


Physics Essentials for Dummies

Again this was a subject that wasn’t necessary, but she really wanted to try. Although she did finish the book, she found it to be dreadfully boring.


Spectrum Math

I don’t know about you, but every year when our new homeschool term starts, I’m all gung ho about doing everything perfectly. Even though I knew that Life of Fred works for our kids, in my “Back-to-School” frenzy, I picked up these books as a supplement for my 8, 9, 11, and 12 year olds.

Big mistake.

Any math workbooks that succeed at making my kids hate math, get tossed. Well, okay. In this case, my 3 year old is using them as coloring books.


Here’s what’s been “okay”:

Five in a Row

I never thought I’d call this curriculum just “okay,” but there it is. When I bought this last year, I was feeling a bit nostalgic because this was the first homeschool curriculum we ever used back in 2008, and it brought back memories. Although I do still use it with my 5, 7, and 8 year olds, after working with KONOS, I just can’t really get excited about this one anymore. There’s just no comparison. I feel terrible saying that, but it’s true. Sniff.


Adventures in Phonics

I’ve used this curriculum with several of my children, and, to be honest, it doesn’t really help them learn to read. It’s nice for writing practice, but that’s about it. I’ve continued using it for that reason but, just recently, decided to use copywork instead. I’d rather have my kids practice writing with poetry and verses than simplistic sentences.


Building Spelling Skills

There’s nothing wrong with this curriculum, but we just don’t love it. I like that it’s biblically based and incorporates copywork (at least at the younger levels), but, again, I’ve decided to use just copywork because it’s so much more natural.


Life of Fred Language Arts

If I absolutely had to use a textbook for language arts, this would be it. This simply comes back to copywork and notebooking being a more effective and natural way to learn these skills. The best way to learn to write is by writing, not doing exercises in a textbook.


Daily Grams

This is another resource that really is high quality, and it’s quick, which I like. But I’m back to the same argument I just used above. However, my oldest daughter is still using this because she likes it and doesn’t mind textbooks as much as the rest of us.


You know what I love about homeschooling? I love that we have the freedom to see what works for our kids and drop what doesn’t. Why take the fun out of learning when it’s so much easier- and better- to work with our kids, rather than against them?


This post is a part of:

what's working in our homeschool and what's not















Author: Shelly Sangrey

I'm Shelly, a Christ-following, homeschooling Mom of eleven children ( okay, not ALL children. My oldest is 23.) I met my husband right after graduation, and we've been together ever since. Though my life can be hectic at times... okay, ALL the time, I wouldn't change it for anything.

33 thoughts on “Curriculum We Loved and Curriculum We Hated This Year”

  1. Great homeschool subject! I’ve never been much of an A beka fan myself. Maybe because we started with A beka and found all the worksheets to be quite tedious and well, boring. But that’s how we discovered the beauty of unschooling and that led to eclectic homeschooling. I love your point about working with our kids and not against them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Algebra has always been difficult to teach in my house with 3 of my 4 kids. The book you use, I actually have it on my shelf for our review this summer. My son is doing 2 different Algebra 1 curriculum and I still don’t think he has a 100% proof grasp on it. I’m going to get this book off my shelf since this may be a good review help for him.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I loved Teach Your Child to Reach. I have taught it 5x and know that it works. I don’t follow the writing part very much, I use word flash cards for review and some other hands on things, but this is one program that works. Our oldest started when she was 3.5 years and completed just before she turned 4. Now I was pushing her and that I do not do anymore, but it is sound program, very easy to follow (though I wished each lesson was completely separate from the other) and requires no prep.

    I have been thinking about LOF for awhile now, but I am still very unsure. I currently use Horizons for K-4th (next year I plan to use it for 3rd grade) then Teaching Textbooks on up. Right now our Kindergartner is doing very well in Horizons Math, so I am leery of changing curriculums next year, however I know LOF might be good for our youngest who will be in K next year. If you have any more insight, things to share I would so much appreciate it.

    Konos, granted it is very early for me and I am very tired, but I do not really understand what this program is. Can you please share more. Sounds interesting but based on Amazon, I don’t know what the purpose is, what it really does.

    Thanks again!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I definitely think that if Horizons is working for you, you should stick with it. As for your kindergartner, I don’t usually use LOF until my kids are in 2nd or 3rd grade and know their basic addition and subtraction because LOF begins assuming the kids already know that. (Although you could use it as a read-aloud to start). KONOS has a website at that explains what their curriculum is in detail. I usually provide the Amazon link because it’s cheaper there. 🙂


  4. I agree wholeheartedly that curricula are tools and can be tossed if they don’t work. I see so many people grimly finish the year with something they detest, and it just isn’t necessary!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great idea to evaluate half way through. We too have ditched things that weren’t working, but I find it so difficult to do. I feel like I have spent the money… I appreciate your reminder that just because a program works for others doesn’t mean it will work for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One thing about our curriculum is that I rarely spend a lot of money, so if I have to stop using it, it doesn’t feel so bad. It also helps that in almost every case, I ended up using something completely free like copywork or the library, so I didn’t have to worry about buying a new curriculum. 🙂


  6. I really wanted to love Konos, but it didn’t work for us in our homeschool. We love Life of Fred, though! I just did a mid-year review too, and I find it so helpful in getting ready for the following year to do a sort-of “check-up” with what’s working and what’s not before I order next year’s curriculum.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for sharing what you liked and didn’t like. We love Life of Fred and doing unit studies. Curriculum is new to us this year and it’s good to know what’s working and not working for others.


  8. We’ve tried a lot of things over the years. One thing I had to learn was that something can work fine one year, or for one child, and not be as good a fit later on or for another child. It’s interesting to me to see what’s getting used up at our house, and what we keep putting off for another day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, that is so true. My three high schoolers all learn completely different from one another. I have one traditional homeschooler, one who leans towards unschooling (but I still require him to do things), and a Charlotte Mason learner. It’s so funny how different siblings can be!


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