Having a problem, and I think I'm it. Need your input on which boxed curr for my first year.

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  • hollyejt

    Hello, my name is Holly and I have ADD.  I don’t like labels, but this is just the way it is and right now I want SO badly to do CM with my 7 y/o son, but am having the hardest time wrapping my brain around what to do every day, how to plan, what to plan, goals, objectives, etc.

     I feel like for this first year, I just need something kind of spelled out for me so that I can relax, train myself in the method, and eventually break free with confidence and start planning on my own.

    My son has autism, can read independently, loves books but has difficulty with language at times.

    Many of the Living Books Ive come across in programs are older and are written in a way that, while a typical child may learn to bend their ear to it, it would initally cause my son frustration and boredom.  I plan on exposing him to these in smaller doses to start.

    So for our first year I would love something that:

    • uses a mix of modern classic and classic
    • has daily plans spelled out (the more the better)
    • Utilitzes many books with at least some pictures (the more the better)
    • If possible, has  ideas and or materials included for hands on activities, ideas for games, field trips etc
    • We are a Christian homeschool, but because of the Autism, “God” is a developing concept for him, but he is not at age level for understanding a curriculum that is super heavy on all things religious.

    So far the programs that I know of (but not necessarily know personally) are:

    • Sonlight
    • Five In A Row
    • Winter Promise
    • Living Books Curriculum
    • My Fathers World
    • Hear of Dakota
    • Tapestry of Grace
    • Simply Charlotte Mason (which I dont find very simple, or maybe it is but I’m complicating it)

    Am I missing any?  

    I would love to hear about your experience or recomendations to me about any of these programs or others that you have heard of, tried or used.  I am so open to all comments and ideas and am very grateful for your input.

    PS AZ started a scholarship acct for children w special needs that opt out of the public school system to private or homeschool so COST IS NOT AN ISSUE!  First time in my life I have been able to say that 😉


    Hello Holly,

    You listed out many that I was going to suggest. 🙂 One that you don’t have in your list that I have considerd in the past is Queen Homeschool’s Easy Packs. The only one I’ve actually used myself is FIAR. That is a wonderful curriculum and you don’t necessarily have to read all the books five times if that would be an issue for your ds. I have looked at Living Books Curriculum and would seriously consider that one if I wanted a boxed curriculum. But that is the extent of my experience with any of those. I’d be happy to answer any specific questions you may have regarding FIAR, to the best of my recollection. 🙂 I look forward to hearing from the folks that have used the various curriculums and how they used them.



    hi-  I am almost embarrassed to say that I have tried all those listed except the FIAR and winterpromise.  Of the ones you listed, I would have suggested my father’s world.  VERY simple lesson plans!!!!  Page of lesson plan is uncluttered and easy to read.  The books are simple but effective and I don’t think they have many, if any, “old english” type of books.  That might be a down side if you want some but you can EASIly add these in.  I could give you more information if you want in a personal email-i just don’t like to write a long post about other curriculums. 

    so you can email me if you would like, or i would even be willing to talk on the phone.




    I will put in a second suggestion to look at Queen’s Homeschooling supplies easy packs – I have not ever ordered the easy pack, but I have used their materials for several years and they are very simple to use and effective.

    That said – I love the idea of the winter promise curriculum, their catalog is a delight to read and if cost was no object, well 🙂


    We did “Children around the World” from Winter’s Promise and really enjoyed it. We did not end up doing everything but read all the Reader’s, very good books, don’t know if it would be too religious for him though..


    I will third using the Queen’s Homeschool Easy Packs. I also have not had to use the easy packs but have used many of their items that have been added to my other yearly choices. If I’m not mistaken the packs do not come with lesson plans but it is easy to figure out what to use and how often, I guess that is why they call it an easy pack. If you have any questions about Queens products after looking at their website please pm me and I would be happy to help you figure it all out.



    Write down your educational philosophies and goals.  I am new to this board and CM, but have used some of what you listed!

    Write down how you want to teach your child, and what is most important to you.  

    If you are looking for a CM education that will look different than most of the boxed curriculums listed.  They all truly have their own educational philosophies and goals.

    After you decide what you think is most important in teaching then go to those same curriculums and see which best lines up with what you are looking for.

    For example, Sonlight is great for living books.  They also like to introduce controversial issues and do not shy away from harsher life topics at very young ages.  Do you want both of those things?

    My Father’s World is focused on the Bible and hands on activities.  Do you like learning and doing hands on activities?  Do you agree with starting a note book in first grade?  Do you need phonics for first grade?

    Heart of Dakota focuses a lot on skill building of writing.  Do you want that built into your curriculum?  Do you want to start history with Little Hands for His Glory for Bible History or American History with Beyond?  Do you like doing devotionals for Bible?  She uses a lot of devotionals.

    Queens.  I haven’t used it personally, but I hear it is a more CM approach.  Do you want that?  It sounds like you do; it might be a good place to start for that reason alone.

    This is just to give you an idea of the questions to ask.  Take your time. September isn’t here yet.  Sorry, if I confused you.


    I’ve used FIAR for several years, both as a stand alone and supplement. I cannot find enough words to express my love for it. 🙂 It is teacher-intensive though, but it doesn’t have to become as crazy full or creative as I’ve seen some moms make it. We used MFW for K and 1st, and we tried ADV in second and sold it. I find it open-and-go but the dabbling in/reading from several books made me batty, and we’re just not that into paper crafts. I felt so disconnected with ADV. First Grade was very good but I did need the phonics aspect. LBC is very CM but also open-and-go. It is cleanly presented too and the company is so good to the core. It’s lovely and I deeply appreciate their heart for Africa. They’re spends but much of each year is non-consumable. 🙂 My most favorite for its ease and simplicity is SCM. I love that I can add to/take from/enrich as my family dictates while always keeping my children together for learning.


    Well, FIAR and Queens are not planned out for you. Sonlight can be a lot to handle, especially if you want to check off that you did everything and deal with multiple binders. Tapestry of Grace and Living Books are not planned out by day. They tell you what needs to be done for the week instead. Tapestry looks very daunting. I have been homeschooling for 6 yrs. and I will not attempt it. SCM is great. Their schedule for History/Bible/Geography is very easy to follow, but I think it is better for older kids and families with more than one. If you really want a plan/schedule I would pick My Father’s World or Heart of Dakota. These two have the simplest plans. Heart of Dakota even has math and language arts planned out. These two are very easy to follow. Winter Promise might be good also. I don’t know too much about it though. I do know that it does not focus as much on Bible as the other two. Well there is my opinion. I hope you find something that will give you confidence as you continue on this journey.


    Hi, Holly:

    I haven’t used any “boxed” curriculum materials, but we started out with traditional homeschooling for a couple of years (all-in-one K & 1st grade fat workbooks, then KONOS unit studies for a year), then we were enrolled in a public online academy for a couple of years. With the virtual school, everything was spelled out for me and we were sent all of the books/workbooks to use, but it certainly wasn’t CM and not very relaxed! So, we went back to homeschooling two years ago and began using CM methods. They work better for us, but I am still “tweaking” things as I go along regarding what we use and how we use it.

    I have an autistic son, high-functioning, and he needs extra help with reading and math. He does his best with shorter lessons and solid routine. There has been some frustration and routine is often hard to come by due to my son’s behavior difficulties and our family situation (I’m a single parent).

    Having said all of that, I just wanted to take a minute to let you know that we rely heavily on the Simply Charlotte Mason curriculum guide for several reasons. First, it really is simple. I tried to complicate it when I first used it, but I discovered that it is mostly a matter of choosing which books to use (from their suggestions and those that have been shared here) and following a lot of the recommendations regarding things like narration and copywork. We just take what’s there and adapt it to our family. For example, my son has a hand tremor and great difficulty writing, so I listen to his narrations and write some of them down myself (in a word processing document). His typing is improving, so once he can spell well enough to write down his own words, he can type his own narrations.

    If a boxed curriculum would help you implement things without a lot of frustration, I would go ahead and use whichever one seems best to you. Perhaps you could just use portions of one; for example, just using a history curriculum….or just history and some language arts. I use a lot of living books from the library, but we have used portions of TruthQuest History this year as a spine, and I’ve done the same with Considering God’s Creation for science because I just….can’t….use….only….living science books! Embarassed  You have to rely on your own comfort level, or both you and your son will experience some level of frustration.

    One other thing that has taken some time to realize is that I have to really accept what my son can do at this moment and rejoice in any and all accomplishments, both big and small. If I set a goal for him to memorize all of the addition facts from 0-9 in a year, and he only makes it as far as 3+9, then (if he has worked diligently on them) I have to rejoice that he knows all of the 0’s, 1’s, 2’s, and 3’s, and change the goal for next year. If you relax and enjoy teaching your son, then CM methods will be a joy for you no matter which curriculum you choose.


    I have only browsed the sites you are looking at and have come to the conclusion that SCM is the simplest. I know at first when I came to this site it wasn’t so simple, but I’m thankful that I kept coming back and figured out how the curriculum guide worked. That was rather frightening to me, to say the least. I opened and closed it many times. Then one day it clicked and I’ve never looked back. I guess that could happen with the other sites, too, but the cost of them really frightens me….and the grade/age overlaps that don’t seem to work for my family, but definitely could for another.

    I looked at Exploring Cultures and Countries from MFW (I think that’ what it’s called) and as much as I’d love to use it, it just doesn’t jive with the ages of my children. I guess I find SCM more flexible and definitely more affordable. But, that’s just me…I don’t have lots to spend and would rather hand-pick our curriculum/books than to have it preselected by age/grade with less flexibility.

    This comes from someone who has never used a “box” curriculum so I know my opinion doesn’t count for much, LOL.

    And I hope you find what you are looking for as I know it can be very challenging.


    I have tried to use boxed curriculums, but have found that my daughter with APD (another neurological issue) does by far the best with SCM and the flexibility they offer.

    You mentioned SCM, so I thought I would give you an idea of what to use from their guide.  It doesn’t have to be completely overwhelming if you choose to just cover a couple of things to start with.  We can’t really plan your day, but I thought seeing this as a “practical-suggestion” laid out schedule might help.  Some of your plans might include:

    Read a Bible story everyday. (5-10 minutes – M-F)

    Choose a math curriculum  (15-20 minutes – M-F)

    Choose literature book like Mr. Poppins Penguins or Trumpet of the Swan to read out loud everyday. (1 Chapter daily – M-F)

    Choose from SCM Delightful Handwriting or Hymns in Prose or something from Currclick for copywork and work on it for 5 minutes or so daily.

    Read an Aesop Fable once or twice a week and practice oral narrations.  (10-20 minutes a day – M-F)

    Get the SCM Outdoor Secrets and Companion book for Science and do the plan twice a week (M and W).

    Read different stories about American History (or whatever country you are in) this year and worry about a “big” history decision next year.  Do this twice a week or so. (15-20 minutes – T and TH)

    For Reading Fluency and Practice, get him a Thorton Burgess book to read.  They are fun, easily understood, and are an engaging way to learn about animals.  He can do this daily or mix and match through the week with other stories.  

    Get a classical music CD and listen to it for a little bit everyday for music study.  (as long as you want daily )

    Get a SCM Picture Study Portfolio and enjoy one picture per week for picture study.  (5 Minutes on Friday)

    Those are of course just an idea and you add and take out depending on your needs.  However, I found that doing “something” helped me not to worry so much as I was getting my educational philosophy and goals figured out and refined.  I am still learning (as we all are here), but the effort involved is rewarded in amazing and fulfilling ways. The more you work with your son the more confident you will be in choosing what you do in school.  The flexibility here is that you can add or tweak things for your sons abililities without the stress of “not marking every box everyday” for a boxed curriculum.

    If you choose to use the Organizer with the type of plans above, it will give you a daily list of subjects on the days you have chosen to do them, but not overwhelm you with too much information for your ADD. 

    Good luck finding what will meet your needs. =)



    Great post, Sheraz, thanks for putting down just how it worksLaughing.  And it would be roughly the same with the Queen’s materials – you know what to do each day because you just turn to the next page or exercise and do it LOL. It really is as simple as that.  I do use the organizer, but not as much to see what to do next, as to record what we did.

    We used a packaged curriculum our first year (Oak Meadow) and while it was very relaxed, it made it hard to chase those rabbit trails that mean so much to us.  So when I learned about CM/living books methods, I breathed a sigh of relief because I knew this was the way to make “school” feel natural.  And for us, it does.

    I encourage you to start a read aloud time now, in the summer, if you don’t already do that.  Find the funnest, most riveting book that your son will enjoy and read together.   Give him something to do with his hands if he has a hard time concentrating on listening – my son likes to play with legos while I read, and my daughter like to color or draw.  They both like to do modeling clay as well. You will be comfortable with this routine when it is time to “start” school. Don’t worry with narration, except if you two feel like discussing the story.  Just get comfortable with reading together and establish it as enjoyable.  My kids built up a tolerance for more complex and old fashioned books over time, and now they are enjoying Howard Pyle’s King Arthur (which is hard for me to read sometimes, I have to read ahead and try to figure out what the sentences mean, a lot of whitherso’s and thusly’s) and last year we read a very old living book about math history (?!) which they loved LOL.  We read A LOT – in the summer, every night without fail we have a novel going and most days we read King Arthur. We read more during school time.

    The reading is the core of CM – if you get comfortable with it, you will feel more confident about choosing a curriculum, I think.


    Thanks for all the replies to this post- it is helping ME with my decision as well. I am leaning towards using SCM or My Father’s World. (Boxed really is appealing when you are just starting out, but I like the flexibility of SCM…)

    I appreciate you all taking your time to input. 🙂


    You ladies are amazing! I love reading your feedback and the specifics of what you like, don’t like and why.  I am humbled by the time you took to respond and will be pm’ing a few of you with some more questions (I hope you dont mind;) 

    I am trying to figure out the Queens Homeschooling easy packs, but I just see how to order, not really a sample of whats inside. And they are East Coast time and I keep missing calling them while they are open, but it looks interesting.

    I like (love) the idea of SCM and being able to choose each book, but I will have to start out slow and ask for help from one of you who really finds it simple to see what I’m doing wrong.


    I love the idea of writing down educational goals and philosophy. Hard to draw out a path to take without a destination. And I love the idea of giving him something to do with his hands or some kind of movement while listening or doing other activities.  That always helps me to focus too.

    Now I feel like I have more to go on, and may order more than one just to get my hands on it and see how it all fits together for us and then sell it (or return) if its not a fit at all.  I’ll let you know how it goes and keep you posted.

    Thank you ladies, so very much. Cant wait to get started!

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