First, determine what kind of learning style your child/children have. In a perfect world, all of your children will learn exactly the same way and they will be exceptionally bright students who NEVER squirm or sass...Sorry, I started to daydream a little! Back to learning styles...is your child a lover of books who retains everything she reads, but hates to write it all down? Does your son LOVE to write in workbooks and work at his own pace? How about "hands-on" learning? A mixture of all three?
Secondly, if there are multiple children, decide which subjects you are willing to teach as a group lesson. This is not as hard as you might think! For our family, science, history and geography are taught together. There are plenty of options for teaching multiple age groups and it can be quite fun! This is where the "extras" come in, like experiments, field trips, art and even cooking foods from a country that was just studied! (Daddy likes this one!)
Lastly, decide how much time you want spend preparing lessons. I enjoy coming up with a plan, but don't necessarily want or have the time to do that every week! How much time are you willing to put into weekly lesson plans?
Here's what we are using this year. Since we have been doing this for 16 years, we've had time to build up a nice selection. What didn't work for daughter #1, may have worked for daughter #4, so we have hung onto the "mistakes" in the hopes that one of our 9 kids would have a need for them!
Math: Teaching Textbooks (Pre-Algebra, Math 6, Math 7)
Abeka 2nd grade Arithmetic
Spelling: Christian Liberty Press
Vocabulary: Wordly Wise 3000
Grammar: Easy Grammar Plus
Language: Language Lessons for ...
Writing: English & Writing
Science: Apologia General Science & Zoology 1
History/Bible: Sonlight Core 6, and 1&2
Geography: World History
Music, PE, Home Ec.: An old piano, free drumset, music books, 14 acres on a farm, sewing machine with supplies, cooking with Mom, daily chores and plenty of free time round out our curriculum!
We spend about $500/year. In the beginning, it was closer to $1000, but since we didn't have to buy each child a new wardrobe every fall, we decided to allot that amount to books, binders, art and science supplies, and other miscellaneous items. Over the years, some curriculum worked while others fell by the wayside. (Actually, they "fell" into a couple of large trunks to be saved for "next year"!) Teaching styles also changed, going from a classroom style to a more laid back style and worries about learning "gaps" were proven to be a waste of time! (Not to mention, worrying takes a tremendous amount of energy!)
When we decided to use Sonlight, I knew that we would need to make it more affordable for our family. Once we decided which "core" to go with, I printed off the book list and did a search on our local library's website for each book. If it was available at the library, I would mark the title with an "L", if we already owned the book, (after 16 years, we were bound to have some of them!), I would mark the title with a *. Any books that we needed to purchase, I circled, then ordered! We saved approximately $100 off of our bill by doing this, however, I have to be diligent in making sure that the library book is here when we need it to be!
We DO NOT do every subject, every single day. School should not feel like a punishment, but rather, encourage our children to seek wisdom on their own. There is nothing more rewarding than watching a child discover and learn without being asked! They are naturally inquisitive with a desire to explore and imagine. As parents, we just need to facilitate that time. Time, that is moving much too quickly.