Friday, August 19, 2011

Curriculum? No Sweat!

“What curriculum do you use?” 

That is the number one question that homeschoolers ask when they first meet, after “Hi, what’s your name?” and “Which of these wild hooligans are yours?”  The third rail of American homeschooling is the number one question every homeschooler wants answered.    If answered carefully, everything will be fine.  Fumble the answer and you might find yourself in an academic mosh pit. Homeschoolers identify themselves by three main categories: secular versus religious, method of instruction (i.e. classroom model, Charlotte Mason, classical, eclectic, unschooler, etc.), and curriculum source.   I don’t get myself wrapped around the axel over those identities.   In fact, I am so unconcerned that I allowed another homeschooler to pick our math curriculum this year.  Now, how cool is that?!

This year was the first year that The Boss and I struggled over our curriculum choices.  Well, at least The Boss did.  Math is her department. She has the math degree.  She’s the person who teaches upper level math in our house.  I trust her judgment.    We have an unspoken agreement.  I don’t question her about math.  She doesn’t question me about Shakespeare, either the Riverside or Pelican editions (of which I own both).  I supported her efforts while she diligently researched geometry curriculum for General Mayhem by keeping the volume muted while I channel surfed.   The Boss narrowed our choices to Jacobs geometry and the new Saxon math geometry book.  With reasons to like and dislike each one, we withheld judgment until we could place our hands on an actual copy of Jacobs Geometry (we had already viewed the Saxon book), something we were unable to do while visiting two homeschooling conventions this year.     

Enter the world’s greatest blogging partner. 

With half an hour remaining at the Schaumberg Homeschooling Convention, we sat down across a table from Linda, our stalwart Alpha  Omega sales rep, blogging partner, and new friend, convinced her to stop surfing Twitter, and asked her to talk to us about Alpha Omega’s geometry curriculum.   Ten minutes later I heard words that I never thought would escape from The Boss.  Flipping through a LIFEPAC geometry book, the woman who once gleefully announced to a crowded convention hall the reason why she hated LIFEPAC materials actually said, “This isn’t bad.  Not bad at all.  I kinda like this.”  When she discovered that the box set of LIFEPAC geometry only cost $62.95, half the cost of Saxon’s $116.00 geometry set and a third of the cost of Jacobs $178.85 curriculum set, we knew we had a strong contender.  We decided to return home, make a decision the following week, and purchase our choice.  I knew we were leaning strongly towards LIFEPAC.  Our only concern was whether or not we could get Alpha Omega to give Linda credit for the sale if we called the order in a few days later. 
Thirty minutes after we sat down the convention ended.  We started helping Linda pack up her display, something we had decided to do in advance.  The only thing standing between us and fine dining at a Portillo’s Hot Dog Stand was this task.   Shortly before we finished, Linda made a phone call and then informed us that Alpha Omega was shipping us a complete LIFEPAC geometry set.  Gratis.  Either we were really entertaining company, or she genuinely appreciated our help with the breakdown.  Or she was hungry.  But that’s exactly how we let another homeschooler pick our geometry curriculum for this year. 

Both Linda’s and Alpha Omega’s generosity still has my wife and I at a loss for words.   We are grateful for this blessing and we thank you both for sending it our way.   I will be reviewing this curriculum set during this school year.   At first glance we see that the material is competitively priced while offering math instruction that appeals to a mathematician who wants clear, straightforward, rigorous math instruction without tricks, gimmicks, and flashy graphics.  I knew Linda’s choice was good when I showed it to the General.  “That’s twice as big as the set I used last year!” he complained.   When you’re 14, the weight of your curriculum means far more than the content.  It must be good.

Now, how cool is that?!


  1. First, you do realize that you just announced to the entire world, including the people I work for, that I surf Twitter while I'm supposed to be working, right?!?! :-)

    Second, your help was MUCH appreciated! That was one of my fasted tear-downs EVER! You and the Boss know how to pack some mean boxes!

    And finally, I will not rest easy until I hear The Boss' review at the END of the school year. It's always possible that she'll go back to her former mantra ("Now I know why I hate this curriculum") concerning her opinion of LIFEPACs.

    Oh and one more thing.

    "Math is her department. She has the math degree. She’s the person who teaches upper level math in our house."

    Like I said in a past post, you married up. She's smart. Really smart.

    Can't wait to read the reviews.

  2. Well Linda, we've had the books for almost an entire day and we haven't lost one yet! So far we're doing better than I expected!

  3. I'll be anxious to hear how it goes. We'll be doing Saxon again this year because it was free to me. I'm with the Boss, I never liked Lifepacs. I may change my mind when I hear the reviews!

    And of course, TL does the same thing. "Why do the books have to be so big?"

  4. Yes, his books are big this year! All books total, they're a full 2.5 inches thicker than last years!

    (That one's for you, Linda!)

  5. I can't wait to hear the reviews. We are finishing Jacobs Algebra and have to decide what to do about Geometry. I like that price you quoted. That's only one week of working as a cashier instead of three.

  6. We liked their first grade math, colorful and good pace. :)
    Knowing your political views, though, I'd steer clear of their SOS courses and the Lifepac we used last year for 5th grade health was irritating (both go down the global warming/save the earth/etc road, sometimes in odd places). They say they are fixing it, but I got tired of calling them to point out yet another mistake, etc. I really wanted the computer courses to work, to remove MOM from the equasion for my son's sake and sanity for both of us. Really disappointing, but my expections were very high.

    Life of Fred is our new curriculum for math, and I think we LOVE it! Would love to hear what The Boss thinks if she's looked at it. (we finished Singapore and tried Videotext)

  7. LOL! What a great deal! I know when I got to geometry with Marina I sampled so many books and programs my head was spinning. We were able to look at Jacobs' Geometry since our library had a copy. Now, since we unschool, I just try to find things that I can use to reteach geometry to myself. Usually if they see me enjoying a subject, they want in on it. ;o)

    Enjoy your curriculum!

    Peace and Laughter!

  8. So, I know this is the wrong post and all, but I have a topic for both of you to write about in your He Said/She Said post.

    Since you've both got a number of years of homeschooling under your belt, Arby is starting his 8th year and Linda's starting her *phlwash* th year, I'd like to know what you've significantly changed from the first year (or two) to now. For example, if an unnamed HS dad never wrote out lesson plans or organized early on but now finds himself writing out entire years and organizing history lessons to coincide with certain times of the year, that would be a significant change. I'm curious...

    I'm not a good person to give topic ideas, just because I think I know one side of it already. But I'd like to hear on this topic from you guys. Who knows, maybe what I think he does isn't actually what he does at all!