Homeschooling the Bigs – 2013/14 School Year Curriculum - Bigs

My bigs are 12 and 15.  While most of their subjects are independent, we do have some corporate subjects that they enjoy working together on.  The two of them have always been very close, so the idea of a jr. high and high school student working together seems very natural here.

We also leave plenty of time for them to pursue their own interests.  My oldest son is working on writing an AirSoft guide as well as working part-time at a shooting lodge.  My daughter is teaching herself guitar, and spends a lot of time taking photos and writing stories and songs.  It is important to us that we avoid cramming their day so full that they are unable to spend focused time and energy on things they enjoy.  (To learn more about how we see view the “Homeschooling Extras”, click HERE.)

So, all that said, here are the actual subjects our Bigs are doing.
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First up, our 12 year old daughter:


She is in 7th grade, and is currently brushing up on her fractions and decimals in math using Khan Academy.  I’ll explain more about that in the section on our son’s curriculum.

She is our highly creative child, who at times baffles me (except for the fact that she is VERY much LIKE me!)  She is currently taking piano lessons and decided a few months ago to teach herself guitar.  After a failed attempt using one online program, we found another from a Christian artist that has proved to be amazing!  Aaron’s Guitar Lessons is the name of the site, and we are very impressed with the results.  She is needing to get a bigger guitar, so we’ll be looking into that soon. (She also wants a ukelele…and drums!)

After taking a break from English, we decided to hit it hard this year with English 6 from Rod & Staff.  She really hates this kind of work, but we know the discipline of learning sentence structure will only make her writing even better.

English 6

She is also learning Spanish through Rosetta Stone and French via  (Here is my review of iTalki – we are INCREDIBLY impressed with the results!)  The gist of iTalki is that you have a teacher who meets with you via Skype for paid lessons.  It has been worth every penny we’ve spent.  Meg is very gifted in languages and has taught herself sign language and some Hindi.  The reason she is pursuing French is because she wants to go to Haiti.  I am hoping to help her find some more opportunities to speak (and sign) with others the languages she is learning.

And now for our 15 year old son:


He’s a sophomore this year, and is seriously motivated to have high school knocked out in 2 years.

For math, he is doing Khan Academy.  We are having him work through all the Algebra and the Geometry.  He has already finished Algebra I, so he only has 2 credits left for high school work.  He is also going to do Saxon Geometry in addition to Khan.    (Khan Academy is a free online math program that is just the kind of outside-the-box thinking education needs.  I feel like my children are actually UNDERSTANDING math, something I never could wrap my brain around.)


He will finish up a Spanish credit in December using Rosetta Stone.  Our state does not require a foreign language credit, but we feel it is important to have a grasp of another language.

He is doing Apologia Biology with Lab.  He is very excited about the Lab part of this!


Besides the writing done in Tapestry of Grace, he is also doing Rod & Staff English 8.  That particular program is very solid when it comes to Composition and Grammar.  Once he has worked through 8, 9, & 10, I feel confident he will have his English I-IV knocked out.

English 8

 I want to mention here that Blake is using Tapestry of Grace and a yearly program called TeenPact to gain a Government credit for high school as well.  If you have never looked into TeenPact, you should!  It is an incredible Christian program designed to give your student valuable knowledge about the inner workings of government and how they can be involved in that process.  They also offer a public speaking class.  It is one intense week for your student, but the knowledge they gain will carry with them for a lifetime.

Now for the corporate stuff.  These are the subjects my Bigs (and sometimes the other children) share.

First off, is one I’ve already mentioned in this post – Tapestry of Grace is the History & Literature curriculum we are using.  No matter how far I stray away from Tapestry, I always end up back there.  It is so complete and so well done.  We have learned so much (yes, mom included!) using it that I am willing to pay the price.  We are currently in Year 2, but will be moving to Year 3 around the first of the year.

Our Bible time is simply reading from the Bible and discussing.  This has been so fruitful, and such great discussions have come from it.

We are also doing Missions this year.  We are reading from missionary books, notebooking about the people and places we are reading about, and setting aside money and prayer for their efforts.

Speaking of notebooking, most of our notebooking work is coming from  They are having a great sale on Lifetime Memberships (which I own)!  From now until August 15, you can get $15 off a membership.  With it comes access to all the pages on site and all that will be added in the future as well as a notebooking page generator you can use to make your own pages.  I just used it the other day to create a page for Of Plymouth Plantation.  Don’t miss this sale!  (If you would like to see how we do notebooking as a large family, click HERE!)

Be sure to check out my
Homeschooling Mother page
here on Raising Arrows!

Read more curriculum posts by clicking on the links below:

Teach Them Diligently Curriculum Choices

36 Comments on Homeschooling the Bigs – 2013/14 School Year

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36 thoughts on “Homeschooling the Bigs – 2013/14 School Year

    • Sounds like we are in the same spot with homeschool ages, except the for the fact that I’ve already taken that leap into the “older waters.” It’s not so bad. You will be blessed!

  1. Amy- I don’t know you, but I know a mutual friend and my daughter has met you. The mutual friend is Char G. You met my 11 year old daughter who is good friends with Char’s oldest daughter…
    My four oldest children have taken sign language and I know my 11 year old would LOVE to Skype practice with your daughter if you’d allow. It would be good for my daughter to keep her skills up too. You can email me or contact Char and she can get you in contact with me ( so you know I’m not some weirdo) lol.

    We also know of a few neat sign language related field trips we could share with you, if desired.

    Thanks for all your encouraging posts!
    Valerie H.

    • Oh Valerie! That would be wonderful! Send me an email at amy at raising arrows dot net and let’s see what we can set up!

  2. Hello Amy! I have a question. The sign language your daughter taught herself ~ was it just through books or a certain website? Thanks!

      • I posted a message on your FB page ~ but, will also put it here ~
        Hello ~
        If your daughter does have any favorites websites for the sign language I would really appreciate knowing! We have a little boy in our church who speaks in sign language and a lot of of who are interested in learning! I approached our local library, but, she’s not having any luck with finding someone to teach! Thanks Amy! Sorry to bother you!!

  3. Amy, I’d love to hear more about how you’re helping Blake finish HS in 2 years. I’ve heard about that before, but don’t really know how it’s done. :)

    • We let Blake start early (jr. high age) on things that he could like History and Math and Science. It’s not necessarily about “cramming” but more about covering the requirements. A child who is motivated is super efficient!

  4. I have found a wonderful online resource for Apologia Biology. They have live and recorded classes with labs. It is free and just wonderful. They also offer other free classes some live (but I think most are filled for this year) and some that are recorded.

  5. Hi Amy,

    I’m wondering about your kids’ English curriculum. When I click in the links you provided, it seems as if they are one or two grades behind their actual grades in English. Am I reading incorrectly? I think language skills are vital to success in any career, so I want to make sure my kids are keeping up with or ahead of their peers. Any clarification you can provide is greatly appreciated!

    • Yes, you are reading correctly. Rod & Staff is very thorough. After looking through it, I feel confident it covers what is needed in the 8,9,10 books (they do not have any past that). They also write papers for Tapestry of Grace, so while it might look like they are “behind”, if you look at what is covered in each text, it is beyond sufficient. Graded materials are not as important to me as content.

      • Thought I would chime in here on the Rod and Staff question since I have used it for more than 20 years. Rod and Staff is very thorough. It has just been in the last year or two that they added the 9th/10th grade level. My oldest children (oldest is almost 27) finished R & S through 8th grade level and I believe they had a better understanding of English Grammar than most college students. My students started with R & S Phonics and English and did every year, but if you pick it up in middle school, I recommend starting with the 5th or 6th grade level.

  6. I think it’s great that your oldest is participating in Teen Pact! We need more young people to get involved and educated like that! We’ve had several of our AGC ( students go to Teen Pact after participating in AGC. One of the young men who went this year told me that he was headed to the national Teen Pact convention too!!

  7. I’m super blessed that you are so open with your curriculum! I have a 1st grader, preschooler and 2yr old this year. I am only a couple years into this but I already see my deep and desperate need for the Lord and for community. Thank you for being real and available!

  8. We’ve been visiting Khan Academy for with help in long division. The boys and I have tried a few books in our attempt to learn guitar, so I’m excited to check out Aaron’s Guitar Lesson’s.

  9. I think it’s fantastic to finish high school in 2 years but in our state (TN), although not highly regulated, has so many high school credits and classes required that it would be impossible. Our umbrella school observes all those requirements as well and then some. I graduated my oldest daughter last year and have a sophomore this year (and a 1st grader). I will throw a word of caution out about Rosetta Stone…it is not recognized by all schools as a true foreign language credit. It has no grammar/sentence structure/conjugating verbs, etc text to it, it is wonderful as an immmersion language (ie, moving to a different country or missionary work) but not as an actual study. I also asked if we could use sign language as a foreign language and was told no because it is JUST now (and not everywhere) being recognized as a “foreign language” by colleges. Which works ok, as long as the child doing it doesn’t go to college. My 10th grader wants to be a nurse so we are toeing the line on requirements (colleges require 2 years of the same language). I wish I lived in a state that had ZERO requirements and more independence but I don’t see that ever happening.

    • We live in a fairly unregulated state. Blake had taken Latin, but we found out it doesn’t count as a foreign language (I’m still putting it on the transcript though!). Honestly, Rosetta Stone is just as in-depth as my Spanish I class, but I am not nearly as impressed with it as I am iTalki. And as far as graduating early, Blake was able to get some of his high school credits out of the way in 8th grade. I did the same when I was in public school high school. In fact, I graduated high school with 24 college credits. We are hoping Blake can get some college in as well. And yes, zero requirements would be lovely. 😉

  10. Thanks for sharing your choices and schedule! I’ve been visiting a few of these on the blog hop…I just came back to blogging this week after taking a break for several years. I also wanted to see what others are doing since this will be our first year doing high school! My husband is out of work this year so we will be doing mostly Easy Peasy…but I’m pretty excited about it. We’re also going to try Teaching Textbooks Algebra 1 that a friend is lending me.
    Anyway, feel free to stop by at my new blog…
    God bless,

  11. I am new to learning about Khan Academy…I know that some students use the videos for extra help. Can students use it as a stand alone curriculum, or just to supplement? We use Christian Light math, and I really do like it, but I feel like there might be a less time consuming way (and I cross problems off each day). I have a 4th and 2nd grader…thanks!

    • A year ago, I would have said YES. Today, I can’t say that. They changed the set up of the site a while back and it is not as user-friendly as a standalone curriculum anymore. You can still use it, but you have to be very proactive about what you want to require of your children. If they get one wrong, it sets them back. They could have mastered a skill and the program brings it up again and if they miss one or ask for a hint, it will mark that they no longer have that skill mastered. And I would not use it for a child younger than jr. high except as additional help. It would be too difficult to work through.

  12. Good Morning, Amy!
    Thank you so much for all of the info and encouragement in your blog entries. I have come back to this one more than once because I am now homeschooling a “big.” Question? Our daughter Mia is just turning 14 this month and wants to take Biology. Did you use the text for your son? I am asking because they have a new CD-Rom version of Apologia Biology as well. I am wondering if you/your son liked Apologia and am anxious to know if Apologia is pretty difficult as opposed to other Biology choices out there. We are considering AOP Biology through SOS as well, but I keep getting rave reviews on Apologia :) Thank you in advance if you have a second to answer!! Hope your day is blessed big ~Julie

    • We are using the text only. He has learned a lot! We are big Apologia fans, so in my opinion, you really can’t go wrong with any of their products. :)