I love homeschooling on good days, and I wish for a bus to come to my corner to take my little ones to school on bad days. Yet I find that with good curriculum that fits my kids we have more good days than bad.
I have tried a plethora of curricula. I was a school teacher before beginning this journey. I choose to home school mainly for religious reasons. So I knew I needed to choose curricula that would match our beliefs. I started out trying to be frugal and make everything. WHAT A HEADACHE!
I spent more time prepping than teaching and I found I was always stressed. You remember that old saying, don't reinvent the wheel. It's true. If there is something great out there, use it!
Here's what we use. I started out with SWR (Spelling Road to Writing and Reading) to teach the phonograms. What I love about this is that you do teach all the phonograms rather quickly and through spelling your student learns to read, and learns to spell accurately. What I found this particular program was lacking...activities (and claiming that y doesn't make the e sound.)
My son at the age of 4 mastered all the phonograms from this program. My daughter at 6 and 7 was spelling and working above grade level with this program. So I think it's really good. However to fill the gap and reinforce it we moved to another curricula. I still use SWR for some spelling for my 2nd grade daughter as well as . I love the All About Spelling program. It teaches the rules and practices those rules. It also dictates words, phrases and sentences for your student to write. It's easy to progress through it and it's put together seamlessly, no gaps, and easy to follow.
I can not tell you enough how much I love this program. I got it for my then 4 year old son and started the level 1 as he knew his phonograms from SWR. It is laid out so easy. It has activities and readers and progress charts. Though he knew his phonograms, it teaches them, explains, reinforces and helps cement them in the child's mind. He LOVES this program. He is now 5 and in level 2. He reads fluently and begs for the activities it provides. He loves the little readers and laughs at the stories. It's the best money I've ever spent! It also shows that y can stand in for i or e and thus make either sound. I feel this is more accurate for the way we talk and spell. I pull out things from his lesson and teach them to my older daughter, as some of the rules, and syllable types she never learned. This also is the best grab and go lesson I've EVER seen. You can literally pick it up and do a lesson with out any prep and it truly provides them with no gaps, unlike many curricula I've looked at.
For math we started with things I made, then we moved to Singapore and now we use Christian Light. I love it because it has Light Units, or small booklets so that you complete about 1 a month. I love that each day it has review, new material, speed drills and written and verbal story problem. It teaches all the standards and yet keeps it interesting. The pages include facts about people groups, or plants or animals. It comes from a Biblical worldview, so story problems may include Christian themes like missionaries or God. It come complete with flash cards for reviewing and tells you which flash cards to use when. It is very user friendly. Each day there is a speed drill and then the student graphs the number they got right on the speed drill. It is helpful to see their own progress. It's also fairly inexpensive compared to other curricula.
For Science we love Apologia. We started with flying creatures and this year we are on swimming creatures. It teaches the basics of making hypothesis and how to do experiments. It explains classifications and scientific terms. It is written in an easy to follow way and has great pictures. It follows Charolette Mason style in that it comes with a journaling notebook that the student completes as they go through each chapter. They create mini books to glue into the journal. Everything is provided for you and has clear instructions. This again comes from a Christian worldview. We have learned so much and we all LOVE science time.
For history we use The Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer. It's very easy, in story format. The teacher's guide comes with journal type activities. It includes Biblical stories like Abraham and others in it and puts things in an orderly manner so that you can get a proper time line in your mind. It's easy for a first or second grader to follow as it's in a story format and each section is fairly short. It also includes map work and multiple activities in the teacher's manual. We have also used History Pockets, which I really like. They are in depth and take time to create, but they are a fun, hands on, memorable way of learning.
These are the main curricula we use and I feel strongly that they are very good and very reasonably priced. I hope this is helpful if you're on a hunt for good curricula.