English. I can't help it, I have to tell you about my composition books because they actually teach people how to write. I'm very excited about them. Writing is taught as a disciplined skill rather than just all over the place expressing yourself. Different plot components of a good story are taught.
My oldest three children all do composition together at the kitchen table, using the fable stage composition books from Memoria Press. If y'all don't mind springing for the cashola, the DVD's have been helpful getting us used to the program, but the teacher's manual would do just fine. Our son teases the teacher a little bit for being so sing-song basic, as the course is made for children younger than our teenage son. But we have to start at the beginning so, sing song it is. We're actually learning to write finally, in a serious course, so I can get over a little baby-ish-ness with the presentation. Our kitchen is open to our living room so I play the DVD on the TV in our living room and we all watch it together from the kitchen each day and do the writing together. I require them to write in cursive. I praise them a lot, and delight in the interesting things they come up with. Writing makes you feel vulnerable, like singing or drawing or dance. So be gentle with your children when they write. I correct their grammar and spelling but always find something to praise about the content. "Using a dead frog as your main character really gave an unexpected twist to that story." Something like that.
For grammar, that gets covered extensively with the Latin I do with the oldest three children together, and that takes about an hour a day. I sometimes end up sitting on the floor to keep the little people happy, with Cheerios spilling everywhere, while the older children sit on the couches. We have a lot of fun and we're enjoying it. I'm learning it with them. I stay a week ahead and do all the workbooks and tests myself. You don't have to get a PhD in a subject that is foreign to you before you can teach it to your children; just stay a week ahead. This covers our foreign language requirement for high school as well.
Our 5-year-old is a happy workbook kind of girl, so she loves her schoolwork. Boys can be harder at this age. They want to turn the pencil into a gun and the book into a sled. My daughter's really easy with school. We cozy up together on the couch to do her schooling. It's a happy, loving time. I'm not too spun up on goals with her quite yet, and I let her work on it as long as she wants to. She will sit there for an hour with me. We go through the alphabet as a drill for each sound each letter makes, then we do workbooks or readers. When she gets tired of it I might say, write one last letter and then we're done. So she doesn't completely get to decide when we're finished. I also have some activity preschool workbooks for her and those are full of fun and educational activities that she looks forward to and feels big when she does them. I read to her a lot, all throughout the day. I stop and point to a word she could sound out, and let her say that one word. Not every book, just sometimes.
History. I do a pretty awesome history and classic literature course together with our 11th grader and it requires him to do some heavy duty reading and essay writing. We also talk about a lot of important things together doing this course, things that matter to a teenager from a Biblical perspective. But my middle school daughters do a very cool on-line history course on their own. It's self-paced so they can come and go on the computer and get interrupted and it's fine. I love that my children look forward to history and think it's interesting and fun. They memorize a time line put to music. All of this is from Veritas Press. These people know stuff, and know how to teach it in an interesting way to students.
My children choose to do a lot of extra history reading on their own so I feel like I've been successful if they like history. I walked in our 16 year old son's room one day and he was reading this extremely boring 400 page book on World War II. Read the entire thing, just because he was interested in it. Our 13-year-old daughter is reading this big gigantic Book of Virtues. Carries it around the house with a bookmark in it. Our 11-year-old daughter decided to read Gone With the Wind last year, just for fun.
I know, right?
Science. I'm all about some creation when it comes to science. Dude, we're homeschooling. We get to be Biblical if we want and not get sued. This is the place to drop the Bible bomb and really drive home the creation viewpoint if we want. Our middle schoolers are doing a Christian, creation based anatomy course this year from Apologia and I sprang for the activity books, which they absolutely love. Our son is doing Apologia chemistry, also Christian and creation based. Last year he did biology and we let him attend a biology camp to do the labs. He'll do the same thing this summer for chemistry. Our children do their science on their own and I grade their tests once they're in high school. The books we have are written to the student and can be achieved by the student. It teaches them how to study.
Logic. In high school I like my children to begin formal logic. My son yawned his way through two very dry but helpful logic courses the last couple of years. Then I found The Fallacy Detective. This book is hilarious. And very clever. It makes logic fun but not in a pointless way. I think the smart writers of this book have another logic course too, and I'm planning to use that next year. I put a lot of heavy stuff on my high schooler so, I thought this would be a good break for him but still covers an important subject. I'm letting this book count as his logic course.
Music. I decided a long time ago three things about music.
Number one, no music training for little people. And no sports! Sorry for that outburst. We did the soccer thing when our son was 6 and the exhaustion rate for Mommy was not justifiably inversely proportional to what he got out of it. Around age 10 is a rational age to start music. Anything sooner than that is going to involve an unpleasant amount of involvement (i.e., nagging) from the parents (i.e., you).
Number two, it had to be the child's idea. They had to really want it. I am not going to pay an insane amount of money for music lessons for a child who has to be coaxed and begged to practice and go to their lessons. No way. Music lessons are a privilege and we don't get to do it if we're not hungry for it.
And number three, I'm not teaching it. Music is math out loud, yes? For the teacher anyway. I've already fought my way through maintaining peace to teach math in our homeschool that morning, I know that I cannot achieve that in music later in the day as well, even though I know how to play a little piano, flute and guitar. Barely. And not all at once like Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins. So we outsource our music lessons around here and that is not cheap but we are blessed to be able to do it in our family. Our 11-year-old is chomping at the bit to start piano lessons in January. Our 13-year-old daughter asked to play violin and loves it, and has a group she performs with. She's been playing violin for three years and is in the most advanced level group now. I've never had to tell her to practice.