Curriculum Reviews

homeschool curriculum advice

Homeschool Curriculum Advice from Cathy Duffy



It doesn’t matter if you are a new homeschooler or a veteran, choosing the right curriculum can be overwhelming. There are so many choices! What fits with your child’s learning style? Which one delivers more challenging content? Which one fits your philosophy of education? While the ultimate decision is up to you, a good place to start is to read reviews and ask around for some homeschool curriculum advice.

Homeschool Curriculum Advice from Cathy Duffy

Cathy Duffy is the know-all when it comes to homeschool curriculum. She has reviewed hundreds of homeschool resources to help home educators like me make an informed decision when shopping for homeschool curriculum. So as soon as I see a product has been approved by Cathy Duffy, I am more likely to trust it.

Here’s a handful of Cathy-approved educational picks available at I hope these double-recommended educational resources will relieve you from endless hours of shopping around for the best (and most cost-effective) homeschool curriculum.

Elementary Math & Science

Life of Fred Elementary Math

math books

If you haven’t heard of Life of Fred, you’re in for a real treat. Dr. Stanley F Schmitt is a math teacher who developed this story-based math learning series that has taken homeschooling by storm! Forget rote learning that doesn’t resonate; learners follow Fred and his pals through life and learn math concepts along the way. Kids sometimes don’t even know they’re learning math until they’re told!

Each book has a topic, like Apples, Butterflies, and Cats. I recommend supplementing math learning with science or social studies on the same topic!



Math Lessons for a Living Education

math lessons for living education

Math Lessons for a Living Education is based on the premise that “content, story, and the ability to show math in real life” is what makes a great math curriculum! In everyday life, there aren’t barriers between “subjects.” For example, when cooking or baking, we use the skills of reading, logical thinking, and measuring. This “living” math series is committed to teaching math in the same organic way!



Math Mammoth Light Blue Series

math mammoth light blue series

This homeschooling favorite series constitutes a full elementary mathematics curriculum for grades 1-7! Homeschool parents love Math Mammoth because kids can learn on their own with the comprehensive student books, it focuses on conceptual learning, it is visually engaging, and chapters are organized by topics and themes.

But don’t just take our word for it! Here’s what one very happy homeschool parent had to say: “We have tried three different math curriculum programs but this one seems the best for the teacher and student.”



A+ Interactive Math (by A+ TutorSoft, Inc.)

A+ interactive math

Make your homeschool math journey EASY! This interactive math curriculum does it all for you–teaching, grading, and tracking! A+ allows you to personalize the lesson plans to target exactly what your student needs. And you have the option to choose whichever format works the best for you: online, on CD, or eBooks.



Mathematical Reasoning Level A

mathematical reasoning

Do your kids dread math lessons and drill sheets? This fun and colorful book engages kids with easy-to-follow explanations, examples, and charts. Your kindergartner will learn foundational concepts through these delightful lessons.




enVision Math

envision math

This visually rich curriculum centers on a topic at a time, allowing your child to master a concept before moving on to the next. Build a strong math foundation using fun worksheets and activities!

Each enVision Math Homeschool Bundle includes a Student Edition Worktext and a Teacher Edition CD-ROM.




Elementary Reading & Writing



I can’t say enough about story-based learning. It’s one of the oldest ways we’ve learned from each other – starting with fables that teach us to be good to one another.

Grammaropolis is a great tool for K-3rd grade learners on their quest for perfect English grammar, which isn’t always straight forward! This set comes with animated shorts, music videos, books, and quizzes, so you’ve got a lot of learning styles covered.


A Reason for Handwriting

a reason for handwriting
A Reason For Handwriting provides your students with a truly meaningful way to develop their handwriting! Lessons are each built upon a Bible verse which is chosen for encouragement as well as letter combinations.

It’s been proven that when kids enjoy a subject, they retain more and learn more effectively. A Reason for Handwriting brings enjoyment to the task of learning to write well.


Spelling Workout

Want to build your child’s foundation in spelling? Spelling Workout will help create a solid building block of phonics principles. But don’t worry, these lessons are not dull! There are puzzles, riddles, and activities that will keep your student’s interest.

Each bundle includes a Teacher Edition, Student Edition, and Parent Guide.



Middle School Math

Life of Fred Intro to Algebra


I really can’t say enough about the Life of Fred series! Kids learning algebra and beyond will enjoy the stories and learn the concepts through holistic learning. If your learner is new to Fred but at a more advanced level, it has been recommended that they start from the beginning. That said, re-learning a few known concepts in the Life of Fred framework will help them get up to speed with story and succeed with the series.


Life of Fred Financial Choices


As your kiddos get older you may also want to instill strong financial decision-making. The Life of Fred Financial Choices book is a great intro. And if we’re being honest, there’s never a bad time for parents to brush up on this!



Middle School Social Studies

myWorld Social Studies

Comprehensive comprehension–this world history and social studies packet is an excellent kick-off to middle school studies. Created for 6th graders, this set lays the groundwork for students to become active citizens by learning about US history and politics, and encourages learners to understand real ways they can participate and why it matters.

The package also includes a teacher’s guide for every chapter, lesson plans, audio podcasts on each subject, and editable tests with answer keys. It really sets everyone up for success!


You Decide! Apply Bill of Rights to Real Cases

With this unique resource, students will learn the first 8 amendments to the Constitution (Bill of Rights) and then act as the Supreme Court to make decisions based on those amendments.


Science for the Family

Magic School Bus Nature Bundle


Summer is a great time to get the whole family involved with experiments to foster learning and family bonding!

This set comes with four science kits and covers topics like:

  • Weather – learn about rainbows, tornadoes, the greenhouse effect, and more.
  • Going Green – learn about recycling, compost, and making new paper out of old!
  • Solar Energy – watch solar energy inflate balloons and spin a top.
  • Wonders of Nature – build an ant hill, dissolve an egg shell, do an animal tracks exercise.


A Reason for Science

“A Reason For Science® is designed to teach basic Life, Earth, and Physical Science concepts through fun, hands-on activities. Its focus is to make learning both fun and meaningful.”

This interactive science series can involve the entire family as students and parents engage in group discussions and problem-solving. Students can talk through higher-level cognitive questions with this inquiry-based series that gets both minds and hands involved!




Science Detective A1

science detective

Help your kids be science detectives while engaging them in mind-building exercises! Science Detective will prepare your students for more advanced science courses and give them opportunities to stretch their reading comprehension and reasoning skills.




18 Curriculum Resources for Homeschoolers

Are you looking for a comprehensive homeschool curriculum that’s prepared with multiple subjects, or do you desire to supplement the curriculum you already have with additional trusted homeschool resources?  You’ve come to the right place because this is a list of top homeschool curriculum that has been used and approved by thousands of homeschoolers.

Click the link below to read more!


Art Books for Homeschooling: Review & Giveaway

I was very excited to get the book ‘Art Parts’ by Kim Bogren Owen. It is a very simple overview of art and what it is. For parents like me who don’t necessarily know much about art (I’m more of a math and science kind of girl) and not sure where to begin, this book is a great introduction.

Click the link below to read more!

Is An All-In-One Curriculum Right for You?

Like a warm security blanket, the all-in-one curriculum arrives at a new homeschooling parent’s door.

For this parent, the thought of having to put together a curriculum from different sources seems impossible. There are so many, with so many different methodologies. Volumes and volumes have been written about how to homeschool and which curriculums are best. How can one choose?

Click the link below to read more.

How to Use Life of Fred Math Books

How to Use Life of Fred Math Books

Life of Fred math books saved my homeschool!

That may sound dramatic but it’s true. My oldest daughter and I struggled and struggled to find the right math curriculum. I’m embarrassed to tell you how many mistakes I made in this process. Some of those mistakes were sticking to a curriculum that wasn’t working for her for two full years because everyone else said how great it was. My daughter was miserable and frustrated and I was miserable and frustrated. And, at the end of the two years, she was no further in math than when we started. By the time she was in “tenth grade” (I use that term loosely and my fellow homeschoolers know why), she was still two years behind and had 3 more years to go.

Screen-Shot-2015-10-22-at-4.04.41-PMEnter Life of Fred. I accidentally came across Life of Fred Math books in my Internet travels. The concept of teaching math as a story was fascinating to me. My daughter was an excellent reader and the first book wasn’t expensive at all, so I figured “Why not?” and bought the first book.

What happened next was nothing short of amazing. My daughter devoured the book. And, she actually found math easy! (The is where the clouds parted, the sun started shining and angels started singing) The stories were so entertaining my daughter couldn’t wait to get to the next chapter. I even handed it to my husband one night and he was reading the book and doing the math to get to the next chapter!

If you’re not familiar with Life of Fred math books, the concept is pretty simple. It’s math explained as a story. No, not “story problems” like you and I had in school. This is the story of Fred. Fred is a 5 year math genius, teaching mathematics at Kittens University; however, even though he’s smart, he is a 5 year old and has to deal with common childhood struggles like buying a bicycle, ordering a pizza and so forth. Each chapter in “Fred’s life” really addresses a particular math concept. Throughout the chapter, Fred plays with math. Math practice for students comes in at the “Your Turn to Play” sections, sprinkled throughout the chapter. At the end of each chapter there is a “bridge” to get to the next part of the story. The “bridge” is made up of 10 questions. If your child doesn’t get the required number of questions right to cross the bridge, it’s okay. There’s more bridges!


As you can imagine, we were pretty despondent, staring down 5 years of math to complete with only 3 years to complete it. Because I was concerned about her foundation in math, I started her even earlier in the series and you know what? She completed 6 years of math in just 3 years. This wasn’t because we spent hours and hours each day working through traditional math curriculum. It was because the Life of Fred series. These books are interesting, engaging, make math completely approachable and fun!

When I say “Life of Fred saved my homeschool,” I mean it. It saved my sanity, helped my daughter graduate with a solid foundation in math and gave her confidence!

With all of that said, I am more than happy to present the following buyers guide to the Life of Fred series, by Educents.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Complete Life of Fred Buyer's Guide - by

So, why are the Life of Fred books gaining popularity? The books follow Fred Gauss, a child prodigy math genius, during his exciting adventures which encounter every day math situations. Children actually want to read these books.

Your child can start using these books when it’s time to learn how to read, and your child can continue learning with Fred all the way to college! For a complete overview of the entire collection, check out each series of books below.

Click a title to learn more about each series in the Life of Fred collection:

Life of Fred Beginning Readers Series

Life of Fred Buyer's Guide

If your kiddo is just starting to learn to read, add these Life of Fred readers to your at-home library. They are fun to read over and over together. Incorporate Fred in your early reading lessons! The complete set consists of 18 books. Each book contains 32 pages.

Who is it for? Beginning readers (ages 4 and up)

Concepts covered: counting, using a compass, patience, days of the week, colors, shapes, how to make mashed potatoes, how to build a house, and more.

Titles included in the set: Blue, Bus, Lake, Potato Dreams, Ducks, Rain, Mud, Night, Dawn, House, Windows, Kitchen, Electricity, Dinner, Evening, Garden, Peach, and Going Home

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More resources:
Fred Beginning Reader Tips Fred Beginning Reader Tips

Life of Fred Elementary Math Series

Buyer's Guide Life of Fred Blog Post (2)

Life Of Fred is like no other math program out there. It’s a story that begins with book one, and continues all the way through high school. It includes every other subject, such as science, history, geography, and more. Each book contains short, 4 to 6-page chapters, and usually is less than 20 chapters per book. This makes it possible for each child to go at a pace comfortable for them.

Who is it for? Kindergarten to 4th grade

Concepts covered: time, types of numbers, geometry, measurement, facts about stars, morse code, geography, adjectives & verbs, patterns, functions, sheet music, seven wonders of the world, math poems, percents, numbers vs. numerals, division, slope of a line, graphing, notation, the improper use of seat belts, how to prove you are not a duck, reducing fractions, and so much more.

Titles in this series: Apples, Butterflies, Cats, Dogs, Edgewood, Farming, Goldfish, Honey, Ice Cream, Jelly Beans

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More about the Elementary Math Books:

  • Life of Fred Elementary Math books are discounted on
  • “This is my first year home schooling and I wish I had found Fred earlier. My son loves to read, so Life of Fred makes math a cinch to teach now.” -Shanna, homeschooler
  • “I see a light shining bright from within my son that was almost extinguished completely. As he watched me place the order for the complete elementary set of Life Of Fred, I said ‘I can’t wait to see how Fred starts, and I want to see how it ends too, so be ready to order more!’ I smiled and assured him that not only would Fred be part of his learning as long as he desired, but that Fred would be gift wrapped for Christmas presents this year for his niece and nephew, my 2 grandchildren. No more costly potholes for this family!!” -Janet, homeschooler
  • “My granddaughter, who truly dislikes math, always wants to start the day with Fred. I have to stop her after four chapters. She would do the entire book in a day if allowed. I never thought I could use math class as a reward! And she is learning besides.” -Bette, homeschooler
  • Life of Fred Math Books in Carisa’s Homeschool
  • The Complete Guide to Using Life of Fred Homeschool Math
  • Featured on Cathy Duffy’s 102 Top Picks
  • Samples: Apples, Butterflies, Cats

Life of Fred Intermediate Math Series

Life of Fred Buyer's Guide - Educents

Designed for students under age 10, but already finished the Life of Fred elementary book series. Best for students who can add, subtract, and who understand multiplication and division.

Who is it for? 3rd to 7th grade

Concepts covered: Milliliters, writing numerals in checks ($4000 and not $40.00), idioms, 1/4 + 1/4 +1/4 = 3/4, elapsed time, metaphors, milligrams and pounds, rounding numbers, three-eights of 19,416, and more!

Titles in this series: Kidneys, Liver, Mineshaft

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More about the Intermediate Math Books:

  • Life of Fred Intermediate Math books are discounted on
  • “I was not so sure on these books. I heard a lot of good reviews but after we got them, just skimming through I wasn’t sure my 9 year old daughter would like them. I was WRONG! she really likes them! They move at a pace she likes and being one continuous story about Fred’s life keeps her interested and entertained. We will be back for more soon. She just finished Kidneys and is now on liver.” -Melisa W., Homeschooler
  • Samples: Kidneys, Liver, Mineshaft

Life of Fred Intro to Algebra Series

Life of Fred Buyer's Guide - Educents

If your student can solve these equations: 5 + 8, 8 – 5, 7 times 8, 6231 divided by 93, then he or she is ready for the Fractions title. It also might be time for you to begin using a very basic calculator to complete these lessons.

Who is it for? 6th to 12th grade

Concepts covered: less than, cardinal and ordinal numbers, adding and subtraction fractions, lines of symmetry, geometric figures, circumference, reducing fractions, sets and subsets, probability, consecutive numbers, repeating decimals, area of a triangle, square roots, ordered pairs, and more!

Titles in this series: Fractions, Decimals and Percents

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More about the Intro to Algebra Books:

Life of Fred Pre-Algebra Series

Life of Fred Buyer's Guide - Educents

Fred does physics before algebra. What’s the difference between math and physics? In this series, students use math and science to solve quirky, real world scenarios – all while having fun with Fred of course!

Who is it for? 3rd to 7th graders

Concepts covered: numerals, area of a rectangle, the speed of light, nine forms of energy, Hooke’s law, static versus kinetic friction, photosynthesis, metric system, Gregorian calendar, conversion factors, unit analysis, freedom versus liberty, steps in solving word problems, venn diagrams, germination of seeds, digestion, negative numbers, whole numbers, chromosomes, DNA, circumference of a circle, and more!

Titles in this series: Pre-Algebra 0 with Physics, Pre-Algebra 1 with Biology, and Pre-Algebra 2 with Economics

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More about the Pre-Algebra books:

Life of Fred High School Math Series

Life of Fred Buyer's Guide - Educents

Life of Fred is preparing for college! In this series, students learn algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and a few other lessons from Fred. The Zillions of Practice books are keyed directly to the chapters and topics in the associated book. Each problem is worked out in complete detail to offer additional help for a student who may have gotten stuck along Fred’s mathematical journey.

Who is it for? 8th to 12th grade

Concepts covered: infinite numbers, ratios, graphs, plotting points, averages, multiplying polynomials, solving fractional equations, Pythagorean theorem, milkshake marketing, absolute value, surface area of a cone, imaginary numbers, slopes of perpendicular lines, complex fractions, linear equations, Cramer’s rule, ellipses, graphing in three dimensions, geometric sequences, Pascal’s Triangle, right triangles, quadrilaterals, entrepreneurship, geography of Kansas, piano music, sines, cosines, functions of two angles, a preview of calculus, and more!!

Titles included in the series: Beginning Algebra, Zillions of Practice Problems for Beginning Algebra, Advanced Algebra, Zillions of Practice Problems for Advanced Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry

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More about the High School Math books:

Life of Fred High School Language Arts Series

Life of Fred Buyer's Guide - Educents

Each book contains 19 cohesive lessons on grammar, language, writing, common mistakes, and basically the entire English language. The creator suggests doing these four books once every year during your students’ high school years.

Who is it for? 5th to 12th graders

Concepts covered: the seven parts of speech, punctuation, spelling, similes, silent letters, rules for making outlines, the difference between a metaphor and metonymy, and so much more.

Titles included in the series: Australia, Begin Teaching, Classes, Dreams

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More about the Language Arts books:

Life of Fred Chemistry

Life of Fred Buyer's Guide - Educents

In a single lecture hour, Fred completes a whole year of high school chemistry.

Who is it for? 8th grade to college

Concepts covered: exponents, atoms, conversion factors, mass vs. weight, Avogadro’s number, Kelvin scale, atomic number, isotopes, compounds, noble gasses, finding the atomic mass, early chemistry, oxidation numbers, balancing equation, and more!

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More about the Chemistry book:

  • Life of Fred Chemistry book is discounted on
  • “It’s solid science presented in a way that’s understandable, not intimidating, and fun. You learn math, you learn history and you learn science, all through the Life of Fred – through his experiences and teachings.” -Lisa, Homeschooler
  • “It reads like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but the chemistry is solid.” -Lisa’s husband, PhD in Analytical Chemistry
  • Sample of the Chemistry Book

Life of Fred College Math Series

Life of Fred Buyer's Guide - Educents

This series is geared toward advanced high school math students, students preparing for college, or any adult who wants to brush up on their math skills while reading fun stories. Students will learn calculus, statistics, linear algebra, and advanced math puzzles (equations, not word problems).

Who is it for? 9th grade to adults

Concepts covered: functions, speed, slope, curvature, polar coordinates, Bayes’ Theorem, probability, descriptive statistics, field guides, solving systems of equations, vector spaces, linear functionals, math theory, abstract arithmetic, and more!

Titles included in the series: Calculus, Statistics, Linear Algebra, and Five Days of Upper Division Math

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More about the College Math books:

Life of Fred Financial Choices

Life of Fred Buyer's Guide - Educents

Let Fred help you teach your children about financial management, decisions, and choices. It’s very likely that you, the adult, will pick up a tip or two while teaching.

Who is it for? Useful for middle school kids all the way to adults

Concepts covered: entrepreneurship, spending, investing, retirement, debt, calculating interest, how to start a business, insurance, taxes, real estate, successful spending habits, stocks, mortgages, REITS, mutual funds, and more!

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More about the Financial Choices book:

Enter to Win

Bedtime Math 2: This Time It’s Personal {Book Review & Giveaway}

I received a copy of Bedtime Math 2: This Time It’s Personal in exchange for this review.  All opinions expressed here are honest and my own.

bedtime math

Have you ever heard of Bedtime Math? If you have a child that just absolutely hates math and it’s like pulling teeth, you will want to check out their awesome resources and ideas.

In the past, I received the awesome opportunity of doing a review on their original book: Bedtime Math- A Fun Exercise to Stay up Late.  It was an absolute hit in our house especially with my 7-year-old.  This time I received their second Bedtime Math book: Bedtime Math 2-This Time It’s Personal by Laura Overdeck and Illustrated by Jim Paillot.  It’s just as awesome if not better.  Let’s just say when the book came in the mail, my daughter snatched it away from me in excitement.  As a parent, I was thrilled.  She looks forward to doing some math just before bed.  Originally, that would sound crazy, right?  This is just how good the concept is.  You will have to see it for yourself to believe it.

Bedtime Math 2 offers a nice introduction along with How to do Bedtime Math-The Fun Way.   The book is broken into 5 chapters:

  • Chapter 1: What’s in You?
  • Chapter 2: What’s on You?
  • Chapter 3: Personal Favorites
  • Chapter 4: Personal Habits
  • Chapter 5: Personal Bests

What does a Bedtime Math problem look like?  Here is a sample from Chapter 1 to give you an idea.

Each math problem is two pages each.  First page contains fun facts and the second page offers three level questions along with a bonus.  For example: Stick People.  The fact page talks about the importance of bones inside of our bodies.  If we didn’t have them we would “melt like a marshmallow.”  It talks about how many bones we have from the biggest to teeniest.

Questions are broken up like this (Taken from Bedtime Math 2 Chapter 1 page 3), which I think is very clever:

  • Wee Ones- Each of your finger has 3 bones, but each toe has only 2.  Which one has more bones, your finger or your toe?
  • Little Kids-You were born without real kneecaps!  They start out mush and don’t harden until age 4 or 5.  If you have 3 babies and 2 grown-ups in the room, how many “real” kneecaps are there? ( Each person has 2 legs, but only some kneecaps count.)
  • Big Kids- Your thumb is actually your longest finger: It has 3 bones like the others, but the third bone is hidden in your hand.  How many bones do your 5 fingers on one hand have in total?

*Bonus: We’re all born with more bones than we end up with, since many bones grow together over time.  If you started with 350 bones and now have 206, how many more did you start with?

As you can see, it gets those minds working.  Mental math is so important and is easily forgotten about.  Bedtime Math 2 approaches it in a fun way. Plus, kids get to learn some science facts as well. Perfect!

When you reach the end of the book, there is a really nifty equation chart: The Math Behind the Fun.  It contains all of the answers in every chapter.

I definitely recommend Bedtime Math 2 for all children.  Whether they hate math or love it, the concept is really neat.

You can currently purchase Bedtime Math 2 on Amazon for $10.11 Hardcover or $9.60 Kindle or you can enter to win your very own copy below!

***WIN IT***

To enter to win, leave comment telling us the craziest thing your kid has ever done with food.  Fill out the Rafflecopter form below for extra entries too!  We’ll pick a winner on April 9, 2014.

This sweepstakes is open to U.S. residents ages 18 and older at the time of entry.  Affiliates of Modern Homeschool Family and their family members are not eligible to win.  Modern Homeschool Family is not responsible for late or misdirected entries or delayed entries due to technical execution.  Winner will be selected at random and must respond to electronic communication within 48 hours or an alternate winner will be selected.

Good luck!



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