What I’m Teaching My Kid With This Year

In this post I will give a run down of the curriculum I plan on using this year with my 9-year-old, along with what I like about it, why I chose it, and pros and cons list so you can determine if it’s something you might be interested in as well.

First, it’s worth noting that what works for one person does not work for everyone. No two homeschool families are alike, there are a multitude of different education approaches, and children can vary greatly both in how they learn and what interests them. My curriculum choices were made to meet the very specific needs of one very specific child.

We’ll start with a list, and then I’ll break down each item:

Michael Clay Thompson Language Arts Curriculum

I came across this curriculum in many searches while looking specifically for something that would be a good fit for gifted learners. This curriculum includes grammar, vocabulary, writing, and poetry when you buy a complete level set. They also have literature trilogies that you can mix and match. 

What I like about this curriculum is that it takes a very deep dive into every corner of language and how it works. It’s also designed to be engaging and to encourage conversation between educator and child during learning. Nothing is dumbed down or oversimplified or worksheet-heavy (all things which make my child melt in her seat and roll around on the floor while making dying cow noises). 

Each level has a suggested age range which spans three or more years, so you can choose the level that fits your child. Samples of the books can be viewed on the publisher’s website. Many homeschoolers have given this curriculum rave reviews. Overall, it really expects a lot from your child and extends their vocabulary, understanding, and appreciation for language. Heck, I’m looking forward to learning new things while teaching it to my kid, and I write for a living.

About the Author: Michael Clay Thompson has thirty years of experience as a teacher as well as holding other academic roles. He continues to teach online and is an author, consultant, speaker, and workshop presenter. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Washington and Lee University and an M.A. from Western Carolina University. 


  • Completely secular
  • Ideal for gifted learners, but great for all learners
  • Breaks down different aspects of language arts into components which can be purchased separately if you just want to supplement grammar, vocab, writing, or etc. 
  • Very thorough
  • Levels continue up through high school


  • Some people may find it teaches far more than they feel is important to spend time on.
  • A lot of the literature examples are old-white-dude heavy (we are supplementing the literature trilogies with our own selection of much more diverse books).
  • It can require a lot of parental/educator involvement
  • Their first level doesn’t start until ages 8-10 (3rd/4th grade level). They are working on sets for ages 6-8 and 7-9, but it is unclear how soon those will be out.

Moving Beyond the Page Science and Social Studies

Moving Beyond the Page actually offers full curriculum sets that cover not just science and social studies, but also language arts and (for lower age levels) math. The subjects tend to complement or overlap each other in a sort of unit study style approach that is also literature based. This is another curriculum that is specifically designed for gifted learners

The science and social studies both look amazing (the other subjects look great, too, but we chose to use different materials ourselves to better match our kid’s needs). There are sets of workbooks for each subject, along with boxes of lab equipment, and several additional reading books to go along with everything. 

The workbooks lead kids through hands-on investigations and really work on higher level thinking, investigating, reasoning, and analyzing skills, which we much prefer to worksheets and simple fact-recall. At the end of each unit the child completes a summative project as well to demonstrate mastery.

Samples as well as guides to choosing the right level can be found on their website.Note that you can purchase complete sets, single-subject sets, or even single units if you want to mix and match.

About the Authors: Authors include Kim A. Howe, who has an MS in Education Psychology with an emphasis in Gifted and talented Education from Texas A&M University, Katie Durgin-Bruce, who has an MA in Educational Technology from Columbia University Teachers College, Kathy Wall, who has a Ph.D. in United States History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Karen Brown, who has an MA in English from Virginia Tech. All have worked at some of the most respected curriculum companies and universities in the country.


  • Completely secular (biology books teach evolution and etc.)
  • Hands-on and interactive
  • Literature-based and integrated learning approaches
  • Can be a complete curriculum package if you purchase the full set, but you can also purchase single subject sets, or single unit workbooks as well and mix and match
  • Ideal for gifted learners, but great for all learners
  • It is roughly aligned with the common core standards
  • Each level spans a 3-year age range so you can choose the level that’s right for your kid, or even use one level for multiple kids who are close together in age.
  • Older students may be able to work fairly independently.


  • Some people may find the full curriculum too demanding or fast-paced.
  • If your kid doesn’t enjoy reading, they may find the amount of reading required to be overwhelming (but you can always read TO them if you’d prefer!)
  • It’s a little pricey.
  • It currently doesn’t go beyond ages 12-14 (roughly 8th grade).

The Art of Problem Solving

This is a demanding and fast-paced math curriculum that not only teaches problem solving skills, but encourages students to struggle with challenge problems on a regular basis. 

The first book in the AoPS series is Prealgebra, designed for students who have completed 5th grade math or higher and are ready for challenging work. This book covers all of prealgebra and leaves a student prepared for Algebra 1 (AoPS’s Begining Algebra). 

While they offer online classes using this curriculum, you can also purchase the book only ( which is relatively inexpensive) and teach your child at home. There are free videos available on their website that explain several of the topics covered, and they also offer free access to Alcumus, an online learning system, for extra practice.

For students who are not yet ready for prealgebra or beyond, the AoPS team are the same people responsible for the Beast Academy curriculum, which is available both in book and online form, for 2nd graders and above. We have used Beast Academy a little in the past and think it’s pretty great as well. Again, it teaches math at a deeper and more advanced level and focuses less on repetition and more on deep thinking and problem-solving skills. Beast Academy is also comic-based, which many young students find more engaging and entertaining.

About the Authors: Primary curriculum authors include Richard Rusczyk who founded AoPS in 2003, and David Patrick, who came on board in 2004. Richard is a former director of the USA Mathematical Talent Search, a former participant in National MATHCOUNTS, a three-time participant in the Math Olympiad Summer Program, and a USA Mathematical Olympiad winner. A graduate from Princeton University, he also won the World Federation of National Mathematics Competitions Paul Erdos Award in 2014. David received a perfect score on the American High School Mathematics Examination in 1988, the same year he won the USA Mathematical Olympiad. He has a BS from Carnegie Mellon in Mathematics and Computer Science, an MS in Mathematics, and a Ph.D. in mathematics from MIT. 


  • Can be inexpensive if you just purchase the text only.
  • Great for advanced learners and those who need a challenge
  • Rigorous preparation for higher level and college math as well as many math contests
  • Completely secular
  • Lots of free online resources (videos, Alcumus, forums)


  • For those who just want a straightforward math curriculum, note that this curriculum teaches students more than they usually need to learn and covers topics that go beyond most standard curriculums.
  • It is fast-paced without a lot of repetition, though you may choose to move through it at whatever pace works for you and supplement with additional materials.
  • Some feel that the AoPS texts are a little “dry” especially compared to the comic-formatted Beast Academy books.

The Life of Fred

This is a series of math books where math is presented in the context of a quirky and absurd story following the life of Fred, a 5-year-old math genius who teaches at Kittens University. These books run from basic beginning elementary math all the way up to and including college level mathematics. In the process, a wide variety of other topics are weaved in which sets math in a larger context and connects ideas to life, literature, art, social studies, and science.

We chose to add these books as a math supplement because we feel the story is entertaining and will appeal to our kid who loves to read. I also like the idea of teaching math from two different angles/approaches simultaneously for added understanding. 

At the earlier levels especially, many people use these books as supplements and not as a complete curriculum because they move through the material fairly quickly without a lot of practice problems. 

Now here’s the real caveat: It’s not completely secular. You might be wondering how you make a math book non-secular, and the truth is, that it’s definitely MOSTLY secular to the point where I, personally, do not find issue with it. 

The ways in which it is non-secular include the following:

  • The author dedicates the books to god.
  • The main character, Fred, is sometimes mentioned in the story as attending Sunday school or saying his prayers. 
  • I’ve heard tell, but have not had opportunity to directly observe myself, that some of the earlier books include a few bible song verses that the character sings.
  • There is an occasional biblical reference here and there.
  • In the book Prealgebra 1 with Biology the author makes explicit mention that he will be avoiding talking about evolution (though he also does not include any talk about creationism or anything non-secular)
  • I’ve heard tell that in one of the books {God} is used as an example of a set of 1. 

The religious references for the most part appear to be brief and infrequent and do not have much relevance to the story line or the math being taught. This is why I have no issue using these texts, but your mileage may vary.

About the Author: Dr. Stanley Schmidt is a former high school teacher and college professor.  It’s actually very difficult to find out a lot of information about him, but there’s an interview with him on this site. He appears to be a very religious man with some non-mainstream views, but also someone with a passion for learning and making learning fun.


  • Covers all levels of math from early elementary through college
  • Funny and entertaining story format really works for some kids
  • The math is well-presented and organized in a logical order
  • Incorporates other ideas and subjects alongside the math, giving it context


  • Not entirely secular (often classified as “neutral”)
  • May not work well as a complete curriculum
  • If your kid isn’t into the story line, then this won’t work for you
  • I’ve heard that in some parts of some stories (in particular Prealgebra 2 with Economics) that the author seems to integrate some more conservative viewpoints that some people may not jive with. (These may or may not bother you, or you may use them as conversation pieces with your child, which is our plan if we find anything we feel is “off”.)

Problem-Based Learning Units from Royal Fireworks Press

I’m planning on using three Problem-Based learning units from RFWP (the same publisher of the Michael Clay Thompson series). These units are written by experienced gifted educators and curriculum designers and some have even won curriculum awards from the NAGC. They are designed for roughly 5th/6th grade level and up.

The idea behind these units is to put your child in a realistic scenario with a lot of complexity to it. They have to use critical thinking, analyze different materials and sources, and strategize to solve a complex problem. The units often incorporate standards and skills from multiple different areas, such as language arts, social studies, and science.

The ones we plan on using this year are Ferret Ecology (determining how many prairie dogs to introduce into an ecosystem in order to ensure the survival of the black-footed ferret, along with considering rights of homeowners and ranchers), Plague (as a government official in the Italian town of Lucca in 1348, you must determine how to react to and mitigate the spread of the Black Death), and A Final Appeal (in which students act as judges assessing the appeal of a teacher who was fired for teaching To Kill a Mockingbird).

About the Author: The primary author of most books in this series is Dr. Shelagh A. Gallagher, an award-winning expert in gifted education and problem-based learning. She currently works as a consultant and author and previously spent years teaching and researching gifted education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. 


  • Amazing curriculum that really teaches critical thinking
  • Students get to make decisions based on realistic scenarios
  • Completely secular


  • Many of the units work best with a group of children instead of one-on-one, so they might require adaptation in a homeschool setting

In Conclusion

There are, of course, many other awesome curriculums out there and I will provide overviews of some I’ve seen come up a lot in my next post, along with clear call-outs about anything questionable, neutral, or non-secular. On the slate for review are BookShark, Blossom and Root, Torchlight, Real Science Odyssey, Timberdoodle, Oak Meadow, and Build Your Library.

Side note: As of the publishing of this post, the 2020-2021 school year is fast approaching. With an influx of people making plans for pandemic homeschooling, several publishers are running out of materials and many items are backordered. I highly recommend ordering as soon as possible once you decide on a curriculum.