There are many different curricula for homeschoolers nowadays. For anyone starting out, I'm sure it must be overwhelming! I have homeschooled my children since my eldest was 5 years old (younger really!) so it has not been too difficult to start with the basics and add in the extras over time.
First of all, I began reading books about different homeschooling methods and educational philosophies. There are two main methods/philosophies that I have read about. The first is Charlotte Mason's methods. I had been give a book by Karen Andreola called The Charlotte Mason Companion, when my eldest was born. I enjoyed reading this book, but didn't really start to put it into practice until she was about 4 years old. The first thing we did was to start reading aloud.
When Bethany was 4 years old, I was loaned a copy of The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer, and also introduced to the Bluedorns, who wrote Teaching the Trivium - Christian Homeschooling in a Classical Style. These books both give detailed prescriptions for a Classical Education. Teaching the Trivium is specifically from a Christian perspective, but The Well Trained Mind can certainly be adapted to Christian curricula and certainly recommends many of them.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading all of these "how-to" books and I tried to pick out all the common elements to plan our homeschool. The major common element in these different methods was the great benefit to the children of having good books read aloud to them. Charlotte Mason calls these good books, "Living books". We printed out a couple of booklists and began reading aloud to the girls straight away.
I have continued to use these three books/methods to plan our homeschooling. I use elements from each, using them all as a guide. I believe this blend has worked very well for us.
Here are some of the curricula we are using this year:
I am using First Language Lesson for the Well Trained Mind by Jessie Wise. This is for Grades 1 and 2 (Ainsley) and covers Narration, Dictation, Copywork, Grammar and Punctuation and Memorisation. The lessons are scripted which is very helpful. The student writes their answers in an exercise book.
There are two books which follow on - First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind Levels 3 & 4. I will use those for Ainsley. I found them excellent for Emily who has now moved onto A Beka. I am wishing First Language Lessons carried on throughout the grades!
From when we first began homeschooling, we have been working through Susan Wise Bauer's Story of the World Series. We are currently on Volume 3: Early Modern Times. We have thoroughly enjoyed the style of these books. Susan has done a wonderful job of telling history as a story. The accompanying activity books contain review questions, maps, colouring pages, games, paper dolls and many craft ideas as well as recommended books for extra reading on each chapter. We cut and paste the maps and colouring pages into notebooks, added short summaries of the chapter and often other pictures to do with the story.
We are working through Exploring Creation with Botany by Jeannie Fulbright for our science lessons this year. We are also using the accompanying student notebooks which contain many notebooking pages, mini books and quizzes.
Previously we went through the book Considering God's Creation, which I highly recommend as an early elementary science curriculum. It does involve an awful lot of cutting and pasting though!
We have also worked our way through the Institute for Excellence in Writing's Student Writing Intensive by Andrew Pudewa. This is an excellent writing programme and is easy to implement with your children if you have completed the Teaching Writing: Structure & Style course yourself. IEW's courses give a wonderful framework for teaching children how to write outlines, paragraphs, reports and essays. I will be going back to this often in the years to come.
Of course, this is not all we use. My girls all use A Beka math workbooks and the older girls us A Beka for Grammar. This is a very thorough programme, but I do wish there were another grammar programme for the older grades in the style of First Language Lessons.