What is the Best Catholic Homeschool Curriculum? 14 Top Picks (UPDATED)Sep 18, 2021
Updated. Originally published here at MaryRefugeOfSouls.com.
If you're Catholic and new to homeschooling you may be wondering, what is the best Catholic homeschool curriculum?
As Catholics striving to keep our faith against social norms, it has become increasingly difficult to find good Christian schools for our children. Sadly, even so-called "Catholic" schools are all too often Catholic in name only, since many of these schools have succumbed to modernist heresies and no longer teach according to the true faith.
That plus the "new normal" of mandatory vaccination or mask wearing has caused many families to choose homeschooling.
The following recommendations are based on my personal experience as a second generation homeschooler and mom of five kids. However, every family is different, so I don't believe there is a "one size fits all" curriculum for everyone.
That being said, I will share my absolute favorites, including additional resources to help you put together your own unique Catholic homeschool curriculum, adhering to what the Magisterium and the Church Fathers have always taught.
Real quick before we dive in to the list, allow me to share a bit about the criteria I use when choosing a good Catholic homeschool curriculum...
My Criteria for Choosing a Catholic Homeschool Curriculum
1. Is it classically based?
Classical education is a tried and true system of teaching made up of three stages, known as the "trivuum": the Grammar stage (~elementary grades), the Logic stage (~middle school grades) and the Rhetoric stage (~high school). Each of these three stages corresponds to a phase of childhood development, so students are learning what is actually appropriate for their brains to grasp.
Grammar is where students learn the rules–the basic facts, or "building blocks"–of each subject. This lays the groundwork for the future stages. In the Logic stage, they begin to satisfy their growing curiosity, learning the "why" of each subject. Finally in the Rhetoric stage, children learn how to effectively communicate all of those ideas and persuade.
These three stages, I believe, are the important key that is missing in most schools today. For example, in a common core curriculum, students are told to write a piece of persuasive writing as early as Kindergarten-- this makes very little sense since they don't even have a grasp of the basics yet, let alone an understanding of why things are the way they are.
2. Does it use "real" books?
In my opinion, it is far more interesting, fun, and effective to teach using real books rather than textbooks wherever possible. Charlotte Mason used this approach in her teaching method, and I think children and parents alike thrive by it.
Why? Well for one, we as humans tend to learn through stories. Using good, riveting literature instead of a boring textbook to teach your children will help them to grasp concepts faster and remember them longer.
Also, the more your child reads good books, the more knowledge and skill he will pick up in ALL of his subjects. For example, he will automatically know how to skillfully structure his writing because he will have learned by example. He will also be able to pick up a book on any subject and quickly learn the material because he has had so much practice in comprehension. In my experience, the more your child reads to himself the less work you have to do to teach him yourself.
BONUS TIP: expose your kids to great literature at an early age with audiobooks. As parents, we are quite busy and can't always find the time to read big, long books to our kids. These books may be too difficult for them to read on their own, but that doesn't mean that they wouldn't enjoy them! Audiobooks are the perfect solution. My kids listen to at least one hour of an audiobook every night after I tuck them in for bed. Ever since starting this nightly practice, their vocabulary and knowledge has absolutely exploded and they have become better readers, writers, and learners in general.
3. Does it lend itself to unit study?
Along with using real books, I think it is extremely helpful to teach in terms of "units" or themes of study, in particular in terms of historical themes.
For example, this year we will be studying the life of Christ, the early Christians, and then the early Medieval period of history. Each of these time periods are "units" around which we will center all of our subjects. Writing assignments, reading assignments, science, crafts, cooking, art, etc. will all have a unified theme, and each child will be learning the same overarching theme (although specific assignments will be easier or more difficult depending on the age of the child). Not only does this make my life so much easier by combining different subjects and ages together, it also makes learning a whole lot more fun for the kids. At the end of each unit, they will do a performance or presentation for mom and dad sharing what they've learned.
4. Is it traditional?
When choosing curricula and individual books that are Catholic, I always want to make sure that they adhere to the infallible magisterium and what the Fathers of the Church always taught. Unfortunately because modernism has creeped into just about everything–even Catholic curricula–you can't simply take it for granted these days.
Oftentimes, what I like to do is find OLD, vintage books from prior to the second Vatican council. While it is intensely debated whether or not there are any errors in the written letter of Vatican II (V2 itself did not claim to be an infallible council), there is one thing that is quite clear: catechesis since V2 has gone down dramatically. That can be seen by the shocking number of Catholics today (two thirds of all Catholics in the U.S.!) who do not even believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
Could this be at least partially due to a "dumbing down" of catechetical books since V2? I believe so. If you compare newer editions of these books to previous editions, you will see how the changes are not helpful in better understanding our faith.
Besides, when you start looking at vintage books, you will find that there is a treasure trove of knowledge to be gained there!
Ok, now that you know the criteria that I use when judging a curriculum, I should note that I do NOT use any ONE standalone curriculum. The reason is that I have never found one that I entirely like. There are always strong points and weak points to any done-for-you curriculum, and like I stated earlier I don't believe there is a "one size fits all" for every kid. Kids (and their parents) are all so unique. Why not choose what will work best for your particular family?
So, I will NOT be talking about Seton, Mother of Divine Grace, Kolbe Academy, Our Lady of Victory, and the like. Instead, I'll share my favorite curricula for each individual subject. These resources are what I've curated and pulled together to create our own unique curriculum, and I hope you will find some of these to be useful in putting together your own curriculum as well!
Without further ado, let's dive in to the list...
14 Top Picks for the Best Catholic Homeschool Curriculum
There are so many resources for homeschoolers it can be quite overwhelming, so I'm just going to give you some of my absolute favorites.
I don’t think you need to buy a lot of different textbooks and things anyway. All you need are a few essentials, sprinkle in some good literature, and you’ll have a complete curriculum for K-12!
1. Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons (Preschool-1st Grade)
This book is a complete, step-by-step program to teach your child to read phonetically. It is very simple to use because every lesson is completely scripted for you. All you need is 20 minutes per day and your child will be reading in no time!
Depending on age and personality, some kids may find this book boring whereas other kids will beg to read it with you. I think the key with hesitant readers is not to force it. Use this book for as long as it is fun for them, but once it becomes boring you can ditch this book for an "early reader" book with pictures, or whatever book your child enjoys. This way, your child has at least some basics down for forming words phonetically, and then you can begin to use real books to recognize whole words in a meaningful and fun way.
BONUS: For teaching reading with real books, I highly recommend Teach a Child to Read with Children's Books by Mark B. Thogmartin.
2. Institute for Excellence in Writing (K-12)
I think, and many will agree, that this is hands down the best writing program for homeschoolers out there. The founder, Andrew Pudewa, also happens to be a traditional Catholic who embraced the “Benedict Option” by moving from San Diego to rural eastern Oklahoma near the Benedictine monks of Clear Creek Abbey. If you choose to buy the videos, students will get to receive their instruction from Andrew himself (and laugh at his corny jokes). IEW also offers programs in phonics, spelling and grammar.
You can download these classic books (written in 1911) for FREE online or purchase a copy and get lots of great exercises for younger elementary students. Young kids will enjoy the emphasis on nature and the great outdoors.
I don't use these books cover to cover, I simply use them as a resource to pull off the shelf when I need it. It definitely comes in handy when you need to assign a language arts exercise to troubleshoot a problem area.
4. Grammar-Land by M.L. Nesbitt (Early Elementary)
Here is another fantastic book you can download for FREE. Written in 1878 in an entertaining story format, Grammar-Land introduces students to “Judge Grammar” and his subjects (the Parts-of-Speech). Worksheets to accompany the book are available here, and you can listen to the LibriVox recording here.
This is another one of those books that I use to troubleshoot problem areas. While IEW has a fantastic grammar program, sometimes one of my kids needs reinforcement in order to remember their parts of speech. This book definitely makes the parts of speech stick with them.
5. Logicary Press (Grades 2-12)
This excellent series of books teaches kids the foundation of all correct reasoning. This is the kind of stuff that normally isn't taught until college, but it's done in such a way that even young children can start to learn the basics. Since you're creating your own curriculum, why not give your kids a huge head start? Highly recommended for all young Catholics!
6. Math-U-See (K-12)
Even students who struggle with math will find this program easy to understand. Manipulatives are used as a very helpful tool to get a solid grasp of the concepts, and plenty of worksheets are provided so students can go as fast or as slow as needed to achieve mastery. The videos with the lovable “Mr. Demme” are clear, succinct and entertaining.
In our family, we use Math-U-See until 6th grade and then switch to Chalk Dust (see below), but you could continue using this curriculum all the way through 12th grade.
7. Math Mammoth (Grades 1-7)
Although you only need one math curriculum, I have to mention Math Mammoth because it really is a treasure trove of resources at a dirt cheap price (in fact, you can download over 400 sample worksheets for FREE).
The nice thing about Math Mammoth is that instruction is built right into the worksheets and is written directly to the student– if you have an independent learner, all you need to do is hand the page to your child and let him have at it. There are also lots of helpful videos available to watch for free.
We use Math Mammoth as a supplement to work on problem areas, or to provide greater challenge. While Math-U-See is great for mastering the basics, Math Mammoth encourages children to think about math in new ways, which can help with mental math in particular.
8. Chalk Dust (Grades 6-12)
Warning: the founder is retiring, so these will only be available through the end of 2022. Get your curriculum now while you can!
This EXCELLENT math series is unparalleled in terms of quality. If you want your child to have a college-level math education, AND a gifted instructor who makes math easy and simple to understand, even if your child hates math, this is for you.
I was never a math genius, in fact quite the opposite. When my parents bought this curriculum for me, I went from dreading math to actually enjoying it. That's because the instructor, Dana Mosely (aka "Uncle Buck"), does a brilliant job of explaining math.
As the parent, you don't need to teach anything with this curriculum as everything is taught on the videos. Since these videos are much more in-depth and directed at the student than Math-U-See, I like to use Math-U-See only up until 6th grade and then I switch to Chalk Dust.
9. Connecting with History (K-12)
Connecting with History is a Catholic, classical, literature-based, unit-study program encompassing not only history but also language arts, geography, arts & crafts and more. All you would have to do is add math and science to make this your entire homeschool curriculum!
This program is especially great for large families with children of all ages. The lesson plans are designed so that you can sit down all together and learn as a family (reading aloud mostly), like the old “one-room schoolhouse”. Although everybody will be covering the same topics, each individual student will receive developmentally appropriate assignments based on the four classical levels of education: Beginner (K-3), Grammar (4th-6th), Logic (7th-9th), and Rhetoric (10th-12th).
In year one you’ll study Ancient History & the Old Testament, year two is the New Testament, the Early Church & the Early Medieval Period, year three is High Medieval through Post-Reformation, and year four is American History. Once you’ve gone through all four years, you’ll simply cycle back around to year one and dig deeper into the topics at a higher level. It’s an ingenious system!
I like the fact that I can use as little or as much of the suggested materials as I like; the program simply gives me lots of great ideas and a structure to follow. My kids particularly enjoy the CD with short songs that help you memorize important events, and they love doing a little presentation for Mom and Dad at the end of each unit.
The only thing that I think would make this program better is to incorporate the visions of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich. She gives a completely different perspective on ancient peoples than most scholars would have you believe (hint: our ancestors were NOT uncivilized cave men!), so I think it would be valuable to read her visions to your kids in addition to the literature they recommend.
Hillsdale College–a classical university dedicated to the pursuit of the "good, the true, and the beautiful" and the preservation of the blessings of civil and religious liberty–offers fantastic FREE courses for all ages.
The Hillsdale 1776 Curriculum is a complete American History and Civics curriculum for K-12 which you can download on their website. Similar to Connecting with History, the topics can be studied at any age or grade level because there are unique lessons and resources for each age group. You can begin the curriculum any time you want and just keep cycling around the topics as your students get older. Also, you can have all of your kids studying the same topics together at the same time, rather than having to teach separate topics to each of your kids.
When it comes to history–and American history in particular–it is extremely challenging to find a curriculum that you can trust. It is the opinion of Hillsdale College that, despite its flaws, "America is an exceptionally good country." With Hillsdale College's courses, you don't have to worry that your kids will be learning the dishonest, "revisionist" history that is running rampant in public schools. You don't have to worry that they'll be learning some sugar-coated fantasy either. Instead, they will simply learn the TRUTH.
In addition to the 1776 Curriculum, Hillsdale College also offers a number of beautifully produced, video based online courses for free on all different topics, including American History, Politics, Literature, and Economics.
(Note: I have not watched the course on Genesis. I believe the idea of this course is to study Genesis completely from a literature standpoint rather than a religious one, which might not be bad. In any case, I would pre-screen it beforehand and if it does not contradict the truth then I would watch it with my students while emphasizing that the book of Genesis–while indeed poetic–does NOT belong to the genre of poetry but rather is a historical text. For a solid study of Genesis, I highly recommend The Genesis Documents by Mike Gladieux.)
11. Berean Builders (K-12)
OK, science is a really tough subject to cover as a faithful Catholic who upholds the traditional teaching of the Church and what the Fathers have always taught. A good Catholic science curriculum simply doesn’t exist (yet), but the next best thing is this Protestant curriculum. (If you’ve heard of Dr. Robert Sungenis, author of Galileo Was Wrong: The Church Was Right, this is what his family used.)
I really like that Berean Builders covers science in a chronological order, beginning with the Genesis creation account and proceeding to tell the story of what scientists have discovered (or where they were mistaken) throughout history. This way, you aren’t only focusing on biology one year, physics another year, etc. but you get to jump around which makes things more interesting. It’s easy to integrate this program with Connecting with History, or with any other curriculum. Each lesson and experiment is for families to do together, but assignments vary in difficulty depending on age. Experiments use common items that you already have laying around the house, or items that are inexpensive to acquire.
Just be careful when you get to the chapter on Galileo because they get it wrong and put the Church in a bad light. I recommend skipping that chapter. Older students might listen to a talk by Dr. Robert Sungenis on YouTube, watch his movie The Principle, or read a chapter from his book instead.
As far as evolution goes, Berean Builders does a decent job of explaining why that theory is incorrect, but they do not go into a ton of detail. For older students, check out the Kolbe Center: they have tons of great books, articles, videos and more to satisfy even the most inquisitive student.
St. Jerome Library & School is dedicated to helping homeschoolers provide their children with a truly Catholic education. They’re a unique resource for traditional, pre-Vatican II books, with beautiful pictures and quality binding added to bring them back to life again. If you can’t afford to buy, you can rent books for 1 year.
For studying our faith, we use the Baltimore Catechism along with various readers from St. Jerome Library.
I can’t say enough good things about this family-owned apostolate! Simply look up your child’s grade level or subject and you’ll find tons of beautiful books.
I’m just one mom and haven’t tried everything that’s out there, but chances are Cathy Duffy has. Check out her website for helpful reviews on even more Catholic and Christian curricula. If something isn't working for your child, check out her website!
If you need help to get started with homeschooling, here is a great book for Catholic home educators. Rather than giving you a specific curriculum to follow, this book empowers you with the principles you need to know to put together your own curriculum based on the classical Trivium. This was a helpful read for me when I first started homeschooling my children.
I hope this list gives you some ideas to curate your own Catholic homeschool curriculum that's best for your family.
Finding just the right curriculum can seem like a daunting or even impossible task. But, with a few good resources in your toolkit, it can actually be quite simple to design a curriculum that the whole family will love. The only limit is your imagination!
DAILY VISIONS OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN'S LIFE
Would you like me to send you a daily vision for meditation, as revealed to Ven. Mary of Agreda?