Firstly, the decision to homeschool our children was one we made a long time ago - we were 18 and 19 respectively! So I had lots of years in which to read books / research / talk to people etc. about the various approaches to homeschooling, and their experiences.
I guess you could say my style is a bit eclectic, a bit of this and that. Aside from the year Saraya tried out school in 2008 (long story, check old posts if you're interested!), her home education has been fairly much the "natural learning" style. No formal curriculums or programs. The same goes for Elijah this year. He is prep age so technically there are lots of things out there for purchase - but I prefer to leave my children to learn through play and life and time with us for as long as possible. He reads with us and often listens to what I'm doing with Saraya (she also tells him a lot of things later!); cooks with me, plays with other little boys and girls, creates the most amazing art and stories and songs and dances :), and just basically does his thing. Yet already I know he is well on the way to learning to read and write and understand the world - just through this natural learning sort of home environment.
But back to Saraya! I fell in love with Charlotte Mason's philosophies after reading The Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola - probably for the first time back in 1999! Since then I have re-read it many times and it remains my favourite homeschool resource because it focuses so much on children as a whole person, and on the family environment as well as the formal learning side of things. I love that lessons are done in the morning, and afternoons are free to pursue other things - personal interests, outings, rests, music practice, time to just "be", etc. I love her focus on oral narration and learning to read with confidence before pushing children to write. This has worked so well for Saraya! 6 months ago her writing was um... pretty basic :), and she was a reluctant writer, but now it's quite beautiful and she actually loves to write. And she is perfecting spelling due to all her reading! Anyway, if you're interested in Charlotte Mason, read the above book, it's wonderful. So this year we are encompassing a lot of these ideas into our homeschool. I also allow the children lots of time for free play - because children need to play!!! We have tried to stock our home with good books (lots and lots of them) and toys which allow for open-ended play. We have lots of dress-ups, dollies and accessories, legos and duplos, wooden blocks, bits and pieces for sorting and imaginative play, puppets and toy cars and cuddly toys. In the past year or two, art and craft has taken precedence with both the older children and they love love love to spend their free time creating at the dining table. Lots of mess, yes! But they also learn to clean up afterwards!
Until this year I had never purchased curriculum. I did use a few online sites for printing off activities etc. when Saraya was prep-age (I particularly love Jan Brett's website), but that was all. So I had the most wonderful time over the Christmas holidays researching curriculum and finding what I considered to be the best resources for Saraya for this year. This is what they are:
* For world history we use The Mystery of History. I love this curriculum so far. It also incorporates a lot of geography.
* For Australian history we use The Wide Brown Land for Me.
* For maths we use Math-U-See. We have started with Alpha, which is proving quite easy for Sarya, but giving her lots of confidence in maths (some of which she lost at school) - and allowing me to teach Elijah as well! In a relaxed way he takes part in our maths lessons and it's working well. Math-U-See is FUN!!
* For literacy we use Primary Language Lessons by Emma Serl. We are loving this curriculum! The lessons incorporate so many facets of language, both oral and written. They are original and creative and were the most affordable thing I purchased because you buy them as an e-book - only $11.95 for a whole year's worth of lessons. I also refer to What Your Second Grader Needs to Know which has been helpful too.
* For handwriting we are using Mother Goose Copywork and Aesop's Fables. These are also purchased as e-books and Saraya has really enjoyed using them.
* For science we are using The Wonderland of Nature and supplementing with a few other resources.
* I am teaching both the children piano and basic music theory, quite informally.
* And then we read, read and read some more. Chapter books, picture books and interesting books on whatever subjects we're learning about - both planned and unplanned.
* I am planning on doing some Unit Study type projects later in the year too. I like the idea of Unit Studies very much. Saraya is planning a project on the life of Beatrix Potter, and Elijah would like to do a study on space.
So that's it so far. I have a few other bits and pieces around that we use on and off, but these are the main parts of what we use at the moment.
I'll post more about how I actually use these curriculum around all the other things going on in our house, sometime soon!
Any more questions, just ask. :) Hope this helps.