How to Choose a Homeschool Curriculum

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

How to Choose a Homeschool Curriculum

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Whether you are a new homeschooling family or just looking to change up your homeschool curriculum choices for this coming year, I have some tips for choosing the Homeschool Curriculum that is right for you and your family!
How to choose the right Homeschool Curriculum

Picking the right homeschool curriculum is tough! There are so many choices out there and they all have their pros and cons. So here are some helpful tips to help you choose the right homeschool curriculum.

Money Matters

I want you to know that I listed making a homeschool curriculum budget first very intentionally. Sometimes what we want or think we really need is just out of our budget. It is not worth going into debt to get the perfect curriculum. There may be curriculums that are more visually appealing or have certain features you like more or less, but when it comes down to it, they all cover the same basic things. They will all work if need be.
Free Printable Homeschool Curriculum Worksheets

So make a budget of how much you can realistically spend. Figure out how many kids you need to cover and then start filling it in from must haves down. (Download FREE Picking Homeschool Curriculum Worksheets here)

Consider using some of the many free homeschool materials out there. I have over 300+ worksheets for kids on my site alone. You can also follow Free Homeschool Deals who shares many other free printables from all over the web and tips on homeschooling for less.

See it For Yourself

Some homeschool curriculums have done a great job with their packaging, description, or have a great reputation that draws you in. While none of those are inherently bad, you don’t want to just pick a curriculum because “you’ve heard it’s good” or “it looks fun”.  If you really like the idea of a curriculum, do these before you buy it:
  • search reviews for it online to see what others have to say when they look into it more in depth
  • ask local homeschoolers (or online homeschool forums) if anyone uses it and what they think,
  • Most Importantly! Get your hands on a copy to look at it.  Some larger homeschool companies have ways to browse the inside of the book online, you may be able to borrow the curriculum from a friend, or head to a homeschool convention where 100s of vendors will have their curriculum out to let you browse through.

Last year I was looking for a supplemental spelling curriculum to supplement my 2nd graders language arts program. We decided to double up on spelling after his spelling score on his IOWA tests was significantly lower than the other scores. I looked online and decided on what that looked good and was in our price range. When it got here it took me all of 2 minutes to decide I didn’t like it and it was not going to appeal to my son.  We ended up getting a different program I was able to browse online and it worked out great. (And for those that are wondering, his spelling scores went up dramatically this year – Woo Hoo!)

Buy for YOUR Unique Family

We are homeschooling in a great time. The trailblazers that went before us had very limited curriculum choices, but now we have a HUGE amount of homeschool curriculum to choose from! That’s great news because each homeschooling family is special, unique. We all have a unique approach and our kid have their own unique learning style.  Embrace it and things will go more smoothly in your home!

So even though your best friends family just loves a certain curriculum, doesn’t mean yours will.

For an example, in one of my local coops there are three families from the same church that meet together for monthly units and fieldtrips. Although I respect these women greatly and they all have lovely, intelligent children I couldn’t take a curriculum recommendation from them at face value. Why? Because we all have different homeschooling philosophies. One is an unschooler and the other is a very relaxed Charlotte Mason. I am somewhat Charlotte Mason minded, but I still see the need for seat work to refine skills and I like a little more rigorous schedule to help my kids achieve their potential.

So is my homeschooling approach better than theirs? NO!

We just have different methods based on the fact that we are different teachers, teaching different children. The variety is what makes us special to offering our children a unique view of life.  So when you buys a curriculum that has lots of memorization intended for a classical homeschooler and you (a charlotte mason play and literature based homeschooler) don’t love it – now you know why!

Keep in Mind the Realities of YOUR World

While we all have an ideal  homeschool in our mind, reality doesn’t always work out that way. You may like the idea of a curriculum, but you may not have the time. Perhaps you have a new baby or have to work outside the home. These factors all impact our homeschools.

Even if you really want to do this fieldtrip based curriculum, be realistic. Do you have the time to go to all the places involved? Do you have the finances to pay for all the admissions? Do you have the energy and ability to drag your 5 children to these fieldtrips twice a week?

What’s YOUR Style?

If you are the teacher you need to keep your preferences and needs in mind when choosing a curriculum.
  • do you need lesson plans done for you?
  • are you confident in the material being taught or do you need a teachers book to spell it out?
  • do you like doing hands on units / projects?
  • how many text books do you need to buy AND store?
  • do you like planning your own themed units?
    are you the creative type and therefore need a less rigorous curriculum to allow extra time into your schedule for lots of extra projects
For myself I’ve found that I need the basics (Math & Language Arts) to be in nice, simple format. I can always add extra review and writing opportunities, but we like the repetitive natures of these subjects. I like that they are laid out well so that I don’t need to buy, store, or continually reference a teacher’s manual. It works for us.

Our Science, History, Art, Music, and PE change from year to year based on the kids interests and my time. When I have the time I like doing big history and science units I pull together myself based on my children’s interests.  But with a very active toddler in tow this year our Christian Kids Explore Biology was a better fit. It had clearly laid out lessons, worksheets (if we wanted to), coloring sheets (which engaged my toddler) and hands on ideas (which this hands on family LOVED).

Keep your Spouse in the Loop

If you are the primary homeschooler in your family you may not even think about asking your spouse, but chances are they will have some useful insights to offer.

My guess is you married your spouse because you think similarly, they stretch you, you value their opinion, and you wanted to build a life together.

So narrow down the choices (because I am guessing they already have a full time out-of-the-home job to focus on) and then ask your spouse what they think.  Talk about your time, money you have available to purchase curriculum, and your child’s unique educational needs and interests. This is a great opportunity to help them feel like they have a say and are part of the process too.

Pray about it

I am a Christian homeschooler.  The decision to homeschooler was largely influenced by faith. So let’s not forget to not only judge homeschool curriculum though out Christian lens, but to actually ask for guidance from the source.  Pray for clarity. Pray for guidance. Pray for His blessing on your family, children, homeschool, and your discipling of your children.

What tips would you add for choosing a homeschool curriculum?

I’d love to hear your tips in the comments below!

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