Choosing curriculum for your homeschool can be a joyful or a daunting experience. We are fortunate to be homeschooling in a time where there are hundreds of different curricula to choose. Or are we? I have been there. When looking for guidance, there are just as many tips and opinions out there as there are curriculum choices, and most of the tips are similar. Making choices can be overwhelming, but it is one of my favorite duties as a home educator. Let me share with you a few personal tips of what I have learned over the past decade that may be different than what you are used to reading.
1. The Grass is Green on Both Sides
It really is! You may be using something great, your friend may be using something else that’s great, and your favorite blogger may be using another something that’s great. Great choices are plentiful in the curriculum market. What I’ve learned is that if your grass is green, keep chewing it! It’s not even possible to enjoy all the green grass! In other words, if you have something you are currently using and like it – stick with it.
2. Most Popular Can Be Misleading
I have a little story to share about this one. There are a few curricula out there that everyone seems to recommend. I would rather not name names, but to give you a hint – they both start with the letter A. If you’ve been homeschooling a while, you will probably figure it out. I remember one that came highly recommended when I was just starting out. I had an opportunity to give it a thorough look over, but chose to only purchase one small booklet. What seemed to be the go-to book at the time for teaching phonics, turned out to be one of the wackiest ways to learn to read for us. We abandoned it quickly, and I found something else to where I didn’t feel like I was teaching “Stuttering 101. ”
More recently, we tried another popular curricula among middle schoolers. As a science-lover, I was attracted to those books like the north and south poles of a magnet! Within the first two months of using them, the attraction quickly wore off. They were killing our love for science, but I still saw a glimmer of potential in them. I improvised and managed to have a good year of science.
Guess what? I fell into that same trap again a couple of years later. This time, it wasn’t necessarily the magnetic attraction that enticed me to buy. It was the popularity contest that these books had been winning for years. They must be the best, right? Absolutely not. I felt the science was ok, but could not get past the publisher’s forced ideas and slanted agenda throughout the text. As a Bible believer, science books should be about science and how the Bible showcases it, not rants about someone’s perceived worldview.
Bottom Line: Don’t feel bad if you don’t fit in with the popular crowd. It’s not for everyone.
3. Research, Research, Research
I love writing reviews. I love reading reviews even better. One of my favorite things to do when choosing curriculum for the year is sip coffee and read, read, read. I have been known to go out past the ten o’s in Google! You can gain much insight, plus it’s a great pastime for a night owl like myself.
4. Learning Styles & Teaching Styles
This is usually one of the first things most do when researching curriculum. I agree it is an important step, but don’t over analyze it. I have seen my kids learning styles as well as my teaching styles change several times over the years. I’ve even seen changes between different subjects! If you find something you like and have a passion for relating that information to your kids, they will learn.
5. Don’t Skimp
I believe home education is an investment. That statement includes an investment in time as well as a financial investment. With that said, I don’t skimp on curriculum. Like many homeschool families, we live on a single income. I make a big effort to buy used, whether be it a homeschool consignment store, Ebay, or convention discounts. We also try to keep our curriculum in good shape, so it can be sold when we are finished. I also look for the most current editions. Many times, older teacher manuals and student text are still available, but when it comes time to purchase the consumable student workbook, the pages do not match up with older editions. This is frustrating, and I would recommend avoiding this.
Free things are available online if you have the time, printing capabilities, and patience to put it all together. Whatever you choose, keep in mind the investment you are making in the education of your kids. If it requires you to forgo a new pair of shoes, or a few trips to Starbucks, do it! Your kids are worth it.
6. Don’t Worry Much About Grade Levels
I am fortunate to have kids two “grade levels” apart. Rather than spending extra money on curricula and extra time teaching, I usually take the middle of the two. That has worked well with most subjects, especially science and history. I expect more from the older one, and slightly less from the younger one. They are average math students, so that subject I keep on their level. Certain parts of English classes are also kept on grade level. Several publishers offer multi-level curriculum. That is the way to go when teaching multiple students, and fantastic for the true homeschool experience of learning together.
7. Less Really is More
This is a tough one for a curriculum junkie like myself! There are so many things to learn! The publishers know it, too. It’s like those shiny new books are coated in glitter – the kind that never gets all over everything! It has taken me many years, but I am slowly trying not to buy every awesome-looking thing out there. I only have so many hours in a day, and so do you. Take a good look at the time you have to put into it before you buy something that requires more parent prep time than you can handle. Buying too many things can leave you discouraged and broke. Invest in quality products that can be used for several years if possible.
8. Boxed vs. Build Your Own Curriculum
I tend to lean more on the eclectic side in our curriculum choices, but not always. “Boxed” means using one publisher for all subjects, rather than one publisher for math, another for history, and another for science, and so on. When we first started homeschooling, I used a “boxed” set. We had a wonderful year. A couple of years later, I decided I would mix and match. It was not our best year. We lacked the unity and consistency we were accustomed to having with using the same publisher. It wasn’t until after we had been homeschooling awhile that I felt comfortable to DIY it.
Sometimes boxed sets get a bad rap about how expensive they are, and only a few pieces are really worth it. I feel like these “sets” are put together by professionals, materials are well presented, and are just exactly what some folks need. When you are ready to branch out and hand-pick, you can certainly build your own. Remember, you are not married to any of it.
9. Consider Your Goals
Whether going straight to work or straight to college, academic requirements will vary. As I am approaching that stage myself, I am starting to ask myself what skills do I want them to have when they leave the nest. A strong work ethic, life skills, and a solid understanding of God’s Word would be my top three (not necessarily in that order). While you may want to adhere to most state requirements for college entry, don’t get so caught up in these “state requirements” that they will not have the ability to function as a responsible adult. Take the time to teach life skills, and pass on your knowledge of the qualities that employers are really looking for. Without those skills, a dazzling transcript won’t mean much in the working world.
This is one I was not going to touch on, but I feel the need to mention it. Prayer is typically number one when choosing curriculum that I see on most lists. It seems like many treat prayer as some kind of superstitious crystal ball when it comes to choosing curriculum. Don’t be like this! Rather, pray that “…ye might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding”. Colossians 1:9
I hope that my post has been helpful! Have fun in choosing curriculum this year, and be sure to grab my FREE printable in the Free Resource Library!