How to Choose The Best Homeschool Curriculum
Are you planning to homeschool but having a hard time wading through all the curriculum choices? Do you need some help understanding how to choose the best homeschool curriculum?
I completely understand!
Even though I was homeschooled for junior high and high school, I was only familiar with 2 different curricula, both of which were very traditional in style. I had come from a Christian school, and it was the easiest transition for me just to continue with the same curriculum I had been using there.
So when it came time for me to start completely fresh with my own children, all I knew was what I had used my entire life, and that is what I ended up choosing.
As we went along, however, I could see areas that weren’t meeting my children where they were. Even though the material was academically strong, it created weaknesses in my children because certain parts weren’t resonating with their learning style.
Thus I began the process of researching the best homeschool curriculum for my children.
To keep you from becoming overwhelmed, as could happen when you consider the incredible amount of options that are available, I’ve come up with some things for you to consider as you choose your curriculum.
Whether you’re a new homeschooler, or a seasonsed veteran looking to make some changes, these considerations will help you narrow down your choices.
1.Determine your homeschool style
Knowing your style will cut down on a huge amount of material for you to consider. For instance, if you prefer a Charlotte Mason approach, you won’t want to spend your time looking at traditional curriculum. If you like traditional curriculum, you won’t need to look at unit studies.
If you have no clue what the different homeschool styles are, I would suggest starting out with a traditional curriculum (something that would be used in a school classroom) since that is what you (and your child if they have already been in school) will already be used to. You can make changes or additions as you see fit and learn about the other homeschooling methods gradually instead of overwhelming yourself.
2. Determine your children’s strengths and weaknesses
Does your child struggle with math? Perhaps his curriculum last year wasn’t the best fit. Find something that takes a different approach and things just might click!
3. Determine your child’s best learning style
Is your child a hands-on learner? Or do they just prefer a no-fluff, get-it-over-with approach? Certain curriculum lean very much one way or another, so check what kind of child it will cater to and eliminate ones that aren’t the right fit.
4. Determine how much time you have available
How much time will you be able to spend with each child teaching them? How much time will you have to spend preparing the lessons and grading them? Be realistic! A lot of times we homeschooling moms get big ideas, but we’re not able to carry through with them and end up getting frustrated halfway through the year.
If you know you need something that’s low-prep on your part, then eliminate anything else even though it might look so very fun!
5. Determine what worked last year and what didn’t
If you are not brand new to homeschooling, you can learn a lot about curriculum for the next year by evaluating the previous year. If you feel like everything went as smoothly as it could have gone, there is no need to change a good thing!
If certain subjects went well, but you got frustrated with others, don’t throw the entire thing out. Keep what worked and only shop for the subjects that didn’t go so well last year.
6. Determine your budget
Don’t make money be your first consideration unless you absolutely have to. Choose what will work best for you and your child regardless of the cost and you will not regret it! However…I know what it’s like to be on a tight budget.
If you think you are up to it, you can piece together a basically free curriculum by using resources from the internet and the library. This is incredibly time-consuming and not for the faint of heart, but it can be done.
If you are being realistic and admit that you can’t really do that, start by shopping the lower priced curriculum first and see if there is something that fits your family’s needs. Even if there is something that almost fits, it is very possible that you can make a couple changes or supplement a subject or two with free resources.
7. Do you want to buy all-in-one or pick and choose?
Some curricula comes in a boxed set which includes everything needed for every subject. I did this last year, and it was exactly what I needed to do! One purchase and I was DONE with my shopping! Since the one I chose came with done-for-you lesson plans, I was also done with all my planning. Ahhh! What a sigh of relief!
Even though this past year went quite well, I do want to improve on the subjects where my kids ended up being a little weak and where the curriculum wasn’t holding their interest all that well. So now I am changing things up a bit and mixing and matching different curricula for different subjects, which means I need to shop for each subject separately.
8. How many lessons do you need?
Most curricula comes with the standard 180 lessons required by most states. But if you are choosing a unit study approach or putting together your own curriculum, you will need to make sure you buy enough to last the entire year.
9. Make a list of subjects to cover
If you are not purchasing a boxed curriculum, make a list of every subject you plan to cover with your child. I focus on the 3 “R”s first, making sure those are strong and solid.
After going through the above points, determine what is not optional in a curriculum and make a list of what is not optional. Check those first when looking at a new curriculum and cross it off immediately if those things are not included. For example, here is mine:
- Little to no pre-planning
- At least partially hands-off for mom (video courses or self-taught)
- Doesn’t have tons of busywork
- Interesting for the kids
- Appeals to multiple learning styles
- Phonics program must be very similar to the previous curriculum we used
The longer your list, the easier it will be to eliminate curriculum that doesn’t fit (unless you are not being realistic with your list.) Think long and hard about exactly what you want because it will make your research go much faster!
After your “not optional” list should be your “would like” list. Here’s mine:
- Combines the teaching of 2 or more subjects together, like handwriting, history, and Bible
- Easy to teach multiple grades together
If I find more than one curriculum that meets my “not optional” requirements, I’ll also check to see if any of them have the things on my “would like” list.
11. Read reviews
Once you’ve narrowed down your list, search for reviews on the curriculum you are considering. You may find out things about it that you don’t like. Just because something sounds good on the website, it’s best to find out from people who have used it whether it lives up to its promises. I have already eliminated the math curriculum that I was strongly considering after reading multiple negative reviews. I was disappointed about having to start over on my search, but glad I became aware of the negatives before I spent my money on it.
This should actually be at the top of the list, but even though you didn’t read it first, you should still do it first before you start your curriculum search!
Ask God to guide you to exactly what your family needs. Ask him to help you think of the right questions to ask about the curriculum you are considering. Ask him to keep you from spending money on the wrong choices. Ask him to provide the finances for what you need.
UPDATE: To make your task of finding the right curriculum less overwhelming, I created a homeschool curriculum planner. It will walk you through narrowing down your choices, with 58 pages of instructions and worksheets to guide you in the process. Take a look here.