Choosing homeschooling curriculum is very difficult subject because it is so unique to every family. You see, one of the beauties of homeschooling is that you are able to choose the curriculum you use with your child. This can be a very freeing feeling as there are so many curriculum options out there to choose from!
On the other hand, this can also be daunting and overwhelming as there are so many curriculum options out there to choose from!
I do not believe that there is one perfect curriculum that everyone should use. Personally, I am very grateful that there are many options to choose from because that allows each family the flexibility and opportunity to determine what curriculum will best fit their family so their children will learn in the best way possible.
Unless you are a part of a co-op or a mentoring program that lays out both the curriculum to use and the pacing of that curriculum, you have a lot of freedom to choose the curriculum that will resonate with you and your child and allow them to learn best.
Please know that there are some wonderful co-ops and mentoring programs that you can get involved with as a homeschooling family and I encourage you to look into the options available to you in your area. But for the purpose of this post, I’ll be focusing on how to choose curriculum when you are the one determining the curriculum used in your homeschool.
Always remember that the ultimate goal of homeschooling is to teach your children how to become lifelong learners. To teach them how to learn. To help them discover how they learn best. When you start with this ultimate goal in mind, it makes choosing curriculum much easier!
So how do you do it? How do you figure out what curriculum is right for you and your family and begin to make choices?
Not Just A List
As you travel your homeschooling journey, you will come across many different types of people. There are those that will tell you to just pick the curriculum that comes up first in a google search. There are those that will tell you to pick the curriculum with a name that you recognize. There are those that will tell you that you have to use the exact same curriculum that they have chosen and the exact same pattern that they have established or you’re doing it wrong.
Can I be perfectly honest with you? I don’t like any of those approaches!
We’ve talked before about how you have a unique teaching style and your child (or children) has a unique learning style. No one else is dealing with this exact combination of unique teaching and learning styles in their homeschooling. Therefore, by definition, your homeschool journey will not look identical to anyone else’s!
Oh, don’t misunderstand me, there is a lot that you can learn and glean from others, but you cannot allow the opinions of others to override what you know about yourself and your children.
So, if you were looking for a list of “this is the curriculum that you should use when you homeschool,” you’re not going to find that here, my Friend. Instead, I want to talk you through different types of curriculum that are available and give you a list of questions to ask yourself as you walk through the process of choosing not just any curriculum, but the curriculum that will best fit your family.
Know Your Children
One of the foundational pieces in choosing curriculum is knowing how your children learn. If you know their learning style, that will help you determine a curriculum that will mesh well with them. Are they more auditory learners? Are they more hands-on learners? Do they learn better reading larger amounts of information? Knowing this will help guide your curriculum choices. If you’re just starting out or your children are very young and you don’t know the answer to this question yet, don’t worry! Sometimes learning your child’s learning style is just that: A process of learning! There is nothing wrong with trying different methods until you find one that clicks.
Keep in mind that your child’s learning style might be slightly different from subject to subject. Just because one approach works in math does not mean that same approach will work for history or spelling. While this can feel confusing at first, it is not anything out of the ordinary. Think about it: Do you learn math the exact same way that you learn about literature? No! Just like different styles resonate with you as you learn different things, the same process happens with your child.
While this can feel like a daunting process, don’t get discouraged! Keep in mind that you will be learning right along with your child. Homeschooling is a journey, a process, a continual path of learning. This learning not only encompasses the school subjects, but learning how your child learns best and learning how you teach best. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers right at the beginning! Even if you think you have all the answers, they might change over time. Look at homeschooling as a path, a process, a journey to be traveled together.
Know Your Teaching Style
Along with knowing your children’s learning style, you want to take into consideration how you teach. Do you like to teach with hands-on activities? Do you teach better by having your child read or watch a lesson and then walking through the follow-up with them? Do you prefer to read out loud?
What are the subjects that you are strong in? What are the subjects that you are weak in and might need some extra help teaching? Keep in mind that just as your child’s learning style can change from subject to subject, your teaching style might change from subject to subject. You may prefer to teach science in a more hands-on way. You might prefer to have someone else teach the lesson in math and focus on walking through the follow-up with your children. You might prefer to teach history in a more read-aloud format. You might prefer to teach spelling in a more auditory way or through games or you could use a more worksheet-driven approach.
Don’t lock yourself into one style for every subject! Give yourself the freedom to learn which teaching style best fits you just as you learn which learning style best fits your child.
Do your Research
If there is one thing that I could impress upon you so incredibly urgently and firmly when it comes to choosing curriculum for your homeschooling program, it would be this: Do Your Research!
I cannot overemphasize how incredibly vital this piece is. As you’re choosing curriculum, taking into account both your child’s learning style and your teaching style, you need to make sure the curriculum you choose teaches the lessons that you want to cover. The only way to make sure all three of these core elements are found in the curriculum you are looking at is to do you research.
In addition to this, just because a curriculum works for someone else or their family does not mean that it will work for your family. Just because someone else recommends a particular curriculum does not mean that it will be the exact right fit for your family. DON’T just pick a curriculum and use it simply because everyone else is telling you that is the curriculum that you have to use. Do your research!
I have many friends who use different curriculum than my family does and that curriculum works well for them. Yet, the curriculum that we use would not be a good fit for their family and the curriculum that they use would not be a good fit for our family. Remember, the curriculum you choose needs to be the right curriculum for you, your child, and your family. You are your child’s parent. You are the one who is best equipped to make this decision!
Now, this is not to say that all recommendations are bad. On the contrary, there are many pieces of the curriculum that we use that were recommended by friends. However, I didn’t just run out and buy the curriculum when it was recommended to me. I did my research to determine whether it would be a good fit for my family. If it was a good fit, we went with it. If it wasn’t a good fit, we moved on. So, yes, take recommendations from friends, but do your research!
Did you catch the big key here? Make sure you do your research!
Types of Curriculum
So what kind of curriculum do you choose? All-encompassing? One that comes with a plan? Do you piece it together by yourself? Did I loose you just there? Hang with me, okay? Remember, today we’re focusing on the curriculum that each individual family has full control over. Let’s see if we can break this down a bit and make it simpler.
First of all, let’s define the types of curriculum:
There are curriculums that you can purchase that will send you all the materials you need for each subject for the entire year in one neat package. Along with all the materials, teacher books and lesson plans for the entire year are typically included.
Subject By Subject
There are curriculums that you can purchase that will send you all the materials you need for the entire year for only one particular subject in one neat package. These curriculums can come with lesson plans for the entire year, a DVD of a teacher presenting each lesson, or they may come with a suggested lesson plan for the entire year.
Unit studies tend to cover a shorter time span and are intended to supplement your studies in a particular area. Fo example, you may find a unit study on ‘Little House in the Big Woods’ by Laura Ingles Wilder. It will not take an entire year to go through this book! However, a unit study will typically have some worksheets, instructions for art projects, and more already created that relate very closely to the book. You can go through the unit study as you read the book, using the materials in the unit study to enhance the reading experience.
Build It Yourself
This is where you create your own curriculum from scratch. Perhaps you are a teacher and you have created curriculum in the past and want to use what you have already created. Or perhaps you are simply looking for curriculum in a particular subject and you cannot find what you want, so you decide to create it yourself. A word of caution: If you are just starting out homeschooling, be very careful with this option. While it is very possible to write a curriculum where your child can thrive, it is a very time-consuming process to do it right. If you are just starting out, I highly recommend that you stick with curriculum that has already been written.
Which one do you choose?
Now that we’ve covered the basic types of curriculum, that just leaves the burning question: What curriculum do you choose? Keep in mind that if you do not choose an all-encompassing curriculum, you will need to walk through this process for every subject. I don’t say that to scare you, but I want you to realize that this is not a decision to be made all in one afternoon! While some pieces of your curriculum might come very easy, others might take a little longer to determine, so give yourself the time you need to walk through this process.
So how do you go about choosing your curriculum? Here is a list of questions that you should ask yourself as you walk through this process:
- Am I capable of presenting the material in this subject by reading the lesson plans provided? Or do I feel that I will confuse my children if I am the one presenting the material?
- Will this mesh with my teaching style? Will I hate teaching this subject? Or will this help me to enjoy teaching this subject?
- Will this way of approaching this subject resonate with my children? Will they enjoy it and learn from it?
- Is it easy to understand how to present the lesson? Is the teacher’s guide easy to understand?
- Is this curriculum written for the level that my child is at?
- Does the curriculum talk to and with my child or does the curriculum talk down to or at my child?
- Does this curriculum work for our family budget?
Sometimes these questions make better sense when you see an example. So, take me and math. Now, I had math classes all the way through high school up to the Algebra II level. Math was never my strongest subject, but I managed to do okay at it. However, when it comes to explaining math in a clear way without circling around and around the lesson, well, I knew I needed some help! I felt like I would give my children a shaky foundation if I was the one presenting the material. So, I began looking for a math curriculum that came with an instructional DVD that they could watch.
After some research, I found a math curriculum that is not based on a timeline (where you must finish each lesson in a certain amount of time), but based on mastery. When your child masters the lesson, you as the parent allow them to move on to the next lesson. This curriculum came with a DVD in which a math teacher (who loves math and explains it very clearly!) teaches the lesson, and worksheets and a test already prepared for each lesson. This curriculum meshes very well with my teaching style in math because I do not have to present the lesson itself, yet I am still very involved in the process of making sure that my children understand and have mastery of the lesson before moving to the next one. I can make the determination of how much practice they need before moving on based on how well they demonstrate mastery of the concepts.
In addition, this math curriculum comes with a set of manipulatives or math blocks so that as each new lesson is presented, the student can build what they are learning and gain a greater understanding of what they are doing with the numbers on their paper. This approach of watching a DVD, building with math blocks, and doing worksheets resonates very well with my children.
Before we purchased this curriculum, I was able to borrow it from a homeschooling friend to see it in person before investing my money in it. When I started the DVD, I saw that my children were understanding and connecting with what the teacher said right away. The teacher taught to the children. He kept it right at their level, challenging them, but at the same time never talked down to them. On top of all that, the teacher materials were incredibly easy to understand! Based on all these factors, we decided to purchase this math curriculum and I am not sorry that we did! It has served us well, but I would not have found it had I not taken the time to do my research and walk through the questions that I laid out for you above.
You are not locked in
One of the fears in choosing a homeschooling curriculum seems to be that once you choose a curriculum, you have to stick with it to the end, no matter what. My Friend, that is a total myth! There is absolutely nothing saying that you have to stick with your original choice of homeschooling curriculum with no option for change!
Now, I don’t recommend trying out a new curriculum every 2 weeks until you find one that fits. That would get a little expensive buying all that curriculum, not to mention confusing trying to figure out each new pattern! When you choose a curriculum, make sure that you use it and utilize it and give it a good try before you write it off and look for something else.
But also realize that you are not 100% locked into a particular curriculum forever. If you need to change course and change curriculum so that your child can learn better, by all means, do it! You are the one guiding this journey! You get to choose what is best for your family!
When it comes to homeschooling, always remember…
Your curriculum that you choose will be unique to your teaching style and your child’s learning style.
Curriculum is a tool to help you along your homeschooling journey, not the dictator of your homeschooling journey.
The ultimate goal of any curriculum that you use should be teaching your children how to learn, allowing them to discover how they learn best.
Homeschooling is a journey. It is following a path. Curriculum, while a foundational piece of your journey, is not the sole dictator of your journey. You, as a homeschooling parent, are the guide: The one who sets the direction and tone for your homeschool. And that includes choosing curriculum that will help you along your journey.
You can do this, my Friend! And I’ll be here to cheer you on and provide resources for you every step of the way!
- How to Start Homeschooling: 10 Important Tips
- How To Create Your Yearly Curriculum Plan
- How To Create A Yearly Homeschooling Calendar
- Learning: The Ultimate Goal
- 3 Paralyzing Myths and How to Overcome Them
Elizabeth Tatham, founder of Inspiration in the Everyday, is a homeschooling momma of 5 who loves helping other homeschooling mommas create a unique homeschooling adventure your kids will love…without the overwhelm! Join in on the journey with 7 simple steps to make your homeschooling day go faster, easier, and with less tears here.