I have never found a curriculum that I use completely and instead prefer to piece meal my resources into something that works for our family.
So, instead of the list of recommended curriculums that you might have been expecting… I’m going to tell you what to look for in a curriculum.
Because every family is different. What works for my family might not work for yours. So, when it’s time to start shopping for curriculums – here are the things to consider.
What is a Homeschool Curriculum?
For those who didn’t get a degree in education, a curriculum is basically a collection of all of the things that your child should learn in the course of a year, according to their grade level.
Curriculums are highly subjective and differ from publisher to publisher. In fact, no two states in the U.S. have the same curriculum standards for traditional schools.
There are many types of curriculums.
Your state laws may require that you have an approved by the state curriculum. If this is necessary, be sure to look for this information in any program that you use.
You may want to put together your own curriculum or use no curriculum at all – again this is highly subjective.
If you're like me, you may be happy to learn just how many options you have available to you.
This process doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Use all of the deschooling that you did and the things that you learned about your child’s needs to make a good decision for you, your child and your lifestyle.
Oh yeah, and your budget.
How to Choose a Homeschool Curriculum
Do a Google search for “homeschool curriculum + (the things you learned about your children's learning styles from deschooling).
For example: “Christian homeschool curriculum”, “homeschool curriculum reading based” or “homeschool curriculum for hyperactive kids”.
You may find some all-in-one curriculums that allow you to grade your child’s assignments and do testing and some individual pieces of curriculums that you can piece together.
The options are endless which is why this part usually overwhelms new homeschoolers.
While doing your research, your goal is to be able to see not only what is included in the curriculum but also what format it is being taught in.
Even more so, you may need to consider both your short-term goals and requirements and your long-term goals.
Encompassing these key aspects is critical to selecting a curriculum that will benefit both you and your child's education.
I use the Curriculum Research section of the Homeschool Binder to keep all of this information straight. That way when I am ready to make a purchase, I have all of my notes in one place.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Curriculum
The following are some key areas to explore. Keep each of these in mind as you look for the right homeschool curriculum.
Your Child's Needs and Strengths
One of the good things about a homeschool curriculum is just how flexible it can be to meet your child's specific educational requirements and needs.
In particular, your child's strengthens can be added to while other aspects can be strengthened.
Some of the publishers offering a homeschool curriculum will provide you with excellent tools to aid you in learning where your child's strengths and needs are.
These are done through aptitude tests and information available for you to assess your child.
This is an easy way to find the right curriculum to start your child on. Forget grade levels and age requirements. Focus on:
- Determine what areas of education your child excels in.
- Learn where your child's weaknesses or opportunities may lie.
- Learn about the areas that your child is most interested in and seems to enjoy.
- Find out the way that your child learns, such as through hands on activities or through reading.
- Find out where your child stands on his or her religious or world view needs, which is often a focus of many homeschooling programs.
Most homeschool curriculum publishers will give you tools to help you determine which option is right for where your child is – and where you want them to be.
The student is a key component of the process of selecting a curriculum, but so is the parent.
You may have your own wishes, ideas and plans that you wish to add to the homeschool process.
That is fantastic and it is an opportunity for you to do exceedingly well. The key is, though, that you need to find methods that work for your child and your needs.
Look at the various types of programs available. And think about what those mean for both your child AND for you.
- What method of teaching is used? This could be a structured style which is just like school in the home or based on the curriculum publisher’s standards.
- What medium is used to teach your child? For some children online learning might be ideal while others need hands-on.
- How is your child’s progress measured and by who? Making sure that your child stays on-pace with a pre-determined schedule can be difficult when your focus is on learning the material thoroughly rather than just knowing enough to get a passing grade. Knowing what is expected of your child for the curriculum to be considered “completed” is important so that you aren’t surprised down the line.
- Is there additional assistance provided for a student who is struggling? Or are you going to find yourself Googling “long division” to help your child with their work?
- Does the curriculum line up with what you want your child to learn – culturally, religiously, etc?
- Will the curriculum be enough or will you have to supplement to get some of the “specialized” teaching tools that you want? Usually this is more of a budget consideration than anything – but we can’t ignore the financial aspects of homeschooling.
Teaching options are often readily displayed in the programs. You are sure to find a range of different options to consider.
If you are unsure about what you should select, take some time to learn what other parents are doing and how well it is working for their particular child's needs.
This can help you to assure your child, and yourself, that you can homeschool around a method that matches everyone's particular needs and desires.
Your Teaching Philosophy
Your teaching philosophy is important to understand. Many aspects play a role in this area.
Take some time to explore your own ideas and feelings on your child's education. Here are some questions to ask yourself.
- Do you like the approach of learning through textbooks?
- Do you feel that you have the ability to design your own curriculum and meet state required standards? Do you feel comfortable with purchasing from a variety of publishers?
- Do you feel children need good lecturing, and as such, will you want to spend more time with hands on teaching with your child?
- What about literature? Do you think that it should play a significant role in your child's education? Rather, do you want your child to learn history from biographies and textbooks?
- How do you view life's ups and downs? Are they learning experiences or mistakes?
- How much time and energy do you honestly have to put into a lot of hands-on style of experiments and projects?
- Do you want your child to learn independently, rather than working hand in hand with you?
Your selection of a curriculum can be enhanced after you have explored these very personal opinions of how your child will learn.
There are no right or wrong answers here, just questions you should ask yourself.
Now that you have some basic information, head out and start looking at your options for curriculums.
Research them and really work to understand where your options are. Do not make a decision just yet, but narrow down your options based on the ideas that you know have in your mind.
Curriculum Advice from the Trenches
It is important to realize that there are no perfect curriculums out there. You will have to go through a period of trial and error until you find one that seems to work the best for you.
In fact, most people do go through a period of time where they are switching from one curriculum to another, because they are unsure which is the better fit for the child and for the parent.
But, it is important to avoid too many switches. If something is really wrong or not working, do look elsewhere. But, for the most part, unless there is some specific reason, you should stick with the program you have selected.
This will give your student the best opportunity to learn because of the continuity.
Also, do not feel like you have to purchase the most expensive products on the market – or any product at all.
You do not have to spend a lot of money to get a high quality curriculum for homeschool. Rather, what you may want to focus on is choosing a program that you can really get behind and believe in.
If you don’t find a curriculum that suits your needs, consider piecing your own together until you know more about what you want.
Often when you can’t find the right curriculum it’s either because you haven’t taken enough time to really figure out what options are best for your family OR you are one of the non-curriculum homeschoolers altogether.
Use Online Resources in Your Curriculum
Now that you have a good idea of what it takes to purchase a homeschool curriculum, what if you decide you do not want to go through that process and instead want something that is a bit more "free.”
The good news is that there are some excellent programs available to you online.
You will find a range of products to select from in the free and low-priced space.
But “free” isn’t inherently good or bad (just like expensive doesn’t tell you about quality). Instead of price, consider:
- Does this product actually help my child to achieve their goals?
- Who is promoting this product?
- Does it incorporate my beliefs and my teaching preferences?
- Is it valuable enough to invest my child's time into it?
- Is this the best product for my son or daughter?
The good news is that there are some excellent products available to help parents that are well worth your time. As long as you ask those questions, you are sure to find yourself in a wonderful position.
Online, you will find free homeschool curriculums available to you. Some of these products are a good choice, but you will want to investigate them thoroughly.
You will find a range of printable items available online, too.
These can be activities that help to reinforce what you want your child to learn through worksheet style programs, arts and crafts or simply educational packages.
In some situations you can find educational kits that are free to homeschoolers.
Use Curriculum Reviews
Now that you can see just how many options in homeschooling curriculums are available, take into consideration which is right for your child.
One way that you can choose the best curriculum is by investing some time reading reviews from other users.
Be sure that the website or other source you use for this information is providing you with the most authentic and actual user reviews and feedback since anything else is not going to provide you the best overall information.
Reviews are helpful, when they are authentic, because they give you a sense of what it will be like to actually use the program with your child.
They can help you to see common flaws or high points of any program. This gives you an inside peak into what it is like to use this particular program, or that one.
One of the reasons that parents spend so much time agonizing over the curriculum choice is that they believe a wrong decision will be costly to reverse.
Which is exactly why you may want to test drive a used curriculum that you pick up on ebay.com.
And in the meantime, you can start with a basic, free curriculum that you find online – and piece together the resources yourself.
Need more homeschool help? Check out these links: