I love homeschool conventions! Vendor halls are filled with shiny new curriculum and the aisles are abuzz with excited momma chatter. But the truth is, choosing homeschool curriculum doesn’t make everyone so excited.
I’ve had the privilege of helping families choose their homeschool curriculum while working with Teach Them Diligently Convention. And I’m always so surprised at how nervous and inadequate most parents feel about the decision of selecting homeschool curriculum for their family.
It is such a blessing to reveal to them the myths they’re believing and the unnecessary pressures they’re placing on themselves in this process. And now, it’s your turn!
The goal is for you to walk away from this post feeling TOTALLY empowered as you make those curriculum decisions this year.
I’ve been a homeschool mom for over a decade now. Long enough to get my feet wet for some of you veterans out there, but an eternity for those of you just beginning. But I’m not new to teaching by any means.
I taught K-2 grades for 9 years in the public school before I started this homeschool journey. My degree had an emphasis in curriculum design, so I was super excited in 2004, when I began evaluating homeschool students for their year end evaluation (a Florida thing) and helping their parents select curriculum that would fit their needs.
Since then I’ve studied just about everything out there. Whether for my job with Teach Them Diligently, my friends, or my own home, I’ve learned a lot about the great stuff out there to help us teach our children! So let’s roll up our sleeves and get to the bottom of how you can select a homeschool curriculum that works for your family!
Before we can actually learn the steps for choosing curriculum, we need to throw away the myths. So let’s start by dispelling some of those well-worn myths about homeschool curriculum.
Dispel the Myths about Choosing Homeschool Curriculum
Myth One: There is only ONE SINGLE curriculum or method that will get your child into Harvard.
As grandpa says, there is more than one way to skin a cat. This is true for homeschool. Maybe you don’t care about Harvard so much, but I image you do want your children to succeed academically. No worries. Truth: There are many ways to homeschool children who will thrive in highly academic college environments.
MYTH Two: Your homeschool MUST look exactly like the traditional school environment.
Hopefully you’ve already come to this conclusion, but there is indeed a reason you homeschool, right? The idea is to get away from what is happening in the traditional classroom, not create a little mini-version at home. In most cases, these methods fall short of meeting the needs of students, especially those with special needs, active little boys, and well, pretty much all kids. Haha.
I’m not saying that you can’t have desks for your kids or that workbooks are taboo. You can have those things if you want. Just KNOW that you are not tied to those things in order to be successful. Truth: You can homeschool anytime, anyplace, and in any manner you desire!
MYTH Three: What works for your friend’s family will work for you.
We’ve been thinking this since we were teenagers: whatever my friend has surely must be the best. Hopefully, you learned back then how wrong this thinking is. So don’t fall back into it when it comes to homeschool curriculum. Just because it works for one family, does NOT EVER make it a good fit for you. Unless of course, you and your friend are identical twins, share the same husband, and your children are clones. (Hope you laughed.)
Seriously, God has designed us all to be unique. Take ideas and suggestions from your friends, but never buy something just because it works for her. Truth: Every family has unique people, circumstances and resources that will impact their homeschool curriculum choices.
Myth Four: If you don’t get the right curriculum, you’ll ruin your kids.
There is no way to answer this one without plain out stepping on your toes (so, I’m sorry.) But, ahem…YOU can’t ruin your kids if you walk obediently with God in control. As long as you have made a prayerful decision about that curriculum, leave the results in God’s hands. Don’t try and put it on your own shoulders.
Public schools switch curriculum all the time. Literally. Some EVERY year! Nothing is perfect. Not even curriculum! Truth: Yes, selecting a homeschool curriculum is a vital decision in your homeschool; but if you make the wrong choice, your children won’t be ruined forever.
Phew. I hope we can all breathe a sigh of relief now and get to the real question. What is the secret to choosing homeschool curriculum that will work for your family? It’s really much easier than you think!
Steps for Choosing Homeschool Curriculum
Step 1: Pray.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t rest in any decision unless I know for sure that God is behind it. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way. A little, “what do you think, God” kinda prayer thrown in after I’ve written the check really isn’t the kind of prayer that is going to help me. I suspect you’ve learned the same.
So let’s do this thing right from the start. Pray and ask God to specifically reveal to you which items to buy for your family. Ask Him to show you the answers to the questions below. Then have faith that He will!
Step 2: Evaluate MOM’S needs.
Yes, you read that right. Haven’t you heard the saying, “If momma ain’t happy, nobody’s happy?” You know it’s true. The main point here is that mom is the teacher. If she buys a curriculum that requires 2-3 crafts a day and she HATES crafts, how long do you think it will take before the curriculum is in the trash? No matter how good someone says it is, if you open the curriculum and it gives you hives, DON’T BUY IT!
I promise that there are enough curriculum options out there that you can find one that meets your unique personality. Don’t feel guilty about that. Your kids will love to learn if you are excited about it, too. If you dread every moment, 180 days will seem like and eternity and you will long to put your kids on the yellow bus next fall.
Step 3: Consider your unique circumstances.
Some of you are probably doubting my choice in putting this as step 3. Let me explain. Your family’s unique circumstances are a HUGE part of this decision process.
Let’s say for example that you are a mom of 8 children. Will you have time to teach a curriculum that is teacher-intensive for each grade level? Of course not. There aren’t even enough hours in the day. If you are a mom with more than 1 or 2 kids, you will need to look for ways to streamline things for the little guys and ways to teach the older ones to be strong independent learners. This is the case in my home, as well.
As a single mom, I work inside my home 40+ hours a week. Our homeschool day has to be flexible and my children need to be independent learners. There is no reason to sit and hear my 4th grader read out loud every single time, but every reason to do that with my 1st grader. I have to balance the time and so will you. So make sure you consider the dynamics in your home before purchasing a curriculum.
Step 4: Consider your CHILD’S needs.
Of course, you also need to consider your child’s needs when you select your curriculum. Do you have a boy? Typically boys under the age of 8 can not sit and do focused work for more than about 15 minutes. This would be very important to consider when you pick his curriculum.
Likewise, maybe you have a 6 year old child who is reading on a 5th grade level. Sometimes that happens. Until your child levels out, don’t select a curriculum that will box the poor child into a 1st grade level reading workbook. Does your child hate crafts? Then don’t buy a unit study full of them. Does your child love to draw? Then perhaps look for curriculum that affords her that opportunity.
Of course, I couldn’t possibly begin to offer suggestions for every child in this post, but I hope you get the idea. Look for something that meets your child’s needs! And if you want some specific suggestions, check out the videos and links from Curriculum Week by clicking here.
Step 5: Consider the reviews.
Once you have considered the first 4 steps you may find yourself with a few good options still. Now is the time to look at the reviews. Ask your friends who may use it or search online for opinions. Of course, if you still can’t decide, don’t forget to resort to #1: Prayer. In time, God will reveal the best choice!
We’ve dispelled the myths and we’ve talked through the steps for choosing. Now let’s finish up with my top three requirements for the perfect homeschool curriculum. Consider these your filters or “curriculum glasses” as you choose.
3 Requirements for Choosing the Best Homeschool Curriculum
If you haven’t yet watched my video on why independent learning is the ONLY way to go in your homeschool, I encourage you to do that now. It’s totally free and I think you’ll learn a ton of valuable information. If you are already on board with independent learning as the foundation of your homeschool, GREAT! This is the key to helping your kids want to learn so much they just can’t stop.
So when looking for a curriculum, I first search for curriculum that will support my children as they strive to learn without relying on me as a crutch. (I’ve given many examples in the video, but overall it’s quite easy to spot just how parent-intensive a curriculum is!)
Interesting (or interest-driven)
Next on the list is interest. It’s funny because most parents skip this part. They figure school should be boring, or at the very least just something to be endured. No way! Learning is fun and exciting. There are many ways to do it and many avenues by which we can enjoy the beauty of knowledge. Oh friend, please let your child enjoy these!
For example, my son struggles with handwriting. For copywork practice, we wrote Bible verses related to dragons. He couldn’t wait to do it each day. Sometimes you have to think outside the box to get something that fits, but it’s always worth the effort. Please never think an official curriculum of some sort will solve your learning issues if it bores the poor tyke to tears.
This is actually the reason I created the Reading Journal. It’s the perfect way to allow your kiddos to read anything that interests them while at the same time having the accountability for processing the material. It’s been a lifesaver for my child who struggles with reading.
Covers multiple subjects
As a work-at-home mom with 4 kids, I absolutely must combine things when it comes to homeschooling. There are two ways to do this. First, you can combine ages. Apologia’s science and world view curriculum are excellent examples of this. You can work with multiple children from the same text using different workbooks. Mystery of History is another great example.
The second way to combine is to find a single curriculum that covers multiple subjects. Notgrass history is a great example of this for high school. Instead of just getting a history credit, you get one for Bible and English at the same time. That’s a triple win.
Even better, combine both methods like I did with To Every Nation, my new study of missionaries. Not only can it be used across elementary and middle school, it covers history, geography, Bible, and reading/writing.
Need more Help with Homeschool Planning?
If you need more specific direction and inspiration in your choosing your homeschool curriculum or planning your homeschool year, I want to invite you to my FREE Homeschool Planning Boot Camp!
In only 5 days, you could be set up for your best homeschool year ever! I’d love for you to join me!
So what do you think? Do you have additional suggestions? Share your thoughts with us!