It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Vendor halls are filled with shinny new curriculum and the aisles are abuzz with excited momma chatter. But the truth is, choosing homeschool curriculum doesn’t make everyone so excited. Last year, I had the privilege of helping families choose their homeschool curriculum while working with Teach Them Diligently Convention. I was so surprised at how nervous and inadequate most parents felt about the decision of selecting homeschool curriculum for their family. It was such a blessing to reveal to them the myths they were believing and the unnecessary pressures they were placing on themselves in this process. And now, it’s your turn!
For the purposes of this post, I feel the need to share a little about my background in an effort to help you feel comfortable with the principles I want to share with you. 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 6 years. Just 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!
We will start by dispelling some of those well-worn myths about homeschool curriculum.
1. Myth: 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.
2. MYTH: 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!
3. MYTH: 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.
4. Myth: 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, Im 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. Not to mention, I must point out that 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!
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 2. 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!
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!
I’ve created a Free printable to help you ponder these questions. Just click on the image below to download!
So what do you think? Do you have additional suggestions? Share your thoughts with us!