It’s one of the most daunting aspects of homeschooling – here’s a way to make it easier.
If you’re new to homeschooling, then whatever you do, don’t google “homeschool curriculum.”
(I’m only half joking.)
Homeschoolers today have a huge advantage over those of thirty or even twenty years ago. Today there are far more publishers creating quality resources specifically for homeschool use. The variety of materials available is also much larger. It’s much easier to find resources for students with different learning styles or learning challenges, like dyslexia. It’s also easier to find curriculum written from a secular viewpoint.
Even homeschooling families are creating materials, classes, and full curriculums for other families.
The downside to all this is that now homeschoolers have roughly eleventy billion options to sift through. How in the world does one search through that haystack while looking for just the right needle?
We’ve come up with three considerations which should help make the process easier:
Consider This: What’s your educational philosophy?
Stay with me here. I know this might sound heavy, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s also an important concept to think through when you begin homeschooling. Knowing what your own thoughts are on education will keep you on the right path.
Your educational philosophy doesn’t have to be a big fancy document with a lot of impressive words and ideas. It’s just your thoughts about what education should look like. Even simply answering these questions will get you off to a good start:
- Besides the standard academic subjects, what other elements do you want to include in your child’s education? (For example, outdoor exploration, art appreciation, foreign language, mentorship or apprenticeship…)
- What should a typical day look like? (Teach using high-quality literature or textbooks and workbooks? Use physical materials or online programs? Do school on the couch or at the kitchen table?)
- When your child has completed their home education, what skills and knowledge do you want them to have? (Besides the obvious reading, writing, and arithmetic skills of course. What about handicraft skills, or specific technology skills, or skills in leadership or entrepreneurialism? College may or may not be a goal; maybe going to vocational school or doing an apprenticeship is a better fit for your child. What skills do you want them to have for those post-graduate endeavors?)
Consider This: What is your child’s learning style?
Schools don’t use workbooks and textbooks because they’re the best way for kids to learn. They use them because that’s one of the best way to teach a lot of people at once in a uniform fashion. The problem is, not every child learns well with that approach. If your child is one of them, feel free to ditch workbooks and textbooks altogether. The freedom to choose curriculum that works well for your child is one of the best things about homeschooling.
But what do you use if you don’t use workbooks and textbooks? Believe it or not, you have a LOT of alternative options.
Think about the way your child likes to learn and the kinds of things they like to do in their free time. Then try to identify some ways you can combine their learning style and interests to teach them the standard academic subjects.
Then think about all the things that can be educational in and of themselves. Novels. Board games. Documentaries. Museums. Local theater. Non-fiction books. DIY projects. Online courses. (Not online classes – the kinds of courses you find on sites like Udemy.com.) Movies. Legos. The library. Encyclopedias. (The hardbound kind. Yes, they still make those.) The list goes on and on. Imagine all the learning you could do without once cracking open a textbook!
Now, you may be wondering, “How do I know what kinds of materials to look for if I don’t know how my child is wired to learn?” Good question! This is one of the reasons that a period of deschooling is a good idea if your child has spent any time in a conventional school environment.
(And now you’re asking, “What the heck is deschooling?!”)
Deschooling is a deprogramming period. It’s a process that gives children the chance to fully shed the constraints and expectations of the conventional approach to school. They don’t have to worry about being forced to learn anything they don’t want to learn. Instead, they can do whatever sounds interesting to them, be it reading, sleeping (a HUGE need for most students), or even watching TV or playing video games. (Within your family’s boundaries, whatever those may be.) Think of it as summer break without the specter of the next school year hanging over you. (Admit it, it sounds awesome, right?)
School told them what they had to learn and how they had to learn it. Deschooling allows them to figure out what they want to learn and lets them learn however they want.
Maybe that means finding websites that teach how to code mods for their favorite video game. Or watching YouTube videos to learn how to sew a dress for a doll (or themselves). Or learning how to use a stop motion video app to make their own Lego movie by just diving in and figuring it out on their own. Or reading books about…well, anything!
But, just as importantly, deschooling allows you to observe them and figure out how they like to learn – so you can then figure out what kind of curriculum or teaching method will dovetail with their natural bent.
Consider This: What methodology fits you best?
“Methodology” is just a fancy word for “approach.” It’s the “how” that matches up with your “why” (the reasons you decided to homeschool), as well as with your personal educational philosophy.
There are quite a few homeschooling methodologies, so to make things easier I’ve grouped them into three basic categories:
Still not sure which of these options would suit you best? Take our methodology quiz! It’s an easy way to figure out where you should start your research.
But once you figure out which category best describes you, don’t expect that you’ll follow any of the methodologies listed there exactly. The best part of homeschooling is that you can customize it – and you will, over time, taking ideas from here and there and grafting them in to your own practices. So if you aren’t crazy about every aspect of a particular methodology, never fear – just ditch the ones you don’t like and adopt the ones you do!
All Things Considered…
Now that you’ve thought through these three ideas, narrowing down your curriculum options will hopefully be much easier.
I still don’t recommend doing a straight-up internet search for curriculum, however, even with search terms that should narrow down the results. Instead of eleventy billion options you’ll get a few hundred, and that’s still too many to wade through without having an idea of exactly what you’re looking for.
Join some Facebook groups for the methodologies you are most interested in. Then do a search in those groups for curriculum recommendations. The added benefit here is that you’ll also see lots of feedback from other users and can also ask for recommendations that suit your child’s learning style.
Another option is to check out The Homeschool Mom’s reviews. There are reviews for hundreds of programs and resources, and they’re all submitted by other homeschoolers who have actually used them, so you’ll get lots of opinions and experiences to judge by. (The downside is that not all of the reviews will be in-depth or well-rounded.)
Cathy Duffy’s curriculum review site is another excellent resource. Her reviews (particularly those in her “Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum” books) go into great detail and are very well-rounded. Unfortunately, since her children are all grown, her reviews are not based on actual experience. But she did homeschool them when they were younger, so she analyzes the resources through the filter of an experienced homeschooler. (Another excellent reason to get your hands on her “Top Picks” book is that she charts all resources based on method and learning style. This makes it much easier to hone your search.)
One Last Consideration…
There are a lot of factors that contribute to whether curriculum suits any given child well.
You may love it, but your child may hate it – or vise versa. You may both love it but find it doesn’t give you the results you were hoping for. It may be more complicated than you expected – or too simple. For any number of reasons, you may find sooner or later that the curriculum that looked online like a perfect fit simply isn’t. In that case, it is perfectly okay to ditch it and try something new.
Nothing about homeschooling is ever set in stone. Change it up – be it schedule, method, or curriculum – until it’s what you want it to be. So when you hit that “complete purchase” button or fork over that credit card, don’t panic at the idea of being married to that program or those books for the next ten months. Between return policies and used curriculum websites where you can unload what you don’t use, you’ll be able to refund, resell, and replace that curriculum until you do find the perfect program.
And it’s my hope that this list of considerations will get you to that perfect program sooner rather than later.
Brand new to homeschooling?
Check out 5 Essential Steps to Homeschooling, which includes a downloadable checklist to help you get started. There’s even space on it for you to record all your curriculum selections to help you keep track of them!
Hey homeschoolers! Chime in!
Where have you had the most luck finding reviews and recommendations? Where is your favorite place to resell and purchased used curriculum? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!
I help new homeschoolers make a smooth transition, and experienced homeschoolers regroup and refine for the road ahead.