Imagine this scene…. You’re new to homeschooling, and you’ve filed your notice of intent (or whatever is required in your state). You have cleaned out the guest room, added desks, and created a “school room” (or you’ve just cleared off a space on the kitchen table). You’ve even purchased a set of bookshelves from a yard sale, dusted them off, and set them in your homeschool space. Now, you must face it– the ultimate choice. You must decide on a homeschool curriculum. Need help? Choosing a homeschool curriculum is no easy task! I’m going to share with you everything you need to know about choosing a homeschool curriculum. First, however, a few things NOT to do…
Getting Started With Choosing A Homeschool Curriculum
First, avoid these –
- Ask all of your homeschooling friends what they use, and order everything they tell you to order.
- Look up what your local public or private school is using, and order that.
- Decide to wing it, and take it one day at a time.
Instead, when choosing a homeschool curriculum, first ask yourself these questions…
Five questions to ask yourself before you choose a homeschool curriculum
- What is my approach to education? As a homeschool mom, do I prefer my children learn facts from textbooks and workbooks, and be evaluated with quizzes and tests? Or do I want to be more involved in their education at the planning stage and daily, reading with them and engaging in what they are working on? Maybe I prefer a little of both?
- What are the age differences of/learning differences in my children? And… do I want to educate them as a group, or individually?
- How much do we have in our budget to spend on homeschool curriculum? Can we use some items from the library, or borrow or trade with other homeschoolers?
- How much time do I have available to spend with my children each day? Will I be working part-time in addition to homeschooling? Are there younger children not in school yet who need to be considered?
- What results do I want from this homeschool year? Good standardized test scores? A first-grader who can read well by the end of the year? Children who can recite poems and historical documents? Just to survive and accomplish the minimum? (There are times that is all we can do, and that is ok!)
Everything You Need to Know About Choosing a Homeschool Curriculum
For each question above, I have links to resources based on your answers. And a bit of friendly advice at the end.
- What is my approach to education? Perhaps you just want to do school at home, but you don’t really want to plan and teach all the subjects. Online school may be just the thing for you. If you want to teach traditionally, and like structured lesson plans, classical education is a great approach. For someone who believes in educating “the whole child” and creating lifelong learners, a Charlotte Mason approach is an excellent idea. (Charlotte Mason is based on principles from Classical Education.) Ambleside Online is a great curriculum which uses the Charlotte Mason method. (Bonus: it’s free!) On the other hand, for those who prefer a non-traditional, child-directed approach, unschooling may be preferable for you. Still not sure about what approach you want to take? Here is a comprehensive look at different homeschooling methods.
- What are the age differences of/learning differences in my children? If you have several children, you may want to do as many subjects together as possible. Unit Studies are a great way to do this, and Tapestry of Grace is the most excellent one I can think of. You need to add things like math and phonics for different ages, but the children can study many things together, with the older ones digging more in-depth in to the subject. You also may want to check out additional resources for younger children.
- How much do we have in our budget to spend on homeschool curriculum? If budget is a concern, check out this article from The Curriculum Choice. Or try Ambleside Online (linked above). Remember that the library has a wealth of free books to check out! You probably won’t find the math books there… but for other subjects, the library can serve the homeschooling mom well.
- How much time do I have available to spend with my children each day? Certain curricula require parents to spend most of the school day teaching, monitoring, and helping their children, while others do the teaching for you and require less involvement. If you have less time, you may prefer online or video school; if you prefer to be actively involved with schooling your children most of the day, a classical, Charlotte Mason, or unit study approach would probably be the best choice for you.
- What results do I want from this homeschool year? Results come in many forms. Academic, and also spiritual, physical, emotional, and social. Where would you like your children to be in all of those areas by the end of this school year? One thing to look at is a curriculum’s philosophy. That will tell you what is emphasized in the lessons.
The best advice for the new homeschool mom
Keep it simple the first year. You and your children, and even your spouse, will be adjusting to the new normal.
Additional Homeschool Curriculum Resources
Curriculum choice reviews a helpful book for choosing a homeschool curriculum. They also have many other curriculum reviews, and you can search by grade or subject, including The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Homeschool Curriculum.
Kim (aka Daisy Muse) is a former elementary school teacher, textbook author and editor, and seventeen-year homeschool veteran. She currently tutors and teaches middle and high school students at a homeschool academic center. You can find more of her musings at thedaisymuse.com.