One thing most homeschool educators can agree on is that choosing a curriculum can be challenging! Worry no more, read on and gain some tips on how to choose the right homeschool curriculum.
Finding the best homeschool curriculum for your family is equally exciting and nerve-wracking. There will probably be no other facet of homeschool planning that will require more of your time than choosing the right materials. It is in this one area where you will find the freedom to finally give your child what she needs to overcome learning challenges, while helping her to relish in her favorite subjects of study.
Choice is a big deal when it comes to homeschooling. No two homeschools look alike and that is exactly how we want it. We didn’t decide to homeschool so we can look like everyone else. We knew that homeschool was a better way to educate our family. No other educational option gives your family the choice on what your kids will study. No other educational option gives you the choice to choose the experiences your family can have. While curriculum is not the be-all-end-all of your homeschooling journey, it will play a big part. It is what you do with it, that will make the difference.
We want to be able to meet our kids right where they are and help them accomplish their goals, providing them with possible opportunities that will present themselves as they grow older. You may not know what they want to be when they grow up. If they are young, what they are telling you right now that they want to do for a job will probably not come to fruition. There are people of all ages still trying to figure that one out! However, you will have a front-row seat to helping your child discover his strengths and talents.
So, how should you go about finding the best resources for your family without buckling under the pressure? Here is Homeschool Energy’s roadmap for helping you navigate the big, vast world of homeschool curriculum.
Understand What Curriculum Really Means
When I first set out to homeschool, I remember asking the basic question, “What do I teach my children?” Veteran homeschoolers would simply respond, “Whatever you want to. You are their teacher. You get to decide.” Boy, I will have to be honest. This REALLY threw me. How is it that simply by deciding to homeschool, I would automatically know exactly what we were going to have to study? How would I know not only what they needed to learn, but when I should teach those things and in what order?
It took me some time to finally understand what those wise women were really trying to tell me. Where I live, I am required to provide an equivalent education in certain subject areas such as math and language arts. It wasn’t like they were advising me to ignore subjects. Far from that. They were helping me to see that I had freedom to make the decisions for how those subjects were going to be taught. They were also preparing me for the simple fact that there are a lot of choices and it was up to me to figure that out what would work best for my family.
The word “curriculum” comes from the Latin word “curriculum vitae” which means “a race”. How fitting it seems when we are going through our day-to-day it can FEEL like a race to get everything done in the midst of all other life! Simply put, however, curriculum refers to a planned course of study. This course of study has a sequence in which items are done along with goals to be met. Nowhere in any definition that I have found for curriculum, has it been defined using the words textbooks, workbooks, videos, e-course, or any other specific type of instructional material.
Why is this distinction important to make? Because while we are discussing homeschool curriculum, and that immediately makes us think of math workbooks and science journals, that is really not what curriculum is at the heart. Curriculum is a course of study that helps you plan out what you are going to teach and helps you decide on goals. Those books and materials are simply just tools to use in order to accomplish that. They are not there to tell you what you must do in your homeschool. They are there to support your course of study.
Choosing what to study is really up to you. So many homeschoolers make the mistake of making the materials they select in charge of their homeschool. Do not let this happen to you. Whatever you choose to use for your home education, remember that you are the teacher. You get to decide how it is used. Only you can truly create a homeschool curriculum that is right for you.
Remember Your Reasons Why
So, what is right for you? Have you thought about why you are homeschooling your children in the first place? Before you can possibly know what you want to teach your kiddos, you need to think about why you set out to do this in the first place. Without understanding the root of where this homeschooling decision came from, it is impossible to begin to create an educational environment that is right for your family.
Before you do your first Google search for homeschool curriculum, take some time to write down the reasons why your family is homeschooling. These reasons will serve as a reminder to why you are committed to this educational choice. Were you looking for a way to help your child have a more delight-directed education? Was your child’s previous educational environment causing him to struggle in certain areas? Does your child need more hands-on or visual instruction? Do you want more family time or are there relationships that need to be strengthened?
Take these reasons why you decided to homeschool and create a homeschool mission statement. A homeschool mission statement provides a brief explanation of the long term goal of your homeschool. It doesn’t go into the specific objectives of your homeschool, but it provides an overall guide to help you plan out those objectives. Use this mission statement to help weigh decisions for what is important and what you probably shouldn’t do.
You don’t want to choose curriculum that mimics the educational setting that you don’t want. Don’t choose products that cause you to replicate school at home. That was not what you set out to do. Don’t slide back into what you know about school from your own educational upbringing simply because it is known to you and comfortable. You didn’t choose it for a reason. Remember that and find the homeschool materials that are right for your child.
Know Your Child
In order to do that, you need to know your child. I am not implying that you don’t know your child. Of course you are well acquainted. Here I am talking about taking the time to see what kind of kiddo you have on your hands when it comes to him in his learning environment. The only way to do this is to observe. Take time to see him in action as he takes in information and processes it. Observe him at play. Figure out how he is smart and use this knowledge to help build a plan that is geared for his unique and amazing mind.
Your child is incredibly intelligent. How do I know? Because we have all been given abilities and talents that are special to us. While one person is better in one area, another will be better in a different area. What if one isn’t as proficient in the other? Does that make that person less intelligent? Absolutely not! It just means they are smart in one way while the other is smart in the other way. Neither is less because they are not proficient in all ways. That is simply madness to put that kind of pressure on anyone, so remember to focus on your child’s strengths and provide encouragement when they are challenged.
There are several modes of thinking when it comes to learning styles. Commonly known learning styles are visual, kinesthetic, auditory, and reading/writing, but there are other intelligences as written in 8 Great Smarts by Kathy Koch. No one person utilizes only one learning style, but rather a blend. Depending on the circumstance and the subject, you may find your child lean toward different learning styles. Embrace the ride as you both discover what makes learning a pleasure.
Observing how your child learns with learning styles in mind will help to decide if a homeschool resource is right. If your child is a visual learner, find materials that emphasize maps, charts, graphics, and other visual representations. An auditory learning may do very well with listening to audio books or while you read aloud. Kinesthetic learners need hands-on approach, so find ways to incorporate activities that bring the lesson to life. Reading/writing learners do best when they can read the material and take notes.
Consider Your Family’s Style
Did you know that your family has style? You bet you do! Your unique family situation requires you to adopt certain habits to make your homeschool work. There are things about what you are doing in your world outside of homeschool that create the need to make certain decisions about how you plan, organize, and teach. It is important when considering homeschool curriculum, that you think about it in what way you would like to carry out your day-to-day.
There are many different teaching styles that homeschoolers can adopt as part of their homeschool lifestyle, but some examples include traditional, classical, eclectic, unschooling, Charlotte Mason, Montessori, and unit studies. Each of these is a different way to not only go about teaching, but also provides a different cadence to your day. Studying each of these styles and looking for qualities that are attractive to your family based on your family’s interests and needs will be a useful stepping stone in choosing homeschool curriculum.
Take some time in the beginning to see how your children respond to certain activities before diving into one particular teaching style. In my opinion, everyone should start of being an eclectic homeschooler until further notice. Eclectic homeschoolers use a variety of materials in different styles and from different publishers, piecing together their day. This allows everyone to be exposed to different methods and you can observe how it works for both you and your children.
Investigating different types of teaching styles in the beginning is very natural. Don’t dive all in on every subject in just one style even if others around you are doing it. Just because your best friend and her family love unit studies doesn’t necessarily mean they are right for you and yours. Pick one subject to test run this method and see how it goes. Then, you will have a better idea if it is right for you.
Allow yourself some time to weigh all your options with what works right for you as the teacher. Things to consider include how much time you have each day for instruction and independent work but remember the planning part of any school day requires time, too. The number of children you have as well as how many of those children need more help are factors as well. It is certain there is plenty of options that will work for everyone, but it important to consider your time and your budget, too.
Be Realistic with Your Budget
There are so many new, shiny options out there and it is very easy to get caught up in the excitement of buying new homeschool materials. Buy the whole bundle, right? Just go for it! Can’t decide on two different language arts curricula? Just get both! Think you will have time to add in extra electives this year on top of a heavy course load? Why not?
Let’s be real here. You definitely need to be able to afford whatever curriculum you choose. On top of that, you need to be realistic if you will even have the time to use that curriculum, so be sure you spend wisely. You may end up with a ton of books getting dusty on your bookshelves that you never use. You want to make sure you are being realistic about what you spend money on. It can easily get out of hand if you are constantly switching curriculum until you find what you need.
Before investing in homeschool resources, find a few that look awesome and then go check them out. You can check with a local homeschool group, used curriculum sale, or your nearest homeschool convention to see the materials up close if you are shopping online. Talk to friends locally who can show you what the materials look like. See if anyone would let you sit in on a lesson with their family to see how it works for them so you can begin to imagine how it can work for your family.
Start slow. Add one new book or program to your homeschool schedule and see how it goes. If it is a success, you can look for similar material in other subjects. Starting a brand new school year with a full course load on the first day can be overwhelming for homeschool newbies, so start slow. This will help with your sanity as well as help you make wise decisions about how your money is spent.
Choosing homeschool curriculum is an exciting part of the homeschool journey! Make sure you take time in the beginning to think about why you chose to homeschool, so you can make a plan that is going to support your goals. Build a mission statement that will keep you focused on what is truly important and use it as a compass of sorts to guide you through. It is important that you stay on track with your original intentions because with so many options available on the market today, you can easily get off course.
Take time to observe your children to see just how they learn and help them to emphasize their smarts while supporting their challenges. You set out to homeschool your kiddos because you know it is only way to meet their needs and provide them with an individualized education, so keep that in mind when selecting curricula while also considering your family needs. How you plan your day will set a tone in your homeschool and help you define your priorities. While this comes with time as you settle into your homeschool routine, keep in mind that curriculum can play a part in this.
Overall, just have fun with the experience. Consider cost, time, and the above mentioned list, but remember it is ultimately up to you and how you choose to homeschool your kids. You are capable of making this decision and your kids will benefit.
What are some of your tips for choosing homeschool curriculum?
Click the image below to share this article on Pinterest!