When people begin homeschooling, the very first question they often ask is, “How do I choose a curriculum?” I understand it’s something that’s on your mind when you’re thinking about homeschooling, but it’s not the place to start.
Whether you are brand new to homeschooling or coming to the end of another year and starting to think about curriculum for next year, chances are you are worried about how to find the right curriculum for your homeschool.
3 Top Tips For Choosing The Right Homeschool Curriculum
No matter what your circumstances or experience, before you pull out your credit card, I recommend you take a step back and begin with these three simple questions:
- What is your vision for education and learning in your homeschool?
- What are your goals for each of your children?
- Are there any samples of the curriculum available to try before you buy?
Your answers to these questions will help you narrow down your choices and determine the best possible purchase for your family. Let’s look at each of them in a little more detail.
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What Is Your Vision For Education?
The place to begin when choosing a curriculum is actually not the curriculum at all. The very first thing I want you to consider is your vision for education.
What does education mean to you? What does learning mean to you?
This could be something you’ve never really thought about before. It could be that your kids were always in public school and for whatever reason, you took them out of public school, but you have no problem with the way that they were being educated. If that’s the case, you may just want to continue doing things as they were being taught in public school.
That’s a completely valid homeschooling approach. It’s completely okay.
Some of you may have taken your kids out of school and you may want a different approach to education. Maybe you feel your children were not thriving in that atmosphere. Maybe you are homeschooling because you want a different approach and you don’t want it to feel like traditional school.
It’s helpful to do a little research and consider different homeschooling methods. It helps you define what you want education to be in your home. It really is the first place to start, because if the materials you end up buying, don’t make you happy and help you reach the vision that you have, then it’s going to end up being money that you’ve wasted.
What Are My Goals For Each Of My Children?
Before purchasing a curriculum, the next thing to consider is what your child needs right now – not necessarily their grade level.
It can be easy to buy a grade level specific curriculum to make things easier. For example, if your child is in third grade, finding a third grade homeschool curriculum is not difficult.
In homeschooling however, grade level doesn’t have to matter. Your child can progress at the pace that makes sense for them and learn the things that you want them to learn when you want them to learn them. It’s one of the greatest benefits of homeschooling!
Instead of saying, “What grade level does my child need?” ask yourself, “What has my child mastered and what do they need to master next?”
Then consider your preferences. I like to create a list of the things I want us to study as well. You don’t have to study what the public school down the street is studying. I can just about guarantee you that none of the schools in our area offer an astronomy class in high school. We did astronomy in high school. We did because it was something that my daughter wanted to learn and it was a wonderful learning experience.
You can study Ancient Far East History if you want. You can study the culture and literature of Africa or South America if you want . You don’t have to do the same old things that everyone else is doing.
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Are There Curriculum Samples Available?
When it comes to choosing curriculum, I cannot stress enough the need to look at samples. Fortunately, you can now do this online for most companies. Not only can you see the product in action, you can even download most samples and give them a try.
Many homeschool curriculum providers will give you enough of a sample that you can actually use it in your learning for a few weeks. You can say, “Hey kids. We’re going to do a fun unit, actually try it out and decide if we like it.” You’ll be able to see, firsthand, if the curriculum is going to work with your style.
You can also go to a homeschool convention and actually flip through all the various samples there. Even better, you can actually talk to the curriculum provider. Even if you can’t go to a convention and talk to them in person, many offer options like a toll free number that you can call, or you can email and talk directly with to the curriculum developer or a family member. Many times, they have homeschool families that have used the curriculum working on staff. They will answer any questions you have and help you with things like placement. They also can help with more specific questions like how to use their curriculum for gifted children or children with learning differences.
Whether in-person, or via the phone or internet, definitely talk to curriculum providers and other homeschool moms to get a better overall understanding of the curriculum.
Finally, I’m going to suggest that you look for curriculum creators who provide some kind of money back guarantee. Let me try it for a few days in my home. Let me do the first unit or two with my kids. Then, if it’s not working for me, I can send it back and get my money back. Many great curriculum providers do this as well.
Taking the time to answer these questions upfront will give you a more informed approach to choosing your homeschool curriculum. This will make your life easier and make you, and your kids, happier as you begin a new homeschool year.