Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Choosing Curriculum for Your Homeschool

I've had several people ask me what curriculum we're using this year so I thought I'd start a series of posts, starting with how to choose curriculum. Last year we tried many things that I felt just didn't work for our family based on what had the highest rated feedback rather than content and different learning styles. I buy mostly used from Homeschool Classifieds, Amazon and sometimes directly from the publisher. Thankfully you can recuperate most or all of your money back on unused curriculum that doesn't necessarily fit the bill for you.

I also realize not everyone homeschools with a ton of seatwork (workbooks, textbooks) but that will be the main focus of the beginning of the series. I will also talk a little about other fun ways to homeschool that don't require a textbook!

FIRST THING FIRST: You need to know your your state requirements* for homeschooling! I'm assuming you may have already checked in on your state requirements and are simply needing help choosing curriculum now so the post continues with that in mind...

Curriculum can be... overwhelming to say the least! When my husband was homeschooled there was very little choice. Now there is so much available that you could easily spend weeks trying to figure out what you need, what you don't, what others like, what others hate, what is affordable and what is not... only to realize everyone has different tastes and each child learns differently. That's not a comforting realization.

What has been comforting is the freedom to take our time, find what may or may not work, change it up. The Internet is a huge wealth of information, reviews and stories. You are not married to your first choice in curriculum so don't be discouraged if it turns out to be horrible. Instead find the joy in new discoveries and trying new things!

I went to a Christian bookstore, Mardel, before the school year started so I could actually look inside books. Some of our favorites are the ones I got to look through before committing to buy. I found them cheaper on Amazon and others I found gently used at the homeschool classifieds website. A few I do purchase directly from the publisher if I plan on using the curriculum for all the kids (make photocopies). On the curriculum websites and on Amazon you have the ability to view a few pages inside some books as well.

My Advice for Narrowing Down Curriculum:
1). Go to a store or website where you can view inside several books to compare!

2). Start small! Buy a phonics/grammar book and a math book to start. Then add another subject, then another and another when you're comfortable and your child is ready. You may also choose to create your own curriculum or unit studies (a study of one topic where you cover each core subject). This is especially helpful for families who can't afford to spend a ton of money all at once. Buy a little here and there!

3). Go at your own pace. Education is not a race and children don't *need* to read at age 3. If they desire to then that's another story. Trying to force Abigail to read in Kindergarten was a no-go! In first grade she's readily and quickly picking up reading whereas her 4-year-old sister can spell several words. Each child has strengths that should be given challenge for growth and weaknesses that should be nurtured gently (not ignored by any means). With that said I made the mistake of buying way too much when I should have listened to advice #2!!!

4). Don't compare homeschools. The grass may seem greener on the other side... but they have weeds just like everybody else! You make your school work for YOUR family. Someone may have a fancy $500 curriculum set that matches and is brand new but they secretly struggle with making it work. Everyone has a different budget. Don't be discouraged if you need to start off using free online sources and cannot afford to spend money trying different things.

5). Don't underestimate the value in life lessons. Having your child make the grocery list is handwriting, spelling, etc. Have them organize the list alphabetically and you've hit sequencing (math) as well. Ask them to estimate how much everything will cost at the end of the grocery trip and see who guesses closest! You don't need a textbook every single solitary day you do school and some parents choose to not use curriculum at all. This is something you need to weigh for yourself. This is often called Unschooling.

Okay now that I've got you all revved up about perusing curriculum you may wonder WHAT SUBJECTS do you even need to consider?! In my next posts I'll break down what subjects we're specifically doing for each grade (PreK/K, 1st and 3rd) and what resources we're using as well.

*Update yourself on state laws every year as laws may change. You may want to consider following the organizations that oversee the homeschool laws in your state as the threat to homeschool freedom is challenged so you may be a voice in protecting your rights to educate your own children.

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