When people who are considering homeschooling contact me to ask how to begin, the first words out of my mouth are, “Whatever you do, don’t do an internet search for homeschool curriculum!”
A couple of decades ago during the early years of homeschooling, the choices for curriculum were few and usually were the same curriculums that private Christian schools were using. Now that homeschooling has exploded into nearly two million children being educated at home across the United States for multiple reasons and with varied religious or non-religious backgrounds, homeschool curriculum publishers are almost as numerous! While having a plethora of choices at your fingertips is a great way to give your child a customized education, it’s also a great way to send a homeschool parent into analysis paralysis.
Narrow Your Homeschool Options
The most obvious, but most often over-looked area to begin narrowing down choices is your budget. It doesn’t matter how awesome the program or how highly recommended it is if it breaks the bank. There are some ways to work around this problem by purchasing used materials, waiting for yearly sales, or using payment plans. Try some of these other options if the curriculum you want, or you are sure will be a perfect fit, is too costly to pay for at full price.
But how do you know what would be a good fit?
You must decide your homeschool philosophy and determine your child’s learning style. The easiest way I’ve found to do this is to use the beginning chapters of 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum by Cathy Duffy which contains a great quiz to help you determine how you’d like your homeschool education to be designed and the four major types of learning styles. These pages proved invaluable to me when I first started homeschooling and was wading through curriculum options. One thing to remember is that your homeschool will probably ebb and flow as the years go by; therefore, don’t become so locked into one philosophy that you refuse to let this natural process occur.
Find a Homeschool Tribe
Once you have a budget and know your philosophy and child’s learning style, the next thing to do is find your tribe. This is a group of homeschoolers that you can bounce questions off of about curriculum, struggles, book recommendations, successes, etc. In some areas of the country these people can be found in homeschool co-ops or social groups, but there are tons of virtual homeschool groups to found on internet forums, Facebook, and other social media. Plus there are homeschool bloggers who cover the spectrum of homeschool approaches.
As you interact with other homeschoolers or read blogs, pay attention to those who school from the same philosophy you do and those that have children who seem to learn in ways that are similar to yours. Ask or make note of what curriculum they are using to discover something that might be perfect for you as well. If all else fails, just ask other homeschoolers for suggestions. There’s nothing homeschool parents love more than to talk about curriculum!
So now you are feeling pretty confident about your choices and have narrowed things down to a handful of possibilities, but maybe there is still a niggling doubt in the back of your mind, “What if it doesn’t work? What if after all of this research I still make the wrong choice?”
No Perfect Homeschool Curriculum
I’m going to let you in on a little secret that cost me hundreds of dollars and two years of homeschooling to realize: there is no perfect curriculum.
Once you have evaluated a few options and come to a final decision, don't second guess it. Know that any quality curriculum is a good choice and will educate your child with excellence. You will be constantly stressed if you are always looking for something slightly better even though you have already made an excellent choice.
You can research, ask questions, get suggestions, and look through samples, but I can guarantee that you will purchase some books that do not work for you and your child. Your homeschool and your children are unique and what appears that it would work will sometimes nosedive. On the flipside, when you find things that do work for your child, do not swap for something shiny that has grabbed your attention without careful consideration.
I feel blessed to be homeschooling during this moment in time when I do have choice after choice of materials to use to educate my children. It has allowed me to provide each of them with a custom learning environment and course of study that would impossible to achieve in any other setting. However, the amount of options out there can be staggering so having a few helpful tips to guide you in the right direction is never a bad thing.