Walking through the aisles of my first homeschool convention vendor hall, I could feel the anxiety building. Booth after booth of amazing curriculum that I’d only seen in homeschool catalogs was now before me in real life. I wanted to run through the aisles with a bank card in each hand to swipe, swipe, swipe and fill my bags with all the books I could carry.
The anxiety set in when I realized neither my arm muscles nor my bank account could handle the weight of my greedy curriculum dreams and I would have to make some hard decisions—what do I buy? The struggle was real.
If you’ve gone underprepared to a homeschool conference, I’m sure you can relate. Moral of the story: go with a list. Better yet, go with a list with headings because I have been known to be the queen of lists: Books to Buy and Books to Preview.
With so many choices choices out there, how in the name of Bob Jones do we figure out what to buy and what to skip?
Consider Your Current Season
There is a time for picture study and a time for taking your kids to the picture show instead. When we start to explore homeschooling, we find that there are so many wonderful options and subjects for us to explore with our children.
Besides the basics of math, phonics, reading, spelling, grammar, history, and science, we can also learn things like artist study, composer study, art, literature, music, poetry, and a plethora of other topics. All of these are great things! But not all of these things will be conducive to our current season.
Consider things like new babies, potty-training toddlers, an extra busy season, or a move. If you have things like that going on, you might be wise to stick to the basics. Buying a pile of new picture study and poetry books with no time to commit to these things will set yourself up for disappointment and an empty bank account.
Invest in Great Literature
One thing I always buy freely is great literature. Classics can be read over and over again and by all ages of children.
Right now I’m in the process of weeding through our shelves of books that are considered more twaddle than rich literature.
Great books are always a great investment —unless you live on the top floor of an apartment building and you move a lot. Then no one will want to help you move. Ask me how I know this...
Find Your Favorites
Sometimes tried and true favorites are the best thing to stick with. For instance, Saxon Math works really well for our family. We love it for a number of reasons. Well, I should say I love it for a number of reasons. I’m not sure my boys will ever really love math.
But a few years ago, I was getting a lot of complaints about math so we tried a different curriculum. That didn’t work out, so we tried another. That also didn’t work too well, and now we’re back to Saxon.
It seems that all we really needed to do was assign either even problems or odd problems to cut down on the daily workload and my children were fine. Don’t doubt what works for your family just because something new and shiny comes out. You know what works, so stick with it.
Preview + Read Reviews
When I’m looking for a new curriculum to try, I usually ask around to my homeschool buddies to see if they use it and what their opinions are. A lot of times I will get insight that I wouldn’t have just reading reviews. If I can go over to their home and preview it firsthand, that’s even better!
Reading reviews online is great, too. I look for reviews that have both pros and cons.
Listen To Your Children
Never forget that we have this amazing ability to switch curriculum if we need to! This is so awesome that we should never feel like we need to stick with something just because we spent money on it. Sometimes, even if we’ve done our research, previewed it, and spent our hard-earned money on it, it just doesn’t work for our family. Choose wisely but don’t be too rigid to switch if you need to. Places like Ebay, Amazon, and homeschoolclassifieds.com are great places to sell curriculum you aren’t using anymore.
Above all, think things through before you buy. The sight and smell of stacks of new curriculum makes my heart go pitter-patter, too, but being burned on stuff we’ll never use totally squashes the euphoria. Be smart. Buy smart. Happy homeschooling!
About the Author
Alicia Hutchinson is the homeschooling mom to four. She and her children love reading and history and exploring outside. They are just settling into their new home in the Minneapolis area, where they just relocated from North Carolina.
You can read more about Alicia and their homeschooling adventures, current projects, and thoughts on motherhood at her blog Investing Love.