6 Tips to Choose the Right Homeschooling Curriculum
Do you feel overwhelmed by reading through all the information on choosing the right curriculum? It can feel like the steepest learning curve of your life to prepare for educating your child.
In this post, I will share ways to make this curriculum decision easier along with some tips on what to keep in mind while you’re reading, browsing, talking to other homeschoolers and researching.
Why is it so hard to choose the right curriculum?
There are many reasons:
- A ton of options – online, offline, unit studies, Cambridge, GED, CAPS, ACE, and more. You need to familiarise yourself with what each curriculum is about and its approach.
- Different costs involved. Some all-in-one box curricula are very expensive.
- Free resources.
- You are afraid and doubting yourself, wondering whether your child will turn out a total failure as an adult if you don’t get this right (not true!).
- This is probably all new to you (unless you were homeschooled yourself or work in the education field).
So how do we address this overwhelming decision?
Things to keep in mind before you start looking at curricula
- What are the age(s) of your child(ren)? Why are you considering homeschooling them? How do they feel about it?
- What is your child’s learning style?
- What are your current circumstances? Are both parents working or is one at home and able to solely focus on homeschooling?
- What challenges are you facing with regards to homeschooling?
- Do you have support or can you get some?
- What is your current budget? How much can you spend on resources, sports, activities, social events, excursions and other tools?
- What are the main goals you have in mind – what are the top 5 things you want your child to learn over the next year and over the next five years?
Answering these questions will give you a foundation and show you which factors are deal-breakers in your decision.
What are your key factors in choosing the right curriculum?
Deal-breakers in terms of curriculum decisions could be:
- flexibility and adaptability, easy to use
- content that promotes analytical and critical thinking skills
- online / offline
Don’t rush the decision. Start with what you have. Ask questions, do research, read reviews, borrow material from other parents before you buy, if possible. Choosing the right curriculum takes some thought.
Unless your child MUST finish school this year or there is some other urgent pressure, buying a curriculum is a decision where you can and should take your time.
Buying a curriculum is not THE solution to learning!
If you think that buying a curriculum is going to be a magic bullet solution to learning and homeschooling your child, think again! It’s not a final decision in many cases. You will still need to help your child navigate this journey. It’s not a replacement for a teacher!
If what you’ve bought recently is not working for you or your child, it doesn’t mean you or your child have failed. It just means that it’s not the most efficient one for you right now. Try something else! Or try approaching the content with a different teaching method, or from a different angle. Be creative.
Buying a curriculum is very much like buying a tool, it’s just that you’re spending a significantly larger amount of money than you would on simpler resources. Look at content that aligns with your core values and requirements to help you choose the right curriculum.
Combine different curricula
If you end up using a little bit of one curriculum and a little bit of another, combined with other tools, welcome to eclectic homeschooling! It’s normal. Figuring out what works is like coming up with your own cake recipe. You need to find the ingredients that work for you.
In a couple of months or a couple of years as your children and their interests grow, you may need to switch it up and change curriculum again. Re-evaluate your goals and don’t be afraid to try something new and different.
Tip 1: Remember why you’re homeschooling
- Read the post on Beginner’s Guide to Homeschooling for help.
- If you’re doing it to spend more time with your children and to make education fun, the tools you choose need to help you do exactly this.
- You will be learning along with your children, and it will go so much better if you both enjoy it.
- Remember your goals and what you’re aiming for.
- Your relationship with your child will always be more important than your choice of curriculum.
Tip 2: Take your time
- Read a lot. Ask questions. Talk to other parents.
- Go to a homeschool convention, exhibit or conference where you can look at all the material and talk to providers in person. Take flyers of everything that seems like a good fit so you can study it later.
- Ask for trials, second-hand copies, samples to try out, wherever possible.
Tip 3: Consider your child’s learning style and pace
- If your child is not particularly academic, look for something more visual and hands-on. If your child is more of an academic type, look for something that works that way, without getting too content heavy.
- Make the effort to explore subjects and topics in real life. Time to get out!
- Let your child dictate the pace. Yes, this can be excruciating for some parents, but we all need to slow down a little, don’t we?
- If your child seems to be having an unusually hard time with it, get objective input from other parents with similar challenges, or get professional input if necessary. Problems can be related to the curriculum, method, style, emotional issues, health issues or relationship issues and circumstantial pressures.
- You will probably need to take more breaks than you expected. Breaks are just as important to your child’s ability to learn and process information as the actual working times are!
Tip 4: How to figure out what your child needs to learn
- Curriculums exist as a guide to show you what your child needs to learn year-by-year according to a specific system.
- Depending on what goals you are aiming for, you can use curricula as a guide to figure this out while compiling your selection of educational materials.
Tip 5: Free curricula are not bad
- There are good quality free curricula out there, you may just spend more funds on printing the materials.
- It’s totally okay to use free materials if that’s what works for your child and gets him/her motivated to work through the content!
Tip 6: Don’t make negative comparisons
- Just because something doesn’t work for you, doesn’t mean it’s a bad curriculum for someone else.
- Free vs expensive curricula. Neither is bad. They simply have different approaches, content and markets.
- Online vs off-line curricula (digital vs books). Neither is bad. Use and combine what works for your child, find your own balance!
- GED vs Cambridge. Again, different outcomes according to the career goals and interests of the child.
- Different approaches and methods. You don’t have to agree with all the content out there to support other parents who homeschool. There’s enough judgment in the parenting world, let’s give other families room to grow and learn without criticism.
- Choosing the right curriculum for YOUR family is YOUR journey.
The last thing you need to know about choosing the right curriculum
- Be flexible. It may take you a while to find your groove with homeschooling and get the hang of it. You probably won’t have a smooth ride in the beginning, and that’s okay.
- Take change in stride, be calm as well as flexible!
- PATIENCE. You will not always get it right. There will not be a director who tells you exactly what to do/say/buy all the time. But, you are a parent, you love your child, so you CAN do this.
How did you start out homeschooling? What did you buy? Which methods and curricula worked for you and which ones didn’t? Share your tips with other parents below and let’s help others choose the right curriculum.