comprehensive guide on how to choose th ebest curriculum for your family

A Comprehensive Guide – The best homeschooling curriculum for YOUR child (that will actually work!)

You’ve made the decision to start homeschooling and now the agonizing question you’re obsessing about is how to choose the right curriculum for your child. The thought of pulling out your debit or credit card for something so important is probably making you sweat…

How do you know what your child is supposed to learn and by when?

How could you possibly do it all and be successful?

How do you match the legal requirements of your country or state?

What if you spend a lot of money and it doesn’t work out?

There are so many options, varying costs, and how do you know which one is the best fit? This comprehensive post will help you answer this question cost-effectively, sensibly, and practically.

You’ll soon gain the confidence to choose the right curriculum for your family – for the right price, style, approach, method and cost that fits you best.

Do I Have To Buy A Curriculum To Homeschool?

Well, that depends on your goals, circumstances, your child, and your available resources. Buying a curriculum is not your only option. You can borrow or use free curriculums as well! But the point is that however you GET a curriculum, you’ll probably find it useful.

Why a homeschooling curriculum is useful as a guideline

Regardless of your attraction to the unschooling or eclectic approach at any stage, you are probably looking for SOME sort of guideline to teach your children. You want some sort of list by which you can keep track of what your children are learning and making progress. There’s nothing wrong with that!

Your country or state may also require you to submit proof of your homeschooling through record-keeping, assessments, projects, a portfolio or some other means. You will need to choose something that helps you comply with those requirements. Start here to get an idea of what is required.

In homeschooling, the idea is to use curriculum(s) as a guideline, rather than a strictly regimented tick-the-box standard. How you use it will also be influenced by your situation, priorities and your children’s pace and goals in learning.

Remember that YOU are the one in charge of this process and you get to decide whether you want to rearrange topics in the curriculum, approach them differently than what is suggested, take breaks as necessary or try out something else entirely when it’s not working for you.

Before you can choose the right homeschooling curriculum, you need to understand where you’re coming from, what to look for, and why.

How To Decide What Is The Best Homeschool Curriculum

What do your home circumstances look like? Consider the following factors as realistically as you can:

  • Your budget
  • Your time
  • Your own teaching style
  • The values, life skills and subjects you consider most important for your child to learn
  • Your world view and beliefs
  • How much help and support you can access

For example, a repetitive and content-heavy curriculum with too many videos and worksheets will cause burn-out, if you don’t have the time to use them.

A curriculum that is heavy on arts and crafts when you have your hands full with a full-time job is probably a little unrealistic, unless your child is old enough to be able to do most of it independently.

If you’re new to homeschooling and your budget is tight, buying an all-in-one curriculum can cost you a lot of money and frustration.

The Best Homeschool Curriculum Is The One That Matches Your Child’s Needs

If your child is not enjoying the learning process, no learning will take place, and you’ll get stuck in a conflict cycle of nagging and threatening and bribing your child to do the work. Not the setup we want.

If your child is old enough to have a conversation with you on the subject, ask him/her questions regarding how he/she likes to learn:

    • Does he like videos and online tutorials best?
    • Does she like book work? (Some kids do!)
    • How much repetition does he generally need to master new concepts?
    • Does she like to learn by doing things hands-on?
    • What is she interested in?
    • What career choices is he thinking about?
    • Does she like concentrating in short bursts at a time or big chunks of an hour or two?
    • Does he thrive on stimulating challenges or prefer a slower pace of mastery?
    • Does she like a structured, self-measured approach or something more creative and game-based?

    Your child’s learning style, interests and answers to the above (or your thoughts on it based on how well you know your child) are a crucial part of choosing the right homeschooling curriculum.

     

    Check out this video for a quick guide on learning styles:

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Important things to do before Buying a curriculum for Homeschooling

If your child has been in public or private school before starting homeschooling, you’ll want to take some time to…

1. Deschool – What is deschooling?

It’s not the same as unschooling (a free, unstructured and child-led approach to learning). It is a time where you and your child take a break from anything resembling school and book work. It gives you time to do more research on what approach fits you and your child best, and gives your child time to reflect, rest, and reset themselves.

This is especially important if your child has been bullied at school, depressed, highly pressured, anxious about schoolwork, etc. It is impossible for a child in this state to learn effectively. Rest, relax, have fun and affirm your relationship with your child.

They need to learn that being home with you is a safe space and that you as the parent have their emotional and mental health in mind, more than their learning because without the former, the latter won’t happen anyway. (For more info on this topic, check out Dr. Gordon Neufeld’s article.)

Choosing the right curriculum for your homeschooling family

2. Test and sample various approaches and curriculums

Take the time to review other curriculums and talk to the families who use them. Read reviews.

Borrow books from others. Read books on homeschooling and the different approaches.

Buy small modules from different curricula if your budget allows, so that you can get a good idea of what’s available out there before you start spending more money.

3. Talk to other families who use the curriculums you’re interested in

Talk to families whose children are similar to yours in age and learning style, and whose situation and needs may be similar to yours.

Ask them for tips, what worked and what didn’t, what their children liked most about a particular system. What made their choice of homeschooling curriculum the right one for them?

How to choose the best homeschooling curriculum

 

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How different types of Homeschooling Curriculums work

There are various curriculums out there, each with a different approach, content style, delivery and support setup.

Choosing the right homeschooling curriculum

Offline curriculums

Some are completely offline, with material in downloadable, printable format, and/or a set of textbooks and workbooks to buy. The textbooks and workbooks can often be bought second-hand for cheap.

They also tend to come with lists of recommended reading of books you can get from your local library. You can easily decide what to add, what to skip and how much flexibility to apply.

Examples:

Online curriculum providers (usually all-in-one)

Others are fully virtual, online providers, where the child has to work through video lessons, log assignments, etc.

This is probably the one you’re looking at the most right now, coffee in your hand, looking for that open-shut, plug-and-play solution to your child’s homeschooling. I get it. You want it all sorted out. But again, be careful and take your time to consider what you’re buying and check out the terms and conditions. It’s not a one-size-fits -all solution. Get feedback from others.

homeschool curriculum free online

These can work very well, depending on your situation, how your child learns, and the quality of the presentation of the material. It doesn’t fit well for a more spontaneous approach to learning though, and the scheduling can be a bit rigid.

Examples:

Curriculums that require little help – more independent learning

Some systems allow children to work through it all mostly independently because they are teacher-facilitated (recorded videos often combined with live support in some form).

Examples:

How to choose the best curriculum to homeschool your family

Curriculums that require your hands-on help

Others require more input, guidance, help and supervision from you as the parent for the child to progress through the material. There are more projects, assignments, etc.

Examples:

Now that you’ve started doing a little bit of research, you need to remember:

Criteria for choosing the Best homeschooling curriculum

The homeschooling curriculum that may be right and perfect for you, may be very different to what is right and perfect for someone else, and that’s okay.

Keep these following questions in mind when you’re looking at all the different options, and create a list of the ones that match most of them.

  • Does it match your homeschool situation – is it doable?
  • Does it match your budget?
  • Is there sufficient support for you and your child?
  • Does it fit your child’s learning styles and interests?
  • Does it fit in with your family’s homeschooling goals?
  • Do you need a curriculum that can be adapted for multiple children at different levels?
  • Can you ease in slowly?
  • Can you buy one module to try out before you buy more?
  • Can you do a one-month trial?
  • Can you resell it if it doesn’t work for you?

homeschool curriculum high school

How To Get A Homeschool Curriculum

It’s much easier than you think to get a homeschool curriculum! Here are 3 popular options:

  1. You can buy new from a provider or store by ordering from them or using a subscription service.
  2. Another way is to join a co-op group where other families are pooling their money to buy similar resources to share with each other.
  3. The fastest way by far is to download some free homeschool curriculum resources. See the section on free curriculums below.

free homeschool curriculum

How to save money when choosing the Best Homeschooling curriculum

You don’t have to buy everything new, and you don’t have to buy it all at once, either. Shop around, start with what you have, and connect with other homeschoolers!

  • Buy second-hand from eBay, Amazon, Facebook homeschooling groups, other homeschoolers, etc.
  • Use the library
  • Use free online resources that you can download and print (printing will still cost you far less than buying books delivered to your door).
  • Do unschooling and figure it out as you go.
  • Join a co-op and share curriculum/resources with more families to save costs.
  • Browse second-hand bookstores and local book fairs for classics.
  • When friends travel, ask them to bring you back a book!
  • Keep a book/resource wish list that friends and family can contribute to at Christmas and birthdays, instead of buying too many toys.

How to choose the best homeschooling curriculum

Best Free Homeschool Curriculums (Because Free Is Great, Too!)

Using free curriculums does not mean your child will get an inferior education at all. It just enables you to spend your money on more fun things, like educational excursions and experiences. Here is a list of the most popular free homeschool curriculums that can take your child from kindergarten through high school.

  1. An Old-Fashioned Education
  2. Ambleside Online
  3. CK-12
  4. Connections Academy
  5. Easy Peasy
  6. Free World U
  7. Freedom Homeschooling
  8. Hippo Campus
  9. Khan Academy
  10. Puritans Homeschool
  11. Parallel Alternative Strategies for Students (helpful for special needs)
  12. SAS Curriculum Pathways

homeschool curriculum

Top 10 Homeschool Curriculums of 2019

These curriculums are favourites among parents for many reasons such as: 

  • ease of use 
  • online/offline preference
  • excellent support
  • flexible scheduling
  • worldview (secular or religious), approach (classical, traditional, Charlotte Mason, combination)
  • suitability for children with ADHD, ADD or other learning problems
  • adaptability for teaching multiple children at the same time, 
  • and, of course, the fun factor.

Work your way through these and make notes on which ones you like, what you like about them, and why

  1. Easy Peasy
  2. Khan Academy
  3. The Good and the Beautiful
  4. Sonlight
  5. Tapestry of Grace
  6. Classical Conversations
  7. Time4Learning
  8. My Father’s World
  9. Power Homeschool
  10. Abeka

Favourite Homeschool Curriculums For Kindergarten And Preschool (To Keep Mama Sane)

homeschool curriculum preschool kindergarten

At this age, you don’t need to take your choices too seriously. Experiment and explore different options. Some curriculums are a favourite for every stage, and some won’t always work for you. If you’d rather just stick with finger painting, singing counting songs, alphabet songs, and nursery rhymes, that’s also perfectly fine. 

Your child will learn so much while they’re around you. Include your kids in your daily tasks as much as you can. Take the time to answer all the “mom, how does this work?” and “mom, why is the sky blue?” questions. You’ll do fine!

  1. Brightly Beaming Resources
  2. Easy Peasy
  3. Little House Kindergarten
  4. Sonlight
  5. Abeka
  6. Reading Eggs
  7. ABC Mouse

The Best Homeschool Curriculums For Middle School

Be prepared to make adjustments during this time. You’ll probably take a more eclectic approach here, using a little bit of this and a little bit of that to cover everything. That’s normal!

  1. Time4Learning
  2. Hippo Campus
  3. Math U See or Saxon Math
  4. Outschool
  5. Core Knowledge
  6. Calvert Education
  7. Study.com
  8. The Good and the Beautiful

Excellent Homeschool Curriculums For High School (Hallelujah, Nearly Done!)

Your selection here will depend on your child’s career interests. Take time to explore them and let your child taste real working experiences in the fields he/she is interested in. The decision on the provider or curriculum you choose should be based on your child’s tertiary stud requirements  for their chosen career (and any plan-B options).

If you’ve homeschooled up till this point, congratulations! You now have a fairly good idea of what works for your child in the areas of math, languages and other subjects. Keep going with that and be sure to match your selection of curriculums for different subjects with the requirements of their chosen field of study.

Resources that may help:

  1. Saxon Math
  2. CTC Math
  3. Abeka
  4. Study.com
  5. Brave Writer
  6. WordSmith
  7. My Fun Science
  8. Apologia

homeschool curriculum high school

What if my child doesn’t know what they want to do?

In this case, it’s always best to plan in a way that keeps options open for tertiary studies at a college or university.

What To Do When Your Chosen Curriculum Doesn’t Work

First of all, don’t freak out and don’t take it as a failure either. Remember the old saying, different strokes for different folks? It’s okay. You homeschool precisely so that you can have more options to try when something doesn’t work for your child. Schools don’t let you do this.

Here’s what you can do to recoup at least most or some of your money:

  • Before you give up entirely, try using a different approach to the material you have. Change the method of application to notebooking/unit studies and see if that helps.
  • Re-evaluate your routine and make some changes if you see your child simply isn’t rested well enough, overly distracted, and stressed about other things going on, etc.
  • Give it a break for a week and then try again. Sometimes a break is all you need for something to click.
  • Is the work too repetitive or content-heavy? Cut the fluff and stick to the priorities only. Leave everything else out. You don’t HAVE to tick every single box!
  • Swap with another family to try something else
  • Resell to another family

How to schedule your homeschooling Curriculum in a way that’s doable

homeschool curriculum planner

Again, you have options here! There are many ways to do this, depending on your work schedule, your children’s activities, resources, available resources, etc. You can choose whether you start early in the day, in the afternoons, evenings, or weekends, or a combination of them all.

The main thing is to keep track of the learning that is happening. The right homeschooling curriculum also needs the right routine to make it work. This doesn’t mean replicating school at home, necessarily.

Life is full of learning – this includes chores, taking care of animals, helping you at work (depending on the setting), life skills and more.

Tip: Try out some different routine and see what time of the day works best for your child’s learning, and try to work around that (if possible). If that’s not possible, don’t fret, your child will need to learn that work is a priority either way!

You could choose some or a combination of the following approaches to creating a routine:

  • Schooling Monday through Friday
  • A 4-day week with Fridays off for fun stuff
  • A 3-day week for bookwork and the other 2 days more practical subjects
  • One subject per day or per week
  • Or a little bit of everything every day
  • Or language, reading and math every day and the other subjects sprinkled on different days throughout the week on a loop schedule

In my family, we currently use one or more of the above, depending on what they day’s demands look like and what my child is motivated to do. Some days, she just wants to practice writing. Other days, she’ll work on two math sheets and take her time. Or we do something creative and then do reading at bedtime.

For help in creating a routine that can work for your family, check out this post.

The 3 most important things to remember in choosing Homeschooling curriculum

1. Your child, and your relationship with your child, is always more important than the curriculum.

 

2. Be open to change as you go.

 

3. Keep it fun!

 

How to put it all together

 

  • List your resources, priorities and main criteria for choosing a curriculum.
  • Join homeschooling support groups on Facebook, read some posts on there and connect with families in your area.
  • Ask questions, make some calls and talk to some of those families, adding to your notes.
  • See if you can check out some samples of the curriculum you’re considering. Download some material online if possible. Borrow used copies or library copies of some of the material.
  • Choose only the essentials you need to start with – maybe a language module, a math module, and one on another subject.
  • Create a basic planner. The one in this post may help.

Here’s what to do next

homeschool curriculum right choice

Breathe a big, enormous sigh of relief. Have a cup of coffee and a snack! You’ve got this blog post to help you now, and you are not alone.

You also don’t have to make your decision in five minutes. You’ve got this. It’s not going to give you a migraine, and you’re not going to spend a ton of money and hope for the best.

You are now equipped to help yourself make an informed, cost-effective, child-friendly curriculum choice.

Welcome to homeschooling! 

 

3 thoughts on “A Comprehensive Guide – The best homeschooling curriculum for YOUR child (that will actually work!)”

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