Several hundred years ago, someone coined the phrase, “look before you leap” but its wisdom is as contemporary and valuable now as then. Choosing the right homeschool curriculum can take time because it isn’t about just choosing the first thing you see. Even highly publicized homeschool programs may be problematic in different ways. Your homeschooling style is your own, and any curriculum you choose should match that as closely as possible, while, at the same time, matching the learning style of your children. It’s hard to analyze simply from looking at covers, examining digital downloaded “sample” pages, or reading reviews, exactly what that curriculum is all about.
The only real way to find a homeschool curriculum that will work well for the entire year is to examine them in hand before purchasing. Flip through the texts and workbooks, look at sample quizzes and grading plans, and really get to know the subject matter with which you’ll be working. Make sure to make a checklist before you attempt to purchase your curriculum. If it doesn’t measure up to the standards you set in place, you probably won’t be happy with the design of the year-long program. For example, if you are a Christian homeschooler, and prefer only to use Christian materials, a secular curriculum won't meet the needs of your family.
Choosing the Best Homeschool Curriculum
There are always certain factors that come into play no matter which curriculum you choose or how you choose it. Making sure different curriculum are tailored to your teaching style, your child’s learning style, and the situation you happen to be in are the most important components. But how can you do that if you’re not able to actually look at the curriculum, handle it, and make sure the things it teaches line up with your base requirements and worldview?
Some homeschooling curriculums are suited for children with specific learning styles. In that case, your auditory learner would not glean much from a curriculum based primarily on visuals. That much you already know. However, what if you choose a “grade level” at face value, only to get it home and find that it doesn’t line up with your expectations for that grade level? Many first-time homeschoolers make this mistake, as veteran homeschoolers know that most curriculums run a year ahead of the public school equivalent. That isn’t the case with every homeschool program, but until you learn which ones are which, it’s best to make sure you actually have them in your hands before purchasing.
Get To Know the Content
The content of any subject’s curriculum is something you should become familiar with, especially if you’re new to homeschooling. Choosing the wrong materials is one of the major underlying causes of homeschool teaching burnout, but it’s easier to combat than you might think. Even though it’s true you can get a really good “first glimpse” by simply checking the table of contents, it’s much better to be able to flip through the actual text. There you’ll find the breakdown of the lesson by skimming headings, section questions or quizzes, and important notes for vocabulary. If, by doing so, something sends up red flags, DO NOT IGNORE IT. You cannot teach what you do not agree with.
In some cases, you can skip over small sections of content, and possibly input something else. However, if a large portion of the text is comprised of material you’ll want to skip over rather than cover, you shouldn’t choose that curriculum. There are far too many options available out there for you to simply settle on the first thing you find.
It is important also since math curriculums are usually interactive in some way, to get your hands on it to view any corresponding math manipulatives that come with it, or if any do. Math curriculum is one of the areas that can really be tied to a child's learning style, so don't ignore that.
Get To Know the Delivery
Some curriculum choices give you the option to choose an all-in-one system, including everything you need for language arts, math, social studies, or science, right down to the lesson plans and grading scale. Alternatively, you can choose to purchase each subject separately, along with whatever additional resources you might deem necessary for your own intents and purposes. A third option might include a combination of textbooks, workbooks, projects, activities, and online content. But again, the only real way to know is to examine the content of each curriculum choice in person. This might become especially important in high school when you're looking at science curriculum.
Don’t Purchase Homeschool Curriculum Just Because Someone Else Likes It
Just because your best friend, Susie, uses “Curriculum A” and loves it, does not mean you will also love it. In fact, you might find that same curriculum to be the opposite of everything you want and need. Putting your hands on a homeschool curriculum and turning through the pages to see if the majority of the information lines up with your style and requirements is one of the most important aspects of your curriculum shopping experience.
The same is true for blog posts you might find regarding a given topic. If you’ve done much research at all, you’ve certainly come across some blogs, and many of them might be trustworthy and extremely informative. However, when it comes to choosing what to teach, you need more than someone else’s “say so”. Of course, you could always take a chance and chalk it up to a lesson learned in any given school year if it doesn’t work out, but if you’re on a budget, that can be an expensive lesson.
Look Before You Buy
The one method that always works when searching for the perfect curriculum is actually to examine it for yourself. But, you may wonder, how can you manage that? If you’re a first-time homeschooler, you likely don’t have any friends that homeschool, and if you do, they might live too far away for you to check out their resources in person. If you do have that option, by all means, take it. You won’t be sorry that you did, and you’ll get to see the difference it makes for you as a homeschooling parent.
If you can’t do that, you can perhaps contact a local homeschool co-op or support group. Often, they will have resources on hand and welcome the opportunity to let you have an up-close and personal look. These are also great options because you’ll get to ask questions about how certain aspects of the curriculum are implemented and what problems they might have experienced as an educator.
Of course, you also have the option of researching as far as you can, and then simply ordering a teacher’s manual from your curriculum company of choice. This can be expensive, especially if you have multiple options to evaluate, but if it’s the only option, you might have to make do.
One of the best things about attending one of our Great Homeschool Conventions is the opportunity personally to examine TONS of homeschool curriculum on display from the many vendors who will be set up in our vendor’s hall. Not only will you be able to see all the resources for yourself, including texts, workbooks, worksheets, maps, printables, and extensive other resources, you’ll be able to have all your questions answered on the spot and make your own curriculum review. Additionally, you can meet and discuss concerns with other homeschool parents, many of whom have been homeschooling for many years, but decades, from PreK, middle school, and high school. That kind of information is nearly priceless and they are always happy to share their wisdom and homeschool journey with you.
Our Great Homeschool Conventions are regional and take place in seven different states across the U.S., so there’s likely one near you. However, if you do have to travel very far, we offer hotel discounts, military discounts, and free admission for active clergy members, which we hope will help. We know that our conventions will be a great asset to you, the homeschooling family, and we want to help make it possible for everyone to take part.
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