It's time to pick a curriculum. This is the part that can be tricky.
Okay, deciding to homeschool was the hardest part. Then picking a method was next hardest. Now, it's time for curriculum.
I won't lie, you may find yourself agonizing over things you never expected to agonize over. Don't give up though!
Let me walk you through some things that have helped me in choosing.
Just like with picking a method -- you are NEVER locked in. Changing your mind is allowed. Pretty promise.
I will do my best to not get all long-winded on you today. I know I have a tendency to ramble. Just be glad I'm not talking to you in person! I just get excited and my brain starts to explode with information and it has to come out!!
1. Pick a method
Haven't chosen yet? Don't worry about it. You still have time to think about your method.
You can start looking around while keeping the few methods that you're thinking about in mind. Did that sentence make sense to you? Hope so.
If you've picked a method you've narrowed your choices down a good amount. For instance, Classical education has curriculum they recommend or have made themselves. Unschooling, you're not going to be looking at traditional curriculum. Etc.
If you've chosen a method, go through the resources I posted. The methodology books will frequently recommend curriculum. You can bet your boots that the bloggers that post about those particular methods will have shared their curriculum picks. Do a search for that method + curriculum and you'll find even more ideas.
Remember, use what other people are doing as a guide, not as gospel.
You remember those priorities you wrote down? Get them back out.
What are you looking for in a curriculum?
- You want a religious curriculum?
- No religion?
- One that fosters independent work?
- Encourages creativity?
- And on and on
3. Learning Style
Is your child a visual learner, audio learner, or a kinesthetic learner?
Do they do well with memorization? Do they learn better with games? Worksheets? Projects? Do they need a lot of manipulatives to grasp an idea? Do they learn well with songs? Repetition?
If you're looking at a math curriculum that's just a textbook and workbook, but your child is kinesthetic, you'll want to look at other math curriculums that use specific manipulatives to teach concepts and understanding.
You may not know right now. Especially if your child is still young and hasn't had experience with school work.
Don't beat yourself up for not knowing! It's okay. There are several ways to figure out what their learning style is.
Discover Your Child's Learning Style -- I have this book and I'll talk more about it in a later post. It explains quite a bit about learning styles, observing your child, applying them, and then has two different quizzes for your child and you to take. One is for older children and the other is for you to take for when your kids are younger.
Thrively -- a site I just found the other day that helps you figure out your child's learning style and passions. Bonus: it's FREE!
Remember, you want to make sure that this will fit your child's learning style, not yours!
4. Teaching Style
That being said, you still want to keep yourself in mind.
If a particular curriculum is really high in teacher prep work, or requires your constant presence (none to very little of it is independent work) and you just know that it would wear you out, or just doesn't fit your personality, do not get it!
I don't care if it's "the best" spelling or writing curriculum ever! If it's going to constantly be a battle or struggle for you forget it. It's not worth the money, the pain, the frustration. You don't want to beat yourself up every day.
There are other resources you can use that will be just as wonderful that will fit both you and your child.
5. Teaching Multiples?
Are you teaching more than one child?
How close in age and level are they? Remember, with homeschooling you don't have to be locked into "this is the grade they have to be in." You want to teach to their level. No boredom or unnecessary grade level struggles in homeschool! Don't you just love that idea?
Can they be taught using the same level? Can the curriculum be used for multiple levels?
Unit studies and unschooling are great for teaching multiples. You can teach a whole family of children with one unit study just by the different things you do with it.
You may love that science curriculum, but your bank account does not.
Science curriculum is typically the one that makes your jaw drop when you see how much they are charging for it. I have let several science curriculums pass us by because of their outrageous price tag.
Don't worry, there are great ways to teach science without having to fork over $400/year. Yes, $400. Ridiculous, right? Yeah, I agree.
If your budget isn't liking it, remember to look around for a used copy or a discounted copy. They are out there! I've gotten lots of my curriculum from different sites that offer the same thing at a much cheaper (thank the heavens) rate! Win!
If you can't find it anywhere and no one around you has a copy for you to borrow, bummer dude.
Look around for something else.
If you really really really want that curriculum then save up for it. What can you sell? Is there another curriculum on your list that you can trade out for something less expensive to make room in the budget for this one?
Make sure that it has a good return policy just in case.
Look for cheap/free alternatives. Also, do you think there's an aspect of it you can replicate? Is it a multi-part curriculm? For instance, a teacher manual, student manual, student workbook, and manipulatives. Can you get by with just part of it? Can you make of find different manipulatives to go with it? Brainstorm it.
We read reviews on most everything we buy. Even about toilet paper.
Well, I haven't personally, but I'm sure someone has.
You may not be able to find reviews for the actual curriculum on the product website, but you can find it elsewhere.
Amazon has some curriculum reviews, but I would take many of those with a grain of salt.
Search the name of the curriculum + review and you'll find many.
Keep in mind, a lot of them might be sponsored reviews so you have to be selective in who you're listening to. I'm not saying all sponsored reviews are sugar-coated. A lot of people are honest and trustworthy!
Keep in mind that their children are not your children. They are not you.
I know that's obvious, but you have to remember #'s 1 - 6 when you're reading other's reviews. How are they similar to you? If they're not at all similar in #1-6 then you may want to keep searching for different reviewers of the same product to get their opinion.
101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum -- a go-to book for homeschool curriculum reviews. She breaks it down into learning styles and lots of other categories so you can look for the specific type you want.
Cathy Duffy Reviews -- the author of the above book has a site as well with tons and tons more curriculum reviews. Her reviews aren't "I like this" or "I don't like this." They are explaining the points of the curriculum and how it works. She'll walk you through much of the things you need to know about this curriculum. She will say which learning styles it's best for, parent involvement, if it's one-on-one or group, pricing, prep time needed, if you need the teacher's manual, and if it has a religious perspective.
8. Pros and Cons
Remember each curriculum has its pros and cons.
What are the pros and cons for the ones you're looking at?
Don't get caught up in the hype or the amazing reviews. Look at it honestly and with your list and notes in hand.
What can you see being a weak point? Strong point?
Weigh your pros and cons.
Tweak. Since no curriculum is perfect you may need to tweak it some. That's acceptable and normal!
Even if it is "perfect" for y'all you may still find yourself tweaking it to suit you even more.
If you have a more workbook oriented curriculum, but one or more of your children are kinesthetic learners you don't have to chuck the whole thing! You can incorporate more hands-on things to go along with it. You can create manipulatives or exercises that will aid in their learning. You can add in projects and more for greater understanding and fun.
You are not locked in to do what the curriculum says exactly. You can change some of it.
I know, it will take more effort on your part, but I believe it's worth it. You'll have more fun teaching your kids when they're understanding and enjoying school rather than battling yourselves.
10. Go with your gut!
This is my last piece of advice. Go with your gut.
All the others aside, if you just feel that you should keep on looking, even if it looks good on paper, keep on looking.
If you feel good about a curriculum, but maybe it doesn't look as good on paper as another one, go with the one you feel the best about.
If you are religious then I'm sure you have been praying about homeschooling and your children. Heavenly Father cares about your children very dearly and deeply. He cares about their education. If you ask for guidance and help you will get it! Of that I'm sure. Involve Him, trust Him, and stay true. No matter what your religious affiliation stay true to your values and beliefs.
If you are not religious, keep doing what you feel and know is right for you and your family!
Everyone: go with your gut and forget the rest.
Well, don't completely forget the rest. The rest is really to guide you to your gut.
I will be doing a curriculum round up with each subject. I won't do it next week or anything, but it will be here before the summer is over, okay?
If you have any questions on these tips, go ahead and ask.
You don't like one of them? Then just ignore it. No worries.
Are you looking at a curriculum right now, but don't want to wait for my round up and you have a question about it. Feel free to ask me about it. If I don't know I know someone who does!