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What homeschool curriculum should I use?
It’s one of the biggest homeschool questions and it drives most homeschooling parents insane.
Don’t believe me?
Scroll through any homeschooling group on Facebook and you will see dozens and dozens of posts on the topic of homeschool curriculum.
But, we’re not going to get bogged down in all of that, right? Instead, we’re going to FOCUS and MOVE FORWARD so that you can FINALLY know how to find the best homeschool curriculum for your child!
Sound good? GREAT! Let’s get started!
In this post What Homeschooling Curriculum Should I Use? we’ll cover:
• Why choosing homeschool curriculum is such an issue.
• How FOMO and SHINY CURRICULUM SYNDROME are affecting your homeschooling curriculum choice.
• The #1 thing you MUST do before choosing any homeschooling curriculum.
• Why you should let go of the homeschool curriculum comparison chart.
• How to FINALLY choose the right homeschool curriculum.
(& some other really, really helpful information)
Before we move on, I want to address something.
Have you ever wondered why homeschoolers spend so much time trying to choose the right homeschool curriculum package only to switch to another homeschool curriculum and then switch again?
I believe it boils down to two things:
1. Homeschool Curriculum FOMO, and
2. Fear of Failure.
As homeschoolers, we have a lot of pressure. I mean, we are taking our child’s entire education into our own hands. That means when it’s a success, we get the kudos, but when it’s a failure, there’s only one person to blame . . . OURSELVES.
This pressure sometimes leads to a fear of homeschooling failure that, in turn, can lead to bad decisions because of something called FOMO, or fear of missing out.
I happen to think that homeschool FOMO also leads to something that I like to call SCS, or SHINY CURRICULUM SYNDROME.
When we feel like we’re failing in homeschooling, we start to look for the next BIGGER and BETTER thing to make our homeschooling a success. It goes something like this:
OOOO! The homeschool group said to try this curriculum! Maybe that’s what we need!
OH! Look at that homeschool curriculum! It’s a BESTSELLER!
OOOO! This curriculum has a coloring book that goes with it! Maybe that will work better!
And on and on and on until you’re sobbing into your coffee cup at 3:27 a.m. because you’ve just spent seven hours searching online, reading homeschooling reviews, asking other homeschool parents, and pouring over homeschool curriculum price comparisons and you still have no idea what to do.
I know because I’ve been there.
I’ve spent the hours and hours researching and discussing and gnashing teeth. Now, when we’re ready to start a new homeschool subject, I no longer do the homeschool FOMO/SCS dance. Instead, I become laser focused on exactly what we need to meet our needs.
And, it’s relatively painless whenever I have to search for a new homeschool curriculum or course.
Now, I’m going to give you the homeschool curriculum help that you need so that you can jump off that crazy curriculum merry-go-round, too!
Read on to learn how I do it . . .
How To Decide What Homeschool Curriculum Is Right For Me
Step 1. Understand what homeschool curriculum you are required to use.
The first thing you need to do before even researching or changing curricula is to understand what is required by your state or area. You can do this by researching the homeschool laws for your state (or area).
If you are required to use a specific curriculum or to follow specific guidelines for homeschool curricula, then that takes a lot of the pain out of your search for the top picks for homeschool curriculum.
If you are not required by state laws to follow a specific homeschool curriculum, that’s where it gets tricky. You’ve noticed by now that the homeschool curriculum search is overwhelming (that’s why you’re here, after all, right?). The trick is to find the perfect curriculum for your family while not losing your sanity.
Sounds amazingly easy, right?
To do this you need to become crystal clear on what you need (including the requirements from your state) and then follow very specific steps (like the ones below) to keep from being overwhelmed and purchasing (or using) curricula that won’t work longterm for you and your family.
Step 2. Understand how your kids learn.
Remember those old school learning style labels? You know, visual learners, auditory learners, and kinesthetic learners (who have to do some physical things while learning).
Although there is some controversy now over whether there really are particular “learning styles” for each person, I firmly believe that everyone has preferred methods of learning. (And this comes from not just being a homeschooling parent, but also being a college adjunct professor and in academia for over 17 years!)
When thinking about how children learn remember that you may not have just an auditory learner or just a visual learner, but you may have a child who prefers one of the methods over the other. For example, maybe your child prefers to listen to lessons (auditory) over seeing or reading the lessons (visual).
Understanding how your child learns is a very important part of the curriculum process. If you understand how your child BEST learns, you eliminate choices.
THIS MEANS YOU WON’T WASTE MONEY ON CURRICULA THAT DOES NOT WORK FOR YOUR FAMILY.
For example, if your child likes to move around a lot, or doodle while learning, having him sit at a desk for hours on end completing workbooks is probably not setting you up for homeschool success.
Take a minute and think about how your child likes to learn (or each of your children). If you’re unsure, spend a week or so observing your child. Is she more of a quiet, in-the-corner reader type? Does he like technology and prefers watching videos online? Does your child need your complete involvement with very little independent studying?
These are the kinds of factors you need to consider when looking for the best homeschool curriculum. If your child hates to read but you provide a curriculum that is text heavy with a lot of reading comprehension, then you’re not going to use that curriculum for long because you and your child will quickly become frustrated. So, you can cross off an entire category of curriculum just by knowing that your child hates to read a lot.
Step 3. Understand how you “teach.”
I think this step is just as important as understanding how your kids best learn.
I also think that this is a step that is often skipped by parents and then it causes them to switch curriculum mid-year (or multiple times throughout the year).
Take a moment and consider how you like to guide your children during homeschooling. Do you want to be involved in every single subject in more of a “teacher” aspect, side-by-side your child? Or, do you want (or need) your child to do more independent studies, with minimal involvement from you?
This is an important step to consider because if you need your child to do independent studies because you also work from home during the day (or another reason), choosing a homeschool curriculum package where you need to be involved in every step will also set you and your child up for failure.
Now we’ve eliminated yet more categories of homeschooling curriculum just by understanding how you want/need to be involved in your child’s learning and how your child best learns.
See how we’re becoming more focused?
Step 4. Know your budget (and stick to it).
OK, let’s recap for a second on what we’ve discussed so far:
• We’ve talked about how you need to understand how your child best learns.
• Then, we covered how you best “teach.”
• Now, let’s consider your budget.
Packaged homeschooling curriculum, books, and online courses can quickly add up–some are even into the hundreds of dollars. Without specific planning, buying a homeschool curriculum can even break the budget, especially if you are homeschooling more than one child on varying subjects and curricula.
YOU MUST GO INTO YOUR CURRICULUM RESEARCH KNOWING YOUR TOTAL BUDGET.
You need to consider the budget for each child, budget per curriculum, and total budget. And then, NO MATTER WHAT, you need to stick to that budget.
Even if you find the OMGosh PERFECT CURRICULUM.
If it’s out of your budget, you need to move on because it isn’t the perfect curriculum for your family.
Step 5. Determine your curriculum topics and type.
Before moving forward and searching for a homeschool curriculum, you also need to create a tentative homeschool schedule for each child. Your schedule should include the topics each child will cover for the current (or upcoming) homeschooling year.
If you make a column on one sheet of paper for each child and then list out their subjects for the year, it is easier for you to see if there is an overlap. Any overlap means that you can buy one curriculum and share among the group — you’ll just need to adapt the learning for each age or stage. For example, if you’re using the same history curriculum for a 6 year old and a 12 year old, maybe while the 12 year old writes an essay on the topic the 6 year old can draw a scene (or make a lap book) about the topic.
Also, when researching, STAY FOCUSED. If you just need a math curriculum, why are you spending time looking at that cool online spelling curriculum with all the bells and whistles?
Once you have a better understanding of the topics your children are going to learn, it’s time to consider what type of curriculum you would like.
Consider these when searching for the best homeschool curriculum:
• Do you want an all-in-one (“boxed”) curricula that covers multiple topics (English, Math, etc.) where you get all the materials shipped to you?
• Are you looking for an online or video-based curriculum?
• Do you want a homeschool curriculum that helps you track grades and progress?
• Are you OK with mixing and matching curricula (using one curriculum for math, another for language arts, etc.) to find the best combination?
Again, when thinking about TYPE of curriculum (boxed, online, etc.), you need to keep in mind the requirements for how your children learn and how you “teach.”
THOSE ARE THE TOP 5 STEPS YOU MUST FOLLOW TO GET THE BEST HOMESCHOOL CURRICULUM FOR YOUR FAMILY.
Even though those are the most important steps to follow when choosing a homeschool curriculum, there are also a few more important steps I want to share with you that will help in your curriculum search.
Step 6. Stop asking for advice.
Yeah, you read that right. I want you to stop asking for homeschool curriculum advice in your homeschooling groups and at meet-ups.
The problem with asking for advice is that every homeschooling parent is giving you input based on their needs, not your needs.
Let that sink in for a moment.
So, we forget that when someone is singing the praises of a homeschool curriculum that they mean it is great for them. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to check off all the boxes that you need for your family.
IF (big IF) you are going to ask for homeschool curriculum advice, ask one or two close homeschooling friends.
Posting your request for input in a Facebook group or on other social media will give you an overwhelming (and often conflicting) amount of input . . . and that’s not a good thing.
Remember, you want to remain clear and focused during this process. Having a ton of information and different viewpoints can sometimes distract you.
I know it sounds like you should be doing the opposite (and getting as much feedback as you can), but can you trust me on this one and skip asking in social media groups? You’ll thank me later.
7. Put a time limit on your homeschool curriculum research.
Don’t just brew up a nice cup of tea and sit down in front of your laptop for the evening to research homeschool curriculum. Hours later, you will find that you’ve fallen down the homeschool curriculum rabbit hole and you can’t get out.
And, chances are, you will be none the wiser (but you’ll be plenty frustrated).
Instead, set 30-minute timer for each curriculum or child. If you need a math curriculum for Johnny, search ONLY math curricula that meets Johnny’s specific needs (and your “teaching” style).
Once the time is up, move on to the next curriculum search. Do not spend more than 30 minutes because it will only add to your confusion and overwhelm.
8. Make swift decisions.
I like to also call this step the Pick Three Approach.
During your 30 minute online homeschool curriculum research, take notes on the top three that interest you. It’s so much easier to narrow down your choice from three to one instead of from 15 to one.
9. Don’t be afraid to change.
If you happen to choose a homeschool curriculum that doesn’t work for your family, DON’T FEEL DEFEATED.
It happens (and it has happened to the majority of homeschooling parents).
If you followed the steps and still chose the wrong homeschool curriculum, look back over your notes and see if there was a critical step (Steps 1-5) that you missed when purchasing the homeschool curriculum. For example, did you meet the needs of how your kids like to learn, but forget about how you like to “teach”?
Or, sometimes, you may purchase a curriculum but then just realize, sadly, it isn’t very good.
When a curriculum doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to change (or even create your own homeschool unit study).
Just don’t be a serial curriculum changer!
I’m not trying to be trite when I tell you to relax, but . . . just R E L A X.
You’re not making a life or death choice for your child. You’re choosing a tool to assist your child in learning. When you start to think of it that way, you’ll take some of the pressure off of yourself!