What curriculum do you use? What curriculum could you not live without? What curriculum didn’t work for you?
These are all questions frequently asked among homeschoolers in search of the ever-elusive – and, for the record, non-existent – perfect curriculum. The page listing my family’s curriculum choices for the year is consistently one of my top posts of all time.
The key to curriculum success isn’t finding the perfect curriculum because, as I said, it doesn’t exist. The key is finding the best fit for your family. How, though, do you go about finding the best fit when there are so many choices?
Consider your child’s learning style and your teaching style. We’re going to talk more about learning styles later, but for now, consider how your child seems to learn best. Does she sit down and read the instruction booklet from cover to cover before starting a new game? Does he start fiddling with all the controls on a new electronic device as soon as it’s out of the carton?
Does she sing a song to help her remember all the bones in the human body? Does he draw pictures and diagrams to understand a complicated math problem?
What about your teaching style? It’s probably directly related to your own learning style, but also consider how you typically relay information to others. Do you prefer reading aloud? Lecturing? Demonstrating? Drawing pictures to illustrate your point?
Take these things into consideration when choosing curriculum. Don’t choose a textbook-style curriculum if your kids would enjoy lots of hands-on activities. Look for a literature-based curriculum if quality reading is important to you. These days, many curriculum choices will tell you if they are geared toward a certain learning style or if they are multi-sensory.
Research your choices. Read the descriptions on the curriculum vendors’ websites. Request a copy of the Rainbow Resources catalog. About the size of a large city’s telephone directory, it offers a detailed description of each product they sell – usually written by someone who has actually used the product.
Be sure to read reviews online. The Curriculum Choice is an excellent blog for reading quality, detailed reviews from veteran homeschooling moms with a wide range of schooling styles who write about the products they have used and enjoyed in their homeschools.
My reviews page lists a huge variety of products that we have used over the years. I even have a listing of my top picks by grade level. You can also search for reviews online by typing in the name of the product and the word “reviews.”
Finally, be sure to ask your homeschool friends. Most homeschoolers love to talk curriculum. They’ll be glad to tell you what they loved or hated. Yes, ask them to tell you about what they didn’t like and why. Every family is different, so it could be that the very thing your friend hated will be the perfect fit for your family.
Most homeschool moms – even just acquaintances – are happy to let you come over and look through their curriculum, too. Don’t hesitate to ask. The worst she can do is say no – and she probably won’t. If you’re worried she will, offer to bring a gallon of Chick-Fil-A sweet tea with you, though that might only work with me.
Go take a look. Visit a curriculum fair or used book sale. Spring and summer are peak season for curriculum fairs and used book sales, so it shouldn’t be hard to find one in your area if you ask around or search online.
I will warn you: curriculum fairs can be overwhelming. You might want to follow some curriculum fair survival tips before heading out. Once you’re adequately prepared, head to the curriculum fair. It’s great just being able to put your hands on all those books.
Used curriculum sales are great because, chances are, finding the best curriculum fit for your family is going to involve some trial and error. Despite my best research, we only used my first curriculum choice for about four months. Sometimes you just don’t know how well your choices are going to fit until you use them for a bit.
Utilize your library. It’s okay to start with the basics and use your library for everything else. A child can explore endless aspects of history and science – even foreign languages – with a library card while you’re making sure that the math, phonics and grammar materials you’ve chosen are the right fit. Once you get the basics down, you can add in curriculum for the other areas of study as you find things that look interesting to you and your children.
Many first-time homeschooling parents, myself included, think that they have to jump in with both feet as soon as they start homeschooling. However, many veteran homeschooling parents, myself included again, have found that easing in makes a lot more sense
It’s okay to settle on a couple of things that you can’t comprehend not doing – math and reading, for example – and take some time to explore other areas in a more casual way while you continue to research those curriculum choices that are proving to be more difficult to choose. You may be amazed at how much your child learns without formal instruction.
If you’ve found some things that you like, but you’re just not 100% sold, it may be that they just need some tweaking to make your curriculum work for you.
I hope you’ll come back tomorrow for more Homeschooling 101. We’ll be talking about some of my favorite homeschooling blogs, which can be a great way for new (and veteran) homeschooling parents to find a wealth of tips, inspiration, and encouragement on those days between homeschool support group meetings.