Over the past 9 years of homeschooling and 5 years of being a curriculum reviewer, I have learned a few things about how to choose homeschool curriculum. As we embark on our journey into high school, I want to be intentional about making the best options for Ben for a number of reasons. As I was jotting down some notes to guide me in our selections, it occurred to me that this information might be useful for you as well.
Below are a few suggestions for things to consider when you choose homeschool curriculum for your students. You’ll also find a free downloadable guide at the bottom of the post. Print it out (maybe even a few copies) for when you are trying to make a decision about a purchase. It will help you determine if a resource is the best fit for your budget and homeschool.
The best curriculum for your homeschool is one that aligns with your family’s worldview. This seems to be particularly important in the areas of science and American history. If you have a Christian worldview with young earth/creationist beliefs, you’ll want to know if the science curriculum you are considering teaches evolution as factual. If you don’t believe in American exceptionalism or have a providential view of American history, you are not going to be satisfied with a curriculum that teaches such things.
I do want to take a moment to say that I don’t necessarily believe a more secular curriculum cannot be used for a Christian homeschool. Many times, our best choices have been “neutral” science curriculum that teaches neither creationism or evolution. This gives us the opportunity to infuse our own worldview into the curriculum without the bias of others. Just because someone claims their curriculum is from a biblical or Christian worldview does not mean it will automatically align with your own.
I believe one of the biggest mistakes homeschool moms make is purchasing too much curriculum they never use. I know this has been true for me, especially in our early years. What’s your budget for homeschool curriculum?
Indeed, some things are worth stretching the homeschool budget for. Is this one of those things? How committed are you to using it? How detrimental will it be if you need to ditch it if it doesn’t work?
It doesn’t matter how wonderful a curriculum is if it is not convenient for you to use. If you have a large family and the curriculum you are considering cannot combine grade levels, it may not be the best choice for you. I remember when Ben was younger and I was still working nearly full-time outside of the home, I chose a math curriculum that was very teacher-intensive. It took sometimes 45-60 minutes a day just to teach the lesson. It wasn’t long before I dumped that curriculum. I just didn’t have that much time to spend teaching one subject.
Have you determined the best method for your homeschool? Does the curriculum you’re considering match up with that? If you love Charlotte Mason and her directive to teach with short lessons and living books, a workbook heavy, DVD-driven resource might not be the best choice, even if everyone in your co-op loves it.
How do your children learn? You may be the planner of all planners, who craves pre-written lesson plans and a rigid schedule, filled with worksheets and textbooks. But your wiggly, tactile learner may do better with a more project-based, hands-on style. The Way They Learn by Cynthia Tobias is a great resource to help you figure this out.
Considering whether a curriculum is usable for the upcoming students in your homeschool might be an important factor to consider. If your youngest child is in preschool (and you’re not expecting more children to come after), you may not want to invest a lot of money into preschool curriculum. You likely have plenty on your bookshelves and hard drive for this child. However, if you are considering a rather pricey curriculum for your oldest student and it will a resource you can continue using with the rest of your children, then the investment might be worth it.
This is also a good time to discuss copyright, because unfortunately, the homeschool community has a reputation for violating copyright for the sake of saving money. This is wrong. Please make sure you have a publisher’s permission to make copies or reuse a resource before you do so. For more information about copyright, read this article written by homeschool publisher, Kim Kautzer.
The blogosphere is filled with reviews of curriculum. Many times, homeschool publishers will link to some of them on their websites. If they do not, be bold enough to email or call and ask them if they have any they can share with you.
Veteran homeschool mom friends are also a great source of information. Asking around in your local or online homeschool groups will likely yield many opionions about homeschool curriculum. Be sure to weigh those responses with the needs I mentioned above. Just because a curriculum worked well for one family, doesn’t mean it will with yours. On the flipside of that coin — just because something did not work well for someone else doesn’t mean it won’t be a great fit for your family. Be sure to ask questions such as:
Why did you love it?
Why do you think it didn’t work for you?
Check out Cathy Duffy’s 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum for some guidance. Also, there are hundreds of product reviews on the blog of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, where families actually use the products in their homeschools before writing their reviews.
I created this simple printable guide you can use to determine if a particular resource is good for YOUR homeschool. I hope you find it useful. Enter your email below to download your Free Guide to Choosing Homeschool Curriculum.