You’ve made the decision to homeschool and now you find yourself wondering how to choose the best homeschool curriculum. In this post I’m going to share 6 tips for choosing homeschool curriculum for your family. I hope these tips help to bring a little clarity to your homeschool curriculum shopping process. The beauty of homeschooling is that you get to choose what is best for your children. When you choose a homeschool curriculum it’s important to know that your choice doesn’t have to be set in stone. I have been mid way through a school year before and made the decision to swap out a few subjects that weren’t serving our family well. There are a variety of ways your family can learn. What works well for other homeschool families might not be a good fit for your family. What might well in one season of your life might not work well for the next season. Do not feel like you are married to your current curriculum. As a veteran homeschooler (I have 9 years of homeschooling under my belt), I would encourage you to be flexible with your choices.
The beauty of homeschooling is that YOU get to be your children’s advocate. You get the privilege of choosing what different subjects and curriculums would best suit them. You get the freedom to take them on whatever field trips you want, the freedom to learn about what interests them, the freedom to dive into nature walks and music lessons, the freedom to spend time together that you can’t ever get back. Choosing homeschool curriculum is something to take seriously, but it’s also something that is beautifully flexible at the same time.
If you are getting ready to plan your homeschool year, I would love to gift you my favorite Homeschool Planning Curriculum Page. Print one off for each student you are teaching. You’ll be able to write out:
- Subject: write down what subject you are ordering for.
- Book: once you have finalized your curriculum decision, write down what book you chose.
- Price: it’s always nice to see your homeschool budget on paper.
- Ordered: write down the date that you placed your order.
- Received: it can be a bit overwhelming when all of your curriculum starts coming in. Write down what items have been received to make sure you aren’t missing something.
1. Write Down What Grades You Are Teaching
This may seem like a no brainer. But take the time to pencil out each child and the grade they will be going into. It helps to also write down what curriculum they were using the previous year. If you homeschooled the year before, write down what you used last year. This always helps me to remember what we maybe liked or didn’t like about certain curriculums used. If you’re homeschooling for the first time and coming from a public/private school setting, take the time to pencil out what your child learned the year before. Are there learning gaps you want to focus on? Are they strong at reading but weak at math? Take note of that. It helps to have your thoughts on paper before you begin the process of choosing a curriculum for your family.
2. Take Time to Consider Each Childs Needs and Personality
My favorite part of homeschooling is that I get to create a personalized education for each one of my children. What a gift and an absolute privilege that is! Take time to consider each child’s learning styles. Do they love to write and craft? Do they enjoy being outside? Do they move around constantly? Do you find them curled up with books? What makes them tick when it comes to learning? Having a clear visual for each child’s learning style will help to guide you as you begin looking at curriculum. Some curriculum is a lot of reading, some is more focused on workbooks and other styles focus on learning outdoors. The possibilities are endless! You can tailor your child’s education around how they learn best.
3. Take Into Account Your Schedule For the Next Year
This is something that you might not think of taking into consideration when finding the right curriculum for your family. It is an incredibly important piece to the homeschooling puzzle. Are you expecting a new baby mid year? Will you be traveling as a family? Will you have a toddler under foot? Will you be moving? Will you have a part time or full time job in addition to homeschooling? There are so many life variables (some of them we obviously won’t know in advance). Taking them into consideration will also help you to plan out the year. For example: we had a baby born in January last year. I knew that we would spend a lot of January curled up reading good books together. I chose a curriculum for January that was filled with rich literature we could all enjoy together (while curled up with a newborn!). I did not choose curriculum that was going to be a ton of hands on help from myself. If you know you’re going to be on the go quite a bite, take into account if the curriculum you are choosing takes up a lot of time. Maybe you live in an area where you spend a lot of time outdoors, choose a curriculum and learning style that would work well with that kind of lifestyle.
4. Consider what subjects you can group together
The beauty of homeschooling is that you can learn so many subjects together as a family. History, Science and Bible are excellent subjects that can be taught together. Teach to your upper grades and your younger grades will soak up what they can. This will make your life so much easier when it comes to choosing your history, science and Bible curriculums.
5. Ask other homeschooling families what they are using and loving
A wonderful way to learn more about homeschooling curriculum is to ask other homeschooling mamas what they are using and loving. Keep in mind that every family is different. What might work beautifully for their child or family may not be the best fit for you. Think through questions you can ask to learn more about that curriculum. Here are a few that you might consider:
- What do you love most about it?
- What would you change if you could?
- How long does it take you each day to use it?
- Do you plan on using it again this year?
- Do you feel like the curriculum taught to the grade level it was written for?
- What do lesson plans look like for this type of curriculum?
6. Understand Homeschooling Styles
As you begin your research to find homeschool curriculum, know that there are different homeschooling style types that will pop up. I’ll be honest, up until a few years ago I didn’t have a clue what each style meant. I would have other homeschooling moms ask, “oh what kind of homeschool style are you,” to which I would then awkwardly laugh and look like a deer in headlights. All I knew was that I was choosing curriculum that we loved and I was teaching my children. My mom was one of the original homeschoolers back in the day. She started homeschooling my brother and I when homeschooling wasn’t a popular education choice (as in… there was one other homeschooling family in town). These homeschooling “styles” weren’t a part of homeschooling lingo back then. You can read a great article written by my mom here.
I think it’s important to understand some of the different learning styles, but don’t feel like you have to lump yourself into one category. The reason I am adding this section into this post is because I want you to feel well rounded when this question comes up. It is also helpful in honing in on certain types of curriculum if you resonate with a certain homeschooling style. Again, you do not have to put yourself into a certain learning box. I find myself a mix of many kinds of homeschooling learning styles. Traditional mixed with unit studies and Charlotte Mason. I’m a bit of an eclectic homeschooler. I’m curious what styles below you resonate most with!
Homeschooling Styles Explained
Below you will five different homeschool learning styles.
Traditional homeschooling looks a bit more like a classroom setting. There are textbooks and workbooks for the various school subjects. A traditional homeschooling approach is one where you are purchasing curriculum books for each child. If you want to take the guess work out of putting together a learning experience for your child, this is a great option. I personally love a traditional approach for the bulk of our learning. Know that you do NOT have to do a 100% traditional approach. I prefer textbooks for our core subjects (I view it as our educational foundation) and then the cherry on top for our family is lots of reading, outdoor experiences and hands on studies.
A Classical homeschooling approach is based on a three part process to train the mind, called the Trivium. The child will be moved through a three part learning process that focuses on concrete learning (the grammar stage), critical learning (the logic stage), and abstract learning (the rhetoric stage). This classical model is a very language and literature focused style. The first stage is the Grammar Stage for ages 6-10. They focus on absorbing information and memorizing the major rules for subjects (grammar, phonics, spelling, history, math, etc). The second stage is called the Dialectic Stage for ages 10-12. In this stage the emphasis is on algebra, thesis writing, debate and more. The third stage is called the Rhetoric State for ages 13-18. This last stage combines what they learned in the first two stages and focuses on the student working to articulate their reasoned opinions and conclusions via debates and persuasive writing. The high school students will focus on politics, economics, public speaking, accounting, essay writing and engineering. If you’re wanting a more classical education, you might be interested in the classical approach.
You may have heard of “unschooling”. It can go by many different names. Unschooling is essentially learning what the child is most interested. There is no set curriculum that is chosen. An example would be: if a child is interested in sharks, you would research all things sharks. Unschooling is a child led interest approach.
Unit Studies are super popular right now! Unit Studies take a theme/topic and can incorporate a variety of school subjects into that study. An example, when you study Ancient Egypt, you read books about Egypt (history), trace a map of Egypt (geography), learn how the Egyptians irrigated their farm land from the Nile (science), study hieroglyphics and make your own (art and history) and write a paper on what you learned (language arts). There are many exciting unit studies available in the homeschool world. My favorite resource for seasonal unit studies is Home and Haven Homeschool Community. They come out with a new unit study each season.
The Charlotte Mason approach to homeschooling is one that is focused on rich literature and “living books.” “Living Books” are typically a narrative style book that draws the reader into learning more about a certain subject. Charlotte Mason was a British educator from the late 1800s who encouraged giving children a broad education. Her approach encouraged nature study, nature walks, art, music appreciation and handicrafts (as well as the usual academic subjects). The Charlotte Mason approach focuses on reading through rich literature and then having the child retell or “narrate”, everything that they can remember from that reading. The method encourages the love of learning and building good lifelong learning habits. Charlotte Mason is an excellent choice if you have reluctant readers. Opening up rich literature and letting them soak it up is priceless!
WHERE TO PURCHASE HOMESCHOOL CURRICULUM?
There are many online stores where you can purchase complete homeschool curriculum. A few of my favorite places to purchase from are:
Christian Books has a wide variety of curriculum for homeschool students. You’ll be able to find something for young children, middle school and high schoolers. You’re able to browse through different subjects (core subjects, social studies, foreign language, etc) as well as as learn more about some of the more popular curriculum choices. A few that you might check out are:
- Saxon Math
- Father’s World
- Alpha Omega Academy (also known as Alpha Omega Publications)
- Father’s World
- Abeka Academy
Home and Haven Homeschool Community
Home and Haven Homeschool Community currently specializes in seasonal unit study bundles that my kids love! Each season they launch a new seasonal bundle that has 5-7 smaller unit studies within it.
You can see their current unit studies here. They also have sight word flash cards that can either be printed at home or purchased as a physical product (the physical products are preorder only).
I also love shopping on Amazon for curriculum choices. After I have penciled out what curriculum I am looking for, I’ll start shopping around for the best prices. I have found that Amazon has fairly competitive prices on a lot of curriculum. You don’t always have to purchase full curriculums with homeschooling. If that’s your preference, then great! But a lot of the time you can save money by piecing together books that would be a great fit for your family.
I hope this post was helpful to you as you begin planning out your homeschool curriculum. I’ll be back with more homeschooling posts in the next few weeks! In the mean time, below are a few homeschool posts that I think you might be interested in!
- The Good and the Beautiful Homeschool Curriculum Review (we will be changing curriculums after this year. Read why at the top of this post).
- How to Homeschool with Little Ones Around: if you are going to be homeschooling with newborns, babies or toddlers under foot… this post is for you!
- Our Top 15 Favorite Chapter and Read Aloud Books: we LOVE reading out loud in our home. I compiled a list of some of our favorite chapter books over the years.