5 Steps to Choosing a Homeschool Curriculum that you KNOW Will Work!

Welcome back to Day 3 of our homeschooling series!

Things have been going great this week! I have loved your comments and your love! Keep it coming! If you have missed any of our past posts be sure to check them out:

Today we have a special treat for all of you! I wanted to make sure that when informing you about how to plan a homeschool curriculum, that you heard it from someone who has ACTUALLY DONE it. I have always sent my kids to public school so I didn’t know the first thing about it! But, don’t worry, I found the perfect person to inform you all about this subject.

Introducing Rebecca from Hip Homeschooling!

Rebecca is a homeschool mom of 5 young children who was homeschooled herself. She
has taken all her knowledge of what works and what doesn’t and invites you into her chaos to
have a cup of coffee with her, ask your homeschool questions, take a free quiz, and journey
alongside her. Her blog has been such a help to her family that she now has multiple courses
teaching other people to blog, help support their families and earn a second income—from
home. You can find out more information on her blog below.

Be sure to check out her blog!

Contact her: hiphomeschoolingblog@gmail.com

5 Steps to Choosing a Homeschool Curriculum that you KNOW Will Work!

If you are new to the world of homeschooling (or considering it as an option) you might be
feeling completely lost when it comes to where to begin. While homeschooling has become
more mainstream over the past 10 years (which is awesome) that means there are a lot more
options to choose from. I love options! If there is anything I have learned over the past 6 years
of homeschooling, it is that every child is so different and no one curriculum works for all of
them. I love looking through curriculum catalogues, reading reviews and being surprised by
some awesome new resource that has come out BUT, when you are first starting out it can be
incredibly overwhelming trying to narrow down what will work. Curriculum is such an important
component and has the ability to make or break your homeschool year, so let me help you
choose a plan for your family in 5 easy steps that you can be confident in!

Step 1: Determine Your Child’s Learning Style

Most often we choose curriculum based off of what we like. While that is definitely something
to consider, if it doesn’t work for our child it is not going to be a good fit. Every child has their
own learning style that is unique to them. We all have certain ways that we best process
information. The three main learning styles are auditory (hearing), visual (seeing), and
kinesthetic (doing). Ideally we want to teach our children using all three styles, to help them
grow in areas they are weak in and learn how to learn no matter how the information is
presented. That being said, when you are new to homeschooling, your year will run a lot
smoother if you start with a curriculum that is geared towards your child’s main learning style.
For example, a child who is auditory would do very well with a program that you read to them
or is on the computer or has some sort of auditory component to it. While a child who is
kinesthetic will learn best with a program that is very hands-on: building, creating, crafting, etc.

Not only is it helpful to know your child’s learning style, but also your own. We tend to naturally
teach the way that we learn. So if you are a visual learner, you are going to be drawn to the
programs that are full of reading and pictures. If you are kinaesthetic for example, you will
probably be drawn to those fun, hands on programs full of projects and activities. Teaching a
child with a different learning style than our own can be challenging and stretching, but in the
end it can help both you and your child grow and can be incredibly fulfilling. If you aren’t
certain what your child’s or your own learning style is, I created a super simple, 10-question
quiz on my blog that can help determine that for you. Check it out HERE.

Step 2: Decide Your Homeschool Approach

Many curriculums are inspired by a particular homeschool approach. You may notice that some
claim to be based off of the classical education model or say, “Charlotte Mason Inspired.’ So
before you head out and hit that purchase button, let’s talk briefly about the different
homeschool styles and how you can figure out which one best suits your family.

Unschooling

Unschooling kind of gets a bad rep. As with any method or philosophy, there are extremes on
either end that tend to get the most publicity while the majority of people in the middle feel
misrepresented. Unschooling in it’s most basic form is “child-directed learning”. Have you ever
watched “Hackschooling” by Logan on Ted Talks? It is an incredible video of a kid talking
about how he was homeschooled, or “hackschooled” as he called it (if you haven’t watched
the video, it will blow you away, check it out HERE). That is the perfect representation of what
unschooling is. You essentially take your child’s interests and run with them, whatever that may
look like. Some unschoolers use curriculum and hop around based off of what their child wants
to learn, others use no curriculum and purchase items or resources that their child requests.

 

Classical

Classical education is based off of a three-part process aimed at training your child’s mind
using different developmental stages as a guide. These are called the trivium. The elementary
grades are used as an opportunity to impart concrete facts, the analytical stage is where we
begin to ask questions, and the rhetoric stage is where your child begins to express
themselves using original thought. Curriculum based off of this model is quite intense and
usually includes latin.

Traditional

Traditional tends to be what most of us start homeschooling with because it’s what we know.
A traditional form of homeschooling is where we try to recreate the school experience in our homes.
Often we buy our kids little desks, we do bookwork and have schedules, and often focus on
choosing curriculum that is aligned with what kids their age are doing in the schools. Traditional
curriculum has tests and assessments and will often be common core or meet State or
provincial learning outcomes.

Unit Study

Unit studies are a themed approach to learning. Essentially you take 1 theme that you or your
child wants to focus on, and try to incorporate all your subjects into that one theme. They are
much more parent-involved, can be very kinesthetic and hands-on and eliminate some of the
time wasters that naturally occur with separating our subjects (ie. you write in Language arts,
write a social study report, write a science hypothesis, etc.). Unit Study curriculum is can be
purchased by theme but is commonly made up as you go. You gather resources and books
from the library and build your unit as you go, which can be great if you are on a budget.

Charlotte Mason

The Charlotte Mason method is an entire approach based off of a person and her philosophy of
education. Charlotte Mason believed we needed to education the whole child, not just their
mind. Curriculum that is Charlotte Mason inspired is based on quality over quantity (for
example, your child might only write a sentence that is the best they can possibly do rather
than an entire paragraph that is haphazardly done). It incorporates living books—written by
experts on the subject that are passionate about it and make it come to life for the child (no dry
textbooks). CM homeschoolers bring in a lot of life experiences, time outside, and nature walks
to give them a framework for learning.

Eclectic

Eclectic homeschooling is probably what most veteran homeschoolers would describe
themselves as. Each style has value and many of them work better in different seasons of our
lives. Homeschooling is first and foremost a journey that is unique to you. No other family will
have the same blend of dynamics, values, interests, strengths, weaknesses and personalities.
As your confidence and experience grow, you will likely pull from many if not all of these styles
to create your own style, this is eclectic homeschooling.
Thomas Jefferson Education

Thomas Jefferson Education (or TJEd) uses a model of how our founding forefathers were
taught. It is less focused on curriculum (in that it doesn’t use curriculum) and instead teaches
through the classics. TJEd homeschoolers have shelves filled with classical literature that they
read together, discuss, and write about.

Reading through these descriptions will probably give you a good idea of an approach that
speaks to you. To help you identify what each style looks like in a homeschool day, come on
over and take the homeschool style quiz HERE.

Step 3: Take into Account your Family Dynamics

Do you work outside the home or in the home? Do you have a baby or a toddler? Are you
pregnant or breastfeeding? Are you morning people or night owls? Do you have a lot of
extracurricular activities? These are the kinds of questions you need to ask yourself when you
are considering whether a curriculum is going to work for you or not. If you are a stay-at-home
mom who can invest all her time and energy into homeschooling and making this work, then
you might really enjoy a more hands-on, project-based learning model. However, if you love
that style of learning but work from home and have a busy toddler, you might not be able to
keep up with the parent-involvement of a program like that. Many first-time homeschoolers are
drawn to all-in-one curriculums that package up everything you need, give you a daily
schedule, and you can open-and-go. The problem is that while this can work with your family
dynamic, it often doesn’t fit your homeschool style and/or your child’s learning style which can
make it something you both dread to do together.

Consider how much time you have to give to homeschooling. How independent are your kids?
Can they read on their own or do you need to do every subject with them? How many kids do
you have? Maybe you want to have a few subjects online so that you can alternate one-on-one
time with independent study. Before you sit down and look at curriculum, write down a little list
of your family dynamics and what you need to work around or consider in your curriculum
choices.

Step 4: What’s your budget?

Have you noticed how expensive curriculum is? One subject alone can be $300+ if you are
looking at a really amazing program! No one likes to think about the budget when they are
shopping, but this is a pretty important question. If homeschooling breaks the bank, you are
going to be less likely to stick with it. MANY homeschoolers utilize the library as their main
source or resources and purchase only guides or workbooks that go along with what they can
get for free. Other homeschoolers look for ebooks rather than print versions to save on
shipping costs. You can also combine children if they are close enough in age, doing one
curriculum for multiple kids. Not only does this save money, but it can save a lot of time as
well. Sit down with your hubby and decide how much you want to spend on curriculum, on
extra-curricular, and on supplies and resources (like microscopes, school supplies, art
supplies, printer ink, etc). Write that number down together with your children’s learning styles,
your homeschool style, and your family dynamics. This sheet of paper is going to be your
guide when you are looking at which curriculum will best suit you.

 

Step 5: Shopping!

Now that you know your children, yourself, your family, your needs, and your limitations… we
can go shopping! Every single program you look at, you need to ask yourself if it will fit. Does it
get you excited or do you feel dread at the thought of all those projects? Will it work with your
child who can’t stand to sit still? Will it take too much time to be done during the baby’s nap or
the morning that you have to give? Can you afford it? If you need help finding curriculum or
aren’t sure where to start, I’ve put together a master homeschool curriculum list with links that
you can click on to go straight to their website. I have organized this list by all-in-one
curriculums, free curriculum, as well as curriculum by subject so that you can scroll through
and find what you are looking for. You can find the list HERE.

I encourage you to look through reviews of programs that you are seriously considering. But be
aware that every program will have people it worked for and people it didn’t. As you scroll
through reviews, try to find ones written by people that have similar family dynamics. Take
opinions with a grain of salt, you really can’t know until you try something if it will work. And
download samples and placement tests wherever you can to get a real understanding of how
this curriculum works. And lastly, have fun! Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed, curriculum is
important, but your attitude towards this is the biggest factor to your success. No matter what
you choose, if you tweak it to suit your family, it can work! Don’t be a slave to the curriculum
you chose, don’t feel like you have to do everything, worry less about checking the lists and let
the curriculum work for YOU not the other way around! And welcome to the crazy, chaotic,
amazingly fun journey of homeschooling!

~Rebecca

 

 

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