Advice for Choosing Homeschool Curriculum

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Homeschooling friends, are you starting to think about what curriculum you will be using next year?

I use good quality curriculum materials because I want my children to learn more than I know. I want them to learn math strategies that I’ve long since forgotten, and spelling rules I was never taught. At the same time the curriculum I purchase tends to be expensive. Someone put a lot of effort into making it and on top of that I have to pay shipping costs from the USA. That makes things even more expensive. When I’m lucky I can coordinate ordering products with my friends so that we can split the shipping costs (or in some cases together purchase enough that we can receive free shipping from the company).

Because of the costs of curriculum, I do not switch curriculum often. If I have something, I use it. Yes, there might be a new and exciting curriculum that looks better, but what I have will do. Yes, there might be times when the curriculum I’ve purchased doesn’t seem to fit right with my kids. If the material is too hard for a child, we take a break and do other projects before returning to the material. If the material is too easy we skim through sections, skipping activities and finishing it quickly. We adapt the material to our needs, because the goal is to teach the child not the curriculum.

If you are looking at purchasing curriculum, I would encourage you to look at samples of the curriculum and picture how and when you would use it. Would you sit down with your child at the table or couch? Would your child be working on it alone? When do you picture working on it? If there is preparation to do before lessons, when do you picture doing it? If there are prompts for what the adult should say to the child, can you picture yourself saying it?

There are plenty of good curriculums that require more work than I’m willing to put into doing. There are plenty of optional subjects I would love for my kids and I to do but when I try to picture where in our schedule we would do it, I realize we just won’t have time.

We have had very good success with using the Michael Clay Thompson Language Arts Curriculum and RightStart Mathematics. My oldest is now using the Art of Problem Solving curriculum. I had bought the pre-algebra book as well as several others, so when he started to complain that the pre-algebra book was too hard I switched him to the counting and probability book for a bit just to give him a change. I also love that the Art of Problem Solving has a free online program where the kids get points for answering questions. They love points.

We use All About Spelling, though I am not totally happy with that program. I like the abundance or rules and the lists. The tiles have come in useful at times, but I feel it is a bit expensive for what it is. I would have preferred to find one book of spelling rules and word lists.

For chemistry this year one of my boys took an online class through the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum. The online classes give him practice interacting with others (he needed reminders that he does not get to monopolize the teacher’s time, though his teacher was very patient with him). It gives me one less subject to worry about teaching him. It gave him practice typing, and a chance to talk to other kids with the webcams. That has started me thinking about what other course I’d like them to take online, and the possibility of taking just one or two classes online.

Besides curriculum we use quite plenty of library books. We have library cards for our local library. My husband has access to the university library including their curriculum resource library for education students. That has been very useful to us. If you have any access to a university library, check out what resources they have for teachers.

I hope others will share their ideas and advice for choosing curriculum in the comments here.



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