Searching for the right curriculum can be equal parts exciting and overwhelming. When you are shopping for curriculum, especially for the first time, remember that what is right for one family might not be the perfect match for yours. Feel free to read reviews, ask questions in a homeschool forum, or get advice from your friends, but don’t spend a dime until you have fully thought about how the curriculum will work at your house with your kids.
Homeschool curriculum comes in all shapes, sizes, and philosophies. You can narrow down your choices by answering the following questions:
What is your child’s learning style? Major strengths and weaknesses? Favorite interests? If the curriculum doesn’t fit the kid, there could be misery ahead for everybody. Math-U-See uses manipulatives so your child can see the math concepts. On the other hand, Saxon math is more rote with a lot of exercises that build upon each other. A child who struggles with reading may have trouble with a literature-based program, and a kid who likes to build things won’t enjoy a worksheet heavy approach. A child who is self-motivated might do well with independent projects; whereas, other children might thrive with a more parent directed program.
What is your teaching style? Do you like structure or are you more relaxed? Do you want a lot of guidance with the lessons? How much mess, noise, and experimentation can you tolerate? Yes, you want the curriculum to work well for your child, but you also want to choose something with which you are comfortable. The right curriculum is the one that best fits into your family’s lifestyle.
What are your state requirements? Make sure that your curriculum will satisfy state standards. Some states require that your curriculum be pre-approved, certain subjects be taught, or a portfolio be presented at the end of the year.
Do you plan to enroll or re-enroll your students in public school at some point? If you do, you may want to choose a public school at home type program, such as Connections Academy or K12. Many states offer these programs for free through the pubic school system, but you can also pay for them privately. If you’d rather not take that route, check your state’s department of education website and try to match state standards as closely as possible to ease the transition back to public school.
Will you be homeschooling more than one child? If you are homeschooling multi-age children, consider a flexible program that can be adjusted to various grade levels or choose non-consumable materials that can be passed down to younger siblings.
Does your family need a flexible schedule? Do you plan to travel often or will you be involved in a lot of extracurricular activities? If you plan to be on the road a lot, choose a curriculum that you can take with you. Buy learning materials that can be used in the car, waiting rooms, or even at restaurants before your deluxe gourmet burger and fries are served. You don’t have to be at home to learn!
Do you have a particular homeschool style? Some common homeschooling styles include Charlotte Mason, classical, Waldorf, eclectic, and unschooling. Charlotte Mason is largely based on nature studies and reading books that bring subjects to life. Students are encouraged to show what they’ve learned through discussion instead of tests. A classical education is based on methods that date back to the Middle Ages. It consists of three stages: grammar, logic, and rhetoric. Waldorf education aims to educate the whole child. It particularly emphasizes art, music, and nature in the early years. Eclectic homeschooling, also called relaxed homeschooling, is the most common method. It is a mix of a variety of styles, providing a custom made educational experience. In spite of its name, unschooling doesn’t mean doing nothing at all. Instead, unschooling means allowing a child to follow his or her interests. Children learn through everyday experiences instead of following a strict schedule and completing formal lessons.
Once you have answered these questions, you have a better understanding of the type of curriculum that will fit your needs. If you wish to be more structured, you may want to go for boxed curriculum. If your tastes swing more toward a relaxed approach, use workbooks for math and language arts, and unschooling methods for other subjects.
Surprise Ride products will fit in with any method or style of homeschooling, especially several of those listed above. Surprise Ride kits teach kids about the world, for example why birds fly, while sparking curiosity and imagination.
Spend some time exploring curriculum and homeschool styles. Find the best fit for your child. And remember, if the first thing you try doesn’t work well, switch to something else. Flexibility is one of the key joys of homeschooling!
Lillian Pluta is a former middle school language arts teacher, a published children’s book author, a seasoned homeschool mom with co-op teaching experience, and a freelance blogger. She currently lives along the South Texas coast with her family and a small menagerie of rescued animals. When she’s not teaching or writing, she enjoys learning to play classical guitar and watching sumo wrestling.