Every so often we choose a favorite article to run again. This originally ran on June 25, 2014. Enjoy!
You’ve finally decided that you will homeschool your child. There are hundreds of reasons that may have brought you to this point, but here you stand, about to start.
I’m a planner so I like to know what curricula I will be using to teach my child, at least to start. Since we are eclectic classical homeschoolers that means I did a lot of research to figure out what I thought would be a good choice. I was completely wrong about most of my original choices, but I still did a lot of research before deciding on all the wrong books.
That is probably the first thing to remember when choosing a curriculum and planning the subjects you will study with your new homeschooler: you will occasionally be wrong. You will think that XYZ looks super exciting and is something your child will love, only to end up with your child despising the book and everything related to it. It happens to everyone at some point, even to experienced homeschoolers.
This brings me to the second thing to remember: just because it looks good on paper doesn’t mean it will work for your family. Often, something you purchase even though you have doubts about it ends up working far better than the curriculum you were absolutely certain about. I chose Singapore Math for my son. He is good at math, and I really liked how SM taught math. I figured it would work great. I was wrong. My son was not happy with my choice; it was too much busy work for him and he tried to get out of math every day. I then bought Life of Fred thinking it would be a nice supplement. My son loved Life of Fred; it suited his learning style a lot better, and he was much happier doing a chapter of Fred each day rather than a couple pages of Singapore.
This leads to the third thing to remember: be flexible. Sometimes you will have to change plans midstream. The “perfect curriculum” ends up being a paperweight instead of the repository of knowledge you hoped it would be. This can be painful since some curricula are costly, and money spent for something that doesn’t work can hurt your financial plan for the year. Fortunately there are some cheaper options out there, but having spent $100 or more for something for the year only to figure out it was a bad match for your child can be painful, especially for your wallet.
Look for samples to check out the material before buying. It’s no guarantee, but it can be helpful. Another good option is to enlist your child’s help in deciding what to use. If you are undecided between two or three things, ask your child to look at them with you. He may see something in one that makes it his top choice — or his bottom choice. This also works well when you are not sure what subset of a subject you should teach. Asking your children what they are interested in or knowing their interests can make it easier when you are trying to decide between chemistry or physical science or biology.
Lastly, getting information and opinions from homeschooling friends, local groups, and online sites can help cut down on bad choices. I found a number of resources when researching. The Well-Trained Mind message boards were extremely helpful, as were Facebook groups. Seeing various options in person, either because a friend brought it over or I saw it at a curriculum fair, helped as well since I could actually evaluate the physical product. I will admit that even with these resources, I did make a few bad choices for my son, but they also aided me in finding a better replacement.
The main things to remember when researching and choosing curriculum are that you need to be flexible, you need to do your research, and in the end you need to be willing to admit something was a mistake and start over. I have done my research for the coming year for both my son and my daughter who will be starting Kindergarten. I am hoping that most of my choices for my son will work since they are just a continuation of what we have been using, but I am well aware that my choices for my daughter will likely end up being tweaked as we discover together what works for her and what does not. Also remember if your choices do not work out, there’s always next year to find a better fit for your child as you learn together what works best while continuing on your homeschooling journey.
Sarah–Sarah is the wife of Dan and mom to Desmond, Eloise and Sullivan (Sully). She enjoys reading, board games, D&D, computer and console games, the Oxford comma, and organizing fun trips. Sarah and Dan decided years before they had children that they would be homeschooling and now they are. Their family has enjoyed beginning their homeschooling journey and the early elementary years. There are a lot of fun opportunities upcoming in the next year as well, including Eloise starting Kindergarten at home, numerous trips to Atlanta, and a month long trip to India. They currently reside in a suburb of Washington DC and enjoy all the local attractions available for day trips.