You have decided to homeschool. You have taken the necessary steps to withdraw your child(ren) from school or register with your district/state. Now you need to pick the perfect curriculum. Where do you start? What about the convention and curricula fair that is happening in the spring? You can go and browse everything that’s out there and make a decision! There is nothing better than getting a hands-on look at everything, right?
A convention or curricula fair should be your last stop on the journey to find the right curriculum. The best way to guarantee that you will be overwhelmed is to go in without any prior research. So how do you prepare? A few simple steps will help you enjoy the convention and find what you need.
1. Know what method of homeschooling fits your family: Classical, school-at-home, Charlotte Mason, eclectic, or unschooling. Most libraries have a shelf of books on homeschooling. Select one with an overview of different methods to start your research. Once you pick a method, select a book that is specific to that method. I use a few books as support on my journey through classical homeschooling: The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise-Bauer and Jessie Wise, The Core by Leigh Bortins, and Charlotte Mason’s original homeschool series. The first two books have curriculum suggestions for most subjects. These are my guide as I start to narrow my search.
2. Know your teaching style. Do you need a script to teach, or just a textbook? Some products (Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading, some Abeka products) tell you word for word what to say to the student. Others provide a teacher’s manual with teaching helps (Singapore Math, Rod and Staff, Real Science 4 Kids, and many others). Some are self-teaching (upper levels of Saxon math, Teaching Textbooks). What do you need and what do your kids need?
3. What subjects do you want or need to cover? This will be partially determined by your state and partially by your child’s age and interests. Most families will cover math, science, history, literature, grammar, and spelling. Do you want to add a foreign language? Which one? Do you want to add geography, health, social studies, or writing? Do you need reading and phonics? Make a list of what you want to cover.
4. Is there a company that specializes in curricula for your style? Classical Academic Press, Memoria Press, Peace Hill Press, and Classical Conversations all cater to classical homeschoolers. Do you have to be classical to use their products? No, but knowing that classical is the method they specialize in will help you as you shop. The scope and sequence of the products is geared toward the classical student.
5. Do you want secular, protestant Christian, Catholic, or Jewish programs? Or does it not matter?
Once you have considered these five things, you should have a manageable list of curricula to search out at convention. By this time, you are no longer researching; you are at the decision-making point. You will know which tables to visit and which tables to skip.
Will there be distractions in the vendor hall? Yes. Will you find something new and wonderful that you’ve never heard of but is perfect and you must have it? Yes. But you will be focused and you will be able to weigh your options better because you are informed.
Before purchasing, there are two more steps to completing the process and be satisfied with your decisions.
6. Set a budget. You know what you can spend. Set a limit and stick to it! You don’t need to buy EVERYTHING. You can find literature selections and some history curricula at your library. Be sure you have checked what is available.
7. If your convention lasts two days, window shop and attend seminars on the first day. DO NOT BUY ANYTHING YET! Take a notebook. Look at everything on your list. Make a price list. (Many times you will save money by purchasing at convention: No shipping charges and sometimes a discount for buying on-site. Note the savings in your list.) Go home, review the list, make decisions, sleep – and then go back to purchase the second day. This alone is the best piece of advice I have ever been given.
If your convention is only one day, follow the same steps, but do it before and after lunch.
Our local convention is huge, with thousands of people and more tables than I have time to visit. By going in well-researched with a shopping list, I know my shopping experience will be less stressful. This allows me to pick the speakers and workshops I want to attend and shop in between. I don’t feel the need to spend all day in the vendor hall.
One final and important hint: Take a rolling cart for your purchases! Those books get heavy fast!!
Conventions can be a great help and support to new and veteran homeschoolers, but we must all go in prepared!
Cheryl–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.