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What Curriculum Should You Use?

When you hear the word curriculum, you probably think of books.

While your curriculum will most likely include quite a few books, curriculum is simply a course of study (from the French courir: to run). There is no such thing as The One, Perfect Curriculum, but some approaches and materials will be a better fit for your child than others. (This can even vary from child to child within one family!)

“What curriculum should I use?” is the same as asking, “How do I get there?” on this homeschooling journey. What you are really asking for is a road map to successful home education.

If I asked you for directions, what’s the first thing you’d probably want to know? Right—you’d want to know where I was trying to go, and from where I was starting. To get somewhere, I need to know my starting point and my destination, so I can determine the best course to get me there. Let's walk through those same steps to help you make an informed decision about your course and your materials.

1. Where is my child now (figuratively speaking) and where do I want him to be next year? Five years from now?

2. Why am I homeschooling? Once you determined where you are going, will you take the “shortcut” or the “scenic route”? Are you catching up or are you leisurely learning? This will influence your curriculum choices.

3. Set goals: For what am I preparing my child? What relationships, skills, or content knowledge do I need to cultivate in him? Goals should be measurable and attainable.

4. Understand differences in worldviews. You have a worldview, and the publisher and author of the materials you use have a worldview. Are they similar, or will you spend a lot of time “correcting” the values presented? This is especially important when training our little ones; for older students, this can be a timely opportunity to discuss differing views.

5. Research the various approaches. This is your “mode of transportation” in the home education journey. Below is a basic listing of the most common approaches. One particular approach may be a great fit for your family or you may find that an eclectic approach—mixing and matching or combining from several different approaches—may help you incorporate the ideal materials for your student’s learning style. There is not one “right” way to homeschool!

Common Learning Approaches

  • Traditional
  • Classical (includes Principle Approach)
  • Living Books
  • Unit Studies
  • Relaxed/Unschooling

Read about the pros and cons of the various approaches here.

Read about Homeschool Teaching Methods.

Read “Seven Success Tips for the Eclectic Homeschooler”

6. Alternative routes and detours can be helpful. Have you ever gotten behind the “Follow Me” truck in a construction zone? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a lead vehicle when you’re homeschooling? Some of us need to start the drive with some assistance or a “lead car” like the Follow-Me truck in the construction zone. This is especially true if you are beginning homeschooling mid-year or “all of a sudden” and you wish you’d had more time to plan a course, but you didn’t. You might choose a simple course to get you “on the road” while researching your options for adjustments for later in the year or next year.

For example, you could just select a language program and a math program (for example, Learning Language Arts through Literature combined with Saxon math) and add living books from the library for science, history, etc.

Or you could select from the many prepackaged curricula available, especially helpful for the first year, such as:

Use such a program exclusively or select subjects to use. The next year, you may choose to branch out from there, or continue the program for the entire homeschool journey.

Be prepared for detours and alternative routes. Once, I was coming home from Pittsburgh for at least the sixth time in a few months and suddenly found myself in unfamiliar surroundings. I called my husband at work (collect!) and asked, “If I’m on Skyline Drive, have I missed a turn?” He sighed knowingly and got a map to help me figure an alternative route to get back on track.

You may make adjustments along the way to get back on your homeschooling track—or you may simply decide to revise your destination. Changing course to reach your desired goal is not failure!

7. How much will all this cost? Homeschooling costs more than public school, but less than private school. That may sound pretty non-committal, but the average of $500 can sound like a burden or a relief, depending on your previous education experience! Some expenses you’ll want to consider include:

  • Curriculum (most likely your greatest expense)
  • Testing fees
  • Home library
  • School supplies
  • Extracurricular activities/lessons
  • Professional memberships
  • State convention

8. Where do I find materials?

Before you buy, ask yourself:

  • How much time do I have?
  • How much money do I have?
  • Are there good books on this subject that I could buy with the money?
  • How much structure do I want/need?
  • Does this material convey my values?
  • Does it encourage my children in the goals we’ve set?
  • Is the material a good “fit” for my child?

Not only does homeschooling give you greater opportunity to encourage your child to achieve his academic potential, but it can give you time and growth in character development and life skills.


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