Welcome to the wonderful world of homeschool curriculum—whether you want an all-in-one package or to hand-pick each subject, there’s something for you! Here’s an overview of the types of curriculum available to homeschooling families today.
Excited? Jump right in!
Not excited? Don’t worry—you don’t have to investigate every option. When you see the one that sparks joy (or just checks most of your boxes), dig in there!
Have fun browsing!
Complete Curriculum Packages
These are one-stop shops—curricula that include all subjects for all grades.* These packages usually include teacher’s guides and often take a traditional “school-at-home” approach.
If this is your first year of homeschooling, you might find comfort and confidence in a curriculum that provides you with everything you need!
Pro Tip: Don’t feel like you need to complete every page of every textbook or workbook. (Did you ever completely finish a textbook while you were in school?)
* For a few publishers, you may find you need to supplement one or two specific subjects, such as math, especially in some of the younger grades. You can easily add that in using Subject-based Curriculum (see below).
Online courses are great for situations where you’re looking for an instructor with specific expertise (such as higher math or foreign language), you’re juggling a schedule that limits your availability for teaching (job, eldercare), or your child’s learning preferences make online learning a great fit (group learning, solo learning, interactive). As digital technology advances, these types of courses are expanding, and there are new options and opportunities every year.
There are two general types:
Live Classes: Your child and the other students in the online class have set meeting times to interact with the instructor and each other. Assignments are submitted to the instructor who then provides a grade. (Sometimes you may have the option of grading the work yourself.)
Self-paced Classes: Your child works independently by watching prerecorded lessons and following a provided lesson plan. The class may also offer online chats or some other type of interaction with students and professor. Some are self-graded by your child through online assignments and tests. Others allow you as the parent to grade using a rubric or provided answer keys.
These are books and resources designed for specific subjects or areas of learning. If you are thinking about combining resources to create your own curriculum, subject-based curriculum will be one of your go-tos. Maybe you gravitate toward an eclectic homeschool style. Or your child may need different approaches for different subjects based on their learning preferences or learning readiness.
Pro Tip: Many complete curriculum publishers also offer subjects individually, so if you really liked Abeka’s handwriting series, for example, you could purchase just that subject.
Integrated Studies/Unit Studies
Integrated studies occur when several subjects are taught together. The blending of subjects helps your student understand that life doesn’t happen in a vacuum, nor did history. They begin to see how literature, theology, and philosophy can impact architecture and art. When subjects like history, literature, philosophy, and religion are taught as one, your child comes to understand how they are all connected—for instance, how literature might grow out of a specific cultural context and geopolitical climate.
Unit studies incorporate several subjects together while focusing on a specific theme or topic, often involving meaningful hands-on activities such as holding period banquets, dressing in costumes, building models, making timelines, etc.
Pro Tip: Both integrated and unit studies are ideal for multi-level learning. Any topic you can do together as a family maximizes the time you spend on preparation and instruction, can save you money on curriculum, and allows your kids at various ages and stages to share the joy and intellectual stimulation of learning together, not to mention the memories they’re building. This approach works particularly well for subjects like art, nature, history, literature, Bible, and read alouds, etc.
Where do I find these types of curriculum?
Cathy Duffy’s curriculum reviews are a great place to start. One of the most comprehensive collections of homeschool curriculum reviews out there, her website has all kinds of great search features that let you drill down to what you’re looking for.
On Cathy’s site, you can filter by age, grade level, learning preference or style, educational philosophy, and more! And if you have a specific philosophical or religious preference, use the advanced search feature and select “point of view.” (“Religious perspective” is where you can filter for preferences like neutral, secular, Catholic, Mennonite, etc.)
Looking for curriculum tailored to your child’s special needs? You can get lots of helpful tips from HSLDA’s Special Needs Consultants here.
And what about homeschool learning groups? Part 4 describes co-ops, hybrid schools, and online classes, how they work and what they offer your child.