Curriculum

Things to Consider When Shopping for Curriculum

No matter whether you are new to homeschooling or a seasoned pro, there is a period of every year when the homeschooling parent must look forward to the next school year. Deciding on curriculum can be a daunting task. There are so many options: textbooks, living books, workbooks, video lessons, teacher-led, co-op led, etc.

First, curriculum be used as a very broad general term here to mean what resource you will use to teach a particular subject. It does not necessarily mean a purchased boxed set of pre-planned lessons and all the materials that go with it. For example, you might build a curriculum for American history from multiple sources including museum tours, coloring pages of famous Americans, YouTube videos, library books, a wall timeline, and hands-on projects. For this article, curriculum means materials used to teach a given course or subject.

There are many things to consider when selecting curriculum for the subjects you plan to teach. Today we will consider goals, budget (money & time), and teaching and student learning style.

Consider goals for your homeschool

If you could offer your children the best private education, what would it look like? If you popped by the classroom unexpectedly, what would different subjects look like? Take those ideals and apply them to your homeschool. For example, you might picture students getting creative with arts and crafts, making puppets for the novel they are reading, role-playing historical events, doing scientific experiments, using real life manipulatives for math, or time spend in group games and discussions. All of these are great ideas for homeschool, and a great way to bring meaningful education to your students. Make sure the curriculum options you are considering include some options that meet with your educational ideals, or offer space in the lesson plans for you to include your own activities.

Consider your budget

Now that you have imagined the ideal educational experience for your child, it is time to come back down to Earth. Everyone has limits to their time and finances. Although tempting to create your child’s entire curriculum from scratch, few people actually have the time to do this. Many find that using already created resources to provide a foundation to add desired activities to. Consider how much time you have for lesson planning and weekly preparation. Basically, do not plan a five course gourmet meal on a Tuesday night when all you have time for is frozen pizza and bagged salad, if you know what I mean. Life gets busy, consider all of the other time commitments that your family usually has during a given school year. Perhaps you have thirty minutes a day you can devote to preparing for the next day’s lesson and an hour each weekend to gather materials for next week’s activities. Consider the time involvement for each subject’s curriculum when making your decisions. There is nothing wrong with balancing subjects requiring more prep-time with open-and-go type curriculum for other subjects.

Likewise, consider your financial budget when purchasing curriculum. Perhaps you do not have the monetary resources available right now for all of your desired materials. Do you have time before the school year starts to save a little each month and buy it later? Or perhaps you could find some of the resources used, such as the teacher’s manual, and just purchase the consumables new. Look for deals on field trips, such as museum’s offering free days or annual discounted homeschool days. Sign up to receive notifications about sales from stores or online sites that sell curriculum. Check our your local library, sometimes they have books you can borrow or annual used book sales. Please do not forget to include expenses in your budget for items such as school supplies, art supplies, field trips, etc. There is always the initial cost of new school supplies, but paper, pencils, markers, glue sticks, tape, graph paper, etc. will run out and have to be periodically replaced. Keep the expected cost of homeschooling realistic, and if you happen to budget too much, you can always set it aside for next year.

Consider teaching and learning styles

There are many posts, books, and articles about the different homeschooling styles, such as classical, Charlotte Mason, eclectic, etc. Consider your own teaching style as well as your student’s learning styles before investing too heavily into one homeschool curriculum or philosophy that may or may not be a good fit for the personalities and learning styles of your family.

As a teacher, do you prefer to do most of the leading, talking, and reading? Homeschool curriculums that are teacher-led, have many read aloud books, or group style with a teacher leader may be a great fit for you. Or perhaps you have many children or time obligations where you can do some things teacher led, but need a balance with independent learning activities. On the other hand, you may need curriculum that provides the majority of the instruction (such as co-op classes, online instruction, or comprehensive textbooks) and has mostly independent work activities for the students with just a few teacher led activities. Consider your teaching style and comfortable level of involvement in the presentation of the subject matter when selecting curriculum. For example, you may be very interested in teaching your child math in the elementary and middle school years, but may need to transition to outside sources of instruction for upper level math in high school. As your homeschool needs change each year, your teaching involvement and style may change as well.

Consider the learning style of your kids. Many times, different children within the same family will have different learning styles. Some curriculum are packaged to addressed multiple learning styles, while others are more limited. For example, if you have a social auditory learner, leaving them to read a textbook and do practice problems out of a workbook by themselves day after day probably might not be the best choice. However, you may have a solitary visual learner who thrives being able to learn and work by him or herself and loves filling in those workbook blanks. Professional educators use lessons that address multiple learning styles in a classroom to engage and make the lesson meaningful to their student audience. For example, math problems might be presented in a real life scenario, a story read aloud, or in a video, then demonstrated with manipulatives, and then worked out on the board. This type of lesson would engage auditory, kinesthetic, and visual learners. Doing a little research to determine your child’s preferred or dominant learning style can help tremendously with curriculum selection. Plus, adding in games, projects, crafts, field trips, engaging books, and movies that address multiple learning styles can also make wonderful family memories. After all, this is why you chose to homeschool, right?

One final thought to curriculum considerations is flexibility. Homeschool life does not always go as planned. Your curriculum choices are not set in stone. Learn from experiences and make changes as necessary. Be prepared to adjust or replace curriculum choices that end up not working well for your family. Pray about it. Extend grace to yourself and your children with things are tough. Take time to savor and celebrate when things are going well. In fact, keeping a journal of what works and what did not will help when the time rolls around again to make curriculum choices for the next school year. It will be here again before you know it!

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