Saturday, June 4, 2011

How to Choose a Homeschool Curriculum

Summer is a busy time for homeschoolers. While most kids are enjoying their summer break from school, homeschool families are busy planning for next year. I have always created my own curriculum for kindergarten homeschooling. The only purchases I made that would probably be considered curriculum were Bob Books and Scholastic Sight Word readers. Other than that, I mainly used free printables and games to teach math and reading. Science has always been a hands-on, let's explore the world around us, venture in kindergarten. But since this is the first time we will be moving beyond kindergarten and homeschooling for first grade, I've decided to make it easier on myself by purchasing a curriculum.

Oh my gosh, is homeschool curriculum shopping overwhelming. First, there is a number of companies that publish curricula. Second, it all looks so good. While I was shopping, I figured that there were probably some newbies who could use some help when it came time to choose a curriculum. Here's some tips that came to me while I was researching and purchasing curriculum:

  • Give yourself plenty of time to research. I started requesting print catalogs last month. Some companies only offer their choices online, but many of the popular curriculums such as Sonlight, Alpha Omega, ApologiaChristian Liberty Press and Heart of Dakota still offer print catalogs. I much prefer a print catalog to an online catalog, because I like to peruse it over and over while just hanging out. Give yourself time to get each catalog and look them over before ordering.

  • Create a list of what you want out of a curriclum. Do you want a Christ-centered curriclum, one that offers everything in one big package, one that pieces together a curriculum using resources from a variety of publishers, or one that you can combine for students close in age? Once you know what you want your curriculum to provide, it makes the decision easier.

  • Read plenty of online reviews. The site Homeschool Reviews is a great place to view the different curriculums and read user reviews. See what the main complaints are and decide if that affects you. For example, one curriculum I viewed had a lot of the same complaint - that it was too time consuming and required too much planning. I am not afraid of a little planning and preparation, so I chose to not view that as a negative of the curriculum. On the other hand, another curriculum review stated that it jumped around too much and kids lost interest after a few weeks - that I took as a negative.

  • Don't be afraid to mix and match. While many homeschool publishing companies offer full packages, it's okay to mix your math, reading, language arts, spelling, handwriting, and science among different publishers. For example, we are using Heart of Dakota for much of our curriculum, but I'm using Phonics Pathways and a Reason for Handwriting instead of what the company offers in those areas.

  • Look at different curricula if you can. Visit a convention or see if a homeschooling friend has curriculum you can look at. A friend of mine let me look at her collection, and it was very helpful.
These are just some tips and ideas for choosing a curriculum. Your main concern should be choosing a curriculum that will interest your child and doesn't frustrate them with too complicated concepts. Happy Homeschooling!

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