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I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic recently. Many of my friends are just starting kindergarten or preschool with their children, and there is a lot of pressure on these parents to provide a “high quality” education for their preschoolers at home. Over the summer, I also struggled with finding the perfect curriculum for Monkey last year.
I searched through many different programs, and spent probably too long looking for the perfect thing. I liked the idea of a complete curriculum, because that is an easy way to make sure you are getting all the “right” subjects. But what I found when I looked at those is that they would not work for our family. Since I also work at home, I do not have the time to go through an eight hour school day with Monkey. It just isn’t practical. While many of the programs seemed amazing and would teach her many things, half of it would end up not getting used, simply because we would not have time in the day. We needed something that worked with our lifestyle, not someone else’s.
The school that we ended up with, I think is the perfect fit for us. I needed something that I could pick up and teach without having to pre-plan lessons or keep extra supplies on hand. Monkey likes fun workbooks that breaks the work up so it looks less intimidating than solid pages of information. She loves learning, but is easily overwhelmed. I finally was able to choose this curriculum when I set out a few criteria for myself when browsing for books.
So, how does one go about finding the perfect homeschool curriculum?
I have a simple formula that can really help narrow down your choices.
1. Remember who you are (just like Simba!)
Regardless of whether you want to be June Cleaver or Claire Huxtable (or pick your own hero, I don’t care), you are your own person. Think about how you act on a day-to-day basis. You will not act differently during school. If you hate schedules and rigidity today, you won’t suddenly love it during the school year. If you are easily overwhelmed by too much data, like Monkey and I, then a simpler option may be best.
2. Eliminate the obvious
With the above personality knowledge, you can quickly identify which curriculum types will work for you. If you prefer a full day’s schedule, then you will probably love the full-curriculum sets that many companies sell (my favorite is the oh-so-pricey Calvert). If you want the ability to pick up and do school whenever, then workbook-style curriculum will probably suit you better. And if you love the freedom to explore and learn at will, then you will probably enjoy the hands-on/unschooling methods of teaching.
3. Avoid clutter
It is easy to see everything available for school and want to have it all. Well, you can’t. At least, you can’t if you are anything like me. School clutter is anything that will overwhelm you or your child, or take away from the core lessons your child needs for the year. For example, this year, I really wanted to do fun school subjects with Monkey like a detailed art program or Latin, but I knew I would not be able to get through those subjects on top of our core subjects like reading and math. Make sure you have your core subjects in place, then add one or two extras, if you have the time (if not, don’t worry about it).
4. Don’t panic
Moms stress a lot about the education of their children. Of course we want to see our children excel academically and in other areas of life. Homeschool moms seem to feel more stress than non homeschooling moms (in my experience) because they are 100% responsible for the education of their children. This can cause a lot of stress and anxiety.
However, stress and anxiety only lead to trouble. Last year I tried to push Monkey a little too hard, and guess what happened? She ended up exactly where she would have been if I had taken a slower pace. So, even if you feel like your children are showing no signs of academic improvement, this does not mean you are a bad teacher or that you are dooming your child to a life of burger flipping. In general, children will learn when they are ready. Some choose to start later and quickly catch up to their peers, or even surpass them. One of my brothers struggled with reading until 8 or 9, then overnight, he was reading everything in sight- even college-level books. Even if your student is behind in a subject one year, it is likely she will quickly catch up next year. So don’t worry.
So there you have it. If you follow this highly scientific (haha) formula, you will be well on your way to finding the best curriculum for your family.
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