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Since we’ve been talking a lot lately about picking homeschool curriculum for the upcoming year, today, I will share with you my method for choosing homeschooling curriculum.
10 Things to Look for When Choosing Homeschooling Curriculum
Here are the steps I use every year when choosing homeschooling curriculum. It rarely lets me down!
Step 1: Is It the Right Subject?
I’ve discussed how I don’t always have my kids complete a full set of curriculum each year in the past, so if I know we’re not going to be studying history that year, then I won’t even look at history books. This saves a lot of time.
Step 2: Does It Cover What I Need?
I base what I want my children to study for the upcoming year based on last year’s progress. For example, last year, Monkey struggled with money, so I know that this year, I want her to focus a lot on learning about money in math. This means that whatever curriculum I buy needs to focus on money- or if it doesn’t then I will need a supplemental money book to use with her.
Step 3: Does It Fit Our Learning Style?
There are 101 ways to homeschool and many different program styles. Monkey gets overwhelmed with huge blocks of text or a page full of small math problems, so I know to avoid anything like that for her. Some kids prefer hands-on stuff, while others would prefer to fill out worksheets. Choose something based on the learning style of your children. Build your own bundle packages are great for creating a customized curriculum that matches a specific learning style.
Step 4: Will We Use It?
There are so many amazing books and programs out there for homeschooling, but it does nothing for us if we buy it and never use it. I know that I need a curriculum that doesn’t require a lot of outside planning (we loved the Five In a Row series, but the planning was too time consuming, so we were forced to abandon it) and also is highly adaptable. This is one reason why we tend to avoid boxed curriculum like Sonlight.
As much as I love unit studies, they just don’t work with our family structure right now, so we rarely purchase unit study sets.
Step 5: Does It Provide Value?
When choosing homeschooling curriculum, I always look for curriculum that will expand and educate before all else. I will avoid anything written in an extremely simple style or that doesn’t push the children to go beyond their current way of thinking to consider new thoughts and ideas. I avoid curriculum that over-simplifies concepts. I find a lot of science and history books fall into the too-simple category, so we avoid those.
Step 6: Does It Fit Our Religious/Moral Ideals?
A lot of homeschooling curriculum is written with a religious prospective, which is great if you believe exactly what the writers do, but with so many different varying theologies, it can become a little annoying to purchase a book that tells your child something you don’t believe, or believe in a different way. Bible, character studies, and science are usually the big ones for providing alternative religious views, so I always check these carefully before purchase so I don’t end up having to skip large chunks.
Step 7: Is It Well-Written/ Professional?
There is a lot of curriculum out there that is amazing. There is also a lot out there that is terrible. I avoid curriculum that is poorly written, looks like it was thrown together, or has extremely ugly drawings. I also tend to avoid the plastic tab binding or anything in three-ring binders, but that is just a personal preference that I use for choosing homeschooling curriculum.
Step 8: Is It Boring?
Nothing is worse than trying to learn something through a boring textbook. When I was in high school, I had the most boring science textbooks, which is why I always thought I hated science. But when I grew up and started to study it on my own, I realized that I actually love science. If I had a less boring science book as a young person, I might have chosen a different degree in college or entered a different career field.
I believe every subject can be made to feel interesting for children. I believe it is especially important for science, computer, and writing subjects to feel fun, as those are essential subjects for all children.
Step 9: What is the Cost?
I tend to be a low-budget homeschooler right now, partially because we don’t have tons of money to spend on school, but also partially because I don’t believe each subject needs to cost $300. I have yet to see a curriculum that I believed was worth more than $80 or so per subject. Is some expensive curriculum worth it? I’m sure for some people and some subjects, yes (particularly as the children age), but for the lower grades, I don’t see a need to spend so much. But again, this is a personal preference. I would advise anyone to set a budget and stick to it.
If you are looking for ways to save even more, check out my post on 11 resources for inexpensive homeschooling curriculum.
Step 10: Can It Be Used Again?
Homeschooling families usually have at least 2 children learning some of the same material together or in the future. I like the bundles built for family use and multiple children. Many curriculum brands make it easy to use with multiple children, either by offering additional child packs or providing tools to use the same core material for a variety of grades. I tend to choose this style of curriculum above the others.
What criteria do you use for choosing homeschooling curriculum?