The Beginner’s Guide to Homeschooling, Part Three
The Curriculum Conundrum
This is probably the single most overwhelming part of homeschooling because there are just so many curricula to choose from. I remember when I first began homeschooling Ace, I went to a homeschool convention so that I could have a hands-on look at some of my curriculum options. I remember feeling so excited as I walked around to each booth and collected information on the resources I thought were the best possibilities. I felt like I had really narrowed down my options and I was feeling good…until I got home. I unpacked my convention bag, sat in front of my planning spreadsheet and I remember thinking “OH NO! How do I choose???” There were so many pros and cons to each option. One was cheaper but not as feature-rich. One was great at covering the topics I wanted but didn’t have the exact format I was hoping for. And two were nearly identical in all areas making it almost impossible to decide which was the superior choice! I really thought my head was going to explode and I wondered what I had gotten myself into. The beauty of homeschooling is that the sky’s the limit but that also makes it incredibly challenging when it comes to making decisions. There really is no wrong choice which sometimes makes it impossible to figure out which choice you should make.
So let’s start at the beginning.
First, make a list of the core subjects you are required by your state laws to teach. Then add any subjects you would like to teach that weren’t included. Treat that second list as a “nice-to-have” list, rather than a “must-have” list, however. Be careful not to overload your child with too many subjects.
Next, look at your homeschool environment plan. Which homeschool styles did you choose? Start researching curriculum options based on those styles. Note: If you think the Unschooling route might be for you, I would definitely recommend seeking out other Unschoolers for more information and ideas (here is a great place to start.)
Once you have options based on the homeschool styles you’re interested in, you can start combing through them for the options that best suit your child’s learning style and/or your teaching style. If you saw my last post, you know I promised you some ideas on what to do if you and your child have differing learning styles. Well, this part is for you!
- If you’re starting from scratch, look for curriculum that meets your child’s needs first and foremost. This can be tricky because you will not naturally gravitate toward those options. Find out if the curriculum publisher has any additional teacher’s resources. If that is not available, seek out forums or groups related to that curriculum for advice from other homeschoolers who are using it. You may be able to find support in formats that speak more to your learning style such as instructional videos, podcasts, or written manuals.
- If you already have a curriculum that you want to keep using (or can’t afford to replace right now), search for supplemental activities and resources online (my Pinterest page is a great place to start.)
- Crafts and activities can help you turn a text-heavy curriculum into a hands-on experience for your tactile-kinesthetic learner.
- Podcasts can transform or supplement subjects for your auditory learner.
- Videos can impact your visual learner if there are lots of informative images (and might be able to double as a help for your auditory learner if there is a content-rich narrative.)
- Library books or online articles can work wonders for your read-write learner.
Now that you have a fairly short list of options, I recommend getting your hands on some physical samples to help you make your decision. Up to this point, your research has likely been taking place online only and I have found that sometimes the information offered on curriculum online is either limited or confusing. I have had many a question cleared up by simply flipping through the materials. Here are some ways to make this happen:
- Contact the publisher directly. Sometimes they will send you samples of their materials. If they don’t offer that, you can ask about their return policy (don’t forget to ask who foots the bill for return shipping) or find out if they are going to be exhibiting at a homeschool convention near you.
- Which leads me to the next option…attend a homeschool convention near you. Organizers typically keep registration costs very affordable and you can ask if they offer an exhibition-only pass for even less money. This will allow you to browse the exhibit hall but you won’t have any access to the convention sessions.
- Find out if there are any homeschool co-ops in your area with bookstores. They will usually let you peruse their offering and staff members or volunteers may even be available to give you advice.
- Finally, you can ask members of homeschool forums or groups if anyone has used the curricula you want to see. They may be able to answer your questions directly or even sell you a used copy (and save you money!)
At this point, you’ve done just about all the research that there is to do. The only thing left is to just dive in. You may still have some questions (like “is Unschooling really for me?” or “how do I find resources for my auditory learner?”) and that’s okay. A huge part of the homeschooling process is all about experimentation. You lay out a plan and try it. You’ll discover some things that work better than you ever imagined and other things that shock you with how hard they bust. Each time you try something new, you are refining what works best and I would encourage you to modify your planning worksheet so that you always have that foundation. If something doesn’t work, don’t feel discouraged! It’s just part of the normal trial-and-error that all homeschoolers go through.
Don’t forget to download your FREE Homeschool Environment Planning Worksheet if you haven’t already. It will really help you get your homeschool started!
And stay tuned for my next post, Figuring Out Your School Schedule, for tips and tricks on how to plan out your homeschool days and weeks!
Here is a handy navigation list to all of the posts in The Beginner’s Guide to Homeschooling Series:
- Part One – 9 Reasons to Homeschool
- Part Two – Planning Your Homeschool Environment
- Part Three – The Curriculum Conundrum
- Part Four – Creating Your Homeschool Schedule
- Part Five – Getting Involved with Homeschool Organzations
- Part Six – Expert Advice from 5 Experienced Homeschoolers